After speaking impatiently into his cell phone, Rene hung up and asked me, “Xiao Qiu, has Li Chuan done anything unusual recently? For example, shown signs of depression or being fidgety and uneasy? Did he say anything out of the ordinary?”
I closed my eyes, recalling. If I am still alive, be with me. If I am dead, promise me that you will (English) move on as quickly as possible. This shouldn’t be that hard to do for you, right? — I’m tired, and want to rest.
I raised my head, staring blankly at Rene, my mouth trembling, “Yes, he said…he once said, if he was dead, he hoped that I would promise him to (English) move on as quickly as possible and then said that he was tired and wanted to rest.”
Rene looked at me in a daze, “When did he say this?”
“Three, three days ago.”
“Did you agree?”
“I swore to it…” Suddenly, I saw stars. The people in front of me became a blur. Rene held onto me yelling, “Xiao Qiu! You must remain calm! If anyone can still find Li Chuan at this time, it can only be you!”
I composed myself. My heart was beating too fast and my body was covered in cold sweat.
Seeing my complexion not looking too well, as if I was going to fall apart, Zhang Qing Hui went to the cafeteria to buy me a cup of dark and bitter coffee.
Rene said, “Alex couldn’t have gone too far. He practically can’t move. Even if Xiao Mu helped him out, it wouldn’t be very convenient. They must still be in the vicinity right now.”
Who couldn’t reason that out? But, this was Beijing! Beijing was too big. Right outside the doors were taxis and the subway, roads going in all directions, and numerous restaurants and hotels. If Li Chuan chose somewhere to hide away, it was practically impossible to find him within a few hours.
Only Jiang Hao Tian was calm, “Right now we need to split up. Qing Hui, you go and notify the police, see if the police can help us check the registry of all hotels within this hour. Mr. Wang’s secretary, Xiao Wei, and I will split up and call all of Mr. Wang’s customers and friends to see if we can find any clues. Xiao Qiu and Rene, you two try to recall, based on Mr. Wang’s usual habits, does he have any other acquaintances or friends in Beijing, and places that he could go to. Also, sort through his clothes, see what he brought with him. Did he bring his wallet? Did he bring his cellphone? Did he bring his passport?”
I rushed to Li Chuan’s hospital room as soon as he finished, and looked into his drawers. Indeed, Li Chuan had taken away his backpack. Inside was his passport, wallet, and cellphone. Then, my guess was right —- Li Chuan had left intentionally.
I stared blankly at the bag on the IV drip rack. The old drip bag had already been finished. The new bag hadn’t been opened yet. There was a rest period of two hours in between each. At the same time, the nurses had changed shifts.
He distracted me. I was so stupid for not realizing and took so long deciding in the store, wanting to buy him more DVDs.
I immediately called Long Ze Hua Yuan. The security guard said that he hadn’t seen Li Chuan, that he hadn’t been back in many years. I didn’t believe him and asked to personally go to the penthouse to check. He brought the cellphone up with him, checked on the fiftieth floor and then the forty-ninth floor. He wasn’t on either.
I gave Ji Chuan a call, asking if he had contact with Li Chuan recently. He said that he did drink a cup of tea with Li Chuan at Lang Huan a month ago, but hadn’t heard anything from him since then.
I found Jiang Heng Xi and Xie Ji Lian’s number from the phonebook, the couple who opened the art gallery. They were the only ones in Beijing who I knew besides Ji Huan who knew Li Chuan well. I called to ask and they said that it had been many years since they had seen Li Chuan, that the two of them were actually really Ji Chuan’s friends.
Rene’s Chinese wasn’t very good, and when he was anxious, it was even worse. he could only sit on the side, watching me make calls.
After an hour, Zhang Qing Hui called saying that he had called the police to check and there was no guests by the name of Wang Li Chuan or Mu Xiao Zhu who had checked into the hotels within 5km of the hospital.
After a while, Li Chuan’s main doctor, Gong Qi Xian, had also received the news and had come. Rene told him what had happened. He asked, “Doctor Gong, given Alex’s condition right now, how long can he hold on without treatment, without an IV drip, without blood transfusion, and without being fed through a tube?”
Gong Qi Xian was silent for a period, then shook his head, “It’s best if all of you find him today. With his present state, he will definitely not be able to last three days. Even without considering his sickness, he still has problems swallowing. He can’t eat or drink. How many days do you think a person can live without drinking water?”
