The Rebel: Chapter 11
Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-12
When Lin Nansheng took Miss Lan and her son into his place in Edinburgh Tower, he specially invited a chef from the Red House Restaurant to cook a sumptuous French meal. Then, with a tender look in his eyes, he said, "I remember that you liked to eat fried steak."
Miss Lan didn't reply. Looking down at her mushroom soup, she hesitated for a long time before picking up a spoon. Sip by sip, she drank very slowly and very carefully. Ever since the office of the Eighth Route Army from Chongqing secretly sent her to Shanghai, she seemed to have turned into a different person overnight. Every day, other than taking her son to school and picking him up, she would also buy groceries, cook meals, grow flowers, and clean the rooms. Then at night, she would huddle under the covers knitting sweaters while teaching her son to speak English and the Shanghai dialect. Having lived with the nanny for three years, her son had already picked up a mouth full of the Northern Jiangsu dialect, making him sound like an unruly boy who'd come here escaping disaster.
Today, after eating the last bit of dessert, he said to Lin Nansheng, "I want more."
Miss Lan said, "Zilu, you need to remember to address someone before speaking to them."
So, her son grinned and called out, "Uncle."
Lin Nansheng smiled. "You have to call me dad."
Miss Lan immediately looked up and discovered that Lin Nansheng had turned to look at her.
However, Zilu took this time to say in a heavily accented Shanghai dialect, "My dad died a long time ago."
Deep into the night, Miss Lan tucked her son into bed and shut off the bedside lamp. Tiptoeing her way out of bed, she felt her way around in the dark until she reached Lin Nansheng's room. Once she burrowed under the covers, she pulled one of his arms under her head like a pillow and let out a long sigh. "Do you know what they call a woman like me in Shanghai?"
Without waiting for Lin Nansheng's response, she continued. "Worn-out shoes, pheasant, trailing oil bottle, bearer of ill luck…"
"I've already booked the church." Lin Nansheng interrupted her. "It's for next Sunday."
"You should get a refund. Can someone like me still walk into a church?"
"I invited Mr. Du to be our witness."
"I won't marry you." In the dark, Miss Lan stroked Lin Nansheng's face. "Don't forget, from the moment I left Chongqing, I've become a wanted fugitive."
"All of that's over already," said Lin Nansheng. "I am capable of protecting you now."
Not long after the NBIS underwent reorganization to become the Counter-Intelligence Bureau under the Ministry of National Defense, Lin Nansheng was appointed as both Shanghai's Intelligence Commissioner and the Director of the city's Investigative Department while also holding the position of the president of the Eastern News Agency. He was responsible for all the collection and analysis of political and military intelligence in the Shanghai area, reporting directly to Nanjing headquarters.
Miss Lan fell silent for a bit before letting out a long sigh and burying her face in Lin Nansheng's embrace. "You should find a good woman and have a child of your own."
Lin Nansheng suddenly thought of Zhu Yizhen. He reached out and held Miss Lan in his arms. Suddenly, he let out a silent laugh by her ear. "It's very possible I'll be the one burdening you. One day, I might go to sleep and never wake up."
"Then I'll sweep your grave every year, and burn incense for you every day," said Miss Lan earnestly. "Until I die."
However, the one who died earlier than either of them was unexpectedly Zilu. One night, several months later, an open fight between the military and the police that shocked the country happened in front of the Jindu Theatre on Fuxi Road. After three soldiers took down a police officer, the situation quickly devolved into a group brawl. Many police officers arrived as reinforcement from the police station, while the two jeeps full of soldiers blocked off every path to the scene.
That day was a Sunday, and the theater was playing the movie, 'Wedding Candles in Longfeng.' When the sounds of gunfire filled the area, the nanny pulled Zilu along and followed the surging crowd towards the exit. Just as they were about to escape, a stray bullet hit the nanny and also hit Zilu. Many citizens fell to the ground with miserable screams.
For three days in a row, Miss Lan locked herself in her room, neither eating nor drinking nor making a single sound. Just like the year when learned that her husband had died in battle, there was no trace of tears on her face.
