|Ever wonder how a Satanist takes a courtroom oath?|
T he room was designed for natural light. Grand windows, set high in the southern wall, were now dark, lit only by a feeble moon and a handful of faint stars. Harsh fluorescents hung awkwardly from the ornate, carved ceiling, filling the court with light better suited to a gymnasium, or a morgue. The last day of my trial started at 10 p.m.Two nameless guards in pale blue shirts and dark blue pants, armed with batons, led me from the antechamber to the defendant’s table. Elena Ruiz, my attorney, was waiting with a smile for me and a nod for the guards. She wore what I had come to think of as Trial Suit Number 3: a charcoal skirt and jacket with a white blouse and black shoes. She always looked the part, which was just as well. The trial certainly wasn’t going to make her look very good as a lawyer. She would have pleaded out the case long ago if I had let her. I wanted my day in court, my time on the stand, my chance to be heard. Donald Rowe, the prosecutor, sliced through the crowd like a yacht through still water, head held high, the certainty of his success written on his long, narrow face. His thin, pale assistant, Toland Franks, followed in silence, Aaron to Rowe’s Moses, carrying the heavy paperwork which would ensure my conviction. Neither spared a moment to look at me or Elena. We were a means to an end. A way to make a point. “All rise.” The murmuring of the crowd died down, replaced by the unified shuffling of a hundred people standing for the judge as he climbed to his bench. “The court of the Honorable Craig Ellison is now in session.” The bailiff paused. He glanced at Ellison, a rotund man in his late sixties with a shockingly red, though thinning, head of hair. The inmates in the county lockup had a pool going. The odds were currently three-to-two that he died it. I bet five bucks against the odds. Why not, I figured. His hair looked real enough to me. After a careful review of the entire room, which was solidly packed with press and curiosity seekers, Ellison finally said, “Be seated.” In previous days, the prosecution had made their case. Two police officers, the ones who had arrested me, gave their damning testimony. The medical examiner, with the help of several antiseptic yet grisly diagrams, had described the details of the killing. Since my defense was temporary insanity, a city shrink sat in the witness chair and said, under oath, that I was totally sane throughout my stabbing of Gabriel Moore. Donald Rowe did not leave a detail out, not on such a landmark case. Elena’s case, on the other hand, was a joke. One doctor, clearly on the take, said that I had undergone “transitory diminished capacity” which was why I had taken part of a shattered two-by-four and plunged the jagged end of it deep into the chest of Gabriel Moore, stopping his heart, ending his life. My former employer testified to my personality in the workplace. Apparently, since I had never impaled anyone before, perhaps this time was just an aberration. Only my testimony remained, and then the closing arguments. Before I knew it, I was on the stand. “Mr. Brenner,” Elena began, “you’ve heard the testimony so far regarding the events of September 23 of last year?” “Yes.” “Do you dispute any of these facts?” “I don’t know if Dr. Chiano is right that I was sane at the time, but everything else, no, I don’t dispute any of that.” I followed the script Elena had written to the letter. “Thank you. Could you tell us, please, why you did what you did? Why did you kill Gabriel Moore?” And now, finally on the stand, I almost couldn’t speak. “It was because of Emily.” “Your wife.” “That’s right. Emily was my wife, is my wife.” “What did Gabriel Moore do to your wife?” “Objection!” Rowe’s only worry -- and it wasn’t much of a worry at that -- was this part of my testimony. Pre-trial motions had already answered the point. Rowe objected for the crowd. “Overruled,” Ellison said. “Go ahead, Mr. Brenner.” “Okay. Gabriel Moore took my wife away from me. He--” “He brought the change in her, didn’t he, Mr. Brenner?” I almost laughed at the turn of phrase. ‘Brought the change’. It had a Victorian quality to it. “Yes. That’s what he did. And I couldn’t forgive him for that. She was gone. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t think! All I knew to do was to kill him.” You could’ve heard a pin drop. “I had heard that if you kill the one who ‘brought the change’ then she would change back.” Murmurs from the crowd. “I would’ve done anything to get her back. I thought that would get her back--I was wrong.” “One last question, Mr. Brenner. If you could go back, would you have done the same thing again?” I fought with myself to tell the truth. “No. No, I wouldn’t.” I hated myself for lying. “Thank you. No further questions.” Elena glided back to our table, a satisfied smile plastered on her face. Rowe stood up and practically raced toward me. He shot his questions at me like machine gun bursts. “You say you killed Gabriel Moore because he brought the change to your wife.” “Yes.” “And you think that’s a justification for murder.” “No.” “So you admit that you committed murder?” “I admit I killed him. But I didn’t think there was anything else I could do.” “You could have done nothing. You could have said goodbye to your wife and forgotten about it.” “Easier said than done.” Elena and I had talked about this. Rowe was probably going to win this case. But he wanted to be sure. I couldn’t let him get to me. The only thing I had going for me was whatever sympathy I had with the jury. I had to be very careful what I said, or else I would certainly lose. “Was your marriage a happy one?” “Yes.” “No problems?” “There are always problems.” “So what kinds of problems did you have?” “Little ones.” “Until Gabriel Moore.” “Yes. Until Gabriel Moore.” “Were they lovers?” “Not that I know of.” “Did they steal from you?” “What?” “I asked you if they stole from you. Money? Or jewelry?” “No.” “Did they harm you in any way?” “He harmed her.” “He harmed her? In what way?” “I told you.” Teeth clenched too tight. I could feel the blood rising to my face. Franks, the assistant DA, leaned forward in his chair, watching intently, a hungry look on his face. The jury was riveted. Even Ellison seemed interested for a change. “You told us he brought the change.” “Yes.” “So you’re saying that bringing the change was a harmful act.” “I’m saying that he changed her and we couldn’t be happy any more.” “Your happiness is worth a man’s life?” “I didn’t say that.” “I think you did, Mr. Brenner.” “He took her away from me, can’t you see that?” “And that’s what harmed her, taking her away from you? You seem to have a very high opinion of yourself.” I heard the beginnings of laughter from the crowd. I heard a distinctive squeak from Elena’s chair as she stood to object. But I couldn’t stop. I had to say it. “Do you think she wanted to be turned into a vampire?” And would you believe it, there was an actual collective gasp from the crowd. I couldn’t believe it. In just a few short years since the Emergence, the word ‘vampire’ had become almost as taboo as ‘nigger’. My eyes flicked to Franks. He kept his composure quite well, I thought. Much better than Elena. She slumped back down in her chair, her objection forgotten.. “Mr. Brenner,” said the judge, “I’ll ask you to refer to them as ‘nocturnals’ if you wouldn’t mind.” “Yes, sir.” “I have no more questions,” Rowe said. I was shocked. Elena seemed to be, too. In fact, looking around, most of the room looked surprised that Rowe would back off after I had been so expertly maneuvered. Everyone but Franks. He calmly made a note on his pad then looked back at me. When he smiled, he didn’t quite bare his canines. “You may step down, Mr. Brenner.” “Thank you.” “Your honor,” Rowe said, “I would like to call a rebuttal witness . . .” “Approach.” I waited at the defense table while Elena and Rowe spoke in hushed tones to Judge Ellison.. Finally, they stepped back. Elena didn’t look good. When she sat down, she put a reassuring hand on my arm. “The State calls Emily Brenner.” I felt myself fall into a state of shock. I must have looked as white as Franks. I couldn’t watch as my wife walked up to the stand. I didn’t want to see the pale face, the sunken cheeks. You know how they talk about the Freshman fifteen, the fifteen pounds you always gain when you first go to college. When you first undergo the change you usually lose fifteen pounds. It can take a long time to gain the weight back. It can take a very long time. Emily was on the stand for about twenty minutes. Of the swearing in and preliminary questions and cross-examination, I only remember one exchange. “Mrs. Brenner, did you undergo the change willingly?” “Yes, I did.”
x x xLaw and Order is one of the few TV shows I watch regularly. As I read this story, I could almost see it unfold on that commercial workhorse. Anotherealm doesn’t usually publish vampire stories. To get here, a vampire story has to be really good. This one’s really good—-or at least I think so. What do you think?