Blood oozed from the gaping wound on his mummy’s head. But he was just seven years old and did not understand what was happening. Life was draining from her and then with a long sigh, her head dropped to her shoulder and she died. He shook her crying, “Mummy wake up, please Mummy, wake up.” He repeated it several times continuing to cry. Eventually tiredness overcame him and laying his head on her other shoulder fell asleep.
That day had been his seventh birthday. In the afternoon she had taken him to the pictures after which they went to a Chinese restaurant where his father joined them for dinner. On returning home his father had a couple of pegs of whisky and then left to play bridge with friends. When it was time for BJ to go to bed he undressed, changed into his night suit and said his night prayers with his mother. As she always did, she sat with him a while until he fell asleep.
He was woken abruptly by his father’s shouting. Through his sleepy haze he heard his mother’s distressed voice pleading, “Please don’t.” He got out of bed rubbing his eyes and slowly walked into their bedroom. Not for the first time his father was drunk and physically abusing his mother. Only this time she was on the floor against the wall cowering in great fear crying. In his raised hand was a long thick bicycle-chain lock.
He caught his father’s left arm saying, “Daddy, please don’t hit Mummy again.” But he shook it free and backhanded him sending him flying backwards. He hit his head against a wardrobe and fell unconscious. Whilst he was still out his father twice brought the chain down hard on his wife’s head. Blood splashed on the wall and her head and face as she slumped further down.
In a flash he sobered up, sank down on his knees beside her crying, “Sweetheart, I am sorry.” But it was too late. He had gone too far. Realisation dawned and the magnitude of his actions hit him.
He cried in anguish, “What have I done? Oh my God, what have I done?” Accepting the hopelessness of his situation, with head bowed and sobbing uncontrollably he dejectedly walked into the dining room. Taking a chair he carried it into the sitting room and stood on it. He still had the bloodied chain in his hand and wound it to the ceiling fan. He then used the belt around his waist to loop it to the chain and around his neck. He kicked the chair away and hung himself.
In the space of a few fateful moments BJ, still unconscious, was orphaned. He started to come round, his head hurting. The lights were still on. It was a while before he was able to fully open and focus his eyes. Seeing his mother slumped against the wall he crawled to her.
He slept soundly and the hours went by. The sound of banging on the front door woke him. On his way through from the bedroom he saw his father’s hanging body and the overturned chair on the floor. It was the servant, Bimal, at the door. The door opened into the sitting room and he saw the dangling body. Alarmed he crossed the landing to the next-door neighbour, Darius. A little animatedly he said, “Sahib is hanging from the fan.” He and his wife Nina had heard some shouting the previous evening and were now very perturbed.
Following Bimal into the sitting room, he saw the lifeless body with its tongue hanging out. He did not touch the chair. He was horrified and had to sit down. He rested his forehead on his hands at a complete and utter loss to make sense of this. But where was Violet, his wife? He felt an overwhelming sense of foreboding.
BJ was crying. His night suit was bloodied as was his head. Also, his mouth and jaw were slightly swollen, and there was blood on his chin. The neighbour asked, “Bimal, please get BJ washed and dressed and then take him to my place. Tell Memsahib to look after him for a while and I will explain later. Come back afterwards please.”
He took BJ to the bathroom. He did as instructed, dropped off BJ and returned. They walked into the bedroom. The sight that greeted them drained all blood from their faces rooting them to where they stood. Darius was forced to look away. It took a few minutes to get himself together before he had a closer look. The gaping wound now congealed with blood told its full story. She was dead. Rigour mortis had set in.
Each apartment had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, a walk-through larder with a sink and a kitchen. The block, which had six apartments, was owned by the River Authority. A gardener maintained the neatly-manicured lawns and garden. The neighbour telephoned the Authority Police and told them of the tragedy.
“From what you say, it seems the father killed the mother and then killed himself. How old is the boy?”
“Seven. Yesterday was his birthday.”
“What? His birthday! Poor boy. What a present! It will sully every birthday after this. We will need to talk to him to find out as much as we can. I know it will be difficult but we have no choice as he was the only one there.”
When the police arrived Bimal went to get BJ and brought him back. He made them tea and offered some breakfast savouries. BJ had already eaten a little in Darius’s house but he ate some more. The police and Darius partook using the time to consider the words to use in this tragic situation. But BJ cut across their thoughts. “Is my mummy dead?”
They looked at the floor and then at each other before the senior officer, an Inspector, nodded. The word “yes” hardly came out of his mouth so that he had to repeat it only louder. BJ’s lips quivered. He bit the lower one but he held back the tears. “Daddy is dead too, isn’t he?” Again the officer nodded this time not even attempting to speak. Silence descended.
The officer said, “BJ, we are very sorry about your mummy and daddy but I have to ask you what happened? Can you tell me?”
BJ nodded and thought for a while. “I do not know all of it.” He paused, put his index finger in his mouth, and tilted his head slightly looking at the ceiling, thinking some more.
“What time did you go to bed?”
“I don’t know. It was dark when we got home.”
“Got home? From where?”
