|时间：2017-03-16 21:12:40｜人气：119 |
|Around lunchtime on Monday, Sam came to their office with a tape. When he saw Lois sitting behind her desk, he inquired after her arm. Lois showed it to him, saying, “It feels better everyday, but if it''s dragged with great force, it may sever.” |
“Do you mean that the donated arm can never be the same as your own?” asked Sam.
“I mean NOW. It needs time.” Lois smiled at him. “By the way, I remembered that one of the four guys that attacked me is Michael Dong. We got him once in New York, you remember, Sam?”
“Yeah. I can still see his frightened face in my mind''s eye.”
“He lives near Master Pu''s house. I have the address. Can you put someone on watch over him?”
“I''ll take care of it.” Then he and Tricia left the office for lunch somewhere.
Lois put the tape into the player and learned the following conversation.
“Tim died in the fucking jail infirmary. Fucking him,” said a new voice.
“Why didn''t we get fucking him out? He''s our fucking brethren. Buddha-dammit,” said a familiar voice belonging to the big guy.
“It''s not so fucking easy as you think. Shit. The fucking big boss is afraid he''ll spill out fucking beans before we can get him out since the fucking bail’s denied.”
“How did we get fucking attorney into our brethrenhood? He dun’t look like a fucking tough guy.”
“He''s our fucking brethren already when he was sent to study fucking law. We need our own lawyer.”
Tricia came back from lunch. She told Lois that she had let Sam know her new relationship with Mrs. Gallagher.
“What did he say?” Lois asked, squinting at Tricia.
“He said that''s good. He asked me if he should be introduced to Mrs. Gallagher as my boyfriend.”
Lois just looked at her for further information.
“I said I would talk to Mrs. Gallagher first.”
Week in, week out. Counting by the week, time flies away really fast, but it is only a feeling. Time goes at a steady, measured pace, at the same speed, second by second, minute by minute, to eternity.
The day broke bright and gay that Sunday. Thanks to Mr. El Nino, the weather grew warmer now than before his visit. The whole winter last year, Central New Jersey didn''t see much snow to the exhilaration of drivers and the disappointment of children.
Mrs. Gallagher stood before the window in the living-area of her condo. Besides two bedrooms and two baths, there was a big room the owner could divide into living-area and dining-area by putting the furniture where she thought fit. Beyond a counter was the kitchen area already furnished and the owner could do nothing to easily change it. She gazed out at the stretches of lawns dotted here and there with some small trees. Around every unit, especially under the windows, some shrubs and flowers were planted. The environment and the outside ornamentation made the unit owners and tenants feel like they were living in some sort of a garden with a swimming pool behind and a tennis court beside a clubhouse in which the dwellers could use the exercise equipment, play pool, ping-pong or cards, or watch a big-screened TV. On special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, parties were thrown there and all the residents could take part and dance on the dance floor.
Mrs. Gallagher stood before her window, lost in contemplation. Her smile never faded these days, contrary to her sad expression last week and the week before last. The vacuum and void in her feelings was filled, but there was still a space left for the memory of her own daughter. When she had been caressing the part of the arm on Lois''s body that once had been on her own daughter, she could not tell what feeling she had been experiencing then: the lamentable loss of her daughter, the satisfactory donation to save a young girl, or the realization and solace that a very small part of her own daughter was still alive on the body of another girl. Or mixed feelings. Let bygones be bygones, she told herself.
She made some changes in the arrangement of the furniture and decoration in her own daughter''s bedroom in the hope that it would suit the taste of her new daughter. But as a matter of fact, she didn''t know much about the taste of young girls. Even her own taste underwent a little change now from when she had been young herself. She had called her son in Ohio and told him the news. Her son and his wife had congratulated her and silently congratulated themselves, too, because they could have a clear consciousness now if they didn''t come often to see their mother, since there was a new daughter to look after her and relieve them of the filial duties.
