Chapter 69: The Hidden Woman
After hearing A-Shun’s statement, Jiang Zhengkai leaned back in his chair and squinted at him. In his heart, Jiang Zhengkai did not trust the man. He had absolutely no confidence that A-Shun would truthfully tell him what had occurred in the alley. However, he knew that cracking the case depended on A-Shun’s assistance, and he also knew that A-Shun would cooperate with the police as long as it did not harm his personal interests. After all, A-Shun’s business would disintegrate if all of the women working in the alley died or ran away.
“Let me ask you, A-Shun; who used this room just before A-Lian’s death?” As he asked his question, Jiang Zhengkai took out the diagram and pointed at window three.
Upon hearing Jiang Zhengkai’s question, A-Shun got up and looked attentively at the diagram before sitting back down in his chair. “Inspector Jiang, I am the one that rented that unit. It has always been used by the women in the alley,” said A-Shun. He paused for a moment. “The night of the incident, that unit was being used by A-Xue and A-Sha. I heard from A-Sha that A-Xue was the one using that unit that night.”
“So other than A-Sha, there is no one else who could prove that A-Xue was the one using the unit?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he stared straight into A-Shun’s eyes. “How do you normally assign rooms in the alley?”
“No one else mentioned anything about seeing A-Xue using that unit, Inspector Jiang,” A-Shun sat there and politely replied. “As for room assignments, every girl is assigned a fixed room, barring extraordinary circumstances.”
“Then why is it that only A-Sha and A-Xue were working in that building that night?” persisted Jiang Zhengkai as he continued looking into A-Shun’s eyes.
“That…” Jiang Zhengkai’s relentless questioning finally caused A-Shun to sweat a little as beads of sweat started to appear on his forehead. He didn’t think Jiang Zhengkai would ask these types of questions. “Inspector… Inspector Jiang... “ A-Shun said embarrassingly. “You… you must know that business in the alley isn’t what it used to be. A lot of girls work in the afternoon these days so they don’t have to come at night.”
“They’re working in the afternoon?” Jiang Zhengkai incredulously repeated.
“Yes!” A-Shun nodded, “They’re only human, after all, and none of them relish the idea of dying on the job.” If his eyes hadn’t been shifting all over the place as he spoke, Jiang Zhengkai almost would’ve believed him. Unfortunately, A-Shun wasn’t enough of a stickler when it came to the details.
“Really?” asked Jiang Zhengkai as he leaned forward on the table. He lightly tapped the table before leaning back in the chair again. “I was in the alley that night. How come I remember the alley being rather lively then?” He glared menacingly at A-Shun as he slammed his elbows on the table. “A-Shun, tell me the truth! Were there other women in that building?”
“Yes… no!” In a panic, A-Shun unwittingly agreed with Jiang Zhengkai before consciously changing his answer, but it was too late. His brow was now full of sweat, and his expression was one of fear as he raised his head to look at Jiang Zhengkai.
“Tell me! What the hell happened?” yelled Jiang Zhengkai as he slammed his fist down onto the table. He knew A-Shun was hiding something, but what exactly was he hiding?
“Well...” A-Shun sat there uncomfortably, sweat dripping continuously from his forehead. There was obviously a struggle going on inside his head. It appeared that what he was trying to hide was not something easy to say out loud. Jiang Zhengkai saw A-Shun was still somewhat hesitant, so he didn’t push him to answer. Instead, he rhythmically tapped his fingers on the table. Tap tap tap! Tap tap tap! To A-Shun, they didn’t sound like objectd striking the table; rather, they sounded to him like objects striking his heart. After a few minutes, face covered in sweat, A-Shun finally raised his head and looked at Jiang Zhengkai in terror. He said in a shaking voice, “Inspector… Inspector Jiang, you… you have to believe me! I… I didn’t kill anyone!”
“Speak!” Jiang Zhengkai’s countenance appeared restrained, but he was astonished at what he’d heard. Like A-Sha, was A-Shun also afraid that Jiang Zhengkai was trying to pin the murder on him? No, it couldn’t be; A-Shun’s adaptability and mental constitution were definitely not that weak. What he was about to confess was probably a murder that Jiang Zhengkai had known nothing about.
“Alright… alright, I’ll talk!” A-Shun looked at the expression on Jiang Zhengkai’s face. He didn’t know what lurked behind that stoic glare, but he knew he was innocent of the murder. Therefore, if he were to talk, then he might as well tell it all. He first took a deep breath, looked back at Jiang Zhengkai, and said, “That night, there were three women in that building. The one who used the unit you pointed out was indeed A-Xue, but there was another girl named A-Ju who was also in the building that night.”
