“Onyx, stop doing that!” I scold her. “One day, I won’t be able to catch you, and then what will you do?” Onyx purrs up at me, her face full of trust and love. I nuzzle her face with mine, inhaling her catlike goodness. I feel something bumping against my shin, and it’s Jet, of course. I reach down to scratch him behind the ears while setting Onyx down on the ground. I go into the kitchen to put away the chocolate roll and to give my cats some treats. I grab a Diet Coke while I’m at it before going into the living room. I check my blog because I feel as if I’ve given it short shrift over the past few days, understandably so. It’s time for a new post, so I start one.
The Hippocratic Oath states that first you must do no harm. I think that’s a good motto for life in general. Too many times, we do something we think is for the good of others, and, yet, the result is catastrophic. I think it would be better if before acting, we asked ourselves, “Is this going to harm anyone?” If the answer is yes, then we should proceed with caution, if at all. The problem is, most of us aren’t savvy enough to recognize our shadow sides and we’re convinced that what we’re doing is out of altruism.
Take the man who impersonated my father, for example. He convinced himself that he was carrying out this deceit for the benefit of me and my sisters. He thought he could give us some comfort by bringing our father back into our lives. Putting aside the fact that he wasn’t actually our father, even if he were, would we have been better off with him in our lives? I can’t speak for my sisters, of course, but for me, the answer is a resounding no. I have friends and other family members whom I love and who enrich my lives. I have a job that allows me to pay the rent. I have my cats who are a constant source of joy, love, and amusement, and I have my writing, which is my outlet for my frustrations as well as my creativity. I have taiji which is beneficial to my mental and physical health as well. I have a lover who is just the frosting on my own personal cupcake. To put it bluntly, I don’t need a father figure in my life right now—especially not one who comes with so much baggage.
If that man actually cared about my sisters and me, he would have done some serious soul searching before perpetuating this fraud. He didn’t, though—and how could he? He didn’t know us—so it’s clear he did this for purely selfish reasons. I don’t care how he rationalized it to himself—he never should have done it. I think most of you will agree with me. I didn’t want to know him while he was alive, and now that he’s dead, I resent having to spend so much time learning about him. What I’ve learned so far has made me fervently glad that he’s not my father.
I finish the post in record time and publish it. I think about how someone two weeks ago I didn’t even know existed has come to dominate my life, even in his death. To be fair, I could be done with him right now if I wanted, but one of my fatal flaws is my curiosity. I’m compelled to figure out why he did what he did, even if it’s not possible to completely understand it. I’m looking into his death at Jasmine’s behest, but I would be doing it, anyway, even if she hadn’t asked me to. I call Mrs. Tsai, and she answers on the fourth ring.
“What do you want?” She asks, her voice surly. “Haven’t you bothered me enough?” I bristle at her tone because she’s blaming the messenger, but I brush it off as unimportant.
“Did you know your husband had multiple affairs while he was living in Minnesota?” I ask, cuddling Onyx to my chest. She mews crossly, so I put her back on my lap. Jet opens one eye from his spot on my thigh to glare at me before closing it again. I wait for the outraged gasp, but it’s not forthcoming. Instead, I hear a deflated sigh, and I know she either knew or suspected.
“I didn’t know for sure, but I had my suspicions,” Mrs. Tsai admits. “He wouldn’t answer my calls half the time, and he got upset if I tried calling him several times in a row.”
“Did you ask him about it?” I ask, knowing the answer before she said anything.
“No. I knew he wouldn’t tell me the truth, and it would just make him angry.” Mrs. Tsai’s voice is resigned, and I marvel at how conditioned she’d become over her years of marriage to not questioning her husband, even when it’s called for. Do I tell her the sordid details? I don’t think it’s productive. She’s comfortable in her denial, and I don’t have anything to replace it with. She’s already reeling from all the negative revelations about her husband, and I don’t feel the need to add to her misery. She hesitates before blurting out, “I found a letter he left me before going to Minnesota. This time, I mean.”
“Oh, really?” I say, my tone neutral. “What did it say?” I hold my breath because why would she tell me? Fortunately for me, she’s aching to talk, and it doesn’t seem like she has any local friends to unload on.
“He begged my forgiveness for all the awful things he’s done, but he didn’t say exactly what. He told me I should talk to his accountant as soon as possible. He ended it by saying no matter what, he loved me.” Mrs. Tsai sniffles, but she doesn’t cry. I consider that progress.
“Did you talk to his accountant?”
“I did.” Dead silence, and then, “He told me that George had some, um, money put away. A lot of money!” Reading between the lines, he told her about the Cayman Islands accounts with the TAP money salted away. Do I dare ask how much money? I do.
“Over thirty million dollars!” Even though I was expecting a large number, that’s even bigger than I thought it’d be.
“Was there any explanation as to how he came about the money?” I ask.
