Hearing Chen Ge’s question, the three people in the cage had different reactions. The old man kept licking his fingers silently like he was trying to recollect the pleasant taste of the food he had just eaten, whereas the young woman widened her eyes and struggled in the cage like a fish out of water. The middle-aged man had the most unusual reaction; he was the only one out of the three who kept his eyes on Chen Ge.
“Why are these three people kept at the mental hospital?” Chen Ge walked to the old man’s cage first. Inside the cage sat two plastic bowls. The old man realized that someone had gotten close to him, but he did not show any sign of fear. He sat in the middle of the cage and continued to suck on the oil stains on his finger.
“The person who was transferred from the first sick hall is him.” Try as he might, Chen Ge could not see anything particularly special about the old man. “His hair is growing unevenly. Someone has recently shaved him, and this clump of hair should be new.”
Seeing that Chen Ge was reminded of the hairs that were nailed to the nurse’s station. One of the strands had white hairs mixed in black hairs; they likely belonged to this old man before him.
“His hair is so long even after a shave. Looks like he has been trapped here for a long time already.” When Chen Ge was comparing the hair samples, he had decided that they came from four different people, but there were only three before him. “One is still missing.”
Chen Ge’s eyes scanned the young woman before stopping on the middle-aged man. His hair was long and unkempt. “This person’s head doesn’t seem to have been shaved before.”
Chen Ge became more careful. Shaving seemed to be the killer’s weird habit. Perhaps it was a way of toying with his victim, but why would he let the middle-aged man be? Did the man know the killer, or was he the killer?
Chen Ge was shocked by his thought. In the hallway that connected the first and second sick hall, Chen Ge had caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar face; it had been an uneven face, a face that was twisted.
To be able to walk around the sick halls freely and follow Chen Ge, the twisted face should have been the killer, but there was now this suspicious, middle-aged man. It was possible that there was more than one crazed killer who liked to trap their victims.
Chen Ge gripped the mallet, and a worse scenario appeared in his mind. What if everyone in this mental hospital, other than me, is a killer?
Of course, the chance of that was low. He paused to think before stopping to look at the young man. Both of the men showed no sign of answering him, so Chen Ge tried to remove the gag from the young woman’s mouth, hoping to get some information from her.
“Don’t worry, I’m here to save you.” Chen Ge tried the lock on the iron cage. Without a key, with just the mallet, he would need to work for who knew how long before he could release the three people.
The young woman seemed to have a natural fear toward living people. The moment Chen Ge got close, she started to mumble, shake her head and hands.
“Stay calm, I’m not going to hurt you.” Chen Ge walked to stop before the young woman. When he was about to remove the gag from her, the middle-aged man, who had remained silent throughout, suddenly spoke.
“I advise you to keep her gag on; she is very noisy.”
Turning around, Chen Ge was greeted with a pair of dark and fully guarded eyes. It was unknown whether the middle-aged man treated everyone like this or just Chen Ge. There was a natural disgust that radiated off the man, like the things Chen Ge was doing heavily repulsed him.
“She is very noisy?” Chen Ge was not afraid of talking to them. What he was afraid of was their refusal to communicate. As long as these people were willing to talk to him, he had a chance of getting useful information from them.
“Yes, very noisy,” the middle-aged man answered succinctly. He seemed to think that communication was something disgusting as well.
“Can you tell me why? Was she traumatized in some way?” Chen Ge asked two consecutive questions, but there was no answer from the middle-aged man.
It was not until Chen Ge reached his hand into the cage to remove the woman’s gag that the middle-aged man said, “Don’t know.”
“Then, what do you know? Since you don’t know this woman, do you know the old man in the first cage?” Chen Ge asked the question that was on his mind. “Why does his cage have two plastic bowls but yours and the young woman’s only have one?”
“I can tell you, but in return, I hope that you won’t remove the gag from that woman; she is very noisy.” The middle-aged kept repeating that, and Chen Ge was curious why. In any case, he agreed to the trade, at least on the surface. “Okay, but only on the condition that you do not lie to me.”
“I never lie.” The man sat in the cage and began the story in a gravelly voice. “The old man’s body is bad, but his temper is very worse. After his wife left, he was left at home alone, and his life depended on his son. His son was a doctor, and even though his salary was not high, it was enough to keep two people afloat. However, who knew what got into the old man’s head because he found himself a widow and remarried. His son did not protest. He moved out and continued to mail his father money every month.
“Unfortunately, bad things happen to the best of us. According to rumors, extended exposure to mental patients turned the son, who was a psychiatrist, insane, and he ended up injuring a few of his patients. The son lost his job, and his victims’ families pressed to sue until the son’s family had lost everything.
“The son needed money for treatment, and the payment for government mental hospital was 4,000 a month. This was an amount that he did not have. When he had no one to turn to, the hospital where the son once worked at came to the rescue. With a price that was much lower than the government hospital, they accepted the son as one of their patients.
“The once doctor was now the patient. This pushed the son even further over the edge, and until the hospital was closed, he remained an untreated patient.
“During the period the son was hospitalized, the old man’s body continued to deteriorate. He was too old to go work, and the government stipend was all spent on his son’s medical fees. Eventually, the new wife divorced him. He complained to his son, who was now home because the mental hospital had closed down. He hoped that his son would turn his life around and fight the mental sickness.
“Unfortunately, not long after that, his son was reported to have bitten someone from the same village. Once he acted up, the son would turn highly destructive. With no option, the old man built an iron cage and locked his son within.
“This continued for some time until even the old man himself fell ill. He could barely feed himself much less seek treatment for himself or his son.
“Looking at his son inside the cage, who had gotten worse with time, he came to a decision.
“He waited until his son was acting crazy and placed two bowls outside of the cage. One was filled with clean water and the other mixed with rat poison. He was going to let his own son decide whether to live or to die.”
The middle-aged man’s expression did not change when he told the story, but his face turned paler, like the speech had drained him. “This is why there are two bowls of water inside the old man’s cage.”
After listening to the story, Chen Ge was reminded of that sentence he saw at the nurse’s station—I will repay everything that you have done to me.