Chapter 55: A Special Lunch
“Ah, you wanted to ask about Sister Xiu, right?” A-Jiao said with a nod. She pursed her lips and thought for a while. “She left the alley two years ago. I know that before she left, she was arrested and taken to the station. After she came back, she spoke to a couple of the sisters in the alley and then left a few days later. I haven’t seen her since, but I heard from others that she didn’t actually leave the city. She simply relocated to another district.”
Jiang Zhengkai finished listening to A-Jiao speak, looked her in the eyes, and said in a low voice, “I see. Do you know that she is now deceased? It happened while you were in the hospital. There was another murder in the alley like the one that killed A-Mei, except this time the victim was A-Xiu.”
“Sister Xiu is dead?” A-Jiao’s voice grew noticeably louder as her panic-stricken eyes opened wide and stared at Jiang Zhengkai. “That… that’s impossible… Sister Xiu, she… she’s not a bad person… why would she be dead…?” As she spoke, tears began to drip down her cheeks. “If Sister Xiu hadn’t saved me back in the day, I’d be long dead by now!” At this point, A-Jiao’s body began to sway uncontrollably as her hands helplessly swung around. Jiang Zhengkai could see that she clearly had not been aware of A-Xiu’s death, which meant she really hadn’t seen A-Xiu in a long time. It was just as clear that A-Xiu had meant a lot to her.
After a long while, A-Jiao finally regained her composure. She let out a sigh and stared at the conference table with teary eyes. Her body was shaking ever so slightly. She was clearly hesitant as to whether this was an appropriate venue for what she had in mind to say. Jiang Zhengkai saw the pained and conflicted expression on her face, so he reach out his hand and said, “If it’s too difficult for you to talk about this, then don’t. It’s enough that I know you haven’t been in contact with A-Xiu for these past two years.”
“Okay. Hon-- I mean, Officer Jiang, I don’t… I don’t know how to say it…” A-Jiao’s voice started shaking. She really wanted to hug Jiang Zhengkai and bawl her eyes out while in his embrace. However, with Lu Xiaoqiang present, she had no choice but to control such impulses.
“Ahem, Inspector Jiang, ma’am, it’s almost noon!” Even though Lu Xiaoqiang was a rookie fresh out of the academy, he was still keenly observant and meticulously thoughtful. He clearly noticed that there were some things that A-Jiao wanted to say only to Jiang Zhengkai, without anyone else around to hear. If she were an ordinary witness, there would have been no way around police protocol, but since she was Jiang Zhengkai’s significant other, an exception could be made. If Lu Xiaoqiang still wanted to insist on police protocol, which would just make his boss’s life that much harder, then he should just beat himself all the way back home.
“Why don’t we take a break for lunch?” he suggested, looking between the two of them. “I see this has really been an upsetting experience for Miss Ren. Besides, it’s the weekend and all. In fact, Inspector Jiang, why don’t you take the rest of the day off and spend it with Miss Ren?”
“Oh, yeah!” said Jiang Zhengkai as he looked gratefully at the young man across the table. This child may yet become a master one day! “Once you’re done with your immediate tasks, you should go home as well,” he said. He held A-Jiao with one hand and grabbed Lu Xiaoqiang’s steno pad with the other. “I would appreciate it if you could keep what you heard today to yourself. There are some things that could potentially involve…” At this point, Jiang Zhengkai gestured at the police emblem hanging on the wall behind Lu Xiaoqiang.
“Understood, Inspector Jiang!” Although Lu Xiaoqiang didn’t completely understand the specifics behind Jiang Zhengkai’s request, he nevertheless was quick enough to figure out that Jiang Zhengkai believed certain evidence in this case might incriminate some of their fellow police officers. The need for secrecy was something that Lu Xiaoqiang’s academy instructor had harped on since his first day at the academy, so there was no real need for Jiang Zhengkai to worry about his reliability in this regard.
“Alright, I’ll be going with Ziyuan now,” said Jiang Zhengkai, once he could see that Lu Xiaoqiang had caught his meaning. He helped A-Jiao get up from her chair and then held her as they walked out of the conference room. Lu Xiaoqiang got up right after them. He paused a moment to compose himself and then exited the conference room as well.
As they were leaving the sub-bureau, Jiang Zhengkai turned to A-Jiao and asked, “Ziyuan, shall we go home?”
