Book Excerpt: The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts by Shelton L. Williams

THE CHINESE MURDER

OF EDWARD WATTS

Covey Jencks Mystery, #3

Publish Date: December 8th, 2020
233 pages
Mystery / Humor

“The Chinese Murder of Edward Watts” is a Covey Jencks mystery. Covey and his partner in life, JayJay Qualls, take on a mysterious request from a client in the oil fields of Odessa. That mystery takes them all across the world to China, and they return home to deal with shady characters, spies, gangsters, and other tough customers. In an exciting last act, they solve a murder most foul.

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Out of Place, 1983

I felt like Death eating a cracker, or maybe worse. In fact, I could not eat, but I was starved. I could not sleep, but to call me awake was a lie. My eyes could not focus, though brilliant reds, blues, and greens flooded my senses. The smells, my god, the smells, were unworldly. I walked gingerly forward while almost clinging to the walls of strange buildings that were both different from one another and yet connected. I was not drunk, but the one beer I had consumed hours ago gurgled in my gut like it anticipated a major eruption.

No, I was not besotted, ill, or high on LSD; I was jetlagged in Taiwan, Bright lights, loud sounds, strange people. Welcome to China. But wait, I was the strange one. Who else wore blue jeans, an Austin College sweatshirt, or a Stetson to cover unruly hair? Who else spoke not a word of Mandarin or the local dialect? What I knew about China or Taiwan came from pictures in my textbook and old Charlie Chan movies. So, I really knew nothing of twenty percent of humanity. I was not ready for so many people in one place at one time, and I was certainly not ready for the billboards, oddly shaped lanterns, and electronics shop after electronics shop yet unopened but indistinguishable one from another. What’s the big deal with electronics anyway? As I walked on, few of the vendors glanced at me. No one laughed or pointed. No one paused from chores to note an American’s presence. I was invisible or at least unremarkable. Didn’t they know I was from Texas, the center of the universe?

Thirty minutes later, I thought I was settling in. There were fewer shops and more apartment buildings. I walked past the Bang-Kan Presbyterian Church. I encountered a mangy dog. I wondered if I could retrace my steps to the Attic Hotel, but I was enjoying recognizable sites. Taiwan is not so exotic after all, I thought. This could be Dallas. Then I saw something, someone, and all the strangeness reappeared. The someone also wore jeans. She had white hair, not black, but she was Chinese, not American. Clever me, I could tell by her eyes. Had I seen her back on Guangzhou Street? Had she darted behind a cart as I passed on the other side of the street? Whoever heard of an albino Chinese? Wait, was she following me? I decided to find out.

She was not behind a cart or a door as I approached. She was sitting on a bench on the edge of a small park. The streetlight illuminated her enough to know that she was pretty; her face seemed gentle; and her figure was, uh, perky. She was unfazed by my approach. She watched me cross the street and walk toward her. She smiled, and I wondered if we would be able to communicate. By this time, I wanted to communicate.

“Are you lost, little boy?” She asked.

That’s how I met Maggie Mae. Yes, she was a Rod Stewart fan, and her real name was Xiaoling Ning. That Chinese name she got, she said, from a Christian orphanage in Shanghai after her parents did her the favor of giving her away rather than killing her. Life must have been hard enough in 1960 for them to for them to be stuck with a baby albino girl, she reckoned. She learned English from the Baptists in the home and endeared herself to one Marybelle Martin of Memphis, Tennessee, a good Southern Baptist girl whose own family cast her out when Randy Jefferson got her pregnant in 1956. She lost Randy after telling him about the baby, and then she lost the baby in a miscarriage. The church saved her, and she dedicated her life to saving others.

That’s how she got to China in 1958 and how she met Maggie in 1960. Marybelle did not call the girl Xiaoling. She called her Tick Tock because the baby would only go to sleep in a rocking chair as Marybelle whispered tick tock, tick tock over and over again. Marybelle decided she had to leave China in 1966 as the Cultural Revolution ripped China apart, and she took Xiaoling with her. Unable to get the girl a visa to come to the U.S., Marybelle arranged for another Baptist orphanage, the Helpful Hearts Orphanage just outside Taipei, Taiwan, to take Xiaoling. Eight years later, at 14, an angry and traumatized Maggie Mae emerged, and she left the Helpful Hearts where no one was as helpful or as loving as Marybelle Martin. Maggie hit the streets. From then on, she used her English skills to help visiting Americans and Brits find their way around Taiwan.

It was a life, but she barely made a living.

Shelton L. Williams (Shelly) is founder and president of the Osgood Center for International Studies in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and he taught for nearly 40 years at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. He has served in the US Government on four occasions, and he has written books and articles on nuclear proliferation. In 2004 he began a new career of writing books on crime and society. Those books are Washed in the Blood,  Summer of 66, and now the three books in the Covey Jencks series. All firmly prove that he is still a Texan at heart.
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