Li Tian Gives Shizi A Ride

    Li Tian is disgusted by the squalor as he drives Shizi to his Aunt’s house. It is obvious this area has been severely neglected by the city. The common areas are unsightly with overgrown weeds, several streetlights are broken and there is trash everywhere. Low level looking gangsters and prostitutes are lingering on street corners which means there are no police patrolling.

He knows this is directly related to real estate developers wanting to purchase the homes and apartment buildings at an extremely low price. After they buy a chunk of property they tear down the buildings to construct  luxury apartment complexes and Condominiums. They can triple their investment accommodating the influx of wealthy people attracted by the weather and access to the ocean.

Li Tian quickly analyses the problem. The developers have money to burn so they bribe corrupt officials to turn a blind eye to the situation. The officials cooperate by making excuses to cut the budget for community resources… funding dries up and the place goes to shit. The people that live there might protest but have no power so their complaints fall on deaf ears.

He glances at the handsome boy in the passenger seat and thinks about what Shizi wanted in exchange for finding Song Sara. He was genuinely surprised by Shizi’s request, assuming he would ask for money. Well, if he can accomplish what those morons who work for me can’t, I don’t mind spending the money.

   When they reach the street where his aunt’s home is located, Shizi points to a small well maintained red brick house, surrounded by a short chain link fence.  A sad looking snowman is half melted in the middle of the neatly trimmed yard. There are potted plants and a worn looking bench on the porch. The other houses except two boarded up houses at the end of the street are also decently maintained.

   “Let me off here. I don’t want my Aunt to see me getting out of this expensive car. She will think I am up to no good.”

  Li Tian stops the car,  Shizi stretches his long legs and steps out then leans his head back into the car, “Mr. Li…ah… thank you for giving me this opportunity.” The serious looking boy has a determined look in his eyes, “I will find Song Sara.” 

  Li Tian doesn’t respond but watches the teenager hurrying towards the house. A tall woman with her black hair in a messy bun and a little boy come out the front door. The chubby little boy hugs Shizi’s legs and then the three go inside the house.

   He shakes his head and his lips curl up into a slight smile thinking about Shizi’s confidence. Not many grown men would be able to maintain their composure in the car with him. He showed no fear being in my presence and the steely look of resolve…hahaha.. interesting. The kid has confidence I will give him that. He calls Yang James “Find out who wants to buy the apartment building at 849 Oak St in Bashu City and the surrounding buildings. The owner’s details, etc.”

   Yang James eyes light up behind his gold rimmed glasses and he puts down the documents in his hand. “Boss, are you interested in developing the area?” Unaware the purchase might lose money and is related to Song Sara Yang James excitedly opens his laptop. “Apartment complexes? Condos? a Zhen Group Mall? Zhen Group could make millions…Boss is finally thinking about the company again.

  “I want the information as soon as possible.”

  “Will do.”

  After Li Tian hangs up he drives out of the neighborhood and calls Han Weisheng, “Meet me for a drink at Ming’s.”

   “I thought you were having lunch with Guo Nuan.”

  Being reminded of the annoying woman he furrows his brow, “Boring.”

  Han Weisheng lights a cigarette, “Have you heard any news on the little girl?”

  “I might have found a competent person to locate the disobedient little kitten’s whereabouts.”

  Shizi holds his little brother and runs down the street so they aren’t late for dinner.

  The little boy protests, “Brother! I’m a big boy! Put me down!”

  “If we are late Dad will be mad.” He turns the corner and the apartment building is in sight. He sees his father pulling into a parking spot and accelerates his speed. FUCK! I can’t get beat and grounded tonight! I need to go to the internet cafe!

   Little Yi stops squirming thinking about how his father will yell and beat his brother. He sees his father opening the trunk of the car and pulling out a suitcase. 

  He wraps his arms around Shizi’s neck and anxiously tugs on his collar.  “Hurry Ji!”

  Shizi darts behind some trees and enters the building. The elevator has been broken for six months so he runs up the stairs to their apartment on the third floor. He puts Little Yi down and fumbles with the keys then enters the living room. He is breathing heavily as he walks to the kitchen. “Mom, can I help?”

   Shizi’s mother frowns, “Go wash and change, your father should be home soon. “Ji honey.” She wipes his sweaty black hair off his forehead. “Your father will be tired after his business trip…don’t aggravate him at dinner.” She affectionately smiles and gently swats his butt, “Go.”