I collapsed into a seat.
After another hour, Jiang Hao Tian came over to say that he had gone through the address book that Li Chuan had left Xiao Wei. There was no useful news. Li Chuan hadn’t been in Beijing for five years. When he got back, he was constantly sick and didn’t really have any contact with others. In order to not miss anything, they even asked those who had a very shallow relationship him. Even CGP customers who he rarely contacted were asked.
I suddenly thought of something and asked, “Perhaps Li Chuan called his family in Switzerland?”
Rene shook his head, “I asked Ji Chuan to ask on the side. There was nothing. His father is currently in Hong Kong and has heart problems. His (paternal) grandfather and grandmother’s health hasn’t been that good recently either. We don’t dare let them know yet. Ji Chuan will arrive in Beijing tomorrow morning.”
I took my cellphone, got into Rene’s rental car and drove around the large streets of Beijing in a mess.
I went to every place Li Chuan and I had gone together before. The park we took strolls in, the shopping center we bought groceries from, the cafe we liked to go to, the movie theater, restaurants and the library. I didn’t see him anywhere. Li Chuan was sitting in a wheelchair, and he even had someone pushing him. If he really did appear in those places, I would easily be able to find him.
The night approached quietly. In the darkness, People were pacing back and forth on the large streets and in allies.
I found Xiao Mu’s home in Beijing. His housemate let me examine his bedroom. Xiao Mu really liked to be clean, his bedroom was neat and tidy and lived a very frugal life. His housemate said that he was quite capable, it’s just that his family was poor and he didn’t graduate high school. His hometown was in a remote village in Shaanxi. He had a younger sister to take care of the farm, his mother remarried, his father lay sick in bed with his younger sister taking care of him. The money for the medication was like a bottomless pit, pressing on him till he could hardly breathe. He really needed money and worked nonstop.
It was clear that Xiao Mu had also made preparations. There was no address book or address left behind in his room, even the trash bin was empty. In the morning, he headed to the hospital like usual and then never came home.
After leaving Xiao Mu’s home, I proceeded to driving around in the streets until early in the morning. When I returned to the hospital, I found Jiang Hao Tian, Zhang Qing Hui, Rene, and Mr. Gong waiting for me there. Everyone looked at each other and then shook their heads. There was no news, just more disappointment.
Mr. Gong said, “I asked at all the emergency rooms in Beijing and no one knew of Li Chuan,”
Rene smiled bitterly, “If Li Chuan decided to leave the hospital, then he would never enter another emergency room again.”
Ji Chuan arrived at ten in the morning.
He rushed here from Rome with just a small carry-on, looking exhausted and haggard.
Ji Chuan and Li Chuan were similar in appearance, but they had never been as similar as today. So similar, that when I took my first glance at him, I, who had been keeping calm this whole time, immediately burst on in tears.
He came over and hugged me, saying softly by my ear, “Xiao Qiu, don’t give up. Even if we collapse, we will find Li Chuan.”
Everyone continued their discussions.
Ji Chuan said, he called Li Chuan’s credit and bank cards. Just a little while after leaving the hospital, Li Chuan took out a huge sum of money from several ATMs in Beijing. It was clear, he didn’t want people to know where he went. If he used his credit card directly, he would be found very quickly.
Even though there were no more clues, we started a new round of conjectures and searching. Everyone split up to search out different possibilities, rushing until night. There was still no news. When we returned to the hospital to meet up again, everyone’s face was heavy. At that time, I suddenly thought of a person, Lawyer Chen.
I didn’t know what relationship Li Chuan had with Lawyer Chen, but Li Chuan allowed him to handle his real estate and checks. It was clear he trusted him. Li Chuan constantly reminded me that I didn’t need to give him money every month, clearly, he and Lawyer Chen kept a quite steady contact. I always thought that Li Chuan knew Lawyer Chen because his business had to do with CGP and thought that Jiang Hao Tian had long called and asked him.
When I asked whether Jiang Hao Tian had called, he stared blankly and said that he had never heard of this person and had never heard Li Chuan mention him. There was no business relationship between Lawyer Chen and CGP.
I immediately called Chen Dong Cun’s cellphone.
“Mr. Chen, I am Xie Xiao Qiu.”
“Ah, Xiao Qiu, how are you? Long time no see.” His voice sounded quite cheerful.
