My Short Stories

Fiction

Story by Lee Su Min

Are you behind the door?

Before Rosemary Died

Chapter 1

The words of a dying person always took precedence over a living person. The reason being that that was probably the last thing he would have to say to you. But how would you know?

Over the years, I have collected words said by Rosemary, meaningful things that she said to me and words of sentimental value. You could not say that I wasn’t close to my sister.

And when someone was dying there were usually a lot of visitors. They were kind and wanted to offer help and prayers were usually made.

I remembered the day very clearly.

I came back, walked passed the amour of people gathered together, taking the carved wooden staircase curving to the upper floor to look for Rosemary as usual. Their heads were bent around the small statue of Mother Mary with a candle lit by the side. The combined effect of their prayers was loud enough for me to know what the gist of their petition was. They were praying for world peace. As usual.

I took the steps up the carved wooden staircase to the bedroom to discharge my belongings and to freshen up before I came down again, as was usually the case. The bedroom door was ajar. I could see some light coming from inside. That meant that Rosemary was still awake.

There was no sound. Usually Rosemary would greet me the minute I walked in.

Surprised by the silence, I continued on my way, leaving my bag on the chair and taking off my watch. Rosemary was not in the bedroom, so I walked to the bathroom to check in on her. I saw that the water was full, and I could see a body lying inside. Hold it, it was Rosemary!

Shocked, I went up further and then I found her entire body submerged in the water. There were some bubbles coming out from her mouth indicating that she was still breathing. It took me ten seconds to realize that I mustn’t pick up Rosemary’s body to allow her to breath properly.

I let her lie there and I decided it best not to disturb her. She was at one of her spa baths again. Rosemary spas herself at least once a week.

I knew Rosemary. She did not like to be disturbed if she was in a spa or sauna. Fifteen minutes later I went in there to look for her again. There were no more bubbles coming up from her mouth.

I was always at Rosemary’s beck and call. She told me what to do in the mornings and usually the first thing that I did when I woke up in the mornings was to ring her although we stayed in the same house.

Five minutes later I heard the shower. Rosemary had finished her spa bath. I was quite happy for that, as that meant that she could go out for dinner with me. I didn’t eat with the rest downstairs. I dreaded the food. I

always got a very lull, full stomach after eating, which made me very lethargic. The buffet spread was always too much for the guests and the kitchen had to finish it within the day, before the food turned sour.

I was not a greedy person by nature. And I didn’t liked food.

Chapter 2

As a walked out of the room, I saw the medicine by the side. Rosemary suffered from depression and she needed those pills to help her sleep. And then I saw a note on the dressing table. Could Rosemary have left a suicide note? If it were so, then it best that it be kept until after investigations were over. The beneficiary was usually the first suspect. Although I did not kill her, I was the only beneficiary to her estate.

When you have committed murder, you would want to be away from the scene of the crime as quickly and as far away as possible. But when you were not the direct cause of death, and you didn’t know who and how the death arose, you became unsure of whether you should report the matter. Any act committed by you could be misinterpreted and you might be called upon to give testimony, which might become incriminating.

I decided to look at what the note said:

I, Rosemary Chan Lay Geok, of NRIC S7508748C, hereby leaves my property at this address the Hamlet Mansion, to Johnny Wong Keng Hock. Could I get a lawyer and produce the document in court now?

Oh my God! In Rosemary own handwriting, she said that she wanted to give all her money to Johnny her God son!!

There must be some mistake! I rushed into the bathroom again hoping to revive Rosemary in order to confront her. She might not be dead as it could just be a mistake. And then I saw her face - a pale green.

The note I held in my hand if found on my body would disinherit or exonerate me. However there was no signature to it. But of course anyone who knew Rosemary’s handwriting would know that she wrote it.

I knew that I must leave the room now to go downstairs. I could not report the death of Rosemary as I was the sole beneficiary and the beneficiary was usually the prime suspect. Apart from that suicide is almost impossible to prove without a suicide note. I could not produce the note as it declared Johnny as the beneficiary instead of me, her sibling and the only next-of-kin.

I took time to compose myself, and then I walked down the steps wondering if and how to break the news to the rest of the crowd downstairs.

Chapter 3

As I was saying the rosary I was still calm about the whole thing. Jasmine was at the third decade when I sat down, so that I quickly joined in to continue from there. Jasmine was a cashier at the Bank of Kuwait and married with two sons.

