He rests his hand on my shoulder. But it’s not a friendly gesture. I can feel the tension in his hand.
I look behind him and see Lucy Wu, standing over by the entrance to the video gallery, too far away for me to make out her expression, except I can tell she’s watching us.
“Let’s go,” he says.
We go outside. I start to turn down Heping Street in the direction of Xingfu Road, toward Lao Zhang’s house.
I turn to look at him. The frown from earlier tonight is back. “It’s better if you don’t come over tonight,” he says.
I shrug. “Fine.”
I should’ve figured. No way I can compete with a Lucy Wu. “Here.” He digs through his pockets and pulls out some cash. “Some money. For a taxi.”
I don’t take it. “Why didn’t you just tell me not to come?” “I didn’t think. . . .” He grimaces, shakes his head. “I should have. I’m sorry.”
I don’t know what to say. I zip up my jacket and wonder where I’m going to find a taxi this time of night in Mati Village. Down by the bus station, I guess.
“Yili. . . .” Lao Zhang reaches out his hand, rests it gently but urgently on my arm. “Don’t go home tonight. It’s better you go someplace else. Visit some friends or something. Just for tonight.”
That’s when everything shifts. I’m not mad any more.
“What’s going on?”
“Are you in trouble?”
He hesitates. “You know how things are here,” he says. “Anyway, it’s not the first time.”
“Can I help?”
I don’t know why I say it. I’m not even sure that I mean it. I still can’t see his face very well in the dark, but I think I see him smile.
“Maybe later. If you want.”
Excerpted from Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann. Copyright © 2010 by Lisa Brackmann. Excerpted by permission of Soho Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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