“It’s like this, have you recently been in contact with Li Chuan?”
“Yes, yesterday he even called me.”
My heart pounded furiously. I didn’t dare believe my ears, “What? He gave you a call?”
“That’s right, I always thought he was in Switzerland. Apparently, he was in Beijing.”
“What did he call you for?”
“He had me book a business class flight.”
“Business class flight? To where?”
“He said that he had emergency business and needed to get to Kunming in one to two hours.”
“You…you helped him?”
“It was hard to help him, but I have a friend who specializes in this and Li Chuan paid a lot of money. So it was quickly settled. The check was written from here. Why? Did something happen?”
“Li Chuan is a cancer patient. He just went to emergency rescue recently and is practically terminally ill. He disappeared from the hospital yesterday.”
“My god! He can’t have…”
“Please tell me the number of your friend. I need to ask him for Li Chuan’s location.” After hearing this conversation, everyone’s face started looking up.
Chen Dong Cun immediately told me his friend, Lao Cai’s cell number. When I called and asked, that Mr. Cai told me that Li Chuan and Xiao Mu had ridden business class to Kunming. Li Chuan looked quite sick and didn’t say or eat anything on the plane. Xiao Mu had acted on behalf of him for everything. He didn’t know where they went after they got off the plane.
Ji Chuan look over the phone and asked, “Lao Cai, can you charter a plane to head to Kunming immediately? Just name your price.”
At 7 in the morning, the group of us arrived in Kunming.
It was already Autumn, the early morning mist had a trace of coldness.
Even though Kunming was smaller than Beijing, it was still a large city with 6 million people.
Ji Chuan and Rene were at a loss. They had never been to Kunming before. At the airport, they both asked me, “Xiao Qiu, where do you think Li Chuan went?”
I thought about it and said, “Gejiu.”
Li Chuan was a romantic person and had asked about my hometown many times. When he asked about my childhood life, he said that he had gone to Gejiu, to my high school, and walked past my house, but didn’t have time to go in or meet my father and younger brother. Thus, he especially made copies of my pictures of me with my family when I was younger.
I thought that perhaps, if he had any wishes left unfulfilled, it was this.
Kunming was 318km away from Gejiu. We rented a small bus and drove on Shilin highway to 326 Goufang highway. After three and a half hours, we arrived in Gejiu.
Mr. Gong was shaking his head the whole way there, saying that Li Chuan’s body might be able to handle the three hour plane ride, but could definitely not take the three hours long distance drive. What’s more, with such a small place, the hospital was also small and the greater concern was doing emergency rescues.
The bus took us to Jin He Hotel. As soon as we dropped off our luggage, we borrowed a thick phone book and called every hotel asking whether someone named Li Chuan had checked in. After half an hour, all the large hotels had been asked and he couldn’t be found. I then sent my uncle to ask around at all the smaller inns.
Suspecting that Li Chuan might have taken lodging in a private home, Ji Chuan and I knocked and inquired door to door at all the homes near my home. There was no news.
I could only then bring him to the street Nan Chi High School was on and go door to door asking. Nothing came out of it either.
After going door to door, knocking, it was already evening. Even though Li Chuan would definitely not have taken a bus, I still went to the station and asked each one of the drivers, whether they had seen anyone looking like Li Chuan. Everyone said they hadn’t.
At night, Mr. Gong took me to the emergency room of the hospital nearby to see if Xiao Mu had found his conscience yet and brought Li Chuan to the hospital. Nope.
Everyone was burning with impatience and didn’t dare look at Mr. Gong’s face. The color on his face became more and more gloomy.
Li Chuan had disappeared for two and a half days. I thought that Mr. Gong must be wondering whether he was still in this world.
At night, besides Ji Chuan and me, everyone fell asleep in utter exhaustion.
I wandered around in the streets alone. Ji Chuan didn’t feel at ease for me and followed me closely.
In the large streets, only the two of us were going back and forth.
“Sigh, even if Li Chuan came to Gejiu, he wouldn’t be strolling around at this time in the streets.” Ji Chuan patted my shoulder, “Why don’t you go back and sleep a bit? Restore some energy and continue looking tomorrow.”
I didn’t know why I was so sure that Li Chuan would come to Gejiu. Perhaps I was completely wrong. I attempted to think about something, but my brain had already become numb and couldn’t think anymore.