“Oh, really?” When A-Shun paused, Jiang Zhengkai leaned back in his chair and said, “A-Ju didn’t really associate with A-Sha and A-Xue, did she?” In an effort to get A-Shun to confess everything he knew as quickly as possible, Jiang Zhengkai decided to take a gamble. Because A-Sha had not once mentioned A-Ju in her confession, Jiang Zhengkai speculated that A-Ju wasn’t particularly close with A-Sha and A-Xue.
“No, she didn’t!” A-Shun repeatedly nodded his head in response to Jiang Zhengkai’s guess. “A-Ju wasn’t from the same place as them. Unlike most of the other girls in the alley, she also liked to use drugs… a lot. So that’s why a lot of the women in the alley don’t really like mentioning her.”
“Get to the point!” snapped Jiang Zhengkai when he heard A-Shun talking around the main issue. He rapped his knuckles against the table once more. “Don’t think I don’t know the truth just because you haven’t said it!”
“Yes, Inspector Jiang,” said A-Shun as he lowered his head in response. “That night, A-Ju died too, but she didn’t die like the others! She died from a drug overdose.”
“That’s it?” Hearing how casually A-Shun had described A-Ju’s death, Jiang Zhengkai returned his gaze to A-Shun and asked, “It’s that simple?”
“Yes!” Seeing how Jiang Zhengkai wasn’t convinced by his answer, A-Shun dropped to his knees and pleaded, “Inspector… Inspector Jiang! I’m telling you the truth! I’m not lying! I have a wife and kid! I don’t want to die, and I wouldn’t kill anyone either!”
“Then what are you worried about?” Jiang Zhengkai saw A-Shun’s expression and knew it was one of genuine fear. A-Shun was clearly worried that Jiang Zhengkai suspected him of murder. A-Shun’s fear was a fear of death, as well as a fear of hopelessness.
“I…” A-Shun raised his trembling hand and wiped the cold sweat from his face. He then swallowed a mouthful of saliva before continuing, “I… I disposed of the body…”
“And who else?” Jiang Zhengkai asked harshly.
“No… no one!” A-Shun weakly replied. He then raised his head head and said, “Usually both A-Tie and I took care of these kinds of things, except A-Tie was out sick that night, so…”
“How did you dispose of the body?” Jiang Zhengkai didn’t pursue A-Shun’s line of thinking, and instead focused on the disposition of A-Ju’s remains.
“I… buried it!” replied A-Shun. “I can show you where!”
Once he finished listening to A-Shun’s confession, Jiang Zhengkai turned his head and looked at Lu Xiaoqiang. Lu Xiaoqiang’s face was one of morbid astonishment. He didn’t know that so many women of the alley had such tragic endings, with those responsible for disposing of their remains being so hasty and casual in their actions.
“Go find Zhang Nan! Tell him to follow A-Shun to A-Ju’s burial site.” After he spoke, Jiang Zhengkai nudged Lu Xiaoqiang. ‘
Only then did Lu Xiaoqiang snap out of his mortified stupor. “Oh! Yes, Inspector Jiang!” he replied before he got up and left the interrogation room.
After Lu Xiaoqiang left, Jiang Zhengkai glanced at A-Shun, still kneeling on the ground. “How many women have died in the alley over the last few years?”
“They… the ones who didn’t use drugs are usually alright!” A-Shun was in somewhat of a daze as he knelt there. He didn’t bother getting up; it was as if he were begging for forgiveness or atoning for his sins.
“Really?” Jiang Zhengkai saw A-Shun’s current state and knew that what lay before him was a broken man. Even so, A-Shun still wouldn’t give up just how many women he has buried over the years. After all, those weren’t his proudest moments in life, not to mention they were also highly illegal acts.
Everything unfolded as Jiang Zhengkai had expected. A-Shun continued to kneel there, but he never really responded to Jiang Zhengkai’s final question. His only answer to Jiang Zhengkai’s “Really?” was silence. He knew that knowledge was something that he had to carry to the grave. He also knew that if he had broken the triad’s code of silence, it wouldn’t just be him, but also his wife and child that would suffer. Right now, his only regret was that he had revealed to Jiang Zhengkai the fact that A-Tie had helped him in disposing bodies as well.
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