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Plea of insanity, p.32
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       Plea of Insanity, p.32

           Jilliane Hoffman
 

  Framed like a pretty picture in the warm kitchen lights, she washed dishes at the sink, her honey-colored hair pulled back into a soft pony. The window was cracked open and he could hear the running of water, the clinking of dishes, the soft hum of her voice as she attempted Elvis’s ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ It excited him.

  The man had watched her for what felt like hours now, as she made dinner and drank a glass of wine and, finally, put the kids to bed after reading them each a story. Now the night was coming to an end. He fought off the flock of anxious butterflies that made his heart pump like it had been shot up with adrenaline. The anticipation was the best part and the worst part of the night; as any hunter worth his weight could tell you, it’s the thrill of the hunt that makes the game taste so sweet. She shut the window against the unusual cold that had news shows all over the state of Florida talking, and snapped out the kitchen light. The chimney stopped puffing and the porch went black. Less than a minute later, the bedroom lights came on.

  She didn’t bother to close the blinds. There was no one around for miles. There was no one who could see in. He watched as she unbuttoned her shirt right in front of him, unhooked her bra and showed him her big, beautiful breasts. She slid off her jeans and folded them neatly, placing them on a bench at the foot of the bed. Wearing only a pair of silky red panties, she lingered for a moment at the window before pulling on a T-shirt and heading into the bathroom.

  Poor Charlene. Charley, as she liked to be called. Still wearing her sexy, fire-engine red undies even though there was no one to wear them for anymore. She’d gotten the house in the country; he took the condo in downtown. Heading full speed ahead into the dark middle ages with a few lumps around the tummy and no one but her two little kids to kiss goodnight. No one around to protect her when the forest came alive.

  So vulnerable. So lonely.

  What she needed was a little company to ring in the New Year with.

  It wasn’t long before the lights went out in the perfectly charming little cottage. Then the devil emerged from the pitch-black shadows of the woods and crossed the lush lawn, passing the swing set and playhouse, careful not to disturb the nice horses as they slept. At the back door he simply turned the knob and quietly stepped inside.

  Of course she hadn’t locked it, because it was safe out here in the pretty countryside, where no one was around for miles.

  Anxiety:

  like metal on metal in my brain

  Paranoia: it is making me run

  away, away, away

  and back again quickly

  to see if I’ve been caught

  or lied to

  or laughed at

  Ha ha ha. The Ferris wheel

  in Looney Land is not so funny.

  A paranoid schizophrenic

  patient

  67

  ‘Okay, are we broken up and no one’s told me?’

  Julia looked up with a start from the Federal Reporter she’d been buried in all morning just as an intense Dayanara Vega slipped into the seat next to her in the Graham Building’s empty law library. ‘I can’t believe it’s really you,’ Day said with a harsh whisper, even though no one else was around. She poked her arm with a fingernail. ‘Maybe you’re an apparition.’

  ‘Hey there,’ Julia replied softly with a surprised, tired smile. It was a picture-perfect Sunday morning and only the workaholics and the lonely were in the office. Smart South Floridians were down at the beach with the tourists, nursing their Saturday night hangovers and working on their tans in February.

  Day frowned. ‘Where the hell have you been, girl? I’ve gone through two boyfriends and a vibrator since the last time we went to lunch. We haven’t talked in so long, all my good gossip is actually fact now,’ she sniped, her clipped, polished fingernails tapping away on the table, while she obviously waited on an answer.

  Julia rolled her eyes with an embarrassed smile. ‘Uh-oh. I think I can handle your acrobatic escapades with the eligible bachelors of Miami, but I definitely don’t want to know about your dalliances with a back massager, Day,’ she replied lightly. ‘TMI.’

