Category Archives: KFAT Mysteries

New Years Evil – Part 4 (End)

From nearby, I watched as Lin-Xi and the other detectives flanked the head table, shooing any visitors away and addressing the remaining executives, their spouses, and the President’s wife. She informed them that they would need to be searched, and gave them the excuse that it was standard procedure. Each would be taken to a nearby room and searched by one of the officers, and once she finished she selected the MC and had him taken away.

I hadn’t told her who I suspected because I didn’t think she’d believe me anyways until I had proof, but I was pretty sure that proof would appear shortly if a search were conducted.

I watched as each member of the table was taken away by an officer of the same sex, and saw each of them return. When it was time for the President’s wife to go, I paid careful attention to see if she reacted at all, but the thin woman merely stood with a sad dignity and followed Lin-Xi to the area to be searched.

Now was the crucial time, and I’d find out if I was right.

It seemed like I had to wait forever, but after a few minutes she and Lin-Xi returned. Lin-Xi looked no happier than before, but now there was a slight pep in the step of Mrs. Lin, like she had found a new freedom.

She returned to the table with the others and sat down, reaching for her sunglasses and putting them on to cover her puffy eyes. The other executives at the table began to fawn over her, and the police apologized again for the bother. My girlfriend threw me a decidedly unhappy glance as she made her own apologies to this soon to be very rich widow.

My gambit had failed.

Still I watched her, this woman I was sure had framed her rival for the crime she had committed. It was she who Harold told me had added the music to tonight’s game to cover the sounds of her crime, and it was she who wore dark sunglasses under the guise of having a headache that would let her see in the dark the moment they were removed. She was also the only one to gain from the President’s death tonight, whether for money or revenge, I couldn’t say.

Now she was about to get away with it.

I could only imagine how that felt.

Then, as I watched, her sad, proud expression suddenly turned to one of worry and panic, and she leaned in to talk to the MC next to her, pointing with a trembling finger at the stage. The MC and another A-O Soft executive jumped to their feet and quickly moved to where two police officers had begun to inspect the prizes. At first, they were polite, but a moment later they were shouting at the detectives.

The shouting came to sudden stop when one of the detectives reached down behind the flat-screen TV set and came up with a powder-blue shawl wrapped neatly into a small flat square. When he unfolded it, he revealed two white gloves, the red stains on them bright enough to see even from where I was standing.

Mrs. Lin collapsed for the second time that night.

This time, there was no one to catch her.

#

Mrs. Lin later revealed during questioning that she’d known of her husband’s affair for some time, but had been content to let it go in the name of their children. However, shortly before the party she’d overhead him promise Melody that he’d divorce his wife once the company had gone public and money was no longer an issue. She’d also learned that the two of them planned to meet secretly during the contest by having matching butterflies, and that was the final straw.

She created a third butterfly identical to the ones they would both be wearing and had it printed onto her shawl so that she could lure her husband in once the lights had gone out. Then, she’d waited until the right time, taken off her glasses, and grabbed a knife from another table to make her move once the game started.

Once she’d found him and stabbed him while the loud music provided cover to any noise, she retreated to the stage to hide her gloves and shawl inside the back panel of the TV, which she believed the police would never think of searching as the no longer to be awarded prizes had no relevance to the case at hand.

The strange butterfly I’d seen during the contest had been her lifting the shawl off her neck, and the flying effect had been because it was on a moving fabric, not a hard button. She’d also made a mistake and lost one of the screws for the panel during the whole affair, which I’d found on the floor and which had led me to the TV as her hiding place.

After it was all done, she’d simply returned to her seat and waited, letting her rival have the secret rendezvous with the now dying President Lin, and making her look like the guilty party. Even without the blood or weapon, any witnesses on the floor would have seen two golden butterflies meet and the only two golden butterflies in the game were Melody and the President. Melody was as sure as convicted, whether she’d managed to find the President or not.

“I have to wonder why she did it,” Lin-Xi said as we were having breakfast at a traditional place in XiMenDing near her office the following week.
“Didn’t she confess?”

“No, not what I mean.” She replied. “Why did she make the third butterfly? All she needed to do was find him the dark and stab him, a third wasn’t necessary.”

I considered a moment. “I think it was a test.” At her raised eyebrow, I continued. “She probably wasn’t sure she could do it until she came to him and he thought she was Melody. Once she heard him say another woman’s name, that’s what gave her the strength to finally act.”

“Sounds stupid.”

