In Shanghai

 On a quiet treelined street, rain and wind mercilessly blew into a deserted fabric shop through a broken window. In a makeshift bed behind a dusty counter, Ning Qiao was shivering and her teeth were chattering. Her thin body only covered with various fabrics she found in a small storage room. The dark blue woolen coat she wore when she left the hotel was soaked and hanging on a metal stool. She didn’t hold much hope the thick coat would dry in the damp and musty shop.

Ning worked at the small fabric shop when she first arrived in Shanghai. Unfortunately, the location wasn’t good and there weren’t enough customers so the manager had to let Ning go.

When contemplating where she could safely spend the night she thought of the shop. It wasn’t far from the bus stop and she was drenched from the rain.

Dodging puddles along the way she ran to the back of the shop. Saying a quick prayer to Buddha, she picked up a large empty flower pot then breathed a sigh of relief. Yes! The scatterbrained owner forgot the spare key under the pot by the back door.

The shop was eerily lit by a street light at the edge of the three parking spots out front. Between the gloomy atmosphere and the sound of thunder and lightning, the frightened girl felt like throwing up.

The deafening sound reminded her of the horrifying bloody scene she witnessed last night. She clutched her stomach and tears formed in her pretty brown eyes. What a nightmare!

 Ning had just finished cleaning the Presidential suite on the 30th floor of the luxurious Moon Garden Hotel. Lazily pushing the cleaning cart down the hallway she was thinking about what to eat after she finished her shift.

Ning was debating, I haven’t got paid yet so it needs to be cheap..hmmm..The Noodle Shop on 21st St. or the Barbeque stall on the corner? She smiled, Barbeque! It is close and I can catch the 11:00 bus.

 The cart’s back wheel wobbled then fell off. She frowned and bent down to put the wheel back on as she has had to do every night. Seriously! This stupid cart has been like this since I started two weeks ago! You would think they would replace the darn wheel! So annoying… 

 As she was bent down behind the metal cart she heard a loud pop..pop..then several more. Peeking from behind the cart, her almond shaped eyes widened in terror. Her heart was pounding in her chest. OH MY OH MY GOD!

Shrinking her petite body as small as possible, Ning silently climbed into the bottom of the cart. She was hidden behind the mop and broom handles in the front but still didn’t feel safe.

Hugging her knees with her arms she motionlessly watched the hellish scene through a small opening between the long wooden handles. The three men dressed in black were brazenly shooting the two men dressed in casual clothes who exited the elevator.

  The two startled foreign men had nowhere to hide. The elevator door behind them closed and there were no other rooms on the floor. Ning witnessed the taller man with blonde hair aggressively grab the short bald man then forcefully yank him in front of his body to block the bullets. He then shoved the man’s bullet ridden body towards one of the assailants.

The tall blonde man was agile and wrestled with the killer by the table with a large Oriental vase on top. He lurched forward and seemed to be gripping something in his hand he took from his pants pocket.

The blonde man was destined to die tonight. Before he could secure the man’s weapon he was shot repeatedly in the back.  The bullets killed him and after passing through his body shattered the expensive blue and white vase.  

This floor is restricted and only the guest who occupies the Presidential suite has the codewho are these men! Well..who cares! Just don’t notice me!

The defenseless men’s lives were extinguished before her eyes. Ning put her hand to her mouth to stifle a scream.from escaping her lips. She was too terrified even to shed a tear and her turbulent heart was beating erratically.

  The stench of blood permeated the air and the pristine white walls were instantly covered with shocking splashes of bright red.

Ning was studying fashion design and detail oriented. She couldn’t help but notice the blue and white Oriental vase she cleaned earlier was shattered on the carpet and covered in crimson red. The expensive carpet’s geometric design was stained creating an abstract pattern. 

  The killers dragged the two dead bodies into the elevator and as the door closed the horrified girl thought it was her chance to escape. Ning felt something sharp pierce the soft sole of her shoe and winced in pain.

She lifted her foot cursing the old housekeeper who insisted she wear soft sole shoes so she didn’t scuff the marble floors. She choked back a scream as she picked up the bloody shard of the vase and under it was a silver flash drive.

  Without thinking she picked up the flash drive and put it in her uniform pocket.Leaving the broken cart she nervously hurried to the service elevator. While pushing the button for the service elevator her eyes darted back to make sure the men hadn’t returned.

  Once downstairs Ning bypassed the Housekeeper’s office, she didn’t bother to clock out and rushed to her locker. Her fingers were trembling and she was sweating as she opened the lock. 

 Ning was on edge and almost jumped out of her skin when her friend walked up behind her and spoke. “Ning, I’m off too, do you want to get something to eat?”

 Flustered, her beautiful face was pale and beads of sweat glistened on her forehead. “I..I am not feeling well tonight. Next time.”

 “You don’t look very good. Do you want to drive me to the hospital.”

  “No… no…it’s just a small cold.”

  Her coworker smiled,“Okay, well I’m starving. See you tomorrow night.” She grabbed an umbrella and coat from her locker and left.

  Ning sucked in her breath and closed the locker door. Looking around nervously she hurried to the employee’s exit and left.

   While she was on the bus she realized how stupid it was to leave the housekeeping cart outside the Presidential suite and not clock out. I should have returned the cart and acted as though nothing happened. She slapped herself, Ning..Ning Qiao! You are an idiot!

  After she got off the bus she was too frightened to go to the her apartment which is why she was in this deserted shop. It had been for rent for a long time and she thought it would be a safe place to hide in case those men looked for her at her apartment.

  But, she was freezing and hungry and her phone was dead. Nina knew she had no choice but to find another place to stay until she could sort out the situation. The problem was she had no money until she got paid on Friday. She could call her friend Mimi but didn’t wan’t to involve her if she was in danger.

  She decided she would find somewhere to charge her phone then call work. Possibly I could find out from the Housekeeper’s attitude if there is a problem. Maybe I’m just being paranoid…

  The man Ning Qiao should be worried about was anxiously standing in front of a hospital bed. A beautiful foreigner with a distinctive teardrop mole by his eye was lying on the bed at the exclusive private clinic outside Shanghai.

The injured man listened intently to the elegant elderly Chinese man wearing a beige Tang suit. Hearing the man make excuses and beg, he clenched his fist under the cover silently chastising the elderly man for his incompetence.

With a shallow smile that made the distinguished looking Chinese man’s scalp go numb, he stared at the quivering man with a piercing gaze.

After a moment he spoke without emotion, the handsome foreigner’s voice was hoarse and his Mandarin perfect. “Not my problem.” He touched the white gauze covering his throat. “Clean up your own mess.”  


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