Story so far: Rosalind braces herself to meet her daughter, feigning memory loss in order to hide some taints of her past. she begins to write in her diary the conversation with her daughter she couldn't hold in person and eats from the box of chocolates that her daughter, Amber had brought. To read the 1st part click here.
* * *
“A clear case of high pressure with blood sugar. The blood veins in the brain couldn’t stand the pressure and burst. Instant death”, the new medical examiner, Clara was saying.
She was a short, fair woman of about 35 years; with flaming red hair and soft, kind eyes. Everyone seemed to be shocked by the sudden death of Rosalind Mary who was presumably hale and hearty in her 30 years of prison life otherwise.
The inspector in charge, Parker was saying in frustrated tones, “that guard woman. I don’t know why the hell we keep her here. The daughter passed her a box of chocolates under her nose and she remains completely oblivious to it!”
“I warned Rosalind time and again to stay away from excess sugar. And before this, she never was inclined to turn against our word. I wonder why…” Clara trailed off.
“Well that’s true. Mrs. Winston was a particularly trouble free prisoner. I mean if it weren’t for the case of murder coupled with insanity, we were actually thinking of her release on the basis of her good conduct. A quiet, thoughtful woman. Used to be of great help in the gardens and was an excellent adviser for editing of the monthly news letter. She was a great journalist after all.” Parker said thoughtfully.
“A journalist?” Clara asked surprised.
“You haven’t heard about the famous Winston case?” it was now, Parker’s turn to be surprised.
Clara shook her head.
“It was well before your time anyways”, Parker settled himself comfortably in his chair and indicated Clara to sit down too. Clearing his throat in a chatty manner, he started the story-
“Roger Winston was a very famous Hollywood actor. A complete philanderer, had dozens of girlfriends and all the usual stuff. Used to be quite a public figure too, with all his Greek-God looks and good-will charm. So it was a surprise to all his admirers when a sudden marriage between Rosalind Mary and Roger Winston was announced. Well, not announced really; more like happened as a consequence to a series of unknown events. Now, Rosalind at that time was a brilliant journalist with a completely clean history. So it was more than a mystery how this patch up between two most unlikely public figures happened. Rumors say that there was some matter of pregnancy and stuff and she actually threatened to sue him at the court. “
“Whatever it was, the matter was all ‘hush-hush’ and the truth never really came out. They had a quiet marriage and within a year this girl child was born. And then- suddenly, the family disappeared from the face of the earth!”
“Yes. Though Winston appeared in a few films after that, he remained completely oblivious to the press and their questions about his family. His career was going downhill too; most of his films at that time were great flops and it was also rumored that he was heavily buried in debts in his attempts of reestablishing his stature. So slowly, Roger Winston and his fame died down slowly. And then when one mystery seemed to die down, another sprung up.”
“And what was that?” Clara asked with bated breath.
“His sudden and shocking murder” parker stated flatly.
“Yes. The Winston was brutally killed with several stabs on his neck and spine. And there was only a single person at the scene of crime - his wife”
“You mean Rosalind? But that’s impossible! She seemed so… so…” Clara was at a failure for words.
“That’s how most of the murderers are like my dear. Outside all soft and gentle but inside their hearts, if they have any, are tough as a hazel nut.
Cutting of the psychology of murderers let me tell you about the two interesting facts that came to be associated with this murder case. These were such that they changed the whole direction of our line of investigation.”
“And what were they?”
“The first was that Rosalind completely lost her memory after the accident. We arrested her only on the basis of the clear evidences that pointed to her obvious guilt. Like her fingerprints on the weapon (in this case, a knife) and also, she was the only person present at the time of the crime. Needles to say, she would have been able to throw more light on the case- like what was the motive, what the charges could be brought down too, but as I said, her memory loss made this matter more of a mystery.”
“But how is that possible? I mean, a shocking trauma can hardly account for memory loss when there is no sort of a physical imprint.”
“That’s what baffled the police at that time too. But on careful inspection, it was found that it was a clear case of domestic violence”
Parker took a particular satisfaction from the frank look of surprise on Clara’s face.
“We found several wounds on her body and a particular wound on her forehead that would probably account for her memory loss.”
