I found Dave Stadtler at the third bar I checked, slumped over at a table past some bored African drug dealers and tired Mongolian hookers.

“My wife send you?” he asked after I shook him awake.

She had. Dave had been missing for three days. I suppose she asked me to find him because I was his only non-asshole coworker.

I’d been working for six months at Freshtake Inc.’s Beijing office. Dave was head of quality supervision, brought in from headquarters in Wisconsin. Besides him, every foreigner there was like me, sales staff. We sold expensive air purifiers to embassies, international schools, and foreign companies. Every week would conclude with an endless drinking session at the bars and clubs just up the street from our office in Sanlitun.

Dave and I were the two odd men out while all the other salesmen would get shitfaced and hit on any girl nearby. Dave was ten years sober and looked terrified by all the women at the clubs. I had no issue drinking, but I didn’t want to be like those other salesmen. I guess my failure to meet the monthly sales quota was proof enough of that.

“You started drinking again?” I asked Dave. “Where have you been?”

He looked at me with watery, unsteady eyes and sighed.

“Might as well show you,” he said.

We took a cab to a plain apartment block east of the Fifth Ring Road. The apartment was on the tenth floor, adorned only with Ikea furniture and a few empty bottles.

“It’s her place,” he said, sitting down on the floor.


He nodded toward the bedroom door. I walked in. There was a woman lying face down on the bed with her arms, legs and dark hair splayed out. I could see her bare right leg and half of her butt before a thin, bloody blanket swallowed her midsection.

I didn’t say anything, just stepped back out and looked at Dave.

“She just kept pushing me and pushing me and pushing me with that stupid little girl voice of hers and I just couldn’t take it anymore and I hit her in the face with the glass I was holding and it broke and that was it,” he told me from down on the floor

I kept staring, silent.

“It was never a problem for anyone else. Colson has a wife and kid and still brags about all his hook ups. And Rich, with those nude photos he gets sent on his phone. Everyone always going on about how Chinese girls just fall all over white guys. I felt like an idiot, you know? Going home from that back to my wife. I’ve got money. I’m not that old. I mean, I’m not young, maybe I’m a bit chubby, but… Instead all those, those bitches out there wouldn’t even look at me. Except her. I approached her one night when you all were too blitzed to notice. She threw herself at me, we could barely talk to each other or understand each other, and she still took me home. It was only supposed to be a casual little thing, but she kept clinging to me. I told her to leave me alone, but she kept calling and texting and sending messages and calling again and again. Tons. Dozens in a day. Fifty calls one night. And when I came back here and told her off, then she starts insulting me. Now look at what happened. She ruined my life,” he moaned, head tilted back toward the ceiling.

I didn’t scold him or console him or tell him I was getting the police. I just got up and walked out, closing the door behind me. I’d never hear the girl’s side of it. He’d erased that. Only his story was left now, his desire, his excuses. I didn’t pause once as I walked away from the apartment where there had once been two living people and now there was something less than one.

~ fin ~

Aaron Fox-Lerner was born in Los Angeles and currently lives in Beijing. His fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Crime Factory, Grimdark, The Puritan, and other publications.