Coffee-stained Letters and Legs
As he entered, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed young woman suddenly cut into his path and collided into him.
“What the hell?” The blonde girl looked angry. She spoke Russian.
“Sorry.” Xia Lei quickly apologised in Russian and moved around her to walk inside.
The blonde suddenly pulled Xia Lai to a stop, “You’re walking off after breaking my things?”
Xia Lei then discovered a piece of handicrafts in the blonde’s hands - it was a conch shell made of straw. The conch had been flattened in the collision.
“An apology is not enough,” said the blonde. She held onto Xia Lei’s arm and wouldn’t let go.
Xia Lei was very anxious and he did not want to argue with the Russian girl. He took out his wallet and shoved a few hundred-yuan notes into the Russian girl’s hands.
The Russian girl then let go of Xia Lei’s arm, “You don’t actually need to give me so much.”
Xia Lei was in no mood to chat. He stepped quickly into the coffee shop. However, that man was gone. Chi Jing-Qiu was still sitting at that table, head bent over the bag of money and checking its contents.
Xia Lei quickly swept the coffee shop with his gaze. There were many customers but the man was not amongst them. His gaze landed on a door marked ‘personnel-only’ and he made his way to it. That man who resembled his father couldn’t have gone through the front door. He must have gone out the back.
“Sir, you cannot go in. This is for staff only.” A waiter blocked Xia Lei’s way.
“Excuse me, I’m looking for someone,” said Xia Lei.
“You still can’t enter,” said the waiter.
Xia Lei pushed the waiter aside and went through the door.
It was indeed a work area behind the door. The coffee shop employees were preparing coffee, baking pastries, assembling ice-cream creations and so on, bustling about their work. At the far end of the work area was a back door which led outside and when Xia Lei entered the work area, that door was still swinging gently, as though someone had exited in a hurry and had no time to shut it.
Xia Lei ran towards the back door. The waiter who had blocked him earlier came chasing but Xia Lei ran through the door before he could say anything.
A small alley was behind the door and there was no lamplight; it was dark. Buildings stood on either side of the alley and there were no doorways. Streets ran from both ends of the alley and both were well-lit with traffic. However, the man could not be seen in any of the buildings or streets - he was quick!
Xia Lei’s left eye twitched and several footprints appeared on the dark ground. He quickly determined the man’s footprints as he was the latest to leave from the back door and his footprints were the freshest and most obvious.
After he determined the man’s footprints, Xia Lei followed them to the right side and to the end of the alley. People came and went on the pavement outside the alley and the road next to it was bustling with traffic - that man was nowhere in sight. His footprints had disappeared somewhere between the pavement and the road and there was no way to keep following them.
‘How is he so fast? Did he know I was chasing him? Who in the world was he?’ Xia Lei was astonished and confused. He suddenly thought of something and turned back, running towards the coffee shop.
He’d thought of that blonde Russian girl. If she had not got in his way earlier, he would definitely have been able to stop that man from leaving. It looked like a coincidence but it was too much of a coincidence! He had a feeling that that Russian girl was an accomplice of that man and that man knew who he was and he did not want to meet him.
It must be it - why else did that man not come straight to him to make the purchase order and chose to do it through Chi Jing-Qiu?
Back at the coffee shop, Chi Jing-Qiu looked very shocked to see Xia Lei. She was about to say something to Xia Lei but he rushed past her as though he hadn’t seen her.
Xia Lei went to the front entrance but did not see the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Russian girl.
That Russian girl was indeed that man’s accomplice and had been stationed at the door in advance to knock into him when he appeared. She had completed her mission so why would she remain here for Xia Lei to catch her and ask her questions?
Xia Lei went back into the coffee shop and walked to Chi Jing-Qiu, sitting in the seat that man had occupied.
“Ha! So you were following me!” Chi Jing-Qiu talked first, “You used this method the last time to snatch my client, Liu Ying. Are you trying to use the same method now to get my new client?”
Xia Lei took a deep breath to calm his nerves a little before he spoke, “Jing-Qiu, I am not thinking of snatching your clients. I just want to know who gave you this purchase order. I want to know who that man just now was. Please tell me all that you know.”
Chi Jing-Qiu sneered, “You followed me. I haven’t settled this issue with you yet and you actually dare to ask me for information on my client? Who do you think you are? Why should I fulfil all your requests?”
“Jing-Qiu, I’m begging you,” said Xia Lei.
Chi Jing-Qiu laughed, “How unexpected. You, begging me?”
“Tell me.” Xia Lei kept his emotions in check despite her mocking. He wouldn’t even be bothering to beg her if that man did not look exactly like his father!
Chi Jing-Qiu was silent and she looked quietly at Xia Lei, looking like she was thinking of something. A vague smile appeared in the corners of her lips and she said, “So you’re begging me. How will you beg?”