I laughed. “Only to someone as un-romantic as you.”

She snorted. “Still stupid, she’s in jail because of it, and her husband is divorcing her.”

It was true. President Lin had survived thanks to a combination of his wife’s lack of strength, his own fitness and Lin-Xi’s quick thinking. He was recovering in the hospital, and had his wife served up the divorce papers while she was still in jail. I didn’t know what would happen between him and Melody, although I suspected this whole thing might put a damper on their relationship. Still, there was some justice…

“I heard A-O Soft can’t go public now,” I commented. “After so much negative press, nobody’s gonna buy their stock. His golden payday is going to have to wait for a while, and their game sales have dropped as well, so it might never happen.”

Lin-Xi considered that over a fork full of Dan-Bing. “Does that mean you won’t be working there?”

I shrugged. “My contract ended at the start of the new year anyway, doesn’t matter.” Then I sat up. “Oh, but that reminds me, I got a text from one of my other clients- they’re having a Beginning of the Year Party and want me to come. You interested?”

She sighed. “What does this company do?”

“They’re a farm machinery company.”

“Oh, sounds boring.”

“Not really, they’ve got a really interesting theme for the party this year.”

“Oh, what is it?”

“It’s a murder mystery dinner.”

I ducked and ran off to pay the bill.

FIN


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New Years Evil – Part 3

Under Detective Lin-Xi Kang’s orders, the company executives did their best to get the frightened employees and guests back to their seats. Lin-Xi had ordered the doors to the party be sealed to prevent anyone from leaving, and had building security standing guard until the police arrived.

She also had two of them watching over Melody, who was now sobbing on a nearby chair.

I shook my head sadly. I couldn’t believe Melody had done this- what was wrong with her? This just seemed so senseless, and there was no reason for it. Why kill a man who was about to make you rich? Now, with the President’s death the Public Stock Offering would have to be put off, and maybe never happen.

But, she had been standing there with the bloody knife in her hand, there wasn’t much doubt who’d done it. The only real question was why?

Leaving Lin-Xi to her work, I wandered back over to our table, where the rest of the guests where consuming the wine and snacks that remained.

They asked me if there’d been any news, and I replied that we were still waiting for the police to arrive. Then I commented that I couldn’t believe that Melody had done such a thing.

To my surprise, that didn’t get quite the reaction I expected.

“He probably got smart and dumped her,” Franci commented, and a few of the others around the table nodded.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Melody and the President, they were…you know…” Mr. Lai commented. “Spending a lot of extra hours together.”

“Has anyone actually seen them?”

Franci and another receptionist nodded. “They both go to a bar a few blocks from work, Mr. Lo in accounting saw them go in, so did a few other people. They’ve been doing it for almost a year now.”

That was pretty damning, and not entirely surprising. Melody was flirty, but she was also ambitious, and President Lin was definitely an active and aggressive man. It didn’t take much imagination to see them together, or to imagine the hows and whys.

But that still didn’t explain why she’d kill him.

“Was he going to fire her?”

Not that any of them knew of.

“Did he cut her out of the stock options?”

No, as Vice President, she had huge amounts of company stock.

“Then maybe he really did call it off.”

On this, they agreed. It seemed the most likely answer.

With this information, I grabbed our jackets and headed back to where Lin-Xi waited. As I passed the head table, I saw that the wives of the other executives were consoling Mrs. Lin, who had her head in her hands sobbing. It was getting cooler in the room now that the excitement was gone, and I was surprised nobody had gotten her a jacket to cover her bare shoulders. I would have said something, but my Mandarin is terrible, so I decided to just leave them be.

While I’d been at the table talking, police from the local station had arrived to take over from the building security, and ambulance attendants were working on President Lin. He still seemed to be hanging in there, so maybe his family wouldn’t lose a father tonight after all. But, gut wounds were tricky, so all we could do was wait and pray.

“Did you try talking to her yet?” I said to Lin-Xi when she had a free moment. This made her brow wrinkle, as it usually did when she was annoyed by something. “She says she didn’t do it. Stupid lie.”

“What did she say happened?”

“She said she found him standing with the knife in him, but didn’t know it in the dark. Then he fell over, and since she was holding the knife it came out in her hand.”

I glanced over at the weapon laying next to the body- one of the silver steak knives that were found at every table. No doubt it was covered in her bloody fingerprints.

