Chapter 18: Prologue to T
The temperature is rather cool at night in City Lan during the summer. The wind from Yangtze River blows from the North, moisturizing the entire city. Many people are already asleep, while many others have just begun their day.
In the central part of the city, there’s an old district.
A forty or so year old man is standing on the balcony of his home shirtless while having a beer. Inside the apartment, his wife is cleaning up the dishes on the table and cursing at him at the same time.
A mosquito flies across. The man slaps his hand on his arm.
And then he’s stunned.
It’s because he seems to have heard a sound just now.
Like it came from his body.
He looks down, and is in shock.
On the left side of his chest where his heart is, a splat of red has appeared. He touches it with his hand——it smells like red ink.
The man’s expression changes. He stretches his neck to look down below and curses, “Which mother-f—-r is shooting everywhere! Look after your own child! If I catch you shooting all over the place, be careful I’ll come spank you!”
Only silence responds to him.
Ten minutes later, at another neighbourhood not far away.
A young man is sitting on the sofa at home swaying his arms and legs non-stop as he smokes and listens to music. This is a very dirty home; the original colour of the sofa cannot be made out anymore, the table is piled with take out boxes and water bottles, and flies are everywhere.
The music is turned on loud; the young man shakes and bops his head to it as if he is engulfed in his own world.
He seems to have heard a very faint sound, but he doesn’t pay attention to it.
It’s not until he gets up to go to the washroom and sees himself in the mirror that he notices that there’s a red mark on the chest of his shirt. He frowns and touches it; it’s a certain kind of red paint. He doesn’t mind it too much, he closes his eyes, and starts swaying his body to the music again.
An hour later, far away at the entrance of the nightclub, Diamond Dynasty.
A group of youngsters come out with their arms around each other. They’re well dressed, but are smothered with the smell of alcohol. One of the girls are wearing revealing clothes; suspenders that cannot be thinner, a mini skirt that cannot be shorter, and a pair of high heeled boots. One of the guys pinches her waist, and she pushes him away, “Go away!” Everyone starts laughing. The girl also laughs. She reaches out and pulls the guy back to her side again. They put their mouths together and starts French kissing. Everyone around them are blowing whistles.
No one hears the sound. The group continues walking. When they arrive to the better lit parking lot, someone points to the girl’s chest, “Hey, what’s that? Are you bleeding?!”
Everyone looks towards her. The girl lowers her head, touches it, and finds out that it’s red ink.
“Who did this?” she says annoyingly holding out her hand with red ink on it, and starts wiping it on the others’ faces, “Who secretly smudged this on my chest? You’re so hateful!”
The group fools around for a while and laughs together again. They finally hop onto two vibrant coloured sports cars and drive away.
The night gradually becomes quiet again.
This city on the plains along the river is quiet like it’s a mirage. The sky is dark blue, and the moon is bright white. Many tall buildings still have a few lights on, shining on people’s dreams.
At the top of one of the buildings, there’s only one light that is always turned on. It’s very, very far off the ground.
There’s a man, standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling window.
He’s holding a gun in his left hand.
A red colour liquid is dripping slowly from the muzzle, and his hand is already covered in red.
He’s been standing this way for a long time. He raises his head and looks through the window.
The same red ink is used to write the following string of numbers:
“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.”
He slowly lifts his hand, and using his finger that is covered with red ink, he draws lightly on top of each number with a big——”X”.
He lowers his head again.
With one of his arms pressing against the window, he writes on the bottom right area under the numbers with a crooked and capitalized——
The ink drips continuously, and the writings on the glass window eventually blends together into a blob. They become illegible in the end.
The man keeps his standing position with his head down, and doesn’t move.
Bai Jin Xi is sitting in front of the computer biting on her pen; scribbling on a piece of paper from time to time.
For a Jiangcheng citizen who doesn’t have a lot of memory, she is writing up a guide for buying specialty foods——
The dried peaches from Chen’s Dried Goodies……The people on the internet have praised it for being the best. She’ll take three catties (~1.8Kg).
The tofu skin at the main road of the East side of the city……She doesn’t like them too much, so she’ll just buy one bag.
The tasty Marinated duck……She likes these the best. Would five bags be enough?
