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Where’s Otto? (Caitlin’s Journal, 10)

CD Knowles 2 weeks ago

Where’s Otto?

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. Below you’ll find the tenth 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 has been in hiding from the men whom she suspects of kidnapping her husband last month. She gave us her journal to publish in the hopes that her story will help her find him. (Note to the bad guys: the journal is NOT at Randi’s or Nicole’s house. It has been hidden well, so it’s not worth looking.) We highly recommend starting at the beginning with our series of videos, from when we first announced that Caitlin was missing til when we finally found her and met in person for the first time. If you’d like to start with her journal entries, click here. We’ve included a summary at the bottom of this post of the parts of her journal we’ve made public so far.

***

May 18, 2020 (Galveston)

Here’s what happened next. (I’m writing this late in the day, Monday.)

I was totally rattled when Otto Ling’s neighbor, Patti somebody or other, broke in on me in the shower. At least she had the decency to step out of the bathroom for a moment so I could grab Ling’s robe from the back of the door and wrap my wet hair in a towel. I had a lot of explaining to do, and since I couldn’t disclose the real reason I was here (to hand over the key fob), I had to quickly come up with another story. As a mystery writer, I knew to stick close to the truth.

“My husband is a colleague of Otto’s,” I said as I entered the kitchen where Patti was changing the gravel on the bottom of the bird cage. “He asked me to drive down here to deliver some documents.”

“That’s why you were using the shower?”

“I was filthy! It’s a long drive from our cottage in the Hill Country. Where’s Otto?”

Patti made a face. “Your guess is as good as mine. He left three weeks ago because his father was very ill in San Francisco and he had to go see him. I’ve only heard from him twice since, and now his phone’s been disconnected.”

“Shit!” I said.

“Shit! Shit! Shit!” screeched the parrot.

“Shut up, Lola!” said Patti. And then, suddenly, she began to cough, a dry hacking cough that shook her whole body.

“Are you okay?” I said, running to the sink for a glass of water.

Turns out she wasn’t okay at all. She’d been taking care of Otto’s parrot, Lola, for three whole weeks and was sick of it. (“Look where she bit me,” she said, holding out her wrist, which had a nasty purplish mark on the back of it.) She’d agreed to keep an eye on the house for Otto, whom she didn’t know well (he had bought the house six months ago with a plan to renovate, although he’d done nothing and the place was still a crappy hovel). And now, from one minute to the next, she felt really ill.

“Do you think you have Covid?” I asked.

She looked at me in horror. Her face had two bright red spots at the cheeks and she clearly was having difficulty breathing. “I’m exhausted,” she said. “I’m going home. You deal with the bird.”

So I was left with Lola. That was yesterday, Sunday.

I’m not too worried about catching Covid from Patti since Li inoculated me with the provisional vaccine he’d been working on while we were still at the cottage. But I am extremely worried about Otto’s disappearance — the fact that his phone has been disconnected.

Earlier today, after spending the night in Otto’s bed, I drove to his lab at the UT Medical Branch Galveston National Laboratory. There, they gave me a lot of trouble, even when I identified myself as Dr. Li Wang’s wife. I didn’t have the correct credentials no matter who I said I was. The lab is off limits to anyone without a key card. The only information I was able to get out of them is that Otto Ling is on sabbatical — no one knows where he is.

For a few seconds I was tempted to simply drop the damn key fob at the front desk, even though the person there insisted on stonewalling me. But then I thought no, those had not been Li’s instructions, and I have to keep searching for Otto Ling wherever he is on my own. So I drove back to Otto’s house, totally disconsolate. I’ll hole up here one more night.

Now it’s about 6:00 Monday evening. I stopped on the way back from the lab to pick up a bottle of wine, and of course I’m worried that someone could trace my credit card info, but at this time I desperately need to calm myself and booze is quicker than meditation. I will have two glasses of wine in the hopes it will help me to sleep.

***
Summary of What We’ve Made Public So Far

Dr. Li 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 Mei’s 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 small lab 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. One morning a few months after arriving at the cottage, Dr. Wang went to the grocery store but never returned. The next afternoon, two law enforcement officers showed up at the cottage with the keys to Li’s truck which had been abandoned, keys still in the ignition, on the side of the road. Caitlin left with the cops to get the truck and returned to a ransacked cottage — Dr. Wang’s computer and all his scientific research had been stolen. She decided to search for him, first in the small town of Doss, and then back in Austin at their house, which had also been burglarized. At that point she had no choice but to drive to Galveston to deliver the key fob to Otto Ling. Arriving in the middle of the night, Caitlin slept in her truck, and when no one came to the front door the next morning, she jimmied open a window and let herself in where she found a chatty African Grey parrot and came face to face with Ling’s angry neighbor.

We’ll post another journal entry on Wednesday. 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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