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Plea of insanity, p.20
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       Plea of Insanity, p.20

           Jilliane Hoffman

  Just as the silence began to feel a little heavy, the steel outer door buzzed open. Mel quickly ushered the Marquettes out of the reception area, past the plastic booth of COs and through a set of metal detectors. Painted arrows on cinderblock walls directed them down a series of hallways to yet another solid steel door. Mel waved his ID badge at the camera above the door and it, too, buzzed open. They walked down another green hall in silence. In front of a third door, with a small square-foot wire-mesh window, stood a bored-looking CO. He ate a yawn, mumbled a few words into his shoulder pack, then nodded at Mel.

  ‘Are we ready?’ Mel asked him.

  ‘He’s in now,’ the guard said, unlocking the door with a key. ‘The buzzer is on the wall under the table. Call if you have a problem. We opened the mikes so you don’t have to wait for him to hit the button to hear him if he wants to talk.’

  The room was small, maybe 8 × 10, divided in half lengthwise by a metal table and a clear inch-thick plexiglas partition. The walls were the same color as the rest of the jail – a pasty mint green. The floor was cement gray. Long fluorescent tube lights were caged to the ceiling.

  Behind the plexiglas, in a metal chair that was chained to the floor, sat Dr David Marquette, his scraggly, overgrown face pale against the bright red of his jumpsuit. Behind him was another solid steel door, which he must have been brought through. As he had at his arraignment, he stared out at nothing.

  Alain walked up to the table, palms open against the plexiglas, but his son did not flinch. ‘David? David?’ He suddenly slapped the partition hard with both hands.

  ‘It’s only been a few days on the meds, Alain. The agitation is gone, which is good, but the negative symptoms—’ Mel stopped himself. ‘Lawther is the jail doctor. He says it could be weeks before the medication sets in. Before we know what is the drugs or what is—’

  ‘What are they giving him?’

  ‘Thorazine. A thousand milligrams.’

  ‘Jesus Christ!’

  ‘They are still diagnosing him, Alain. Remember, this is a jail, not a private hospital.’

  ‘Thorazine?’ Alain angrily hit the glass once more. ‘No wonder he’s like this! They’re killing him! They’re making him nothing but a zombie!’

  ‘Thorazine? Is that different than what Darrell—’ Nina cautiously began to ask.

  ‘Yes, Nina! Yes, it’s different!’ shouted Alain bitterly, cutting her off. He knew what she was going to say before she said it.

  Nina bit her lip and turned away from her husband, looking down at her lap, the tears silently falling once again. She dabbed a crumpled tissue at her eyes, trying to remain as dignified as she could in this awful place. ‘I cannot do this, Alain. Don’t askme. Not again,’ she whispered. ‘There is only so much one person can take.’

  He watched them all watching him, studying him. He felt his eyes roll in his head. Roll, roll, roll around the room as the wave smashed him from behind and washed over him once again. Their voices became muffled and thick, as if they were all underwater with him.

  ‘Enough,’ Alain said finally, throwing his hand up. ‘This place is horrible. It’s barbaric. We need to get him out of here!’

  ‘It’s not that easy, Alain,’ said Mel, shaking his head. ‘He’s charged with four counts of murder. This is very serious.’

  ‘Yes, that I know. That man, Mr Bellido, wants to kill my son.’ He blinked back tears as he stared at the vacant figure behind the partition. ‘Look at him,’ he whispered softly. Alain leaned across the table and, with his hands on the glass once again, suddenly shouted. ‘David? Do you know what you’ve done? Do you know where you are? Do you know why you’re here?’

  There was no response.

  ‘We’re going to get you out of here. We will.’

  ‘Don’t promise him that, Alain,’ Mel replied quietly, reaching over to touch the senior Marquette’s arm. ‘We’ve got to be realistic. This is Florida, not France, and there is no bond in Florida for murder. We have a long road ahead of us.’

  Alain abruptly pushed back from the table and stood. ‘Then shorten it. This is no place for him,’ he said. ‘Make it happen, Mr Levenson. Find a way – any way – but make it happen. That’s my son in there. I’m paying you enough. Make them all understand.’

