Chinese Stories in English
My Brother and I
Left Bank (Zhao Xin)
I’d spent two months roaming around the cities of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Fuzhou and had nabbed three suspects. Then the task force was dissolved and I thought I’d have a couple of days off at home. My mother had called me several times while I was gone and asked when the job would be done. I knew she was still talking about blind dates, so I urged her to let it be and let nature take its course.
As a man pushing thirty, it wasn’t that I was unconcerned about starting a family, it was just that things hadn’t gone smoothly. My girlfriend when I was at the police academy was a classmate. We were in love, but when we were about to graduate, she said her parents thought it wouldn’t do with both of us being cops. I asked what was wrong with it and she told me a lot of things I hadn’t thought of, but which really would make it difficult.
“Will you change careers,” she asked. She knew I wouldn't. It was my ambition to be a police officer. I asked her, too, and she also said no.
The loss of that relationship hit me hard, and I didn’t get my head straight for more than a year. Mother was so anxious that she asked all around for someone to introduce me to a potential match. Most of them were concerned about my career and asked me if I could be transferred to an office job. I said it was difficult, and as a result, we didn’t stay in contact.
Some girls, however, do have an inherent liking for the police profession. There was a beautiful girl named Ocean, who fell head over heels as soon as we met. “Policemen are so dashing,” she said, and I thought I’d met the one. Things went bad that Valentine's Day, though. We’d arranged a time and place to meet and I had an elegant gift for her, but while I was on the way, I got a call from the Precinct Captain saying there was a special operation. My cell phone was confiscated before the operation started and it was a week later before I could call her. I called several times but she didn’t answer. I tried over and over to catch her on the way somewhere so I could show her I was sincere. When I finally did, I asked her to forgive me. She said solemnly, “I forgive you, but I really couldn’t tolerate a partner like that.”
Before long Mother had arranged several blind dates for me. I exchanged contact info with the girls but didn’t hit it off with any of them. I even forgot which one was which.
This time Mother put her foot down. "Oh, son,” she said, “this absolutely will not do, absolutely. You have to come home and meet this girl!" I had to promise I would before she’d hang up.
The phone immediately rang, and I thought it must be Mother telling me this was too urgent and I had to get home soon, but the name that jumped out on caller ID was the Captain. We’d talked over the phone the day before and he told me I could take a break. Was he actually going to comfort me by telling me how hard I’d been working or something? Of course not. He said, “Get over to the precinct, Mighty!” (My name is Mighty Shi.) My jaw dropped but before I could utter a sound, the line went dead. I have to say I was a little annoyed, but I realized the situation was urgent and rushed back to my unit.
I felt tension in the atmosphere as soon as I arrived. Officer Ding hurried over and told me to go to the conference room. A meeting was in session and I was taken aback. The Municipal Political and Legal Committee’s Party Secretary, the Chief of the Public Security Department and the Assistant Chief for our Precinct were sitting at the head of the table. Officers from our precinct were sitting below them along with some other people, all with serious expressions. I walked quietly to the back row and sat down. One person coming in at that time should have attracted everyone's attention, but no one looked at me.
The situation soon became clear. A case had come up in our jurisdiction, an eleven-year-old girl who’d been raped. Cases like that, underage girls being raped, really aren’t uncommon and aren’t considered difficult to solve. The main thing here was that the girl was mentally challenged and it’d been difficult for her to express her meaning correctly. She suddenly had unbearable pain one night and was taken to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy. It was already too late and efforts to save her were ineffective.
The girl's family came from a remote rural area and hadn’t called the police until prompted by others. By that time, the child had been cremated and nothing was left of her but bones and ashes. Before she’d died, she wrote the word "bow" on a piece of paper, as in “bow and arrow”, but it wasn’t known what she meant. Media reports had fanned the flames about the incident, so the provincial and municipal leaders were all gesticulating and you can imagine the pressure on the police.
The Captain called me into his office after the meeting. “Mighty,” he said, “The leaders say staff who contribute on this case will be richly rewarded when it’s solved. The reward doesn’t matter, though. The important thing is to advance politically. You have a graduate degree and are young. You must seize this opportunity! When the former Captain had one year left before retirement, he often told me privately, ‘Do a good job, young fellow. You’ll be my successor.’ To tell you the truth, several of my classmates already had higher positions than me, so I wasn’t convinced. What the Captain said often encouraged me, but I also didn’t have faith in myself. I had no connections, much less anyone to rely on. My father had been Director of the Education Bureau back in the day, and maybe he could’ve done something, but he’d been dead for three years.
“Anyway, this is indeed an opportunity to rack up some points, and even if you don’t want that, it’s also our duty to get this guy. What’s more, his crime is despicable. Let's divide the work between us. You take the case, and I’ll be responsible for the night patrol.” Night patrol was a 24-hour tour around our district, without a break, a very tough job. I was about to say something but the director waved his hand and said, “Let's get to it!