Mrs. Gallagher went shopping on Saturday. If she’d had enough money, she would have emptied the supermarket. She had literally filled her refrigerator to its capacity, leaving no space even for a cockroach to squeeze in. She had cleaned every corner of her small condo, leaving no dust in sight. She got up earlier than the sun on that day, making every desirable preparation for the party and from noon she began to cook. The food she got ready for dinner was enough to feed a small army. She thought that people with kungfu, just like athletes, would eat more than ordinary people, but she was wrong there. In the Chinese conventional conception, people who exercised chi could eat less food than those who didn''t, because when exercising chi the metabolism was slow like in hibernation and therefore, these people needed a less supply of energy and calories.
Three cars pulled into the parking spaces near Mrs. Gallagher''s condo. The invitees had arrived. Mrs. Gallagher stood outside the only door to the condo to welcome her guests, or relatives of some sort, not by blood. When all the guests were inside, she brought up the rear and closed the door behind her.
Now that Tricia had two adopted mothers, how could she differentiate when she wanted to call each of them? That was a little problem.
“Just like I say Auntie Louise, you can say Mom Louise and Mom Nancy. What do you think, Cousin Tricia?” Alida made the suggestion that solved her problem.
“Good.” Tricia patted her on the shoulder. “You really have some wisdom in that pretty little head of yours.” Alida smiled at the praise, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet, tilting her head.
“Mom Nancy,” Tricia said, “this is my boyfriend Sam Dawson, but we won’t live together until we get married.”
The furniture in the living-area in Mrs. Gallagher''s condo was simple. Two sofas were put opposite along the walls with end tables on both sides and coffee tables before each one. A glass cabinet stood against the wall facing the windows, with a set of fine china plates, dishes, cups and saucers on display. A big pot with an evergreen stood at the corner beside the window and a few small pots with roses in them under the window. In the dining-area there was a long dining table with six chairs around it, but today, since there were ten people, the table had been made longer by pulling two ends apart and putting a spare plank in the middle on the metal supporter. Four folding chairs were produced from the closet just beside the door. Sam and Tricia were the main helpers to do this. Mrs. Lin and Mrs. Chang offered to help in the kitchen area, but Mrs. Gallagher said that everything was ready and that if they really wanted to assist, they could put all the things on the table, which was now covered with a long white and ruddy checkered tablecloth. Lois, Sally and Alida sat on a long sofa, the latter two girls helping themselves to some candy on the coffee table before them. Mr. Lin and Mr. Chang were seated on another sofa, chattering about kungfu. When the dining table was laid and food appeared on it, the guests were invited to sit down at the table. Everyone got chopsticks as well as a fork. They could use whichever they were used to.
Sally took the chopsticks in her right hand and the fork in her left. “I am used to practicing weapons with both hands,” she said self-righteously. So she used both eating weapons to send food into her mouth, but only alternately, unable to do it simultaneously since she had only one mouth.
What Mrs. Gallagher cooked, or what her guests partook of, was something raw, something boiled, something baked, something stewed, something scrambled, something fried and something roasted.
“Do you want to stay here tonight?” Mrs. Gallagher asked after she took Tricia to have a look at her bedroom. “It''s up to you.” But she looked at Tricia expectantly, and a bit nervously, though she said nothing more.
Tricia was satisfied with the room. She was not a pernickety person. “I''d like to,” she replied, “but how can I leave here for work tomorrow morning since I came here in Sam''s car and he''s not supposed to stay here for the night.” She smiled at him archly. Sam was with her in the bedroom and offered to pick her tomorrow morning.
“That''s very kind of you,” Tricia thanked him, “but I doubt you can keep your promise if your police duty calls.”
“Hope against the hopes that no duty calls. Keep your fingers crossed,” he joked.
“I can drop you,” said Mrs. Gallagher, “if you think it''s okay.” So that was settled.
When they came back into the living-area, Sally said jestingly with a smile, “You are a lucky dog, Tricia. You have two places to live and two mothers to love you.” According to Chinese tradition, Tricia was born in the year of Dog. Tricia glowered at her in a vain attempt to show a furious and ferocious look on her face. Then she whispered into Sally''s right ear, “It''s because I happen to have my skin in the same color as her daughter.”
Martha Fox came to see Lois after she was back home from the hospital. She just dropped in at the office. “What''s your illness? I didn''t know that you were so sick and must be sent to the hospital, or I''d have gone there to visit you. Anything connected with the attack the other day?” she asked and apologized for not showing her concern earlier.