  Although seated just a few short feet away, his mother had yet to actually look at him. Now, as his father screamed at the man they called his attorney, she finally managed to pull her stare from her lap. On her black, tailored skirt was a pile of twisted and shredded white tissue pieces. She still clutched a few ragged strips in her fist, dabbing them gingerly at red-rimmed eyes. He could see now that her always-elegant face was swollen and disfigured from crying. Even through all the make-up, greenish-yellow bruises shaded the delicate bags under her eyes.

  Everything about his mother was always so refined, so picture-perfect – even now, she made the bandage that was strapped across the bridge of her nose look like a fashion statement. Not a hair out of place, not a drop of mascara running with all the tears. But beneath the cultured, polished, expensive exterior, he knew that she was squirming inside – worrying about all the vile germs she might be touching or inhaling in this very room, just by sitting here with the son she could not bear to even look at. Maybe it was the curiosity, maybe the guilt – maybe it was because to not look would be too obvious to his father and his lawyer, but she finally did, her deep-blue, always-questioning eyes falling on him. She squinted just a little, her head tilted slightly to the left, watching him as a tourist at the zoo might study the monkeys. He felt those eyes silently roll over his person like a lint brush, picking up all in their path, missing nothing. Finally, they found his own and stayed there for a long moment, locked in his vacant stare.

  ‘Let’s go, Alain. Please, let’s go,’ she pleaded, rising from her seat, her face bleach white. The tissue shreds fluttered to the floor. She turned and walked back to the door where she’d come in, her arms wrapped around her self, as if she was incredibly cold.

  ‘Nina,’ Alain began.

  ‘Now. I don’t feel well, Alain.’

  A few minutes passed before the guard came and let the three of them out of the room, but his mother never turned around again. It was clear to him that she could no longer bear to look at this man who was her son.

  Or at what he had become.


  ‘Avon Lady,’ Julia said with a shy smile when the door opened.

  ‘I’ll take it, whatever you’re selling. In fact, I’ll take two,’ Rick said, leaning against the doorframe that led into his apartment, looking her up and down with a smile of his own. ‘Come in. Please, come in.’ He kissed her softly on the cheek as she stepped out of the hall and into what looked like a photo spread for Architectural Digest.

  An open living room, decorated in cool shades of blue, sea-foam green and arctic white, led into a modern kitchen with shiny stainless-steel appliances, gleaming glass cabinets and polished black granite countertops – all, remarkably, streak- and fingerprint-free. Sleek, modular furniture was purposefully arranged on dark bamboo floors; contemporary – and what looked like probably expensive – art hung on the walls.

  ‘This place is really nice,’ she said softly, as she walked up to a set of open sliding glass doors that led to a covered patio and an amazing view of a twinkling Miami Beach. Even through the stocky maze of buildings, she could make out the rolling white surf of the black Atlantic just a couple of blocks to the east. She thought of her own cluttered apartment – the one with the stunning parking-lot views – that she still hadn’t finished completely unpacking from her move south three years ago. Pre-framed posters from Michael’s Arts and Crafts decorated her walls; Glade scented oil candles accessorized the coffee table and mismatched furniture. She hadn’t made a bed since she’d moved in, and had no idea which box the real plates were even packed in. Considering it was her bed that she and Rick had always ended up in, she couldn’t help but wonder, with some embarrassment, what he thou
ght of her when the lights were turned back on. ‘What a view,’ she managed. ‘Are you sure you’re employed by the same government agency I am?’

  He laughed. ‘Remember, it’s just me here. No kids, no wife. No alimony, no child support. I got into this building years ago, before real-estate prices went through the roof. Before art deco was a really hot new word and South Beach was a cool place to be. A bit before your time,’ he added, smiling. She heard the pop as he worked the cork out of a wine bottle in the kitchen.

  ‘There was a time when South Beach wasn’t cool?’ she mused.

  ‘Yup. You might not know it, but I’m one of the few native Miamians that grew up in this city. My parents were from Cuba – fled during the revolution. Back in the day, it was old Jewish men who used to line Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue in their wheelchairs and oxygen tanks, instead of rappers in their tricked-up Benzes headed off to the VMAs. Rent Scarface one of these days, sweetheart. That was Miami Beach in the seventies and eighties – complete with domino games and ugly Guayabera shirts and cocaine cowboys just dropping bales of soft white snow from the sky. A city that had left its heyday a couple of decades back at the Fontainebleau with Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Aaah,’ he said with a sigh, ‘a time when you could actually get a parking spot on Ocean Drive.’

