“A short time after the incident when Mo-Xiu walked in on mother and Ying-Quan and left in a rage, my father committed suicide in the prison. After that, there were only the three of us to carry on the family business. Our resources were so exhausted that without the use of the cursed $200,000 we could not have given father a proper burial.” Qian rubbed his saddened eyes but could not shed any tears.
Qu-Kai was curious as to why the oldest brother didn’t show up for the funeral. “Mo-Xiu didn’t know your father was dead?”
Qian shook his head. “His whereabouts was unknown and as I mentioned before, there was no contact from him for seven years after he stormed out on mother.”
“How is it possible that he didn’t read about it in the paper? Suicide by the accused in such a high profile case is really big news. He should certainly have read about it. In which case, if he didn’t hurry home to help the family he was derelict in the most cowardly way.”
“If the family hadn’t had such a large debt he might have. Why do you think he ran away? He saw mother being abused and instead of trying to defend her, he became outraged and left in anger; refusing to listen to any explanation from her. He chose to believe what would give him an excuse to run away from his commitment. You are right to accuse him of cowardice for running away after his heroic talk about supporting the family when father was sent to prison. If it had been me, I would have called the police. Even if I couldn’t get Ying-Quan arrested, at least I could have given him a severe beating!
Mother certainly couldn’t go to the prison morgue to identify the corpse. The thought of father being dead would kill her inside and make her so weak she would not be able to stand or walk. So, only Mo-Fan and I went to the prison to identify the body and pick up his personal effects. The grey stone walls were so formidable and impregnable that I couldn’t imagine how anyone could ever leave, once engulfed within their confines. I remember thinking that I would never visit this place again.
After passing through the main gate, we were led through a meandering corridor toward the morgue. The air was damp and stale and gave me the feeing that I would suffocate. You could almost smell the desperation in the air left from years of confined condemned occupants. Why would my father choose to end his life in this abysmal tomb and abandon his family? In fact why would he end it at all?
We finally arrived at the door of the clinic serving as a temporary morgue. The guard opened the door but stopped short of entering and motioned us to proceed. Even though, as a guard, he was accustomed of exercising control over his environment, death seemed to be the one thing that was capable of intimidating him.
Father’s cold dead body was lying on a table covered by a white sheet and I could scarcely summon the courage to lift it. The expression on his face was the scariest thing I had ever witnessed. It was so surreal that for a moment I didn’t connect what I saw as belonging to my father. His eyelids were wide open, exposing his blood engorged eyes barely still in the sockets. His purple tongue was hanging from the side of his mouth, and his jaw could not be closed due to rigor mortis. The confused and frightened expression on his face had the look of a tortured soul regretting the point he had brought himself to and that he could not turn back.
The ligature abrasions on his neck left by the sheets indicated how he had struggled painfully in the final seconds of life. His purple face was full of wrinkles and his hair had turned white. Strangely enough, I had never thought of him as being old but now his appearance was definitely that of a man well advanced in years.
Ironically, his grey prison uniform, stiff body and purple hue seemed oddly harmonious. I had never thought of death as being purple until that moment. I closed his eyelids and suddenly, my heart felt a burst of intense aching that I think must have come from his soul. It flooded over my already unbearable pain causing me to let out a mournful cry of anguish.
The guard asked us to verify that the body was our father and we both nodded yes and then went with him to collect the personal effects. Spread out on a table, were the clothes he was wearing when he was arrested, his watch, wallet, some coins and an empty unwashed lunchbox. I choked back my tears when I saw it. For so many years I watched him come through the door carrying that lunch box and greeting the whole family. Though his eyes looked weary from a long day of work, I could always see his love showing through them from deep within him.
After we signed the required documents the guard brought out the photos they had taken to document father’s death. The expression on his face looked the same as it did lying on the table but to see him hanging from a ceiling beam with a white knotted sheet around his neck was even more gruesome. Beholding the actual instrument of his death connected to his body projected a stark brutal reality that was incomprehensible. I began to grasp, at that moment, the severe agony of his death and the intensity of the anguish that drove him to this end. Mother could never have survived such a sight.
After the guard gave us the certificate of death, we were given permission to move the body to the undertaker and so began the process of attending to all the legal affairs associated with his death. One thing that puzzled me was what had happened to all the money my mother had borrowed to give to the lawyer so my father could avoid prosecution. There was no court trial necessary now that father was dead. What had the lawyer done for us besides notify us of father’s suicide and where to go to identify and claim the body? It certainly couldn’t have cost 1.8 million dollars. Suddenly the idea sprang into my thought that checking the visitation log might answer some of those questions.”