“Don''t worry. I am fine, but thank you anyway,” said Lois with a polite smile. Seeing they were busy, Martha left soon without even making the seat on her buttocks warm.
“My instinct tells me that I don''t like this woman,” said Tricia. “Everything about her looks like acting, phony.”
“I always trust people unless something turns up to denote that they are untrustworthy.” That was Lois, born like that. No one could blame her for it.
A few days later, Martha called to ask Lois a favor. “Hi, Lois, can you come to my rescue?”
“Anything serious happen to you?” Lois wanted to know before she would say yes or no.
“Not serious,” Martha breezed out.
“What is it?” Lois asked doubtfully.
“I''m stranded in Brunswick Square, East Brunswick, right on Rt. 18 South.”
“What happened to your car?”
“It was stolen. When I came out from the mall after shopping, I could not find my car. Can you just pick me up and drop me at home? Oh, please.” She sounded desperate.
“Okay, but wait for me outside the mall.”
“Thank you very much.” She clicked off her cell phone.
“Can there be another ambush trap set up for you?” Tricia voiced her suspicion.
“That was coincidence last time, I think,” said Lois. “I''ll be okay, now that the poisoned part was removed from me.”
Half an hour later, Lois arrived at the mall parking lot and saw Martha roving impatiently before Macy''s, carrying two shopping bags in her hand. Lois stopped her car alongside the curb before her and pushed down the emergency lights’ button for temporary standing. Martha opened the rear door and put her bags on the backseat, then she got into the passenger seat in front. Lois turned off the emergence lights and pulled away from the curb.
Martha directed Lois on how to get to South River. On the way, Martha thanked Lois over and over again for her time and the extra trip. While she was talking, she forgot to give directions so that Lois drove past a side street they were supposed to turn into. “Stop, you passed it already,” Martha cried from the next seat. Lois had to slow down to turn into a side street two blocks away, almost getting hit by another car from behind owing to her abrupt slow-down. Martha could not tell where to go now. “I haven''t lived here long, not familiar with this area yet,” she confessed, looking sorry. Lois had to stop at the curb and take a map from the glove compartment and check the address on it.
At last they arrived at where Martha lived. Lois parked her car in front of the house behind a big brown Oldsmobile. Martha pressed Lois to come in for a drink, saying, “You''ve never come to my house, ever since we began to strike up our friendship. Just step in to have a look to see how I live.” She dragged Lois inside with one hand and carried two bags in the other. Lois reluctantly followed her inside. “Will you come upstairs to see my bedroom?” She didn''t even release Lois''s hand yet.
Out of politeness, Lois stayed there for ten minutes, then took her leave, apologizing, “Next time, Martha. I''m really busy today.” Martha saw her to the front door. When Lois got out, to her great surprise, she found that all four tires on her car were flat. Who could do this to me? she wondered. It seemed that she was always being followed, but she didn''t see any suspicious car all the way here.
“You can use this Olds a friend of mine left here yesterday. She''s traveling now and won''t be back until next week,” Martha offered. “I''m not going anywhere today. I''ll call you tomorrow to arrange how you''ll return it to me. I may need it till I retrieve my Cadillac or buy a new one.”
Lois didn''t want to stay here any longer, so she accepted Martha''s offer and got into the big brown Oldsmobile. She would take care of her own car later.
She drove along Rt. 18 northbound. She was in the middle lane. When she wanted to change lanes to the left side, she noticed from her rearview mirror that two police cars were behind her, top lights flashing. She knew that she was not violating any traffic regulations. Anyway, she pulled to the right lane and stopped at the curb. The police cars stopped, too, one before her, the other behind her. Four policemen got out with drawn guns, slowly approaching her as if she were an armed robber just escaped from a bank.
