“Okay, let me get this right.” Zhao Zi raised his chopsticks to point at Shao Fei and made a face as if he had to solve a very complicated math problem. Knowing how good he actually was at math made Shao Fei roll his eyes. Around them, the noise in the restaurant was deafening. They had been lucky to get a grill for the two of them. Next to their little table a bunch of businessmen celebrated the successful conclusion of a business deal and one of them already had his tie around his head.
Shao Fei shook his head smiling and poured himself the rest of his beer.
“So you say that you are going to stop chasing Tang Yi because it will make him want to chase you?” Zhao Zi squinted at him and tilted his head. “I don’t get it.”
“Look,” Shao Fei said and made a sign to the waiter for another round of beer. “It’s psychological warfare.”
“Is it because Yu Qi did that seminar on profiling? Did she put that idea in your head?”
Shao Fei frowned. He was no longer sure about all of the thought processes that had him led to the conclusion to stop chasing Tang Yi. It may have been that Yu Qi had talked to him? It may have been too many beers already.
He decided to shook his head vigorously.
“No… no, no, no. I thought about it myself. It makes sense!” He emphasized sense and almost knocked over the waiter who brought them their beer.
“Sorry, sorry!” Shao Fei jumped up and felt a wave of dizziness. He had to hold onto the man to not topple over. The waiter seemed unfaced and helped him sit back properly on his chair.
Shao Fei bowed in apology and turned back to Zhao Zi.
“It totally makes sense.”
“But… wouldn’t he feel relieved? Those lawsuits aren’t love-letters.”
“No… no, no, no. It’s about his feelings!”
“Yeah, I said that…”
“Because he cares.” Shao Fei tried to take a piece of meat from the grill but lost it before he could put it in his mouth. He stared at the pork on the table and then looked back at Zhao Zi.
“He has caring feelings.”
“Yes.” He turned his concentration back on the meat on the table.
He felt Zhao Zi’s eyes on him but wanted to concentrate on picking up the meat. It was strangely difficult.
“Okay… wow,” he heard Zhao Zi mutter. “I’m too sober for this.”
Shao Fei nodded. Being sober was bad. Being sober meant he felt an ache in his chest whenever he thought of Tang Yi. If he was drunk it was funny thinking about him. The suits… who wore suits all the time? Also the word! Suit… suit.
“Suit,” he whispered and giggled. A funny word. Maybe Tang Yi even slept in a pyjama which looked like a suit…
“I don’t think so,” Zhao Zi said and Shao Fei realized he had said his last words out loud.
“It’s time for Sake,” he declared and left the table on the search for the waiter, high-fiving one of the businessmen on his way. He didn’t hear Zhao Zi who called his name.
Someone was going to be charged with poisoning him. Shao Fei groaned and tried to roll around because he laid on his side and it hurt him. He was going to arrest whoever had put some drug in his beer, this was torture, this was attempted murder… this…
“You talk out loud again.”
Shao Fei whimpered and hid his head under his pillow.
“What are you doing here?”, he croaked and felt the dip of the mattress as if he was on a tiny little boat at sea in the midst of a storm.
“I have to say, it has been a long time since you got so drunk.”
“Please stop yelling,” Shao Fei begged. The pain was a constant hammering in the back of his head, his throat hurt, his mouth hurt, his eyelids hurt. He was never going to be able to do his job again, because he would die a miserable death here, today, right this minute.
“I forgot how melodramatic you can get. Here… drink this.”
Shao Fei felt something cold on his naked upper arm and tried to remember how moving worked. He lifted the pillow a bit and his eyes focused on a glass that Zhao Zi held out to him.
“Is this the hangover cure form your grandma?”
“Strictly after her recipe.”
“Thank you,” Shao Fei whispered. Maybe he didn’t have to die after all. It took a few attempts to sit up and he was going to promote Zhao Zi to an angel because he put several pillows behind his back so he could lean against them.
He knew grandma Zhao’s hangover cure and had to muster all his courage to down the drink in one go. He coughed and made a face but the drink stayed in his stomach.
