Lanzhou, Tuesday, October 23, 1990
"It's a boy!"
In the apartment shared by Cao Yu and Weina, it is happiness. Liu Hong, Deputy Director of the prison is present. Since Weina and Cao Yu came out of prison, their lot has improved. Their good behavior during the foreign delegation visit earned them favorable treatment. The Director tells her bodyguard to inform Wang Gang.
Things have changed in recent months. Persistent rumors about the closure of the prison due to mistreatment.
A Time article distributed illicitly and newspaper clippings of newspapers from Hong Kong.
Neither Weina nor Cao Yu have seen these items but they have heard something.
An hour after the birth, the Director Wang arrives at the apartment. He embraces Weina warmly and enters the room. Cao Yu is sleeping peacefully, the baby on her lap. Wang watches. He seems touched. He leaves the room on tiptoe. He moves to the kitchen table. He motions to Weina and the Director to sit down.
He is all smiles.
He opens the satchel that never leaves him and tends an envelope to Weina.
"You'll open it when I'm gone. I have important things to tell you."
This sounds very serious.
He takes a newspaper from his bag. It is a foreign magazine. Weina recognizes it immediately. This is a copy of Time. She often saw this magazine when she was hitting on customers in hotels for foreigners in Beijing.
Wang catches her eye.
"You know what it is Weina?"
"No, Only I saw this magazine very often in Beijing. Foreigners read it a lot.
He responds in an ambiguous way:
"Generally they do not write about China. It does not interest them too much, well not us, Lanzhou, far away from the sun!"
He seems to be having a lot of fun. He looks at Weina. How beautiful she is. She’s wearing a cotton jacket under which she has a high-neck sweater. He smiles. He had sex so many times with her. She accepted everything. She was a faithful partner. She feels his thoughts and she remembers all their relationship starting with the first time in his office.
"In this issue, there is an article about us. We, or the company, or rather the Laogai Lanzhou!"
Liu Hong and Weina listen carefully.
He stands up. Weina watches him. He is still handsome. He’s aging well. He looks at her again. Will he ask a favor? This man is not a common person. But no, he continues:
"This American newspaper is widely read throughout the world. But I must explain some things you should know."
This is all so mysterious. In the other room, Cao Yu budges a little. Zhou Xiaowen resumes:
"Both of you understand enough English to understand what it says. I will summarize. In this issue of Time, the cover ..."
He shows the front page. On it, a jazz trumpeter and a headline ‘The New Jazz Age’."
"The problem is not jazz. But rather an article inside. Under the heading ‘World’, between an article about Saddam Hussein and the emergence of a new left in Italy, but have a look for yourself."
He suddenly opens the magazine to an inside page.
CHINA: The Laogai kills. The massacre of nuns. The article is illustrated with photos from inside the prison, corpses lined up, armed soldiers beating prisoners. They do not understand everything. Their English is not good enough. They recognize the prison, and even some guards.
"We are amongst friends! This article is good for my strategy and that of Zhou Xiaowen! I had contact with Beijing tonight before coming here. I can tell you they are not happy. We have found a way to handle it and to turn this into something positive."
He seems very sure of himself. He is dressed in civilian clothes. Goodbye the soldier, hello executive manager in suits and ties. Liu Hong says nothing. She expects more.
He takes a cup of tea.
"There were other items. Especially in Canadian newspapers like La Presse and Le Devoir. Europe has been calmer. Anyway, we know that Europeans are afraid of their own shadow. Canadians and Americans are more courageous. Anyway here's what happens. In your case things are simple. Liu Hong leaves for Shanghai tomorrow. You're retired and you’re going home. Everything is organized."
He takes an envelope in his bag and hands it to Liu Hong:
"It's your ticket. Prepare your luggage! Don't worry. You are expected in Shanghai when you arrive. Your belongings will follow."
He turns to Weina:
"As for you both, I'm very happy. Our moral contract has been respected. I also respect mine. In the envelope that I gave you, there is money and airline tickets to Chongqing. Both of you will leave end of November. Upon arrival in Chongqing, you will be catered for. An apartment awaits you in the neighborhood of Ciqikou. You will both work at the Hotel Yudu. Next year, Cao Yu will be integrated as a student in the Language Institute of Sichuan in Shapimba, in the third year. We will give you both a vocational training certificate from a training center in Lanzhou, stating that you are both qualified both on hotel front desk."
He stops. He expects a reaction. Weina wants to jump for joy, to kiss, to party. She is moved! So the nightmare is over. He continues:
"There is one condition: your discretion, but I think you have already started. A new era is underway in China. What will happen here? When you are asked what you did in Lanzhou, well it is simple; you do not know of any Laogai. You worked as hostesses and interpreters for the showroom of the Lanzhou Clothing Factory. The child's father is a soldier with whom Cao Yu was married. His name is Wang Yuankai. Officially he was killed during the riot that took place in the prison. Cao Yu's son will therefore be called Wang Zhen. In the envelope that I have given you there are all the necessary papers. None of you should go to prison anymore. Tomorrow morning, a special unit of the Armed Police Force will enter the prison. They will arrest some people, including Deng Xiaolong, the detachment commander of the PLA responsible for the supervision of the prison. He will be indicted for his involvement in the mutiny. All the supervisors will be fired and charged with conspiracy and damage to state security."
Liu Hong is stunned.
"Wang, you know that Deng has nothing to do with all this!"
Wang looks at her coldly. Liu suddenly remembers that the master mind of Zhou Xiaowen was Kang Sheng. Wang and Zhou are like the fingers of one hand. She looks down and whispers:
"Forget what I just said, forget it; it was the reaction of a crazy old woman."
"Tomorrow the prison will be closed. The prisoners will be dispersed. Your whore friend, Weina, will be returned to Beijing with a small financial advance. The nuns who did not die will be returned to their home areas. The Laogai of Lanzhou no longer exists. The building will be razed to the ground in a month. We will build a new factory. A new company will be established with Canadian and Hong Kong money: It will be called the Lanzhou Clothing Factory Joint Venture Limited. Zhou Xiaowen is its first President and I am the CEO."
He stops. He looks at the two women.
"We'll never meet again. The price of a quiet life is your silence."
He opens his jacket. They can see a Makarov pistol in a holster.
"If you forget the silence ..."
He gets up and leaves the room.
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