Mike Robinson

Tsz Yui Leung

Tsz Yui Leung

Winner of the First Prize in the Undergraduate Category of the 16th English Short Story Writing Competition

'I can’t tell the cause of death at this moment. Hopefully, I can learn more after the full autopsy.’ The coroner shrugged. Although the answer was directed at the one behind me, Mr. Jones, a competent detective, I was glad to be his assistant. Our victim Mike Robinson, a medical undergraduate, laid undisturbed on his king-size bed. According to the housekeeper Olivia, it was strange for Mike to still in bed after breakfast was ready. She went to check if he was sick, only to find out Mike was unconscious. Unfortunately, Mike was announced deceased at the scene. I inspected his bedroom, jewelry boxes were arranged orderly on the desk, clean pink clothes were piled neatly in the closet, orange floral wallpaper adorned the wall of Mike’s room. Nothing extraordinary except ‘the small garden’ on the corner, daisies, roses, orchids grew healthily in their small pots, each with a card from Mike’s fangirls, Jane, Em, Bella... ‘No evidence indicates that this was a foul play or suicide. I have looked upon Mike's personal life, he didn’t take drugs, didn’t have a genetic disease, he was an excellent athlete.’ I couldn’t imagine the life of a kid with a growing future permanently frozen at the age of 19. ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ Mr. Jones stared off into the distance. ‘Sir, Mike’s father would like to speak with you.’ A policeman interrupted. I exchanged looks with Mr. Jones.

'Mr. Mayor, sorry for your loss. I hate to ask, could your son’s death an act of political vengeance? Have you received any threatening letter?’ Mr. Robinson lost in his thought. ‘A number of unsettling letters came in every day -- setting a bomb, breaking into my office -- but none have mentioned my boy.’ When asked whether Mike was in trouble with someone, Mr. Robinson denied it doubtlessly until we brought up Mike's romantic relationship. 'His ex-girlfriend, Stacey Brown,’ Mr. Robinson balled up his fist, shaking uncontrollably, ‘She broke up with Mike 3 months ago. It was a big fight. I once heard Mike screaming at his phone, begging her not to leave.’ 'Looks like we need to speak to Miss Brown.’ Mr. Jones mumbled.

Neighbors, passersby, reporters swarmed behind the blockade line, like a shiver of sharks that had smelled blood, peeking their heads and flashing their cameras to get the breaking news. ‘Neighbors gossip, you know.’ Mr. Jones grimaced and winked at me. Sometimes, I appreciated Mr. Jones had gotten his sense of humor while staying professional. A woman reached out to me once I approached the public, ‘Officer, how do things go? I have got bigger news for you.’ I raised my eyebrow, wondering what she knew. ‘The Robinson looks like an adoring family, but their relationship is cold as ice. Three days ago, Olivia had an intense quarrel with the boy.’ ‘Did you get a clearer picture of what had happened?’ ‘Of course! The boy couldn’t tolerate Olivia teaching him a lesson. He said something very distressing. It is hard to hear those things even as an outsider. Poor Olivia.’ 'Do you think Olivia is blindfolded by anger and she killed the boy?’ Another woman who had been eavesdropped the whole time questioned.

Miss Brown’s house was surrounded by a sea of well-trimmed plants and trees. Mr. Jones and I walked up the steps and knocked on the carolina door. ‘May I help you?’ A middle-aged woman looked at us confusedly. ‘We are from the homicide, could we speak to Stacey Brown about Mike Robinson's death?’ I asked. ‘My daughter is not here at the moment. Do wait inside and have a cup of coffee,’ She insisted, ‘Is my daughter in any trouble, detectives?’ Mrs. Brown asked without looking up from her coffee maker. ‘We are told that she was in disagreement with Mike. It is within our responsibility to follow up this lead.’ I responded. ‘Not that I am being subjective but as a single mother, with most of the time caring for my flower business, I am proud to see my daughter get to study in medical school, it is not like her to have hurt someone.’ Mrs. Brown sipped her hot coffee carefully.

Footstep echoed in the doorway. ‘Mom, I am home.’ A girl with emerald eyes looked at us in bewilderment. She must be Stacey. We briefly explained why we were here. ‘Mike and I separated a few months ago, he couldn’t accept it at first, but we agreed to be friends!’ Stacey protested, ‘I wouldn’t risk my future merely because I am upset. Talking about upset, I must not the only one experiencing that feeling...’ My eyes lit up. ‘In a matter of fact, we broke up because Mike had changed in a way... from boy to girl.’ ‘He was a transgender?’ I was stunned, that justified the girlish decorations in Mike’s bedroom. ‘Yes, his father couldn’t accept it because of the whole public image thing. Also, Mike humiliated our professor Dr. Wright in front of the class not long ago and spread rumors about Dr. Wright sexually assaulted his female students, which cost him his job. Mike was not as innocent as he looked.’ Stacey concluded.

When we were about to leave, Mr. Jones pointed to a photo and asked abruptly, ‘Is that you?’. In the picture, a 6-year-old girl, with hazel eyes, beamed at the camera. ‘That would be my sister, Emma, she went to heaven,’ Stacey smiled bitterly, ‘She wouldn’t have drowned if I hadn’t taken her to Mike’s party.’

We hit a dead end after interviewing Dr. Wright, who had a solid alibi. My phone vibrated all of a sudden. Frustrated, I picked it up and see a message from the coroner -- ‘Found Mike’s cause of death: POISON. High concentration of dimethylmercury is found in his respirational system. Mike visited the family doctor more frequently before his death, complaining about headaches, dizziness, and nausea. The doctor could not identify it is poisoning because the amount used is so little.’ The idea that Mike might not know he was targeted made me sick. Only authorized professionals had access to dimethylmercury, it was forbidden in the market. ‘We let the victim tells us the real story. I need to see the crime scene once more.’ Mr. Jones said determinedly.

We returned to the place where the story began. Mr. Jones started picking at Mike’s belongings. My impatience began to grow. ‘Mr. Jones, there are a handful of suspects needed to be interrogated, what are we looking for?’ ‘Most poison is found in Mike’s respirational system, not other parts of his body, the toxin may be spread through the air. Where would you put the toxin to prevent unwanted attention?’ Mr. Jones looked around the bedroom. ‘If the murderer is living with him, he or she should have developed some of his symptoms, but none have, so... the murderer should not be his family members,’ I suggested, ‘Regarding how long Mike had been tortured, he must have committed a hideous and unforgivable crime...’ A dumbfounded look was soon replaced by a satisfied grin on Mr. Jones’ face.

‘What a pleasure to know that maroon didn’t see that coming. Mike Robinson was supposed to look after my little angel while she swam, instead, he left my baby unattended and wasted time on his stupid phone games. He could have performed CPR or called an ambulance, but he chose to wait for his father to clean up the mess.’
‘I wished he died instantly, but I want his life slipping away bit by bit. I visited my daughter in her college. Stacey recently was working on an experiment that involved dangerous chemicals. I stole a bottle of liquid labeled “Warning: Poison” when she wasn't looking. I chose the most gorgeous flowers from my flower boutique and dripped the poison on them. Twice a week, I sent those seemingly harmless yet deadly weapons to Mike the Murderer. If Mike read the card in detail, he would discover one card was written by Em, which stood for Emma, and feel guilty about his wrongdoing. Everything was in position. All I have to do was to wait, wait for him to breathe in the vaporized poisons, wait for the news I had dreamt of.’
‘Mom, I am heading out!’
‘Have a nice day sweetie.’ The coffee tasted extra amazing today.

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