|Illustration by Dao Quoc Huy
by Pham Thi Ngoc Lien
Agele Thuy, a model.
I was thunderstruck at the news of Rober Khai's death. Only three days ago, we had gone together to take photos at Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, for advertisements of a cosmetics company. As usual, Robert Khai was always making fun to amuse everybody. We would have stayed in Phan Thiet that night if Julie Kim had not had a show in Sai Gon. So we all went home with regret. In return, Julie promised to invite the whole group to her house on the weekend to enjoy catfish hotpot and sing karaoke. There would even be a prize:a quality handbag her boyfriend had given her. Robert Khai laughed as if he would win the prize:
"You can use that handbag for only one more week, you know, Julie! It will be mine this weekend!"
Robert Khai had a reason to feel confident. He had once competed in a TV singing competition and made it to the final round. He would have been a singer if he had not met the household name designer who had invited him to work as a catwalker. Robert Khai was well known the first night he hit the catwalk, probably because of his beautiful body shape. He was 1.87 metres in height and 78 kilos in weight. He had a square face with deep eyes. He looked like Alain Delon, a French actor.
Since then, Khai ranked the top of all the male models. He had been in many fashion shows. Now, he was a veteran model, but also a good-hearted man who won the sympathy of everyone around. After a short time, he could afford a flat in a high-rated condominium. It was a luxury palace-like flat, particularly his bathroom, which looked like a mini spa.
Jinny Loan's voice was hoarse with fright on the telephone:
"Have you heard? Khai was discovered dead in the bathroom last night!"
I could not believe my ears, thinking that I heard him wrong. When Jinny said it again, I was so stunned I could not respond when he asked to meet me at a coffee house. I took a taxi to the coffee house, where everyone was talking about it. Khai had died but why?
Louis Quyen, a model.
After the postmortem, it was concluded that Robert Khai died of a cardiac infarction. This made me so surprised, because if anyone had a strong heart, it was Robert Khai. He was a body-builder with a beautiful shape. He spent four hours at the gym every day, in addition to swimming, tennis playing and cycling in the mountains. This meant that he could not have died of a cardiac infarction. There was something mysterious here. We only knew that he died in the bathroom; that was the only information we could get. His death surprised and saddened all the models, even those who were envious of his talent. He got along well with everyone. That was why everyone liked him.
We were all buzzing with rumours of his death, partly because it was a great surprise, partly because three days after his death, none of his relatives revealed themselves, even though an investigation agency had announced his death on the media. His corpse was kept for days in the morgue. I felt pity for him.
Charlie Truong, a designer.
One day after Khai's death, the investigation agency summoned me, because he had always chosen my collection first. This was the reason we had close relations with each other. This relationship was known to all the models. This led to the rumour that we were gay together. But they were all wrong, because Robert Khai was surrounded by a lot of beautiful girls. All of his rendezvous with his lovers remained a mystery and I was the only man who knew them. Khai often said to me: "There is no need to let people know my private life, please remember that!" I thought this was not only Khai's wish, but it was the wish of other artists as well. These people need privacy after they spend so much time with the public.
Recently, Khai had often gone with a rich woman. I told this to the investigator after a moment of hesitation, even though the investigator said to me right at the beginning that I was not a suspect. This informed me that Khai's death was a mystery.
"He did not die of a cardiac infarction, did he? What's the cause of his death?" I asked the investigator.
"We are still investigating. Your statement and those of other colleagues will help us resolve the problem."
The mystery of Khai's death led me to think about his relations with that woman.
"She is over thirty. She is beautiful and rich. Her name is Kieu Nga or Kieu Ngan, I'm not sure, and she is the wife of a real estate owner. Khai told me that she and her husband lived separately. It seemed that Khai loved her so much. He did not want to have their relations broken, so he asked me not to let the cat out of the bag. But he actually did not tell me anything more about that woman either. That is why I cannot say anything more."