As far as I knew, nothing bad would happen to you if you missed one or two decades of the rosary, although most Catholics do all the five decades once a day. I tried my best at the task but was not able to pick a suitable time every day.

After Jasmine, Jimmy spoke. Jimmy is Jasmine’s husband. We waited for him to finish his petition, then we continued with the fourth decade. “Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you amongst women, and ….”

All along I was planning my escape route. I knew that the last person who saw the deceased would be called for questioning. I have nothing to fear from investigating officers except that the suicide note was with me and that I could have picked Rosemary up immediately upon seeing her in the bathtub.

Now the shock of seeing Rosemary in the bathtub and then having to be detained in the same house made it altogether very difficult.

And then Keith prayed, “Let God heal Rosemary Chan’s cancer, let the pain go away, and let God heal her wounds, …. Rosemary was only thirty-six, it was not time for her to die yet …. “. Keith was the other regular who owns an interior designing company.

I wanted to stop Keith on the spot, I have material information which might discredit his prayer. But that I didn’t want to mention it now. I could not declare Rosemary’s death until the doctor came and put his stamp on a piece of paper. I could not say anything until I have destroyed the suicide note.

I opened my eyes and saw that everyone was deep in prayers. I was considerably stressed by now. I wanted to leave the group to go to the kitchen to get myself some water. None of them were looking at me. And I was unsure when I should take my leave. I needed to be around to see to the whole thing, and to turn up at the right time to claim my inheritance.

Chapter 4

Rosemary was dead! I wanted to tell the crowd. Stop these incessant irrelevant prayers on her. But at the same time I knew that I had to remain silent. I needed someone else to tell me that he saw her dead body. So I waited. Calmness was a virtue. I remembered Rosemary telling me that I must be calm under all circumstances. I let Mei Lim pray what she wanted 6 to petition for and I continued with the act. Mei Lim was Keith’s wife and a housewife.

All the time I was wondering if I should pretend to be ignorant. The water I drank was ice water so that I sneezed. The circumstances that led to Rosemary’s drowning was still unknown. I still couldn’t say for sure if she were dead as I only saw her fleetingly. I have never seen a dead body before and I really wondered if I should drop everyone here downstairs and went up to check on her. I pondered on the thought, and then I decided to keep numb about the whole thing.

And then suddenly Damien asked, “Where’s Rosemary? Haven’t seen her for quite a while.” I knew that I must say something by now. Silence was not good for the soul. Automatically I said, “she’s upstairs,” a non-committal statement which did not say one way or the other. I could conclude that Rosemary was upstairs without having seen her, as if she were at home she was likely to be upstairs. Her car was parked at the garage. Anyone could see that.

Chapter 5

From the corner of my eye I saw Johnny going up the stairs. Not that Johnny could not go up, but that there was a dead body in that part of the house. If Johnny walked into the bathroom and saw Rosemary lying in the bathtub he would alert everyone here. So far I didn’t want news of Rosemary dying spread around. My reasons were simple: I have not procured a copy of her Will yet. I was her sister her next-of-kin and she could even have drafted a Will on favour of Johnny already.

At the same time, I could not stop Johnny from going up to look for Rosemary. With quick thinking I shouted after Johnny, 

“Wait, Rosemary is coming down,”

“Oh, I was just going up to get my jacket,” Johnny said.

“Rosemary will be down soon,” I replied.

I knew that there was nothing I could do to stop Johnny from going upstairs. In the meantime, the rest were at the Mysteries. I let the combined effect of the prayers settled my anxiety. Then I told the crowd,

“Rosemary and I have decided to go for a holiday,”

“Oh good, where?” Keith asked.

This piece of news was neither here nor there, and normally announced when both parties were present. But I felt that I must make known the bond between Rosemary and myself before anyone else interfered. Everyone looked at me with a question on their face, and again they asked, “where is Rosemary?” I saw that and I quickly added,

“Oh, we decided on this yesterday,” and in order to give credence to my words, I added,

“Over dinner at The Bar last night,”

“Where is Rosemary?” again someone said.

“Rosemary is upstairs, she will be coming down soon,” this would refute any allegations that I might have been the one who killed her, since I was ignorant of her passing.

And then I heard a loud cry. It must have been Johnny’s for only he was upstairs. Minutes later we saw him rush down the stairs.