  ‘Hey, I like Guayabera shirts.’ She couldn’t help her self. ‘Were hot dogs really a nickel back in the day?’

  ‘You’re a wise-ass.’

  Julia smiled. ‘You really are old.’

  ‘Don’t tell anyone,’ he said, as he headed across the room to her, two glasses of white wine in hand. ‘And you really are young.’

  ‘Don’t tell anyone,’ she returned.

  He handed her a glass, then kissed her – this time on the lips. His mouth lingered over hers. His breath smelled sweet and oaky, like Chardonnay. ‘Are you kidding me?’ he whispered. ‘I tell everyone. I’m very proud.’

  She thought of Day’s words from lunch and felt her self blush. ‘Not everyone, I hope.’

  He took a long sip of wine. ‘You mean the folks down at the rumor mill? No. I think we’re on the same page there, Julia. I want our business to stay our business; neither one of us needs to be handling personal PR during this case. Besides,’ he added, flipping her long hair playfully off a shoulder, and running his fingers down her arm, ‘secrets can be a lot of fun.’

  She sipped her wine as he headed over to slip CDs in the stereo. She still hadn’t been able to fight off the queer, uneasy feeling from the morning’s arraignment. It had nagged at her all day in the office, until she finally decided to leave early and go for a quick run on the board walk in Hollywood to clear her head. A quick run had turned into ten miles, and her head was still no clearer. When she got back, there was a message from Rick, asking if she wanted to come over.

  ‘I was gonna order Chinese, if that’s okay with you,’ he said from across the room.

  ‘That’s fine. I like Chinese. I’m not really very hungry, though.’ Outside, the rain began to fall again, lightly between the buildings. The drops looked like tiny, platinum daggers in the yellow blur of the streetlights.

  ‘Where’d you disappear to this morning?’ he asked, looking over at her. ‘I turned to introduce you and you were gone.’

  She hesitated for a moment. ‘I’m sorry, but I just don’t think the cameras are for me. I don’t want to say the wrong thing. So if it’s okay with you, I think I’ll just bow out when you hold a conference.’

  He shrugged. ‘That’s fine with me, but I do think you’re gonna need to get over your camera phobia. And soon, too. I fielded a phone call from the French consulate this afternoon. Followed a couple of hours later by one from CNN.’

  ‘The French consulate? Why?’

  ‘Because our defendant is apparently a citizen of France, and the French historically don’t like it when we try to execute one of their own, even if he does also carry an American passport. They get very proprietary.’

  Julia almost choked. ‘A French citizen?’

  He reached over and took her wine glass from her. ‘More?’

  ‘What are you talking about?’

  ‘A dual citizen, actually. Big difference. Or no difference, in my opinion.’ He headed back into the kitchen. ‘I’ll take that as a yes.’

  She was stunned. ‘What does the consulate want?’

  ‘Access to Marquette and a promise not to seek the death penalty,’ he called out. ‘The first I apparently have to give them under the Vienna Convention. The second, I won’t, which I’m sure will get all the bleeding hearts at the ACLU hemorrhaging. It sets a dangerous precedent if we let our office be bullied by other countries that don’t like or agree with our laws,’ he continued when she hadn’t said anything. ‘Besides, I don’t care where you’re from, if you commit a crime here, then you should be subject to the penalties of US and Floridian law. I’m sure this will rise to some form of an international incident; it has before with other countries that don’t have the death penalty.’ He poured another two glasses of wine and headed back across the living room.

  Julia said nothing. Smooth jazz floated from the speakers. She could feel the alcohol begin to work its magic and she closed her eyes. ‘I didn’t expect you to file the death-penalty notice today,’ she said suddenly, surprising even her self that she’d said it.

  ‘You didn’t expect me to file the notice, or you didn’t expect me to seek the death penalty?’ he asked quietly.

  She was silent for a long moment. ‘Both, I guess. I thought it happened later on.’