  ‘Oh, so you only want to hear about the good times,’ Dayanara replied with a short laugh, but the pout was still there and despite the sarcasm and tough exterior, it was pretty obvious she was hurt. It’d been more than a few weeks since the competency hearing when the two of them had last spoken. While Julia wouldn’t say she’d been avoiding her friend, she hadn’t been seeking her out, either. Things had just gotten so complicated since Christmas. Since Andy. Days had slipped into weeks, and weeks into … well, months, as she tried to adjust to this exhausting, clandestine double life she was now living. A life that included flying – whenever she could afford it and whenever she could manage it – to New York on weekends to see her brother. Everything else and everyone else had from Monday to Friday to fit in. And it didn’t always fit. She held back a yawn. If she didn’t have to be back for a Marquette meeting this afternoon and to research a motion, she’d still be up there right now, in fact. Instead, she’d caught the 6 a.m. flight out of LaGuardia and had come straight to the Graham Building. Her suitcase was still in the car.

  ‘For someone who is trying a high-profile murder trial, you sure do know how to keep it on the low,’ Day groused. ‘I’ve stopped by your office maybe a dozen times; I’ve called and left messages on your cell, at home, with your secretary. I do have a personality disorder, you know. The next step for me is stalking. So just tell me, is it me, or is it the ‘I-have-a-boyfriend-now-so-I’ll-just-drop-all-of-my-friends’ syndrome? The latter I can hate you for, the former I get to hate myself.’

  Julia took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes and wondered how to have this conversation. She’d picked up the phone a dozen times herself to call Day these past few weeks, but ultimately had set it back down each time. No matter how much she wanted to let someone into her life, share the heavy burden of her dark family secrets, she knew that meant telling a frightening story that no one would ever – could ever – possibly begin to understand, no matter how much they might insist they could. Her whole life was a lie – who she was, where she was from, what her family was like, who her family was. Even her name – Julia Valenciano – was only a half-truth. There were too many lies told to too many people, too many secrets kept for too many years to go back and start from the very beginning with a friend who knew her and liked her as a completely different person. From colleagues to best friends to lovers to her damn hairdresser – every single relationship she’d built in her life was grounded in falsehoods and nurtured with more lies. Even if she could somehow explain her parents’ brutal murders to Dayanara or Rick – or anyone else for that matter – without them running for the nearest exit in horror, she knew she’d never be able to rationalize still loving their killer. And she just couldn’t sit back and accept the silent passing of judgment on her brother that was sure to follow. She would rather be alone with the burden of her past than sacrifice Andrew again. He was back in her life now – suddenly and completely – and she was all he had left. His was the only truly honest relationship she had that was still intact.

  ‘First off, leaving a message with Thelma is about as useful as flossing before the dentist pulls your tooth,’ Julia began. ‘It’s a gesture that takes too much time and is not at all appreciated. Secondly, I haven’t even been home to get messages lately – I’ve been out of town a lot. And third, it’s not you and it’s not me and it’s not anything, Day. Things have come up since Christmas. I’ve … I’ve just been real busy. I’m sorry I haven’t called.’ She tried to find her friend’s eyes. ‘Really.’

  Dayanara watched her cautiously for a long moment. ‘What things?’

  ‘Trials. Hearings. Pre-files. Arthurs. Meetings.’ She looked down at the pile of law books in front of her. ‘This case. You know how crazy my judge is, and my DC still has it out for me. I’m beginning to think they’ve joined forces.’

  ‘Hmmm …’ Dayanara leaned back
in her chair, rocking on the back legs. With her eyes squinted, and her arms folded across her chest, she said, ‘There’s more to this story than legal research and Judge Farley working you to death. You look like shit.’

  ‘There’s more to every story,’ Julia replied softly. ‘But that’s all I can give you right now.’

  Day smiled. ‘I’m a narcissist. As long as it’s not me, I’ll move on. For now.’

  ‘I promise it’s not you. So why are you here on a Sunday?’ Julia asked.

  Day curled a lip in distaste and plopped forward again in the chair. ‘I have a Rule Three with a stupid-assed defendant who unfortunately hired an even more stupid-assed attorney to represent him at his trafficking trial. It’s set down for next week and I haven’t done shit on it.’ She nodded at the Southern Seconds and Federal Reporters on the table. ‘Doctor Death, I presume, is your excuse?’

