The encounter with his dead sister drained Qian emotionally. When his energy level was restored back to normal, his attention now focused on his last thoughts about Kaori. He recalled that he still had the information collected by the P.I. in his desk. He opened the middle drawer and pulled out a fat manila envelope and emptied the contents on the desk. Old yellowed photos and several documents scattered over the desk top. He quickly located the item that he was looking for; a copy of Kaori’s record from the Household Registration Bureau showing her address, the family members’ names and her husband’s place of business. He wondered though how useful this information would be after 20 years.
Qu-Kai was peering curiously over his shoulder at the record when he noticed the address. “Holy shit! She lives in Xi Tuan district in Tai Zhong County!”
“So, what’s so shocking about that?”
“That’s where my family lived when I was young, before we moved to Taipei.”
Qian’s spirits were lifted. Qu-Kai would be familiar with the area and could certainly take him there.
“Take me to this address.”
And so they glided off to Tai Zhong but when they arrived, they couldn’t find the house number. His earlier doubt about the usefulness of the information turned out to be a self fulfilling prophecy and he could not hide the look of disappointment on his face.
“I suppose I was a bit naïve to think that the house would still exist after twenty years. Tai Zhong County has been aggressively renovating the city to provide more housing units and the entire area was probably razed to make room for new construction.”
Qu-Kai thought that he could help Qian since the address was close to his old home but it hadn’t occurred to him that he himself had been dead for some time and he had never heard of Shi Bin-Xiang or his wife Kaori and daughter Shi Lin.
“Sorry I couldn’t help. Looks like another wild goose chase. Let’s go back to Taipei.”
Whether by coincidence or some quirk of fate, they ended up at the very crossroads where Qu-Kai had rescued him. Qian thought it ironical that near the end of his search to end his entrapment in limbo that he should come full circle to the beginning of it all. Perhaps he had acquired some ghostly sense that was purposefully guiding him.
His reflective speculation was interrupted when he noticed a young woman that had pulled over to the curb to answer her cell phone. She looked very similar to the young girl he had, with tragic consequences, rescued at this exact intersection. The next thing that caught his attention was the license plate of the scooter. It read “BRU-441.
“My God Qu! There is the same girl I saved from death before I was nearly beaten out of existence.”
Qu-Kai looked over at the girl and immediately experienced an epiphany of the karma that had mysteriously drawn him to Qian. It was ordained repayment of a debt of gratitude for saving his sister’s life.
“That is my sister, Qian! You saved my sister’s life that night. Now I understand why I was compelled to help you.”
Qian was stunned. Still in awe, they both watched her for a few minutes and eavesdropped as she took out her phone to answer it. She looked at the caller ID and frowned with annoyance.
“Yes. What is it now?”
“Where are you?
“I’m downtown. I’ll be back at the office in ten minutes.”
“Get back here ASAP. We need your by-line so we can go to press. The deadline clock is ticking.”
She dropped the call with out saying another word and rolled her eyes back in disgust.
“What an asshole! I need a new job!”
Qian was exhilarated by this new discovery.
“She is a newspaper reporter? Great! I think she can help me find Kaori. You need to find a way get her to help me. After all, she owes me her life.”
Back at the office, Qu-Fang had just finished her press release and was sitting at her desk feeling totally drained. Her eyelids were drooping half closed, when her supervisor’s loud voice startled her.
“Go home and get some sleep! You’ve got a big interview tomorrow.”
Her boss had arranged for her to do a phone interview with Shi Bing-Xiang to get him to comment on his daughter, Tan Lin, a very popular singer in Taiwan. She was dreading another encounter with that repulsive bitter man. Her last article, based on his comments, had alienated her life-long best friend Tan Lin.
He had made the allegation that his daughter had worked as a stripper in a men’s club and Qu-Fang was forced to submit a “breaking news” press release about it by her boss. She had tried to resist but he had told her that it was big scandal news and if their paper didn’t publish it another one would pick up the story.
She now voiced her reluctance in hopes he would reconsider.
“Why do we have to deal with that disgusting man? He’s has no importance in the entertainment world. I want my entertainment column to be a positive informative source so that fans can know more about their favorite stars. I don’t want it to be a scandal sheet like some of the sensationalistic pulp rags circulating on the street.”
“If you don’t want to interview him, talk to his daughter about her point of view about the last story. Do you know her?”
“Ya, I know her. She used to be my best friend until your paper printed that garbage spewed out by her father. I don’t think any of it is true. At any rate, I don’t think there’s any chance that she will ever talk to me again.”
“Stop whining, go home and get some rest.”
She was too exhausted to argue anymore and left the office. When she got home she immediately filled the tub with hot water so she could enjoy a long relaxing bubble bath. The warmth soaked into her body and gave her a feeling of contentment and well being. She would have been content to spend the whole evening enveloped in this nearly weightless state but for the growling of her stomach.
