Josef had prepared a lot of ingredients and was also dressed up. He was in a suit and wore shiny, polished leather shoes. He was obviously trying to impress Annina with his handsome side. If it were just Xia Lei visiting, he would probably have just worn home clothes and slippers.
“Can you help me make some dishes, Lukas? As you know, my body hasn’t yet recovered and I can’t move very well.” Small talk over, Josef was quick to try and rid himself of Xia Lei.
Annina’s brows wrinkled. She did not like Josef treating Xia Lei like a subordinate or maid. Josef said he saw Lukas as a friend but it seemed that it was just lip-service. He was still quietly looking down on a youth like Lukas, who had come from China to work in Germany.
Xia Lei didn’t look like he minded it at all. He smiled as he said, “Sure, I’ll head to the kitchen. What would you like to have? I’ll make it for you.”
Josef was about to speak when Annina cut in. “You can just make whatever. No need to trouble yourself.” She did not want Xia Lei to do so much work.
“Oh, okay. I’ll just make something then.” Xia Lei went to the kitchen.
Josef and Annina chatted in the living room while Xia Lei busied himself in the kitchen. When a dish was about done, a woman suddenly appeared by the kitchen window - Long Bing.
Long Bing’s appearance scared Xia Lei and he looked nervously back in the direction of the living room. He let out a breath of relief when he saw that he could not be seen by Josef and Annina, who were chatting in the living room. He he could not see them, they couldn’t see him either.
“What are you doing here?” Xia Lei lowered his voice. “Don’t rush it. When I said we’ll move tonight, I meant when Josef and Annina are asleep.”
“A female mechanic and a sick person. You don’t have to be so cautious. It’s simple. I’ve already reported it to the higher-ups and they’ve agreed to our mission tonight. Our escape route has been prepared and we’re just waiting for you to act,” said Long Bing tonelessly.
“So quickly?” Xia Lei was surprised.
Long Bing quirked a corner of her mouth. “Why? Can’t bear to leave your little German lover?”
Xia Lei spread his hands wordlessly to say that it was not like what she said.
“Put this in the food. You’ll knock them out for a period of time.” Long Bing handed him a paper packet through the window.
Xia Lei took the packet. “What’s this?”
“Something similar to sleeping pills. Put this in the dishes you’re making. This drug has no flavour so you don’t have to worry about them discovering it,” said Long Bing, “But it’s best to get them to drink some alcohol so they’ll think they fell asleep because they were drunk. The paper packet also has a pill. It’s an antidote. Take it before you consume the drug and you won’t fall unconscious like them.”
Xia Lei nodded. “Okay. I know what to do.”
“I’ll move with you when they’re knocked out,” said Long Bing.
Xia Lei nodded again. The mission was in its last stages and he would be able to go back to China very soon but the feeling of loss was getting stronger. He could say with certainty that this time in Germany as a spy was something he couldn’t ever forget his whole life.
Xia Lei made five dishes in half an hour; three portions of German beef steak, sausages, schnitzel and salad. Every dish had a dash of the special ‘condiment’ Long Bing had given him. He laid the dishes on the dining table and said, “Food’s ready.”
Josef and Annina ceased their chatting and walked over. Josef sniffed the air and gave a thumbs up in praise. “Lukas, I didn’t know you were such a good cook. Your wife must not cook very much, eh?”
Xia Lei laughed. “Well, she doesn’t really cook. I’m the one cooking most of the time and that’s how I got so good.”
“Josef, why talk about Lukas’ wife now?” asked Annina unhappily.
Josef gave her a look of innocence. “Did I say something wrong?”
He had mentioned Lukas’ wife on purpose; he knew from his colleagues that Lukas was a married man.
“No. I’ll get the wine. You can’t move around easily.” Annina got up to fetch wine from the wine cabinet.
Xia Lei was about to suggest a drink but Annina saved him the trouble by going to get the alcohol herself.
“Josef, you’ve just been discharged - can you drink alcohol?” asked Xia Lei.
“Red wine’s no problem. I’ve asked the doctor. He said that a little bit of red wine is good for the health of the heart,” said Josef.
Xia Lei smiled. “It’s still better if you drink less of it. Eat more. Food has more nutrients.”
“Thanks, Lukas,” said Josef politely.
Annina brought two bottles of wine over and opened one. She poured three glasses.
Xia Lei took one glass and raised it in a toast. “To Josef’s health. Cheers!”
“I wish you the best for your family to be complete too, Lukas.” Josef clinked glasses with Xia Lei, then drained his glass. He did not look at Annina and concentrated on eating his steak instead.
Annina did look unhappy and she wished very much to see Lukas’ family in discord and have him and his wife be divorced. Josef had been mentioning Lukas’ wife many times today and even wished his family to be complete - wasn’t this deliberate antagonisation?
