The Only Girl in China by Eric Qiao

(about this author)

  • Adoptee Ed Li is on a mission to find his missing sister. An elaborate plan is devised that involves him teaching in a rural Chinese village, which Ed soon discovers it isn’t his idea of a good time. In fact, when he sees a chance to quit, he takes it. But just before he can get out of Dodge, a local girl is murdered.

    Suspect? That Chinese teacher from America: Ed.

    With the help of his female colleague, Ed sets out to clear his name, uncovering a web of deceit in a village that's on the verge of becoming a lucrative jade mine. The deeper he digs, the more horrors he unearths. With memories of his sister drawing uncanny parallels to the victim’s life, possibility of redemption and revenge looms…


    In the car, passing the countryside, passing random stone houses here and there, with old newspapers covering the windows, with inhabitants’ drinking water out of brick wells, recycling shit as fertilizer as means of sanitation, and I think, this is China, the nation with the fastest growing GDP. Their government is pouring millions in the military, billions into a space program; they’re reaching for the moon, forty years behind good ol’ USA, while people starve, while justice is ignored. Back home, some folks say China is an economic powerhouse, the future of our beloved world. Others say it’s still a Third World toilet. The former must be high on crack. The latter I want to ask them, where’s the damn toilet? Let me know when you find one here.

    Lorie’s hands are on the steering wheel, foot on the gas pedal, doing one hundred twenty kilometers per hour. We don’t say anything for five kilos. Hearing muffled vrooms of the German V8. Then the GPS directs us to take a right. Lorie steers without slowing down. Her muscles tense, like she wants to break the damn steering wheel in half. Six hours until my flight. One hour to go until the airport. The girl scout steps on it.

    Ahead, a shepherd with a long whip is crossing the road with two-dozen sheep. The herd blocks our path, now she has no choice but to halt in the middle of the one lane gravel, waiting for them slow-moving animals to pass. Finally, she breaks the silence by saying to herself, “When I find the killer, he’s gonna be sorry.”

    The case file is on my lap. I open the flap but close it. Don’t want to see it again. I draw a breath and ask her after two beats, “Who do you think did it?”

    “I don’t know.” She squints at the animals crossing the road. “But I have some ideas.”

    The shepherd whips a sheep in the ass, and the sheep goes, “Baah.”

    “Thing is,” she continues, “I can’t fathom why she was killed—killed in that fashion. The nature of the crime is so sexual…” In a whisper, she points out, “The girl was raped.”

    Actually, there’s no forensics report in the file we purchased. No coroner or pathology report. No autopsy was performed. The only science in the file is the estimated time of death. She was knife raped, but as far as intercourse goes, we should only assume. But I don’t say anything to Lorie. I’m leaving. I just nod.

    The animals clear the road. Lorie starts the car and shifts the gear. The vehicle throttles on again. Hands on the steering wheel, gripping tight, she’s saying to herself that she has to find the killer, do what she has to do because she is who she is. She’s not the type of person to flee from danger. She’s not made like that. A girl was killed on her watch. Escape when the going gets tough? No. That ain’t Lorie White. Nuh-uh. She says her name in the third person.

    I turn to her. Worried.


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The Only Girl in China

The Only Girl in China

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