“Mummy took me to the pictures, then we went to a Chinese restaurant where Daddy met us.”
“What happened when you got home?”
“Daddy had some drinks first and then went to someone’s house. I think he was going to play cards for money.”
“BJ, your face and mouth are swollen. How did you get hurt?”
“Daddy hit me.”
The Inspector was mindful of how a very young boy may be feeling, so he proceeded in an even gentler tone of voice. “BJ, when did he hit you? And why?”
“Daddy’s shouting woke me up. I went to their room. Mummy was on the floor against the wall crying. He was standing over her with a chain. I caught his arm and said, ‘Don’t hurt Mummy’. But he hit me.”
Darius said, “When I got here BJ was in his night suit which had blood on it. Do you want to see it? Also there was blood on his mouth and chin.”
They were beginning to piece together the puzzle. There was a bump on the back of BJ’s head.
“Then what happened?”
“I must have fallen backwards. When I opened my eyes I was lying beside the cupboard. I did not see Daddy. My head and mouth were hurting and I saw Mummy on the floor. I crawled to her shaking her to wake up.”
Silence followed again. The police decided they had put BJ through enough. But what was going to happen to him? So they could discuss his future, the Inspector gave Bimal some money.
“Will you take BJ for a bus or tram ride and treat yourselves to ice-cream or a milk shake or whatever. But please, before you go, will you make some more tea?”
The tragedy was beginning to increasingly take its toll on them. They figured they had at least the better part of the morning to get all organised before they left. They had never been in this position before especially having to deal with an orphan. Life had to continue for BJ with as little disruption as possible. But how? What could they do? They had no immediate answers. So they decided to sound out the local parish priest.
The mother was well known and thought of by her husband’s colleagues and neighbours. She was a devout Catholic who had taken BJ to 7 o’clock mass Monday to Saturdays and holy days of obligation and 8 o’clock on Sundays. She prayed daily. Often she would have her rosary in hand or in her lap as she knitted and BJ played.
The father was well known also, but for the wrong reasons. He had been a merchant seaman until a few months ago, and was away a lot of the time. He took to drinking heavily. But he was good at his job and made sure that he was never inebriated while on duty. He also liked gambling on horses and playing cards, usually bridge, for money. He was promoted to Chief Engineer at age 30 and became home based in charge of the dredgers. He had a provident fund which would pass to BJ, but he was a minor. The employer would have to create a trust, invest the money and, when he was 21, he would inherit the accumulated funds. Normally there would have been a death-in-service benefit, but he was unsure whether it would be paid as the death was by suicide. Meanwhile, he had to continue his education. There were no known relatives, his grandparents being deceased. Now here was BJ probably inevitably destined for a children’s home.
After discussing all this, they felt the best way to proceed would be for the next-door neighbour to take in BJ temporarily. Meanwhile, the Inspector would contact HQ about events. Although the deaths occurred on its property and they had full responsibility for policing, he would also liaise, out of courtesy, with the local police Inspector. Also the deaths needed to be certified before being taken to the Place of Rest.
The police officers studied the bedroom and sitting room making notes as they did so. This time, in view of BJ’s head injury, they also examined the cupboard. There were indeed traces of blood on the edge lower down. “That was lucky,” the junior-ranking officer said. “Had he missed it, his head might have hit the floor.” It was concrete with a decorated coating typical in the tropics. They left when they were satisfied they had got all they required.
Nina, seeing the police leave, joined Darius. Both were in shock. Not only had he been a colleague of the deceased but also friends who celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas and New Year’s Day together. As it was the tradition, everyone went to the city zoo on Boxing Day, so they had spent the whole day with a host of others picnicking on the grass. They played records on a portable player and the extroverts amongst them jived to the music. They were always very enjoyable outings. The next one was just about a fortnight away. Poor BJ. What kind of Christmas would he now have? No parents in his young life. How would it affect him?
The medical officer arrived to see the bodies and sign the death certificate. The undertakers arrived shortly afterwards and when the medical officer had finished, the bodies were removed.
Nina and Darius stripped the beds. Underneath the pillow on BJ’s bed Nina found a new white bible. She opened it and saw a photo of his mother, Violet, with a baby that could only be BJ stuck to the inside cover. On the adjacent blank page she had written:
“My beloved son, Bryan.
Happy seventh birthday.
Presently you are too young to understand but I ask you never be
without this bible with my photo. Read it, especially the words on the page I have folded. It will comfort you.
Try to keep the commandments and God will bless you.
Always remember whatever happens, I love you and will be with
you, no matter where you are and what you are doing.”
The following words were from Proverbs 3.
“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck;
write them upon the table of thine heart:
So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of
God and man.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
The final words of her message had now turned out to be prophetic as if she had had a premonition.
In tropical countries without refrigeration, food was spoiled quickly. Fresh food shopping was therefore an early morning daily routine. They collected the non-perishable foods and tins and what perishables that were still edible. Darius took everything to his home, while Nina stayed behind.
Click on the cart below to purchase this book:
Prices in Australian Dollars
(c)2012 Zeus Publications All rights reserved.