| Chapter 3 Opening the Envelope
Ignoring Mr. Tang's concern, I closed my door and sat on my bed, with the envelope and its familiar drawing of an eye, in my hand.
I kept silent for quite a long time before finally opening the letter. There were three photos inside, as usual.
The first one: a 6-year-old boy with a ruddy face and a worn white school uniform, with a red dot in the middle of his forehead. He was making a funny face and there were many parents and kids behind him. The last thing I noticed was a banner in the distance that said "Happy International Children's Day, June 1st."
The second one: a little boy stuffed into a very small space, his limbs twisted. His bending thighs pressed on his small head, his face was as white as snow, and there were frost flowers on his hair and eyebrows.
The third one: a little boy standing alone in the street. His clothes were bulky and bulging, looking very strange. He was surrounded by a white mist and both his hair and eyebrows were white.
My hand shivered violently and the photo fell down. I'd seen a lot of these weird photos, and although they were extremely creepy, I had never been as scared as I was now.
The background in the third photo was too familiar. It was in front of my hotel.
Would anyone come to kill me?
My fear was really beyond words, but I quickly put the pictures back into the envelope, walked out of my room, and went over to the front desk again.
"Mr. Tang, do you have a 5 or 6-year-old boy around here?"
Hearing my words, Tang, who was watching TV, got startled. When he saw that it was me, he retreated slightly and thought carefully, "A little boy? There is a little boy in the hardware store next door. What's the matter? Has that naughty boy been making trouble again?"
I shook my head and trotted out. I knew the hardware store next door. Its owner opened the store during the day and closed it early to go home at night. After that, street peddlers would set up their booths outside his shop for the night market. I could clearly hear the owner of that hardware store cursing at them for leaving their trash at his doorstep almost every morning.
I walked out of the hotel and saw that the hardware store was open. A very strong man with a big, thick face was sitting at the door, smoking and rubbing his toes, an expression of enjoyment on his face.
A middle-aged woman was carrying things around the store and would sometimes scold that man, "You should go and die! You let me work by myself and never come over and help me!"
Seeing the big and tall owner of the hardware store, I hesitated for a moment but still forced myself to walk up to him and ask, "Excuse me, Sir. Do you have a 5 or 6-year-old son?"
The owner nodded subconsciously, then looked at me strangely and rudely said, "Who are you?"
I didn't answer him and just kept asking, "Where's the kid now?"
The owner stood up. He was not tall, but his very strong figure still made me take two steps back.
When the middle-aged woman saw the situation, she hurriedly put down her things, came out and grabbed her husband, "My kid went to play at his uncle's house. Do you....."
Her husband interrupted her and said, "Hey, boy, if you have something to say, say it. What do you want?"
I didn't want to say any more, but the little boy's lovely face swayed my heart and made me hesitate while saying, "Go and find your son. He⋯ he may be in trouble." After saying that, I didn't stick around to see the owner's reaction and just hurried back to the hotel.
"Motherfucker, do you want to die!?" the owner shouted after me, followed by the woman's soothing voice trying to calm her husband.
I went straight to my room and wiped the sweat from my forehead. I had no other choice. I too, would be furious if someone had said that to me.
As night fell, I put the envelope away and listened to the noises of the night market outside. Sure enough, I was always more daring in crowded places, even if I exposed to such strange things.
I watched the news that night and there were no reports of a boy being killed. I had figured the owner of the hardware store had listened to me and went to the uncle, but still couldn't find the boy. Yet the news confirmed nothing.
When I received the photo, I knew that the fate of the little boy had been sealed.
"Tap-tap," A few knocks came from my door. I looked at the clock on the wall and it said 1 AM.
Who could be looking for me so late at night? Strange as it was, I was not afraid. Outside the open window, there were some young men drinking.
"Who is it?"
"Wu, it's me," outside the door came the voice of Mr. Tang. Although it was strange that Mr. Tang came to visit me so late, I still got out of bed and went to open the door.
As soon as the door opened, several policemen rushed in and shouted, "Don't move!"
Before I could react, I felt a pain in my arm. My hand was twisted behind me and I was pressed against the wall by a policeman.
I turned my head that was pressed against the wall with difficulty and saw several policemen searching my room.
Mr. Tang was standing on the side, looking at me in fear and shaking his head.
"What are you doing?" My face was pressed against the wall so my voice was a little stifled, but no one answered. A policeman picked up the white envelope, pulled out the photos and looked at them carefully. Then he threw them away and nodded at the other officers.
I was finally released. I stretched my neck, which had been held with great force and sat by the bed as these vigilant policemen asked me questions.
A young policeman took out his badge and held it in front of me, "I'm with the Criminal Police of the Public Security Bureau. My name is Wu Jian. I need you to assist with an investigation."
I rubbed the hand they had hurt when they initially barged in. I did not clearly see the papers that Wu Jian had just taken out, but I did not doubt his identity. In this era, the only ones who dared to break into other people's rooms and search them like this, except for those who were about to catch a cheating spouse red-handed, were the police.
Seeing that I wasn't speaking, Wu Jian took my ID card from another policeman's hand and took a closer look.
He said with a smile, "Wu Rui. Hehe, we were family 500 years ago. By the way, you live in this town. Why are you staying in a hotel?"
I had no idea what happened. I was wondering why the police came to find me. When I heard Wu Jian's question I replied casually, "I just came here to do something. It's convenient to stay in a hotel."
Wu Jian smiled again, "It's only 30 minutes by bus to your house⋯" He just looked at me meaningfully.
Uh, he was right. I couldn't help but regret my quick words and didn't know how to answer him.
Wu Jian did not seem to care about my answer. He said to me, "Do you remember speaking to Niu Xuanming today?"
"Niu Xuanming?" I was stunned for a moment, then realized that it was probably the owner of the hardware store next door.
Sure enough, Wu Jian said, "You told him to find his kid and also said that something had happened to his child?"