Annina drank a glass of wine and kicked Xia Lei lightly in the calves under the table.
Xia Lei looked at her oddly, his eyes asking why she’d kicked him.
Annina moved her lips but no sound came out. Xia Lei read her lips and what she said was ‘Hurry up and eat! We’re going home right after eating.’
Annina did not want to stay here a moment longer.
Xia Lei suddenly recalled what she’d said by the river - ‘cheat on your wife with me’. Her words made his heart waver.
Annina gave Xia Lei a saucy wink and rubbed her leg against his under the table.
Xia Lei grew tense with nervousness and did not dare meet her seductive gaze for long. He concentrated on eating his steak.
The two bottles of wine were soon polished off by the three of them as they ate. The food was almost finished too. Xia Lei thought curiously to himself, ‘I put all of the drug Long Bing gave me into the food. Why are Josef and Annina still awake? Has the drug expired or something?’
At that moment, Josef suddenly put his cutlery down, wiped his mouth with a napkin and said, “Lukas, the food was deli… cious…”
His head hit the table before he finished his sentence.
Beside him, Annina’s neck bent at an unconscious angle.
“Josef, are you all right?” Xia Lei reached to shake Josef’s head. There was no response. Xia Lei then patted Annina on her cheek. “Annina, wake up.”
She did not respond either.
A woman’s voice came from the kitchen. “Don’t waste your energy. They’ll wake up in two hours.”
Xia Lei looked back and saw Long Bing. “Two hours? So quick?”
“Get to work. Every minute is precious.” Long Bing reminded him.
“His laptop’s in the study. I’ll bring you there,” said Xia Lei.
Xia Lei led Long Bing upstairs and to Josef’s study. The laptop was on Josef’s desk. Xia Lei opened it and a text box appeared for the password. He frowned. “I don’t know the password.”
“Move aside. Let me try.” Long Bing drew close.
Xia Lei stood to one side. He doubted that she would be able to puzzle out the password of an electrical engineer but she just went clickety-clack on the keyboard, entering a long chain into the password field and unlocking Josef’s laptop.
“You… How do you know his password?” asked Xia Lei in surprise.
Long Bing glanced at him and said indifferently, “Did you think I was just a wife waiting for her husband to come home to have dinner together in Germany? I climbed up the building opposite Josef’s hospital while he was hospitalised to watch him with a telescope. He enters his password several times a day. I’ve long memorised it.”
“I see.” As expected of a special agent.
“I’ve done the dirty work. You, on the other hand, had a great time with Annina every day,” added Long Bing as she inserted a flash drive into the laptop.
Xia Lei was embarrassed and had no response. He took over after the laptop was unlocked and quickly found the program they needed to download. He opened it to check they had the right one, then saved it to the flash drive. He also copied some data and drafts.
Xia Lei ejected the drive when he was done and closed the laptop. “Let’s go to the shed again to take a look around. He must have installed the CNC program during the day. I’d like to see his machine before we leave.”
Long Bing nodded. “We still have time. Let’s go.”
They left the study and came to the shed behind the house.
The fluorescent tarpaulin had been removed from the intelligent lathe. The machine stood complete in the middle of the shed. Xia Lei discovered a newly-added processed part on the machine and strode towards it in excitement. He picked the part up and inspected it, then exclaimed excitedly, “This is a high-precision part. There is no lathe in our country which can process a part with such accuracy. I was right - he installed the CNC program and it was a success!”
“Do you need to take the machine apart to have a look at the insides? Take the circuit board or control panel or something?” Long Bing didn’t really understand these things but in her time of over a month in Germany, she had done some reading on this subject and gained some knowledge for their mission.
Xia Lei thought for a bit. “No need. Keep a lookout for me outside. I want to take a close look at his machine. We can leave after.”
“Okay. Keep in mind that you only have an hour and forty minutes. You have to seat yourself back at the dining table and our people will kill you off,” said Long Bing.
“Huh?” Xia Lei was shocked. He stared at Long Bing, dumbfounded. Did she have to be so cruel when burning bridges?
Long Bing gave a short sputtering laugh. “That’s an interesting look. Relax. This is just part of the mission. We won’t really kill you off. We’re going to pretend to kill you in front of Josef and Annina when they wake up. You can’t disappear right after Josef had just completed his intelligent lathe, can you? You need a cover to disappear from their lives forever. Think about it - would Josef suspect you of stealing his design plans if you were dead?”
So that’s what it was. Xia Lei smiled wryly and shook his head. As Long Bing walked out the shed, his left eye twitched and the insides of the intelligent lathe were laid bare to him, like a woman without clothes...Previous Chapter Next Chapter