We quickly locked onto a couple of suspects. The community where the young girl lived had been housing for a government agency in the 1990s, but now its old and dilapidated four-story buildings were rented mostly by migrant workers. Two people in a building at the entrance to the grungy alley came to our attention. One, Great Dawn Zhu, was in his thirties and lived on the fourth floor. He’d served out a three-year prison sentence for rape and been released. Further, he’d used the name Great Dawn Zhang as an alias, and the character “Zhang” includes the character for “bow”. When the girl wrote "bow", could she have been trying to write "Zhang" but been unable to finish it? He was our prime suspect.
The other was a sixty-year-old bachelor named Resonate Far Gong, who’d just retired from the Municipal Party Committee a little over a year before. According to the girl’s parents, he’d been very nice to her and often gave her toys and goodies to eat. If the child wasn’t home when they got there, she was sure to be at his place. He was the closest person to the victim in the community.
At the case review meeting, the Assistant Chief agreed that we should focus on the former. An APB went out immediately, but this guy was a slick customer who played us night and day. He didn’t answer our calls, and when we finally brought him in, he talked about something else. We questioned him overnight and, when he finally got to the point, he wasn’t around at the time the crime was committed according to the timeline we’d established. Officer Ding nevertheless had no doubt he was the perp, and my feelings leaned that way, too. What I call “feelings” are the professional acuity of a police officer. A capable policeman will smell something when faced with a perp, even if evidence hasn’t yet been gathered. It’s not science, but in fact it’s accurate eight or nine times out of ten.
I arranged personnel to immediately review Great Dawn Zhu's whereabouts during that time period. I thought we must have overlooked something, but the information I got back after one hour didn’t change anything. Zhu was in a peculiar mood when he left. He said, “You guys went an hour over the limit. That’s illegal detention and I’m going to report you.”
Indeed, a deputy from the Disciplinary Inspection Committee came along early the next morning. I was about to go to the court to retrieve Zhu’s file when he stopped me at the door and asked me to follow him for an investigation. I told him I was working and would go to his office to see him later. His face turned dark and he warned me sternly that, “Your work is subordinate to ours.”
The deputy took me to a small hotel on the outskirts of the city where the committee was waiting to question me. Proceeding that way, it seemed like I certainly did have a problem, but I calculated the time in my mind and, deducting time for sleeping and meals, our interrogation of Zhu hadn’t lasted more than twenty-four hours. That made me confident, which seemed to the committee like a bad attitude.
They gave me a boxed lunch at noon. I told them I was working on a big case and asked how long it would take to end their proceeding. They smiled and said, “You should worry about your own case first.”
That’s when I started to lose heart. “I’m just a guy who was doing his job. What grounds do you have for treating me like this? You pay attention when someone complains, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The question is whether the complaint has any basis in reality. Is it necessary to get so many people involved? Hey, we’re all party cadres!”
It’s a good thing Mother didn't know about this or she would’ve had to take a heart pill. She’s always been pessimistic about my profession and would’ve gotten scared as soon as she saw the report in the news. No matter what happened, she’d have said “Change careers, son. Not only will you have a more serene life, it’ll be easier to find a girlfriend, too.”
A committee member’s cell phone rang while I was imagining that. After he hung up, he reluctantly said, “You can go now. Be ready to be investigated at any time.” I stood up and left without acknowledging them. The Captain was waiting at the door. He patted me on the shoulder and said, “It can’t be helped, Mighty. We’ve got to keep at our jobs, but we also have to pay attention to the requirements of the law.
“Got to keep at it,” I challenged myself. “Got to bring this Great Dawn Zhu to justice.”
The court file was transferred to me but it didn't help. The task force had investigated from all sides and repeatedly researched the issue. They’d requested support from the District and Municipal Party Bureaus and had been able to confirm that Great Dawn Zhu had not had time to commit the crime.
The little girl spent her life around that alley, so the suspect shouldn’t be too far from there. We expanded the scope of our investigation but found nothing. Crimes get committed in every nook and corner of that alley, and could this just be another one? That would make things more difficult, like finding a needle in a haystack.
Since there were no worthwhile clues or evidence in the case, it got put on the back burner and I returned to night patrol. I was not reconciled and often wandered around the alley where the incident had occurred. I felt vaguely like it was telling me something, that the criminal was right there.
Mother called and asked when I’d be home. I said I was on a case and couldn’t get away for the time being. I thought she still wanted to talk about blind dates, but that wasn't it. She seemed to be sobbing, which startled me. When I asked what was wrong, she said, “Come home when you have time.”
That evening, another officer and I left the police kiosk on night patrol. We happened to be on the street where Mother and I lived, so we made a pit stop there. Mother's eyes were red and she was acting extremely aggrieved. I led her over to the sofa so she could sit down and asked her what had happened. She went into the back room and brought out a file, which she shoved into my hand. “Look at the wonderful thing your dad did,” she said angrily.
As I took the file I asked her, “Hasn't the stuff my dad left all been sorted out?”
“I found this in a file drawer in his desk. I was curious so I read it. It’s some letters your father left, but what’s in them isn't ordinary. They were mailed to him by a woman. Look it over and you’ll understand. It’s about a relationship your father had when he was young.”
I took a brief look at her. Her eyes were brimming with tears. I knew she couldn’t accept this because she and my father had always been so much in love.
“Mom,” I said, smiling. This doesn’t mean anything. You weren’t married then!”
