Heart Crushing Palm, part 4

Madam Wang thought about it for a while and finally agreed. “Very well! It is your decision. But what do I get for a birthday present?” 

   “A big one! Let’s have a cute, fat, baby boy next year!” Lin Zhennan whispered in her ear. 

   “Bah, you old goat! Still talking nonsense in such a crisis.” Madam Wang’s face went scarlet, and she spat at her husband half in annoyance. 

Cross the Line and Die
Cross the Line and Die

Lin Zhennan grinned, and then left for the bookkeeper’s office so he could arrange to have the invitations sent out. The joke was just to ease his wife’s fear; he, himself, was still deeply worried. “Water a mile away can not put out a fire at hand. Terrible things will most probably happen again in the Escort House this very night. When our friends arrive, there might not be a Fortune Prestige Escort House waiting for them,” he thought to himself. 

When Lin Zhennan arrived at the door of the bookkeeper’s office, he was greeted by two very frightened servants.

  “Chief…Chief…Chief Master…something horrible…horrible has happened,” one of them mumbled in a trembling voice, 

   “What’s the matter?” Lin Zhennan asked. 

   “Bookkeeper Mr. Dong just sent Lin Fu to go buy some coffins, and right…right after he turned the corner on East Street, he fell to the ground dead,” said the servant fearfully. 

   “What? Where’s the body?” 

   “Still lying on the street.” 

   “Go bring the body back here,” Lin Zhennan directed. “Now, our enemies are becoming more reckless. They even dare to commit murder in broad daylight, and right in the middle of the street,” he thought inwardly. 

   “Yes, sir…yes, sir…!” the two servants answered, but neither of them moved an inch. 

   “Well?” Lin Zhennan roared. 

   “Chief Master, you’d better go have…have a look…at….” 

Lin Zhennan knew something bizarre must have just happened again. He gave a snort and walked toward the gate. Three escorts and five henchmen were already there. They stared through the gate, all looking very frightened. 

   “What’s going on?” Lin Zhennan demanded, and then saw for himself before anybody had a chance to answer. At about ten paces from the gate, an inch-wide line was drawn on the stone slab street in blood. Words also written in blood next to the line read, “Cross the Line and Die.” 

   “When was this drawn? Did anyone see who did it?” asked Lin Zhennan immediately. “Earlier, when Lin Fu died on East Street, everybody was crowding around him to see what was happening. There was no one here. I don’t know who would do such a thing,” an escort answered. 

Lin Zhennan raised his voice and said loudly, “I, Lin Zhennan, am tired of living; I’d like to see how I’m going to die, after I cross this line.” He strode out of the gate. 

   “Chief Master!” Two of the escorts cried out. 

Lin Zhennan waved them off and stepped over the line. The blood used to draw the line and the words was still wet. He scuffed the words out with the bottom of his shoes and then went back through the gate. 

   “This is just an attempt to scare us,” he said to the three escorts. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. Brothers, would you please first go to the coffin shop, and then make a visit to the Heavenly-Peace Temple in the west end of town to have the monks come over for a mass to calm the souls, deliver them from purgatory, and drive away the evil spirits?” 

The three escorts watched the Chief Master stepping over the bloody line with their own eyes. Seeing that no harm had befallen him, they were quite relieved. After getting their weapons, they walked out the gate side by side. Lin Zhennan watched them stepping over the bloody line and rounding the corner of the street. He waited a little bit longer and then went back into the house. 

Walking into the bookkeeper’s office, Lin Zhennan said to Bookkeeper Huang, “Mr. Huang, will you please write some invitations to some relatives and friends for a wine party in honor of my wife’s birthday?” 

   “Of course, sir! And which day would that be?” Bookkeeper Huang asked. 

Suddenly, sounds of running steps came from outside. A man rushed in through the gate. Lin Zhennan stuck his head out and heard a loud thud. Someone had fallen. Hurrying to the place where the sound came from, Lin Zhennan saw Escort Di, one of the three escorts he just sent to the coffin shop, laying on the ground. He was barely alive. 

   “Brother Di, are you alright?” Lin Zhennan held him in his arms and asked frantically. 

   “They’re all dead, I…I…I ran back,” Escort Di gasped. 

   “Who did this to you?” 

   “Don’t…don’t know…don’t know….” Then after a couple of shudders, Escort Di lay still. 

Within minutes, everyone in the Escort House heard the news. Madam Wang and Lin Pingzhi both came out and all they heard from the crowd was: “Cross the Line and Die.”

    “I’ll retrieve the bodies of the other two escorts,” Lin Zhennan said with determination.

   “Chief…Chief Master…you can’t go,” Bookkeeper Huang muttered. “Great courage brings great rewards. Thirty taels of silver for the one that…that brings the bodies back.” He made the announcement three times, but no one answered.  (To be continued)

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