The investigator asked me many more questions about Khai's relations with me. I told them everything. Even though I was a gay, we were only close friends, I told them. The investigator seemed disinterested in my statement. All of a sudden, he asked me if I had used lipstick and I said no. I was a guy, so I did not use lipstick, even if I was gay.
"Oh, really? I'm sorry. So do you know any friend or lover of Khai who uses this kind of lipstick?" The investigator took out a small nylon bag from under the table and placed it in front of me. Inside there was a lipstick.
Mr Dung, an investigator.
Having got the statements from Charlie Truong, I went to the morgue to have another look at Khai. Even though I had seen him several times since he died in the bathroom, I still felt sad, because he died so young. According to his personal file, he had just turned 27 the month before. Having a look at his young, muscular body, I could imagine how beautiful he had looked when he was on the catwalk. What a pity for him!
When he was discovered dead, he lay outstretched with his face on the floor as if he was sleeping. The first forensic examination showed that Robert Khai's heart had suddenly stopped, preventing blood from flowing to his brain. It was seemingly a cardiac infarction. But when he was examined for the second time, the forensic medicine section found a tiny piece of red lipstick in his fingernail. His front tooth was also stained with lipstick. When his belongings in the flat were examined, we were sure that he had not used any other cosmetics than lotion, perfume and hair gel for men. The result of further examination showed that in his genitals there remained a bit of fresh sperm. This meant that Khai had had sexual intercourse with somebody before he died. The red lipstick left in his fingernail and tooth could have belonged to that person.
After the results of the examination by the chemical experiment section, we found about thirty samples of the same lipstick.
Angela Thuy, Julia Kim, Jinny Loan and Charlie Truong, who had gone together with Khai to Mui Ne, Phan Thiet a few days before, were summoned to get statements. All of them were stunned at Khai's death but were ready to co-operate to find out the cause of his death. The red lipstick was also introduced to them at a time when they least expected it so as to get their honest reaction. Yet this produced no results. "We models often use red lipstick, and this color is quite widely used, so everyone might have one lipstick of the kind," Angela Thuy said.
Kieu Nga, a businesswoman.
Upon hearing about Khai's death, I was almost unconscious. Had anyone seen me leaving Khai's flat that night? And had anyone heard our loud conversation? I said to Khai that I had not wanted to divorce my husband and he had yelled at me.
I said that even though I loved him very much, deep inside my soul, I felt that I could not leave my marriage to love Khai openly. There were a thousand reasons to obstruct me, but jealousy is the most powerful impetus. Khai was so handsome and was six years my junior at that. Even though I was a pretty woman and I had given good care to my body, I felt I was getting old by his side. He was always surrounded by so many beautiful girls, particularly young female models. Khai had always sworn, "I love only you", but I took a defensive attitude just in case one day he would feel fed up with me…
While I was talking, Khai stood there in silence and looked at me with sad eyes. Then he walked towards me and asked:
"Don't you believe that I love you from the bottom of my heart?"
I did believe it, but I had to deny it. Our love affair had been going on for two years, with such passion it was as if we were bewitched. I first came to Khai to take revenge on my husband, who was the worst sadist the world had ever known. I suffered a lot of injuries when he demanded sex from me. In compensation, he gave me a lot of money and facilities to sooth my pains and did not go after other women like other rich men. So I tried to keep silent and play the victim.
To soothe my pains, I had a love affair with Khai. He taught me that sexual love was not a kind of torture. It was a gift from Heaven. We were charmed by each other and felt that we never wanted to be separated. Khai handed me the key of his flat, saying:
"You can come any time you like. No need to tell me, you know!"
The more I was head over heels in love with Khai, the less I cared about my husband's sexual predilections. So the week before he died, I said to my husband: "I want a divorce."
"No," he said in a cold voice. He had known about my love affair for a long time, but he tried to keep silent because he wanted to compensate for what I had lost in love. He demanded that I forget about the divorce. If not, he would kill me and Khai.
