Thursday, January 6, 2011

CHAPTER NINETEEN: DeLuria Delivers More Bad News!

September 19, 1883
Old Vallejo Jail

Dear Teresa,

Why is it that if a newspaper delivers up lies in print, people are so willing to believe them, no matter how wild they may sound?

Why is that no one, Teresa, not even my own lawyer, Steven DeLuria, can allow for the possibility that I was framed by my delusional cousin Antonie, whose great gift was to tell a believable story?

DeLuria came to see me today, and honestly, he seems to be as twisted as his pencil-thin mustache that curls in elaborate waxed spirals on either side of his narrow face!

I welcomed his visit, at least at first I did, as this was the first time I had seen him since they threw me into this hellish cell well over two weeks ago! But it took only moments for me to see that he was miserably uninterested in my case.

He sat on the bench, close enough for me to smell his pomade, and he kept shuffling through papers in his satchel. What in God's name was he looking for?

Ah, then his hand landed on that damnable newspaper, the Examiner, and he shook it at me, and then shook his head and said, "I am afraid that this isn't going to help you one bit."

As if I didn't know it! What a laugh. I was holding onto my guitar, thankfully, and I squeezed the body of the beauty then, because I would have had a hard time holding myself back. I wanted to slap his face. My heart started racing and I felt a sweat start up.

"Of course it isn't going to help, sir," I said. "Do you think for a minute that it was my choice?" I blinked back tears, which felt hot on the rims of my eyes. "Maybe you hadn't guessed this, Mr. DeLuria, but I would just as soon not be here." By then I was sniffling out loud.

He cleared his throat and straightening up, he handed me his embroidered hanky -- lace on a man's hanky? Then he stood -- he is so tall that his head grazes the slimy yellow ceiling of the cell. And he dresses well, at least he has more ruffles on the front of his shirt than a chicken has feathers on her behind.

"I am wondering how you plan to defend me?" I said, giving him a hard steady look.

He took hold of his narrow chin -- in addition to the mustache twirled and waxed at both ends, he has one of those excessively pointy goatees.

"I think before I can possibly develop a defense, I will have to spend more time learning about your situation."

"My situation? You mean how is that I am sitting in this foul place accused of murder?"

"Well, I will want to know how it is that you have come to believe that you are a victim of what you call...this complicated conspiracy?"

"Believe?" I wrapped my arms around the guitar and squeezed. "Mr. DeLuria, let me be clear about one thing here before we start." I felt my heart slamming against my chest. "I am innocent of all wrongdoing here. My cousin framed me with his ludicrous tales about me."

He kept rubbing his chin. "I see," he said.

I stood up. I held onto the guitar. "No, I"m not sure you do see!" I picked up my diary. "So if you want to know my side of the story, here, it's all here, day by day, exactly the way things really happened."

At first he wouldn't take the journal. "My day is very full," he said, "and I'm afraid that I won't have a chance to get to this for at least a couple more days."

I shook my head. "A couple more days? But my first court appearance is at the end of this week, on Friday morning, or at least that's what they said." I whispered. I was horrified by this...bad excuse for an attorney.

"I know full well what the court schedule is, my dear," he said. "But there are two other cases besides yours that I must attend to. So now, if you will excuse me," he took a magnificent gold watch out of his pocket. "I am scheduled for an important lunch engagement shortly."

The word lunch set me into a rage. I dropped back on the bench. "Oh, please, please don't let me stop you from your lunch," I said, angry enough to spit. "And what is it that they are serving today? Leg of lamb perhaps? Consommé? Fricasee of chicken?" My eyes narrowed, my voice rose. "And what for dessert sir? Apple pie? Berry cobbler? Will there be a large scoop of ice cream on the cobbler?"

He studied me curiously as if I were slightly mad. "I will be back," he mumbled, "and when I return, I will consider your journal." He nodded his head in the direction of my diary.

"Oh never fear, I will be right here waiting," I said.

He left the cell and I tell you if it weren't for the guitar...well...

I see now how this will go, nobody but you, and Señora know the truth. Nobody will believe my side of things.

Why Teresa? Could it be simply as you said, that my cousin, with all his money, and his reputation, stands solid here?

I fear that's why.

But I know the truth, and the truth is that he was ill with the syphilis, and as he was descending into madness and delusion, he was writing. As he went, down, down, down, he cast that net of horrifying words around me, he created another Renata, one fashioned entirely out of words, words that he heard in the depth of fevered hallucination, words that poured out of his mind as pure fantasy.

And now those words? Teresa, I am staring out there into the courtyard now, and there, there is the gallows where they will hang me!

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