Jiang Zhengkai sat in the living room, casually chatting with A-Jiao and Lu Xiaoqiang for more than ten minutes now. A-Ping's face had grown ruddy while she was in A-Jiao's embrace and her emotions also seemed to have stabilized. As she continued to familiarize herself with the three faces in the room, she gradually began to feel more assured of her safety. Lu Xiaoqiang was someone she was already familiar with, A-Jiao was the most comforting after she had been frightened, and unlike those police who cracked down on prostitution, Jiang Zhengkai’s expression was warm and not malicious at all. In this sort of atmosphere, A-Ping had loosened up and no longer felt as stiff with Jiang Zhengkai.
“Inspector Jiang, if you want to ask something, then just ask!” A-Ping spoke gently, taking advantage of the lapse in the conversation between the other three. “I’m feeling a bit better now.”
“Oh really?” Jiang Zhengkai looked towards A-Ping with a deeply concerned expression. “You don’t need to force yourself. You must’ve been almost scared to death today, right? Xiaoqiang spoke very highly of you and your contributions to the case. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!”
“Sir, you’re too kind.” A-Ping lowered her head a little with a slightly shy mien. “Actually I didn’t even do much. After I help solve the case, I plan on returning to my hometown in Guangxi.”
“Good! Going back home is good!” Jiang Zhengkai said noncommittally. He knew that the women working in the alley didn’t like hearing rubbish like “Find a better profession” or “Don’t sell yourself anymore,” so there was no need for him to say something A-Ping wouldn’t like hearing. Jiang Zhengkai analyzed A-Ping’s expression and then used a soft enquiring tone to ask, “Why don’t you tell us what happened tonight?”
“Oh! Okay.” A-Ping nodded her head and replied to Jiang Zhengkai in a gentle tone. “Tonight wasn’t any different from usual. As discussed beforehand, I wouldn’t be servicing any clients tonight. Instead, I was to stay in the kitchen and was responsible for handling any emergency situations. When A-Hui brought that man in, she asked A-Rou to switch shifts as she wanted to personally service him. I heard all this from the kitchen and that made me more cautious since I already had an agreement with Officer Lu.” After saying his name, A-Ping took a quick glance at Lu Xiaoqiang before continuing. “After A-Hui entered the bedroom, I secretly stood behind the kitchen door to listen for any signs of activity. Since they were speaking very softly to each other, basically whispering, I wasn't able to hear anything they were saying. However, I did hear A-Hui's laughter, and it sounded like she was having a great time. When A-Rou came out of that bathroom and entered the other one, I quietly left the kitchen and stood outside A-Hui's bedroom so I could eavesdrop on them better.”
“At first, they didn’t make much noise.” A-Ping's expression became a bit bashful at this point. For a woman, actually doing it and talking about it were two completely separate things; one shouldn’t assume that prostitutes have no sense of shame. “But soon, I heard some weird sounds coming from the room. What was even stranger was that the bedroom door became very cold. It was as if a bone-chilling iciness was spreading out from inside the room.”
“But then, the sounds inside the bedroom suddenly became loud! Right after that was A-Hui’s wretched screams…...” A-Ping's face paled almost to the point of being bone-white and her body began to tremble again… In response, A-Jiao hugged her tighter. A-Ping’s body trembled but she didn’t stop narrating. “Then… then as I… I opened… the… the bedroom door, I saw… saw that man’s… whole body… de… flating, and then, A-Hui also……”
When Jiang Zhengkai saw A-Ping start trembling so violently that she could no longer speak coherently, he took the initiative to continue her story from where she had left off. “After that, you collapsed onto the floor and I came in with the police.’’
A-Ping straightened her neck, swallowed a mouthful of saliva, and replied, “Ye…… yes.” At this point, A-Ping’s body was as stiff as a rock from fear. She opened her mouth but couldn't produce a sound. Tears, however, began flowing down her cheeks. A-Ping’s pitiful appearance caused Jiang Zhengkai to pause and reconsider his question. Ultimately, he still asked, “When you opened the door, was there anyone else in the bedroom apart from A-Hui and that man?”
