Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 38 (A peculiar phone conversation)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 38

A peculiar phone conversation

At the time when the phone rang, Linda was considering her dinner options. The freezer was stuffed with semi prepared food and her dilemma increased fourfold when facing the options: pizza, lasagna, spaghetti or fries and chicken nuggets.

She closed the freezer’s door in a hurry and picked up the phone.

-Hey, how are you? I was worried! You didn’t call the whole week! Is everything alright? At this moment she put the phone on the speaker so she can have the freedom to move around and use her hands.

-I’m alright honey, I am alright. I didn’t call you because initially I was jet legged and my biological clock was obviously upside down. And for the past three days, I have been going through lots of strange encounters.

-I have the whole night in front of me to listen to you.

-Yeah, unfortunately I promised Vic and Zhaohui that I will accompany them for a visit to Suzhou Gardens.

-Who is Zhaohui? What Gardens?

-There are so many things that happened and so many things I need to tell you, that I will probably need two days to get everything out of my chest.

-Can you summarize at least?

-Sure. Let me answer your first question: Zhaohui is Vic’s fiancée.

-You are telling me that Vic found his half in China? Linda burst into a huge laughter while at the other end of the line John couldn’t help but crack a large smile.

-Vic is a completely changed man. He is half the size he used to be, he stopped drinking, he is not gambling anymore and he is fluent in Mandarin.

-Wow! Now this is impressive! How did this happen?

-Take a guess…

-Zhaohui?

-Bingo! You got it!

-Unbelievable! So, for him the move to China was all beneficial. He turned out to be a reborn man and he found a wife. Good for him! Tell Vic that I wish him and his fiancée all the best in the world.

-I will surely do so.

-What is this trip to those Gardens about?

-Not sure, but Zhaohui goes there as many times as she can, whenever she has a chance. It looks like these gardens present a sort of getaway for her, a sort of a place where she meditates and recharges her batteries. They specifically mentioned: “Humble Administrator’s Garden”…I don’t know the significance, but apparently it means quite a lot to her.

-Wow! This is fascinating!

-It surely is.

-What else can you tell me before they are picking you up?

-There are so many things that happened to me…I met Tony Gang – the guy in charge of the Office and I met the people he is associated with in this criminal activity.

-What? You think they have an organization, a cartel, a criminal enterprise that is stealing money from Glenworth?

-Positive.

-Incredible! So, your first instincts were right.

-Actually during the lunch I had with J.J. and Scott, I was warned that Tony could be the head of this organization or whatever it is. The actual fact is that he is not the brain of the enterprise. The head of this criminal cartel is Zhiming mao.

-What? Who is this Zhiming guy?

-You see…there are so many things which happened in this past week that it will take me forever to tell them to you through a phone line. This “guy” actually is the head of one of the most aristocratic families from the Ming Dynasty – The house of Chonghuan, the House which founded the “Seven Orchids Order”

-I am so lost…I don’t understand a word you are saying!

-Because (again) I need to spend many hours to tell you what happened from the beginning. Apparently I am part of some curse which happened when Chongzhen Emperor executed General Yuan Chonghuan. The General cursed the Emperor. The other thing that stands out of this is that this curse must end soon and I am (with or without my will) part of it.

-An Emperor, a general, an execution during Ming Dynasty, a curse and you: John Parker, are all related to each other…

-Yeap! John could actually hear Linda’s crystalline laughter at the other end and once again cracked a smile. Unfortunately, all the encounters he went through for the past six days and the (still fresh in his mind) meeting he had last night with Zhiming mao, made his smile look more like a barely visible sign of discomfort. His mind brought back in front of his eyes Zhiming mao and his statement: “if I wanted to kill you, you would’ve been dead by now”. Of course, he was not going to share this detail with Linda, but his voice was trembling and his wife picked up the change in his voice immediately.

-John, please come back home…you are really scaring me.

-Relax, hon! I think in a couple of weeks everything will be settled. I will be back for Thanksgiving.

