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Plea of insanity, p.23
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       Plea of Insanity, p.23

           Jilliane Hoffman

  She stared hard at the receiver in her hand. No matter how much she tried to keep them back, no matter how much she tried to concentrate on other things, the memories continued to rush forward. Ghosts kept knocking on her door, anywhere, anytime. All the time, now.

  Banging, banging, banging just trying to get back in.


  ‘You have her?’ squawked a raspy male voice over the handheld.

  ‘Yeah, she’s in the car.’


  ‘We’re en route. We’ll be there in two.’ The detective whose badge said Potter turned his head just a little and smiled a weak smile at the young girl who sat by herself in the back seat. Then he cast a silent look over at the driver before turning his attention back to the road. No one said anything.

  Julia saw the mass of flashing blue and red lights as soon as the car made its painfully slow turn onto Maple from Hempstead Avenue. Her mouth went dry and she nibbled on her lip, clutching the still-warm sleeping bag in her hand. She probably should have realized long before this moment that something was horribly wrong, but she hadn’t. Or she hadn’t wanted to. But now she suddenly got it and she just as suddenly knew that she didn’t want to see it yet. She turned to look out the side window and blinked hard, trying to force the leftover sleep from her eyes. Just ten minutes ago she’d been at her best friend’s house, in the middle of a really good dream that she couldn’t remember anymore. Now she was in the back of a cold police car that smelled like smoke and stale cologne and pee. She wondered what Carly was thinking right now. She tasted blood from where she had chewed her lip. What a difference ten minutes could make.

  Most of the homes on the block had turned off their Christmas lights when they went to bed, but there were still a few colored lights that twinkled through the night in the tall pines and plump evergreens. The car slipped into slow motion as it passed familiar houses and familiar lawns, where familiar faces gathered in their pajamas and wool coats to see what all the commotion was about. They turned and pointed and squinted at the police car, straining to see its passenger in the back seat, and Julia buried her face in her sleeping bag The car stopped in front of her house.

  Potter turned around again. Red and blue lights spun across his face. No one said anything for a few long moments. ‘Something’s happened, honey,’ the detective finally managed in a low voice.

  She nodded furiously, wanting him to stop talking. She couldn’t look at him. Blood from her lip seemed to fill her mouth and she was afraid to speak.

  He paused and then sighed. Not an aggravated or impatient sigh, but one that was resigned and weary. ‘You wanna wait here for a minute, hon?’ he asked, but it was more like a statement. She said nothing and he opened his door, nodding at his partner. She watched as the two of them walked across the frozen brown lawn, dotted with gray patches of old snow, and then disappeared into her house.

  Ten years earlier, her dad had hung his first and last strand of outdoor lights on the sagging two-story colonial, and more than a few of the oversized and now-obsolete painted bulbs had blown. A glowing plastic Santa Claus waved at the middle-class neighbors and their fancy reindeers and glittering sleighs, the red on his coat and hat faded over the years to a dull pink. She had put out the decorations herself this season, because no one else in the family had wanted to and she couldn’t imagine a Christmas without tinsel and lights and gaudy lawn figures, but all she could find in the garage was the aging Santa and a weathered wreath.

  Julia squeezed the warm sleeping bag tight against her chest and watched as faceless silhouettes moved through the upstairs rooms of her house. She could feel her heart pound furiously – faster and faster, harder and harder – like a freight train out of control, barreling down open tracks. Any minute now it was going to jump the line.

  Icy cold slowly began to seep back into the dark car, stealthily wrapping its invisible, wispy fingers around her body like the coils of a snake. She counted the ticks as the engine slowly cooled back to silence, and she wondered why she hadn’t asked either Detective Potter or his partner what had happened or where her family was or why there were two ambulances just sitting there in her driveway…

  Something has happened to me – I do not know what. All that was my former self has crumbled and fallen together and a creature has emerged of whom I know nothing. She is a stranger to me – and has an egotism that makes the egotism that I had look like skimmed milk; and she thinks thoughts that are – heresies. Her name is insanity. She is the daughter of madness – and according to my doctor, they each had their genesis in my own brain.

  Lara Jefferson, These Are My Sisters


  ‘Man, do you look like shit!’

