The Last DayAs soon as the opening dispersed, Microsoft made a dart for the window and punched it so hard with both hands that it would have shattered to pieces, had it been breakable. He put his head to the cool pane and watched threads of rain racing each other down the window. A soft tap on the shoulder made him jump and almost triggered another fit of anger, but it was Lyonel. Microsoft breathed out, embarrassed by his own temper.
"Well?" he asked. "How did I do?"
"You did you best," said Lyonel with an encouraging nod. "There is no talking sense into the man. Like you said, he is a coward. Blaming everything on a fugitive criminal may be clever and logical, but I doubt he'll miss a chance to pin the whole thing on you. We could try to lock him up for forgery, but he'll probably bail himself out before the judge says 'guilty'."
"Any progress with Ford?"
"Ford is wrecked. He gave us all he knew, but it's hard. He's not exactly a chatbox at the moment. And for the most part it's just words. What we lack is facts. However," Lyonel stressed the last word. "The truth is on our side. Everything put together, your innocence is the most obvious conclusion."
"Too bad the evidence doesn't agree with you." There was a bit too much bitterness in Microsoft's voice that he'd meant to have.
"Not all evidence."
"Look, Lyonel, I appreciate your optimism, but once you've opened a jar of worms, there's no amount of cream you put on top that would make me eat them."
"Optimism's all we got," said Lyonel, but Microsoft was already walking away.
"All rise!" cut through Microsoft's head and he winced. He thought two weeks of trial would get him used to hear the sharp voice of the court clerk piercing his head from the inside, but it only got worse. He looked down at his handcuffs that writhed around his wrists like an electric eel and wished again he had his SC on. The sound transmission through handcuffs was horrible. Besides, every time the clerk spoke, his wrists burned, and pain pierced his head like a needle.
"The honorable Judge Ketch is preceding."
Microsoft stood up stretching his neck to ease the headache.
"Are you alright?" whispered Lyonel who, too, looked worn out by the endless hearings, but inspite of that he sounded optimistic.
"Fine," said Microsoft.
"Today's the wrap. Just hold on for a little longer, okay?"
The judge entered the court room and took his place. He didn't look exhausted, rather bored to death as if everything was as clear as day to him and he hated the formality of another hearing.
Oddly enough, Microsoft felt the same way; his odds to win were very poor, and all he wanted was to get it over with as soon as possible. Lyonel, on the contrary, got more and more passionate as the trial proceeded. Today he was drawing on his last energy, he was perfervid, the word that fitted Lyonel so well it could be his name.
He squeezed Microsoft's shoulder with an optimistic smile and tapped thoughtlessly on the table. Microsoft wondered if Lyonel had an ace up his sleeve or he was just trying to keep his cool in the eyes of the opposite party - Celestro Rawotzki. Celestro stared emotionlessly at the judge.
His hound of a lawyer, Sir Payne, was as conceited as his first name and as merciless as his last name suggested. With his sharp cheekbones and small dark eyes, he had something of a doberman's viciousness about him. In his opening speech, during cross-examinations and presentations, he smashed down every Lyonel's argument, and what he couldn't smash he parried in a dexterous and elegantly bilious manner. Now he eyed Lyonel like a hunter about to shoot a clueless deer.
When the voice in Microsoft's head invited everyone to sit down, he stole a quick glance around the room. It looked small and empty, dull green like everything else in the Federal buildings. The judge was sulking on a dais, to his left there were three independent judges from the UN; two of them looked Asian, and one Caribbean, but Microsoft couldn't quite place them. The counsels of defense were sitting opposite the judge, and because Sir Payne liked to address his 'bull's eye' remarks to the wall behind the judges, Microsoft knew that's where the panel of jury was, hidden behind a spy screen. The whole thing reminded Microsoft of a gaming tournament finale. It felt much more real than a gaming contest, though, painfully real.
Microsoft wondered if there was audience somewhere behind the walls, he could see no one else around, no prosecution either, which was quite a precedent. However, it had been Judge Ketch's irrevocable decision.
The hearing the day before had turned into a fierce slugfest between the arduous prosecutor, turning his summation into a quest to heap the charges on both defendants with flat-out insults. The zealous Lyonel objected to his every word, while the wall of defense of the impervious Sir Payne hadn't seemed to budge an inch. Somewhere towards the end of the debate Judge Ketch had lost his patience.