After a momentary silence, Clara asked “and what was the 2nd element of interest?”
“Well, that was something police could never unravel. As I mentioned before, there were several stabs on Winston’s back. But only a single one, at the sensitive spot of beginning of the spinal cord, medulla oblongata to be precise, caused the death. All the other stabs were made after the demise.”
“But what is so surprising in that? I mean, you get to see that most of the times. She must have stabbed him repeatedly in vindication!”
“That’s where the twist in the tale lies. The baffling thing about this is that the single blow that caused death was made by a different hand than those of the others”, Parker said, his eyes gleaming.
“you mean Rosalind was guarding someone else? But that’s preposterous!”
“What that lady was trying to do is something we never got to know. Because she lost her memory.” Parker said wryly.
“That was convenient” Clara said thoughtfully.
“but that certainly closed the case” Parker added.
Sighing, Clara said “it’s a pity, the mystery was never got cleared up. It has various elements that capture the human mind”.
Parker’s eyes glinted again as he leaned forwards and murmured. “I think that there still is some space for clearing up this mystery”.
“We still have this” parker took out a rusty diary and held it for Clara’s inspection.
“Rosalind’s diary?” she asked skeptically.
Without a word both shifted closer and Clara took a deep breath before opening it. “Isn’t this… wrong?” she asked.
“She’s dead for God’s sake” but there was a hint of guilt in his tone. But curiosity got better of them and thus unraveled the hidden mystery.
The first entries were mainly about her journalist days and then after a while they struck on the exact thing that they were looking for…
22nd may 1971
He was beating me as usual but I didn’t even bother to cry out aloud- my cries would go unheard. My little daughter was standing at the doorway, bafflement on her face; she was too small to understand what was going on. I prayed that he wouldn’t see her; he was drunk and more like an animal than ever; he was capable of doing anything.
But that day, it became more violent than usual. He went on striking me relentlessly, blaming me for every bad that happened with him, asking me for the money I didn’t have. “Give me the money, you bitch” he hit me hard across the face but I kept silent, waiting for the storm to subside. “Give me the money, I said. I know you have hidden heaps with you, saving for your daughter are you? Trying to make her bitch like you?” he yelled, mirthless laughter escaping from his lips.
I still kept silent, but I could feel the hot lava of anger boiling my blood.
“Give me the money, or I will wring the neck of your junk of a daughter” he screamed.
His words finally ignited the anger that I had been restraining so long.
“Don’t call my daughter anything, you scoundrel,” I said, my anger putting the energy in me that I didn’t feel or have.
“Your daughter is she? Are you forgetting that she is my dirt too?” He taunted me, a cruel smile on his lips.
“She is not dirt. It is you who are born out of the mud.” I spluttered in anger and for a second, just for a second, my eyes wandered to where Amber was standing. She had by now guessed that something weird was happening and looked almost at the verge of tears. Before I could avert my eyes, Roger went and picked her up in his arms.
“Do you want to see a show sweetie?” He asked sweetly. This time, my fear overpowered my anger and I searched desperately for a way to save my daughter from the clutches of this cruel monster.
“Put me down daddy, I am feeling hungry”, she whined. “Come to me darling”, I said. “Keep her down Roger”, I whispered, panicking by now.
“What if I just drop her down Rose? Or better what if I…” he picked up the knife from the dining table and held it to her neck. I nearly fainted then, but I forced myself to be strong. Amber, who just a kid of 3 by then, couldn’t grasp the reality of what was going on. For her it was all play; she had seen her father do things like this on the TV before.
“Kill me roger, but leave my daughter. Please. I beg you”. I cried, tired of the fight I had been fighting all along; for the person for whom I was fighting was now at stake.
“How can I kill you so easily Rose? Won’t you give me the satisfaction of tearing you up into pieces, like you did with my entire career?” He wiped the blade on my cheek, my tears merged with the blood that flowed.
Amber finally understanding something was wrong started wailing. Interrupted in his sadistic pleasure by her cries, he hit my baby hard across her face and in a shock, she stopped crying.
