Chapter 8: Professionalism and Dignity
Jiang Zhengkai lingered for a long time in the room where the last murder had occurred. He didn’t turn on the lights, just sat there quietly. When he had first arrived, a pair of beat cops from the local police station had been standing guard over the crime scene, but he'd dismissed them as soon as he'd arrived, since he didn’t think watching over the crime scene like that would turn up any new leads. He'd just wanted to stay here quietly, perhaps hoping the silence would allow him to hear the faint whispers of the victims’ souls as they told him what he wanted to know.
Finally, Jiang Zhengkai stood up. He took one last look at the bed, where two skeletal bodies had once lain. Then he turned around and locked the door on his way out before proceeding downstairs. By now, it was late into the evening, and with the crisp night air blowing across his face, Jiang Zhengkai somehow felt more clear-headed than before.
He walked out into the alley. Not far from his path was the building where A-Jiao and her sisters worked. He stood in the middle of the alley and looked at the building for a bit. At precisely that moment, a series of strange noises from deep within the building attracted his attention.
Jiang Zhengkai didn’t make a sound as his body instinctively hugged the wall. “Uhn... uhn... ahh... ahh... uh...” A string of strange whispers emanated from inside the building. His mind whirled as he tried to grasp the situation. All the prostitutes had been scared away from this place, but that really did sound like two people having sex. “Uhn... uhn...” The sounds from inside the building continued unabated.
He drew his pistol from its holster and disengaged the safety, before immediately rushing into the building. In mid-dash, he aimed down the sight of his pistol with his right hand while flipping on the blindingly-bright flashlight attached to his utility belt with his left hand. “Who’s there?” he yelled. He wasn’t sure whether he meant to scare whoever was inside or to bolster his own courage.
“Mmph... mmph!” There was a naked woman on the floor, gagged and bound in the shape of a frog, while lying on top of her was a strong-looking man. Upon hearing his yelling, the woman made a desperate plea for help.
“Who are you?” the man on top of the woman roared furiously. “Mind your own business! Don’t make me come over there and kick your ass!” At this point, his body was still firmly pressed down against the woman.
“Mmph... mmph!” The woman continued her pleading.
“Freeze! Police!” When Jiang Zhengkai saw that it was only a normal man and woman, he suddenly felt a rush of courage washing over him. It would take a lot more than a common lowlife to scare a sixteen-year veteran of the force. He ran over to the man and pointed his pistol directly at his temple. “Get up, now!”
“I’m just fooling around with a woman. What’s the big deal?” Realizing that he was now dealing with an armed police officer, the man suddenly lost his earlier arrogance. However, he was still tightly pressed down against the woman, so it wasn’t exactly easy for him to stand up. Perhaps out of retaliation, he violently pushed down on the woman as he got up from the floor. Then he voluntarily put his hands behind his head and looked at Jiang Zhengkai with an innocent expression.
“Ahh!” The woman on the ground let out a miserable scream as the man pushed into her, before her head tilted towards the floor and she passed out. Obviously, the pain caused by the man’s last act was too much for her to bear.
“What’s going on here?” Jiang Zhengkai asked as he glanced at the woman on the floor. He had no idea that she was A-Jiao.
“Why all the fuss, Officer? I’m just fucking a prostitute,” the man said as he stood his ground. “Why are you making such a big deal out of it anyway?” The whole city knew that this place was a well-known den of prostitution. Therefore, it would've been very easy to convince someone that the woman on the ground was a willing hooker.
Jiang Zhengkai looked at the man with a rather dubious expression. He then shone his flashlight on the woman’s face. She did seem to look a bit familiar. Suddenly, a name popped into his head. “A-Jiao?”
Unfortunately, there was no way for the woman to respond to his call while in her unconscious state. Jiang Zhengkai immediately pointed the flashlight’s beam back in the man’s face. If it weren’t for laws against police brutality, he would’ve been more than willing to beat the man’s face to a pulp with his flashlight. “You motherfucker! Even a prostitute doesn’t deserve to be treated like this!” Alas, all he could do was curse the man. He then called the local police station and had them take these two away.