She grabbed the materials from me when I said that and paged through them a couple of times. “For Pete’s sake,” she sighed, but she soon pulled out one letter and, pointing at it, said, “Look! Look! This letter is from after we got married. And she said she was pregnant!"
I took it back and looked. Sure enough, that’s what she’d said. But when I checked the timing, while it seemed like the relationship between father and this woman had been ongoing, that wasn’t the case. The two had called it off, and when she found out she was pregnant, father was already married.
Mother calmed down when I explained it to her. She stared off into space before abruptly shouting, "Oh, Son, do you remember people filing complaints against your dad?" I said I did. “Do you remember one complainant saying your father had an illegitimate son?”
“That, that....” I remembered there was one saying that, but the organization had resolved it.
Mother didn't believe it, though. “I believed your dad about other things, but I couldn’t be sure about that one.” I was about to say something but she interrupted. “It wasn’t easy for the organization to trace it back, and I thought your father must have had a love child.”
“No, no way. If he did, he would’ve made himself known when Father died.” Mother thought it over and didn’t say anything else.
It was already after midnight before we finished night patrol. I went home and slept for a while, and dreamt that someone came in my room. He said he was my brother. I looked closely but couldn't see him clearly. “We have different mothers but the same father,” he said.
We hugged and wept and I said, “Have a drink with me, Brother.” He said yes.
My cell phone rang when we were about to raise our glasses. He faded away as I woke up. It was already past time to start work and Officer Ding was calling. Some reporters had come to the precinct to conduct follow-up interviews about the rape case. I said I didn't have time for that. He said, “Okay, Lieutenant, I’ll just tell them the case is ongoing.”
It was already noon when I got to the place where the incident had occurred. It was blistering hot, really hard to take. I went into a little shop at the mouth of the alley to buy some mineral water. The room wasn’t very big. A middle-aged woman was standing behind the counter and a customer, a girl who looked like a junior high student, was buying popsicles. The girl discovered she had no money. An old man off to her side moved closer and said, “I’ll pay for the child's purchase.”
The girl blushed and looked at the old man gratefully. “Thank you, sir. I’ll pay you back.”
“That’s all right, no need,” the old man said. He had a full head of hair. I couldn’t tell if it was dyed, but it was deep black and shiny. He had on a western-style suit and leather shoes, and smelled like he was wearing some kind of perfume. For some reason I have an aversion to people who dress like that.
The girl and the man left the shop one after the other. I bought a pastry and some water and sat down on a small stool, eating and drinking leisurely.
“He’s a kindhearted fellow,” I said.
“Yes, an old cadre. A former leader, I should say. He especially likes children.”
“Oh?” The middle-aged woman had answered me while she sorted out some merchandise on the counter.
I had a sudden thought. “Is his name Gong, Resonate Far Gong?”
The woman stopped what she was doing and turned to look at me. “How’d you know?”
I hurried to tell her, “I’ve heard people from the Municipal Party Committee talking. But how come he lives here?”
She understood what I meant, “Yeah,” she said. “This is the most dilapidated residential area, but he says he likes it and has feelings for the place.”
“Does he live alone?”
“Yeah, his wife’s been gone over ten years and he doesn’t want another one. Says it’s quieter alone.
I bought a pack of cigarettes after I finished eating. I told the woman I was waiting for a friend but he hadn’t arrived yet.
“Okay, have a seat and wait,” she said.
“Oh, say, I heard you had a rape case around here, Ma’am.”
“Boy, did we! Such a pitiful child. She was pretty, but dumb. I don’t know what animal hurt and killed her. The case hasn’t been solved yet. Would you say the cops these days are worth a fart? All they know is how to fine and bully people.”
“Might you be wrong about the police?" I smiled.
“What wrong? What do you think the police do? That guy Lei Yang in Beijing, the environmentalist who died in police custody, what killed him? A visit to a prostitute gets him beaten to death?”
I’d had it up to here with that kind of talk and was about ready to argue with her. I was going to ask her why she didn’t consider the good things the police do, and whether she knew how many officers die in the line of duty each year. But I didn't. Arguing about that would affect my purpose in talking to her. I asked, “Tell me Ma’am, is murder so immoral?”
“Whose murder? Who knows? That guy ought to be shot when he’s caught.”
“Didn’t the child go to school?”
“No. Her parents left her at home when they went to work. She was stupid but she never went far, just stayed around the alley to play.”
“Do outsiders normally come into the alley?”
“It happens. Vendors, guys who buy appliances to recycle.”
“Tell me, Ma’am, could an outsider have done this crime?”
“It stands to reason that the child didn’t leave the alley by herself. Also, she was wary of strangers. If one approached her, she would’ve run away screaming.
“So, where exactly did she play?”
“She played with dolls at home. She especially liked dolls. We gave her some dolls we didn’t want anymore.”
“Who did she have more contact with?
“Who?” The woman looked up from her cell phone, rolled her eyes and shook her head.
I wanted to ask her flat-out if it was Resonate Far Gong but thought that would be too abrupt. Instead I said, “I imagine she made the community feel sorry for her.”
