Authors: Girish Karthikeyan
I press the latches, feel a slight jiggle of restrained rotation, and drag the cracked open briefcase over to the other room's coffee table amidst the padded furniture. Opening the case as allowed shows three pictures, one of the three of them, one of his wife, and one of his daughter. Underneath is just a stack of blank printer paper awaiting toner.
I lean back in the plush couch to withdraw the knife, placing it alongside the extracted picture frames and closing the briefcase. I look at each picture for the associated memory. The first one shows the three of them laid out in a circle on grass, holding hands. I look up into the top-heavy branches, stripped save the uppermost foliage. The sun shines, slightly shifted (off noon) through swaying leaves. I look right to Lizzie in a pink sweater and jeans. She's one of those kids born with pants on. Meagan lies to the right in red plaid with a beige skirt, leg crossed. The lush grass streams through my toes.
The next picture shows a before and after. First Lizzie cries at poolside while the swim teacher beckons her into the water, then swimming with some semblance to happiness. I remember Meagan telling me to do something instead of taking pictures every 5 seconds. We wrap Lizzie in a towel and settle her down. Awhile later, Lizzie successfully treads water. Meagan punches me and says "Jerk!" I say, "We can talk about how big a jerk I really am later." I lean in and whisper this in her ear.
The last picture is Meagan waving from the top of a cliff. We were arguing which way gets us back to the car quickest. Meagan points with accusation at the trail map. "We are here and have to go here. This is the quickest way." Tempers running high after ending up at a closed lookout following half a day travel suggests we both go the way we think instead of debating the merits either way. I go left and Meagan goes right after we both check our radios. I walk through woods, until a clearing shows me Meagan up on that cliff. We both end up back at the car. I chose the best way back. I grab the knife and awaken.
Mon 10/5/17 8:57 a.m.
wo guards walk me into the courtroom. I dread and anticipate this day. My name is going to be finally cleared. No one in their right minds would convict me. The last 6 weeks wore even me down. They paraded me into various holding cells, always under armed guard. Everything looks good for me. In one short day this will all be over. I can start to put this behind me and move on with my life.
Mr. Vintage — my attorney from almost the beginning of this — waits at the defense desk. He adorns himself with a three-piece suit, an ebony walking stick, and an alligator skin briefcase. That strong jaw and muscular build of an athlete not quite yet past their prime. Just thinning blonde hair lends him a look far beyond that age, not that he discourages this notion.
I smile at the people who came for support Claire and Gary. My parents vanished on vacation, almost a year ago. I situate myself at the empty desk, grateful to be in normal clothes for the first time since my arrest. A glance back at my friends offers their reassurances, the little it can do. I direct my attention forward as someone starts talking. I’m immensely comforted by someone’s hand on my left shoulder. They give a squeeze of support. The trial starts. My tech just works without my interaction, for the prison term. It records everything for security's perusal, ids threats, and labels everyone with their names.
“Please stand for the Honorable Malcolm Waters,” the bailiff says.
It takes a minute, but everyone does. A middle-aged person comes into the room from the Judge’s chambers — his average look does little to hint at his power over me. He takes his rightful seat at the Judge’s bench with the trial officially under way.
“You may now be seated. This court is in session,” he says with a bang of the gavel. “We are all here today for the case of Dr. Conor Abby and MO. Good to see you Mrs. Alamander, you also Mr. Vintage.” He acknowledged each one in turn. “Madam Prosecutor, are you ready to begin?”
“Yes, Your Honor,” Mrs. Alamander replies.
“Let’s start with the opening statements. Mrs. Alamander?”
She strides into the open space in front of the jury box. Everyone looks at her face resembling a shrunken head, skin stretched over the very bones. Her stick figure just manages to cling to her frilly suit of grey and pink. The only pleasing aspect about her is the immaculate auburn hair.
“Mr. Abby’s life is going to be
examined during the course of this trial. All the evidence piles up to the fact that he poses a
to himself and society. Mr. Abby is an individual with a psychological
culminated in the murder of Irena Mekova. A clear picture is going to emerge. Mr. Abby needs treatment. We can get him the help he
desperately needs. I believe Mr. Abby doesn’t need jail time, but he
help. That responsibility is up to
jury,” Mrs. Alamander concludes her statement and sits down.
My attorney, Mr. Vintage, steps up. It is now our turn. We are in the right and that is more than enough. “Conor is an average person, on trial for
. Absolutely no evidence unequivocally suggests Conner is responsible. The prosecution feels the act of saving Irena’s life exemplifies Conor’s guilt, not his innocence. In fact, Irena the injured party is here in some form today to
on his behalf. Would she be testifying, if she had any doubts as to his innocence? Anyone of us could easily be on trial here, members of the gallery, members of the jury, even the esteemed prosecutor herself. Just the right time and circumstance are needed. Conor was just trying to help. Isn’t that what we
want in a time of dire need?” he says.
Conflict of Interest
Mon 10/5/17 9:24 a.m.
wait for everything to move on after the opening statements. The courtroom strikes me as odd with the enormous panoramic skylight hanging over the room, displaying the floating branches of trees. Apart from the wooden paneling on the walls, everything else originates from some clear material. This includes the desks, railings, and even the judge’s bench.
“Mrs. Alamander, you may call your first witness.”
She hastily stands up. “Yes, Your Honor. I call Agent Liam Davidson, 5342, the arresting Agent to the stand.”
