Thursday, March 24, 2011

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: What More is There to Say?

My Dear Teresa,

I am chilled and feverish and I have a thick congestion burning in my chest.

I write with the hope and prayer that you will come at once. And that you will bring with you the herbs that SeƱora Ramos uses so effectively for lung congestion. A doctor came to see me and he mumbled something about pleurisy.

All I know is that I am shivering and sweating and when I start to cough I cannot stop and when I breathe I wheeze and I cannot catch my breath.

When you come I will tell you about the trial -- Teresa, let me just say that DeLuria has made such a profound mess of things -- worse than I ever thought possible -- that I have almost begun to pity him.


DeLuria has turned out to be more of a fool than even I dreamed he could be. So astonishing is his incompetence that if I had the funds to hire a real attorney, I would probably have little difficulty getting this charade of a trial overturned on appeal.

His defense?

Teresa, he strode in front of the jury and delivered one of the most implausible opening statements imaginable. He made a statement that was so outrageous that I could see the jurors smirking and shifting uncomfortably in their chairs.

I could feel them staring at me. I saw one or two shaking their heads.

He began by standing and approaching the jury and with great flourish, directing the jury's attention my way. He was wearing what I have come to call his silly shirt, a powder blue affair with satin-edged ruffles at the chest. When he walked his boots made a loud clatter on the wooden floor. His hair was pomaded and his mustache freshly waxed and twirled and all of that made him look even sillier.

He started with a question.

"When you gaze at the nun sitting over there in the sunlight, what do you see?"

Immediately he answered: "You see a young woman with a face that is the picture of innocence. You see a slight woman with wispy hair, and a sweet, quiet expression. You see her hands folded so delicately and resting on the table."

He pivoted on the heel of one black boot and with his hands behind his back, he passed slowly in front of the men waiting to pass judgement on me.

Then he stopped and faced the judge. "But there is something you do not see!"

He paused and then directed their attention back to me by pointing a finger in my direction.

His voice dropped into practically a whisper. His eyes grew large and then, Teresa, I swear, he went...crazy.

"My friends, I want you to look again at this innocent young woman. Because what you see is not really what you see. The woman sitting before you is afflicted by a devilish disorder of the mind. You may never have heard of this disorder before, because it is only in recent years that it has been observed."

My heart started slamming against my chest. I was so frightened to hear the rest of what this imbecile was about to say that I couldn't look at him. I closed my eyes and held my breath and that's when I felt the first burning sensation in my chest!

"Members of the jury, it is my job to explain to you, to prove to you, that this young woman who sits before you may answer to the name Sister Renata, and she may indeed be a devoted nun of the Dominican order. But my friends, there is more to this woman than meets the eye."

Pause. Silence. Shock.

Me still holding my breath. All I could hear was the clock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

He went on.

"Even though it appears that you are seeing just one person sitting here, one innocent-looking nun, that is not the case. The nun sitting here suffers from a frightening disorder, a most troubling disorder."

He swirled around and pointed one hand -- finger extended -- at me, and the other hand -- finger extended -- across the room at the jury. For a moment it looked as if he was going to twirl across the courtroom floor, or worse, perform some kind of bizarre dance in front of the judge.

"It may be difficult to imagine," he said in his most theatrical voice, "but what we have here is a woman who has two separate identities, two separate selves, and these selves are pulling her apart." He looked up toward the ceiling and started shouting. "You must understand that through no fault of her own, and because of a deep malady from which she suffers, this poor nun is not just one person. Friends of the jury, Sister Renata has a double personality!"

He walked over now and stood before me. I shrunk back, away from him. He raised his hands heavenward and brought them together and slowly down in front of him, as if symbolically, he was slicing me in two! Then he turned to the jury, his tone pleading, as if he was in desperate need for them to believe what he was saying.

"My dear friends, I hope I will be able to convince you that this poor woman has two individual selves living inside her body! And one of them is trying to destroy the God-fearing self you see here today."

Yes, Teresa, DeLuria's defense was that I suffer from some kind of malady that gives me a multiple personality -- this notion is something he apparently read about in a magazine somewhere!

I covered my face in utter horror. I wanted to stand up and scream, "PLEASE STOP. Please, no more, you're only making matters worse!"

Fortunately, the prosecutor, Phillip Jackson, did it for me. A portly man with a head of silver hair, Jackson practically knocked over his chair standing up.

"Objection, your Honor!" He crowed. "Mr. DeLuria has not presented us with any exhibit or any doctor or expert list of any kind, he has nothing on record, no one qualified who would attest to this ... this preposterous idea of a personality disorder. I move that his opening statement be stricken from the record."

The Judge agreed and instructed the jury to disregard DeLuria's statement.

At which point, DeLuria was, literally, speechless. The judge adjourned the trial and there was no immediate word as to when it might resume.

I must tell you Teresa, but at the moment DeLuria gathered up his papers and left the courtroom wearing those foolish ruffles, and that hair of his hair all slicked and pomaded, I felt sorry for him. Oh, yes, I felt fury to my depths as well. But he was such a miserable sight I actually found myself feeling a might sorry for the man!

How could DeLuria deceive me like this? How could he fail me so miserably?

I am so weary. I sit here with a cup of tea. That woman from the cafe has started bringing me food. She is a good woman. How she convinced the jailer to let her in, I'm not sure. When I asked, she just nodded and smiled and said, "I'll take care of it."

I am here Teresa. Waiting for you. And praying you will come soon.

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