“And how! If she came into the store to buy something but didn’t bring any money, how could I say no? And Old Gong, too. He treated her like his own granddaughter. Even took her home for a meal sometimes.”
“Took her home for a meal? Wow, what a nice guy!”
My cell phone rang. The Captain asked me to go back to the precinct because the Assistant Chief had scheduled a case report meeting. I’d been just about to end the conversation with the woman anyway, so I stood up. “Something special came up and my friend can't make it. See you.” The woman’s eyes followed me closely as I left the store.
On the way back to the precinct, I thought about how to make my case report. I had no clues at all, but Resonate Far Gong’s face kept flashing before my eyes. I couldn’t say for sure how I felt about him.
My report was very brief, only a couple of minutes, and the Assistant Chief’s face fell as he listened. I could tell he was getting angry at our lack of progress, although he had no reason to. Under the circumstances, he couldn't say our investigation had problems, and he couldn’t give any practical instructions, either. I expressed my doubts about that guy, Resonate Far Gong, to keep him from being too disappointed.
At first his eyes lit up when he heard that, but he began to look gloomy as he listened. “Evidence?” he looked at me and asked. “Is there any evidence? Resonate Far Gong has just retired from a position as director. He’s not just another guy! What are you going to do? Subpoena him?”
The Assistant Chief saw us withering under his comments. To reassure us, he said, “Your attitude is good and I praise you for it, but this case is drawing attention. Things get more uncomfortable for us every day we don’t solve it. We have to explain ourselves to the public, don’t we?” He paused before continuing. "I have no objection to you guys focusing on anyone, on the condition that you don’t break the law or, worse, do something that affects us adversely.”
The Assistant Captain’s words flashed a little ray of light before my eyes.
When the case report meeting was over, I convened a short meeting for my team. I’d decided to conduct round-the-clock surveillance of Resonate Far Gong. I didn’t let the Captain know about the content of this meeting. After all, the legitimacy of our procedures was open to question, and I didn't want the Captain to take political risks. He had a bad heart and severe insomnia, and was looking forward to retiring without a hitch. I was actually taking a bigger chance by doing this. I was putting my future at risk, but what else could I do? Besides, this guy Resonate Far Gong was really bugging me. Sometimes you’ve got to take risks in life.
Feedback from other channels also confirmed that the girl often went to the shop and to Gong’s home. and that she was closest to Resonate Far Gong. But when the girl’s parents spoke of him, you could see the gratitude on their faces. Tch, tch, an old leader, so warm and fuzzy! From the looks of things, it wouldn’t be appropriate to investigate Resonate Far Gong directly. I decided to contact him, though.
He was sitting in a chair downstairs close to some people playing chess and reading a newspaper when school let out. I edged over to watch the chess game, but my attention was on Gong. He looked dignified with his black, glossy hair and tidy clothes, an image incompatible with the other people in the area.
A group of students passed by, chattering noisily, and Gong raised his head. He seemed to be looking for someone. About a half hour later, a schoolgirl came walking along, and Gong stood up and beckoned to her. I remembered her right away – the girl I’d seen in the store the last time I’d been there. My nerves abruptly tied up in knots as I walked over, pretending I was an idler with nothing to do.
The girl smiled and answered, “Hi, Mr. Gong. I went to an internet cafe.”
“Oh? That’s not good, going to internet cafes.” He sounded both kindly and stern.
“No, Mr. Gong, I went to get some information.”
“I see. But internet cafes are so disorderly. You should come to my place from now on. I’ve got a really good computer.”
The girl smiled happily. “Really? Can I really?”
“Sure, anytime. You can even come over now!” He pointed upstairs. “Now’s fine.”
The girl looked where he was pointing and was about to speak when I walked over. “Are you Director Gong?” I asked deferentially. The girl waved to him and left.
Gong looked me up and down in confusion. “And you are…?”
I identified myself, keeping my voice as low as possible. He froze momentarily, but then asked in a calm and slightly formal tone, “What is this? Do you want to see me for some reason?”
“There’s a small matter that I’d like you to clear up for me.”
He looked at me rather sharply. “Which department are you with and who’s the Captain?” I answered both questions.
“What do you want to ask? What do you need cleared up?”
“Can we go to your place? I won’t take much of your time?” I can imagine how I looked. I’d never been so fawning and ingratiating even in front of the Captain and Assistant Chief.
Gong was suddenly wary. He looked around, straightened his back and said, “Let's talk here.”
There happened to be some plastic chairs under an umbrella not far away. They were probably there to promote some product or service but weren’t being used at the moment. I invited Gong to go there. He thought about it for a moment before agreeing.
We didn’t talk long. I told him I wanted to understand how the girl had been harmed, and he said, “Why are you still asking about that? You policemen have been working on it for so long, you should’ve brought the criminal to justice by now.”
“We need some help from the public.”
“Tell me what you know,” I asked.
“Tell you what? Speak clearly.”
So I asked him, “Who do you think most likely did it?”
“Anyone could’ve,” he said. “How can you base a case on speculation?”
“Do you know who had the closest relationship with the victim?” I asked.
Gong’s face changed immediately. He looked at me angrily. “Do you suspect me? If you do, take me away!”
