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Clement's Corner: Luck

The bathroom mirror lies shattered on the floor. There’s a blood-stained body on the bed…

What have these things got to do with luck? Read Owen Clement’s intriguing tale and find out.


Wiping off the condensation from bathroom mirror with the edge of his hand, Ray Mercer edged closer to study his reflection. He became alarmed when it seemed as if his reflection was studying him instead. The more he looked, the uneasier he became at the intensity of the returned gaze.

It was not his appearance. He had gone through all that in his youth. It seemed much deeper. Angrily he snatched up his hairbrush. The image smirked tauntingly. He smashed the hairbrush into the mirror. First one half of it slipped out of the frame then the other, some of the shards cutting his body on the way to the floor.

Tossing the brush onto the vanity top, he stepped back from the mess and, grabbing his towel, completed drying himself. He either did not see the smears of blood on the towel or chose to ignore them as he hung it up. Moving unsteadily into his bedroom he flopped across his unmade bed.

He began slowly rocking back and forth, and then he began to chuckle. His chuckle grew steadily until he became hysterical. Suddenly clutching at his chest he cried out as if in terrible pain. And then he was still.

A short while later the telephone rang. . It rang three more times that day. Early the following morning it rang again. An hour after that Phillip Mercer pulled up in the driveway of his father’s unit and opened the door with his key calling out as he came inside, “ Dad, Dad, are you okay?”

There was no answer.

Walking into the bedroom he was stunned to see his father’s naked dead body sprawled awkwardly across the bed, a macabre grin on his face with bloody scratches all down the front of his body.

Alarmed, he immediately rang the police.

He knew not to touch anything. However, with the thought that the police would most certainly photograph his father; he discreetly pulled a corner of the sheet over his father’s hips.

Up to then, he had maintained his composure; but suddenly the shock proved too much and dropping to his knees he broke down.

There was how the police found him a short while later.

Detective Sergeant Joan Taylor gently laid her hand on Phillip’s shoulder before helping him up, “Come on Son; let’s see if we can have a cup of something while the others do their work.” She led him into the kitchen and sat him down. Opening the refrigerator she found a half-empty carton of milk. She soon made some instant coffee for him, adding two heaped teaspoons of sugar.

“Here, “she said gently, “drink this, I’ll be back shortly.” She watched him take a sip. Satisfied, she moved to the bedroom to check on the forensic team’s progress.

A constable informed her that the broken bathroom mirror had caused the cuts and that there appeared to be no sign of foul play. It appeared that Mr. Mercer must have suffered a fatal heart attack.

For Joan Taylor though, some aspects needed further explaining.

She made arrangements for Ray’s body to be taken away before returning to inform Phillip of what she had done, and to say that, as far as she knew, there were no suspicious circumstances concerning his father’s death.

“Phillip would you call in at to my office sometime soon so we can discuss this further?”

“Yes, of course.”

Joan fished out her business card and handed it to Phillip, “Call me when you’re ready.” She smiled, “I really am very sorry. It must have been a terrible shock finding your father like that”.

“Yes, it was pretty bizarre.”

Phillip closed the door after she left and stood scratching his head trying to think of where to begin. He always thought more clearly when he was busy.

He stripped the bed, tying the bedclothes and the towel in the blanket then carried the bundle out to his car and dumped it into the boot.

After that he cleaned up the bathroom.

He moved on to his father’s desk to find a pad and pen to plan his course of action. Rummaging through the top drawer he discovered his father’s journal. He picked it up plus a spiral notepad and a ballpoint pen.

Satisfied that there was little else needing his urgent attention, he closed the front door behind him and drove home dropping the soiled linen at a laundry on the way.

The day after his father’s funeral he rang Joan to arrange an appointment.

She greeted him warmly offering him a seat. Phillip pushed the diary and his typewritten notes across the desk to her before he sat down.

“You have been busy, “she exclaimed, picking up the items.

“Yes, as you can see; I set my notes out in chronological order”

Joan read through Phillips notes and was flipping through the journal when Phillip asked; “Do you see anything weird?” he said sitting back.

She too sat back scanning through his notes once more. “No, can’t say that I do.”

“If you notice, the first time Dad’s luck drastically changed was when his parents were killed in a car accident seven years ago. The following year he and my mother separated. The next year he was fired from his car sales job. Then he began drinking heavily and a year later he and my mother were divorced.

“Deeply depressed, he attempted suicide. At my insistence he saw a psychologist and seemed to improve. This did not last, as in his state of mind, for the next couple of years matters got progressively worse. Late last year he suffered his first heart attack. And last week, when I rang him, I could tell that he was not well and very depressed. I arranged for him to go back to the psychologist, which was to be on the day he died.” Phillip’s lips began to quiver and then, to her surprise he gave a short laugh, “It’s so damned ironic, don’t you think?”

Joan looked perplexed.

“Don’t you see? Phillip continued.

Joan shook her head looking even more puzzled.

“One is supposed to have bad luck for seven years after breaking a mirror not before.”

© Clement 2006

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