“Why didn’t you stop me yesterday?”, he asked and frowned at Zhao Zi who looked chipper and not miserable at all. He remembered that he hadn’t been the only one drinking Sake after Sake. Why was he the only one suffering?
“You know me. I don’t get a hangover that quickly. It’s the genes.”
Fuck my genes, Shao Fei thought and looked around. He was in his bedroom.
“You brought me home?”
Zhao Zi nodded.
“I also took your phone even tho you chased me around this bed to get it back.”
Shao Fei couldn’t remember a thing from the night before and frowned. “Why?”
“Why did I chase you?”
“You wanted to call Tang Yi,” Zhao Zi answered and Shao Fei had the sudden urge to throw up. Panic raised inside him and he put a hand on Zhao Zi’s arm, digging his fingers into his skin.
“Please tell me I didn’t!”
“Nope, I took your phone before you could do it.”
Archangel, Shao Fei decided. Or god, he was going to promote Zhao Zi to a god.
“Yeah, I thought it would be weird to tell Tang Yi about your plan to not chase him any longer so that he would chase you instead because I think the point of the plan is to not tell him about the plan?”
Shao Fei blinked.
“I… what? I wanted to do what?”
Zhao Zi nodded solemnly.
“You explained it to me very detailed. No wonder you graduated on the top of the police academy when you think your plans…” Shao Fei put his hands over Zhao Zi’s mouth and tried to breathe. In and out. An icy fist pressed his lungs together.
He remembered. He remembered why he got so drunk the day before. Why he thought of that stupid play.
He put his hand down, leaned back against his pillows and felt as if his heart was going to burst out of his chest. Not because of happiness. Because of fear.
Shao Fei stared into the empty space and all the feelings he had tried to suppress through alcohol came back to the surface, accompanied by a headache, a sore throat and a queasy stomach.
He looked at Zhao Zi and swallowed.
“I’m in love with Tang Yi,” he said. The same words he had said to his reflection in the police station bathroom mirror after he had searched through the files to find another excuse to visit Tang Yi. His hands started to shake. The same way they had shaken the day before.
“You… what?” Zhao Zi looked at him like he had confessed a murder.
Shao Fei slid down the bed to stare at his ceiling and repeated himself: “I’m in love with Tang Yi.”
The words felt as painful as the first time. As if he had to drag each letter through shards of glass and they cut his skin again and again.
He felt Zhao Zi’s stare, and the words he wanted to say, and the questions he wanted to ask but instead, he laid down beside him. He was thankful for that but knew that Zhao Zi couldn’t be silent for long.
“Are you sure? Or do you confuse love with obsession? You’re kinda obsessed with him”, he finally asked and Shao Fei turned his head. Zhao Zi held his hands up. “I’m not the only one who thinks that. Just look at your board.... ohhhh.”
Yeah… maybe he wasn’t as good as a cop as he thought. Or at least he wasn’t very good at reading himself as reading criminals.
“I realized it yesterday.” And what a realization it had been. It had left him shaking.
Shao Fei nodded. It hurt. At first, he had smiled, because he was in love. Because he felt good things when he thought of Tang Yi, but then...
“I want to get drunk again.”
“That’s not a good idea. Drunk you wants to call Tang Yi and confess his love.”
Shao Fei groaned and hid his face behind his hands.
“I’ll be no longer able to be around him! I’ll be so obvious. He is so observant he will notice it the moment he will see me next.”
“I don’t think it will be that bad.”
“You remember the barista two years ago?”
There was silence from Zhao Zi and Shao Fei peeked through his fingers to see that Zhao Zi tried to hide his laughter.
“Yeah. It was bad. We had to change coffee shops. The poor guy had no idea how to handle your affection.”
Shao Fei groaned. He wasn’t able to hide his feelings! It burst from every seam, from the core of his being, and normally he liked it that way. As a police officer, he was used to people lying to him, for them to try to trick him, trying to see if they could take him for a fool. He had never been able to be that way. Some superiors were even frustrated with him because he didn’t lie to suspects, didn’t try to spin a web to get them to confess. They were even more frustrated because his way of interrogation worked and made him one of the best in the force.
