Qiu Xiaolong

Don't Cry Tai Lake


Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau found himself standing in front of the gate to the Wuxi Cadre Recreation Center.

His vacation in the city of Wuxi was totally unexpected. Earlier that Sunday morning, Chen was in Zhenjiang, attending an intensive political seminar for emerging Party officials training for “new responsibilities,” when he got a phone call from Comrade Secretary Zhao, the former second secretary of the Central Party Discipline Committee. Though retired, Zhao remained one of the most influential figures in Beijing. Zhao was too busy to take a vacation arranged for him at the center in Wuxi, so he offered it to Chen instead.

Chen was in no position to decline such a well-meant offer, coming from the Forbidden City. So he immediately left the seminar at the Zhenjiang Party School, took a long-distance bus to Wuxi station, and then a taxi to the center.

He had heard a lot about the center, which was located in a scenic area of the city. It was something like a combination of a resort and a sanatorium, known for its special service to high-ranking cadres. There were strict regulations about the Party cadre rank required for admission, and Chen was nowhere close to that rank. Chen knew an exception was being made because of Zhao. Qiao Liangxing, the director of the center, was not around when Chen arrived. A front desk receptionist greeted Chen and led him to a white European-style villa, with tall marble columns in front, enclosed by an iron fence with gilded spikes and a shining stainless-steel gate. The villa stood alone on a tree-shaded hill, separate from other buildings. The receptionist showed Chen all due respect, as if the villa being allocated to him determined his status rather than the other way round. Without any other specific instructions from Qiao, however, all she could do was check Chen in with a detailed introduction to the center and its location: Yuantouzhu, or Turtle Head Park.

“Our center gets its name from a huge rock projecting over the Tai Lake, like a turtle tossing its head above the water. The park was founded in 1918 and covers an area of five hundred hectares. It is a scenic peninsula on the northwest shore of the lake, surrounded by green hills and clear water; it is considered the best resort area in Wuxi. As for the center, at the south end of the peninsula, it was built in the early fifties for high-ranking cadres.”

While listening to her introduction, Chen reflected on the way China took for granted the assumption that the Communist Party cadres, having conquered the country, deserved to enjoy all sorts of luxurious treatment.

“Last but not the least, people staying here can easily walk into the park, but the tourists in the park may only look at the center through the gate. So enjoy your vacation here,” the receptionist concluded, smiling, leaving the key as well as a park pass on a mahogany table in the hall before she left, closing the door carefully after her.

Chen moved to the front window. Looking out, he saw part of a curving driveway lined with shrubs and evergreen, and then further down the wooded hill, another driveway for someone else’s villa. To the other side, there were rows of multistory buildings, with identically shaped balconies aligned like matchboxes, as those in a large new hotel. He didn’t have a panoramic view of the center, but his villa was undoubtedly one reserved for top Party cadres.

It was a nice, large building consisting of nine rooms in all. He had no idea what to do with all those rooms as he walked upstairs and downstairs, examining one after another. He finally put his small suitcase in the master bedroom on the first floor, which commanded a fantastic lake view. Adjacent to the bedroom was a spacious living room, featuring a marble fireplace with a copper screen in an exquisite pattern, a black leather sectional sofa, and an LCD TV. One side of the room was a wall of tall windows overlooking Tai Lake.

Also on the first floor was a study with custom-made book shelves, some books, and a desk with a brand new laptop on it. The windows in the study were large, but looked out on the driveway and the hill beyond it.

Chen went back to the living room and started to pace about, stepping on and off an apricot Persian rug. His footsteps echoed through the entire building. Finally he decided to take a bath. He grabbed a cup and a bottle of Perrier from a silver tray on a corner table and settled himself in the master bathroom, which also had a scenic view.

Soaking in the tub, he had the luxurious feeling of becoming one with the lake, as he watched the tiny bubbles rising in his glass of Perrier.

Outside, a rock frog was croaking intermittently, and there was the murmur of an unseen cascade. Looking out, Chen discovered that the lambent melody was actually coming from a tiny speaker hidden in a rock under the window.

Of late, Chen often felt worn out. With one “special case” after another on his hands, he hadn’t been able to take a break for months. A vacation could at least take his mind temporarily off his responsibilities and obligations.

Besides, there was nothing really important being handled by his Special Case Squad at the moment, and if something should come up, Wuxi was only an hour’s trip from Shanghai by train. If need be, he could easily hurry back. In the meantime, though, his longtime partner, Detective Yu Guangming, should be able to take care of things there.

But it didn’t take long before the chief inspector felt a slight suggestion-as if it was rising up from the still water in the tub-of loneliness, which was only magnified by the enormous size of the empty building.

The bubbles in the French water were gone, so he got out of the tub, put on his clothes, stuffed the paperback he brought with him into his pants pocket, and went out for a walk.

The center was connected, as the receptionist had said, to the park by a back entrance. Through the fence he saw tourists pointing and posing with cameras. He was not keen on becoming a tourist just yet, so he headed in the other direction, along a quiet, small road.

He had probably come in along the same route earlier, but sitting in the back of a taxi, he hadn’t been able to see much. There wasn’t anyone in the area, with the exception of an occasional car driving by at high speed. The road was fairly narrow. On one side, there was a wire fence stretching along like a wall, and a bushy, unkempt slope beyond it that stretched over to a wider road in the distance. On the other side, hills were rolling and rising upward here and there, interspersed with tourist attraction signs.

Ahead the road merged into a tiny square with bus stop shelters, a tea stall with bowls spread out on a makeshift table with a couple of benches, and a pavilionlike kiosk with a roof that was held up by vermillion posts, which sold all sorts of souvenirs. A group of people were getting off a gray bus, most of them carrying maps in their hands. The square couldn’t be far from the park.

He felt anonymous, yet contentedly so. He strolled about, taking out his own tourist map of Wuxi, which he had bought earlier at the bus station.

He hadn’t visited Wuxi for years. As a child, he and his parents had taken a day trip, riding from one tourist stop to another. Cutting across the square, he noted that it appeared quite different from what he remembered.

He was soon lost, in spite of the map. Like Shanghai, Wuxi had been changing dramatically in recent years. There were quite a few new street names that were unavailable or unrecognizable from his outdated map.

But he wasn’t worried. If he couldn’t find his way back, he could always hail a taxi. He liked walking-even more so as he slipped into the role of a tourist, a sort of different identity. Perhaps he was still not over having been pushed into becoming a cop when he graduated college years ago.

After passing a street corner convenience store with a twenty-four-hour-business sign, he ventured into a side street, and then into another one-a shabbier, somber, cobble-covered, and yet quaint one-which was almost deserted. This street seemed to fit into his memory of the city. Toward the end of it, he slowed down at the sight of a dilapidated eatery. It had a red wooden door and white walls, with a couple of rough tables and benches outside and several more inside, and an orange paper pinwheel spinning in the rustic window. Outside, there was a colorful

Вы читаете Don't cry Tai lake
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату