Thursday, February 11, 2016
Flash Fiction Friday, Week 24: Till Death Do Us Part
The prompt this week was to write a story that takes place in a courtroom. Silence really can be golden…
Till Death Do Us Part
“Mr. Cooper,” Judge Fitzgerald began. “You understand no one can force you to take the stand in your own defense. I will instruct the jury that if you choose not to testify, they are not to take that as a sign of guilt.”
“I understand, Your Honor, but I need to tell my side. Please.”
No way was I going to place my life in the hands of that klutz of a defense attorney that was assigned to me. This was his first capital case and his hands shook 24/7. If anyone was going to get me acquitted, it was me.
“Very well,” the Judge said. “Take the stand. Remember also, once you are finished with your statement, you are subject to cross examination by the Prosecutor, if he so chooses.”
I was sworn in, and my attorney asked me to explain what I had done and why. I began with the ‘why’.
“A few days after that couple, the Hamiltons, moved in next door to us, I noticed them skulking around my house in the dead of night, looking in the windows. I never mentioned it to my wife because I didn’t want to frighten her. I started doing some sneaking around myself to see what they were up to. One night, they were on their patio finishing a meal, and I hid in some bushes and overhead them. They were talking about getting rid of my wife and me because they hated our kind, and said how we didn’t deserve to live among decent folks.
“I was horrified. I knew I had to do something to protect my wife and myself, so I decided to strike first. I know that was taking the law into my own hands, but who would believe me if I told them what I overheard? Besides, after I stabbed them, I left my weapons right there with my prints all over them. If I felt I was doing something wrong, would I have done that? I notified the police of what I had done and turned myself in and explained why I did it. I couldn’t believe they still arrested me and that it’s come so far as having a trial.
“I’m being threatened with execution for defending my own life and that of my wife’s. While there was no so-called imminent threat – I mean, I know they were asleep when I stabbed them, I was walking around 24 hours a day with the threat of being murdered hanging over me. I had to do something, and I had to do it when I stood the best chance for survival. I couldn’t wait until they came at us. They were in much better shape than I, and my wife would never have been able to defend herself against them.
“Please understand. I’m so sorry it had to come to that, but I couldn’t just let them come into my home and tear our throats out. That’s what they were saying they planned to do, you know. Tear our throats out.”
I let the tears fall freely down my cheeks. I had practiced that daily to perfection. When my wife had told me what she overheard, I knew I had to take a proactive approach, but not involve her in any way. I sighed deeply, stood up and prepared to leave the stand when my wife, who was in the Visitors’ Gallery, jumped to her feet.
“Wait,” she gasped. “This is not right. I can’t go on like this.”
I never should have convinced her to come to Court to show her support. She has always been so emotional and unable to withstand any kind of stress. The Judge banged his gavel.
“I will not have anyone disrupting my courtroom. Bailiff, remove this woman.”
My poor Emily. This will all be over soon, my darling. Please be gentle with her.
“Your Honor, I am Mrs. Cooper, the Defendant’s wife. You must let me speak because I can’t live with this on my conscience any longer. You must understand that I had nothing to do with killing the Hamilton’s, but I know the truth about what happened. I’m sorry, my dear husband, but these lies cannot continue. It was not self-defense. He murdered them in cold blood.”
“Your Honor,” I had to put a stop to this insanity. “My wife is not well, and hasn’t been for some time. It’s the shock of both our lives having been in danger, all the confusion surrounding discovery of the bodies, this trial…”
“Silence!” The Judge shouted, and banged his gavel again. “In light of this lady’s statements, I do believe the Court needs to hear what she has to say. Please ma’am, come to the witness stand and clarify your allegations.”
The Bailiff came back up front, pulled me to my feet, dragged me back to the Defendant’s table and handcuffed me to it. He then escorted my wife to the stand. Emily was sworn in, and the Judge asked her to explain what she meant.
“Your Honor, that lovely couple wasn’t planning to kill him or me. He made that up to justify what he did to them. He had been planning to murder them ever since the day they moved in next door to us.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Where was this coming from?
“We went to meet them on their first evening in the neighborhood and brought them a bottle of wine to have with their dinner. They were very pleasant and appreciated being welcomed to the community. We stayed and chatted awhile, but they informed us they had plans to go out for a late supper. We bid them good night and returned home.
“As soon as we were in the door, Jack began to complain about them. He told me there was no way he was going to live next door to their kind. I reminded him that all were welcome in our community, and that it was wrong to pass judgment on others, especially since we had only just met them. The development where we made our home was a place where any, and all, could reside safe from harassment and from harm. That is why our new neighbors chose that location, and was why we had decided to live there as well.
“I told him his fears were totally irrational, but he continued to speak ill of both of them. On that terrible morning, when I awoke, my husband was just coming back home and he was covered in blood. He told me that he had experienced enough sleepless nights watching and waiting, and decided to end the threat once and for all. He had gone next door, crept into where they were both sleeping and driven a stake through each of their hearts.
“Vamps were garbage, he had said, soulless killers. He could not believe they would live next door to us for much longer before they snuck in during the night to kill us both, as their kind had done for centuries. I tried over and over to make him understand that our being werewolves did not necessarily pit them against us.”
She knows I’ve never had anything against vamps, generally speaking. Why is she trying to get me executed?
“While it’s true that vamps and werewolves have been known to scuffle, we were not natural enemies, especially within a community that housed creatures of all types. Zombies lived across the street from us, our back yard neighbors were ghouls and next door on the other side was a family of shapeshifters. Frankly, the vamps were the least objectionable of the lot. I reminded my husband of the bylaws that stated residents were not permitted to hunt, kill, or feed upon any other residents. Violation of any of the rules would result in eviction.
“Your Honor, nothing I said could change his mind. He was determined not to have their kind so close, and instead of us relocating, he murdered them. I can’t go on protecting you, Jack. What you did was wrong and cruel and you need to be held accountable for your actions.”
The jury, definitely not of MY peers, comprised of three Wendigos, some nasty looking witches, assorted fairies and demons, and a couple of vamps, found me guilty as charged, and my execution date was set. As they led me out of the Courtroom, my wife threw her arms around me and whispered in my ear.
“That handsome young human who works at the filling station in town will be moving in with me tomorrow morning. He has no idea exactly what I am, but I’ll tell him eventually.”
There’s supposed to be a full moon tomorrow night. Emily never did pay attention to the forecasts. I sure hope he’s a runner…