Jian Yao knocks on the black colour front door. She thinks about the code that she has just cracked. Chills are going down her spine.
She’s knocked on the door for a long time, but there’s no answer.
“Tap.. Tap…” She persists.
She takes out her phone to call him.
Bo Jinyan answers in a tired voice: “Are you sleepwalking? It’s 1:00am in the morning.”
Jian Yao: "Are you home? Open the door!”
Jian Yao waits outside his apartment for another five minutes before Bo Jinyan opens the door. He is wearing a bathrobe. His hair is still damp and with occasional drop of water forming at the tips and dripping down onto his bathrobe. The robe is ‘open’ around the neckline, revealing the top part of his chest.
He glances at her and smiles: "You can change your mind, with the proviso that you have to make me breakfast tomorrow morning."
Jian Yao: "I'm not ......" He walks inside the house.
Jian Yao has no choice but to follow behind him.
It’s the first time she stepped in the house ever since he has moved into the apartment. Everything looks more or less like what she remembers. Except… there is now a porcelain bathtub in the middle of the living room.
This bathtub is twice the size of the one in her apartment. The tub is filled, with steam rising into the air, which means Bo Jinyan just took a bath. Next to the tub, there’s a little side table with a tall gla.s.s, filled with the flower tea Jian Yao recommended.
Bo Jinyan takes a seat on the sofa, one leg overlapping the other, underneath his big bathrobe. He looks at her: " Well, what makes you come to my house at this time of the night in your pyjamas…” His eyes slides over her face: “… like a frightened bird?”
Jian Yao sits across from him: "Li sent you an email on the numbers we found in Sun Yong’s house.”
Bo Jinyan takes out his silver notebook from beneath the coffee table.
After only a few seconds, he raises his hand to close the screen. He stands up. Jian Yao notices that his face has turned a little pale, with a sharp cold look in his eyes.
She says softly: "If you replace the numbers with alphabets ......"
Bo Jinyan turns and walks to a room.
Jian Yao follows behind.
Bo Jinyan’s study. One side of the wall is a large bookcase, filled with boxes and boxes of file. It extends all the way to the ceiling.
Jian Yao watches Bo Jinyan reaches for one of the boxes on the top shelve. He places the box on his study table and starts to take out a few folders. These folders are big and thick. On the side of each folder, there’s a label that reads: 27-211, California , Flower Cannibal.
Bo Jinyan is scanning the doc.u.ments in the file. Jian Yao asks: “ Why would Sun Yong leave such a message?”
“It’s not from him.” Bo Jinyan says without looking, still scanning those doc.u.ments: “He is a simple guy, he is incapable of coming up with such complex codes. And based on his personality, if he was to leave signals behind, they should be totems, or abstract symbols like knights and emblems."
Jian Yao is slightly surprised: “ You mean Sun Yong is just a puppet? And there’s someone else behind the instigation of his crime?” She looks at the folders on his study desk: “One of your cases in the US?"
Bo Jinyan shakes his head: “No. His mental condition can be hereditary, but it does not happen overnight. Sun Yong's abnormal behaviour was consistent with his troubled upbringing. Besides, his first murder happened while I was in America. Staying in Tung City is a last minute decision after I decided to come back to China, therefore his crime was not done to provoke me."
Jian Yao nods and looks at his stern face. He suddenly returned to China. Must be something to do with that serious illness of his.
Bo Jinyan continues: “Introverts prefer to work alone, and his crime displayed a distinctive personal character. There is no evidence to suggest that he has an accomplice." He looks at Jian Yao, “It’s impossible that someone was controlling his actions all those times. "
"Sun Yong was solely responsible for the killing machine case. There is no doubt about it." Bo Jinyan concludes: "but someone went to the crime scene and left me this message."
Bo Jinyan has taken out a few photos from the files. Jian Yao takes a look at them. It’s a caucasian in his 20s. In the photo, he is wearing a white T s.h.i.+rt. He is an attractive man with blue eyes.
Suddenly Bo Jinyan speaks in a way that is very different from how he speaks normally:
"Hi, Simon. I am scared.
Hi, Simon. Come get me.
Hi, Simon. Will you be my dinner tonight?
He is imitating someone else. She looks at the pictures again: “Did he leave these signals for you? Has he come to China?”
- Is this the reason he left America? To return to China? The Flower Cannibal from California?
Bo Jinyan puts all the doc.u.ments and the photos back into the box: “He is in Pelican Bay prison serving a life sentence. It’s impossible for him to be here.."
Jian Yao knows there has to be a connection somewhere. Or else, Bo Jinyan would not have rushed in here and start going through the files.
“Then, who could it be?” Jian Yao asks.
“I don’t know."
They both stand there for a while. Suddenly, he turns around and puts his hands on either side of her shoulders. He turns her around and starts pus.h.i.+ng her gently towards the door.
"Bo Jinyan ......" Jian Yao knows he does not want to discuss any further, but she is concerned for him.
He pushes her all the way to the front entrance. He turns the k.n.o.b of the front door and opens it. One more gentle push and she will be outside of his apartment.
Jian Yao turns to looks at him.
He stands with a rea.s.suring smile on his face. Then he looks straight into her eyes. His deep voice sounds like soothing water: ‘ Jian Yao. I am fine. Don’t worry. Goodbye.” He gives her one final nudge.
Then he closes the door.
Jian Yao can’t sleep. She tosses and turns for the rest of the night.
She knows it’s pointless to knock on his door again. He will not answer.
The sun is out. Another morning.
She gets ready for work. Before she leaves the house, she gives Bo Jinyan a call. "Sorry, the number you dialled is currently switched off …." She is greeted by a mechanical female voice.
Bo Jinyan never switches off his phone. This is probably more serious than she thinks.