They shouted, “Stay where you are and don''t move. Put your hands on the steering wheel where we can see them.” She rolled down the window and waited in her seat. One police officer opened the door for her, ordering her to step out slowly. The other three policemen leveled their guns at her. The traffic was stopped. Lois was puzzled, but she did as she was ordered. Once out of the car, she put her hands behind her head automatically, without even receiving any order from the policemen, to show her cooperation. She was led away to the police car in front under the muzzles of the guns and put into the backseat with her hands cuffed behind her. Then the policemen searched her car. They took out a package from the trunk and opened it a little. There was a pound of white powder. They took it over and showed it to Lois. She was really stunned and gaped at the package. She never felt so stunned in her life. The package contained cocaine. The policemen dispersed the curious spectators and drove all three cars to the station.
Lois was led into an interrogation room and her handcuffs were removed. She sat at a long table waiting for someone to come to cross-question her. It was a new experience in her life. She was used to questioning other people. But everything has its first time. That was what just happened, though she could not believe it: she was being framed. Now she could imagine that when she had been in Martha''s house, someone, an accomplice, had punctured all the tires of her car, and Martha had purposefully offered to lend her the Olds with the package of cocaine already in the truck. Then as she had left her house, Martha had called the police anonymously, or the police would not have overtaken her so quickly and wouldn''t have even known that a drug package was in the car. Now it dawned on her that Martha had planned the ambush in the Menlo Park mall parking too. She did have a doubt at that time how these hoodlums could know that she was shopping--no, suspiciously forced to be a shopping companion--in that mall. Too much coincidence should have some reason in it. How could all four tires of her car become flat at the same time? It should be a premeditated step to put her in a position to have to drive the drug-laden Oldsmobile. She traced their acquaintance back to when she had traveled in China, which seemed to have been conspired, too, or the woman would not have stuck at her side like chewed gum on the sole of a shoe.
A detective came in. The routine began. She told him her name and occupation.
“Hmmm, a private eye.” He said it with some irony in his voice. “How did you get this package in the trunk of your car?” He squinted at her with a smile looking like something went wrong with the tense muscles around his mouth and the smile could never go up to his eyes.
“That''s not my car,” Lois told him truthfully.
“I know, it''s a stolen car,” he said sarcastically. She told him everything about how she had got acquainted with the woman who called herself Martha Fox and how today she had needed a ride home and her own car had had suspicious flat tires and Martha had lent her this Oldsmobile she had claimed belonged to a friend of hers who had gone traveling. What a coincidence, she realized now, but not at that time.
The detective listened silently, but still looked dubious about what she was telling him. Then she asked, “Can I make a phone call?”
“Sure. To your lawyer.” He led her to a pay phone. She kept silent till she reached the phone and called Tricia, who called Sam immediately after she hung up on Lois.
Sam answered on his cell phone. “Hi, Tricia, I''m on my way to north New Jersey. What''s up?”
“Lois was framed for drug possession and detained at the station.”
“What happened?” Sam asked. He wanted to make sure that he had heard correct the first time. Tricia filled him in briefly.
“Okay. I''m on my way back. Meet me at the station.”
Then Tricia called her Mom Louise, who called Mr. Lin and passed on the bad news.
Tricia reached the station first, pretending to be a lawyer and met Lois in the room. Lois told her the whole story in detail, and when Sam arrived she had to tell it once more. Then Sam went to find the detective. Sam belonged to the county police department and he knew that detective, who told him he sent a patrol car to that address Lois claimed a Martha Fox lived at, but the house was empty, though a car did sit there with all tires flat. They contacted the owner of the house and he said that he had rented it to a woman call Ellen Lee. Then the detective said that first he must make a picture of that Martha Fox woman to show to the owner to see if Martha Fox and Ellen Lee were the same person or not; then he must write a report to his superiors for them to make any further decision. That was all he could do.
The police sketched a picture of Martha Fox with the help of Lois. The detective went to see the owner himself and the owner confirmed that this was the woman who had rented the house from him. Lois''s story seemed now believable, but the evidence was still against her. Since the juridical authorities knew the girls'' reputation and also suspected a framing, Lois was released on a bail of one hundred thousand dollars.
“How can we get so much money?” exclaimed Mrs. Lin.