  Julia looked up from the pile of paperwork on her desk to see Steve Brill standing in her doorway, paper bag in hand, wearing a Chicago Cubs baseball cap and a half-smile, half-grimace on his face.

  ‘Are you sick or something?’ he asked, plopping into a chair. ‘You want me to get you a coffee or something? Maybe a doctor?’ he added with a chuckle. He looked around the cramped room, where boxes of files sat stacked on top of each other, pushed up against the walls in the corner. Her dispos had been piling up and there was no end in sight. ‘This place looks like my apartment,’ he said with another laugh. ‘You and I might just hit it off, after all, Jules. Looks like we do have something in common – we’re slobs. Although I think you’re a pack slob. That’s a lot worse.’

  ‘You’ve got so much damn tact,’ said another voice from out in the hall. Two seconds later, Lat walked in with just what she needed – another box. ‘Someone needs to train him, Julia.’

  ‘Others more brave than you have tried and failed, boss-man. First one gets it right, I think I’ll marry again.’ Brill looked up at Lat and blinked coquettishly.

  ‘In your dreams,’ said Lat, dropping the box on Brill’s feet. ‘Ignore him, Julia. I’ve learned to,’ he said, flopping into a seat himself. Then he looked at her and his brow crinkled with concern. ‘You do look a little tired, though. You okay?’

  ‘Thanks, guys,’ she replied, reaching for her glasses, suddenly self-conscious. She thought she’d gotten rid of the dark circles under her eyes this morning with liquid concealer. ‘Gee, what a welcome. I’m fine, just not sleeping well. Farley is punishing me. I’ve been in trial for like two weeks straight and it’s getting to me.’ She smiled a soft half-smile. ‘No big deal.’

  Actually, she was exhausted. It’d been more than a few days since she’d been able to get a decent night’s rest. Just turn her brain off and go to sleep. And when she finally did manage to nod off, the nightmares would begin. She still had no answers to the questions she’d asked her aunt the other night. As a prosecutor, she knew she had the power and resources to find them out herself, but there was a part of her that didn’t want to run the necessary computer checks, or pickup the phone and call strangers in the Nassau County Police Department up in New York to find out the facts. There was a part of her that feared actually hearing the truth. She just needed Aunt Nora to tell her what she wanted to hear and she’d be able to move on.

  ‘That co-counsel of yours keeping you up late at night?’ asked Brill. ‘No offense, but he can be quite the asshole,’ he finished, holding his hands up in the air defensively, before Julia could even think of how she should take the question.

  She felt her face redden and she looked down, pretending to pull out a drawer and search for a pen. She definitely didn’t want Brill or Lat to know about her relationship with Rick. Especially not Lat. ‘I’m just not a good sleeper. Never have been. Are you guys here to see him?’

  ‘We’ve both decided that we’d much rather see you from now on. You’re easier on the eyes and you have a much better personality,’ Lat said, grabbing the wax bag from Brill’s hand and slapping down the brim of his cap. ‘We just got off the plane from Chicago,’ he said, handing her the bag. ‘We brought you back some pistachio cannolis from D’Amato’s to nosh while you’re re
ading through the thick stack of reports we’ve come to personally deliver. There’s an extra copy for the defense in there, too.’

  ‘You know guys like girls with meat on their bones,’ Brill said matter-of-factly. ‘That skinny shit might sell clothes, but it don’t work for the boys. Eat a cannoli.’

  She smiled. ‘Pistachio cannolis, huh? Thanks. Boy, my aunt would love you two.’

  ‘Valenciano I figured had to be Italian,’ Lat said. ‘A little taste of home.’

  ‘Like my new hat?’ asked Brill.

  ‘No,’ she replied. ‘I’m a Mets fan.’

  ‘Ouch,’ said Brill, smacking himself upside the head. ‘A New Yorker. I should have known …’

  She smiled again. For all of his obnoxious qualities, she was coming to figure out that Steve Brill was harmless. He reminded her of an eleven-year-old boy entering adolescence – snapping the bra straps on the girl seated in front of him just to be annoying. ‘Rick might be in his office. I can call him,’ she said to Lat, reaching for the phone.

