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Mrs. Wu and the Little Gun

Mrs. Wu, who knew nothing of her husband’s nocturnal proclivities, led a very social life, with her bridge games, volunteering and entertaining, but Gladys Wu was fundamentally a lonely woman. Like her own daughter, Cindy, she’d been an only child. Fantasy and imagination were her playmates, not real children. Her parents had been Catholic, but Gladys exceeded even them in piety; at one point in her teens, she’d convinced herself to become a Nun. Her parents had talked her out of that, but Mrs. Wu still took refuge in her Bible; and there were many times when, sad and depressed, she walked the three blocks to St. Leo’s Church, on Ridgeway, to find a quiet pew, pray, and stare admiringly at the great bedizened statue of the Madonna, who loomed just below the great rose window.

She identified with the Mother of Jesus. Gladys too had suffered much. She had subjugated her will to that of, first, her father and then to her husband, to the extent that her will barely existed, except as a quiet seething within her. Sometimes, she felt close to exploding, but she had learned to hold it deep inside. Like the Holy Madonna, Gladys Wu looked out over a world of pain and suffering with infinite compassion. It was not always easy for her to express this compassion in tangible ways, of course; but she felt it, and wished that, with the flick of a finger, she could heal cripples, restore sight to the blind, raise up the feeble.

* * *

Edwin had shown her his gun. It was a Smith & Wesson .22 Mag, small enough to keep handy in a drawer or even a pocket, yet powerful enough to take down a menacing mugger or home invader. The doctor had taken a National Rifle Association course in gun safety. Mrs. Wu hadn’t, but her husband demonstrated the rudiments. They had practiced target shooting in the back yard, using a coffee can on a tree stump, until the neighbors complained, resulting in a visit by the police, who informed the Wu’s that their behavior was illegal. No charges eventually were filed. But Mrs. Wu had never forgotten the sensation of holding a gun, pointing it, squeezing the trigger, and the violent pleasure she felt when the bullet smashed into its target.

Rosey discovered the record of that backyard incident after he had already interviewed both Dr. Wu and Mrs. Wu. He decided on a second round. Partly this was because his investigation into the homeless murders was getting nowhere; and while no new victims had been found in six weeks, the public still clamored for an arrest. Chief Kirkpatrick told him to send her at least two reports a week on his progress, if any, and just the other day, the East Bay Times newspaper had run a scathing editorial critical of the Mayor, the Police Chief and, by extension, Rosey himself. He had to come up with something; no stone must be left unturned.

Dr. Wu put him off for a few days, citing the pressures of work at Kaiser. Rosey visited Mrs. Wu in their home on an afternoon when Dr. Wu was away. The first thing he inquired about, after she offered him coffee which he declined, was the backyard shooting incident. Mrs. Wu seemed embarrassed. “Oh, that?” she laughed nervously. “It was nothing, really, Detective Brown. The doctor was teaching me to shoot. Yes, we have a little gun, for safety reasons. I didn’t like it.” She added, “I am a person who abhors violence.”

“So did you have occasion to shoot the gun again after that?”

“No, never.”

“Or any other gun?”

“Certainly not.”

“And your husband—does he use the gun frequently?”

“Well, you’d have to ask him about that, but no, I don’t believe he does. I’d certainly know if he was running around shooting things.”

Rosey had a thought. “Would you mind, Mrs. Wu, if I took a look at the gun? I’m assuming you know where it is.”

There was something in Mrs. Wu’s face that seemed to twitch. After the briefest pause, she replied, “Of course,” and led him to a small wall safe, hidden behind a painting of a Parisian boulevard at night in the rain. Rosey turned his back while Mrs. Wu jiggered the combination lock. She was about to reach for the weapon when the Detective stopped her. “Better not, Mrs. Wu—fingerprints, you know. Let me.” And he removed it himself using a handkerchief.

Rosey sniffed the gun; it had not recently been fired. “Would you mind if I took this downtown to have it dusted for prints? If you’d like to ask your husband first, by all means…” She did. She called him on his mobile phone and had a few brief words. Then: “Of course, Detective Brown. My husband asks only that you return it in a reasonable amount of time. Both of us feel so much safer knowing that it’s in the house.”

Rosey tucked the gun, still wrapped in the handkerchief, into his suit pocket. “Will do, Mrs. Wu. Thank you very much for letting me come.”

“Oh, it’s my pleasure. The doctor and I are most anxious that this perpetrator be caught.”

Rosey looked forward to having the gun fingerprinted. What he had not told Mrs. Wu, or the public for that matter, was that the gun that had killed the fourteen homeless men had fired .22 caliber bullets.

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