“Oh my God!” he cried.

“What’s wrong?” the prayer leader Damien said.

“Nooooo ....” Johnny stammered.

I was waiting for him to declare that Rosemary was dead, and true enough he did.

“Rosemary is lying in the bath, unconscious,” he said.

“Are you sure?” Damien the leader of the fellowship asked. “Her face was green!” Johnny said.

“No, Rosemary wasn’t dead,” I blurted out. The image of her blowing bubbles in the water from her mouth still eluded me.

“You saw her?” Daniel, who hardly spoke, asked. Daniel is the younger brother of Damien.

“Yup, Err, …. when I had dinner with her last night,” I said.

“I thought I saw you go up just now?” Jimmy said.

“No,” I had to say that. I didn’t want anyone to say that I killed her. Fact was that I didn’t. If she died, then she killed herself. No one asked her to do the spa bath.

Chapter 6

Rosemary came back last night. I could hear her talking to me.

“Where is my bag?” she asked.

“Bag?”

“Yes, the one that I always carried with me,” she said.

“I don’t see it anymore,” I didn’t want to say that I had given it away.

I still missed Rosemary a lot, so that I continued talking to her …

The next morning, I woke up before dawn, as though I had been awake all the while in another dimension.

In the morning in my pyjamas I had my usual Americano coffee for breakfast. And I asked for my cold milk as usual. The waiter brought me hot milk. I wanted to yell at him. But Rosemary told me to pardon him, “be more tolerant,” she said. I waited a long while before I could finish the coffee as it had to take time to chill out to room temperature.

Strange that Rosemary was still talking to me. I wondered if she knew that I could not see her.

Chapter 7

Over the week, my most imminent and pertinent question was whether I should show the suicide note. I procured it under circumstances which I did not want to reveal. If Rosemary didn’t die in the bathtub, then the note has no meaning at all. It could just be an expression of thought and contents therein could be changed at any time.

But if the note was written just before she died, then it would be construed as a Will, as it contained directions as to how her property, this house that we are sitting on, should be dealt with. I was no legal expert, but I knew a thing or two. So, shall I tell the crowd that I went up to see Rosemary shortly before she died? Assuming that she was drown in the bathtub before Johnny went up to see her.

At the same time, I wondered if Johnny had seen the note before I went up. If he had seen it, chances are the that he would have kept it.

I decided to consult Louis about this.

Louis my fiancée was a lawyer and also Rosemary’s spiritual counsellor. If Rosemary had made any Will she would have asked him to draft it. I made a photocopy of the note and kept the original.

Louis did not think twice before he told me to write a cheque for three thousand dollars.

“For that I will ensure that the property would be in your name.”

“Thank you, Louis,” was all that I could say.

At least I got some reassurance and I was feeling much better. Then I left the office to go to Kenkucky Fried Chicken for some chicken wings. But I couldn’t help thinking of Rosemary’s face in the bathtub and I was sure that no one else went up to see her after I came down and before Johnny went up.

I, Alicia Chan Lay Cheng, being the only next-of-kin made me the rightful owner to the title by default. The house was mine! To claim what was mine wasn’t wrong, despite the note on the dressing table suggesting that the house was to be Johnny’s.

Chapter 8

Louis rang me today and told me to go to his office. “A Will must be witnessed by two persons,” he looked at me and said. Then he paused and further added, “I could give it retrospective effect,”

“after all, I was her spiritual counsellor, it is not inconceivable that she looks for me,” he continued,

“I would be the one who dated it as well,” further on he said.

“Put it as 8 May.” I blurted out.

“Huh? That was the day that she died, isn’t it?” Louis asked.

“Err, yes, she wrote it the day she died,” I said.

“How did you know?” Louis was as sharp as a leopard, I guess all lawyers were.

“She must have written it before she died, it makes sense,” I said, getting a little bit nervous.

“I know you didn’t kill her, she died of suffocation – to be precise, drowning by water.” Louis vouched for my innocence.

“How long do you think I have to wait?” I asked. It is normal to be impatient under such circumstances, to want to get it all done away with.

“Perhaps, two, three weeks, depending on the Court calendar,” Louis said.

“But wait! Who did Rosemary leave the money to in her actual Will?” I almost forgot to ask Louis.