I hurried to explain that I wasn’t trying to make him angry.
“You’re the one who’s been stirring up trouble for a long time now. You were asking about me at the store and you asked a lot of questions about me in front of the child's parents!”
“You misunderstand,” I explained quickly. “We’re just doing a normal investigation.”
“Are you going to cuff me? You arrest criminals based on speculation? Do you know why the people don’t approve of the police?” He gave me a taunting look. “You’re the real criminals.”
I know I must have cut a sorry figure when I left there. As I walked out to the mouth of the alley, I ran smack into our first suspect, Great Dawn Zhu. He asked, in a mysterious tone of voice, “Did you catch the perp yet, Mister Policemen?” I glanced at him and kept walking, but his voice chased after me. “Hey, Mr. Policeman! I say you ought to go nab the professor who went whoring, like they did in Beijing. Just don't kill him. On the other hand, planting evidence on someone isn’t so easy! I heard that wha-cha-call-him, the Deputy Director, has been arrested by the Procuratorate!”
I thought hatefully, “You little punk, you better never let me arrest you!”
The Captain saw I was in a lousy mood when I got back to the precinct. He asked what was wrong and I said I was all right. He told me that the Assistant Chief had just reported that a leader from the Municipal Party Committee had complained about us. He said we don’t arrest the ones who ought to be arrested and make baseless accusations against those who shouldn’t be. It was that guy Resonate Far Gong who’d made the complaint.
Dismayed, I said, “Blame me Captain. I’m incompetent and it’s all my bad.”
“Don't be discouraged, Mighty. Let's go through the case again and see if our approach has taken a wrong turn.”
The case analysis meeting went on until two in the morning. As I drove home, I was surprised to find myself in a traffic jam at that time of day. The entire road was stained red by vehicle taillights. A siren sounded and I got even more upset. Just then someone knocked on my window. Through the gloom, I saw a bald man with a black dragon tattoo on his arm. My first reaction was to feel behind me for my holster. A policeman has to be on guard at all times against people who might want to retaliate.
This face was smiling affectionately, though, with no trace of malice. I was startled. “Why is this face so familiar?” Not exactly familiar – it looked just like me! Despite my fear, I rolled the car window down a bit and asked, in my best policeman’s voice, “What are you doing?”
“I’m your brother, Mighty,” he said.
I froze momentarily.
“I'll get in your car and tell you about it!”
I blinked to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, hesitated a moment, and then unlocked the car. He got into the passenger seat. He really was another me, except he appeared rather sickly.
“Who are you?” I looked him in the eye and asked.
“I’m your brother,” he answered, “same father, different mother.”
An urgent siren sounded from behind and when I looked up, the cars in front of me had already moved ahead some distance. I stepped on the gas at once.
“What are you saying? My half-brother?”
He took several pieces of paper from a pouch. “Look, Mighty!”
I pulled into a road-side parking lot, turned off the engine and examined the papers carefully. They turned out to be a letter written by my father to that woman. Father had picked a name for the woman's child: Hero Wu.
“I'm Hero!” He looked at me, his eyes twinkling.
It looked like Mother had guessed right. Father really did have an illegitimate child, and I really did have an older brother. My mood gradually evolved from confusion to joy. “I’m not alone in the world,” I thought to myself. “I have a brother!” At that thought, looking at my brother and thinking of my father, my eyes brimmed with tears. My brother wiped them away and patted my shoulder. Then he put his hands on my arms and said, “The only bad thing, Bro’, is I didn’t have a chance to pay my last respects at Father’s funeral!”
We both cried for a while.
He told me about his life. He didn’t have a decent job and had just been muddling along on the edges of society. “We’ve been living in the same city,” he said, “but haven’t ever met each other. We can’t be seen together in the future, either. You’re a policeman and you have a bright future. I can't ruin that for you.
“You absolutely don’t want to go too far down that road, Brother!”
“I won’t, Bro’, don't worry. I’ll behave.”
His cell phone rang. He embraced me tightly and said, “See you, Bro’.” I got out of the car in a hurry to chase after him. “Brother” I shouted, “Brother,” but he was long gone.
Just then a Hummer drove past. The window came down, and my brother stuck out his head and waved. “See you, Bro’!”
It was almost light when I got home, and Mother was up early. She looked at my face with concern for a long time. “What's the matter?” She asked.
“Nothing,” I said, unable to meet her eyes. “I’m going to bed,” I said as I went into my room.
“Go ahead,” she said. “I’m going plaza dancing.”
I listened to her footsteps going downstairs. I wasn’t sleepy at all. I felt it was all too incredible. I actually had a brother. It was a real-life version of a TV drama. I couldn’t tell Mother, though. I’d let the story ooze out later!
The task force was upgraded with the Assistant Chief as the leader. It was divided into several small groups and I was assigned to head one of them. The Captain told me that this case was too difficult, and he was the one who’d suggested some adjustments. “Great!” I said. “Add to our strength so we don’t have to fight alone.”
He sighed. “I originally wanted to put you in the limelight.”
“I know, Captain,” I hurried to say, but that’s above my pay grade. This way is good, too. No matter who’s able to do the job, solving the case is the thing. Otherwise none of us will be able to stand up under the pressure!”