  ‘Seriously, we don’t need to see him. Everything’s in the reports. And you’re co-counsel, so our duty here is done,’ said Lat firmly. ‘If I need to speak with your boss, it can be on the phone and without a camera stuck in my face.’

  She shrugged and looked at him apologetically. ‘He can be a bit intense.’

  ‘That’s an understatement. But, whatever. At least we have you.’ He smiled. The moment lasted longer than she expected and she looked down again at her desk. She could feel the Irish curse flaming her cheeks. ‘So, when’s the competency hearing?’ he asked. ‘Do you have a date yet?’

  ‘The Wednesday before Christmas. The judge appointed Barakat and Koletis.’

  Brill rolled his eyes. ‘Jesus … I can tell you the outcome of that match-up.’

  ‘Rick will handle the hearing if it’s a toss-up and the doctors don’t agree. If they do see eye-to-eye, I suppose he’ll stipulate to the reports,’ she said.

  ‘Well,’ Lat said, ‘we’ve pretty much interviewed and re-interviewed everyone in Miami we could find who ever dealt with David Marquette as either a patient, employee or colleague.’


  ‘The media always brings out the best in people. Some are remembering things a little differently than they did a few weeks ago. You know, everyone wants to be the first on the bandwagon to say they saw the signs.’

  ‘Not such the great guy Jennifer’s family insists he was?’ Julia asked.

  ‘You always try to impress the in-laws, Jules,’ said Brill.

  ‘Marquette was a loner,’ Lat said. ‘Jennifer’s family, as we’ve already figured out, twelve hundred miles away and blinded by his checkbook and credentials, didn’t know him. They saw what they wanted to see. End of story. And they’ll make great witnesses for the defense. But the favorite son-in-law could be actually very difficult to work with, so goes the jaded opinions of the nurses, office managers, receptionists and underpaid, overworked, bitter hospital staff that had to work with him.’

  ‘Unless you were good-looking and female. Then he was sweet and smart and dedicated,’ noted Brill. ‘Misunderstood.’

  ‘Affairs?’ Julia asked.

  ‘One-nighters, we think, but nobody waiting in the wings and no one willing to go on record,’ said Lat.

  ‘How was he difficult?’ she asked.

  ‘God-complex difficult,’ replied Brill.

  ‘He blew off appointments on occasion, missed two surgeries in the last couple of weeks that had to be rescheduled. “His time is important to him and no one else” sort of complaints, but there’s no doubt he was a good surgeon on the rise, to the point of being cocky in the operating room.’

  ‘And there was that nurse,’ Brill added.

  ‘Yeah,’ said Lat, nodding. ‘He got into a screaming match with a nurse over something she said in the operating room a couple of weeks before the murders.’

  ‘Which was?’ she asked.

  ‘She says nothing. But the doc flipped out on her, called her all sorts of nasty names in surgery and kicked her out of the OR.’

  Julia nodded at the box that Lat had dumped on the floor. ‘What’ve you got there? That can’t all be reports.’

  ‘Nope. Better. Medical records,’ Brill replied.

  ‘We went back to Marquette’s old stomping grounds in Kenilworth, which is a suburb on Chicago’s North Shore,’ Lat said. ‘Outside of a two-year stint in Paris when he was five and his dad headed up some international program at Pierre and Marie Curie University, that’s where he was raised.’

  ‘Nice ’hood,’ said Brill with a low whistle.

  ‘Interviewed a few former teachers, found a few old classmates, most of whom either didn’t remember him, or didn’t care to.’

  ‘Even as a kid, the guy was definitely a misfit,’ Brill said. ‘A Charley in the Box. Stuck to himself, had no real friends. Bright, but could be lazy and definitely arrogant. Sailed through private elementary and middle school – hit a huge snag as a junior in high school. Grades tanked until Daddy built a wing or something, and then it was smooth sailing again until young Davy went off to college at DePaul – thanks again, I’m sure, to Pops.’

  ‘Drugs?’ asked Julia.

  ‘That’s what we think,’ said Lat with a nod. ‘Personality change coupled with a sudden drop in grades.’

  ‘But, of course, when we go near the Marquette family compound to get their take on things, the curtains draw and everyone starts to boo us,’ added Brill. ‘You want to talk to somebody? You better have a subpoena in your hand.’