That night, after having to suffer the terrible sadistic sex from my husband, I waited until he left and then went to see Khai. Seeing my injured body, he screamed "No!" and took my hand, saying that we had to go to a faraway land where we could sustain ourselves and live happily together. I cried and cried without stopping, but I could not do it. There were a lot of things Khai could not exchange for my marriage. I stood up and wiped away the tears:
"Please, don't insist. Look for another girl who can match you nicely. Our affair has ended here. Don't phone me any more, because I have changed my phone number." I ran out of the door.
The next morning, when I heard the news that Khai was dead, I almost fainted. I wondered if he committed suicide at what I said. My heart ached. I doubted that someone had seen me walking out of Khai's flat and reported it to the police. So I thought I had better do it before I could be summoned.
Angela Thuy, a model.
I came to the investigation office for the second time. I came by myself. I needed to report one thing just to eliminate my worry about it. On the night Khai died, I went to his flat with a grudge. I wanted to lie in his arms in his flat, even though he had told me not to come while he was having an affair with the wife of a rich man. He said to me that he had given the key to the woman so that she could come any time she wanted. If the woman saw me in his flat, his plan would have been foiled.
It was this damned plan that forced me to keep secret my relationship with Khai. He told me that he had to play the perfect lover of this woman until he got enough money to open a private company. That was why, whenever we missed each other, we had to go to a faraway place to make love. When we were in Mui Ne to take photos, Khai and I planned to go to another resort to have a few private moments. But Julie Kim's plan spoiled our intention. When I arrived in Sai Gon, I decided to go to Khai's flat without paying heed to his moneymaking plan. I had sacrificed a lot letting my lover rest in another woman's arms for such a long time.
When the lift opened, I saw a woman in a head scarf entering in a hurry. I had a foreboding that she was that woman. Did Khai make a date with her right after he came home? I entered the lift and pressed the number of his floor. The door of his flat was half-open and I entered. Khai was gulping down a bottle of whiskey. He signaled me to come in, saying: "Come here. She has just gone!"
He kissed me greedily and made love with me in a rough way on the floor. He left on my body a lot of painful bites and moaned: "Is this all women want, to be tortured like this?" I got up in pain while Khai was reeling into the bathroom. On the way, he turned his head and said to me cruelly: "Go home now! I don't love you. I love her, but she has left me!"
Never had I felt as pained and humiliated. I put on my clothes in a hurry and ran away, crying. When I got home, I cried until I fell asleep. The next morning, Jinny phoned me to say that Khai had died.
Mr Dung, an investigator.
The red lipstick marks on Khai's lip and fingernail were from Angele Thuy. She gave the lipstick she was using to us for comparison and all the parameters matched. But she was not the person who had killed Khai. So the lipstick was eliminated as evidence. What we had to do now was to investigate the cause of the death.
The tests showed that the quantity of alcohol in his blood and stomach had reached level six - a level that could kill the drinker. We had collected an almost empty bottle of brandy. But taking his large, athletic body into consideration, this was not enough to kill him.
However, from Angela Thuy's report and the sperm, we deduced that he had sexual intercourse while drunk. After that he had gone to the bathroom and dipped himself in water. This could cause high blood pressure. As soon as he stepped out of the tub, he had fallen on the floor and fainted immediately.
So, who had poured the second bottle of alcohol into Khai's mouth? We found the empty bottle in the bathroom dustbin without Khai's fingerprints on the bottle. Having reviewed all the statements, we summoned Ms Kieu Nga for interrogation once more. I asked: "Did you say that after you were tortured by your husband, you went to see Khai immediately? Were you not afraid of being stopped and tortured again by your husband?"
"No. My husband left the house right after torturing me. He told me that he had gone to see his partner. When he got home, it was very late."
"What were you doing then?"
"I was in the bedroom. When I saw my husband leaving the house, I quickly went to see Khai to say good-bye to him and then I came back home immediately. I had very painful injuries and could not sleep, so I knew that my husband came home at two o'clock in the morning."
