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Abandoned (Caitlin’s Journal, 7)

CD Knowles 4 weeks ago

Abandoned

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Below you’ll find the sixth journal entry that Caitlin Wang, our advice columnist who went missing in mid-February, wrote after she and her husband, Dr. Li Wang (from UT’s virology lab), fled Austin. Caitlin is currently in hiding from the men she suspects of kidnapping her husband. She has given us her journal to publish in the hopes that her story will help her find him. Here’s what we’ve made public so far: Dr. Wang’s sister Mei was researching corona viruses at the Wuhan lab in China, but she disappeared under suspicious circumstances after having mailed highly classified material regarding her research to Dr. Wang here in Austin. (It was sent on an external hard drive hidden inside a key fob.) When he received news of her disappearance from his niece (who lives in China) in February, Dr. Wang packed up his lab and some supplies, and he and Caitlin set out to live off the grid in a cottage outside of Doss, TX. While there, Dr. Wang had been working in full Hazmat gear on various vials he stored in the fridge. He told Caitlin that if anything should happen to him, she must take the key fob to a researcher in Galveston named Otto Ling. In her last entry, Caitlin was concerned because Li hadn’t returned from the grocery store in over three hours, much longer than was needed to pick up a few provisions. abandoned

***

May 15, 2020

Things are happening quickly and I’m terrified. Li never returned home yesterday. I waited by the door for hours watching for his truck, my stomach turned to jelly, but he never showed up. Around three in the afternoon, I saw a cop cruiser bumping down the dirt road and everything in me froze. Two officers stepped out of the cruiser and I went to greet them, my heart beating so fast it made my whole body shake. “Are you Mrs. Li Wang?” one of them asked.

“Yes! Where’s my husband?”

“Well, that’s what we’re trying to figure out, Ma’am. His truck was found abandoned on the side of US Highway 87, no one inside. Can you tell us anything about that?”

I thought quickly. Li had repeatedly warned me that no matter what happened I was not to talk to the authorities. “Were the keys in the truck?” I asked.

The other officer held out his hand, key chain dangling from his fingers. “We removed the keys, Ma’am. Big fancy truck like that — you can’t just leave it on the side of the road with keys in the ignition.”

“I understand,” I said. “But Li — my husband — was going for a hike today. Which means we need to get back to the truck quickly with the keys. He’ll be wanting to drive home as soon as he’s done with his hike.”

“Do you know why he’d leave the keys in the truck?” the first officer asked. abandoned

I was doing my best to appear calm, unperturbed, normal. And so I gave a laugh. “Typical Li,” I said. “He’s the absent-minded professor.”

Driving to Li’s abandoned truck with me sitting in the back of the squad car like a criminal, the cops grilled me on Li’s work and what we were doing here in Doss, Texas. I gave them the usual story: Li and I were older — retired — and we decided to take advantage of a friend’s cottage and leave Austin to escape Covid. (I could sense they thought it was ridiculous to worry about Covid but ignored them.) At the truck they let me out and watched as I climbed into the vehicle, immediately switching on the engine to get the A/C going.

“You planning to stay here and wait for your husband, Ma’am?” the cop riding shotgun called out.

“No, he’s too slow,” I said. “He’ll call me when he’s done with the hike and I’ll come get him.”

Once they were gone I heaved a sigh of relief. I wanted to climb out of the truck and look around. Maybe there were signs of a struggle, or some other indication of what had happened.

I circled the truck, but nothing. Inside there was nothing, too — no wallet, no phone, the glove compartment empty save for insurance and registration papers, two packs of cigarettes and some hand sanitizer. But at least I had the precious key fob, hanging (along with the one that actually started the truck) from a chain that also held a silver ornament shaped like a four leaf clover and a brown leather strap embossed with Li’s initials. I started the truck, thinking I’d drive to the cottage and regroup. One problem was that I rarely drive (I have a little Fiat at home) and had never driven Li’s Ford-150. But I managed okay and in my mind I focused on who I could find to talk to about Li’s disappearance. Someone in his lab? His niece Fengang in China? Otto Ling? The whole thing was sickening and I began crying again.

But when I pulled up in front of the cottage, I saw that the front door was open and my heart leapt. Maybe Li had somehow gotten back and was inside? I jumped from the truck and ran for the cottage, feeling hopeful. But of course there was no Li. Instead the cottage had been ransacked and it looked as if the FBI had come through, drawers opened, papers and files all over the floor, cushions slashed, all the little vials of god knows what that Li was studying removed from the fridge. His borrowed computer — the first thing I looked for — was gone along with pretty much everything else in his makeshift lab.

But at least I had the key fob. I tightened my palm around it as I wondered what to do next. abandoned

***

We’ll post another journal entry on Monday. To start at the beginning of this story, when we first announced that our advice columnist, C.D. Knowles (now confirmed to be Caitlin Wang), had gone missing, please click here. This will be an ongoing publication as we continue to sift through her journal and post the entries that explain everything.

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