  ‘He left DePaul after his three-week vacation at Parker Hills. Or DePaul booted him – his GPA was below a two. He started at Loyola the following September,’ Lat said. ‘The few former acquaintances who we did find that were credible remember Marquette as either extremely charming or extremely manipulative. Self-assured or completely full of himself. There’s no middle ground.’

  ‘I guess you have to be charming to be manipulative, don’t you?’ she asked.

  ‘My ex-wife sure wasn’t,’ piped in Brill with a snort. Even Julia laughed.

  ‘We pulled, record-wise, what we could from DePaul and Loyola, but again, nothing remarkable. No one remembers him. Grades were okay at Loyola, occasionally great. Looks like when our defendant likes something, he excels, but other than that, he doesn’t try too hard. He went to med school at Northwestern down the hall from his father, made the final walk to “Pomp and Circumstance”, but by a hair. In my opinion, Daddy definitely pulled strings to get him wherever he was going,’ Lat said with a shrug.

  ‘You know what they call the guy who graduates last in his class from med school?’ Brill asked.



  ‘Good point,’ Lat said.

  ‘And I think that’s gonna be our biggest hurdle. We need to get a jury past the fact that he’s a successful surgeon,’ Julia added.

  Lat leaned forward in his seat, and tapped his finger on her desk. ‘We did find something very interesting, though. An old arrest when young Davy was sixteen. Saw it referenced in the DePaul admission papers. A misdemeanor. Animal cruelty.’

  She raised her eyebrows in surprise. ‘Did you get the case file?’

  ‘Nope. It’s been sealed and expunged, that’s why we didn’t find it before on NCIC.’ NCIC stood for the National Crime Information Center, which maintained criminal histories from every state in the country. ‘It’s gone, and only the original charge is left in the county computer, it was so long ago. Your guess is as good as mine as to what happened, but you know what I’m thinking.’

  She nodded. Cruelty to animals, particularly in childhood and adolescence, evidenced an alarming emotional detachment from living things – a classic warning sign of a budding antisocial personality. Many famous killers experimented with animals long before they tried anything on humans. Jeffrey Dahmer impaled dogs; Richard Allen Davis set cats on fire; Richard Speck threw birds into fans.
The list went on. ‘But there’s no way of making that jump without knowing all the facts.’

  He tapped a finger against his temple. ‘Just store it upstairs. Second year at DePaul, Marquette checked into Parker Hills, like his attorney says. That was nineteen ninety. We faxed ahead with the subpoena, so they had the records ready for us.’ He pointed at the box. ‘Some late-night reading for you. Maybe it will help you sleep,’ he added with a soft smile.

  Her eyes followed his finger to the floor. ‘Is that when he was diagnosed schizophrenic?’ Marquette would have been nineteen or twenty at the time – right smack-dab in the average onset for males. And once a schizophrenic, always a schizophrenic. The disease didn’t just run its course and go away, like a cold. You didn’t become ‘schizophrenia-free’, like a cancer patient in remission. Although another surprising fact Julia had discovered was that schizophrenics were not always psychotic, either – seeing things and hearing voices for the rest of their life. Which would explain why Marquette might have led a relatively normal life for the past decade or so – at least at a glance. The disease itself was unpredictable in whom it affected and how it affected them. Like rheumatoid arthritis, MS and Parkinson’s – some people came down with the ‘bad’ progressive type of the disease, where symptoms never got better, only worse, while others received the better prognosis. In some, medicine worked wonders. In others, it didn’t work at all.

  Lat shook his head. ‘Nope. Not directly, anyway. The only thing the doctor wrote on the notes was “Rule out schizophrenia”, but there is no reference to an actual diagnosis of schizophrenia, or that it was ruled out. He was admitted involuntarily by his dad apparently, according to the records, suffering hallucinations and for, and I’m quoting here, “violent, combative, erratic behavior”. End quote. But the records upon admission only refer to a probable cocaine psychosis as a true diagnosis. By the time he was discharged, his “psychosis” had been downplayed to a simple anxiety disorder. Probably, I’m guessing, at the request of his dad. Marquette’s a big name in Kenilworth and Chicago.’

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