  ‘Are you okay with it?’ He raised his eyebrows and those dark magnetic eyes asked the real question on his mind. You’re not a bleeding heart, now are you?

  She nodded and looked away. ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine with it. I was just surprised, that’s all.’

  ‘This is fuck in’ bullshit!’ shouted Uncle Jimmy into the phone. He slapped his hand hard against the refrigerator, sending Nora’s magnetic fruit clips and to-do reminders to the floor.

  ‘Jimmy, Jimmy, please. Julia’s in the other room,’ Aunt Nora pleaded in a hushed voice. ‘Keep your voice down.’

  ‘Excuse my language,’ Jimmy said, heeding Nora and lowering his voice just enough that Julia had to get out of bed and open the door a little more to hear. ‘I’m just upset here.’ She could see him through the crack in the door, red-faced and pacing in the kitchen, Aunt Nora sitting at the kitchen table, wringing a dishtowel in her hands. She could hear her own breath catching in the doorframe.

  ‘What do they want from us, Jimmy?’ Nora demanded, crying, her voice a scratchy whisper. ‘I’m not letting her go through anymore! I already told them that.’

  ‘I know it’s not your decision, but … yes, yes, I know that, too,’ Jimmy said into the phone. ‘Listen to me … no, you listen to me – this bastard needs to fry for what he’s done. Did you see the pictures? Did you see them? Did you see what he did to them? You ask me, sir, what we want to see happen? You ask me what we want to see done? We want him dead! That’s justice.’

  She shook the cold memory out of her head. ‘What do you think went wrong with him?’ she asked softly, thinking now of the pictures that lined the pale-yellow upstairs hallway. Nothing was ever what it seemed. ‘I mean, he led the perfect life …’

  ‘Never pretend to know someone’s life, Julia. You’ll only know what they want you to know, when it is they want you to know it. Remember that in this job, and nothing, and no one, will ever surprise you again.’

  He came up behind her and ran his hand through her hair, moving it off her shoulder and exposing her beautiful, sculpted neck. He lightly traced the bowl of the cold wine glass over the soft curve of her throat. A delicious chill ran down her spine and she closed her eyes, losing her self in the moment. A few drops of wine splashed her skin, and he sensuously kissed them off with warm, wet lips as they ran down her neck and disappeared into her silk shirt. Her breath came in rapid starts, her chest heaving under his touch.
She heard her self moan softly as his tongue slowly worked its way up to her ear, devouring an earring in its kiss. Pressing his body close to hers, he wrapped his free hand around her arm and across the front of her chest, finding the buttons on her blouse and undoing them slowly, one by one, with his deft fingers. She felt him growing, pulsing hard against her back. ‘Now let’s not talk any more,’ he whispered, unbuttoning the last button. ‘And especially not about him.’

  She nodded, arching her neck back into his lips, offering her throat to him. ‘You’re in a good mood tonight,’ she whispered back.

  With the fluted stem of the wine glass, he parted her shirt, revealing her ample, supple breasts. A fading tan line disappeared into a black lace bra. ‘Mmmm …’ he murmured at the sight. Slowly, he moved the cold, wet crystal over the delicate lace, making her nipples hard and erect. Running the glass slowly along the curve of her cleavage, with the stem he pushed the cup off of one breast, exposing it. Then the other. She knew she should turn away from the open sliding doors that she stood in front of, but she could not move. They were on the fifth floor, but with the living-room lights on, anyone could see in. She sucked in her breath as he poured the rest of the cold wine down her arched throat, letting it run over both breasts and down her pants.

  He kissed her neck once again, his warm tongue lapping up the wine. ‘Despite the best efforts of the French, I had a great day, that’s why. A fantastic day,’ he murmured in her ear. ‘And now I think it’s getting even better.’

  He turned her around to face him, slipping the shirt off her shoulders. She stood before him in the living-room light, trembling, her breasts exposed, the front of her slacks soaked with wine. He put down his glass and carefully unhooked the catch on her pants, pulling them over her hips with a tug of both hands till they fell in a heap on the floor with her panties. He exhaled a deep breath as he looked at her. ‘You are something special,’ he said softly.

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