That should be enough, so she folds the paper and stuffs it into her pocket. Zhou Xiao Zhuan gets up from his seat and is just going to eat breakfast when he sees her, “Huh, Leader, aren’t you supposed to be off today? How come you still haven’t left yet?”
“Mm, I just needed to look up some stuff. I’ll be going now,” she says vaguely, and also gets up from her seat.
When they get to the door, they immediately spot a familiar figure walking up the stairs at the corner with District Chief.
It’s no other than Xu Si Bai.
Zhou Xiao Zhuan leans against the door and says in a low voice, “I actually think that Forensic Investigator Xu is more suitable. Although he’s a bit shy and petty when it comes to you, he’s highly efficient when it comes to work. A very decisive man. As for somebody else……What’s that saying again? Distant water can’t put out a nearby fire (in desperate need for help, but is out of reach).”
Bai Jin Xi glares at him.
Xiao Zhuan immediately changes his words, “Uh……this seems like you’re too unreserved. It’s not suitable, not suitable at all. Hm……the whip cannot reach (too far to be able to help). Yes, the whip cannot reach!”
Jin Xi doesn’t bother responding to him. She glances at Xu Si Bai from afar, stands up, and exits through the back door.
Xiao Zhuan stares at her back, and can’t seem to pinpoint how he feels.
He wonders where Leader is going; she’s actually hiding and not going to eat lunch with Forensic Investigator Xu!
At the stairwell about ten meters away.
Xu Si Bai is chatting with District Chief. It’s District Chief who’s doing most of the talking, while he’s mostly listening attentively.
And at an instant, it’s as if he senses something, he turns his head and looks over.
He catches a glimpse of a shadow disappearing at the end of the hallway.
He’s a little shock.
“Xiao Xu, will that be alright?” District Chief asks.
Xu Si Bai turns his head back to look at District Chief, and smiles, “Okay.”
The streets are much hotter than inside of the building.
Bai Jin Xi is standing in front of a shop. She’s fanning herself with the newspapers in one hand, and she’s holding a couple of bags full of stuff in her other.
“Five bags of duck wings, and also five bags of duck necks,” she says boldly.
“Sure thing!” the shop owner grins, “Do you want them in mild, medium, or super hot?”
Bai Jin Xi thinks for a minute, “Please wait.”
She sits down in front of the shop, orders a cup of green bean slush, and takes out her cell phone.
She scrolls through her address book until she finds the number with the updated label, “Han Chen.” He has been gone for four to five days now, but they haven’t once called each other.
She types word by word, “Can you eat spicy?”
She waits for two minutes. No response.
A possibility suddenly comes to mind——it can’t be that this fellow didn’t save her number, can it?
It’s very possible.
Therefore, she sends him another text, “I’m Bai Jin Xi.” She then decides to add deliberately, “Bai Jin Xi from Guanhu Station.”
The public security bureau (provincial station) is located at the center of City Lan. It’s a tall white building; peaceful and solemn.
It’s exactly noon. Han Chen is sitting behind his desk; two of his colleagues are standing in front of him, asking him about a certain case.
And then, his cell phone on the desktop vibrates.
He grabs it, takes a look, puts it down again, and continues listening to his colleagues.
But within two minutes, the phone vibrates again.
He picks it up to take a look, and smiles.
His colleagues also notice that he is receiving text messages one after another, so they stop.
Han Chen’s fingers tap quickly on the mobile keyboard and sends the text out: “A little bit.”
Bai Jin Xi replies right away with an “OK” smiley only.
They’re pretty much done discussing about the case, so his colleagues start to chit-chat with him.
Han Chen is leaning against his chair. He spins the phone in his one hand twice, stops, and replies: “Thanks.”
She replies him right away again: “What are you thanking me for? There’s no need.”
A smile gradually shows on Han Chen’s face as he stares at the text message.
Is she being a little too bitter?
Just because he said “no thanks” to her Xiaolongbao (steamed buns) last time.
His two colleagues also sense something is not right from his expression.
At the provincial station, Han Chen also has another very popular nickname. But everyone only dares to call him by it privately, especially female colleagues. No one dares to call him by it in front of his face.