“We have to borrow money first, and then sell our house or the video store to repay it,” said Mr. Lin calmly. Mr. Lin called Mr. Chen to see if he could borrow some money from him. Mr. Chen said, “No problem. I almost owe you my life. Come get it. I''ll get the money ready for you.” So Mr. Lin drove to Mr. Chen''s house.
Mrs. Lin called Mrs. Chang and told her about Lois being framed and needing money for the bail. Mrs. Chang said, “I''ll talk to Richard, then call back. Don''t worry. We''ll get her out.” Mr. Chang didn''t have much money; so he called Mr. Li for the loan of some money to bail Lois out. Mr. Li was worried, too, and promised to get money ready, adding, “I''ll get some more from a close friend of mine. We were playmates from childhood.”
“My wife''s family was rich and left a large legacy to her and her sister. Her sister married John Zi. We are brothers-in-law, but--” he trailed off. “It''s a long story. We''ll talk about it later. Here''s fifty thousand dollars.” He handed Mr. Lin a bank check, adding, “If you need more, I''ll try.” Mr. Lin thanked him and promised to return it as soon as possible.
“Don''t worry about the money. We have enough to live on. How''s your daughter''s arm?”
“It''s fine,” said Mr. Lin and then bade Mr. and Mrs. Chen goodbye and hurried back.
When Mr. Lin got home, Mr. Chang and Mr. Li were visiting. Mr. Li said, “I know it''s important to bail Lois out so that she can solve all these cases. I can lend you ten thousand dollars, but I borrowed another twenty thousand dollars from Eric Hsu.” Mr. and Mrs. Lin stared at Mr. Li in surprise, even forgetting to thank him. They knew that Mr. Hsu was the first on Lois’s suspect list. Seeing their surprised expression, Mr. Li explained, “He and I have known each other since we were still wearing diapers. Some customer had implied that Eric Hsu killed David. That''s absolutely impossible and ridiculous. He looked upon David like his own son. Only David disappointed both him and me.” He sighed deeply, holding his eyes wide so that tears wouldn''t escape. He produced two checks amounting to thirty thousand dollars.
“Lois is my Dry Daughter. So I must do something for her. Here''s ten thousand dollars we had saved in the bank.” Mr. Chang took out a check from his pocket. Mr. and Mrs. Lin thanked both of them abundantly and promised to pay them back as soon as possible. Mr. Chang and Mr. Li left soon, knowing that Mr. Lin would go to bail Lois out from the police station. Mr. Lin had saved ten thousand dollars in the bank; so he had all the money for the bail now.
Lois came home. The first thing she did was to take her car to the garage for repair. Then she was told where all the money came from. She was also surprised to become aware that Mr. Hsu and Mr. Li had so close a relationship. Now she felt that she had no master suspects on her list anymore. This was even more ridiculous than being framed. She felt that she were sailing on the vast expanse of the waters of the Atlantic with no land in view all around and had no notion in which direction she should steer her steamer. She was more than frustrated.
The three sisters had a meeting. Lois began, “How''re things going in your company?” she asked Sally, who was invariably chewing a cud of gum, never letting her mouth have a moment''s rest.
“Everything''s normal,” was the reply.
“If Mr. Hsu''s no longer on our list of suspects, I think there''s no need for Sally to keep on working in that company. What do you two think?” Lois looked from Tricia to Sally, leaning back in her swivel chair and resting her arms on the arms of the chair.
“I have the same opinion,” said Tricia, glancing at Sally, with a grin playing about her beautifully arched mouth. Her lips had a reddish gloss.
“I have no objection, though I really earned some money for myself,” Sally said indifferently, tossing her head backward, her eyes on the ceiling as if searching for any sign of a spider''s web. Then a bubble bobbed at the tip of her nose.
“Good. You have your dowry money ready now,” Tricia seemed a little envious.
“No. That''s the wedding gift money for you and Sam,” Sally shot back, the bubble bursting around her lips; she collected it into her mouth again, her head resuming the normal position, her eyes leveling at Tricia''s with an arch smirk on her face.
“By the by, I asked Sam to distribute the pictures of Martha Fox among the police,” Tricia informed, balancing a pencil on the index finger of her right hand.
