The Divorcee is a Wicked Black Belly Chapter 11: I just bought a girl
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Han's meeting with An Ning's parents didn't go well. For one, her father insisted that An Ning should move back with them. He also called into question his brother Richard's character, calling him a treacherous bastard and a disappointment.
Han listened in stoic silence, leaning back as the old man continued with his verbal abuse, listing a litany of sorrows that dated back to when Richard and An Ning were children. He talked in detail of that time when Richard brought another girl to a party which made An Ning cry. Richard was eight and An Ning five and the other girl was NuoNuo, who married Han's brother Alex two years ago.
"How about we stay here for a week every month?" Han suggested when the old man finally looked as if he had ran out of steam. "I think An Ning would like that."
"An Ning is carrying my child, Dad. I go where she goes and vice versa.," Han was adamant.
"You damn snake! I don't want you anywhere near my daughter!"
"Then all you can do is visit her at my house because she's not going anywhere without me."
"You damn bastard! How dare you blackmail me! I shouldn't have agreed to let her marry you. I should have encouraged that brat from Xia Shanghou's family to court her. He wouldn't have the nerve to divorce her I can tell you that."
Han held on to his temper with an effort.
"She did marry me and you or anyone else can't do anything about it anymore. I admit I may have made some mistakes in the past but we're together now. An Ning loves me and I love her. We're having a child together and that makes us a unit nobody can tear apart ever."
The old man glared at him with fulminating eyes.
"Fine," he gritted. "I'll expect An Ning to be here the day after tomorrow."
Han nodded amiably. Bid him goodbye and left.
He was driving home when the phone rang. Han pressed the button for answer.
"Ahrm...are you busy, Richard?" Du Lu's voice echoed loud and clear in the silent car.
Alerted by something in Du Lu's voice, Han sat up straighter.
"Why do I have the feeling that I shouldn't have answered this call? What is it this time?"
"It's nothing serious," Du Lu protested. "I just want to know how you were doing."
"Cut the crap and get to it."
"Ehrm....I may have done something really, really crazy this time, Richie. In my defense, I was sort of forced into it."
"Let me be the judge of that. What happened?"
"I sort of bought a person."
There was silence.
"Come again?" Han said blankly.
"I bought a person."
"Person...is that supposed to be a name of a brand or something?"
"No, no. It's a girl."
"You bought a girl?"
"Like you would buy a box of condoms or a shaving kit?"
"Yup. Something like that."
"I know. I was driving down a street minding my own business when this girl ran into my car. I nearly hit her. Anyway, I thought it was a scam so I sort of just sat there stunned when this guy came out of nowhere and suddenly started hitting her. What could I do but try and help. I tried to talk to the guy but he kept hitting the girl so I pulled out some money and gave it to him. He took it and left."
"Why didn't you just call the police?"
"I don't know. I panicked, I guess. Anyway, what could I do but take the girl with me?"
"No, idiot. You really should have just called the police."
"I told you, I panicked. I thought the guy was coming back with his friends and I just pulled the girl inside the car and drove away."
"Where is she now?"
"In the office."
"What? Why take her there? Sometimes, I really wonder if you own a brain or not."
"But where else would I bring her? I can't take her to my apartment. Everyone would call me a pervert if they see me with a child like that. And you would have a fine time scrubbing the internet just to save my skin."
"Then why call me? It's not my problem."
"But who else can I call? Besides, aren't you my manager?"
"I'm the guy you pay to get you big, fat movie contracts. Your publicist is the one who scrubs your public image clean from germs."
"Whatever. I need your help, bro. I absolutely don't know what to do here."
"Simple. Call the police."
"Just stop by the office. I'll be waiting."
The line went dead. Han glanced at the clock. Nearly six. He dialed the phone and talked to An Ning. He told her he was on his way home but first he had to stop at the office to take care of something. An Ning was yawning on the other line so after telling her to go to bed early and not to wait up for him, he hang up.
Du Lu was waiting at the lobby when he entered the building.
"Where is she?"
"The conference room. I bought her food."
Han strode inside without another word. Du Lu followed silently behind him.
The child sat on a chair too large for her small frame. She looked about ten, very thin and seriously bedraggled. She had been shredding a piece of chicken between her tiny fingers but immediately hid her hands when they entered the room. She looked up at them with large, frightened eyes, trying to shrink back into the chair, her tiny mouth smeared with bits and pieces of oily crumbs.
"Hello," Han greeted with a friendly smile. "Do you like chicken? My lady wife likes them, too. She cooked some for me the other night and they were delicious."
He pulled a chair and sat down, still making small talk.
"My name is Richard and this is my friend Du Lu. What's your name?"
The child stared at him then as if pulled by some magnet, her eyes moved to the food laid out on the table, at the piece of plump chicken she had been eating.
"Go ahead and eat. Don't mind me," Han encouraged. "Do you like ice cream?"