“Y’no,” I said, thinking aloud. “I wonder if she might be telling the truth.”
Lin-Xi gave me a long look, then cursed in Mandarin. “Foreigners, you think every little white face that plays with you is innocent.”

So, she was still jealous.

“That’s not fair,” I protested. “Why would she do this, and then claim she didn’t do it? Everyone can see she did it, so why not own up to it? There’s something wrong here.”

“When my team gets here, they’ll sort things out.” Lin-Xi turned away. “Go take a seat. I need to work.” Then she went over to where the ambulance attendants were getting ready to load President Lin onto a stretcher.

I watched her go, thinking about the events of the evening. What had happened during those three minutes the lights were out? I couldn’t help thinking it had something to do with that flying butterfly I’d seen earlier during the contest, but what?

I needed more information.

I set out in search of Harold Wu.

#

When I was done talking to Harold, I knew I had to find Lin-Xi.

I didn’t have all the pieces yet, but I had enough.

The problem was, I also needed to convince Lin-Xi, and that clearly wasn’t going to be easy. She’d already set her sights on Melody, and if I didn’t act it was very possible the culprit might walk right out of the party tonight completely free.

“Lin-Xi,” I said, slipping up to her. “I need you to do me a favor…”

“Sit down, Mark.” She didn’t even look at me, not a good sign. “The officers will come to take your statement soon.”

“I’ve been asking around, and I know why he was stabbed.”

That got her attention, and she turned to look at me. “Why?”

I shook my head, “I need you to do two things for me first.”

Dark eyes narrowed on me. “I can have you arrested for withholding information.”

“You could,” I admitted. “But then you’d have to explain to the rest of your co-workers and your boss why you arrested your boyfriend. That’s going to be fun gossip.”

She let out an exasperated sigh and shook her head. “What do you want?”

So I told her.


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New Years Evil – Part 2

Lin-Xi and I had barely started on the snacks when the MC of the evening, the company’s Vice President of Marketing Mr. Zhou, took to the stage and announced that dinner would now be served. We drifted back toward to our seats, stopping to say hello to a few of my other students, and then settled in at our table.

As it turned out, the wise person who’d arranged the seating had carefully picked employees who had worked overseas to sit at our table, so with the exception of two spouses, almost all of the ten people seated there spoke English. I suspected I had Melody to thank for this, although I couldn’t be sure. I resolved to thank her later.

As it was, Lin-Xi was seated next to Mr. Lai, one of the marketing people, and the two of them got to talking about something in Mandarin that I couldn’t follow. However, since Mr. Lai was pretty funny, and Lin-Xi was laughing at something, I gave thanks for small miracles and was just happy that she was enjoying herself.

I, meanwhile, was next to Franci Hung, one of the receptionists who had lived in the UK for a while in her long-past student days. She’d been there for my first classes at the company, but had soon dropped out citing family issues with needing to pick up her kids from their after-school classes. She was a cheerful enough woman, and liked to talk about her kids, so I just mostly listened while she caught me up on their progression.

We’d only been there a few minutes when I heard Mr. Lai say something excitedly to the other table members in Mandarin, and all conversation suddenly stopped. I followed their gaze to Lin-Xi, who looked uncomfortable.

“Mark, you didn’t tell us your girlfriend was a police officer.” Mr. Lai said, excited. “You said she was a government worker!”

I shrugged. “She is. I just didn’t say what department.”

In truth, I can be a bit of a private person, so I don’t usually mention to classes what Lin-Xi does unless specifically asked. It usually had results like this, so I’d learned fast just to keep it quiet.

After that, the others began asking Lin-Xi questions in Chinese, but since I couldn’t follow I went back to chatting with Franci. Soon the first of many courses of dinner arrived, a big plate of steamed Oysters were placed in the middle turntable for us to share and we all began our slow dinner.

#

After the last course had been served, the MC took the stage again and announced that it was now time for the games to begin. He invited the president of the company to join him up at the microphone, and the jovial, red-faced leader began to speak to his workers.

The speech was in Chinese, but thanks to Mr. Lai’s translation, I was able to follow along. Then, after thanking everyone for coming and their hard work, he announced that it was time to start the game and directed everyone to put on their buttons. After that he directed all of us to stand up, with the men lining up on the one side of the dance floor and the women lining up facing them across the floor.

“In our game, Linna and Bess,” he explained, “the two young girls are lead to their destiny by magic heart butterflies, and so tonight butterflies will lead us as well.” Then the lights on the stage turned off, and now we could see that the President’s badge glowed in the dark. It wasn’t very bright because most of the lights were still on, but you could faintly see the image of a golden butterfly on his chest.