"I will not tolerate this juvenile rough-and-tumble any more. Let's reduce this crowd of roosters. Tomorrow there will be order or there will be measures!" That was the phrase that ended the previous day. Hence, the prosecution wasn't allowed to be present on the last day.
Microsoft swallowed to push back a bitter lump in his throat, it would give him more hope if he could see anyone dear to him, even anyone from the team. But the testimonies had been given and there was the last thing to endure, the two final blows, one from each counsel of defense.
Celestro, who Microsoft used to consider his best friend, had never even looked in his direction, not once. He just sat there, confident and striking as usual in his white gold threaded slim slacks which merged with his skins at the hipline as if they were a part of his body. The intrinsic letters tattooed on his stomach were partly visible between the sides of his unbuttoned linen trench coat which changed from fluorescent white to metallic grey in the light. Microsoft couldn't understand whether Celestro was angry, scared or didn't give a damn, but his line of defense had proved that he had no intention of direct opposition. Sir Payne was putting more effort into clearing Celestro's name than into besmirching Microsoft's. With an incipient glimpse of hope Microsoft watched Lyonel stand up and walk towards the dais after the Judge had told him to begin.
"Your Honor and the Distinguished Panel," said Lyonel with a slight bow, "Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury". Lyonel bowed again then turned around and greeted Sir and Celestro with a nod. "Mister Payne, Mister Ford."
When Lyonel stressed the name 'Ford', Celestro didn't raise his head, and only a slight heave of his shoulders gave away his soundless snort.
"I'm looking around today," Lyonel turned back to the Judge, "and an image is conjured up in my mind. An image of certain women before a certain wise king who were claiming a certain baby. One of those women was lying, and no one could prove which one. So the king made a harsh decision to split the baby. Both women reacted in a certain way to this atrocious proposition, which gave the king the final clue. Because actions, we all know, speak louder than words.
"Today I am devastated to say that in our case the heinous thing did happen; the baby was split, and we have two people here one of whom is lying. I say one, because I trust my client, Mr. Stevenson, and I believe his story. I believe him because his actions and his reaction convince me. Since it's not my job to accuse, I won't talk about why someone is lying."
Lyonel stole a sideways glance at Sir Payne half-expecting him to object, but the man was quiet, leaned back leisurely in his chair as if he was watching a news feed.
"I'll show you," Lyonel continued, "why Mr. Stevenson is telling the truth and why you should believe me when I say that he is completely innocent. He didn't kill or plan to kill Diod Medina. Mr. Stevenson's acquittal may not preclude acquittal of Mr. Ford Junior, but his acquittal is the most obvious end of today's hearing to me.
"The prosecution urged you yesterday to see that both parties are responsible, but I urge you today to trust your common sense and wisely evaluate the actions, because, as it was said yesterday, neither of the defendants can be taken by their words. Don't take Mr. Stevenson by his word, but remember that it was him who had cried out first, it was him who had cut his own flesh just to be able to tell you what had happened. It was Mr. Stevenson, the only one of the two I might add, who ultimately took the stand and left no ace up his sleeve. We had witnesses to confirm his words.
"He could've let the blocker work, he could've even cast guilt upon one of his team mates, but he chose not to. Mr. Stevenson chose to tell you the truth. Only an innocent man who seeks justice would react like Mr. Stevenson did, isn't that true? Does a guilty man come forward or does he stay in the shadows trying to keep his head down? I'll let you decide about that. Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury and Distinguished Panel, you were repeatedly told yesterday that there is a Russian doll of crimes in this case. I'd like to be clear on that today. I'd like you to be on the same page with me, and only one word is written on my page, this word is murder. We're not talking about information disclosure, we're not talking about corporate conspiracy, we're not talking about violating the international time travel law, the issue here is who killed a fourteen-year-old boy. I am hundred percent sure of two things today. I don't know who killed Diod Medina and I know Mr. Stevenson didn't."
Lyonel Geragos made a pause, looked each judge in the eyes and then past them in the invisible eyes of each member of the Jury.
"Have you ever been falsely accused?" he asked, raising his voice. "Your sibling stole a cookie and you got it in the neck? Your classmate talked loudly in class and you got kicked out? I hope none of you had ever been accused of murder, and I pray you'll never be, because it's as if an invisible Cain's mark were placed on your forehead. One great man once said: "Everybody lies." Well, this man," Lyonel pointed at Microsoft, "doesn't. He doesn't because he learned the hard way what a monstrosity lie can be, because he's been lied to more than once by the same person, Mr. Celestro Ford. Five years ago Mr. Celestro Ford lied to my client that Mr. Evos Ford was my client's father. Documents were provided as proof, which, by the way, were a lie too. Mr. Celestro Ford told my client he was his best friend, a lie. He had a relationship with Mr. Stevenson's partner one night, did he own up to it? No, he lied again."
