The abbot issued a cough, his expression turning kind and amiable once more. "Benefactor, the Buddhist temple has its own rules. You are not allowed to do as you please. Control yourself."
I knew this wasn’t the time to shed all pretences. If they were to join hands, we certainly wouldn’t be able to leave. "Fine then!” I grumbled. “I'll have to endure it for tonight. Why do you have so many stupid rules?!"
"Stay in your rooms and don’t wander about at night,” the abbot sneered. “There are wolves on the mountain."
Bingxin walked to the room next to ours. However, she couldn’t resist turning back to look at me as if frightened so I gave her a look of assurance.
It was getting dark and Dali was about to turn on the lights when I stopped him. I scanned the room, looking for tools I could use. My eyes laid upon a bamboo chair that seemed perfect for my plan. Breaking off one of the chair legs, I proceeded to pull out some cotton from the quilt and wrapped both ends with a cloth.
Dali curiously examined my DIY equipment which resembled a large cotton swab and asked, "What is this for? A weapon?"
"Why would I wrap both ends with cotton if I wanted to kill someone?” I laughed. “If that were the case, I would sharpen them!"
I placed one end against the wall and stuck my ear to the other end. This little tool was actually a homemade listening device, but I wasn’t the one who invented it. The first stethoscope prototype in the 17th century looked like this as well.
Behind one of the walls was Bingxin's room and I heard no movement from her end. Another wall seemed to be connected to the woodshed that was in front of the abbot's meditation room where Zhu Xiaohao was resting. Through my listening device, Zhu Xiaohao and the abbot’s fervent discussion about Buddhism was perfectly clear to my ears. The abbot continued with his take on Buddhism, making up a bunch of nonsense he paraded as words of wisdom. "Buddha once said, ‘Heart in heaven, heart in hell.’ Actually, heaven and hell exist in everyone’s hearts.” Zhu Xiaohao lapped up his bullshit with great enthusiasm and continued echoing his words.
If I were the monks, the first one I’d laid my hands on would definitely be the prejudiced, ignorant Zhu Xiaohao who had the word ”idiot” written all over his face.
Unfortunately, I was a police consultant and I couldn’t allow my biased opinions of him affect my decisions. I couldn't just watch the man suffer because I hated him. I had to enlighten him when the opportunity arose.
Dali crowded around me anxiously. "Song Yang, what did you hear? I want to listen too!"
I placed my finger on my lips, gesturing for him to keep quiet. After a while, when the abbot left Zhu Xiaohao’s room, I said, "Dali, I'm going out to do something but I'll be back soon."
The eerie hoots of an owl sounded from the woods, breaking the silence of the night. Dali shivered, "You must hurry back! This place gives me the creeps! I’m afraid to be here alone!"
"I’ll get Bingxin to accompany you!"
I looked out the window and noticed the deserted yard–the coast was clear! I gently pushed the door open and sneaked towards Bingxin's room.
The meditation rooms in the temple didn’t have locks on the doors so a slight push was all I needed to open Bingxin’s door. The room was pitch black with not a soul in sight. Anxiety gripped my heart as I did a double-take, almost afraid to confirm Bingxin’s disappearance. But all of a sudden, I heard a whoosh and felt movement on the side.
I quickly reached out to block the attack but a heavy blow landed on my arm, the pain so excruciating I thought I had perhaps broken a bone. Then, to my utter relief, I saw that it was Bingxin standing behind the door, body trembling but still as tenacious as ever, a chair leg in her hand.
The darkness rendered her vision blurry so she couldn’t recognize it was me. Just when she lifted her arms, ready for the second attack, I quickly called out, "Bingxin, it's me!"
Bingxin’s fear turned to shock and then relief, her outstretched hands frantically groping all over my body. "Song Yang-gege, I was so afraid they would barge into the room!” she cried. “I’ve been hiding behind the door the entire time. Did I hurt you?"
"It’s alright," I assured her.
"I'm so frightened!” she sobbed, throwing her arms around me. “I want to go home now!"
I patted her on the back and comforted her, "It's okay. No one will hurt you with me around."
I told her to wait while I stuffed a pillow into her quilt in an attempt to mislead the monks. Then, I looked out the window once more and walked Bingxin to my room as soon as I confirmed no one was lurking in the yard.
After we regrouped, I instructed Dali to watch over Bingxin while I went to get Zhu Xiaohao to come over. After all, leaving him alone was too dangerous.
"Who cares about that guy?!” Dali retorted. “He’s the kind of character who’d die first in a horror movie. Even a screenwriter can't save him!"
"Shut up!” I rebuked. “The four of us came in together so I’m making sure we leave together. I can’t just watch him die!"
Just as I was about to exit the room, a couple of dull thuds sounded from outside our room. I motioned for Bingxin and Dali to remain silent as I placed my ear to the ground to listen. The noise seemed to have drifted from outside the courtyard, as if someone was digging the ground. Were they preparing a grave for us? The sounds of conversation were vaguely comprehensible but they were too far off to be coherent.
"I'm going out!" I whispered.
The two of them worried about my safety but I assured them nothing would happen to me.
I opened the door and entered the dark courtyard once more. The cloudy skies cast a dreary veil over the entire courtyard. I concealed myself under the cover of the bits and pieces of junk near the wall and felt around the bottom of the wall where I attached my listening device. The voices of two men immediately floated into my ear.
These two voices were unfamiliar to me. I soon recalled Glass Eye and Skinny whom we met earlier but didn’t have the chance to speak to.
One of the voices said, "Four, that little bitch looks delicious. Why don’t we send those three dogs on their journey to meet the Buddha tonight? After that, we can all have a good time."
"The boss has already ordered us not to make a move for the time being,” replied the other monk. “We’re only supposed to watch them. Though that little white dog is rather slick. Scar mentioned that the little bitch let a pigeon go in the afternoon. If they go missing, the police might come looking. Then we’d be in deep shit."
Their words were mixed with code, some of which I barely understood. Based on my conjectures, the little white dog should refer to me while the little bitch was Bingxin, and sending us on our journey to meet the Buddha meant killing us. Letting a pigeon go probably referred to the call Bingxin made in the afternoon.
The two continued their conversation. "What the hell are you afraid of? It’s not like this is our first time doing such a thing! I can guarantee the little bitch was putting on a show. How could there be any signal in this fucking shithole?!"
"No way! Have you forgotten why we’re here?” argued the other voice. “We need to find the old man’s treasure before we run far away from this place!"
"Sigh, what the hell was the old man thinking? Hiding the treasure in this god-forsaken temple! And all he left us was some stupid password none of us can understand. We've been in this fucking place for three years, dug three feet all over the place, but there’s still no sign of it!"
Then came the sound of more digging which lasted for five minutes before the two spoke again.
"It’s not here! Let’s try digging elsewhere!"
"Are we supposed to dig the entire mountain?! Why didn't the old man give us an exact location? Ugh, that motherfucker just had to torture us. I’m this close to unearthing his body so I can ask him myself!"
"Five! Watch what you say asshole! Don't you dare disrespect the old man! If the chief hears you, you’ll be punished!"
"Oh, whatever! I’m just saying, you don’t have to take it so seriously."
As it turned out, they weren’t digging graves but looking for treasure left by someone. The situation was more complicated than I expected.
From what I heard so far, my guess was that we bumped into a group of wanted criminals and the one they called “the old man” was their old boss who left behind treasure in this decrepit temple after his death. Thus, these lawless criminals were desperately digging to find the treasure.
During their stay here, several unlucky folks must have strayed into their hideout and were tragically murdered by them. The body in the arhat statue and the long hair behind the chopping board were remnants of their most recent victims.
As they continued digging, the man nicknamed “Five” suddenly stopped. "I’m not digging anymore! Why should I torture myself?!” he burst out. “Right now, I’m horny as fuck and I’m going to visit the little bitch to relieve the heat!"
"What's the hurry?" Four cried. “She’s already in our hands. It’s not like they can escape. We’ll get to fuck her sooner or later!"
"No! I can't wait anymore!” yelled Five. “It’s been more than half a year since I touched a woman! What the fuck is wrong with the chief?! Why is he acting like a frightened mouse? Back then, killing and setting fires were nothing! What happened to the bravery and ruthlessness huh? Anyway, I don't give a shit! I’m sending those dogs to hell right now."
A flurry of footsteps sounded and Four seemed to stop Five. "Wait a minute! Are you sure you can deal with them all by yourself?” asked Four. “Leave the little bitch for last. We have to get rid of the lame dog, then kill the little white one and the little spotted one before they realize anything!"
"As I thought, no one knows better when it comes to this!” Five laughed sinisterly. “Let’s kill these sons of bitches!"
My heart skipped a beat. These fugitives were making their move!Previous Chapter Next Chapter