Memory Lost (美人为馅): Chapter 46 (1 of 2) 22


Chapter 46: The Blurry You (1 of 2)

October in a Southern county is already filled with the chilly breezes of autumn.  The long street beside the river has a row of new and old housing.  Cars and pedestrians come and go.

Han Chen parks his car on the side of the street and looks up.

17 Fuyang Lang, Hongshan County.

The place where Bai Jin Xi lived in when she was little.

It’s a three story newly built western style home.  There’s even a small shop in the front.  Han Chen buys a pack of cigarette and starts a conversation with the boss lady, “I want to find out about a person.  I have a friend named Bai Jin Xi.  Did she live here before?”

The boss lady is a forty or so year old kind woman.  She shakes her head, “Nope.  Never heard of her.”

“When did you move here then?”

The boss lady smiles, “It’s been three or four years now.  When did your friend live here?”

“She lived here when she was little and then moved out.  Thinking about it, it has probably been over ten years,” Han Chen says smiling slightly.

The boss lady slaps the countertop lightly, “That’s probably why then.  This whole area was bought by someone and the buildings were taken down.  You see?  We bought this newly built home from the developer.  I’m not sure where all the old residents have moved to.”

“Oh,” Han Chen pauses and then asks, “Do you know who the owner was before it was taken down?”

The boss lady is a bit stunned from his question.  But seeing how he’s a good looking guy with his eyes focused on her, she tells him everything that she knows out of subconsciousness, “That I really don’t know.  But I heard that this land was transferred a couple of times to different owners until it went into the hands of the new development company.”

After leaving the shop, Han Chen stands on the side of the road and takes a look at each end of the street.

His eyes fall on the corner of the street.  A small restaurant that looks a bit dated.

It’s not noon yet and the simple looking restaurant permeated with the delicious smell of food has no customers inside.  There is only an old woman with a full head of white hair sitting in front of the entrance picking through some vegetables.

Han Chen walks up to her and bends down, “Grandma, I want to ask you about a person.”

The old lady raises her head and looks at him, “Young fellow, who do you want to ask about?”

“Do you know someone named Bai Jin Xi?  She’s my girlfriend.”

The old lady thinks for a minute, “Oh……is it Xiao Xi who used to live on the East side?”  She looks at him in surprise, “They’ve moved a long time ago.  How did you get here?”

Han Chen smiles and answers, “I haven’t been in touch with her for a few years.  I only remember her mentioning that her old home was here.  I happened to be passing by, so I decided to come take a look.”

The old lady smiles.  She pulls a chair over to him, “Young fellow, take a seat.  You’ve got the wrong place.  They’ve moved out of here for at least ten years.  But I remembered a few years ago, she came back once and chatted with me for the whole day.”

Han Chen sits down.  He places both of his hands on his knees and gives his full attention to the old lady, “Do you remember which year she came back to visit then?”

The old lady thinks for a moment and sighs, “At the end of 2010, which is the year that her family was in an accident.  She’s quite a pitiful child.  Both of her parents are no longer here.  And she can’t remember the past.”  She smiles affectionately, “But these few years that she’s been studying out of town, she has changed quite a lot.  The big city can’t be compared after all.  She has become prettier and prettier now.”

Han Chen keeps quiet for a moment and then asks, “Do you have a photo of her when she was little?”

The old lady shakes her head, “Where would I have that?”  She laughs at Han Chen, “Young fellow, you want to pursue her, don’t you?  You’ve even come all the way here.  You’re so thoughtful.”

Han Chen smiles.

“What other relatives does she have?”

The old lady thinks for a while and answers, “There aren’t any relatives on her dad’s side.  As for her mom’s side, I heard that she had an older sister, but she isn’t in Province K.  I heard that she has also passed away a few years ago.  Sigh……Xiao Xi, this little girl is so pitiful.  She really has no family around her now.”

A customer enters the restaurant.  The old lady quickly gets busy.

Han Chen finds a table and sits down.  He orders a bowl of rice noodles under the old lady’s recommendation.

Watching the smoke rising from the hot stove at the restaurant’s entrance and the old and worn out wooden table, it naturally reminds him of Bai Jin Xi, who’s very fond of these small snack street stalls.

“……They’re from a street stall.  It’s especially yummy.”  Her big round eyes were shining brighter than a light bulb when she said these words at the time.