“No! Mr. Bateman didn’t have any idea—or at least he wouldn’t tell me.” Mrs. Tsai is silent for a few seconds before continuing. “George provided for me in the end. I was so angry at his will, but this more than makes up for it.” There’s naked greed in her voice, and while it’s hard to fault her for it, it’s off-putting, anyway.
“He stole that money,” I say sharply, then I bite my tongue to stop myself from saying anything else. I’m not sure I should give the game away before I talk to Mr. Liang about it. If anyone has the right to that money, it’s him.
“I can take all the trips I’ve dreamed of taking, but George never wanted to take,” Mrs. Tsai gloats, not hearing what I said. I don’t repeat it because I really need to talk to Mr. Liang about it first.
“I have to go. Thank you for talking to me, Mrs. Tsai,” I say, hanging up the phone. I call Mr. Liang next, and he answers on the third ring.
“Hello, Ms. Liang. What may I do for you today?” Mr. Liang asks, his voice crisp.
“I have a hypothetical for you,” I say, my voice terse. I don’t like subterfuge, but I feel this is a delicate situation. “If you were to know for sure that Mrs. Tsai had the money from TAP, would you sue her for it?”
“A hypothetical? Right.” There is skepticism in Mr. Liang’s voice, and I don’t blame him. “Hypothetically, no. I have enough money, and it’s not Mrs. Tsai’s fault that her husband was a lying, thieving rogue. Why should she have to suffer for it?” Do I believe him? Most people don’t think they ever have enough money, no matter how wealthy they are. I think Mr. Liang is different, however, in part because he took pains to repay the investors. That shows he has a conscience, so he might be telling the truth that he’s concerned about Mrs. Tsai’s well-being. At any rate, I think he deserves to know.
“She has the money. Or rather, Mr. Tsai’s accountant has informed her about it. She claims she doesn’t know where it comes from, and I believe her.”
“I do, too,” Mr. Liang agrees. “She seemed like a most trusting sort of person, even when she shouldn’t have been.”
“That she is,” I say softly. There’s nothing more to say, so I hang up. I seem to be losing suspects as fast as I’m gaining them. I still have the investors, however, so they’re next on my list. I forgot to read the rest of Yuri’s dossier, which includes the finances of the investors. I stopped after reading about Connie Wang and her sordid affair with Mr. Tsai. There’s Thomas Yang. He is now destitute and living with his daughter in Richfield. He’s a shut-in, but Yuri doesn’t say if it’s for physical or mental reasons. Kyle Lee is fifty-five and working in middle management for McDonald’s. He’s managed to keep his home in Orono because of a family inheritance, but he’s struggling now. He’s been arrested several times for DUIs and spent a year in jail for it five years ago. That’s when he lost everything and had to start over from scratch as a cashier for McDonald’s. He was able to work his way up, but he’s stuck in middle management and has very little prospects to be promoted any further. He shoots to the top of my list of suspects, right next to Connie Wang. I send the four local investors emails, varying them slightly, but essentially saying that I’d like to talk to them about George Tsai and TAP.
Next, I check my blog while I wait for responses. EmCeeHammer writes, “It sucks that you had this foisted on you, but only you can decide how it’s going to affect you. You don’t have to let it get to you, just as you don’t have to let it dim your view on humanity.” PleazureSone says, “Con men are the worst because they take away your faith in humanity. Most of us trust others on face value, and it makes sense to a certain extent, but assholes like this take advantage of that to the detriment of others. I had someone claim to be my uncle, and he knew enough to get away with it for a year. When we found out he was a liar, it wreaked havoc with the family dynamics.” CelestialHeavens adds, “The stars have aligned, and he’s gotten his comeuppance. However, he’s left a mess that you and your family has to deal with, and that’s hard on you. We humans really don’t like it when things are out of our control, and this situation definitely is. Was. My advice to you is to breathe through it any time you feel your stress levels rise. It’ll help clear your head.” One person takes me to task for griping about a dead man, but I don’t publish that comment.
I’m beat, so I just read for the rest of the night with Onyx and Jet lying on top of me, on my chest and stomach respectively. I keep away from the internet because it’s too easy to be overwhelmed by the negative news. I know there are a lot of terrible things happening, and I try to keep up with the salient news, but I don’t want to be bogged down by the minutiae. I know we’re going to be in for it when the new president takes office, and I am engaging in vigorous denial in order to put off thinking about it. I watch cat videos instead because they make me happy. Watching Maru trying to fold himself into every box he sees makes me giggle, whereas watching Shironeko chill with a cabbage leaf on his head calms me down. I feel much better after an hour of cats including my own, and I vow to take a break from the internet more often. I know I won’t keep to it, but I hope I can remember it from time to time. Right before I go to bed, I take a quick shower to wash the grime off. I sleep better than I have in a long time.