After the reassignment of jobs in the task force, my group was tasked with mobilizing the masses to search for clues, so I still often put in an appearance in the area where the crime was committed. My nerves would tighten up whenever I set foot in that alley, and the feeling was particularly strong when I approached that building. The perp should still be in there, namely, either Great Dawn Zhu or Resonate Far Gong.
Although the suspicions around Zhu had been cleared up, I still didn't ignore him. And Gong was far from being a good guy – he was obviously trying to seduce that student girl. A certain percentage of sex offenders are widowers, and seen from this angle, he was a prime suspect. But I couldn't talk to anyone about him, especially not to the leaders. Would a leader believe you just because you had a feeling? The law is serious business.
Looking at the building, I suddenly had an idea. If I got into those two guys’ homes, maybe I’d find something unexpected? But the idea was no more than a flash in the pan because it was unrealistic. Would the Assistant Chief approve a search warrant? And entering a residence without permission, how would that look? So I came up with a plan B: I’d monitor those two, and if I found that they committed other crimes, then I’d have reason to investigate them further.
We were on duty in pairs in my group, but I took part in each pair because I didn’t want to miss any possible opportunity. When I went home between shifts, Mother felt sorry for me and said, “Jeez, son, look at those wrinkles you’re getting. Your hair is a lot grayer, too.” I told her it was okay and she said, “Don't stress yourself out. You need to get reassigned to another job!” To comfort her, I told her it’d be fine in a few days when we solved the case, and it was no big deal.
I slept for a bit, then my cell phone rang. It was Officer Ding, who was on duty in the place where the incident occurred. They must’ve found something! I didn't answer the phone in time and decided not to call him back, just hurried downstairs and drove off. On the way, I got another call from him. I answered and said I was almost there. “Sorry, Lieutenant,” he said, “I misdialed.”
“Did you find anything?”
“Nope. Looks like there’s nothing here. We could stake out this place for a year and get nothing significant.”
“Don't think like that,” I replied quickly. “We need to stick with it.” I decided to turn around and go home to get some more sleep. My head felt heavy that day, not a nice feeling at all.
Heavy traffic, just like before. I was stopped there waiting for a red light when someone knocked on my window – my brother.
He got in the car and said, “Hey, Bro’, what a coincidence!”
“Yeah, Brother, really! Why’re you out so late?”
“Don't ask, Bro’. Why’re you?”
I briefed him about the case.
“The whole city’s talking about that, calling you police incompetent. What’re you aiming to do, Bro’?”
Normally I’m not supposed to talk about a case with other people, but I didn’t hold back. I’d been keeping it to myself all along, and now it just sort of slipped out.
“You suspect those two?”
“Yeah,” I said, “but Great Dawn Zhu didn’t have time to do the crime. Only Resonate Far Gong has everything. The unfortunate thing is, there’s no evidence. If we could get into his home, there might be something unexpected. But I still have a bottom line I can’t cross.”
“Where do they live?”
“The building at the head of the alley, one on the first floor and one on the fourth.”
“Go there, Bro’,” he urged me. “Listen to me, go now!”
“Go there to do what?” I asked him, and he said not to worry about it.
When we got to the alley, he motioned for me to stop. “Just wait for me here,” he said. Then he opened the car door and walked into the building at the entrance of the alley. What was he going to do? Vent his anger by straightening those two out? I was guessing but then suddenly I thought of it. He was going to those two guy's homes to look for evidence. I got nervous. What did he know about the techniques of detection? Would he screw things up? What if he was discovered? Would he hurt them? If he happened to get arrested, he naturally wouldn’t squeal on me, but home invasion is something that would be investigated thoroughly to assign legal responsibility.
I stretched out my neck to look at the building, hoping to see my brother's shadow as soon as possible. My neck got sore and I twisted it a few times. I saw a flash of shadow and my brother slammed the car door. “Bro’,” he said excitedly, I found some syringes on the first floor. Looks like the guy’s a druggie, so you can arrest him. The dude on the fourth floor was sleeping like a dead pig. A flash drive was plugged into the computer and I brought it back. Don’t know if it’ll be useful.”
I took the flash drive and put it in my pocket, then I sped away like I’d just done something wrong.
“I hope that helps you, Bro’.”
“Thanks, Brother, but that was too risky.
“With my status, it doesn't matter, but it wouldn’t do for you to be involved.”
We got to the intersection. A Hummer was parked on the side of the road with its blinkers flashing. My brother said, “I’ll get out now, Bro’.” He got in the Hummer right away and was gone before I knew it. As for the flash drive, I honestly didn’t expect anything. I might’ve been able to find something useful if I’d gone into their homes myself, but fortunately he hadn't caused any trouble.
I got home at midnight and Mother insisted on making me a bowl of egg-drop soup. “Oh, Son,” she said, “you're so thin, you need to gain some weight.” I ate the soup and returned to my bedroom, my brother's shadow still in my eyes. Why did come around after all these years? What kind of work was he doing, and what would he do in the future? When could we reveal ourselves, and how would Mother react? And would I still have a future if we didn’t crack this case? Could I still take over when the director retired? Could I find a stable relationship for romance? When would I meet my other half for the rest of my life? I more I thought, the more I had to think about, and at dawn I still hadn't fallen asleep. When I got up, my head was still heavy, my nerves were jangled and my body was like mush. Was I catching a cold? I felt my forehead and it wasn’t hot.