-Thanksgiving? That’s almost six weeks away!

-I am just saying Thanksgiving. It could be a lot sooner. I will get to the bottom of this story soon, trust me. I got a good handle of it.

-OK, I trust you. But please, don’t do anything irrational, don’t get into situations you don’t recognize. Please stay prudent and safe!

-You know that I am always prudent and I have a nose for safety…

-Yeah, I know! The episode with the truck driver who you tackled to the ground in a gas station says it all about your prudency and nose for safety! Says it all!

-Common hon! This is a low blow! This time John couldn’t help himself but release a huge laughter from all his lungs’ capacity.

-No, it’s not a low blow, it’s the truth! Your competitive nature makes you sometimes take decisions which are not compatible with your calm, settled and cerebral nature. There are two Johns in you: one is balanced and intellectual, the other one is impulsive and makes split second decisions, decisions which are scaring me.

-Those split second decisions won a Championship, honey…it was indeed that split second decision which made me change my mind and I went for the throw. I knew I could make it, that’s why I took it. So, a decision initiated on gut feelings, was actually done based on using accumulated knowledge.

-Don’t talk technicalities to me! I know you better than you do!

-OK, OK! I will play safe. I will not throw, I will run the ball. At this point, both of them burst into a noisy and well deserved laughter, a laughter which cleared the atmosphere created by so many unknowns laying in front of them.

-OK, I let you go now. I will watch some Hockey, maybe a movie and go to sleep.

-Alright, hon! Stay safe and warm.

-I will. You take care of yourself. Bye now.

-By the way, before you hang up – John felt like wanted to get more out of his chest and decided to share with Linda his thoughts on his boss’s involvement into the story…

-I am listening…

-I, Vic and Zhaohui believe that J.J. has a hand into this whole adventure of mine in China. He is somehow related to the curse – as I am – and sent me there to probably do the dirty work for him.

-No way! You gotta’ be kidding! How is he involved? And why?

-Trying to understand myself honey, but it looks like all the roads are taking me to either J.J. or Zhiming mao.

-So, you are saying that J.J. set you up for failure? Why would he do that? It’s his company, his money!

-Linda, I do not know the answers myself…I am at least as puzzled as you are regarding J.J.’s involvement. But definitely he is using me somehow. I feel like he is the man in the shadows and this is not necessarily a bad thing. He is probably on my side, but I didn’t like the way he approached this business endeavor.

-Absolutely! He should’ve told you upfront what his intentions are! This is not fair to you…

-That’s OK hon, I am a big boy – I can handle it.

-Please be careful, John!

-I will, I promise.

-OK then. I let you go. Love you and please, please stay safe.

-You bet! Have a good day!

After she hung up, she didn’t feel quite well. It was a strange feeling…it felt more like a frustration that she is now alone while John is trying to figure out some centuries old curse (apparently related to funds drainage from Glenworth). She felt a bit of uneasiness…in her subconscious she realized that it was just a hidden and never tested way her brain was trying to tell her something.

The rest of the evening was spent between a frugal dinner and flipping through channels. An interesting Hockey game was on, but her mind was not at all into watching it…she couldn’t help but letting her brain go back to the conversation she had with her husband. The names which came out of the short chat, the apparent intricacy of the story, the fact that J.J. fed John to the wolves by sending him there in the middle of a conspiracy – or curse, or whatever was called – made her angry. Nervously she started flipping through the channels faster and faster until she realized that it is useless to get nervous and angry. She was not able to help John regardless of what she was doing. An immense feel of guilt and helplessness encompassed her. Few tears came out of her beautiful blue eyes…it was the relief valve she needed! A strange but comfortable sense of calmness followed the initial state of discomfort making her look for the favorite pillow and blanket. Once she turned off the night stand lamp and the TV, the warmth of the thick blanket deeply penetrated her body. A nice smile flourished on her lips. It was the sign that she was now relaxed and ready for a good and deserved sleep.

“Tomorrow it’s another day” whispered Linda and immediately fell asleep.

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