She was nervous I could feel it from across the room. Every few minutes the cracking of her knuckles broke the silence that had engulfed the room. “Do you need anything? Some water, tea or coffee?” She answered in the negative. She was okay. He had no idea how he would calm her down; it was never part of his job description. He was in silent distress judging from the veins popping on his creased forehead.
She sometimes hummed a song and smiled like a beautiful memory had popped into her mind. He was trying to exercise restraint and not bombard her with questions because it would be against protocol. I could imagine him creatively cursing at the whole system for making his work so difficult. In all his years as a detective, he had not encountered such a closed off suspect. Usually his physique intimidated the suspects who would trip over their tongues singing their crimes like nursery rhymes to him. She was thin glass and he had to tread carefully.
“Why did you do it?” She stiffened at the question and tears welled up in her previously unblinking eyes. The ring on her finger became her center of attention, she twirled it and smiled. It was a simple silver band with an infinity shaped diamond. It was not too flamboyant but pretty enough to gift a person that made your world spin in circles. The ring must have cost a pretty penny or maybe she just took care of it adeptly. It fit her perfectly, accentuating her slender fingers and well-manicured nails. The story behind it would be interesting; I gathered my recorder and writing material waiting for her to begin.
“He gave me this ring on our tenth date while we were sipping our drinks. It was a promise that he would stand by me and he would never walk out on what we were building,” she let out a hollow pained laugh. He was a young man, Kivu that was his name. He had been found barely alive and scarred for life. She had given him a fair warning, a couple of jolts with a high voltage live wire. It was foreplay she said before she could unleash the big guns on him.
He had given up on their relationship after she became paranoid. She refused to see anyone but him, not even her twin sister was welcome. He couldn’t keep up with her antics not when she insisted that all the visitors strip because she feared they carried guns. She refused to go to hospital and attacked him when he called her a rabid dog.
“I did it because he broke his promise. We were just getting started and he lied. Liars are punished just like they taught me,” she was screaming at this point and she had to be restrained. As she thrashed around, her skirt rode up and I saw scars that crisscrossed her thighs and legs. It wasn’t just the ring, her story ran deeper than that and she was the only one who could tell it.
Her trial was set to begin in a couple of days, Kivu was recuperating in a private room where the windows gave way to a splendid view of the city. It was a pity he could not enjoy it in his current state. The doctors said it was a miracle his nerves were not frayed by the high current that passed through his body. The induced coma was necessary for his body to repair itself, I would have to exercise a lot of patience so that I could get his side of the story. This was the story, the chess piece that would propel my career to the post I had been eyeing for the last decade.
The courtroom rose when the judge walked in. He was a balding man who had unsuccessfully tried growing a beard maybe to cover up for the lack of hair on his head. He appeared to have a wife that knew her way around the kitchen judging by the size of his belly. His demeanor screamed power, he was after all the highest judge of the criminal court. The sound of the gravel brought me out of my reverie and we all sat down waiting for the court clerk to bring the judge up to speed on what case he was about to hear. The prosecutor in his toneless voice read out the charges against the accused. Her name was Claire, such a beautiful name for a troubled lady.
She had been charged with attempted murder and grievous bodily harm that could be classified as a capital offense. The orange prisoners’ jumpsuit engulfed her small body and her eyes had sunk in making her look like a drug addict who had foregone their dose. She was a pitiful sight. The ring was missing though, I hoped she would get it back. Her lawyer was a short ebony woman who wore glass frames that looked like they belonged to my great grandmother’s era. Her grey flannel pant suit was well tailored and nicely hugged her petite body. I silently prayed she knew her law books well because the prosecutor was one of the best, all the accused in his cases received the maximum sentences for their crimes.
This was the first mention of the case and I could feel myself taking sides already. The judge’s stentorian voice called for adjournment of the case. The next hearing date was announced and she was led back to the four by six room that was to be hers for the next couple of days or maybe weeks. The investigating officer later on called me for a briefing at his cramped office tucked away in a corner of the police headquarters. Her case was high profile because Kivu was the Central Bank governor’s only son and the heir to his multimillion business so only the highest ranked officers took part in the case. This also explained why the top guns in law and criminal cases had been roped into the whole fiasco.
He seemed unsettled, the case was still in its preliminary stages but the pressure around it was enough to bring a grown man to his knees, a lot of jobs were on the line if things did not pan out as expected. “She is asking for you,” he tells me. I stopped breathing for a minute and the shocked look on my face registered on his mind and he repeated his statement this time much slower like you would talk to a toddler. “Claire will only speak to us if you are present in the interrogation room,” he clarifies.
