The arraignment was over very quickly. Zhong-Ping entered a plea of guilty and Xue-Heng was sentenced to serve six years in prison with the right to appeal. When Xiao-Mei heard this news, she was shocked and outraged. She called the law office and demanded and immediate meeting with Zhong-Ping to explain to her how this could have happened.
Ying-Quan accompanied her to the law office and while they were waiting in the reception area she tried to figure out what might have happened to cause this unexpected outcome. She had already given Zhong-Ping the money to bribe the courts. Was it not enough? Even though it was not the total 1 million it should have been enough to get started. If it wasn’t enough, then he should have refused the 800,000. For all her brooding, she was no closer to any conclusive understanding.
Just then, Zhong-Ping opened his office door and when he saw Xiao-Mei and Ying-Quan he knew immediately what they wanted. He was about to greet them when his assistant started to anxiously explain why she had not turned them away.
“I told them that you were not in the office but they did not believe me and insisted on waiting until…”
Xiao-Mei angrily interrupted. “The court decision is entirely different form the outcome you promised and I want an explanation.”
Zhong-Ping quickly led them into his office to avoid a public scene. “The senior judges that I can negotiate with do not preside in the lower courts. When I get the formal court decree, I will then file an appeal. The lower court judge is too inexperienced and idealistic to submit to my influence.”
“Do you really think the result of the appeal will be different?” Xiao-Mei’s anger had subsided after hearing his explanation and her tone was much softer now.
Zhong-Ping nodded. “Of course, we will have to present some new evidence. Possibly the witness will retract his statement. Another thing in our favor is that the media has lost interest in the case and public opinion will no longer be a significant factor. I will deal with it. But, you have to get all the money ready.”
“800,000 NTD isn’t enough? That is the limit of what I can borrow.”
“You want people to do you a favor and except to pay less because you are short of funds? Don’t be naïve! They are not taking a bribe to give you charity, they are after money. They are expecting the current market value for their services.”
This surprised her since it was the first direct conversation between them since they were first introduced. He usually referenced her in third person as if she were not in the room. She noticed a tired and irritable look on his face as he concluded their conversation.
“That’s all we have to discuss for today. Get the rest of the million together and call my secretary.”
As they left the office, her anger had turned to stress and sadness. She turned to Ying-Quan with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know where I can get the rest of the money. I have exhausted all possibilities of borrowing from friends and relatives.”
“I will talk to our colleagues at work. Maybe we can figure out a way to help you. I know they all care about Xue-Heng and would be willing to help if they were asked.”
She rubbed her reddened eyes and looked gratefully at him but did not speak. Although her heart was heavy with silent grief, she felt an urgent need to console her husband who almost certainly was at a low point in his life.
About a week later, she got a phone call from Ying-Quan. After the usual greetings and chit chat, he asked her if she was alone this afternoon because he had something he wanted to talk to her about. Xiao-Mei invited him over but she felt some apprehension about the mysterious sound in Ying-Quan’s voice. She wondered if the pending revelation would be a blessing or a curse.
When he arrived she went to the door to let him in. “Today I have a surprise for you. Can you guess what it is?”
“How could I know? I don’t have any idea what it is.” In her heart she was wishing it would be the $200,000 she needed, but dared not to hope for so much.
He opened his briefcase, took out a brown paper bag and with a teasing laugh dangled it in front of her. She grabbed the bag from him, opened it and saw the cash she so desperately needed. She smiled ecstatically as a look of relief washed over her face. At the sight of the grief and worry disappearing from her beautiful face, Ying-Quan was overcome with desire and wrapped her up tightly in his arms.
She was stunned by his unexpected actions and spontaneously broke free from his grasp, struggling to pretend nothing had happened. With a superficial laugh, she headed to the kitchen trying to act nonchalant. “How inhospitable of me! I have a guest and neglected to make tea.”
Much to her surprise, he followed her to the kitchen, hovering close to her like a little boy. She could not think of anything to say to alleviate this awkward situation but knew that silence would only imply tacit approval of his actions. “There isn’t anything you can do to help me here. The tea will be ready in a minute. Go sit on the couch in the living room and wait for it.”
But, he ignored her suggestion and continued to follow her closely. Finally, she took the tea to the living room and set it on the coffee table in front of the couch. However, she avoided sitting next to him for fear of what he might do,
“So, where did the money come from?”
“What does it matter? Don’t worry about it, just accept it.”
“No matter how much I need the money, I need to know who was willing to help me so I can return a favor in the future.”
“I told you that our colleagues would be willing to help.”
“How much is here? Is it the exact amount I need?”
“Oh, do you want to count it now to make sure?”
She smiled to hide the embarrassed caused by his teasing laugh. “$200,000 is such a large amount. I am just surprised that a small group of employees can raise so much money.”
“Don’t worry about it. The most important thing is to win the appeal so Xue-Heng can go free.” He clasped her hand tightly in both his hands.
Again she felt threatened and stood up abruptly, thanking him. “I need to put this away in a safe place.” She headed toward the bedroom, never imagining he would have the audacity to follow her.