A-Ping shook her head with much effort. “N…… no”. Right after her whole body violently trembled, Lu Xiaoqiang brought a cup of warm water to her lips. A-Ping lightly sipped a mouthful and suddenly burst into a coughing fit. “Cough, cough!”
“Ok! Hon…… Both of you help me look after A-Ping for awhile and let her rest peacefully!” Then, Jiang Zhengkai stood up. “How about this! In a bit, I’ll go ask Liu Na to see if there’s still space at the police dormitory. If so, she can stay there for tonight. ”
“Inspector Jiang, it’s already almost morning.” Lu Xiaoqiang pointed at his watch and said to Jiang Zhengkai, “I think we should bring her back to the sub-bureau and find a spot for her there!”
“Oh! That works too. You sort it out then!” Jiang Zhengkai glanced one last time at Lu Xiaoqiang and A-Ping before leaving the living room. Since the police were busy methodically cleaning up the crime scene inside the bedroom, Jiang Zhengkai went back inside. Jiang Zhengkai walked over to Mu Mingyuan who was still busy inspecting the skeletons and softly asked, “Have you discovered anything else?”
Mu Mingyuan shook his head. “Nothing! Jiang, are you sure that the male and female victims weren’t dead when you came in?”
“I can’t confirm for the male victim, but the female victim definitely wasn’t dead!” Jiang Zhengkai affirmed.
“Was there any flesh still on the female victim when you entered the bedroom?” Mu Mingyuan asked, perplexed.
“I think so? There was!” At first, Jiang Zhengkai was hesitant, but then he answered confidently, “Yes! Definitely. I even grasped her shoulder.”
“Oh, all that’s left are bones now,” Mu Mingyuan replied earnestly as he shrugged his shoulders.
“Then are…… are you able to confirm the cause of death?” When Jiang Zhengkai looked at the skeletons, they were now indistinguishable from the skeletons of the previous cases. Jiang Zhengkai definitely felt a deep regret. Why didn’t I rip off a chunk of A-Hui’s flesh when I had the chance? Next time… Hopefully there won’t be a next time.
“I’m not sure!” Mu Mingyuan shook his head, “Her skin is well preserved. It probably wasn’t caused anything like a caustic chemical.”
Jiang Zhengkai pointed to the skeletons on the bed and then asked Mu Mingyuan, “Right, how are you planning on separating them?”
“Cough!” Mu Mingyuan coughed again and then looked towards the skeletons on the bed, “For A-Lian, in the end we still had to perform a minor surgery on her. For the other cases, the situation wasn’t like this. I think that we’ll definitely need to use a saw.” Mu Mingyuan made a sawing gesture as he described the problem. Jiang Zhengkai took a deep breath. The scene he saw when he had dashed into the room appeared before his eyes again. How did the flesh on A-Hui’s body disappear into thin air? When I grabbed her shoulder, there was definitely still flesh there. Unless I imagined it? Or… Jiang Zhengkai thought about it for a bit. Since Mu Mingyuan was busying himself with the skeletons again, he left the bedroom and went outside.
This time, the police remained at the scene until the sun came up. Prior to this, Lu Xiaoqiang had already escorted A-Ping back to the sub-bureau. A-Rou and the other couple were brought back to Ju’an Road Police Station by the police under Zhang Nan’s command and temporarily incarcerated. And finally, A-Jiao stayed by Jiang Zhengkai’s side the whole night. Although A-Jiao was still a bit scared, it wasn’t the first time she had witnessed such a scene. In fact, her tolerance towards such a scene was even stronger than a normal policeman's.
At daybreak, Jiang Zhengkai left the apartment to inspect the nearby area meticulously. But like Zhang Nan had said, nothing appeared out of the ordinary. With that, Jiang Zhengkai left the scene with A-Jiao and the other police officers.
When the officer at the wheel saw Jiang Zhengkai and A-Jiao getting into the car, he turned his head around to ask, “Inspector Jiang, are you still planning to head back to the police station? Sister-in-law already pulled an allnighter with you. Why don’t you guys take the rest of the day off?”
“I’m fine.” A-Jiao smiled slightly and lowered her head.
Jiang Zhengkai decided to take the officer’s advice and nodded. “Alright. Help me apply for a half day leave then. Lately, I really have been exhausted to the bone. I’ll take this opportunity and get a good rest!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter