Xiaotao impatiently pushed the driver's arm, "Are you deaf?"
The driver's right prosthetic hand fell off, throwing Xiaotao for a loop since I hadn’t mentioned the previous incident to her.
"Don't be impulsive, let me try!" I said.
I walked over and waved my hand in front of the driver's eyes but still he showed no response. Then, I leaned in.
Last time we were on the bus, I didn't get a good look at his appearance. But this time, I was standing close enough to him to realize he seemed a little familiar. When I compared him to the photo of the driver who committed suicide ten years ago, realization dawned upon me.
Although their features were slightly different, the bone structure was similar. I noticed that there was a contrast between the color of the skin around his neck and his face.
"He’s the man in the photo!” I shouted. “He was disfigured by the accident ten years ago. Later on, he underwent skin grafting and plastic surgery!"
"Didn't the driver commit suicide?" Xiaotao asked in surprise.
I shook my head, "It was probably faked!"
Right then, a car drove up from behind and stopped beside the bus. A stout old man alighted, knocked on the door, and folded his hands in a pleading gesture.
Xiaotao and I exchanged a questioning look, not quite fathoming what he meant. Xiaotao proceeded to put the key back into the ignition and pressed the open button.
As soon as the old man got on the bus, he desperately begged, "Please be kind and let my son go. He’s got problems here!" the old man pointed to his skull.
"Sir, you’ve got it all wrong.” I explained, “We’re not trying to hurt him!"
Xiaotao flashed her badge which seemed to draw the old man’s unease. "Did my son crash into someone?" He shifted his gaze.
"No,” Xiaotao shook her head. “But he’s been wandering around the city late at night, seriously affecting law and order, which is why we’re investigating the matter.”
The old man breathed a sigh of relief, "Please get down from the bus and I’ll explain everything."
The old man sighed and began to tell his story.
His son, Su Junting, was the driver in the accident from ten years ago, and the old man was the stationmaster at the time. In his early years, he had also driven buses. Mrs. Su passed away early on, leaving son and father behind so he often brought his son on his bus trips.
Exposed to buses since childhood, Su Junting had a passion for buses and strived to be a bus driver when he grew up.
When the old man eventually became the stationmaster, his son was already a young lad. At the age of nineteen, Su Junting got his Class A driver's license. When he begged his father to let him experience driving a bus, the old man agreed!
Perhaps due to being pampered since childhood, Su Junting had a lackadaisical attitude towards operating the bus. The old man often received complaints from passengers to which he turned a blind eye as part of his overindulgence towards his son. In his opinion, as long as it wasn’t a big mistake, it was alright. Without his knowledge, Su Junting actually operated a bus after drinking with his friends one day.
Then came the horrific accident. When the bus burst up in flames, Su Junting was the only one who escaped by breaking the window and crawling out...
After the accident, Su Junting was subjected to endless criticism and insults from the victims’ families. Due to his disfigurement from the fire, he suffered mental trauma and hid himself at home, refusing to go outside. But hide as he did, the crime of manslaughter couldn’t be avoided. What he faced was at least ten years in prison.
Unable to bear the pressure, Su Junting attempted to commit suicide by jumping off a hospital building. Fortunately, his fall was broken by a tree and he survived. As a result, the comminuted fracture in his right arm and open injuries meant amputation.
The old man couldn’t bear the thought of his beloved son rotting away in prison so he bribed the doctor to perjure his son’s death. They deceived the coroner with the body of another suicide jumper.
Since his son “committed suicide,” the responsibility was borne by the old man alone. He emptied his savings to compensate the victims’ families, but in his view, nothing outweighed his son's life...
However, when it rains, it pours. Ever since the accident, Su Junting suffered from serious mental illness. During these violent episodes, he either hurt himself or others. Any medicine he took didn’t work!
The doctor said he was suffering from a rare mental illness in which he remained closed-off from the world. In his head, he repeatedly returned to the day of the accident to make up for his mistakes. And there was only one way to treat it, that is, to remove the frontal lobe of the brain which would turn him into a fool.
The old man asked the doctor if there was any other way to treat his son, to which the doctor replied–satisfy his desires!
Taking advantage of his position, the old man obtained a scrapped bus and allowed his son to drive around late at night so that his mind could stabilize. In the eyes of patients with such a personality disorder, except for the accident, everything else around them didn't exist.
Even though it was late at night, people occasionally got on the bus. Worried that the truth would be revealed, the old man followed behind the bus and prohibited anyone from going on board. But the truth would come to light sooner or later so he pondered about the best solution. Couldn’t he turn it into a ghost bus that no one dared to get on?
Thus, he welded several iron boxes under the bus, placed dry ice inside, and made the windows from special optical glass. Even from a distance, such a vehicle looked eerie and suspicious. Who would dare get on?
A few years ago, things were much simpler. It didn’t matter if the bus was noticed by a few people occasionally. However, in the past two years, as the Internet gradually developed, the ghost bus spread like wildfire online. Worried something might go wrong, the old man followed his son in his car from a distance every night.
Earlier, he assumed someone was deliberately making things difficult for his son so he showed up to stop them. He never expected it was the police!
Upon hearing his story, we were all taken by surprise. It turned out such an inside story was actually hidden behind the ghost bus. The old man was a typical example of a parent spoiling his child.
"This ghost bus has been driving in Nanjiang City for ten years?" Xiaotao asked incredulously.
"No!" The old man waved his hand, "It's only been five or six years, and my son's illness is periodic. He doesn’t come out every night."
"No wonder we haven't seen him for days!" I remarked.
"Please have compassion,” begged the old man. “My son is my only spiritual sustenance. Please don't arrest him. You’ll destroy our family!"
Xiaotao and I exchanged a meaningful look. "He needs to be sent to a mental hospital," said Xiaotao.
"But if he goes, they’ll remove his frontal lobe,” I argued. “He’ll become an idiot!"
Xiaotao sighed, "What a headache! Well, let's go back and study countermeasures. But this bus cannot continue driving around Nanjiang City. It’s very dangerous to let a mental patient out at night, much less allow him to drive a bus!"
The old man wiped his tears, "If I had any other way, I wouldn't have made such a risky decision... Please forgive us and let us go! Otherwise, my son’s illness will flare up! I’m at my wit’s end."
"Leave your contact information,” ordered Xiaotao. “You can go for now!"
After a show of gratitude, the old man left us his contact information and the two vehicles drove off into the night.
"Xiaotao-jiejie, that was really kind of you," commented Bingxin.
Xiaotao sighed deeply, "Pity the hearts of parents. After all, he’s not some sadistic murderer. If I arrest him, it’ll be akin to killing both father and son!"Previous Chapter Next Chapter