Serial Saturday #11: A Bookstore In Matsu
Please enjoy Part 11 of Murder In Kinmen, 'A Bookstore In Matsu':
Pei-Shan's irritation at the world, in general, seemed to be a constant companion these days and the trip to Matsu followed by the exhaustive process of finding a rental car and then directions to the bookstore had neither improved her mood nor lessened her irritation by one iota.
As she crested a hell at the north end of the island, she began to swear. "Great! It's a dead-end and there's still no sign of this damn place." She sighed. There was no other choice: she'd have to head back into town- but as she reached the end of the narrow, country lane and began to turn around, she finally saw what she was looking for: a worn, weatherbeaten sign for the bookstore that had been half-hidden by a shrub pointing at a dirt path that sloped down toward the shore.
Pei-Shan parked the car off to the side of the road, neither knowing nor caring whether it was an actual parking space or not. She slammed the door shut and slipped the keys into her pocket, walking over to the start of the dirt path and glaring down the hill. There, at the bottom, was the bookstore she had been looking for. It had seating on the roof which overlooked the ocean below.
"I hope this is worth it," she said to herself.
The path down to the bookstore was longer than she expected. The building was a shde of teal green and appeared to be built into the side of the cliff itself, looking out into the sea and the islets and rocks that surrounded Matsu.
There was always a certain amount of paranoia in Kinmen. I mean, China was right there. You couldn't escape it. Matsu was further out and more isolated and alone out in the ocean. There was no China. No Taiwan. Just Matsu and this strange bookstore.
She reached the front doors to the bookshop and a bell tinkled as she opened the door and stepped inside, taking off her sunglasses to get used to the dim light inside. At the far end of the shop, there was a bank of windows and a sliding glass door that led out onto the roofpatio. In the far corner, there was a spiral staircase that she guessed went down to the other floors.
"Can I help you?" There was an old man sitting behind the counter, his nose stuck in a book. He did't look up from it.
Pei-Shan stepped forward. "Can I ask you a question?"
"You a customer?"
"No, I'm a Police Detective from Kinmen."
"You're a long way from home," the old man said. "Am I under arrest?"
Behind his book, Pei-Shan saw the old man smile. "I only answer questions for customers," he said.
"I'm looking for Chen Xu," Pei-Shan said. "I wanted to talk to him about a couple of news stories he wrote."
The old man slowly lowered the book. "I'm Mr. Xu," he said. "Which news stories?"
Pei-Shan reached into her pocket and pulled out the photocopied pieces of paper she had brought with her from Taipei and placed them on the counter.
"You found both stories?" Mr. Xu sounded surprised. "How did you manage that?"
"It wasn't easy," Pei-Shan said. "They were buried pretty deeply and ten years apart."
"Yeah, it was the second one that really got me into trouble," Mr. Xu said. "One breadcrumb they could tolerate."
"So what do you think happened?" Pei-Shan asked.
"Let me turn around the quation on you," Mr. Xu said. "What do you think happened?"
"I think the General's daughter defected and then she... tried to return home."
"That's more or less what happened," Mr. Xu said. "But you're not here about the General's daughter. You're here about her granddaughter."
"Yes," Pei-Shan said. "She's dead and I want to know why." She hissed in frustration and turned away from the counter walking over to the window and peering down to the rocks below. "I'm not going to let this happen again. Not this case. Not this time."
Mr. Xu chuckled. "You sound just like her, you know."
"Like who?" Pie-Shan asked.
"Well, well, well," said a very familiar voice behind her. "I should have figured it'd be you." Not quite wanting to believe her ears, not quite sure of what she was hearing, Pei-Shan slowly turned around and met the steady, amused gaze of her identical twin sister.