“Yeah, okay!” A-Jiao’s voice still broke slightly from the crying. “Will you stay with me after I return home?”
“Yup!” said Jiang Zhengkai as he stroked her hair. “Silly girl, I’ll stay with you for the rest of my life!”
“Hmph! You and your sweet lies.” A-Jiao knew that such promises from a man could not be taken literally. Still, she felt a feeling of warm fuzziness rising from inside her heart. “What do you want to eat for lunch? I’ll cook it for you,” she said as she held Jiang Zhengkai’s arm with her hand and placed her head on his shoulder. The way a woman demonstrated her love for a man was to be willing to bear his children and to cook his meals.
“If you’d prefer, I can tell my sweet lies to someone else,” Jiang Zhengkai teased as he saw A-Jiao’s mood had improved. He knew the things she didn’t want to say back in the conference room must have involved her personal life. After all those years of interviews and interrogations, he had some ability to deduce what someone like A-Jiao was thinking in such situations.
“Oh yeah? I dare you to!” A-Jiao replied. She raised her head and angrily looked at him, then menacingly swung her small fist. “If you tell your sweet lies to another woman, I swear I will crush you into oblivion!”
“Hehe, but what if it’s… our daughter?” Jiang Zhengkai chuckled in response. However, the smile quickly vanished from his face as he thought of his deceased daughter, and of course Su Jiang as well.
“Well, I’m going to make sure I will only have sons, so ha!” A-Jiao obviously didn’t notice the change in Jiang Zhengkai’s demeanor as she pouted in response.
“Yeah, have a son!” he uttered loud and clear. Apparently, A-Jiao’s words acted like some sort of verbal stimulant and brought Jiang Zhengkai out of his gloomy stupor. He couldn’t wallow in the misery of the past any longer. He had to believe that Su Jing and their daughter would forgive him for moving on.
The two of them talked and walked all the way to A-Jiao’s old house as her mood improved considerably. A-Jiao cooked lunch alone in the kitchen. Even though Jiang Zhengkai tried to help out, she kicked him out for “being in the way.”
Even though A-Jiao had been a prostitute, it didn’t change the fact that she was truly an extraordinary woman. She made the perfect housewife, as demonstrated by the fact that a wide array of mouth-watering food had quickly assembled on the dining table.
“Honey! Wash your hands and get ready to eat!” A-Jiao came out of the kitchen and yelled at the bedroom where Jiang Zhengkai was watching TV.
Jiang Zhengkai heard her yell and came out of the bedroom. “Wow, Honey! You really outdid yourself! I can’t believe you cooked all that by yourself, and in such a short amount of time, too!” he complimented before he ran to the bathroom.
A-Jiao blushed at the sound of his words. She felt a special kind of appreciation when the word “Honey” left his lips. When Jiang Zhengkai returned to the dining table, A-Jiao was sitting down with her arms folded atop the table. She looked at him with yearning eyes, like a young child would look upon her teacher. “Honey! We have some wine at home. Can we pop open a bottle for lunch?”
“Drink wine?” Jiang Zhengkai hesitated for a second. However, seeing the expression on A-Jiao’s face, he realized he couldn’t really turn her down. “But you are still recovering… are you sure?”
“It’ll be fine!” A-Jiao’s expression became somewhat mischievous. “Just a little bit! Old Lady Wang won’t ever find out if you don’t tell her!”
“Hey, we’re talking about your body here.” Jiang Zhengkai purposely put on a serious face in response to what A-Jiao said. He saw her getting upset, with a pouting mouth and all, so he added, “But some rules we can occasionally break! So let’s pop open a bottle and drink some today!”
“Yes, yes! That sounds perfect, Honey!” A-Jiao repeatedly nodded her head. As she left to grab the wine, she quietly muttered, “My body belongs to you now…”
Jiang Zhengkai clearly heard what A-Jiao said after she left the table. His gaze shifted from A-Jiao’s body to the tabletop. A smile appeared on his face. He knew that meeting A-Jiao was a gift. He once had a woman who loved him very much, but even though that woman was gone, Heaven saw fit to send him another one.
“Honey! We’ve got wine!” A-Jiao happily announced as she carried the bottle to the table. She then turned around and got two wine glasses from the kitchen. “Honey! Can I make a wish before we start drinking? Oh, and you haven’t wished me happy birthday yet!”
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