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I Felt Like a Criminal (Caitlin’s Journal, 3)

CD Knowles 1 month ago

“I felt like a criminal.”

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story. Below you’ll find the third journal entry that Caitlin Wang, our advice columnist, wrote after she and her husband, Dr. Li Wang (from UT’s virology lab) fled Austin in mid-February. Caitlin is currently in hiding, on the run from those whom she suspects kidnapped her husband. criminal


March 14, 2020

I’ve been spacing out these journal entries (I write when I’m in the mood) but I will continue to describe events in chronological order as long as nothing bad intervenes. Which is entirely possible from what I’m seeing in Li’s behavior, his curt answers when I ask him questions. He has become very secretive.

We fled Austin on the night of February 14. Yup, that was my Valentine’s celebration, a wild ride into the heart of the Texas Hill Country on an empty highway and dark back roads. Li still wouldn’t really tell me what was going on. “It’s all going to be okay, Kitty,” he kept saying. “We just have to be a little careful right now.” (He is the only person in my life who calls me Kitty.)

“But careful about what?” I asked. This was mid-February, remember, before Covid was much more than a whisper on the wind in the US.

“My sister Mei was working on a vaccine for a deadly virus in her lab in Wuhan. To put it bluntly, she discovered a few things she shouldn’t have. So the authorities took steps and made her disappear.” He paused there and I tried to decipher the expression on his face. That old chestnut about Asians having inscrutable faces is true, by the way. When Li is troubled, he totally turns inward and his face becomes as smooth and unreadable as a marble floor.

“Mei sent me some highly classified material,” he continued. “I will tell you more about that in the next few days, but –” he reached over from the driver’s seat and squeezed my hand, “– it is possible that what the authorities did to Mei they could do to me. I want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

I was silent a moment. I had tried to put thoughts of Mei’s disappearance and what it might mean out of my head. In a breaking voice I said, “Do you think they killed her, Li?” criminal

His hand tightened over mine. “I don’t know yet. I’m waiting to hear more from Fenfang.”

Mei’s daughter, Fenfang, a microbiologist, might have been silenced herself, but I didn’t want to bring that up with Li. My stomach started gurgling and my mind momentarily became useless. I remembered what Li had told me as we were preparing to leave Austin. “You can’t bring any electronics, Kitty. No computer, iPad, phone, not even your Kindle because those devices are too easy to track, and we don’t want anyone knowing where we are.”

“That’s pretty extreme, Li. How am I supposed to work?” At the time I thought I could still at least write my advice column.

“You’ll have to do it in longhand,” he said. “Anything else is too much of a risk.”

He himself had packed his entire home lab into four big coolers and several boxes of files and paperwork. All of these were loaded into the back of his truck along with six or seven thermal bags filled with milk, yogurt, bread, wine, meat, veggies. He would bring someone else’s computer, one that couldn’t be tracked, in order to continue his research. And he bought us both burner phones. I stared at mine knowing I could only use it for emergencies, and for the first time since Li had told me we had to leave, I felt as if we were truly on the run.

I felt like a criminal, but I had no idea what my crime was.


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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