Han Chen reveals a smile slowly thinking about it.  He picks up his cell phone, scrolls to her number, stares at it for a few seconds and dials.
_____

Bai Jin Xi can sit herself up now.  She’s eating dinner from the small table.

She’s still using the same lunchbox and spoon from yesterday.  She takes one mouthful after the other, but she can’t help feeling awkward about it.

Some men have a strong aura and presence.  Whenever she puts the spoon that he has used once into her mouth, she keeps thinking that she has tasted a certain flavor of his.  The image of him eating with this spoon yesterday keeps floating into her mind.

Annoyed.

Yet the nurses who are checking the rooms are chit-chatting about Han Chen at the doorway.

It’s expected, Bai Jin Xi thinks bitterly.  A man like him must be popular with girls wherever he goes.  She even heard from the criminal investigators a few days ago that Han Chen has at least a dozen female officer admirers at the public security bureau of City Lan for these past few years.

But he has never made a move.

Until……

Bai Jin Xi pokes the bed of rice hard with the spoon.

The young nurses are still chatting.

“That criminal investigator, I heard that he was the main force in solving the big case this time.”

“He’s so young.  He looks younger than thirty.  And he’s so handsome!”

This comment causes all the nurses to giggle.

“How come he was discharged from the hospital so soon?  The supervisor approved?”

“No!  He left without notifying anyone.  He said he needed to investigate a case, and he forced the inpatient department to prescribe him painkillers.”

“He’s so manly!” someone exclaims.

……

Painkillers?

Jin Xi pokes a few more holes in the rice.

Speak of the devil.  Her cell phone at the side of her bed rings.  The name flashing across the screen is no other than “two-timer heartless bastard Han.”

Jin Xi stares at the phone silently for a moment and then picks it up.

She doesn’t speak.

“Hello,” a deep and mellow voice says from the other side, “What are you doing?”

Jin Xi: “Nothing.”

Her voice sounds rather irritated and cold, and the image of her face turning red with her cheeks puffed up in anger floats into Han Chen’s mind.  It softens his heart.  He chuckles with the phone in his hand.  He lowers his head and taps his fingers on the table lightly.

“Are you feeling better today?”

Jin Xi ignores his question completely and doesn’t answer.

Han Chen doesn’t mind.  He advises her patiently, “Don’t get out of bed by yourself.  If there’s anything you need, just tell the others to do it for you.”

Jin Xi continues to remain silent.

Han Chen also becomes quiet.  He stares off to the distant river surface flowing in the sunlight.  He can hear the sound of her subtle breathing by his ear.

It feels as if there’s nothing more that he needs to ask for.

Seeing that he has stopped talking, it makes her a bit annoyed inside.  Therefore, she says coldly, “Is there anything else?  If not, I’m hanging up.”

He keeps quiet for a few seconds.

“I miss you,” he says softly.

Jin Xi feels as if someone gave her heart a hard squeeze.

It’s Han Chen’s hand; the one who’s taking her heart.

She puts down the phone and stares straight in a daze.  She doesn’t realize that her cheeks are burning until after a while.  She picks up the phone and then puts it down again.  She can’t seem to calm herself down.

In the end, she picks up the phone again and sends a text message.  And then she tosses the phone to the side for good, buries her head and sleeps.

In the small restaurant, the old lady brings him his rice noodles.  She asks smiling, “Young fellow, do you want some chili?”

Han Chen picks up his chopsticks, gives the noodles a stir and says, “Nope.”

At the same time, his phone alerts him of a text message.  He takes a look.  It’s actually Jin Xi.  There are two words only——

“Get lost.”

Han Chen pauses for a moment before putting down the phone without sending back a reply.  He lowers his head and begins eating his noodles.  But he hears the old lady laugh, “Your taste is the same as Xiao Xi’s.  When she was little and came here to eat noodles, she also didn’t put any chillis.”

Han Chen lifts his head.

But he recalls Bai Jin Xi scooping a big spoonful of chilies into her bowl and eating it with full of delight.

“Really?” he says, “When I met her later, she wouldn’t eat anything without spice.”

The old lady is shocked, “What?”  But she calms down right away, “Well, a person’s taste will change.  After growing up, your likes and dislikes will always change.”

Han Chen nods, lowers his head and eats slowly.