The little girl nodded wordlessly, her tiny hand pulling at the chicken and putting a piece in her mouth.
"How about I buy you ice cream after you finished eating? Would you like that?"
The girl again nodded, her eyes cautious and timid as they met his.
Han stood up and motioned to Du Lu.
"Where did you find her?" he asked in a low voice, watching the girl from the corner of his eyes.
"Near a construction site in Lincoln. I think she might have been hiding there when this guy found her."
Han frowned. "What is she doing there? Based on her clothes and the color of her skin, she's not from around here."
"What does the color of her skin have to do with where she came from?"
"She's very brown, Du Lu," Han pointed out. "Sunburned almost and that means she probably lives near a body of water. And her clothes, they're handmade. Can you think of anyone in this neighborhood who sewed clothes for their kids? I don't think so."
"This is such a fucking problem. If we go to the police they'll think I kidnapped the girl for nefarious reasons and brand me a pedophile or worse. Then it will be all over the internet."
"We?" Han asked with narrowed eyes.
"You're here so you're already involved. Aren't you?"
Han was about to snap angrily at him when the sound of coughing diverted his attention. The child was bent over her chair, a hand pressed against her mouth. Suddenly, her fingers clawed at her throat, her tiny face turning an alarming shade of red as the wretched coughing continued.
Han reached the child just as her head fell on the table with a thud. He pressed her body gently back against the chair, his other hand supporting her neck. The little girl fell back on the chair gagging and heaving horribly, the contents of her dinner dribbling down her chin and clothes in an ugly mess. She gasped and turned frightened eyes on Richard, her hands clawing desperately at him. Then her face turned rigid, the pupils rolling back, her mouth slackened and she was still.
As they watched stupefied, tiny spider-like veins appeared underneath the girl's skin. The green cobwebs covered the girl's face in seconds, then crawled down her neck, her arms and legs. There was a pop and the girl's lifeless body suddenly deflated then caught fire.
It happened so fast the two men didn't even understand what was happening until water drenched their faces from the sprinklers above their heads. Han grabbed the remote and turned the alarm off. The water subsided and the silence became deafening as they stared at the empty chair aghast. The little girl who had sat there enjoying a meal of fried chicken was gone. Instead of her lifeless body, there was only wet ash and the smell of putrid smoke.
The two men stared at each other completely shocked.
"Wha....how?" Du Lu was almost incoherent. "Spontaneous combustion?"
Han pulled him away into the outside corridor.
"Don't say anything about this to anybody until we are sure what we're dealing with.," he warned. "This is some shit we're facing here with, Du Lu. Did she say anything before I got here? What about that guy chasing her?"
"She said she was hungry, that's it. The guy said he was her father, which I didn't believe for a minute. Then he said something about how she was the first. I offered him the money. He took it and left. I didn't hang around to wait. I took the girl and drove as fast as I can away from there."
"What did he look like?"
"Like a weasel. Had grey hair and bad skin. He didn't look like a construction worker though. More like a teacher who gave students nightmares."
"This happened in a construction site in Lincoln, you said?"
Han was silent, thinking hard.
"They're clearing up the area around there to build houses. That used to be a marsh but somebody cleaned it all up. The plan is to build another city then sell the real estate to the highest bidders afterwards."
"How do you know all this?"
"I sit on the board of directors of the construction company that's handling the project. My brother Alex runs that company."
"Figures," Du Lu muttered.
"If I remember correctly, there is a lake beyond the mountain that borders Lincoln. That child could have lived there before she was abducted."
"Human trafficking, you think?"
"What about letting the police handle this?"
"Isn't it a little too late for that? We have no witnesses, no evidence and the victim self combusted on us. We have nothing."
"This is way too strange, Richard. Way too strange. We didn't even know who she was," Du Lu said softly.
Han didn't answer. He was thinking of the same thing. Strange that a child could enjoy a brief moment of freedom then vanished as easily as smoke. She didn't even left a trace of existence that could be construed as hers. She was gone and all that was left was the mystery of the strangeness of her death.
As if the strangeness of the day called for a weirder ending, Han's phone again rang as he was driving through the gate to enter the house. It was Tommy.
"We need to talk," Tommy greeted without preamble.
The line went dead.
Han parked the car then entered the house, frowning. When he got to the bedroom he shared with An Ning, she was already sleeping, cuddled safely amongst the thick covers. Her long hair was spread around her like a black nimbus. She looked very young and very lovely, as innocent as that child who died a horrible death before his eyes. Han leaned forward and kissed her cheek then tiptoed to the bathroom and showered. When he slipped between the covers a little while later, An Ning naturally turned and settled in his arms.
"Han," she mumbled sleepily.
Han tensed and didn't move. He waited until he heard An Ning's gentle breathing before he released a sigh.
"I'm here, baby," he whispered, sounding desolate and alone. "I'm here.
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