Five: Mum’s the Word

DSCN2245_croppedHe’d never seen Megyn without makeup and while she was still a very beautiful woman even after being awakened in the middle of the night and driving for an hour, her hair stuck out on one side, no red showed on her lips and a frown had replaced what Spence thought was a permanent smile.

Spence had come down a half hour earlier. He took a seat at one of the lobby dining area tables near the back. Hearing someone in the kitchen, he’d gone back and bribed the clean-up man with 100 RMB, about $15, to unlock the beer cooler for two King Longs, one for each of them.

He’d already finished his bottle as Megyn clomped through the door in black flats. From the look she gave him, he wished he had another.

She eyed the empty bottle as she sat down and turned her chair so she faced him, their knees almost touching.

“Did you call the Consulate?”

“Uh, no. Not yet.”

“The Police?”


Spence turned the bottle in his fingers and kept his eyes down.

“Jesus!” It practically exploded from her lips.

“Spence, you are going to be so screwed, you’ll be lucky to ever get out of China. At an absolute bare minimum, you’ve hidden a crime, a major crime. And by doing nothing, you’ve given the killer time to get away, clean up clues he might’ve left, and establish an alibi.

Spence bit his tongue. Everything she said was right.

But there were other circumstances.

“Megyn, I know I’m taking a gamble. But I’ll be gone in a week, less if I have to. Once I’m out of China, it’s a whole different ball game. That spot in the forest was pretty far in — I didn’t see anyone else in there. The body might not be discovered for a few days. That’s all I need.”

“What do you mean ‘for a few days? Ever have a dead mouse inside the walls or under your house? In a couple of days they stink. Anyone within half a mile will know something’s dead, and that it’s something big.”

Megyn shook her head and continued.

“What have you been watching on TV? I can’t believe you can be so cold and analytical about a decomposing body not to mention it’s headless. What if someone comes across the head first?”

Her face drained to the same color as the fluorescent lighting and she put her hand to her lips.

Recovering, she continued her rant.

“Spence, you are hiding a gruesome murder. That’s a crime. You could be sent to prison, a Chinese prison. I don’t know Chinese prisons but I’m pretty sure they’re not pleasant.

“At the very least,” she went on, “you’ll be convicted and expelled and almost certainly banned from China. After Shanghai, I’ve been seriously considering the future and how it might involve us. While I will have most of my life in the US, I’d still like to be able to come here, see my family, and I’d like to be able to do that with you.”

Spence chewed his lower lip before speaking.

“That’s why I sent the email.”

Megyn froze.

“What email?” She asked, barely moving her lips.

Spence explained he’d written out everything he could remember, encrypted and sent it — “by anonymous email” — to the consulate in Beijing.

Megyn’s jaw crept downward as he spoke.

Megyn stood up, “I can’t do this.”

She took a step toward the door but then stopped and turned, hands on her hips.

“And you don’t think the NSA and the CIA won’t be interested in an encrypted email message to a United States embassy that says it’s from the Whitehouse?”

“But they won’t know who sent it!”

“Spence, even I know they can get the IP address logs from the anonymous email website. That’ll peg this hotel,” she waved her right hand over her head but returned it to her hip as she continued. “Now, how many Americans do you think are staying in this hotel? One? Oh, maybe not. Maybe there are … what? One?”

Spence felt the same as when his mother had confronted him, age eight, with the pocket knife he’d shoplifted at the sporting goods store. The humiliation of having to confess his crime to the owner and then stock shelves in the store for a month was worse than any short-lived beating.

Spence sat motionless, head down.

Megyn glared.

Neither spoke for almost a minute.

Megyn sighed as she sat down.

“I’ll call the Police and be your translator. My parents can get us started with the Chinese legal system — they know a lot of people here.”

Jesus, Spence thought, this is just like the knife incident. This is not what I want Megyn to be. How did we slip into these roles?

She reached over and put her hand on his.