_____

Han Chen spends a day in Hongshan County to visit every elementary, middle, and high school that Bai Jin Xi had studied at.  Since it has been over ten years, he doesn’t find a lot of information from them.  And the schools of a small county don’t keep their archives well.  He is only able to obtain a few blurry and yellowy photos of her when she was little, but it’s already very hard to make out.

Early morning of the next day, he drives his car from Hongshan County to Shajiang City.

The Shajiang Police Academy.

The archives administrator is a forty or so year old man.  Han Chen shows him his identity card, “I am from the criminal investigation department of the public security bureau.  I need to review all the documents relating to your school’s 56th criminal investigation class.”

The administrator is stumped by this.  He shakes his head, “Mr. Officer, why do you need the 56th class?  A few years ago, there was a fire accident at the office building.  The 44th, 56th, and the 57th……the documents for these few classes have all been burnt to ashes.”

Han Chen frowns his eyebrows slightly, “Are there no digital backups for them?”

The administrator sighs, “We’re a very small police academy.  We couldn’t get funding at the time, so the new system wasn’t implemented until later.  Therefore, these documents were lost for good.  I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Han Chen stands still for a while deep in his own thoughts.  He then turns around and leaves.

The criminal investigation faculty’s office is in the same building.

Han Chen pushes open the door.  There are three to four teachers inside.  They’re all a bit surprised after hearing about his reason for coming.

The supervisor of the faculty is in his fifties with a full head of white hair.  He shakes his head after hearing the name Bai Jin Xi, “There have been so many classes.  I can’t remember anymore.”

A female teacher in her forties sitting on one side smiles, “Supervisor, how could you not remember?  She was a quiet and pretty girl.  I remember she went to the Jiangcheng station, right?  She found a pretty decent job.  But she hasn’t been in touch after graduation.  Oh, Officer Han, are you looking for her for a reason?”

Han Chen smiles, “She is currently in the public security bureau and is doing quite well.  My boss has sent me here to perform a background check.”

Due to his explanation, the teachers immediately say a few more praises about Bai Jin Xi——after all, it’s a student from their school.  Their praises are all on the surface level, like commenting how she’s unswerving, conscientious, and a hardworking student.  Han Chen listens to all of them attentively while asking a question here and there.  The group of teachers gets a little excited on the subject.  The female teacher from before says, “I also remember that Bai Jin Xi minded a lot about her appearance.  She’s a girl nevertheless.  Is she still like that?”

Han Chen smiles slightly, “This hasn’t changed.”

The female teacher smiles, “That makes sense.  At the time, she would go to the beauty salon every two to three days.  She always put makeup on.  She got a lot prettier by the time she graduated.”

“She doesn’t wear makeup anymore now,” Han Chen responds.

_____

The last place Han Chen visits is in Jiangcheng city.  It’s Bai Jin Xi’s home address from later on.

But just like Hongshan County, because they’re newly moved in homeowners, they’re not familiar with the neighbors.  The house was burnt down completely four years ago.  It has been rebuilt from scratch, so it barely contains any traces of Bai Jin Xi ever living here.

At nighttime, Han Chen drives to the riverside.  He watches the sunset while smoking quietly.

This city was where he and Bai Jin Xi met.

Bai Jin Xi lost her memory from suffocating in the smoke four years ago.

And he?  Based on what the doctor and his supervisor of the Beijing public security bureau told him at the time, he was injured during a case involving an explosion five years ago.  He was unconscious for a year before waking up.

After waking up, nothing seemed to be out of place.  Except for the blurry image of that person in his heart.  Someone beside him was missing.

And the only evidence of “her” existence was a ring.

Han Chen fetches his wallet from his chest pocket.  In one of the layers of the wallet, there’s a worn out platinum ring.

When he woke up, this ring was on the middle finger of his left hand.  Since it was just the right size, fitting snugly, they couldn’t take it off of him.  It was later that he slimmed down, so the ring was taken off then.  He was afraid of scratching it further, so he put it in his wallet.

He went on the internet to look up the meaning of wearing a ring on the middle finger.

It meant “deeply in love” or “engaged.”

After a long moment of silence, Han Chen inhales his cigarette a few times before dropping it to the ground and stepping on it to put it out.  He puts the ring back into his wallet and dials for Cold Face.

“Bai Jin Xi mentioned that she had an ex-boyfriend.  Go look up who this person is and send his contact information and address to me.”


Leave a Reply

22 thoughts on “Memory Lost (美人为馅): Chapter 46 (1 of 2)