The witness saunters through the isle in a black suit, black shirt, and black tie (the same thing every cop wears these days). The bailiff approaches Davidson with a bland look on his face.
The bailiff swears him in, “Do you Agent Liam Davidson swear to tell the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help you?”
The prosecutor aggressively yanks down her sleeves and slaps away any aberrant wrinkles. “What did you find, upon arrival to the scene in question?”
“I found Dr. Mekova on the floor. The medics were attending to her. She was covered in a green substance.” He sits in a manner suggestive of disrespect, with one elbow lounging atop the chair.
“Where was Mr. Abby during this time?”
“I believe he was sitting at a desk somewhere.”
“Was he assisting the EMT’s in any way?”
“Now that you mention it, no.”
“When did you first approach Mr. Abby?”
He shifts forward in thought, both forearms resting on his knees. “He came to us first. He excused himself to wash his hands.”
“What do you think this means?
My attorney, Mr. Vintage says, “Objection, conclusion.”
Vintage explained that a witness couldn't testify to something without direct knowledge of it. The frequent exception that came around a century ago allows this based on extensive personal experience.
Mrs. Alamander crosses her arms and says, “I’ll rephrase. Based on your past experience, what are the possible reasons to wash your hands after such an ordeal with someone you care about?”
“It could mean a lot of things. It could be he isn’t close to Dr. Mekova. He could be feeling guilty about what happened to her or he’s just a clean person.”
“What happened, after his return?”
“I got the arrest warrant. Agent Michaels asked some background questions about the incident. I arrested Mr. Abby.” A grin flashes across his face.
“No further questions, Your Honor.”
“Your witness, counselor,” the judge says.
Mr. Vintage steps up and says, “At which point did you mirandize Dr. Abby during the arrest?”
The eyes of Davidson rove the room. “As far as I recall, right after putting on the cuffs.”
“How much time did it take to make decision to arrest?”
“It was just a phone call.”
“Who made the decision?”
He straightens up, rubs his hands together, and pauses there. “On our way in, Head Agent Tallamayne told us Investigating Agent Margrove was assigned to the case. She called us after we arrived on the scene. I was speaking to her while Agent Michaels asked Mr. Abby a few questions.”
“As far as you know, did the Investigating Agent consult anyone else?”
“She worked with a psychologist and the building's security contractor.”
“Did the choice to make the arrest come down quickly?”
The prosecutor says, “Objection, generalization.”
Again, a succinct explanation from Vintage
— witnesses can’t answer a question asking for conclusions, even experts. (Long ago, this didn’t apply to experts. The qualifications for being an expert were the Judge’s say so.)
“Sustained,” the judge says.
“Has this occurred previously in your career, a case being solved over the course of a phone call?”
“It has happened a few times.”
“Can you give us a few examples?”
“I can think of one. A hostage situation, we had to find the perp ASAP. I don’t think…”
“I’m done with the witness.”
“No more questions!” Mr. Vintage adamantly turns around.
The judge says, “You may return to your seat Agent Davidson, Mrs. Alamander doesn’t request a redirect.”
The Agent begrudgingly returns to a seat amongst the gallery.
“Mrs. Alamander, your next witness,” the judge continues.
Mon 10/5/17 10:43 a.m.
lamander slides out from behind the desk. “I call the paramedic first on the scene Cooper Madison to the stand.”
A person dressed in white (their uniform) ventures forth from the gallery. He takes the oath and climbs into the witness stand.
Mrs. Alamander stands with one arm braced on the tabletop. “What was Mr. Abby doing as you arrived?”
“He was checking on Dr. Mekova’s breathing. He didn’t notice us come in right away. We took over the care of Dr. Mekova.”
“What was the severity of her injuries at the time?”
“As far as I could tell, she had a deep cut on her upper abdomen.”
The state attorney completes her slow crawl at the witness stand. “Was Mr. Abby acting suspicious?”
One person can’t know the mind of another.
“I’m just asking how he was acting in comparison to people in other lifesaving situations,” Mrs. Alamander pleads with the judge.
The judge says, “Overruled.”
“He seemed to be intensely concentrating on helping her. After that he took a few moments.”
“No further questions, Your honor.”
“Your witness,” the judge says.
Mr. Vintage slides out from behind the desk and jumps up to his feet. “Did Dr. Abby help Dr. Mekova?”
“Objection, outside the scope,” Mrs. Alamander says from a face contorted in urgency.
The paramedic doesn’t know what I did before he arrived.
The judge says, “Mr. Madison you may testify to the condition of Dr. Mekova upon you arrival and thereafter.”
He continues with restless hands. “A few minutes after we arrived, Dr. Mekova crashed. Her blood pressure being what it was, this surely wasn't the first time. If Dr. Abby pushed her back to the world of the living, is impossible for me to say without my presence at that time.”
“No further questions.”
“Mrs. Alamander, you may call your next witness,” the judge concludes.
“I would like to call Investigating Agent Nina Margrove to the stand.”
A woman in a long grey coat goes to the witness stand. So this is the person responsible for charging me with murder. I was just trying to help Irena. That is all.
“How was the suspect found in this case?” Mrs. Alamander inquires with an air of friendship or acquaintance.
“This case is more clear-cut than most. The Stephens Institute has a top tier security system. Each department has an entry and exit log. The timing of the incident helped a great deal. The only people present at the scene were Dr. Irena Mekova and Dr. Conor Abby.”
“This is prosecution exhibit number one, the security record of the research department. At what time did the incident take place?” She walks the evidence around the room.