Making a decision, Spence straightened up in the chair. He put his hand on top of hers, looked into her dark brown eyes and slowly said, “Megyn, I love you. There’s no question in my mind. And there’s no question that you love me — I can hardly believe you’re here with me in the middle of the night. I really thought you were going to walk out.

“That email, you’re right. It probably attracted the attention of the NSA computers that monitor what enters and leaves the US on the internet. They’ll have it decoded …”

His voice trailed off for a moment before he continued, “But I didn’t commit a crime in the United States. The US government will be interested and probably have some meeting to decide what to do. And while they might tell the Chinese government, there’s not much they have to gain from that except maybe some diplomatic good will. What I saw is a crime in China, internal to China, and up to China to pursue. What I did by not reporting it might make me an accessory but, well, I guess there’s no way to know what the Chinese Police will say until we hear from them.

“If whoever decodes that message in the states sits on it for a couple of days or, more likely, leaks it but without telling them how they got the story — I am a US citizen, after all — then I won’t be involved. And hopefully it’ll stay that way until I leave this country a week from tomorrow.

“I’m gambling that I’ll be gone by the time the Police become interested in me.

“But all of that aside, Megyn, I love you very much and I sincerely, deeply appreciate your thoughts, concerns and advice. But I am the one who runs the greatest risk in this, and I will decide what to do. And if it’s really stupid and I ignore your loving advice and fuck it up, well, then so be it. I’ll accept the consequences. They’re mine and mine alone.”

Megyn took a long, slow breath before nodding.

“You’re right, Spence. It’s your responsibility. You make the decision. I think I was more angry at how I was feeling — like you needed to be scolded or something. I hated being in that role. That’s not what I want for us.”

They both smiled.

“I’m tired, you’re tired,” she began. “You witnessed something way beyond the worst I can imagine. I don’t know what I would’ve done. I’d’ve run screaming into the middle of it to save that poor young man and, from what you say, I’d probably be dead with my head cut off, too.”

Spence pushed back the image that tried to swim up in his head.

She began to wind down, “But we’re here now. You need to do whatever will protect you, Spence. You are an innocent bystander in a very, to you, foreign place. Where we differ is deciding what to do next.

“As you say, there’s a chance — I think it’s a very remote chance — that you’ll be out of the country before the Police come looking. I hope you’re right.”

Spence took her hand again and squeezed it.

“I’ll sleep on it. We have all day tomorrow together and can talk about it again if we need to. If I change my mind, I’ll let you know and we can go to the Police.”

Megyn looked at the clock on the side wall of the lobby restaurant.

“It’s almost 2:00 AM now. I’ve got an hour drive to get back to my parents and I dare say they’re going to want to know just what I’m doing driving all over China in the middle of the night. I’ll tell them you were sick from the food or water. I’ll then get some more sleep — you woke me up, you know?”

Spence nodded as she went on, “I can be back here at 9:00 AM. I told the students to be ready to leave the hotel at 10:00AM so that’ll work fine.”

“I thought it was just you and me tomorrow?”

“When I spoke with Dr. Xiaosheng on Tuesday — he’s the Dean of ISS and in charge of the program you’re on — he wanted a couple of the students to go along. He’s paying the bills so we need to do what he wants. His idea is for them to soak up as much American from you as possible. He’s supposed to pick three students to go with us but I don’t know who they’ll be.”

“If the Police show up before then … ? ” Spence’s voice trailed off.

“Then you’ll call me right away so I can come and translate. If that happens, I’ll let the school know. I think you’ll be done teaching here. And the whole program may be affected but, well, let’s hope we don’t have to find out,” Megyn finished.

Their chairs scraped the floor as they both stood.

Walking hand in hand to the lobby door, the only sound was the click of Megyn’s shoes on the marble floor.

He waved as he watched her car turn left into the main avenue and disappear.

Worst day of my life, he thought looking out. Across the street and behind the row of closed shops, Mount Luojia was a dark hole.

Spence nodded to the night attendant behind the front desk on his way to the elevator and his room.

Shifting from side to back to his other side in bed, each scene from the day replayed itself, one at a time.

Spence thought sleep would never come.


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