In the end, A-Jiao wound up on a hospital bed. However, even though the man had seriously injured A-Jiao, there was nothing the police could do as long as he remained adamant that the encounter was purely sexual. Undoubtedly, the police held her special profession against her, and given her unconscious state, it wasn’t exactly like she was able to provide her side of the story. At the end of the day, the man was allowed to go free after being fined five thousand yuan, and the case was closed.
Three days later, A-Jiao regained consciousness. “Where am I?” she weakly asked the nurse who was changing out her IV bottle.
“The hospital,” the nurse responded coldly. When interacting with women engaged in the business of prostitution, members of mainstream society tend to be less than willing to offer them their sympathies. “Lie back down!” the nurse barked in frustration, before she turned around and left the ward.
Right now, as she was lying in bed, A-Jiao really wanted to ask for a drink of water. Even though there was a bottle of water not too far away, she didn't even have enough strength left in her to reach out and grab it. Perhaps in the eyes of others, she was as good as dead already. Maybe they even wanted her to die.
Finally, she mustered the strength to at least turn her head towards the other hospital beds in the ward. She saw the other patients and their family members. It was clear that none of the other people in the ward wanted anything to do with a prostitute girl like her. She pursed her lips and turned her head back towards the wall. Alright, child. Take care of yourself out there! She could still hear Uncle Cai’s voice reverberating in her mind as hot tears streaked down her face.
It wasn't long before Jiang Zhengkai entered the ward. "Hello, Officer Jiang!" said one of the visitors as he came in. "Good to see you again."
“Good to see you, too! How is Auntie Zhang’s condition today?” Jiang Zhengkai was invariably polite when making small talk with the visitors. “Here, I brought some fruit," he said as he placed a bag on the ward's communal table. "Everyone, feel free to take some.”
“Aiya! Officer Jiang, you’re always so courteous,” said the ward patients and their visiting family members. One of the visitors gestured his head towards A-Jiao. “Officer Jiang, that /woman/ finally woke up,” he sneered.
“Really? Thank you for letting me know, Uncle Liu!” After making his rounds, Jiang Zhengkai went over to A-Jiao’s bed and sat down on the visitor's chair beside her. “How are you doing, A-Jiao? Are you feeling any better?”
A-Jiao’s face remained pointed towards the wall. She bit her lip and didn’t say anything, as a neverending stream of tears flowed down past her cheeks.
“I know you’ve been hurt, but you have to be strong.” Jiang Zhengkai wasn’t quite sure how to comfort a prostitute. After all, he was a police detective, not a social worker.
“Hey, you bitch!" One of the other patients jeered at her, annoyed that A-Jiao wouldn't respond to Jiang Zhengkai’s questions. "Can’t you see that Officer Jiang is trying to talk to you?”
Some of the visiting family members joined in as well. “That’s right! You’re nothing but a whore!”
“Don’t act all self-righteous!”
“Yeah! You’re lucky it was Officer Jiang who found you. If it were me, I would’ve just left you out there to die--”
“When did I ask for any of your damned opinions?” A-Jiao wasn't sure where she found the strength, but through some force of will, she suddenly sat up in her bed and glared at her accusers. “Why don’t you just leave me to die then, huh?" she screamed hysterically at them. "That’s right, I’m a whore! And guess what? I like being a whore! I want to be a whore! And I don’t give a fuck what you think about me!”
A-Jiao continued to stare them all down for a moment longer, before turning to face Jiang Zhengkai, eyes filled with rage. With one hand, she forcefully pushed down on the IV needle in her arm. Her other hand ripped the saline bottle from its rack and threw it to the ground, shattering it into a thousand pieces. The IV tube turned a dark red color as blood from her veins flowed down into the shattered bottle. “Go ahead and let me die, then!”
That finally snapped Jiang Zhengkai out of his shock. He hurled himself onto A-Jiao in an effort to restrain her. However, using whatever sudden strength her body now possessed, A-Jiao fiercely resisted Jiang Zhengkai’s attempts to save her. “Let me die! I’m a whore! Everyone come and fuck me!”
But then, her mysterious strength left her as suddenly as it had found her. Her body went limp, and Jiang Zhengkai was finally able to remove the IV needle from her arm. However, the struggle had left blood all over the bed sheets. Fresh blood flowed down the sheets towards the ground, much like the tears that had so recently flowed down A-Jiao’s face.
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