Chinese Stories in English
The Deranged Woman on a Downtown Street
Author: Wen Qi
[This is a "teaser", a chapter from a longer work available for free on the internet to get you to buy the rest, so don't expect a satisfactory conclusion – Fannyi]
On his second day back at the police station, Mo Wenyu got a phone call from someone who said she'd seen Zhang Xiaosu on the Internet. Mo immediately opened the webpage. Sure enough, he saw her against the background of the main street in Cowtown, still looking deranged, being waylayed by an older woman.
"Zhang Xiaosu deranged! How is this possible? Could it be Zhang Shuyun?"
But when he took a second look at the older woman, he saw it wasn't Mama Zhang or her mother. Then he saw that the picture had only been posted two days ago, which told him right away that it was definitely not Shuyun. They'd still been together yesterday.
Mo went through the website to locate the person who had filed the post. The guy said he'd seen her on the street and had taken her picture to post on the internet because she looked so much like Huanhuan. "You're sure she's not Huanhuan?" Mo asked. "No, I asked the lady next to her, and she said her name is Zhang." Mo hadn't really dared believe it was true, but it was.
Mo wasn't about to let such an important clue go. When the weekend came he took the bullet train to Cowtown. First he looked up the man who had posted the picture and found the street [where it was taken]. From the posts he figured that the Zhang girl was walking away from her home. Her home was nearby, no doubt, but he wandered around most of the day without finding a hint of it.
He thought it over and decided that this was too passive a way to search for someone. It would be better to take the initiative by going to the police station to look up her residence address. He'd made up his mind and was turning to go when his stomach suddenly gurgled, expressing its opinion that he had another problem to resolve first.
He was about to go to a restaurant when he heard someone behind him shout: "Don't run! Come back!" He turned to look and saw an older woman running towards him, chasing a young girl. He thought she was trying to catch a thief, so he stood still and waited for the girl to run near him, then reached out and grabbed her. He took one look at her and was surprised to see it was Zhang Xiaosu, the very girl he was looking for! But he took another look and was even more surprised. She wasn't Xiaosu, her height was wrong, but she wasn't Shuyun, either. It was Yang Huanhuan! She was in her bare feet but still a full 1.66 meters [a bit over 5'5"]. Xiaosu is 1.64 meters [5'4.6"], and Shuyun is 1.65 meters [almost 5'5"]. The faces of the three girls were hard to tell apart, but Mo wouldn't forget the 2 and 1 centimeter differences in their heights. His blood started to boil!
Huanhuan looked at him, her face a blank. She didn't have a clue who he was, but she ducked her head instinctively and said "Go".
Go! Where does she want to go? Before Mo had a chance to think, the woman who had been chasing the girl caught up, all out of breath. She grabbed onto Huanhuan and said between pants, "I'm beat! Thank you, young man." She tried to pull Huanhuan away.
"Not so fast!" Mo said, and the woman stopped and looked at him. He made an effort to control his emotions as he pointed at Huanhuan and asked, "Ma'am, this, this isn't Zhang Xiaosu, is it?"
The woman nodded and said, "Yes, it is." Puzzled, she asked, "Do you know her?"
Mo answered by saying "Uh, we used to work together."
The woman nodded her head but didn't say anything.
"What's with her?" Mo Yu asked.
The woman stuck out her chin. "She's deranged."
"Deranged? How did that happen?"
"She had a fall," the woman answered.
A fall? Yang Huanhuan had also fallen and become deranged! Mo's head started buzzing and for the moment he didn't know what to say. Then he looked at Huanhuan's feet. "She's not wearing shoes!" he said.
"I know." The woman started to tug Huanhuan as she answered.
"What's your relationship to her?" Mo asked.
The woman was upset. "Hey, what are you asking so many questions for?" She turned around and walked away with Huanhuan in tow.
Huanhuan said "Go."
"That's exactly what we're doing!" the woman snapped as she pulled Huanhuan along.
Who is that woman? She's certainly not Huanhuan's mother. He remembered Huanhuan's mother and she was taller. Is she...? That's it, she's Xiaosu's mother.
The woman was taking Huanhuan farther and farther away. Mo couldn't think about it anymore. He had to know where they lived so he could take the next step. He tailed them stealthily right up to their building, but he didn't follow them inside. Mo's stomach was talking to him again, so he thought for a moment and then went into a nearby restaurant.
It was already quite dark when he finished dinner, so he found a place to stay in the vicinity. Lying in bed, he tried once again to reason out the clues. Finally he sorted it out like this: The deranged girl is Yang Huanhuan, and the woman isn't her mother. Following this thread a little further, it all became clearer. Yang Huanhuan, who didn't recognize him, is really Zhang Xiaosu. And it was also Xiaosu that came to Deer City to sing, and it was her on the Spring Festival Television Special, as well. It was starting to look like she was really a "heavyweight", to be able to fool the television station like that.