This was new in all my years as a junior crime reporter, the accused always stayed away from us some even going as far as getting court orders to bar us from reporting about their cases. Maybe there was something she saw that others did not perceive in me. I agreed to the interview because this was one of the moments that you could not pass over not even for my mum’s favorite banana cakes, they were to die for but this was important. I needed to hear her story and tell it to the world.
The day came to be, I gathered all my material like I had done before and set up awaiting her arrival at the headquarters. Rival media firms camped outside to get a glimpse of her even if it was the sight of the metallic handcuffs that held her wrists behind her back. She was set to have a polygraph test and a psychological assessment before the trial was set to begin. It was important to ascertain her mental health and the results relayed marked her fit to stand trial. She was then led to the interrogation room, just like she had done before she refused any form of drink. I found it funny how the officers try to be hospitable in such situations when the other party probably thinks of just having their freedom back.
If she confessed to her crimes she would get a lighter sentence this was the bait they were swinging at her. They were intent on having her dance to their tune. “Yes, I inflicted pain on him. I had to save myself because he was going to do it to me himself,” her voice was barely audible. The officers made her repeat her statement then her lawyer demanded that her client had been held at the building long enough and she needed her rest. Rest. Claire had lived a luxurious life and being confined to a cubicle with a thin mattress was not a place to rest.
Back at my shoe box of an office, I compiled my notes from the various friends and family of both parties and noticed some disparities. I could have brought them up but I was so insignificant that they would all be overlooked by the higher authorities. I kept my theories and waited for the trial albeit quite eagerly.
I thought Mondays and highway traffic on Friday nights could be such a drag but the trial proved me wrong. The days morphed into weeks and somewhere along the way Kivu woke up from his coma and I was allowed to interview him while he was still under surveillance at the hospital. I was an impartial journalist, I really was trying but the case had become webbed into my daily life. I wanted Claire to be freed so I sat through Kivu’s narration of the ordeal.
Claire had a shaky childhood and it had taken a while before she even accepted to go for the first date with him. He told me of how she was a beautiful soul until the maniac episodes began. The family, Claire’s, were quick to say that it was a genetic disorder that ran in the family. That should have been a red flag but I was so keen on knowing everything that I ignored it. I asked him about the ring and I saw his facial expression soften. They had seen it while walking together and he had observed the longing in her eyes so when she was busy he got it for her. The joy she had was worth every single dime he spent on it. My time was up and I left him to rest in his comfy hospital bed.
Witness after witness took the stand some for and others against the accused. There were a few who stuttered their way through the testimony especially Claire’s mother. She could not even look into her daughter’s eyes. Kivu’s testimony was played in the courtroom because the doctor’s did not find him fit enough to attend the session. His story poked holes through the whole case, he was standing with Claire. The courtroom was beyond shocked. He should hate her with all his remaining body cells but he did not. “Claire is innocent, the guilty ones are those that birthed her.” The recorded testimony then stopped playing as the court became a cacophony of noises.
Claire’s lawyer, Miss Agnetta, her name reminded me of my high school principal, rose up to address the jury. Her voice was smooth and caught everyone’s attention. “My client stands innocent as she was not in control of herself at the time of the incidence. The prosecution failed to mention that my client was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of fourteen. Her family alienated her from that time and played a role in aggravating the situation .” The lawyer then handed over doctors’ reports to the judge and the jury.
I sigh in relief, she was a smart one , more than I credited her for. She then called Claire’s twin to the witness stand. Marie, was the exact opposite of Claire and when she narrated their childhood there was no dry eye in that room. It made sense why Claire was attached to the ring, it was the first commitment she had ever gotten in a long while. The night of the incident, her mother had triggered Claire by saying vile things about Kivu. She made her feel unloved and unwanted. She made her daughter believe that Kivu was seeing a different girl who was not a burden to society. He needed to be punished just the way she was punished whenever she had an episode.
The marks on Claire’s body were a reminder of how ‘troublesome’ she was for the family. She had been whipped, burnt and locked up for days without food. As all this was being narrated, Claire was smiling at the wall, her face was serene like the calm before a nerve-wracking storm. Silent tears were streaming down her vacant eyes. The court session was adjourned and the jury left to convene to discuss their verdict.
The last day of the trial was a sunny affair the birds all in harmony and even the roads free from traffic. I only hoped it would be a good sign for Claire. The proceedings were a blur, both lawyers gave their closing remarks. The jury handed over an envelope to the judge. “The accused is found guilty,” his words ricocheted across the room, “but the jury does not recommend the capital punishment.” I felt my body relax and my heart calm down, she would not be put out like a rabid dog. The judge sentenced her to therapy in one of the best mental institutes in the state. Her mother was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. She kept her silver ring and Kivu too remained by her side. He visited her often and reassured her he would stay. Infinity was not just the ring but forever through the hurdles.
Twisted Empress 2020.