Mr. Liu's grunt is a morse code of annoyance, but he grabs the photograph
by a corner and leans in until his eye almost touches the surface.
Probably, he says. I can't be more sure than that.
Do you have files on the case?
Mr. Liu's mouth freezes in mid-chew. What is this about? he
I don't mean to accuse. My job is to check on cases like these
for Mr. Allen. Sometimes … He speaks even more deliberately, struggling
to explain in the easiest vocabulary possible. People move to America,
get life insurance, and then have a fake death so they collect on
the money. Many similar cases in China. Maybe you have heard…
Mr. Liu is picking at a set of beads wound loosely around his wrist.
Buddhist prayer beads. Everyone here believes in superstition, burning
paper money at sundown every day for the dead, consulting fengshui
experts, avoiding activities based on dates and star positions. Mr.
Liu rubs one bead, then moves onto the next, and the next, a ceaseless
The man I examined died in a car accident, Mr. Liu says. Crushed.
Broken neck. Very typical. Nothing fake about it.
I understand. If I could see your files … I just want to note them
for my report …