BOB SUN (孙博), a Chinese Canadian award-winning writer and a senior media professional. He is the editor-in-chief of 365netTV.com, the President of the Chinese PEN Society of Canada, and the Vice-President of World Chinese Studies in Canada. He is the author of over ten novels and the director of a couple of full-length documentaries.
BETTY SUN (孙白梅), a senior Chinese Canadian translator. She had been an associate professor in the English Department of Shanghai International Studies University before immigrating to Canada. While living in Canada, she had been a visiting scholar at McGill University and the University of Regina and has worked for the Toronto Public Library for 16 years.
TEARS FOR CAMELLIA
Written by Bo Sun
Translated by Betty Sun
Chapter One: A Perplexing Case of an Anonymous Female Corpse
Like an enormously wide crystal curtain, Niagara Falls dashes down from the sky, with full grandeur and momentum. While beating the rocks and splashing the water, the flying torrents roar with thunderous sounds, which can be heard clearly several miles away. The air is permeated with spattering water drops, like smoky rain or pale dew, and is mixed with howling north wind. The whole atmosphere seems especially chilly and harsh, adding a touch of desolation and melancholy.
The piercing wind and icy water drops, however, cannot deter tourists from coming to admire this famous scenic spot from all over the world. They come well prepared and are almost “armed to the teeth”. Some are standing quietly in front of Niagara Falls, wearing long overcoats and fur hats, unwilling to leave such gorgeous scenery. Some are walking on the snow-covered sideways, wrapped in down-felt heavy coats, towards the Falls. Others, covered all over with heavy clothing, show their two eyes only. Viewed from afar, they resemble clumsy robots, creeping on the wet and slippery road.
At around 1 pm on Jan. 1st 2001, two American tourists going to Niagara Falls discovered simultaneously an anonymous female corpse floating on the Niagara River in Canada, about 800 meters down from the Falls. As soon as the local police got the information, they immediately dispatched five police cars to the scene and blockaded the Niagara Boulevard. Two ambulances，with sirens ringing，followed along the river. Not long afterwards, marine police arrived in a motorboat breaking the ice. A robust police chief was directing these policemen to retrieve the female body from the water, with a walkie-talkie in one hand and making gestures with the other hand…
In the editors’ office of “Toronto Weekly”, five editors on duty during the holiday were watching TV nervously – the live coverage of the scene from long shots to close shots. They were arguing endlessly with varied opinions: murder for money; manslaughter, murder to silence somebody, or killing related to love.
Right at this moment, Mr.Guo, the editor-in-chief, charged into the office, looking as if travel-worn and weary. As a rule, he should have been at home on holidays. Looking at his subordinates and wagging his fat head, he opened his mouth, “You are still here? Why not rush to the scene?”
Fan, Jianhong, the director in charge of interviews responded, “Chief Guo, Niagara Falls is 140 kilometers away from here. It will take at least an hour and a half to get there. When we get there, the police might have left.” Obviously, it was a mild way of refusing to obey the supervisor.
Guo’s round face was suddenly pulled longer. He yelled impatiently with a frown, “Don’t you ever have any sense of alert for news? Radio 680 has clearly identified the dead person as an Asian. It might be Chinese. It would not be that easy to retrieve a body in such chilly weather. What do you think, guys?”
With the whole room in the sudden silence, people gazed at each other in blank dismay. They all knew what the chief actually meant, but nobody intended to cause any trouble to himself, so they just kept mute.
Fan, Jianhong gazed at the stern face of the chief helplessly, thinking defiantly: who would like to travel such a long way in the world of ice and snow? Besides, the English media will cover the story in a big way and we can just translate the articles into Chinese. Our Weekly will be published on Saturday. It is only Monday. Who knows what other more spectacular events would happen these days? What’s the fuss! Even if the dead person is Chinese, we still have plenty of time to find more background material…
“What we need is first-hand news! It will take about an hour to get there, as it’s not rush hour. Jia, Feng, as you are more experienced, you go at once with some other staff.” Without thinking, Chief Guo raised his left wrist to look at his watch and ordered a tall man in a firm voice before he headed toward his own office, without looking back.
Li, Zhihao, a news photographer, carried all his apparatus and drove his Toyota cross-country car at the speed of 130 kilometers an hour on the westbound QEW Highway around Lake Ontario. Countless vehicles crushed the thin ice on the highway, with white broken ice cracking under the wheels. He was reticent while holding the steering wheel, with knitted eyebrows. Feeling as if burning with a sense of urgency, he did not pay any attention to Jia, Feng, and Wu, Xiaoxian in his car.
As it had snowed heavily a few days before, leftover white snow could still be seen along the highway. Some icicles were hanging from the trees. Part of the snow on the roof of a house had melted, revealing irregular patches of black. The whole ground looked like a huge abstract landscape painting: places without snow resembled dark ink while the road trampled under the wheels looked like gray color in the middle and the remaining snow seemed like intended blank space in the painting.
Sitting beside the driver, Jia, Feng, noticing the rising speedometer, was scared with cold sweat on his back and hands. Wu, Xiaoxian, sitting in the back, screamed with fear, begging the driver to slow down.
“My buddy, slow down! If you drive at such speed we’ll go to hell before we get to the Falls!” Jia, Feng, unable to stand it any longer, yelled.
“How can we snatch any picture if we slow down? Maybe they have left already.” Li replied, with perfect assurance.
Jia talked loudly to his ears, “Aren’t you afraid the police will catch you?”
“It would be a speeding ticket at the worst. In Taipei, with a second’s delay, you might lose a good shot.” Li replied bluntly, like a piece of hard ice with sharp angles.
Wu screamed in a loud voice, “So you don’t care about your life?! I don’t want to die on the job – I haven’t enjoyed my young life yet!”
Li shouted in a hoarse voice: “OK, no arguing. I’ll keep at 130 kilometers an hour. Didn’t you notice Chief Guo’s terrible facial expression? Without good shots, how could we report to him afterwards? Last time he was dissatisfied because nobody was on the scene of the kidnap. How he flew into a rage because nobody showed up at the bank robbery a couple of days ago!”
“If the dead woman is really Chinese, we’ll be busy for quite some time.” Jia seemed to talk to himself.
Li said, shaking his head, “What a shame! So young and too soon to go to God. From the pictures on TV, she looked pretty.”
“As the old saying goes: beautiful women were born under an unlucky star,” said Xiaoxian while heaving a sigh.
“Beauty Wu is thinking of herself, right?” Li always liked to tease her.
“Darn, don’t always talk of beauties. Lady Diana passed away at only 36. There are bad guys everywhere.”
The mere mention of Lady Diana aroused fury from Jia’s heart. He burst out, “Who takes no pity on beauties? But she should also blame herself -- she loved so much to be in the limelight.”
“Simply flirtatious. What had become of her – dating her old flame behind the Prince’s back?” Li interrupted at once.
Somewhat angry, Xiaoxian said, “I don’t want to talk to you anymore. No men are good. As the saying goes; magistrates are free to burn down houses, but the common people are even forbidden to light lamps.”
The two men laughed heartily at the same time, with a touch of lewdness. As if infected by their strange laughter, Xiaoxian uttered an uncontrollable sneering laugh. The crisp laughter, mixed with the rolling sounds of flying wheels, composed into a wonderful and inspiring “melody of winter” in the chilly air and flowed like waves on the highway bound for Niagara Falls.
This exciting romance thriller is live on Amazon now.