“Each magic heart butterfly has only one perfect partner out there, and when the lights go out, your job will be to find your partner in the dark while the music plays. When the music is done playing, those who have found their partner will be eligible for one of the prizes from the stage, including a vacation in Hawaii and a trip to Japan.”

When the now excited employees finished clapping at that, he continued.

“Please be careful, and try not to be too friendly to the people you meet in the dark. You never know, they might be your boss!”

Then, as the employees laughed, he hopped down off of the stage and made his way over to the men’s side. As he did, I looked carefully for Lin-Xi, and plotted my way to her. There was no doubt she was my match, and I needed a new TV! Although, I wouldn’t complain about Hawaiian vacation either.

At a signal from the company president, the MC raised his hand and began counting down. When he hit zero, the lights were switched off and the sound of a trendy Taiwanese pop-song filled the air. The room was almost completely black and a line of glowing butterflies of many different colors, shapes and sizes had appeared on the other side of the dance floor.

I looked down at my badge to see a half-yellow, half-orange butterfly with spiral-patterned wings, while all around me people rushed into the dance floor like a swarm of bees desperately trying to find their special flowers. Not wanting to be left behind, I desperately began to search through hot darkness of the now-crowded dance-floor.

It was surprisingly hard, the many people moving and turning kept me from being able to see the butterflies, and several times I saw ones similar to mine that turned out to be different on closer inspection. Once, I even chanced upon one that I thought was Lin-Xi, only to see it was pure yellow colored instead of my mixed design. Then an even stranger thing happened- the golden butterfly, which should have been a static badge on someone’s chest, suddenly began to flap its wings and flew upward a short distance before vanishing completely.

Had my eyes been playing tricks? I wondered. Or, maybe I saw someone grab their badge and hold it high into the air so that their partner could see it? But, I was certain I had seen it move- seen the wings flap in the air.
Regardless, that didn’t seem like a bad strategy, and since there was no rules against it, I snatched the button from my chest and held it high, staying in one place and turning slowly around. The last verses of the pop song were playing, and I prayed that Lin-Xi would be able to see it in time.

Then, just as the music began to fade, I felt someone grab my shoulder.

“Mark, is that you?” I heard a familiar voice say.

I turned to face her, seeing her silhouette as my eyes had begun to adjust to the dark. Bringing down my butterfly, I tapped mine against her matching one.

“They match,” I said, and then a thought struck me and I leaned in for a kiss…

CLICK!

On came the lights, and I found myself face-to-face with a surprised Lin-Xi.

She reddened. “What are you doing?”

Despite her unconventional nature, Lin-Xi was actually very oldschool conservative Taiwanese at heart, and didn’t go in for public displays of affection. So, while she certainly didn’t mind kissing in private, doing so in public was one of our long-running disagreements.

“C’mon, it was dark. Nobody could see us…”

Lin-Xi blushed even more, which looked even cuter, and I was about to say something when suddenly there was a blood-curdling scream from nearby.

We both spun and looked. There, a few meters away, President Lin lay on his back on the floor in a pool of blood, his chest heaving. Standing above him was Melody Xie, the front of her orange and yellow dress streaked in blood and a bloody steak knife in her hand. She was staring down at him in horror, making half-gasping noises that sounded like sobs.

It was a surreal scene frozen in time, and then reality clawed its way back into the room. Lin-Xi was the first to move, her training kicking in as she bolted from next to me over to where Melody was standing over the body.

They were speaking Mandarin, so I could only guess what they were saying, but some things are universal enough. Lin-Xi told everyone to get back, and told Melody to step away from the body and put down the knife. It seemed like Melody was in shock, and it took a few tries to get her to listen, but once she started to come out of it she just dropped the knife and then fell to her knees crying.

As Lin-Xi rounded the body, she pointed at various people in the crowd and called out orders, telling them what she wanted them to do- ambulance, police, towels, get people back. Then she pointed at me and motioned for me to come over.

“My phone, get it.” She said, standing over the fallen Melody.

I did as she asked, rushing back to the table and grabbing her mobile phone from her jacket. As I was returning, I heard another cry, and saw the MC and a group of executives holding Mrs. Lin, the president’s wife, who looked like she’d just fainted. I shook my head, poor woman.