She had been so weary that she hadn’t even thought about eating supper until now. She fixed a bowl of instant noodles and slowly ate them in a daze; opening her mouth when food touched her lips much like the young birds when the mother brings them a worm.
With her hunger satisfied and her body warmed, she mustered just enough energy to climb into bed. She was lying there going over the events of the day and trying to think of a way to avoid the dreaded interview tomorrow when her thoughts began dissolving into the nonsensical images that always preceded deep sleep.
This was normally a pleasant time when her problems melted away and let her drift into peaceful unconsciousness. But this time, an eerie feeling of inexplicable urgency prompted her to suddenly open her eyes. She was startled to see the ethereal images of two men drifting toward her. She didn’t know if she was having a nightmare or if what she saw was real. She was paralyzed for a moment and could not even scream.
Then she recognized one of the images as her dead brother. She didn’t recognize his companion but she felt an inscrutable attachment to him. She was overwhelmed with emotion and tears came to her eyes.
Qu-Kai projected his thoughts to her mind to make her understand what was happening and to calm her fears.
“Qu-Fang, the man you see with me is Yin Mo-Qian. He is a ghost like me and we are close friends. He was the Owner of Yin Yang Electronics and very prominent in society. You should recognize him from the social news in the papers. He saved your life the night you had your scooter accident. But because of that he got into serious trouble in the ghost world and needs your help.”
She remembered that crash about a month ago and recalled thinking that some kind of miracle had saved her. She remembered feeling the sensation of what must have been death only to awake moments later with just a few superficial scratches. She now understood what had happened and was filled with gratitude.
“I will do anything I can to help you. Whatever it is will never be enough to repay you for what you did for me.”
“I want you to use your contacts as a reporter to find a current address for this family.” Qian handed her the Family Registry Bureau report for Kaori.
Qu-Fang was surprised to see the names. “I know this family.”
“Where do they live now?”
“Which one are you trying to locate? They don’t live together anymore.”
“I want to find Kaori.”
Qu-Fang gave him a playful smile and wrote Kaoti’s address on the report he had given her. When Qian saw it, he was shocked. He knew this area of the city very well and knew that Kaori must have considerable wealth to be able to afford a house in this district.
With this new information in hand Qian could hardly contain his excitement. He would finally get the chance to see the woman that he now realized he had loved so much. They rushed over to her house together to find out what had happened to Kaori since she had disappeared from his life.
The house was decorated in a unique style that was undoubtedly designed by Kaori. The walls were painted in white with just enough yellow tinting to soften the cold starkness of a pure white finish. The polished white marble tiles on the floor scattered the light from the many windows throughout the house to provide the soft glow of natural lighting. One of her favorite butterfly orchids was sitting on a small table in front of the sofa. Between the living room and kitchen, there was a light fixture shaped like a harp that functioned as a room divider with strands of tiny crystal lights resembling tear drops mimicking the strings.
The house was so familiar and comfortable that Qian felt as though he had been transported back 20 years and was standing in Kaori’s old house. One of the differences was that this house was much bigger and the décor was more current. But the most significant difference was the absence of her grand piano. It was a specially crafted piano built for Kaori and when he had moved it to his house she must have felt that there was no point in trying to replace an irreplaceable object; much the same a Qian could not be replaced.
The painting studio was the room that invoked the most vivid memories of his time with Kaori. The delicate fragrance of her favorite cherry blossom scented candle that she always lit while painting, filled the air. There were recent oil paintings still drying on easels; some of her favorite orchids and a group of portraits. It was the latter that intrigued Qian. They all were of the same woman and projected the same charm and beauty as Kaori but with much younger features.
He looked over at Kaori Relaxing in the bamboo rattan rocking chair. He noticed in particular the heart shaped locket she wore around her neck. He was embarrassed to remember that she had bought it for herself as his Valentine’s Day gift from him. She had briefly opened up the locket to reveal her picture on one side and his on the other and closed it. Then she asked him to put around her neck so they could always be close together near her heart. He now regretted that he had been so insensitive and neglectful of her sensitive feelings in those days.
As she rocked, she began stroking the old necklace and started talking to him as if he were there with her; not realizing that he actually was.
“I put you in my heart Qian.”
She opened the locket and he could see that the original images from that night were still inside. He sensed that pictures of other men had covered his own at different times but the fact that his picture had never been removed touched him deeply.
Although the sun had nearly set and dusk was approaching, the studio was suddenly filled with a bright light much like the projection beam in the movie theater. The illuminated dust in the air slowly undulated and twinkled like distant silver stars. He was embraced by the warmth of the brilliance and felt unbounded love and happiness and all was silent; except for words of regret spoken by Kaori.
“I am so sorry that I never had a chance to tell you while you were alive that we had a daughter. I named her Shi Lin. I hope that somehow you are able to hear me now.”
Qian knew with certainty that he had found his greatest moment of love and that the end of his long arduous journey was close at hand.