The Captain was leading a bunch of people out the door when I got to the precinct. “What’s the matter, Mighty?” he asked in surprise. “Are you sick?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“You don’t look so good. Let's do this. You take care of the shop today, and I’ll take some others to do the job.”
“What else? The government’s going to tear down some buildings and relocate the inhabitants. They want us to coordinate with them.”
“Didn't the ministry issue documents saying they didn’t want us involved in that stuff?” I asked.
“The higher-ups make policy and the lower levels react. When the mayor asks our Public Security Department to send someone to support economic development, who dares not go?”
I went on into my office and turned on my computer. After checking the internal reports, I suddenly thought of the flash drive. “I’d better look at it. It’s the fruit of my brother’s labors!” There were some videos on the drive, Resonate Far Gong on his birthday, and travelling. Nothing worth watching.
There was one folder that couldn’t be opened without a password. What was the password? I got curious all of a sudden. First I entered 123456, which was incorrect. Then I entered it in reverse, but that didn’t work, either. Could it be his birthday? That was no problem, I found Gong’s info in the system right away. That was against the rules, but it wasn’t a big deal. I’d looked up the info of all my blind dates. There are certainly some perks to being a policeman. I really didn’t feel comfortable about it, but if it was wrong, so be it.
I didn't expect it, but his password was indeed his birthday. I opened the video and could hardly breathe while I watched! The entire illicit sexual encounter with the girl was in it, and you could see Gong’s face clearly! It turned out that when the girl wrote the character for "bow", she meant “Gong” which is pronounced the same way!
My blood was boiling. My mouth was dry and my tongue felt like sandpaper. I was trembling when I called the Captain's cell phone. “What’s up, Mighty?” he asked when he came on the line.
Suddenly I couldn't speak. I took a moment to calm myself, then shouted shrilly, “I got the evidence! Go nab Resonate Far Gong right away!”
Silence for a moment on the Captain’s end of the line, then I heard his voice saying, “You’ve been overly tired these last few days, Mighty. Get some rest!” His words seemed to take the wind entirely out of my sails. My body went limp and I collapsed in my chair, dropping the phone to the ground.
I was lying in a hospital when I opened my eyes. The Captain was sitting next to me.
“You fainted.” His face was filled with compassion.
“Did you see the flash drive?” I asked eagerly.
He laughed. “Don’t worry. We’ve already brought him in. He’s being interrogated as we speak. I thought you were fatigued and talking nonsense, so I didn't come back to the precinct until I got a call saying you’d passed out and were taken to the hospital. It was Officer Ding who discovered the contents of the flash drive. The Chief and the Assistant Chief just called and said we did a great job. I told them straight out that you get all the credit. There is one question, though. How’d you get hold of the flash drive?
I hadn’t realized that the problem was serious until the Captain looked at me doubtfully. Yeah, how could I explain this link in the chain of evidence? Tell everyone that my brother Hero got it by sneaking into the perp’s home? That would be complicated. The Captain seemed to sense that something was wrong and furled his brow.
Officer Ding piped in. “It was a simple thing, Lieutenant. Didn't you pick it up while you were staked out in the alley?”
“Everything comes to he who waits,” the Captain said. “Heaven does look out for little girls.”
The Captain retired a year later and I was a shoo-in to succeed him. Only he and I were in the room when he handed his workload over to me. “Close the door, Mighty,” he said. I knew he had something he wanted to say to me and that it was important, so I did close the door. The atmosphere in the room got serious.
“Now that I’m retiring, Mighty,” he said earnestly, “we should be free of illusions. There’s just one thing I have to tell you.”
“Go ahead, Captain.” I looked at him.
“You can’t depend on luck for everything, and you won’t succeed every time.”
I understood what he meant. He was convinced that I’d obtained that evidence illegally. I smiled and said nothing, but my expression betrayed what I was thinking.
The Captain paused, then said, “Don't be stubborn. I checked the community’s surveillance video from that night. You entered the building.
I almost laughed but didn’t. “Is this a bluff, Captain?”
His expression was grave. "I won't tell anyone, but you need to be honest with yourself."
I replayed the scene from that night in my mind. It couldn't be clearer that my brother Hero got out of my car and entered the building. But given what the Captain had said, any explanation would be meaningless, “I understand, Captain,” I said. “Don’t worry.”
I could’ve sworn that the Captain hadn’t checked the surveillance video. “People get paranoid when they’re older, don’t they?” I thought. “Or maybe a lifetime in Public Security has left its mark on him.”
The Municipal Bureau held a lecture for heroes and model workers that Sunday. The Captain wasn’t among the heroes or model workers. When asked about it, they said he wasn’t well and had asked for leave not to attend. I went to his home after the meeting and his wife told me that he’d taken his grandson to a nearby park. I went there and walked around but didn't see him. I did run into a classmate from the Police Academy, though. His name is Ocean Zhang and he works in a government office. He and his family were there enjoying the park. I was surprised at how beautiful his wife was, tall and fair-skinned, holding a babbling baby in her arms. “Don’t be picky,” Ocean advised me. “Just go ahead and get married!” When I got back to the office, Officer Ding asked if I’d seen the old Captain. I said no, but we could all visit him another day.