  Julia sighed. ‘Marquette’s attorneys filed an emergency writ of habeas with the Feds on Friday. Rick’s got a hearing in District Court on Tuesday. Farley won’t give them a continuance and they’re, of course, hoping to delay the trial. Mel Levenson’s arguing – with the help of the French government – that the failure of detectives to notify the French Consul General in Miami of Marquette’s arrest violates the Vienna Convention.’ She blew out a low breath. ‘It’s a noise-making motion that won’t fly in court at this stage of the game, but I do believe my first murder has now officially been elevated to the level of international incident. And in a big way.’

  ‘So says the front page of yesterday’s New York Times. Congratulations. I never even knew there was a World Court till I read that this case might end up in it. I guess this means the paparazzi will be hogging all the good parking spots down at the federal courthouse this week. Better there than here. This trial is gonna be a nightmare when it does happen. I told you your fifteen minutes were just starting.’ Day looked suspiciously at the stack of books again. ‘Rick’s got a hearing?’

  Julia shrugged. ‘You know what it’s like to be the grunt. You have to pay your dues.’

  ‘I remember the grunt who won a competency hearing all by her lonesome a couple of months back. I think your dues have been paid in full, honey. He should be in here researching for you.’

  ‘Thank you for the compliment, but don’t be a rebel-rouser. The head of the AG’s office will be arguing it with him. I’m not admitted to practice in Federal Court, anyway.’

  ‘So how are things with the invisible man?’ Day asked, her fingers back tapping the table. ‘Do tell. Or is he one of those “things” that have come up since Christmas, monopolizing all your precious time and taking you away from your friends? Sweeping you out of town on weekends?’

  Julia looked down at the statute book in front of her. Rick was another relationship that she knew had to be re-examined, but it was far more difficult and complicated to distance herself from him than Dayanara, or even Aunt Nora and Uncle Jimmy, who she also hadn’t seen since Christmas. For one, they were still trying this case together. And secondly, she was still sleeping with him. While it still wasn’t a steady Saturday-night date, and she didn’t know exactly where she even wanted it to go anymore, she knew she was not ready to give it up just yet. Their relationship had stalled out, but not in a bad neighborhood, and she didn’t want to walk home alone. It was as simple as that. So she’d just let them drift aimlessly about in neutral and neither had complained. ‘We have our moments. And when we do it’s fun. Like I said before, I’ve been distracted lately. See, Day? I told you it’s not just you.’

  ‘Now Idefinitely feel better. So what’s happening with this crazy defendant of yours? Is he really crazy, or am I not allowed to ask? Are you sworn to secrecy with the snoots in the Major Crimes Club and exclusives on The Today Show?’

  Crazy was a strange term in a courtroom. While a defendant had to be competent to stand trial, he had to be sane to be convicted. And sanity had nothing to do with how well one could behave in front of a judge, or if a defendant knew what the hell his lawyer was standing next to him for. Sanity basically boiled down to one moment – or in this case, moments – when a crime was committed. The moment that David Marquette buried a knife in his young wife’s chest. The moment he smothered his infant daughter. The moment he beat his toddler son’s head in. The moment he repeatedly stabbed his own little girl as she cowered in a dark corner in her princess gown. Did he know what he was doing? Did he not know it was wrong? Those were the questions that needed answers. Answers that no one could seem to agree on.

  ‘You can ask, but I can’t tell. I’ve been gagged. Farley shut everyone down. The press has been getting so out of hand. As a matter of fact,’ she said, looking at her watch, ‘I have a big pre-trial meeting with the inner sanctum at two. There you go – I just gave up classified information in the name of friendship.’

  ‘Oooh … A pow-wow on a Sunday? I thought the Chiefs would all be golfing.’

  ‘I think it’s to throw off the paparazzi. No one expects the government to actually work on a weekend, much less on a Sunday.’

  Day laughed. ‘Very funny.’ Then her face grew serious again. ‘Listen J, these “things”, this case … remember, it’s just a case. Don’t let it wear you thin, is what I’m saying. You don’t have to go it alone.’

  Julia nodded and bit the inside of her cheek.

  Oh yes, Day. Oh yes, I do. And that’s the worst part. Where I might be going, no one wants to follow.

  Day looked up at the clock then jumped out of her seat. ‘It’s only noon. We have plenty of time. Grab your purse and close those friggin’ books,’ she said, slapping down the cover of Julia’s Federal Reporter.