“Qiao Han Chen.”
From the novel, “Sui Tang Yanyi,” the son of emperor Yan, the young “Qiao Luo Cheng” is brave and fierce, killing hundreds of enemies. He has handsome facial features, but is always stern looking, making him unapproachable.
They can’t believe that they’re actually seeing “Qiao Han Chen” texting on his cellphone, and even smiling on his face. How can they not be shocked about this?
After Han Chen finishes sending his text, he sees his colleagues staring at him with full of curiosity.
He stands up calm and composed. He stuffs the phone and a pack of cigarettes into his pocket, and walks out.
There aren’t a lot of people in the stairwell at this hour. Han Chen finds a corner with sunshine, leans against the pole, lights up a cigarette, and starts smoking quietly.
After a while, the cellphone in his pocket vibrates.
“Delivery tracking number: 8794XXX1. It should arrive tomorrow.”
With the cigarette between his fingers on one hand, he texts back back with the other: “How much?”
There’s no response after a long while this time.
Han Chen presses the cigarette down, and calls her.
It’s not on purpose that Bai Jin Xi doesn’t reply. It’s because she’s standing at the post office piled with parcels as she tries to wrap her box up.
She’s just taping the box when she hears the phone rings. She frees one of her hands, places it between her ear and shoulder and answers without looking at the number, “Hello.”
Bai Jin Xi freezes for a second.
Through the phone, his voice sounds a bit different than in person. It sounds deeper, but very clear and crisp.
“Oh,” Bai Jin Xi answers, “What’s up?”
“How much is it?” he asks, “I’ll deposit it into your account.”
Bai Jin xi can almost imagine that he is standing at some place holding a cigarette between his fingers, and is talking on the phone with an indifferent expression on his face.
“There’s no need,” Bai Jin Xi continues taping up the box and the screeching sound can be heard, “If I go to City Lan next time, you can treat me to dinner.”
Among all the noise, his voice comes on again, “Mm, sure.”
It’s a simple answer, but maybe because of his mellow voice, it actually gives her heart a slight shake.
“Okay,” she replies.
The phone is silent for a while.
“I’ll hang up now,” he says.
“Wait!” she speaks, “I included you in the Chen Li Jiang report. I’ll send it to you tonight. Take a look at it and see if there’s any changes that need to be made.”
“No need,” he says, “I don’t read those.”
Bai Jin Xi replies with “Oh.” It makes sense. He’s an experienced detective, so he definitely doesn’t read these basic reports.
“It’s fine as long as you don’t write nonsense,” his voice is a little muffled. It sounds like he has a cigarette in his mouth.
Bai Jin Xi giggles, and says confidently, “This is great! I’m best at writing nonsense. I’ll try my hardest to make sure this report leaves a black mark on your record.”
After sending the parcel, it’s not yet 2pm. Bai Jin Xi makes her way home leisurely.
Thinking back at Zhou Xiao Zhuan’s words today, “Distant water can’t put out a nearby fire (in desperate need for help, but is out of reach),” what nonsense.
He doesn’t understand. Close friends’ relationships can stay as clear as water (nothing more than friends).
When she’s almost at the entrance of her building, she spots a familiar looking white Chevrolet.
Xu Si Bai is leaning against the car, looking at her from afar.
Bai Jin Xi smiles with both of her hands in her pockets, and walks towards him.
“What are you doing here?” she asks.
Xu Si Bai smiles, “Someone said that once she had solved the case, she would treat me to a big meal.”
Bai Jin Xi is in a daze for a minute. She did say something like this before, and she was very sincere at the time.
Her face flushes, “About that Old Xu……today is the 28th, which is at the end of the month……”
She had only a couple hundred bucks left, and used them to buy stuff for Han Chen.
Xu Si Bai laughs immediately; his laughter is the gentle kind with his eyes sparkling.
“Get in the car,” he opens the car door for her, “I’ll lend you money for now. You can give it back to me when you get your next paycheck.”
Bai Jin Xi says, “……You sure about this?” She sits inside.
He rests his arm on the rim of the car, lowers his head, and looks directly at her, “With you, anything is okay.”
Chapter 18: Prologue to T