   He walks into the room he shares with his little brother and takes off his damp shirt. When he enters the bathroom he mutters, “Why did that asshole have to return today!” Dammit! If I say one wrong word that stiff won’t let me go out tonight.Mr. Li is our ticket to a better life, I need to find that woman for him.

   Li Tian stands on the balcony of Han Weisheng’s private room at Ming’s staring at the city. He calls Old Man Guo. When the old man answers he says, “The meeting will need to be postponed until tomorrow.”

   Old Man’s face is flushed red with anger and he slams his cane on the ground. “Stinky brat! Who do you think you are! You left Little Nuan at the restaurant now you think you can…”

    Before he says another work Li Tian sends him a picture. Old Man Guo grips the edge of the desk and sputters, “Where…where did you get that photograph? It’s fake! FAKE!”

   “That is only the tip of the iceberg. Do you think you can threaten our Li family? Dreaming!”

   Li Tian swirls the ice in the glass of whisky then continues “I’m rescheduling the meeting for tomorrow so you have time to rethink your attempt to disrupt the opening of the airport. Restricted airspace? HA! If I gave the dirt I compiled on you to the right people you might spend your twilight years in prison… instead of growing your precious orchids.” 

   He sends two more incriminating photographs. “My grandfather bend a knee to you? Will never happen…I am not someone you should have messed with…Don’t you know my well earned reputation? I have no mercy on my enemies. Get the paperwork drawn up allowing the use of the airspace. I will be at your mansion at three o’clock.”

Li Tian abruptly hangs up leaving the old man shaking in anger.

    Speechless, Old Man Guo’s heart is beating erratically. Panting and having trouble catching his breath, he fumbles in the pocket of his pure white Tang suit for his heart medicine. Opening the small bottle his withered hands are trembling as he pours out two blue pills. He hurriedly tosses them in his mouth and frowns as he drinks the cold tea to wash them down.

    Staring at the photographs he breaks into a cold sweat and leans on his carved wooden cane for support. How? How did that fucking bastard dig up this shit! I had everyone killed that was involved! All the evidence was destroyed!

     I will kill that arrogant bastard!”

   Old Man Guo’s assistant hears him yell and knocks on the door, “Old Master?”

   The  flustered old man bellows, “GET IN HERE!”

   Li Tian smirks as he finishes the glass of whisky. Originally, he wanted to see the look on the sly old fox’s face when he realized he was outwitted. Now, with the prospect of finding Sara he decided to expedite matters.

  Han Weisheng opens the sliding door to the balcony. “Aren’t you cold standing out here?”

  “I am admiring the cityscape.”

  Han Weisheng walks to the railing, “In the last few years  I have watched Bashu City change from a small resort town to a bustling metropolis.”

  “I want to talk to you about a neighborhood I was in today, Shengu, are you familiar?”

  Han Weisheng pulls up the collar of his coat and then lights a cigarette, “Why the hell were you in that rundown part of the city?”

  “Song Sara used an address there on her medical form at the hospital.”

  “Your little girl is living in that vermin infested area? The crime rate there is rising… higher than anywhere else.”

   “It was a false lead, obviously to hide her real whereabouts.” He finishes his glass of whisky, “But, I met an interesting kid there…he made me think about how fucked up it must be to grow up in that environment.”

   Han Weisheng chuckles, “You felt..um..compassion? Did the sun rise in the West?”

  “Maybe…more like I had a bit of admiration for this kid. Obviously poor but he had a noble temperament. We struck a deal..I don’t know if he can do it but he said he would find Song Sara. Surprisingly, in return he didn’t ask for money but for me to buy the apartment building and turn it into affordable housing. I overheard he had lofty plans for his future…of course to get rich… but he wanted to give back to people. Yeah, I was a bit impressed by his confidence and his gutsy attitude.”

   Han Weisheng blows out a thin stream of smoke, “I have to admit although I have accomplishments I am very proud of… I didn’t encounter adversity or suffer hardships at a young age. I came from a strong background.. A wealthy elite family…my way was paved for me. Same could be said of you. It has to be rough to keep a hopeful attitude growing up in slum like conditions.”

   “So I can count on your help.”

   ‘…”

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