Then I rushed the phone to Lin-Xi, who already had several people trying to stop the bleeding with towels. She took it and dialed, had a quick conversation, and then hung up and slipped it into her belt.

“I’ve got a team on the way,” she said. “They’ll be here in a few minutes.” Then she gestured at the knot of men who were caring for Mrs. Lin. “Can you call those company bosses over, I want to speak with them.”

“Sure,” I said, but as I turned to go over to them I heard a crunching noise and felt something underneath my shoe. Looking down, I saw a small screw on the ground and reached down to pick it up. Black, with a rounded top and perhaps a centimeter long, I thought maybe it had fallen from someone’s camera. Not wanting anyone to slip on it, I pocketed it and went over to find the MC.


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New Years Evil – Part 1

NYEBookCover

(Modern, Mystery, PG)

“Why do I have to do this?”

“Because,” I said, straightening my tie. “The Company President asked me to bring you. And, it’s good relations.” I glanced at the elevator panel- we were almost to the top floor. “Besides, you look great.”

Lin-Xi didn’t return my smile, keeping her dour expression. “The food better be good.”

I imagined it would be. A-O Soft wasn’t just celebrating their year-end party, the maker of the mega-selling Linna and Bess mobile phone game APP was going public in a few weeks. The founder, and many of the others at this party, were on the verge of becoming very rich people, and I didn’t expect any expense would be spared for tonight’s festivities. They’d rented out the whole rooftop restaurant at one of Taipei’s top hotels for their party, after all.

I was going mostly as a courtesy, since I’d been teaching English classes to a group of their employees for the past few months. I’d have liked to think it was because they treated me like an honorary employee and enjoyed having me around, but my more cynical side commented that it also looked pretty good to have a foreigner at the party. Whichever it was, an opportunity for a free meal at one of the best hotels in town was not something to be wasted.

The elevator dinged and the door slid open to reveal a hallway and a decorated table staffed by a man in a suit and a woman in a soft green evening gown. The man, one of my students at the company who used the English name Harold Wu, grinned and called us over. Harold was a balding software engineer in his mid-thirties, and a gregarious man with a loud laugh and an infectious smile.

“Teacher Mark!” He said, pronouncing my name “Mah-kuh” as most Taiwanese did, “Welcome to the party. It is good to see you.”

“You too, Harold.” I shook his hand, and then introduced Lin-Xi. “This is my friend, Ms. Kang.” Of course, that Lin-Xi was my girlfriend was obvious, but she hated the term “girlfriend” in English, as she thought it made her sound like she was a child, so I used “friend” as a neutral substitute.

Her sour expression gone, Lin-Xi was suddenly bubbly and friendly, and she and Harold exchanged greetings in Mandarin. While they did, I said hello to the receptionist who was manning the table with Harold; she likely didn’t speak much English, so she just smiled back. Then I looked for our names among the buttons that were laid out carefully in rows of two on the table before us, but when I did I came up short.

“Harold,” I interrupted. “I think the printing company cheated you. These name tags are all blank.”

At first Harold looked confused, and then when I pointed down he suddenly laughed. “Oh! Ah, no. No. It’s okay, these are supposed to be like this.” He picked up a pair and offered them to myself and Lin-Xi. “Please, put these on. These are the for game later.”

“A game?” While Lin-Xi pinned hers to the front of her light green blouse, I examined mine. It looked like the buttons we’d wear as kids that said things like “Hang in there!” or “Glee club rocks!”, but was completely blank. Having a thought, I started to hold it up to the light, but Harold stopped me.

“Hey, no cheating.” He smiled, “It’s the President’s surprise.”

Resolving to check it later, I smiled sheepishly and put it on, then Harold gave us our table assignment and, with promises to talk later, we continued on down the hallway to the restaurant’s main doors. The company logo was displayed large across the glass doors in blue and green, surrounded by Chinese characters I couldn’t read. I guessed it was the company name and a greeting and didn’t bother to get Lin-Xi to translate it for me. Not that it mattered, because the moment we approached they automatically opened to admit us.

Inside the party was in full swing, and well over a hundred finely dressed people were mixing and mingling around the room while servers moved among them pouring drinks. The very large room was laid out into three sections: a small open area, which was right ahead of us; a collection of large, round tables to our right; and an elevated stage to our left. Blue, green and white paper streamers had been hung from the ceiling, and the whole place had a festive feel to it, like the New Years party it was.

