The room felt colder than ever. A room where it could fit more than a hundred people, now seemed like a telephone booth and as the time was passing, its walls were getting closer and closer. It was the third time that I had to rush myself outside for fresh air. Three whole months with endless hours spent on that room, begging for the final day to come. And when that day finally came, I wasn’t ready for it. In less than an hour I would hear what others decided for my brother’s murderer. I had the chance. I had every chance to do whatever I wanted with that man. My anger, my rage, my emotions did not prevail. I am a human of reason and justice.
The third bell in the courtroom inviting us in was a sound I will never forget. A sense of vibration to my ears and a chill to my whole body. I felt weak. My face was pale and cold sweat was running all over my face. This is it…
Everyone was attending on that big day. Everyone who was still alive that is. I was sitting as far away from Ian and Jake as I could. I’ve noticed Jake talking with Ian a couple of times, even laughing like old friends hanging in a bar. Up to this day I’ve never asked Jake once about his private talks with Ian. Not once. I saw Jane standing next to the exit with an attractive young man holding her hand. She was wearing big, black sunglasses avoiding any eye contact with anyone.
The judge entered the room. He started reading a paragraph about laws and all kind of boring stuff, that my mind wasn’t at the right place to remember or pay attention, until my left eye got a glimpse of one of the jury people standing up. That was it. The final verdict.
I remembered a few days before, when Jake called me and asked me to testify before the Judge. Without any explanations I denied.
“Are you sure?” Jake asked me with a kind voice that I felt like crying over the phone.
“I am sure. My final answer is no.” I replied. Jake did not insist which was surprising for me. He was starting to understand what was going on inside my head. I have to admit that even I could not comprehend everything that was being going on in my head since the day Ian appeared on my doorstep.
The old man standing in front of the jury was talking. My ears were buzzing, I could hardly hear anything although the room was filled with silence. I felt the cold sweat again and my heart pounding. I could catch the word GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY quite a few times including the name of each victim. I turned my head and looked at the door. Jane was gone. Perhaps after hearing the words ‘guilty of murder’ more than three times, was enough for her to leave in peace. But not for me. Not yet.
“… For the death of Lavinia Kull, the accused Ian hurts is found GUILTY…”
I looked at Ian and he was looking at me. Without realizing it, the whole time of the verdict Ian had turned his head and was looking at… me. I was shocked. I felt the need to sit down, but I couldn’t show any sign of weakness. Not now, not at the end. My ears kept buzzing and I could hardly hear anything when suddenly I saw Ian’s head turning to the jury in surprise. I automatically turned my head without knowing what was going on. Everyone in the courtroom started shouting and yelling.
What the hell is going on…
My eyes looked for Jake, but he wasn’t next to Ian who was now sitted, staring at the floor. I found Jake talking to the Judge and then everyone rushing outside the room, talking about something unbelievable happening.
Jake gave me a nod to meet him at our usual spot outside the toilets. I was trying to listen to other people’s conversations about what was going on. What was the Jury said that made everyone so upset, that made Ian react, and the Judge to announce a 10 minute break?
“Are you okay?” Jake asked me while giving me a hug. I found it a comforting one, so I hugged him back and smiled awkwardly.
“A bit dizzy but okay. What happened? Why the break?”
“What do you mean what happened?”
“Why are we outside, why is everyone so upset?”
“Helen, did you hear the verdict?”
“Did you hear the last sentence of the verdict?”
“I have to admit that my head is all over the place, I might even have a fever…” I chuckled to the idiot joke I made, but seeing Jake’s face so serious and worried, I knew that something was wrong. Something wrong about Ian… about me…
“They were announcing the deaths and saying he’s guilty and then… what is the punishment, how many years?” I replied.
“We never got to that.” Jake took a step near me as if he were ready to catch in case I faint or something.
“All right…” I was ready for whatever he was about to say. At least that’s what I thought.
