Couple of Mirrors – Chapter 53: The Restored Photograph
It’s another day, and Jiang Bin is in Commissioner Song’s office once again. ‘You’re a lucky man, Jiang Bin,’ Commissioner Song tells him. ‘The Zhou family hasn’t followed up on Zhou Heng’s shooting. Now Director Zhou has left Shanghai — he’s taken his whole family with him to Beiping. It’s time you came back.’
‘Oh?’ says Jiang Bin. ‘Is that so?’ He rubs his chin thoughtfully. ‘But I’ve already resigned.’
‘We’ll say that the police force has decided to re-hire you,’ says Commissioner Song. ‘Will that do?’
‘I’ll give it my all!’ Jiang Bin promises.
Outside Commissioner Song’s office, Jiang Bin runs into Chen Yong. ‘Boss! You’re finally back!’ says the latter.
‘You little punk!’ Jiang Bin wraps an arm around Chen Yong’s shoulders. ‘Have you found out anything about the photograph I asked you to look into?’
‘I was just about to report my findings to you!’ says Chen Yong, as the two of them step into Jiang Bin’s office. Jiang Bin sits down at his desk, and Chen Yong hands him the photograph in question. ‘Boss, look! Here’s what the photograph looks like now that it’s been restored! According to a reporter from a geographical magazine, it was probably taken in Area ZD.’
Jiang Bin studies the photograph thoughtfully. It is, of course, the photograph of Yan Wei in her military uniform, holding Good Luck on her lap. Part of a rifle is now visible in the bottom right corner.
At Baihua Photography Studio, Xu Youyi, who is rocking the baby in his crib, is startled by the arrival of an unexpected visitor. ‘Detective Jiang?’ she asks.
‘Is Miss Yan here?’ asks Jiang Bin, walking into the studio.
‘She’s out taking photographs for a customer,’ Xu Youyi tells him. ‘What’s this about? Telling me is the same as telling her.’
‘You’re not the same,’ says Jiang Bin firmly. ‘You’re as innocent as a blank sheet of paper, while she’ — here he breaks off, and looks at the blank space on the studio’s gallery wall where the photograph of Yan Wei used to hang — ‘is very dangerous.’
Xu Youyi smiles. ‘Other than the way she keeps breaking things, I don’t think there’s anything dangerous about her.’
‘Then how well do you really know her?’ asks Jiang Bin. ‘What was her birth name? What has she been through? Why did she come to Shanghai? Where was she before she came here, and what did she do for a living?’
Xu Youyi continues smiling. ‘Do you think a relationship between two people is built on the past, Detective Jiang?’
Jiang Bin is silent for a moment. Then he hands Xu Youyi the restored photograph of Yan Wei. ‘I saw this photograph on the wall and noticed it had a stain in the corner, so I took it back with me and had it restored.’
Xu Youyi looks down at the photograph, and is visibly startled.
This does not go unnoticed by Jiang Bin. ‘Why do you look so surprised, Miss Xu?’
Xu Youyi manages to collect herself. ‘You were so keen to help us restore the photograph that you actually engaged in thievery, Officer Jiang. That’s what I’m surprised by!’
‘Oh?’ asks Jiang Bin. ‘Weren’t you surprised to see the gun?’
‘Gun? What gun?’ asks Xu Youyi, all innocent surprise.
‘The gun in the corner.’ Jiang Bin points at the photograph. ‘Don’t you think it looks familiar?’
Xu Youyi looks at the photograph again. ‘Oh. Now that you mention it, that piece of wood does look very much like a gun.’
Jiang Bin stares at her speechlessly for another moment. Then it’s his turn to smile, ruefully. ‘Ah, it seems I was completely mistaken before. You may very well know her better than anyone else, Miss Xu.’
Photograph in hand, Xu Youyi walks towards the gallery wall. ‘I still remember the first time I saw this photograph. I thought what a shame it was that the corner was stained.’
She hangs the photograph in its old spot and turns to look at Jiang Bin again. ‘I really must thank you, Detective Jiang, for going to all this trouble.’
‘There’s no need for thanks,’ says Jiang Bin. ‘In fact, I admire the photograph so much that I had a copy of it made for myself.’
Xu Youyi stares silently at the photograph.
‘Miss Xu, you don’t mind if I sit here and wait for Miss Yan, do you?’ asks Jiang Bin.
‘Not at all,’ says Xu Youyi. ‘There’s tea on the table. Feel free to help yourself.’
Good Luck, who’s perched one of the armchairs, hisses at Jiang Bin.
Just then, the baby begins to cry. ‘Wahhhhh!’
Xu Youyi hurries over and begins rocking the crib. ‘Oh, what is it, baby? Did something scare you?’
Meanwhile, Jiang Bin has sat down, and Good Luck has jumped onto the table and is watching him with extreme hostility.
Xu Youyi pats the baby. ‘Don’t be scared, baby. Let mama tell you a story. Would you like that?’
She begins her tale. ‘Once upon a time, there lived a milk delivery girl named Little Red Riding Hood. She lived in the forest with her mother.’
This catches Jiang Bin by surprise. Mm? Little Red Riding Hood was a milk delivery girl? What? And didn’t she live with her grandmother?
‘Her mother treated her very badly,’ Xu Youyi continues. ‘She forced Little Red Riding Hood to go to work and earn their living. But Little Red Riding Hood never complained. She went on her delivery rounds happily every day.’
‘While out delivering milk one day,’ Xu Youyi goes on. ‘Little Red Riding Hood came across a big grey wolf which had collapsed from hunger. She took pity on the wolf and fed it a bottle of milk. But when the wolf woke up, it tried to eat Little Red Riding Hood! Little Red Riding Hood was so scared that she couldn’t say a word. Quickly, she pointed at the empty bottle next to them.’
Huh? wonders Jiang Bin. What’s this? What’s going on?
‘When the wolf saw the bottle,’ Xu Youyi continues, ‘it realised at once that Little Red Riding Hood had saved its life. So it stopped attacking. And so Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf became friends. Although the wolf wasn’t very good at expressing its feelings, it never looked down on Little Red Riding Hood, as so many others did. And Little Red Riding Hood was never afraid of the wolf, as so many others were. But these happy days didn’t last for long. One day, Little Red Riding Hood went missing. The wolf waited for her under a tree, day after day…
‘Finally, the wolf learned from two passersby that Little Red Riding Hood was dead. “When that rich man realised she wasn’t actually dead, he ran her over with his coach one more time,” one of them said. “If not for that, she could still have been saved.” The other passerby sighed. “Her life was worth so little. Not even her mother cared about her. Who else would?”
‘The wolf felt both sorrow and anger. I care, it thought. Even though it understood how dangerous it was, the wolf was still brave enough to break into the rich man’s house. It tore his throat out. But because of this, the wolf was soon targeted by the village hunter…’
At this point, Xu Youyi breaks off and looks at Jiang Bin. ‘Do you think the wolf deserves to die, Detective Jiang?’
Jiang Bin is startled by the question.
Please view the original manhua here.
- The name of the little girl in the altered fairy tale Xu Youyi tells is 小红帽, literally ‘Little Red Cap’. This is how the name ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ is usually rendered in Chinese versions of the fairy tale. I’ve chosen to render it as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ to make the reference clear.