I sat in my chair facing my computer and my imagination started to run wild. My brother Hero suddenly flashed before my eyes. I really missed him. I hadn't seen him for a long time and didn't know how to get in touch with him. Immediately after that, I thought of the director's warning and, on an impulse, decided I’d like to check the video and verify it for myself. The fact is, I didn’t really need to see it, but because I kept thinking about what the old Captain had said, I felt the need to be absolutely certain. It was such a strange idea, I wasn’t sure that I didn’t have a psychological problem.
I found the video and started to play it, and before long I was dumbfounded. As the director had said, that person was me. But then I thought, Hero and I were like twins, and even I couldn't distinguish between us. I couldn’t help but smile, but suddenly my smile froze – why couldn’t I see the black dragon tattoo on my brother's arm? What’s more, the clothes he was wearing were mine!
My breathing got rushed and my heart beat like a drum.
I stood up and, with my face glued to the computer screen, watched the video again and again. No doubt about it, that person was me!
Were my eyes clouded? Was it a hallucination?
I sat back down and calmed myself. I thought back over the times I’d met with my brother, and the memories were as vivid as yesterday. So, what was going on with this video? My head felt heavy and hurt, and I couldn't understand it. Maybe some sleep would improve things. I’d been under too much stress lately. I leaned back in the chair and, bewildered, fell asleep.
I slept deeply and didn’t dream. I felt refreshed as soon as I opened my eyes. My phone showed a missed call from Mother and I called her back. "Oh, Son,” she said, “I promise that this will be the last blind date."
“Good.” My answer was so abnormally straightforward that it seemed like I could see her surprised expression on the other end of the line.
“This girl’s a good one. She says her ambition is to be a policeman’s wife.” Mother was quite excited. “Tomorrow’s Sunday. That’s okay, right?”
“Okay,” I answered. The image of Ocean Zhang's wife appeared before my eyes. I had a feeling that this one would work out. I hadn't expected that love for the profession could be so widespread.
“Hey, Son, hurry up and get a haircut, then take a bath.”
I told her I’d do both. I hadn't been home for over twenty days and I really needed to get cleaned up. But it wasn’t something I needed to do right then.”
I turned the computer back on and watched the video again to make sure I hadn’t been imagining things. I saw myself again. I couldn’t avoid it, it was me – Hero Wu in person. I looked around and shut down the computer right away. After I calmed down, I called the "Health Hotline" but kept my real name secret.
The expert said his initial judgment was a psychological disorder for which I should seek medical treatment as soon as possible. In other words, my brother Hero Wu did not exist at all. This proved that my father had led a pure life and Mother could take comfort. I, on the other hand, felt sad. The surveillance video was beyond doubt, though, so it was a fact that had to be accepted.
[The following two paragraphs are the ending as it appears in the author’s blog – Fannyi]
There wasn’t much going on at work at the time. I just needed to get going on one project and organize three special operations, so I expected be able to take time to pay attention to my health.
It was already dark when I was driving home after work. A Hummer was among the cars that drove into my sight while I was waiting for a red light at an intersection. Its window was wide open. The man inside was wearing sunglasses and had a black dragon tattooed on his arm.... I blinked and looked closely, and the more I looked, the more it looked like Hero! If he took off his glasses and turned his head, I’d be able to see more clearly. He seemed to read my mind. He took off his glasses, turned his head, and smiled at me. My heart stopped beating abruptly. – It was my brother, Hero Wu, so clear and distinct, no mistake about it! When I got over my shock, my first thought was to catch up to him, but by that time, all I could see was the two red taillights of the Hummer melting into the many other lights.
[Here’s the ending printed in the book – Fannyi]
I thought I should go see the Assistant Chief. In this condition, would I be fit to continue working? Also, did I need to come clean about the illegal evidence gathering? But there was too much going on at work at the time. I had to get going on three projects and organize two special operations. I’d stick to that and see what happened!
It was already dark when I was driving home after work. A Hummer among the other cars attracted my attention. Its window was wide open. The man inside was wearing sunglasses and had a black dragon tattooed on the upper part of his arm, with its tongue gushing out to his neck.... I blinked and looked closely, and the more I looked, the more it looked like Hero! If he took off his glasses and turned his head, I’d be able to see more distinctly. He seemed to go along with my idea. He took off his glasses, turned his head and smiled at me. My heart stopped beating abruptly. – It was my brother, Hero Wu, so clear and distinct, no mistake about it!
— But it was just my imagination.
The man didn't seem to pay much attention to me and quickly drove out of my field of view. As soon as the light turned green, I stepped on the gas and chased after him.
2017年中国短篇小说精选 Best of Chinese Short Stories 2017, p. 283
长江文艺出版社，责任编辑：刘程程，周阳; Translated from 文坛阿侠的博客 at
Also at http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_4adf99150102xfgk.html
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