She rushes downstairs. She knocks on his door: “Bo Jinyan! Bo Jinyan!” The banging sound and her voice echoes in the deserted stairway. No one answers.
Monday mornings are usually a frantic time for Jian Yao. There’s a mountain of work piled on her desk. She has no choice but to put Bo Jinyan’s matter aside.
During lunch break, she gives Fu Ziyu a call.
"He took the first flight back to the United States this morning.” Fu Ziyu sounds concerned too.
Jian Yao: “What’s the story with the Flower Cannibal?”
Fu Ziyu pauses. Then he explains: "Jian Yao, I don’t think Bo Jinyan is certain who is behind the message. He has gone back to the US to talk to the FBI and possibly Ty, the Flower Cannibal. It’s not something we can help with at this stage. But I believe in Bo Jinyan. He will be able to handle this. Don’t worry. He will be back soon."
Fu Ziyu is right. There is nothing she can do.
After lunch, she returns to her desk. She looks around her office. Men and women dressed in business attire. Rows of computer, cubicles with desks and office chairs… busy, calm and ordinary. She wonders where Bo Jinyan is now. Who is he talking to. Criminals? Psychopaths? FBI agents who faces violence and death on a daily basis?
She and Bo Jinyan. They live in two different worlds.
A week has pa.s.sed. Every evening after work, she will pa.s.s by Bo Jinyan’s apartment. She presses her ears over the front door. It is always quiet. There’s no one inside.
On Sat.u.r.day night, while checking the inbox for new mail, she comes across Li’s old message on the numbers.
She decides to send Bo Jinyan a message. The content is very brief:
- How’s everything?
A few minutes later, a new email appears in the Inbox. It’s Bo Jinyan.
- Fine. Take care of Chen Mo. The key is underneath the doormat.
Jian Yao smiles and immediately go downstairs.
She picks up the key that’s hidden underneath the thick black mat. Even though this is a safe neighbourhood, but it’s still a little risky to leave the key like that. Jian Yao decides to keep it until he returns.
The house has a slight musty smell, probably because it’s been empty for a week. B City is notoriously bad for its quality of air. There’s a thin layer of dust and ash on top of the furniture and window seals already. Jian Yao gives the place a quick clean. She finds Chen Mo underneath a pile of doc.u.ments in the study. Jian Yao squats down, pats its sh.e.l.l and says: “He’s overseas at the moment. Come home with me.”
For the next two months, Jian Yao continues with her busy and uneventful life. Every morning, she has breakfast with Chen Mo, then it’s off to work. She is usually exhausted by the time she gets home in the evening. A quick dinner, read a little, and it’s bed time. In the weekend, she catches up with her cla.s.smates from the university. She will also spend a couple of hours cleaning Bo Jinyan’s apartment for him.
During this time, she has lost a couple of kilos, and Chen Mo has gained 2 grams. She did some research on the net, For a turtle, it’s considered a growth spurt! She can see how Bo Jinyan’s calculations are very accurate. If she moves in with him, both him and Chen Mo will be very well looked after.
Sometimes, when she is cleaning his apartment, she will think of his handsome face. She will remember the day when they were testing mattress together, and she could feel her heart beating faster.
In her high school years, she had a crush on one of the seniors, a good looking, quiet boy who is mature for his age. She still remembers that feeling. Anxious, sweet, almost nauseating. She felt like she has b.u.t.terflies in her stomach. When he was around her, she is excited but very shy at the same time.
But Bo Jinyan is different. He is dazzling and bright. She feels there’s a big distance between him and her, who is just an ordinary girl. And he is supercilious and hard to get along with. She is usually very patient and tolerable, but in front of him, these virtues can vanish into the thin air. Also, he can be painfully naive sometimes.
Does she have a crush on him? Jian Yao is not so sure.
But she is sure that she wants him to be a part of her life. As a friend. At least.
The first of May is a public holiday - Labour day.
Fu Ziyu comes to B City to meet up with Jian Yao. He is bringing her out for a meal to thank her for cleaning Bo Jinyan’s house and looking after Chen Mo.
"Rest a.s.sured, I will make Bo Jinyan pay for this meal." He says.
Jian Yao asks: "When is he coming back?”
“n.o.body knows. He works alone. So he doesn't have to be accountable to anyone but himself. He seldom shares his plans and schedules with anybody.”
Another fortnight has past.
As usual, she goes down to clean Bo Jinyan’s apartment. It’s close to lunchtime, so she arranges for the lunch order to be delivered to his house.
She had a big breakfast, so there’s some leftover in the lunchbox. She leaves it on the table and continues with the cleaning.
It’s a sunny afternoon. She put on her head phones and press play on her iPod, humming the melodies as she wipes the cabinet.
After a while, she thought she heard the sound of a door closing.
She takes her head phones off. She walks slowly into the lounge. The front door is closed. There’s no one else there.
- Maybe it’s the neighbours. She thought to herself.
After she tidies the study, she rinses the cloth in the bathroom. She pa.s.ses by the kitchen and notices something is different …on the table.
The chair is still nicely tucked underneath the table, the cutlery neatly placed to side…
Where’s the half eaten food? The two chicken wings, the red bean mousse. They are gone?!
Jian Yao’s heartbeat starts to accelerate. She is sure they are on the table. She looks to the right, where the trash bin is. There’s an empty cup and a plate inside. Someone finished her food.
Jian Yao slowly turns around to look in the direction of his bedroom. She can see a vague image of a body moving on the reflections of the s.h.i.+nny floor boards.
No thief will finish off a half-eaten meal when he first enters a house.
So, either he was picky about the food served on the flight, or he is extremely hungry.
Jian Yao smiles to herself.