"Was there anything strange about that?"
"No. He would often come home after having some booze with his partners and went to the bathroom to vomit for quite a long time before he fell down on the bed and slept right away…"
After that we had a conversation with Mr Le Ngan, a real estate owner. He was quite a hard nut to crack because he knew how to defend himself.
"Why did you let your wife Kieu Nga have an affair with model Robert Khai?"
"I don't know who Mr Khai is. All of my wife's relations are transparent and legitimate. I don't allow anyone to slander or speak ill of my wife in an attempt to separate us, including the persons in your office."
He denied every question about his sexual preferences, but when I played the recorder so that he could hear his wife's voice, his attitude changed abruptly. His face was transformed and he admitted:
"I killed Robert Khai. He is a villainous guy who only wanted money."
Le Ngan, a real estate owner.
I was not a sadist. Well, to be precise, I only became one after I married Kieu Nga, my friend's sister. I had reserved half of my assets to save him from going to prison for defaulting on his debt. His parents were so happy that they wanted to marry their youngest daughter to me in gratitude. While I loved Kieu Nga sincerely, she regarded her marriage to me as the payment of a debt. That was why she had never responded to me and acted as if she were only a prostitute to me. Do you understand my pain? It was this attitude that made me mad. I wanted to torture her. But deep in my heart, I felt so sad and heart-broken. After each time torturing her, I left the house to drink and went home only when I was blind drunk. It was the only way I could forget my torment.
Once I met Khai at the gym. He was so handsome. I suddenly had an idea and made friends with him. He told me that he wanted money to open his own company. So I hired him to woo Kieu Nga. I made a plan so that at the end of that day, he could have Kieu Nga and her money. Then, after a time just long enough for him to have money and run away from Kieu Nga, I could show my tolerance to her. Only when she had such a big shock would she understand my sentiments. It would change her attitude towards her husband.
But Khai had gone back on his word. He had taken a good sum of my and Kieu Nga's money, but he could not leave Kieu Nga. He said to me that he loved her sincerely and would pay my money back if I freed her. He even tried to get Kieu Nga to divorce me. When she told me, I almost got mad. I followed her in secret. I intended to expose Khai's true face as a male prostitute, but Kieu Nga was in his flat for a very short time and after that she ran out of the door. I hid myself in a corner near there and saw a beautiful girl entering his flat. I came closer for curiosity and found them making love right on the floor. But to my great surprise, Khai then kicked the girl out of his flat and said that he did not love her and only loved my wife. What a bloody bastard! How many girls had been his victims, I wondered? My heart at that time was boiling with rage. When the girl ran out and left the door ajar, I entered and locked it.
My intention was only to beat him black and blue, especially his handsome face. But when I entered, I found him nude, lying in the bathtub and sleeping like a log. I changed my mind. I went to his wine cabinet, took one bottle and went into the bathroom. I woke him up, but the wine made him struggle to recognize me. He even asked me to have a bath with him. I showed him the bottle of brandy and asked him to drink with me. I said to him:
"If you finish this bottle of brandy with me, I will hand Kieu Nga over to you."
He took the bottle and gulped it down. The empty bottle in the dust pin was thrown by Khai himself. Because the bottle was in the water, you could not find his fingerprints. But this bottle of brandy could not make him unconscious. So there was a third bottle. He rushed out of the basin and took the bottle from me and gulped it down, saying: "Do keep your word!" Then he fell down onto the floor and was motionless.
I stood rooted in the bathroom and looked fixedly at his naked body. He seemed so drunk. I took the empty bottle and walked out of his room, thinking about how I could accept Kieu Nga's proposal of divorce. When I got home, it was two o'clock.
I did not think that too much brandy could kill Khai. I did not kill him. I did not pour wine into his mouth. He himself drank it, thinking that he could live with Kieu Nga by doing it. Love itself forced Khai to die!
Translated by Manh Chuong