The next morning brings a fresh wave of sickness. I am rudely aroused by an urgent banging at the door, and when I open it, I behold two policemen with their IDs flashing in my face.
“Mr. Edgar Grange,” says the taller of them, “we have been sent here to deliver you a message.”
I am still in my nightclothes and the sleep still casts cobwebs around my eyes. I can only faintly understand what those officers are saying.
“What is it?” I ask.
“We need you to be calm,” the same cop says and I immediately realize it cannot be good tidings. The last time I heard that sentence at the door, my world had turned upside down.
I straighten myself, preparing to face the blow.
“Your brother, Mr. Edmund Grange,” he says without expression, “has expired in prison.”
“What?” I am fully awake now.
“We are extremely sorry to be the bearers of such news. He was found dead in his prison cell.”
“How can someone die just like that?” The news has benumbed me. I can only speak in clichés.
“We are awaiting a full report. The prison surgeon says the death resulted from acute depression.”
And with their dirty task done, they are gone. I am left heaving at the door, and then I collapse onto the ground, with not a clue as to what my next step should be.
It is only when the sunrays hit the street full force and threaten to stream into my house that I stand up. I go and throw cold water on my face. It makes me feel better and I feel the energy return. I have been asked to visit the police station as I am the only surviving kin, and I have to decide what to do of the wretched man’s corpse.
But that can wait.
Right now, I have to do other things. Like, sit on the couch by the window and breathe in the fresh air. The initial sadness has receded—the sadness of losing a brother—but now the relief has set in. And what wonderful relief it is!
My little scheme has worked.
I never had any doubt about the powers of the letter. In truth, to convince myself of its powers, I had put it to the test. And it had worked miraculously.
It still played out clearly in my mind.
That day, after John Winsome, the attorney, left my house, I locked the door and went up to my cupboard. I had to search for the key to the safe for a bit, and then I had it open. I reached my hand into it and extracted a truly insidious document enclosed in a slightly fading envelope.
It was the letter.
This had been my little secret! I had had the letter all the time. At Uncle Dustin’s funeral, when the whole world had forgotten about the letter, I hadn’t. When they were burying him, I stayed behind at his house and hunted for the letter. I was sure Aunt Eva had missed it somehow and it should have been somewhere in the house; and rightly so, I found it under a book on his mantelpiece. Overjoyed with the fruits of my labor, I hid it within my slightly long jacket and proceeded to the church where the burial was still going on.
I knew the letter would come in handy one day.
After Winsome’s revelation 0f me being an adopted child, I was so angry with the Granges that I decided to put the letter to use. So I sneaked off at night and, carefully placing the letter at my foster-parents’ doorstep, rang the bell. Hiding behind the bushes, I saw my foster-father come out in his night gown and turn pale when he saw the letter. His wife, my foster-mother, came out and took the letter. Even as he kept staring at it with horror, she opened it and showed it to him.
I almost saw the life ooze out of his body as he read the line. The next morning, he was in his coffin.
His wife, grief-stricken at the thought of having probably caused his death, withered away soon and joined him.
So the letter worked!
I dressed appropriately in black, attended all the funerary ceremonies, and lamented at the loss of these two fine people whom the world thought to be my true parents. I had prevented the secret from being known. And when returning, I slipped into my foster-father’s room and got the letter. I kissed it this time—this was my secret weapon; I was immune to it while my enemies weren’t.
Now there was only one thorn in the path. John Winsome still had the will. It still named my brother Edmund Grange as inheritor. But the world still did not know I was adopted. Did Edmund know? It would not matter. If I could just slip the letter to him somehow!
It was easy. I only had to go to his house stealthily and sneak the letter at his door, making sure that Edmund was at home. I did so, and waited for the letter’s curse to take its effect.
But for some reason, this time, the letter decided not to kill. I saw Edmund tucking the letter into the pocket of his coat and walk out of the house. He was going to Madeline’s house for his date.
Why did the letter not work on him? It should have done! It should have! I could not take this lying down. I followed him. I saw him at Madeline’s door. She threw her arms around him. And I entered the house through an open window.
I waited long for my chance. I had it all planned. I could not kill Edmund directly, for then the suspicion would fall on me. But if I took out Madeline while he was with her… and make it look like he did it… It was a long shot, I knew, but it could just about work.
He went into the bathroom. I got my chance. Moving out of my hiding-place behind the curtains, I lunged at Madeline. The poor woman did not know what took her down. She was so slender; it was over in a trice.
When he came out, I was waiting. I only needed to land a heavy vase on his head and he was out.
Then it took me a little work to arrange them strategically. Make it look like he did it. Place the knife in his hands. Allow him to be discovered.
And the deed was done.