“Ian was found guilty of all deaths except from one. Your brother’s.”
As if this sentence weren’t harsh enough Jake continued, repeating the words of the jury,
“For the death of Jonathan Martinez, Ian Hurts is found INNOCENT.”
I started laughing hysterically, I couldn’t stop until I fainted.
I woke up the next day in a hospital. Severe dehydration and exhaustion. They kept asking Jake all these questions, like what happened to her, why was she in that condition. They couldn’t believe that a person in the right mind would go through all these, physically and mentally voluntarily. Of course, Jake could not tell the real reason why I have been starving myself for years, depriving my body from hydration and rest. But my enemy was restless, I couldn’t give in to the temptations of real life. However, the real reaction, the one that made Jake actually burst into tears for what have I become was the one that came a few hours after I woke up and Jake and the doctor entered my room.
Of course, I cannot remember anything of that day or any of the following days to be honest, but this is how Jake described it to me a few months later, when we were sitting in our beautiful garden in our new home in Italy,
“The ambulance came, and I requested from a doctor, a good friend of mine to keep you safe until I was done with the trial and come to you. After the verdict of life imprisonment without parole, I ran to the hospital and waited there until the very next morning when you woke up. I entered the room with the doctor, and we were about to tell what happened, what condition you were at and that you had to stay for two more days in the hospital. But as I entered the room, you looked at me into my eyes and… I looked at yours, and then you left a tear run down your face, and…” Jake stopped his narration as we both heard his voice tremble. Without looking at him, I touched his arm.
“… I saw your mouth moving without making any sound. I think you said: I’m sorry. And then you started screaming so hard that you finally collapsed on the floor with seizures. Three men had to restrain you and they wouldn’t let me touch you or come next to you… you know… to help you. They didn’t allow visitation for 4 days, and then… I remember, ironically, the doctor suggested that we may visit a Psychiatric Clinic for mental support, and he passed me a flyer of Faber Clinic, which of course I threw immediately in the garbage.”
I gave him a kiss and then asked him to continue.
“I took you at my home and you didn’t talk for like a week or so. You were barely eating, and I saw you crying a couple of times. I never tried to talk to you or put pressure on you, cause I knew that you would come to me when you were ready. Which you did one Sunday afternoon. I remember hearing the door to your room opening and I think my heart skipped a beat… not from happiness… I think it was mostly fear of what was about to happen. But then you came, and you sat next to me… and…” he smiled… “you placed your head on my shoulder and you said: I’m hungry.”
“And then after 9 months here we are sitting in our new home, a new country, a new life and again the past is knocking on our door.”
Two letters were laying on the table next to our wine glasses both addressed to me. The one was from a guy named Jerry Orland, one of the members of the jury as Jake informed me and the other one was from Ian Hurts. After finishing two bottles of red wine I opened Jerry’s letter:
Dear Ms. Martinez,
I would like to express my sincere apology for the verdict on that horrifying day. I was informed about your situation and everything and I would like to admit that I was one of the members of the jury that voted for the innocence of Ian Hurts for the death of your little brother. A few days later Ian Hurts asked me to visit him. He wasn’t allowed visitation for 7 months until your partner Jake informed me that I was now able to visit Ian Hurts and finally listen to what he wanted to tell me. There is no point of me getting into details. I only want to let you know that he spoke with all members of the jury, at least those who voted for his innocence, and we officially changed the verdict to guilty of all charges. I send you an official copy of the verdict. I hope you now find the peace you were looking for. My deepest condolences for your brother’s loss.
I kept staring at the piece of paper for another 10 minutes. Jake wasn’t talking. He was patiently waiting. Of course, he knew all about it. I opened the second letter and with a first glance I saw how short the letter was. So, I started reading,
I made it right this time.
I rumpled both letters and threw them in the trashcan. I turned to Jake – the man who believed in me and saw right through me –
I hugged him, and I repeated the same last words that Ian ever said to me,