Wednesday, February 2, 2011

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: I make NUNSENSE out of my Lawyer's NONSENSE!

Old Vallejo Jail
October 20, 1883
RENATA'S DIARY




Will you be surprised Teresa when I tell you that I am now my own lawyer? How you laugh, I can see so clearly that jolly face of yours so pink and flushed! Your head tips back, your eyes begin watering the way they do when you cannot hold yourself in.

But it's true Teresa,

I am a lawyer, Teresa, in all but name.

The lawyer DeLuria came two days ago, in his crisp starched shirt. Ah the ruffles, these were tipped in black satin thread. He dresses impeccably.

He thinks not at all. We sat in the cell here, and he began to tell me once again that when he examines the evidence against me -- the stacks of white pages with all the "sordid" stories, the "careful" details of the murder -- the evidence against me, he says, "stares him down."

I blinked. I laughed out loud and slapped one hand on my knee and when I looked up I saw him looking at me as though I might be crazy.

I suppose I was being a bit rude, so I covered my mouth (but oh I've become someone altogether quite new here in this cell, Teresa, a woman with no restraints I tell no restraints whatsoever!)

I cleared my throat and sat up straight and said, "My dear sir, have you with you perhaps in that fine leather satchel you are carrying, a report from the scene of the crime? There must be an official report of the crime, yes?"

He lifted his gaze, a bit disdainfully curious I suppose that I was asking HIM a question. "Well, naturally I do. Somewhere here, there is a report by the Sheriff. Naturally I have reviewed all the necessary documents."

I left him to sift through the many papers he carries in his handsome leather briefcase (same color as this my chiseled diary Teresa!) I found myself humming something while he searched, and, quite unexpectedly, the next thing I knew I was WHISTLING! This is not the Renata who left the convent a few months ago now Teresa, this is Renata ANEW!

I looked up and found him glaring at me. "Must you whistle?" he said in a very steady voice.

"Oh, quite wrong of me, so sorry," I said. He resumed his search and I resumed my humming, something that SeƱora and I have played and sung together.

He found what he was looking for. A single page with half a paragraph of the slanted handwriting of the Sheriff, describing the way they -- the authorities -- found Antonie on the day he died. DeLuria was about to start reading when I held a hand, actually, I laid just two of my fingertips on his coat jacket, and granted they are filthy -- his would be too if he was forced into this hellish cell!

Well, so he instinctively pulled his arm away, out of my grasp, as if I might give him some disease!

"There is no need to read it to me," I said. "I know exactly how my cousin died."

"Well so what is the point here?" he demanded.

"The point here Mr. DeLuria is this: my cousin died a bloody bloody death. But the only question to ask is how did he die? By whose hand? And I know full well it was not MY hand that took his life away."

"Ah but the authorities have the story that describes his murder and the story is clear it is a damnable piece of ev...."

I stood up and stamped my foot and yelled. "It is a damnable batch of lies!" My eyes flamed and he shrank back against that moldy cell wall. All I could think was, his perfect wool waistcoat will be moldy green when he leaves here!

"I have seen that story, Mr. DeLuria, and I know what it says. And I know that as absurd as it sounds, my cousin Antonie wrote it! I know very well that it suggests that I killed him, that I cored the Adam's apple right out from my cousin's throat! But for God's sake, DeLuria, use your head! Make the comparison between that bizarre story and the Sheriff's report! Does the good Sheriff say that my cousin's Adam's apple was cored? Does it Mr. DeLuria?"

He turned his head as if it was a swivel at the top of a barber pole. He examined the Sheriff's slanted handwriting. A whole minute went by before he spoke.

And then of all things, he lit up one of his slim cigars. It occurred to me to say to him, that there was insufficient air for him, me and a cigar as it is still quite beastly in the cell. I thought better of telling him this; instead I began a coughing fit as he inhaled and then blew out rings of blue smoke. I coughed and coughed until he put the blasted cigar out beneath his boot.

"Thank you, very kind of you," I croaked. He picked up the tin cup of water to his right and holding it as if it were a dead crow, he handed the water over to me. I smiled and took a sip.

"So I suppose that there is some discrepancy between the story in question and the Sheriff's report," he said at last.

I smiled and nodded. "Yes, I would think so." I waited a respectable moment. "And thus, it would seem to me a reasonable defense, yes? To lay before the judge and jury the fact that the crime scene and the supposed description of the crime I'm accused of, do not match. They do not match at all!"

I let that sink in, dying to know what he was thinking but reluctant to ask. He twisted his neck this way and that and sat up straighter.

"I cannot promise that this approach will impress the judge adequately," he said finally, in what I can only call a "small" voice. "I must report to you, unhappily, that there is a good deal of bad sentiment against you. The momentum of this sentiment is decidedly strong and it is moving against you."

Folding my lips in on themselves, I quietly laid my hands one on top of the other in my lap. I said nothing. And then I spoke.

"Mother of God, are you indeed the best lawyer available to me?"

"I beg your pardon, that is... insulting."

"Yes, well, my dear DeLuria, you are incompetent." I stood up once more and would have paced the jail cell had there been room. "I keep waiting for you to say something that convinces me that you have my best interests at heart. Or even my interests at all. But I am starting to think I might be better off on my own in the courtroom." I stood with my hands behind my back, imagining myself pacing the courtroom representing myself.

"The prosecution assumes that those foolish pages, those stories, tell some kind of truth. Their case against me rests entirely on stories composed by my cousin and that..."

He interrupted. "No one has established that those pages are indeed the work of your cousin. This needs to be established in court. For all we know they may be anyone's writing. They may even be your own writing." He gave me a leering gaze which only served to make my mouth drop open.

I laughed. "I hope you are joking," I said.

I bent closer to DeLuria and I whispered. "Is this possible that you are as foolish and stupid a man as I think you are? Did you in fact just say what I think you said, that I may be the author of those pages? My dear dear DeLuria what would possess me to write a set of stories that incriminate me? Stories that portray me as a murderer?" I laughed louder, and sat back.

He ignored me, and began filling the satchel with all of his papers. I took a step closer, bent even closer to him.

"Have you thought that there cannot possibly be anyone else who wrote those stories but my cousin? Have you thought it through DeLuria?"

My voice was hoarse, my face flushed, and I'm sure, my breath was a foul cloud.

He pulled away and finally squirmed out of range.

"Good day Sister," he said, and then he called to the jailer. "I am through here!"

The jailer appeared and opened the cell and DeLuria disappeared.

So you see here, now, Teresa, how I've come to be my own counsel. Once DeLuria left, I sank onto the bench here, and the full impact of what I face in the courtroom next week hit me.

It is all but certain that I will be convicted. There is a pile of evidence that should by rights be dismissed without consideration. And yet this idea did not occur even to my lawyer.

Pray for me Teresa. Pray!






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