In frenzy, he dropped her down and advanced on her, to do, God knows what; when I grabbed him from behind with whatever strength was left in me. He stumbled, the knife clattered to the floor and he knocked me down. Sitting on my midriff, he banged my head continuously on the ground, a stream of profanities escaping his lips. Just as I was losing my unconsciousness, a gush of blood fell on my dress and I saw the last remains of his handsome face crumble into terror and shock. I felt the apprehension one might feel before a terrible, terrible happening when he fell sideways and I was left to see a sight that still haunts me in my dreams.
Amber was standing behind him, the knife in her hand and a curious look on her face. “This is a show isn’t it mommy?” She asked me innocently. “Daddy said he is doing a show! The bad guy should have fallen. Daddy was playing the bad guy. Isn’t it mommy?”
She smiled at me and I almost succumbed in the pain and fear of what had happened.
My angel of a daughter- a murderer.
No, no, no.
My mind screamed. Do something Rose, save your daughter.
I got up with great effort, my head swimmed but I reached out for my baby and took the knife from her hand.
“Why isn’t daddy up, mommy? The show is over” she said, a bit puzzled.
Forcing myself to think, I said “it’s not over yet sweetie. Daddy has to stay like this for a while. And you don’t have a part in this show dearest.”
“But I have, mommy” she insisted, “I am the good guy, you see”, She said proudly. I made the bad guy hurt. She gleefully pointed to her father.
Tears welling in my eyes, I said “yes you are the good girl. Now go wash your hands, change your clothes and go to play at Sarah’s. Ask her mother to come here. Do this fast now, there is very little time. The real good guys would be coming soon. There’s my good girl.”
I coaxed her to leave the house and she went away obediently. Closing the door behind her, I carefully wiped off her fingerprints on the knife and holding it both my hands, plunged into Roger’s back and neck. The outpouring blood made me sick and the copper and rust smell of it brought bile to my throat.
Then I banged my head twice on the fallen chair, it didn’t take long for my head to crack open. I hope they would account my lack of memory with that. With everything set, I waited to pass out unconscious so that when I opened my eyes, I would be ready to play the part that destiny had kept in store for me.
The part that was more than a necessity; a part that I had embraced happily only because it would keep the cloud of guilt and crime away from my lovely daughter. People were cruel. This world was cruel. If the truth came out, she would have her innocence tainted forever and would live to regret the parents she had. No. I loved her too much to allow that. I couldn’t see her rot with guilt and shame. And so I did what any mother would do- sacrificed my life for my daughter.
A part of me screamed with the pain that I would never be able to see my daughter grow up; all my dreams in making her a strong, lovely woman fell apart like a castle of cards, but this wasn’t the time. This wasn’t the time for moping and regrets. This was the time of a new beginning; only that a ‘new beginning’ in my case was comically ironical; I was nothing but a long, cruelly stretched out past, intermingling my present, erasing my non-existent future. And so, I waited, watching the clock tick silently. I waited, for the new phase of my life to begin…
* * *
Inspector parker felt that suddenly his throat had gone all lumpy and mushy. Clara was weeping freely, her tears ruining the office files on parker’s desk. They silently turned the pages only to see the imaginary conversations Rosalind had held with her daughter; writing down all the unspoken words, remembering each phrase, the exact timber of her daughters voice. And then on the very last page, after the last conversation she had written, there was a poem:
I sit pensive in my cell
In the beams of the shy sun rays I see-
The smile that livens up your face,
And puts a new life in me.
I gave my life, my love
Only for that brightness in your eyes
I don’t complain, I never did that
But the truth you’ll never realize.
I keep myself away from you,
I don’t want to eclipse your joy
So I imagine your face in my heart
Using the light as my decoy
But I have you in my soul, my love;
A place where no one can steal
But sometimes I want to cry out loud-
Come to me my love, erase my pain, the wounds I feel.
Come to me my child, take me in your arms, I don’t have a heart of steel
* * *
“Are you going to give this to her?” Clara asked, wiping her nose noisily.
“And remind her of a crime she doesn’t even have an inkling of? We don’t have a heart of stone, Doctor. I am going to burn this diary. The truth will ruin the kid’s life”.
Clara nodded ruefully and they sat watching the drops of blood on the very last page. It seemed as if they were screaming the unspoken story of Rosalind’s love and sacrifice.
* * *