Lin-Xi and I first went down to find our table, but it was empty so we just claimed our seats with our coats and then turned to head for the snack table. It was already seven-thirty and I hadn’t eaten since lunch. Lin-Xi didn’t bother with lunch most days, so I didn’t have to ask how she felt. We were making our way through the crowd and almost there when we ran into Melody Xie, the company’s VP of software development.

I had ten students at A-O Soft: two receptionists, three software engineers, two marketing planners, one accountant, and Melody. Of the group, which I taught Tuesday and Thursday evenings from six-thirty to nine, Melody was by far the one who needed it least. A confident, capable, and charming woman in her early thirties, she’d done her graduate work in the United States and Singapore before returning to Taiwan to join A-O Soft. As a result, her English was almost perfect, and I think she really just took my class to keep an eye on the rest of them.

This woman in a sunset colored dress greeted me warmly, and after I’d introduced her to Lin-Xi she leaned in and said, “Now I know why you don’t answer my texts, you bad boy.”

Caught off guard, I glanced at Lin-Xi nervously and tried to come up with a reply. Melody was the mischievous and flirty type, and she said things like this all the time, I normally didn’t mind, but that wasn’t in front of my very jealous Lin-Xi.

“Well, ahh…” I stammered. “It’s…”

For her part, Lin-Xi merely raised an eyebrow and said in a flat tone. “He’s welcome to text anyone he wants. I don’t care.”

The scene could have turned very ugly, but Melody was very much a master of social kung-fu, and knew how to keep things under control. “Don’t worry,” she told Lin-Xi with a mock sigh. “I just keep asking him about our homework, but he refuses to let business and personal life mix. Good for you, bad for me.”

And on that note, I suddenly found my voice. “Melody, is the President here? I really should thank him for inviting us.”

She nodded. “At the head table, over near the stage.”

“Thanks, can we talk later?”

“Call me anytime.” She winked, and we parted ways.

As Lin-Xi and I made our way to the head table, I glanced at her- she was quiet and serious again. “She was just joking,” I said. “She’s like that.”

“You seem to know her well.”

I winced, there was going to be a lot of repair work to do later. “She’s just a student.”

“And you’re her lucky teacher. It must be nice.”

I was starting to think maybe bringing Lin-Xi to this party wasn’t such a great idea after all when the head table came into view. President Lin was standing on the other side of it talking with two other Taiwanese men I didn’t know. He was a large, broad-shouldered man with a shaved head, stylish wire-framed glasses, and wore a very expensive tuxedo.

As we approached, he caught sight of us out of the corner of his eye and said goodbye to the men, turning to greet us. “Mark,” he said in heavily accented English. “Thank you for coming. Is this your girlfriend?”

Before I could reply, Lin-Xi introduced herself and they shook hands.

“Thank you for inviting me,” she told him. “It’s a beautiful party.”

He smiled broadly. “Mark is like one of my worker, and he is very strong at teaching. I wanted to see the woman he caught.” Then he winked at me.

“She is very pretty. You are lucky man.”

Normally, I would have made a joke at this point, but given the current temperature of Lin-Xi’s blood, I decided that the best course was just to smile politely and say, “Yes. Yes, I am.”

Lin-Xi thanked him as well, and then the president turned and called to his wife, who was sitting near him at the table. A thin, slightly frail looking woman, she was in a light purple shoulder-less evening gown and had her hair finely done up in a styled form above her head. Around her bare shoulders was a baby-blue shawl, and she wore a pair of dark blue-tinted sunglasses.

She turned to look at us slowly, and gave a thin smile. “Hello,” she said without getting up, then she also added “Ni hao,” to Lin-Xi. “Thank you for coming.”

We both greeted her back, and then she turned away from us.

“I’m sorry,” President Lin frowned and tapped his temple. “She has bad headache.”

I assured him it was okay and that I understood. Then I tapped the badge on my shirt and asked, “Are we playing a game?”

This brought the smile back to President Lin’s face. “Of course! Wait and see. There is big surprise coming, and you can win prizes.” He gestured over to the nearby stage, where at the back a pile of prizes for the evening’s games waited. Most were wrapped up like Christmas presents in boxes, but a few larger items like a bicycle, a large stuffed bear like you’d see at a carnival, and a large flat-screen TV merely had red bows attached.
I gave an appreciative nod. “Looks nice. What kind of game is it, sir?”

But he wasn’t telling, and after some of the other guests joined us, I let my hunger get to me and we wandered off to find some food.


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