Royce' s first day on the job, and he ended up on guard duty in the most crowded courtroom on the planet. Sweat was already pouring down the back of his gray polyester uniform as he waited by the door, monitoring the mass of people trying to cram themselves into what was billed as the trial of the century.
Delatorre, Royce's mentor, motioned him closer to the bench, and Royce waded into the sea of sweaty civilians and joined him.
"First day," Delatorre smiled. "You got lucky, kid."
"I don't know, sir," Royce pulled at his collar. "This looks like more than I can handle."
"Nah, most everybody behaves," Delatorre scanned the room as he spoke. "The judge already threatened them pretty good."
"Who is that old lady in the front row?" Royce had noticed her when the courtroom opened. She was the first one in the door, and although it had taken her a few minutes to get to the front, people made a place for her right behind the defendant's chair.
"That is what we call a murder groupie, rookie." Delatorre's tone became sarcastic. "She's been here every day since the preliminaries, just sitting there knitting. Sometimes she reaches over and straighten the guy's collar, or pulls off the stray hairs from his coat. It's sickening."
" Why let her in?" Royce watched the old lady, her head nodding in time to her stitch. Her lips were moving as she worked; it reminded him of his grandmother, who used to pray to herself while she worked.
"It's a free country, man," Delatorre shrugged. Both men came to attention as the judge entered the room and brought the court to order. The defendant entered soon after, a smile on his face. Clarkson had suddenly pled guilty to the sadistic rape and murder of one girl, with the understanding that he would not be charged for the other 17 bodies that had been found. The death penalty was off the table to avoid a lengthy court battle.
Royce felt a chill move over his skin at the sight of the man; he was sure that the guy had killed more that would never be found. Clarkson radiated pure evil, he thought. He was glad he did not have to stand close to the guy.
The judge and the lawyers conferred, and then the judge announced that the families of the victims would be allowed to read statements describing the impact Clarkson' s crimes had had on them.
Only one woman stood, and there was a soft gasp in the courtroom. The frail old lady, who had sat through months of back and forth between the lawyers, jury selections, and a million pretrial motions, slowly made her way to the stand. She turned to face Clarkson, her knitting still in her hand, and straightened her spine. As Royce watched, she seemed to expand and grow taller, her outrage infusing her with momentary strength.
"I am Natasha Treblinka," she began. Clarkson smirked; he recognize the name.
"You murdered my granddaughter," Natasha's became stronger as she spoke. "She cries out for justice, but the judge has decided that there will be no trial for her. So be it. I and the others whose children you have killed will have justice, however."
Royce jumped as the old woman raised her arms, the garment she had been knitting in her hands. He moved his hand away from his gun and exhaled. The old woman pulled loose the first stitch, and the yarn so carefully created began to unravel.
At first no one knew what was happening, but as Clarkson began to scream, and as the blood poured from his chair, the crowd seemed to be holding their breath. They all watched as Clarkson unraveled before them, his screams becoming more frenzied and piteous. He screamed for the mercy he never gave another living soul, and then he was gone, nothing but eight pints of blood soaking into the wooden floorboards of the courtroom.
"Case dismissed." The judge stood, and Natasha Treblinka of the Roma clan, began to move slowly away from the stand toward the exit.
Royce leaned over and vomited.
This is probably more than 500 words, and I apologize. I cut as much as I could.
“Are you really sure that a floor can’t also be a ceiling?”
― M.C. Escher
― M.C. Escher
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