During this time, Qian was away at college, just completing his third year of studies and was not aware of any of these events until one night after returning to the dorm. He had been dining with a friend and as soon they entered the lobby, one of the students informed him that the dorm supervisor was urgently looking for him. He and his friend glanced at each other both wondering what could be so important at this time of the night. Nevertheless, he went to the supervisor’s office to inquire as to the nature of the emergency.
“Where have you been? I have tried all evening to locate you. Your mother called several times and wanted me to inform you that there is an emergency at home and they want you there immediately.”
“Did she say what happened?”
“She only said that it had something to do with your father but did not say exactly what.”
Qian ran immediately to make a call but there was the usual line of students waiting in turn to access the phone booth. Everyone was glaring impatiently at the person on front of them, hoping that their agitated mutterings would somehow intimidate the callers enough to minimize the waiting time, all the time knowing that it was futile. Qian glanced at the wall clock already nearing 8 p.m. and decided that making a phone call would be useless so, he ran to catch the next train home.
When he arrived at the house only his younger brother, Mo-Fan, was present expectantly waiting for him.
Qian was hoping to finally get some answers. “What happened?”
“Dad arrested and taken away and Mom asked me to wait here for you.”
“Taken where? Where is everybody?”
“I only know that he was taken away by police to the bureau of investigation. Mother and Mo-Xiu went to the station to get more information but I don’t know any more than that.”
The two brothers were waiting restlessly in the station lobby to hear more details about their Father’s arrest. Shortly, Xiao-Mei and Mo-Xiu emerged from a meeting room. Their faces were wan and Xiao-Mei could only sob uncontrollably.
Mo-Xiu finally spoke. “They have accused Dad of bribery corruption and the prosecutor claims he has witnesses and other material evidence strong enough to demand that he be taken into custody and held for trial. They took him away without letting us talk to him.”
“How can that be?” Qian was incredulous over such allegations. “Father has never accepted any money during the time he has worked in customs.”
Mo-Fan was surprised and confused and wasn’t quite sure what to think of these accusations against his father. “Dad hasn’t really taken money from others has he?”
Xiao-Mei was extremely disappointed and angered to hear her youngest express even the slightest doubt as to her husband’s integrity and scolded him severely. “During the 20 years your father has worked for the customs bureau, he has always held the highest contempt for any acts of corruption! You may be too young to remember but Mo-Qian can tell you that men often visited us trying to bribe your father and he always turned them away. I can’t believe that he could ever commit such a crime and you should have no doubt about his innocence. Besides, if he really took bribes we would have a new house and car and you would have all been able to study abroad. As it is, we are so poor that we can’t even afford a decent lawyer to defend your father against these false, ridiculous accusations!”
Her stern outburst made Mo-Fan realize how unimaginable it was to have any doubt of his father’s innocence and could only bow his head in shame. His brothers remained silent, not wishing to further agitate their mother.
Guilt washed over her as she looked down at her three children momentarily frozen by her admonishment when she realized, that in her distress, she had not even prepared them anything to eat.
Feigning cheerfulness she reluctantly went to the kitchen to prepare bowls of noodles for them. A tragic situation, she thought, always engulfs one in a perpetual state of mourning and in this case any hope of a solution to the problem was not apparent. Thinking of her husband locked away in a cell and not knowing if he had an evening meal to eat or could even force himself to eat it, brought tears to her eyes which dripped into the soup. No harm she thought. The noodles can always use a little more salt.
She was distraught thinking of how an inexperienced woman with three children and limited financial resources would be able to deal with such a sudden change in fortune. These thoughts, and worrying about her husband’s safety prevented her from sleeping all night and the only thing she could do was cry. When morning came, her eyes looked like two swollen walnuts and her cheeks were crusted with dried tears.
She didn’t want her sons to see her this way and add to their distress so she went to the bathroom to freshen her face, all the while trying desperately to think of a way out of this inauspicious predicament. As she was peering into the mirror wondering if she would ever look beautiful again an inspiration flashed into her thought. She would go talk to Zheng! He had always been a good friend and a close colleague of her husband. He should surely be able to give her good advice.
She quickly ran out to tell her idea to her sons but they were all still sleeping soundly. She wanted them to enjoy the escape from the family troubles as long as possible and didn’t wake them. She knew they would be hungry when they awoke and would worry when they discovered she was gone so she left some money for breakfast on the table along with a note.
I think I know how we can help father and I have gone to investigate this idea.
Here is some money for your breakfast. I will return later, hopefully with good news.
At that, she left the house in relatively good spirits unaware that she was seeking a solution to a problem from the very man that had caused it.