Suddenly he grabbed her as before but this time clasped the back of her head so she could not escape. He kissed her roughly on the lips moaning with greed, forcing her mouth open with his tongue. Her wide eyed surprise was replaced by utter disgust as she felt his stiff erection pressing against her dress into her crotch.
Some how she summoned up the strength to break free and she threw the bag of cash at him, scattering shiny new 1000 dollar bills all over the floor. Her face white with fear, she shouted at him as loudly as her trembling voice would permit. “Stop this right now you animal!” Inwardly she thought that she was being naïve to think that he could be persuaded with words. She could not understand the sudden brutality coming from a close trusted friend.
Her spontaneous rebuff caused him to straighten up but he still pressed close to her. With obvious exacerbation in his voice he revealed his unrequited love for her. “I have loved you since I first met you but it has been bitter sweet; always repressing my desire for you while watching you openly display your love for Xue-Heng!”
She had always been vaguely aware of his feelings for her but avoided considering the possible ramifications of continued contact with him. She was always a little uncomfortable with his frequent visits to their house without his wife. Now she supposed that this subconscious knowledge is why she intuitively turned to him for help, somehow sensing that he would not refuse her.
Seeing the pain and frustration in his eyes softened her anger somewhat. “We cannot do this! We cannot betray our families. I am devoted to freeing my husband and what about your wife and little girl?”
She hoped that her warmth would somehow stir his conscience and make him realize that he had an obligation to exercise moral restraint. But, hearing these softer words only encouraged him to resume his pursuit of sexual satisfaction. This time he grabbed her and pressed her into a corner of the room where she had no chance to extricate herself from his frenzied assault. She shuddered with disgust as he whispered in her ear. “I really love you! Don’t reject me this time.” His hands were frantically groping her in an attempt to undress her. With tears streaming down her face she let out plaintive cry. “You let me go! Let me go now, please.”
But, her pleading had no effect on this predator sensing that he was closing in on his prey and would soon enjoy a delectable feast. He continued undressing and kissing her, leaving behind a trail of wet saliva. Finally, in desperation, she grabbed his hair, pulled his head up straight and with her other hand slapped his face with all the strength she could summon from within.
This seemed to quell his passionate attack but now he began speaking in a very cold tone that she had never heard from him before. “I’ll be willing to give you the $200,000 to help free your husband without any obligation to repay me if you give in to me and let me have what I have been craving for so many years. Besides, you really don’t have any other options. Think about it.”
Xiao-Mei looked at the bag of cash on the floor and thought that if she accepted his offer, she had no more dignity than a prostitute. On the other hand, she desperately needed the money to free her husband and also needed Ying-Quan’s help in mediating with the lawyers.
Her lack of response during her struggle was interpreted by Ying-Quan as submissive agreement to his proposal and his fervor was rekindled. Her body was lifeless, devoid of any sign of spiritual presence but that did not matter to him. He was about to resume assault on her when they were both startled by a loud banging on the bedroom door.
Mo-Xiu violently pushed the door open and yelled, “What are you doing?” He had come home to take a short rest on the way to making a delivery and never suspected that he would witness a scandal in progress.
Ying-Quan was equally surprised and stood frozen for an instant. Then he became angry that his “prize” had been snatched away from him at the last second by a cruel fate. He surmised that Mo-Xiu had already made up his mind about the situation and that there was no point in trying to convince him otherwise so he quickly dressed and left the house.
Xiao-Mei, still partially in shock, looked down at her partially naked body. She hung her head shamefully and fearing that her son would misunderstand moved forward to grasp her son’s hands. “I have done nothing to dishonor your father or myself. It was Ying-Quan that tired to force me into having sex in exchange for the money he said he would lend me to help in your father’s defense.”
Mo-Xiu pushed her hands aside. “I see no signs of a struggle. What am I to think? What kind of women would take a strange man into her bedroom if not for some intimate intentions? When I came in, you were just standing there with no sign of resistance.” He bent over and picked up the bag and grabbed a handful of money. “Is this the money you earned with your body? You are no better than a prostitute!” His face was ferocious and looked as if his head would explode at any second.
“No, I did not do what you accuse me of. Ying-Quan deceived me into thinking the money came from donations by your father’s colleagues and then tried to rape me.”
“No? How could you let another man into my father’s bedroom? He would never bring another woman in here!”
He then hurled the money at her face which cut her cheek and turned her face red. The physical pain was miniscule compared to the humiliating accusations made by her son. Seeing the money floating in the air, she felt that her heart had broken into as many pieces that were dispersing into oblivion, never to return. Grief stricken, she could not utter a single sound.
“If it is so easy to get money, why are we busting our asses to make ends meet? I suppose you got the rest of the money the same way, all the while convincing us that you were borrowing it from friends and relatives.”
This final accusation crushed Xiao-Mei and she tried to plead with him, to no avail, to not leave. But, he slammed the door in her face and left the house; leaving behind a sad and broken mother sobbing uncontrollably.