When Yang Huanhuan became deranged, Zhang Xiaosu took her place. She took over her whole life. By this takeover, Xiaosu became Huanhuan, and Huanhuan became Xiaosu. To further the impersonation, she didn't send the amnesiac Huanhuan to be with her parents, but put her with Xiaosu's own parents. Not only that, Huanhuan has been a hot item for several years and must have some money put away, which would fall into Xiaosu's clutches. What a meticulous scheme!
But Mo didn't jump to conclusions. He felt that such a meticulous scheme wasn't one that a twenty-something woman could pull off. Someone else was at least helping her, or was maybe even the mastermind.
At this point, the reason Yang Huanhuan didn't appear on the Spring Festival Television Special became crystal clear.
Mo decided he would meet with these people right away.
Mo knocked on their door the next morning, still playing the role of a co-worker coming to visit. He didn't think he had it all figured out yet, but it was clear that this woman, Xiaosu's mother, must know something. She wasn't the "star player", though, and he didn't want to make her suspicious.
Mama Zhang opened the door and looked out. She recognized him and wasn't very happy. "Why are you looking for us?" she asked.
Mo hastily to put a smile on his face. "I couldn't sleep at all last night after seeing Miss Zhang yesterday," he said. "I really feel sorry for her, so I bought a little gift for her, to show my regards." Mama Zhang listened and then let him in.
Huanhuan was sitting there with a vacant look on her face. Mo put his gift down and went over to her. "Do you remember me?" he asked.
She looked up at him, then immediately buried her face in hands. "Go!" she said again. She looked terrified.
This was the third time Mo had heard her say that word, but he couldn't even guess what it meant. He asked, "Where do you want to go?"
"Ahh, that's all she can say," the woman answered for her. "She says it every day, but tell me, where could she go?"
"When did she get injured?" Mo asked.
"You don't know?" Mama Zhang immediately looked at him and asked. "Don't you work together?" She seemed a bit agitated.
Mo was stuck for a moment but he recovered quickly and said, "Oh, we went our separate ways two years ago. I went to work somewhere else."
"I guess. You couldn't know about it unless you were together." Mama Zhang relaxed a bit. "Last August some people gave her a ride home," she said, "and when she got here she was like this."
"How'd she get hurt so bad?"
"Who can say? She takes a fall, knocks herself silly."
"Oh, she fell. How did she fall?
"The guy said she slipped. She shouldn't've worn high heels!"
"That guy, who was he?"
"The guy who brought her home. There was a man and a woman, over 40 years old."
"What are their names, and where do they work?"
"I don't know."
"Didn't they tell you?"
"And you didn't ask?"
"Uh, was Miss Zhang in the hospital after she fell?"
"They said she was."
"You didn't go to the hospital?"
"No. I don't know."
"How much did the hospital cost?"
"I don't know."
"Did anyone compensate you?"
"No, no, no." Mama Zhang was starting to get a little flustered.
"Uh, was she hurt anywhere else besides her head?"
"Not that I saw."
"Well, I'll just take a look at her injury, OK?"
"Go ahead. It was her head that got hurt, otherwise, why would she be deranged?"
Mo walked over to Huanhuan and felt her head. As soon as he touched her she said "Go!" On the back of her head Mo felt a scar the size of a nickel, round and perfectly regular. He was startled. He thought it didn't feel like it had been left by an accidental bump, but from surgery. He parted her hair to look and, sure enough, her skull had been opened in an operation! He was struck by the thought that the injury from a fall might have been a lie. If that was so, this was a huge case!
Just then he heard the door open and an older man came in, Papa Zhang. He looked at Mo suspiciously. Mama Zhang told him that Mo was an acquaintance of Xiaosu's, a former co-worker, who had come to see her. Mo knew who he was and asked "How you doin'?"
"Same as always, no big deal." Papa Zhang looked annoyed. He sat down off to the side, not saying a word, a very unfriendly expression on his face.
Mo tried to read their minds from the expressions on their faces. It was obvious to him that the old couple didn't want anyone to have contact with Huanhuan. Also, he couldn't see any sadness in their expressions. There could only be one reason for that, he thought; they know Huanhuan isn't their daughter. There are many things in this world that parents don't see about the children growing up with them, but they can always tell twins apart with absolute certainty. They know the truth, and they're covering it up, so they are definitely colluding in some crime.
Mo had already ascertained their motive, and he thought that asking more questions would just arouse their suspicions. It would put them on guard, so he didn't ask any more.
As he was about to leave, Mo turned to take another look at Yang Huanhuan. He felt a sudden pang in his heart, as though he'd been stabbed and his heart was bleeding. He told himself, "Huanhuan, if you've really been incapacitated, just wait, I'll make sure you get "paid back". Whoever owes you this "debt" is going to have to pay, and pay some more!
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