  ‘What? Where are we going?’

  ‘You owe me a lunch, girlfriend, and, before you hunker down in your pow-wow with all the really important Indians, I’m gonna let you take me, so I can tell you all about the juicy gossip you’ve been missing out on these past couple of months,’ she said as she led Julia out of the empty library by the hand. ‘Most of it’s about you, anyway.’

  68

  ‘He says the voices began right after the baby was born,’ Dr Barakat explained, after the coffee was poured and the conference room had settled down. He slipped on reading glasses as he spread out his notes on the oblong cherry conference table, around which sat Julia, John Latarrino, Steve Brill, the Coral Gables Police Chief, Elias Vasquez, Bob Biondilillo, the Director of the Miami-Dade PD, and the Chief of Legal, Penny Levine. Charley Rifkin and Rick flanked Jerry Tigler at the head of the table, and the three senior investigators from the SAO Investigations Unit upstairs were left holding up the back wall.

  ‘Medical records confirm Sophie Marquette had what’s known as a strawberry hemangioma on the left side of the skull,’ Dr Barakat continued, ‘about twenty centimeters above the eyebrow. It’s a non-cancerous vascular tumor that looks like the lump on a cartoon character’s head after he’s been hit with a frying pan. As is typical with hemangiomas, the bump grew and became more discolored in the weeks after her birth. That was when Dr Marquette says he noticed it began to take the shape of a horn.’

  ‘A horn?’ asked the State Attorney with a skeptical frown.

  ‘Like the devil, Jerry,’ scoffed Rick, holding his two index fingers up behind his ears. The room tittered.

  ‘He claims his wife began to act strange almost immediately after Sophie’s birth,’ the doctor continued. ‘Jennifer stopped going to Mass on Sundays, and he says she wouldn’t even drive by the church anymore, going out of her way just to avoid it. Emma and Danny had each gotten a Precious Moments Bible when they were baptized, but he couldn’t find either in the house. Same with rosary beads, crucifixes. Not even a dried palm from Palm Sunday. He claims that all religious artifacts had been mysteriously removed from the home. Although their other two kids had had lavish christenings, Jennifer refused to even discuss baptizing Sophie, and he says he became concerned that something was very wrong. Fundamentally wrong.’

  ‘W
ho is this guy? Jimmy Swaggart?’ asked Rifkin, scratching at his head. ‘I’m Jewish, so what do I know, but who the hell keeps tabs on where the little woman’s been stashing the family Bibles and palm fronds?’

  ‘Delusions with religious undertones or themes are experienced in almost half of all people with schizophrenia,’ Dr Barakat explained. ‘Most organized religions require a person to believe in things they can’t see, taste, hear, smell, feel. Biblical stories speak of heaven and hell, damnation and the devil, God revealing Himself to Moses through a burning bush. It’s acceptable in society to believe such things in the name of religion, so when you think about it, it’s really not so far a leap for a delusional person to light the rhododendron bush up in an attempt to open a repartee with Jesus.’

  ‘We spoke with over two hundred people about this guy,’ Lat said. ‘Nobody mentioned Marquette was a zealot.’

  ‘Let’s make sure we interview the pastor of the church that Marquette and the missus were regular customers at,’ Rick replied, ‘just in case you missed something.’

  Lat caught the use of pronouns, as he was sure everyone else did. Instead of reaching across the table and rearranging the man’s over-bleached whites, though, he decided to take the high road and let it go. For now. It was only a few more weeks until this case and Rick Bellido were far behind him. Then it was time for a long vacation on a small boat somewhere in the Bahamas.

  ‘It was around this time,’ Dr Barakat continued after the awkward moment had passed, ‘when Sophie was maybe a couple of weeks old, that he says the voices started up, followed soon after by visual disturbances. Dr Marquette claims hearing angry voices, sometimes speaking in rhymes, that would explain in graphic detail just what was happening to his family, both physically and spiritually – what the signs were, what changes were taking place in their souls and in their bodies. He claims that he knew these demons were like tapeworms feeding off a host, sucking the life out from the inside out so that, I think it’s important to note, Dr Marquette stressed they were not human beings anymore.’

 
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