Chapter 9 

It was not unnatural to miss a person after she has gone away, and it was helpful to keep one or two of her items as momentos. I began thinking of what items I must take from Rosemary. Rosemary had a large collection of jewelry and I particularly liked the red pendant. She wore it whenever she was in a good mood. And I have been out with her on several of those occasions. I also liked the one that I strung for her - I learnt the technique from a Japanese lady. But that piece didn’t seem to be around. Perhaps she had kept it in another box.

I was there on the day of the wake, which was held in the living room downstairs. Rosemary’s coffin was placed directly in front of the marble fireplace the unmistakable stamp of the occupant when she was alive. What was uncommon was the fact that Johnny wasn’t there. Johnny was her God son, and if not for anything else, he was the one that found her dead. I had to frame Johnny so that it looked as though he had killed Rosemary.

Whilst everyone was saying their prayers, I tip-toed upstairs. Half way through the steps, I saw the pair of slippers that Rosemary used to wear, still boldly displayed as though the owner would come back and claim it anytime. I picked it up from the steps - an automatic reflex, then I heard Rosemary said,

“Hey, put it on, see if it fits you,” the voice unmistakably hers.

So then I put it on.

I took another bold step, this time all the way up to the landing. As I reached the top, I took a look down and saw that everyone was deep in prayers. No one would have seen me.

The bedroom door was ajar, and I didn’t think that anyone was inside. In any case I took a calculated risk, if found I could just say that I wanted to use the toilet and that the toilet in my room was wet.

True enough, no one was inside the bedroom. I was here at the right time. I glanced around and naturally arrived at the drawing table. There was a small jewelry box and I opened it. A large Peranakan broach was staring at me and I was surprised at how large the diamonds were. I never saw Rosemary wearing that!

I grabbed the broach and quickly put it inside my pocket. And then having taken such an expensive item I was quite satisfied. I told myself not to be greedy. This diamond broach could fetch at least twelve thousand dollars in the black market.

Without a sound I walked out of the bedroom, down the stairs where the muffled sound of the combined prayers continued to occupy the hot and sultry night. I came home by car, but I offered no one a lift and I drove straight out of the quiet prayerful night of Hamlet Mansion into another scene where Louis my fiancée had agreed to meet with me ….

I had forgotten to take off the pair of slippers. My Ferragamo shoes were left behind.

Chapter 10

Sergeant Jacob called me today. I had expected the call. Having been at the scene of the death I was bound to be questioned. The only problem was that I had to lie. I didn’t want to give the impression that I was the last to go upstairs, but that I thought it better to surrender the suicide note in case I became the suspect. I had to refute any allegation that I killed Rosemary.

For every wrong doing there must be an accomplice. This usually gave the culprit a sense of security and a certain amount of reassurance that he could get away with what he was doing, be it right or wrong. This person we called him an alibi.

Louis was my alibi and very helpful as he knew the law.

“You could tell the Police that there was a suicide note. Pretend that you had seen it on the bed, just beside where she was lying when she slept. After all, you were living with her, weren’t you?” Louis said.

“Yup, so I should say that I found it well before she died?” I asked innocently.

“Yes, of course!” Louis was at the top of his voice.

“And then date it the day after she made her Will,” I continued, trying to be calm.

“You still haven’t told me who Rosemary left her money to in the Will,” I said, “I was the next-of-kin the beneficiary by default.” I emphasized.

“Then you wait for the Police to pit the evidence on the crime scene,” Louis further advised.

We must act rationally. But at some point-in-time we have to do something which might turn the tide in our favor. Louis my fiancée was my confidant. I have not told Rosemary about our relationship as I knew that Rosemary was also interested in him.

Although Rosemary and I were sisters, we didn’t look very much alike. Rosemary was shorter, and she kept short hair, whereas I liked to keep my hair long, tied in a bun. Also, I never wore pants except for a pair of jeans. I would say that on the whole I looked more attractive than Rosemary. However, that was merely my opinion. Louis has never made any comment about my looks which was something I was most unhappy about.

Chapter 11

I went to his office every time I saw Louis.

I would stop at the drop off point at Tower 3, walked up the escalator to the second floor to the Mexican Café and have some coffee and some food the name of the dish I couldn’t remember. And then I would take the lift located on the lobby directly to the fourteenth floor where his office was.

As the lift was ascending passing the fifth floor, I felt nausea and started to vomit.