“Maybe I could become a police officer in the country. Protect the hard-working folk from thieves and drunk husbands.”
“With your luck, you would uncover a human trafficking ring within two weeks.”
“With my luck, I would fall in love with the culprit.”
Zhao Zi laughed and punched him lightly against the arm. “Oh please, Tang Yi is not comparable with someone like that. You weren’t able to link him to a serious crime in four years. No indications that he deals with drugs or kills people. All we can say is that he makes suspicious much money with his suit shop.”
“He’s still the boss of Xing Tian Meng.”
Zhao Zi turned to his side to face Shao Fei fully. “Nevertheless, you weren’t able to pin something on him. Which makes it easier to avoid him, right? If you don’t actively seek him out, your paths won’t cross.”
“Yeah.” Yeah . Tang Yi wouldn’t chase him. Because he didn’t matter to him. He was just the annoying police officer who collected lawsuits. He rubbed the skin above his heart and made a face.
“What about senior Li Zhen?” He needed to know what happened four years ago, he couldn’t just stop.
“You already are emotionally compromised with this case. What do you think will happen now? With your feelings the way they are? Are you sure you can see this case objectively at all?”
Shao Fei felt the words like needles.
“Look at you being the voice of wisdom,” he said weakly.
Zhao Zi winked. “It’s my grandma’s influence.”
Shao Fei snorted. “Your grandma really was the best.”
Shao Fei had the case files inside a box under his desk. He looked through them and felt the same rage and helplessness he always felt when he looked at the pictures, saw the dead body of his mentor. But maybe Captain Shi and everyone else in the division was right. Maybe he needed to take a break and start to think about other cases, maybe then he would have the breakthrough he needed.
Without bothering Tang Yi.
He closed the box with more force than necessary and asked Zhao Zi to hide it somewhere he wouldn’t find it.
Lucky for his body, alone the thought of alcohol made him sick so he hadn’t had the desire to drink himself stupid that day.
“You should also think about taking down the board in your flat,” Zhao Zi whispered as he took the box and dodged Shao Fei’s kick. “They say cold turkey works best.”
“I’m not that obsessed,” Shao Fei whispered back and tried to kick him again.
“Who is not obsessed?”, Captain Shi asked suddenly and they broke apart.
“Have to go!”, Zhao Zi yelled and power walked away from them. Captain Shi looked at Zhao Zi’s retreating back and sipped at his tea. Then he frowned at Shao Fei who tried to look as innocently as possible.
He made a few steps back. “I’m obsessed with solving cases,” he said. “I have to go and look through files, investigate crime, protect people.” He turned and felt Captain Shi’s eyes like laser beams against his neck. He didn’t tell Captain Shi that he would stop investigating Li Zhen's case because then he would have to tell him why and he didn’t want to get killed by Captain Shi’s daughter because he was the cause of his heart attack.
It was hard. The moment he realized his feelings it had opened a flood-gate of new thoughts and desires. He wanted to draw more pictures of Tang Yi, he wanted to go inside his suit shop to just look at him. He was stupidly pleased about Tang Yi’s desire to reform his gang.
“Of course I should be pleased. I’m a police officer! Gangsters are bad!”
“What are you saying?”
Shao Fei looked up in Yu Qi’s smiling face. He should really try to stop speaking to himself out loud.
“I need something to drink,” he improvised and both of them looked down at his full water glass. “Something sweet. I want to drink something sweet.” He laughed and stood up to go to their kitchen counter.
It was hard. Almost a week was over and he ran into the bathroom every time the desire to chase after Tang Yi became too overwhelming. Every time he looked at the clock he was reminded that he knew Tang Yi’s schedule, that he could tell someone where he was. Nobody asked of course. And every time he caught Zhao Zi’s eyes he gave him two thumbs up. After three days he wanted to throttle his best friend.
Work helped, but no amount of night shifts or overworking himself helped him the moment he closed the door behind himself and stood in his apartment, just his thoughts and feelings laid bare.