On the fourth day, she pushed open the door and came out of the room. Without looking at Lin Nansheng, she sat down in front of the table and inhaled the congee in the bowl in one go. After finishing almost all the snacks on the table, she returned to her room, lay down on the bed, and sank into a deep sleep.
The fifth day was the day of the public memorial service, which saw the Ministers from the Defense Department and the Ministry of the Interior arriving at the Central Funeral Home. Miss Lan woke up the first thing in the morning. Carefully, she trimmed her nails, bathed, then washed and dried her hair. After putting her hair up in a bun, she then did her make-up. Finally, she changed into a plain qipao and put on a hat with a veil, before going directly to Lin Nansheng's study. Pulling open a drawer, she took out his Browning pistol, inspected with practiced movements, then chambered a bullet into the gun.
This was the first time she directly looked at Lin Nansheng over these past five days. "I've said it before. Sooner or later, I'll implicate you."
"I'm not afraid." Lin Nansheng returned her gaze. "But I won't let you throw away your life."
"When he died in battle at Xiaguan, I said to myself that I would avenge him and I would live for our son," said Miss Lan calmly. "Now, I only want to die."
With that, she turned to leave. However, Lin Nansheng embraced her in one move. Miss Lan didn't struggle. She only turned her head to look at the bonsai plant on the windowsill.
Lin Nansheng lifted her veil and turned her head towards him. Looking into her eyes, he asked, "Can't you live for me?"
There was a subtle change in Miss Lan's eyes. In an instant, she jammed the gun under Lin Nansheng's jaw. "Don't try to stop me. I'll shoot."
Lin Nansheng continued to hold her. His voice sounded increasingly hoarse. "If you're alive, then you can at least sweep their graves every year and light incense for them every day."
Zhu Yizhen's primary duty was to transmit the intelligence Meng Annan collected to their base in Northern Jiangsu. Sometimes, she would also receive orders from the base. Whether their coded messages were written on paper or directly stitched onto embroidery depended on the level of classification. Then, they would be sent to the Wuyue embroidery shop on West Maqiao Lane, where they would be assigned to a line to be transmitted.
After the delegation from the Chinese Communist Party left Shanghai, the frequency of the orders she received increased. She ended going to the embroidery shop once or twice almost every week. Today, she discovered someone following her the moment she left the embroidery shop. After taking a long circular detour, she assumed that she'd been overly suspicious. However, just as she returned home and changed into more casual clothes, the sound of knocking came from the door.
Opening the door, Zhu Yizhen immediately saw Lin Nansheng. He stood wearing a grey gabardine changshan and a bowler hat, with a newspaper in hand. As though he were coming home, he took off his hat and handed the newspaper to Zhu Yizhen. "I still ended up finding you."
Zhu Yizhen stood there in a daze. Even after Lin Nansheng walked inside, she was still biting down hard on her lip. Lin Nansheng surveyed his surroundings, his gaze finally landing on the wedding photo hanging on the wall. "Is this your new superior?"
Zhu Yizhen paused. "He's my husband. I got married."
Lin Nansheng glanced at the man in the picture again. "He's at least ten years older than you."
It was only then that Zhu Yizhen discovered she was still holding his hat and newspaper. After putting them down on the table, she sat down on a chair nearby and fixed her gaze on the spotless floor. "What about the people you brought? Let them come in too."
"So you've long known that I was in Shanghai." Lin Nansheng silently sat down across from her and looked at her for a long time before lowering his gaze. "You should have let me know that you were still alive."
"How could I tell you?" asked Zhu Yizhen indifferently. "If you're not here to capture me, then please leave."
"But I still have many things to say to you." Lin Nansheng didn't move from his seat. He played around with his hat for a bit. "Why aren't you asking me how I found you?"
Zhu Yizhen sat unmoving. However, her heart leapt into her throat.
In truth, Lin Nansheng had discovered Zhu Yizhen through one of her embroidery pieces. Two months ago, the field agents of the Counter-Intelligence Bureau uncovered a CCP Communications Station in Xinzhuang. Amongst the many confiscated goods, Lin Nansheng found a piece of embroidery with "Butterfly Yearns for Flowers," and immediately thought of the days he'd spent living in the attic room with Zhu Yizhen. However, he acted as though nothing was the matter. Alone, he spent almost half a month searching through the embroidery shops in Shanghai before finally finding the familiar needle technique, color and composition in the Wuyue embroidery shop. Over the next few weeks, anytime he had time to spare, he would sit in the teahouse opposite the embroidery shop. Sipping a cup of Anji White Tea, he would play Go with the other guests while watching the women who entered and exited the embroidery shop.