I was like a ghost roaming around in the middle of the night on the streets. At 4am, Ji Chuan forced me back to the hotel. I lay on the bed, half dreaming, half awake. I believed that Li Chuan would come and visit in my dreams like those in stories. Li Chuan didn’t appear. When I woke up, I secretly cheered. At least this meant Li Chuan hadn’t turned into a ghost yet.
At seven in the morning, everyone met in the cafeteria. Jiang Hao Tian suggested notifying the police and then place notices on the newspaper and tv about the person search. Even though we knew that there wasn’t a good chance for finding him like this, we had no other options. We split up and went to the police station, the local newspaper office and tv stations. Ji Chuan even offered a huge sum of money as a reward to anyone who could provide us with clues.
At noon, everyone met in the cafeteria again. There were still no results.
My head hurt as if it was splitting apart, I went downstairs to buy a pack of cigarettes to smoke outside the entrance, alone. All of a sudden someone behind me patted me on the shoulder, “Xie Da Xia! (Da Xia = Noble Warrior, Swordsman, etc)”
The only people who would call me by my nickname were from high school. I turned around and saw Qi Tao from Second Year 3rd class, once on the sports council. It had been six years since I had seen him. He didn’t test into college and stayed in Gejiu working in the clothing business.
“Hi!” I listlessly greeted him.
“How come you’ve started smoking?” He was shocked, “Even good students smoke?”
At this time, how could I be in the mood to joke around? I simply asked, “Why are you here?”
“I’m here to eat with a friend. How’s Xiao Dong? How is your family?” Perhaps it was just natural to ask it, but then he suddenly realized that both my parents had passed, and immediately changed his question, “How is your aunt?”
I stared at him blankly and didn’t answer for a long time.
“What’s wrong? Why do you look like you’ve seen a ghost in the middle of the day? No, it’s not having seen a ghost, it’s that you almost look like a ghost.” He still made fun of me like before.
I broke into a run to Ji Chuan’s room.
Ji Chuan and Rene were talking in low voices. When they saw me, they said in unison, “Is there news?”
I said in a trembling voice, “Li Chuan…he is in Kunming. Cui Hu Hotel.”
We rushed back to Kunming with great speed and beelined for Cui Hu hotel. When we reached the reception desk, we stated our purpose and gave the receptionist proof from the hospital. The receptionist said that there were a lot of guests recently and the hotel was very busy, but expressed that they would try their best to cooperate with us.
I bluntly said, “Please check room number 709.”
The receptionist entered a couple things into the computer and immediately lifted her head to say, “There are two people staying in it, one is a foreigner named L.C. Wang.”
Mr. Gong immediately called the emergency line of the hospital. We got the master keys and rushed into the elevator.
The seventh floor was quiet. It was a floor filled with expensive suites and not many people were living there.
Mr. Gong warned us repeatedly in the elevator to enter into the room quietly and not to cause the patient to panic. He said that Li Chuan’s blood platelets were too low, had a diseased lung, and will cough. Coughing would cause his thoracic cavity to bleed, bleeding would block the lungs. With the lungs unable to open, he would be unable to breathe.
After making a turn in the corridor, we suddenly saw Xiao Mu standing quietly at the door.
Everyone looked at him, extremely angry, yet didn’t dare show it.
His expression was very solemn. My back kept on having spells of cold and my body started trembling. It felt as if my two legs weighed tons and couldn’t move for a long time. Suddenly, my arm was grabbed by someone. Ji Chuan half supported and half held me, walking to be in front of Xiao Mu.
“Xiao Mu, Li Chuan, is…he okay?” I asked softly, afraid to alarm him.
“I think,” He quietly looked at everyone, “He is about to die. He had me come out to wait for his end.”
I took out the room key and quietly opened the door.
Six years ago, I took care of Li Chuan in this room. To this day, I still remember the colors of the pillows and the covers. Everything was so familiar.
Li Chuan was quietly lying in the middle of the bed, under a thin layer of a light green blanket. Xiao Mu had helped him wash up. His face lacked life, his eyes were closed, but weren’t completely shut as if they had no strength to stay open and could only look at this world through a small crack.
A beam of light fell on his forehead, his pale skin looked saintly. A slight smile still remained on his lips as if he was caught up in the middle of a beautiful memory.
Li Chuan was still so beautiful, so handsome. Even in his last minutes.
