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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

When the story begins, Mr. Chiu and his new wife are just wrapping up their honeymoon with a lunch in a city called Muji. After their meal, they plan to return to Harbin, where Mr. Chiu is a university professor. The two have been on their honeymoon for two weeks and are ready to return to their routine. Mr. Chiu is especially happy to be headed home because he is afraid of a relapse of acute hepatitis (which afflicted him three months prior). His wife complains of a headache, claiming she did not sleep well. She is also sweating. Though it isn’t explicitly said, it seems that she is beginning to feel ill. 

During their meal, a police officer at a nearby table throws leftover tea on Mr. Chiu and his wife’s feet, getting their shoes wet. Mr. Chiu reprimands the officer. He says that, as police officers, they ought to protect the public instead of disobeying the law. He is promptly arrested for being "a saboteur” and causing a public disturbance. His wife, who is described as recently out of school and therefore less versed in public altercations, watches in horror. Mr. Chiu is thrown in jail and then questioned by the chief of the bureau who wants him to write and sign a confession to his crime. During his initial visit to the Interrogation Bureau, the police pull out a surprisingly sizeable file on Mr. Chiu. He is left wondering how they already had this much information on him when he had never visited Muji City and worked three hundred miles away.

When Mr. Chiu refuses to admit to any crime, he is thrown back into his cell where he begins to feel sicker and sicker. He warns one of the guards that he has hepatitis and heart disease, and therefore could very well die without treatment. The officer brushes it off and tells him he must wait a few days until a supervising officer is in. He thinks of a quote from Mao Zedong and decides he might as well make the most of his imprisonment if he is already there. He ends up having a relatively peaceful time despite his illness.

He looks outside his cell, through the barred window, and sees something in the courtyard. It is a former student, Fenjin, who he assumes has been sent to help him by his wife. Fenjin is being tortured and held in the hot sun. Mr. Chiu is questioned again two days later and offered a written confession. To be released, all he needs to do is sign. Aware that his health is failing and Fenjin is being tortured, he signs, and they are released. 

Mr. Chiu had "made up his mind to do something" to retaliate against his unjust treatment, and so the pair walk around, eating and drinking in a half a dozen places. Fenjin is perplexed as to why his former teacher is eating at so many restaurants. As it turns out, Mr. Chiu is well aware that he is spreading his contagious disease. This results in an epidemic that sickens several hundred people and kills six.

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