“Next case,” Captain Shi announced and shoved a pile of papers in the middle of the table. “Crime division team 5 asked for help. They caught some little fish named Jin Jie Yong. He sold drugs around Wanhua. He doesn’t seem to be connected to a gang, so he’s lucky we got him first.”
“Why does team 5 need help?” Jun Wei asked and Shao Fei picked up the report from their colleagues. The picture of Jin Jie Yong showed a guy in his forties, retreating hairline, and a stubborn look in his eyes.
“After a night in the cell, he wanted to make a deal. Immunity from prosecution and he would make a statement against Xing Tian Meng…”
Shao Fei’s mind went blank. He raised his head. Everyone had turned his way. He felt a kick from Zhao Zi, who sat next to him and forced out a weak smile.
“That’s funny huh? We all know that Tang Yi doesn’t do drugs… It seems like… It seems like this Jin Jie Yong needs a scapegoat for his crimes.“
Captain Shi frowned and squinted his eyes at Shao Fei as if he waited for him to jump up. He wanted to. He had to force his feet to stay on the ground but everything inside him screamed to go and confront Tang Yi with the accusations.
“Yes… Team 5 asked us to investigate Xing Tian Meng since we know the most about them. They don’t believe Jin Jie Yong and are going to find out who his real associates are. His telephone data don’t show any connections to known members of Xing Tian Meng, maybe if some could get a hold of Tang Yi...” Captain Shi paused and everyone turned towards Shao Fei again.
He raised his finger to point at himself.
“Me? That’s not possible, boss! You know there are three complaints still processing, I don’t want another.”
Pure disbelief was shown on his boss’s face.
“You don’t want another? Since when? Since when don’t you grab the first chance to run towards that guy?” Captain Shi had jumped up and almost crawled over the table to yell at Shao Fei. “What is going on here?”
“Yu Qi should do it,” Shao Fei said and Captain Shi turned his frown to her. She stared at them with an open mouth.
“It’s a good way to gather experience about questioning someone outside of an investigation,” Shao Fei babbled on. His heart rate was through the roof. “Moreover Tang Yi doesn’t know her and will maybe be more cooperative if it isn’t me who asks the questions.”
“That actually makes sense,” Zhao Zi whispered next to him.
“You really never had to speak with Tang Yi?”, Captain Shi asked Yu Qi and sat back on his chair. She shook her head. She looked spooked but only for a second then straightened herself. “I’m the right one for the job boss. I will make a formal request for him to come to the precinct and if he’s going to come with his lawyer we steal his thunder since we’re going to question him in a conference room instead of an interrogation room. It may confuse him enough, to be honest with us.”
Shao Fei stared at Yu Qi because that was a perfect plan.
“That’s actually not a bad idea,” Captain Shi mused. “Partner up with someone and contact Tang Yi…”
“I’ll do it!”, Zhao Zi leaned forward eagerly and even raised his hand. Shao Fei made a face at him. “I’m going to partner up with Yu Qi. We’re the perfect team!” He held his fist towards her and she bumped it with confusion written all over her face.
“Why are you doing this?” Shao Fei asked after the meeting was over. He pulled Zhao Zi away from the others and looked around.
“It’s perfect! You know she was going to ask you to be her partner because you know the most about Tang Yi. That way I can distract her from running to you and you can continue to avoid him.”
Shao Fei didn’t like it. He didn’t like it at all. It prickled along his skin and he actually was jealous of Zhao Zi who was going to speak to Tang Yi and…
“Tell me when you schedule the meeting! I need to be out of the office when he arrives.” Zhao Zi nodded and Shao Fei stomped away.
“Why do I care?”, he asked himself and grabbed his jacket. “Who cares if they are going to talk to him. It has nothing to do with me.” He put his jacket on and walked out of the office. “It doesn’t have to do anything with Li Zhen’s case, it’s about a little drug dealer, a little fish. Stupid.”
He stopped and realized in which direction he was walking. It was the way to Tang Yi’s suit shop. “Stupid,” he said again with a lot of feeling and turned around.
“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”