I knelt next to his bed, took his hand, and called out “Li Chuan” a couple times. There was no reaction from him.
I couldn’t help but let my tears fall.
Mr. Gong listened to his breathing and took his pulse from this neck. He pulled the blanket away and I saw that Li Chuan’s body was covered in bruises filled with blood.
‘Li Chuan, it’s me, Xiao Qiu!” I placed his hand on my face, softly stroking it. His hand was quickly wet from tears, “Wake up! I beg you, wake up!”
Mr. Gong pulled me to one side, patted my shoulder and half comforted and half warned me, “His life is on a string and has lost it’s will to fight. At this time, you must try your best to comfort him.”
I held in my tears and nodded.
“You should say whatever he wants to hear the most to make him happy and feel reassured.”
I placed my lips right by his ear and softly called out, “Li Chuan, I am here! Don’t leave…I beg you not to leave me…I will never force you again! don’t worry, when you are better, I will immediately (English) move on, I will leave beijing. I will go to another city and won’t call you or come to find you. This time it’s the truth. I will do as I say and won’t go back on my word! You must promise me to try hard to continue living, okay?” At that moment, I felt that my words had gone through to him because his eyelids slightly moved a bit.
The rescue team came in with the stretcher. The doctor who came along said, “The ambulance is downstairs. The hospital has already been prepped with what you asked for. How is the patient doing?”
“He is extremely dehydrated, his body has gone into shock, and he is becoming weak. I suspect he also has blood in the pleural cavity and acute kidney failure. Take a chest MIR immediately when you get to the hospital and draw blood. First give him 500 milliliters of saline to hold him. I will be on hand to place in the tubes. Prepare the manual breathing air sac.” Doctor Gong truely did seem like a famous doctor, still composed in the face of death, making everything neat and tidy, his voice like a doctors.
When the sterilizing procedures started, Doctor Gong had Ji Chuan and me leave the room.
After a bit, the door suddenly opened and Li Chuan was pushed into the elevator by the medical personnel. The ambulance headed towards the hospital as fast as lightning. Ji Chuan, Rene and I, along with Directors Jiang and Zhang followed closely behind.
This time, Li Chuan stayed in the ICU for a whole seventeen days. Doctor Gong was right. Due to the blood clot, his lungs started bleeding, creating a lot of blood in the pleural cavity. Tubes were inserted into his chest. After being removed from the breathing machine, the tubes in his chest still couldn’t be removed. It had to stay in there, every day pink blood flowed out through it. When he breathed, he trembled in pain. The more he trembled, the more Doctor Gong encouraged him to cough and breath deeply to discharge the saliva and blood in the lungs as early as possible. Unable to bear seeing Li Chuan being in so much pain, I begged the doctor to give him morphine or meperidine. The doctor said that these drugs would inhibit breathing and couldn’t be used.
During this time, even my hair thinned. Every time I clasped Li Chuan’s hand, I could feel his pain, the spasms in his body, the cold sweat covering his entire body. Even just being on the side, I would start trembling.
When he woke, Li Chuan would not speak to anyone, including me, as if he had already lost awareness. Most of the time he was asleep. When it was really painful, he would wake up. He didn’t pay attention to anyone calling him.
When he was deep in sleep, he would hold onto my hand. He would grasp it tightly at all times as if it was his own hand. If I caressed his hand lightly with my index finger, he would fall asleep quickly, like an infant.
After a month, Li Chuan had improved slightly. Ji chuan insisted sending him back to Switzerland for treatment and recuperation. Plus, the doctors there were more familiar with his sickness. Before leaving, Mr. Gong told me, honestly, that having to perform emergency rescue on him twice had taken a toll on his body and his health was slowly worsening. If bone marrow transplant wasn’t performed on him soon, his prospects weren’t too good.
When Li Chuan left for Switzerland, I didn’t say farewell to him. Ji Chuan asked me to accompany them, but I didn’t agree either.
I will carry out my promise — (English) move on.
The facts have shown that Li Chuan’s health got better when I wasn’t there. He got sick for me three times, I couldn’t let this kind of thing happen again.
I returned to Beijing and continued with checking in my luggage. I found a small translating company in Kunming and continued with my line of work.
Everything had finally vanished into thin air.
I felt happy and was deeply thankful to the heavens. After all, the person I loved was still alive.