“Jing-Qiu, that man…” Xia Lei was about to say that that man looked a lot like his father but he swallowed his words. Chi Jing-Qiu was his high school classmate but his father had never gone to his school and she had never seen his father before. This was a very strange matter and he did not want Chi Jing-Qiu to know too much. He hesitated, then changed his words, “Tell me what you want.”
“What do I want? Let me think…” Chi Jing-Qiu looked at Xia Lei, all smiles. Under the table, she’d removed her high heel and reached her black-lace-stockinged foot to Xia Lei’s knee.
Xia Lei froze. He understood what Chi Jing-Qiu wanted right away.
“I did say that I, Chi Jing-Qiu, will get what I want,” she giggled, “There’s a hotel close by that’s not too bad. Let’s go there to talk.”
Xia Lei bore with the sensations and controlled his anger, “Jing-Qiu, can we not do this? Tell me, who is that man? How did he find you?”
“Is this begging me? Do you know how to beg?” Under the table, Chi Jing-Qiu’s leg was like the second hand in a watch, lively and gentle. She could feel a change in Xia Lei and that change made her excited. She looked like she was ready to eat Xia Lei up.
Want answers? Sleep with me!
This was the unspoken request from Chi Jing-Qiu.
Should he agree to it, or not? Xia Lei hesitated.
Give his first time to a woman like Chi Jing-Qiu? No way. However, as he thought of the man who looked exactly like his father, Xia Lei was fairly tempted to agree!
While he deliberated, his left eye landed on the cup of cappuccino that man had ordered. The coffee had not been touched and the cup was full. The cup was also very clean and had no fingerprints. However, there were coffee stains on the table under the cup.
Xia Lei’s gaze stayed on the coffee stain and he suddenly discovered that the stain was actually some Russian letters - осторожно.
This meant ‘caution’.
‘Who is he telling to be cautious? Me?’ Xia Lei’s mind felt like it had been blown, ‘Was he really my father?’
Chi Jing-Qiu’s leg was still wreaking havoc and her voice changed, “Lei, I know you still like me. Let’s get a room in a hotel. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know. Didn’t you always want me? I’ll give you everything. I’ll even give you that parts my deadbeat husband never touched.”
She was trying to tempt Xia Lei but her own reactions were stronger than his.
Xia Lei seemed to suddenly realise something. He reached and caught Chi Jing-Qiu’s leg, then pinched it hard.
“Ow…” Chi Jing-Qiu cried in pain, quickly retracted her leg and glared abashedly at Xia Lei, “What are you doing?”
Xia Lei shook his head, “You don’t actually know anything about this client, do you?”
Chi Jing-Qiu paused, “Don’t tell me you know something when I don’t.”
“Forget it. Go get a room yourself. I’m not going to play along.” Xia Lei got up and left after he spoke.
Chi Jing-Qiu glared at Xia Lei’s rapidly retreating back dumbly for a while before she spoke, “How did he know that I didn’t know? This guy! I lowered my price and he still refuses to sleep with me! Damn!”
She then closed her legs tightly and blushed. Xia Lei had walked off but she was still savouring the feeling of having taken advantage of him earlier.
The reason Xia Lei changed his mind was simple - the Russian words which that man had left was one, and the other was that the man was mysterious and professional in the way he did things. Why would he tell Chi Jing-Qiu his true identity?
Xia Lei crossed the road and walked back to Qin Xiang.
“So? I saw you go chasing after that man. Caught him?” Qin Xiang asked in concern.
Xia Lei shook his head, “He seemed to have known that I was coming and had an escape route planned. He doesn’t want to meet me. It’s useless for me to chase him.”
“He… Is he really your father?”
Xia Lei smiled wryly, “I can’t confirm it but I believe he’ll turn up again.”
Qin Xiang shrugged, “Looks like you went on a wild goose chase.”
Xia Lei was silent for a bit before he spoke, “Qin Xiang, you can’t tell anyone about this, okay?”
“I know what you mean. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone,” said Qin Xiang.
“Let’s go back.” Xia Lei sighed. He felt like he’d worked the whole day and he was tired.
“Mm, don’t overthink things either.” Qin Xiang started his Yamaha motorcycle and roared off into traffic, disappearing into the distance in the blink of an eye.
Xia Lei, too, walked back to his Great Wall H6. He was still recalling the details of that man.
Ring ring ring, ring ring ring…
Mobile phone ringing interrupted Xia Lei’s thoughts. He took his phone out, checked it, then unlocked the screen to answer. “Hello, it’s me,” came Long Bing’s voice, “I’ve arranged everything on our side. I’ll wait for you at the airport. Be here within two hours.”
“So quickly?” said Xia Lei in surprise.
Long Bing hung up.
Xia Lei smiled wryly and drove towards the Liang household. Two hours was enough time to say goodbye to Liang Si-Yao and Liang Zheng-Chun.
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