The Year of the Gold Rabbit
“The last time we spoke, we were arguing. Right there,” I said waving in the direction of the kitchen counter the constable was leaning against. “About that stupid ornament and Chinese New Year of all things.” I shook my head in disbelief.
While the swarthy, stone-faced police officer took notes, I was fussing about making tea and setting out cookies, as if this was social occasion, not a murder investigation.
“You were arguing about Chinese New Year?”
“My husband thinks - thought - that I’m silly to celebrate Chinese New Year when I’m not Chinese. I’ve never understood why that mattered. I celebrate Christmas with his family and I’m not Christian. Anyway, I like Chinese New Year better than the western one.”
Much better, I thought. Chinese New Year was celebrated over two weeks with days for family, friends, ancestors, solitude ... noodles. The western New Year’s Eve was marked with extravagant parties, too much alcohol, too much noise and too many of my husband’s drunk friends groping ass and pressing sloppy kisses.
“And the ornament?” the constable prompted. “A bronze bunny?”
“It’s the year of the Gold Rabbit - well any metal actually. See,” I pointed to the plate rail around the breakfast nook. It had been enlarged to accommodate larger items, though the first item in the line was a porcelain plate ornately painted with dancing rats. Beside it was a earthenware figure of an ox; next a cast-iron tiger was crouched.
“Ben bought me the plate the first year we were married.”
“Did he buy the other ornaments?”
“Just the first. My sister gave me the ox - I was born in the Year of the Ox. I found the tiger at a St Jacob’s market. See, there are two earth years, then two metal years, next year and the year after will be water. I was thinking of glass figures to represent water... shit, I’m babbling aren’t I?”
The kettle whistled blew, giving me something to focus on. I wasn’t a babbler by nature. Ox people aren’t. They are strong, steadfast and indomitable. If I kept telling myself that, maybe I’d believe it.
I warmed the pot before adding loose tea and just-off-the-boil water. I made enough for the constable and myself. No point in brewing for the crew in the study. They were too busy taking prints, and photographing blood spatter while they waited for the medical examiner to arrive.
With everything laid out at the table, I finally sat down for the first time since I came home.
Since I came home... seems like a life time ago, but it was less than two hours. The smell was the first thing that alerted me. It drew me to Ben’s home office where I found him, head caved in, slumped over the documents he was working on at his desk.
He was an investment manager. As I has already explained to the constable, and would probably explain over and over again, Ben often worked at home. The partnership had offices but he mostly met his clients at their homes or places of business or here. I didn’t mention that our marriage might have been better if he didn’t bring his work home. They’d figure it out fast enough when they examined the papers Ben had bled so profusely over.
“Tell me about the argument and what happened next.”
I gave myself a moment to collect myself by pouring tea. Once I had taken care of my duties as hostess and my hands were wrapped around a hot mug, I started recounting everything I remembered.
The argument had started when Ben saw the bill for the bronze rabbit. I was making pork dumplings when he stomped in, waving the VISA bill. He took the rabbit down from its place on the shelf and brandished it while he berated me for my adherence to another culture’s holiday.
“He started by chastising me for wasting money but, as I pointed out, it was my money, not his - therefore none of his business. So the old “why do you observe Chinese New Year” argument got pulled out again. Then he smashed the rabbit into the dumplings I had just made. I was so mad, I grabbed my coat and purse and slammed out the back door.”
The constable looked around the kitchen for evidence of the dumplings.
“I cleaned up when I got home. They’re in the green garbage if you want to check.”
His nose wrinkled up in distaste. No doubt someone would check. Not him. Not now.
“Where did you go after you left the house?” he asked, getting back on point.
“I called a friend and we went out for sushi downtown. I’m not sure when we got there, but we left at three – she had to get home for her kids. I did about three pots of tea worth of venting.”
I provided the name and contact information of my friend, the restaurant and oriental market I went next to pick up new dumpling wrappers.
“When I got home, I came through the backdoor. I wasn’t surprised that the kitchen was still a mess. Ben wouldn’t lift a finger in the kitchen. I cleaned up then went to see if he was in his office and if there was anyone with him. Some of his clients are scary.”
“This is awkward,” I said hesitantly. “I suspect that a large part of my husband’s client list are... uh... connected. I’m not sure that he does anything illegal ...” I trailed off. Very awkward.
Whether Ben's actions were legal or not, I was damned sure they were immoral. Let’s be frank though, I wasn’t going to mess with the mob.
A plainclothes detective walked in. With a nod to the constable, he left and she sat at the table. She looked at the untouched mug of tea, stirred in a spoonful of sugar and took a sip before speaking.
“Were you aware that your husband’s clients included identified members of organized crime?”
I didn’t bother evading.
“I suspected as much. To be honest, I was too frightened to ask.”
“How much do you know about your husband’s business and clients.”
“Not much about the business beyond the stuff you pick up at parties - shop talk. I’d see many of his business associates at our annual New Year’s Eve party and the annual barbeque that Jim and Elaine threw. They’re Ben’s partners.”
I was asked for full names and contact information again.
“Have you ever met a Mr Zaid Nadir?”
I shook my head. “Not that I know of.”
I did have a very unpleasant but polite man come looking for Ben when I was alone in the house. I don’t think it was Nadir, but maybe one of his followers. He scared the hell out of me.
“I saw the name on the papers Ben was working on,” I admitted. “When I saw Ben – I know it’s silly all things considered – I had to check. I didn’t touch anything, but I had to know if he was breathing. There was so much blood, but I could see that the last thing he was working on was a life insurance policy. The name Nadir stood out because there was no blood there - like Ben had been covering up the name when he was struck, then his hand slipped. It was so “CSI” it stuck in my head.”
The detective seemed to accept this, but I took that to be more indicative of a good poker face than anything else. As the wife of the deceased, I was her prime suspect. Eventually I would be eliminated as my alibi checked out and the physical evidence was examined. I hadn’t handled the rabbit since I polished it and placed it on the shelf using my chamois so I wouldn’t leave marks on the smooth surface.
If I happened to tell one of Ben’s associates that I suspected my husband was dealing with terrorists – not that the police ever confirmed that Nadir was a terrorist, even after he turned up dead – but if I did, and they took exception to this, that’s not my fault. I think it’s comforting to know that just because a person is a criminal, doesn’t mean he can’t also be patriotic.
As for the brass bunny, it’s in an evidence box somewhere. A smaller, solid gold rabbit has taken it’s place the shelf.
Happy New Year!
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