However, he didn't tell Zhu Yizhen any of this, nor did he bring up Ji Zhongyuan. He only sighed after a lengthy silence. "As long as you're alive, it's better than any other outcome."
With that, Lin Nansheng put his hat back on, stood up and walked to the door, where he suddenly stopped. "Don't worry. I won't come back again."
Zhu Yizhen still sat there without moving. She calmly looked at him, her gaze so dark not a single bit of light shone in her eyes. She sat until she heard Lin Nansheng's footsteps disappear up the stairs. Then, like a deflated balloon, she slumped down in her chair. However, Zhu Yizhen recovered quickly and got to her feet. Running over to the window, she watched until Lin Nansheng's back disappeared from view, then changed out of her casual clothes in her bedroom. With a basin of toiletries in her hands, she hurried down the stairs, crossed the streets and entered a bathhouse.
She bought a ticket at the front door, and not long afterward, when she exited from the back door, the basin in her hand was no longer there.
The place Zhu Yizhen went to was the French News Agency. The moment he saw her in the cluttered room, Meng Annan said severely, "I'm telling you, you can't come here."
"But this is an emergency." Zhu Yizhen quickly recounted what had just happened. "I can confirm that he followed me all the way from the embroidery shop."
"What's your relationship with him?"
"Now isn't the time to talk about that. You have to give the order to clear out the embroidery shop."
"If something is going to go wrong, it's already too late to do anything about it now," said Meng Annan without a second thought. "I've seen your background materials. Why haven't you ever brought up this person called Lin Nansheng?"
"Is that something I can bring up? If I brought it up, I would have become a Kuomintang operative. I wouldn't live long in this world after that," said Zhu Yizhen. "Back then, my assignment was to use the exchange of information to draw him in and turn him to our side."
Meng Annan thought about it for a bit. "If my deduction is correct, then the reason he went to find you is to send you a message. The embroidery shop is possibly in danger of being exposed."
Zhu Yizhen's eyes widened. After a long while, she said, "This isn't possible. He's a secret agent."
"Who isn't a secret agent in our circles?" Meng Annan thought for a while. "Go home and move the transmitter for now, then wait for me at our backup location."
"Can I still go back?"
"If you can leave, then you can definitely go back." Meng Annan suddenly laughed. "If he wants to hook a big fish, he would first capture and interrogate you. Then, he would put our house under surveillance and wait for his chance. He wouldn't choose to alarm you first for no good reason."
"You seem to understand their capture methods pretty well."
"Of course," said Meng Annan. "If we don't understand them, then how could we win against them?"
"Maybe he's attacking the mountain to frighten the tiger first, then observing us afterward."
Meng Annan laughed again. "The battles on the front-lines have already progressed to this stage. How could they still have this kind of patience?"
Late at night several days later, Zhu Yizhen was lying on the bed in the cabin they'd prepared as a backup. "I suggest sending a message to our base to request an investigation into Lin Nansheng's identity."
Meng Annan turned over on the floor. "As an intelligence agent, you shouldn't have this kind of curiosity."
"This isn't curiosity," said Zhu Yizhen. "This is related to our work in the future and our safety."
"But can you guarantee that the investigation process will be safe? That there won't be any insiders planted by the enemies along the way?" Meng Annan sighed, then spoke slowly. "You should know that our intelligence agents in Shanghai aren't only from the East China Bureau. They're also from the groups in Yan'an, the Jiangsu Committee, as well as the Comintern. If you want to investigate a person who's off the grid, then there's a possibility of information being leaked. It will bring both sides the risk of exposure."
Zhu Yizhen had nothing more to say. She closed her eyes in the darkness. However, memories of the past continued to run through her head.
After a lengthy silence, Meng Annan suddenly asked, "Is this person's identity really that important to you?"