“I have checked both names with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Service,” said Lois. “There are some such names, but none fit her. I think both are phony names. I''ll fax her picture to all the states. Maybe she came from outside New Jersey.”
“Probably, our suspects are not in New Jersey like the master brothers. We must widen our investigation,” Tricia suggested, tapping the eraser end of the pencil on her desk.
“You are right. We should go to Chicago,” Lois agreed.
It was Sunday. Tricia had a date with Sam in the evening. Sam was busy, but he found himself a reason to be with Tricia. We''ll discuss the cases. Perhaps, they would. They might spend ten minutes out of the three hours they were together, talking about the life and death business. Yes, police and detectives needed a love life as well as others. That was fair and normal. No one could blame them.
Henry Wong went to Taiwan to attend his grandfather''s funeral. So Sally had nothing special to indulge herself in that day. Lois was going to visit Mr. Chen to express her gratitude for his loan. Sally went with her and offered to drive her Taurus. They planned to arrive late in the afternoon when the old couple finished their nap, then stay there for half an hour and came back for dinner at home. However, God has planned everything for everyone just like we humans design the programming for a computer. And human plans can often go amiss. They were stuck in highway traffic for two hours and arrived at Mr. Chen''s house just at dinnertime. So they were invited to share the potluck and talked and stayed a bit late.
Mr. Chen said to Lois, “Your misfortunes are over now, but you must still be careful.” Sally asked Mr. Chen to tell her fortune, too, but since she could not provide the hour she had been born at, her fortune could not be told. Anyway, Mr. Chen read her face and palms.
“You are destined to have no parents… I mean, biological. Troubles of some kind often dog your steps like shadows follow you everywhere when there''s light, either you make them or someone causes them. They are not misfortunes; so don''t worry. You''ll be content with your marriage and married life. You will be the head of your family. Your family members will always listen to you. You''ll have two children. Look at that line.” Mr. Chen pointed out a line on her palm. “And it''s the life line. It''s so long. So you can live to a very old age.”
Sally thanked Mr. Chen, then whispered mysteriously, “Can you tell when Lois will get married?” She looked furtively at her sister. Lois pretended she didn''t catch the words concerning her marriage.
“She''s fated to marry late. If she marries early, her husband will die and she will remarry late,” Mr. Chen advised sincerely.
“But you cannot say to marry at twenty-five years old is early,” Sally retorted.
“She''ll marry after thirty,” Mr. Chen said definitely.
“If she won''t marry, but live with a boyfriend like a married couple, is that okay?” asked Sally.
“No,” answered Mr. Chen. “In the Chinese concept of marriage, from the viewpoint of fortune telling, if two persons of opposite sex live an adult life that means ''married''. Doesn''t really need any ceremony. If two beggars live together and have children, and they don''t have money for any kind of ritual, they are still deemed as married.”
When they departed, it was very late. Sally drove along a side street. Suddenly a girl burst out from the door of a house and ran toward their car, waving both her hands frantically and crying, “Help!” Two guys emerged from the same house, chasing her. Sally stopped her car at the curb. The girl opened the rear door and threw herself inside onto the backseat. The guys had reached the car now. Lois opened her front door to knock at the guy ahead. The guy was knocked over and brought the guy behind him down on the ground too. Sally pulled away from the curb with the rear door still open. The first guy lurched at the car, intending to clutch the open door, but Sally accelerated and the guy missed it. Lois held out her right arm from her open window and reached the rear door and pushed it shut, but the door wasn''t closed tight. The light on the dashboard showing the door sign was still on. Sally made swift turns at every corner, one right, one left, till she felt safe. The girl sat up and pulled the door shut tight. By the time Sally slowed down, she realized that she was lost. Then she stopped altogether at the curb and turned to look at the girl with the roof light on.
“Laura, it''s you! What were you doing there?” Sally was so surprised. Lois knew her by name and looked at her, too. Laura began to weep. Lois took out some tissues and handed them to her. Laura wept and wept as if she would weep till doomsday. Sally waited, chewing her gum, until she thought the vent was long enough. She said gently, “Tell me what happened to you. I know you were kidnapped, but we couldn''t find you.” Gradually Laura stammered out what had happened to her between her sobs.