It must have been the Mexican food. I told myself. But that I took only coffee just now. Could it have been the dinner last night? I screwed my brains trying to find an answer. There was no reason for me to feel nausea unless I was pregnant. Immediately I thought of Louis. Shall I approach Louis?

We were only engaged. If I got pregnant it would put me in a bad light. Moreover, it would affect my inheritance. Would a sibling with a fiancée be entitled to inheritance? The answer I would need to consult Louis again. Louis is indispensable!

Chapter 12

Today I received a text from someone: Your life is in spiritual bondages. Hidden camera.

I wondered if Louis has CCTV in his office. But that was not important. All I wanted to do was to break the good news to Louis. But before I could do that, I threw up on his carpet in the client office.

I simply did what I was told not to do.

The minute Louis saw me, “Are you pregnant?” he asked.

“You come with me to the clinic,” I asked Louis.

“I am busy these few weeks, I have an important client from KL,” he explained.

Further on Louis added, “Let me know the result.”

Good! At least he was showing some concern. I thought to myself. And then I went straight to his toilet on the fourteenth floor to clean myself up.

My iPhone rang. I picked it up and the caller hung up. I saw the text message again – hidden camera. Why would anyone want to film me?

Chapter 13

Ok, it must be the job of inspector Jacob. I called him inspector Jacob and not Sergeant Jacob as I knew that he was after me. I was waiting for him to question me about the pair of Ferragamo shoes I left on the staircase when I changed into Rosemary’s slippers. Why would I want to do that? Why would I wear my shoes halfway up the landing? It was certainly food for thought.

Over the next few days, I tried to think of many reasons for my odd behavior. I couldn’t tell anyone that I heard Rosemary’s voice, for they would tell me straightaway to see a shrink.

At the same time, I remembered hearing someone at the shower after I saw Rosemary at the bathtub. Who was that? If Rosemary died in the bathtub then it wasn’t she who was showering, which meant that someone else was in that part of the house at the time. And then I did not see him but that in all probability he must have seen me going into the bathroom.

OMG! He would also have seen that I did not pick Rosemary up from the bubble bath …. Hey! But wait!! If he didn’t think fit to save Rosemary from drowning why would I think otherwise?!

I love Rosemary. Rosemary was my sister and my only other relative apart from Louis. Louis was my fiancée and until I bore his child I was not related to him by blood.

And fact was I was now pregnant with his child. Louis was aware of it but that he was busy attending to his business. This client from KL …. Hold it! Was she Louis’ other girlfriend? Women usually became particularly suspicious of their husbands when they were pregnant. Louis’ lukewarm reaction upon hearing the news of my pregnancy certainly did not help me at all.

Chapter 14

I decided to be proactive. I browsed the website, and then my mind clicked. I logged into the Registry of Marriages and I found Louis’ name – he was married to a lady by the name of Rosemary Chan Lay Geok!!!

When did they get married and why wasn’t I informed???

I needed to say no more.

Louis would take precedence over me as a spouse on the claim for the inheritance from Rosemary as the spouse was always the first in line. The only way in which I could break up the relationship between Louis and Rosemary was to say that I was Louis’s common law wife and that I was now pregnant with his child so that the marriage between Louis and Rosemary became null and void.

Thank God I was already pregnant.

I went to the gynecologist and did my medical check-up, duly on the appointment date. Then I went to the Mexican Café where Louis’ office was, pondering on how to break the good news to Louis.

Of course, I won’t know if it were a boy or a girl yet.

I was surprised to see Louis’ office door locked, the newspapers lying on the floor outside his office suggesting that he had not been in for quite a few days.

No need to worry. I told myself. You have Louis’ number.

I rang the man and he picked up the call straight away.

“Hello dear,” the voice unmistakably Louis’.

“I am … “and before I could finish, Louis had hung up the phone.

I told myself the line was bad. He was in KL. No reason to get alarmed. I rang again.

Louis’ never picked up the call.

Seven months later, Alicia was safely delivered of a boy.

Alicia named him Johnny Chan.

Hamlet Mansion the house where the rosary prayer fellowship was regularly held was transferred to Louis in name, he, being the deceased’s spouse. The house was still there to date but Alicia never went back again.

The man Louis was at large. He never came back to claim his son. Louis was never a criminal for he knew the law. Then who killed Rosemary?

Hope you enjoyed the story you've just read. I wish to write more stories to amuse my readers!