"Objection. Mr. Rawotzki never saw Mr. Stevenson after the night in question, until five years later. He couldn't have lied since they didn't even talk." Sir Payne fitted the whole sentence in one long dismissive sigh.
"Sustained," said the Judge with the same bored sigh. "Mr. Geragos, don't invent details as you go."
Lyonel went on as if no one had spoken.
"Five years later Mr. Celestro's sister, Miss Takano, helps my client recover his memories, she doesn't tell him who she is. It may not be a lie, but it's prevarication of sorts, don't you agree? Driven by many lies, my client comes to Mr. Celestro Ford to ask for his assistance in exposing certain breeches of law in the company of his presumed father, an honorable and purely legal intention, to which Mr. Celestro Ford agrees and is ready to equip my client accordingly. Gives him a memory blocker saying it's a jammer and again he lies."
Lyonel made a pause waiting for an objection, nothing followed, so he went on.
"Mr. Stevenson spends the night before the crime in Mr. Celestro Ford's house. He goes to the Doodads shop, because he is told so by Mr. Celestro Ford, to get his SC fitted with an information transmitter, which is in fact, as the witnesses confirmed, a self-destructive program installed to change the algorithm. Lied to again. These changes in the algorithm ultimately led to the death of Diod Medina. I'd say more, these lies led to the death of Diod Medina. Because my client comes to work in the morning and learns that he's been lied to again - the operation won't be faultless, someone has to die in the process. My client decides that this someone has to be him. He writes a death note to the man he believes to be his father, a note to Rafael Mozes van Rijn asking him to pass a message to stop the plan in action. The plan he discussed with Mr. Celestro Ford the night before.
"My client was ready to die and his actions proved it, the witnesses proved it, the facts proved it. He didn't know what would happen, he didn't know he was being used as a weapon. As Mr. Celestro Ford once said himself, we don't blame a knife used for murder, do we? We blame the person holding that knife. Mr. Stevenson was a knife, ignorant of what was being done behind his back. He sacrificed himself to save a human life and now he's here accused of taking one. Is this what justice should be like? You may say he was the one to come to Mr. Celestro Ford for help. Well, yes, he trusted the brilliant mind of his so-called friend who had tricked him, betrayed him, but was the only person Mr. Stevenson could possibly turn to. You may agree with the prosecutor and condemn both, it's easy, no effort at all, but the truth always comes out the hard way.
"You read the letter to Mr. Evos Ford written by my client. He believed he was Mr. Ford's son, he was ready to die instead of a boy he hardly knew and someone wants to convince me he would kill a person to take revenge on his own father? I am sorry, but I am not convinced. I'm appealing now to all of you on behalf of the innocent man. Be the wise king, look at the actions, look at the reaction, remember who wanted the boy to live and himself to die in his stead. Don't let yourselves be lied to. All you need is reasonable doubt, you know that, because Mr. Stevenson is presumed innocent by the law. Confirm this presumption, let him walk out of here without the Cain's mark, because this mark isn't for him to wear, it's for the murderer who used him and is trying to make Mr. Stevenson, an innocent man, be unjustly punished. But while you acquit the innocent, don't let the guilty get away with what has been done.
"You know what this tattoo says that Mr. Celestro Ford is so proudly flaunting to us today? It's an ancient saying in Sanskrit which reads 'The natural course of thing to happen cannot be altered', am I right, Mr. Ford?" Lyonel turned to Celestro who only moved his eyebrows.
"It is a good saying." Lyonel face the judges again. "More than that, I'm sure it will be proved today. But let me give you another piece of Sanskrit wisdom. 'Just as a few drops of water falling on a red hot iron ball disappear in a matter of seconds, so also a few good qualities entering the heart of a villain.' I'm not a prosecutor, and I believe my client is telling the truth, and if you believe him too then you have a closer look at Mr. Celestro Ford, however many good things Mr. Sir Payne has to say about him. Let the innocent go and don't let the guilty escape, because that's what justice is supposed to do, and today you are the justice, and I trust your judgement."
Lyonel sat down, and Microsoft heard him let out a nervous breath bit by bit as if he'd been holding it all that time. The lawyer looked at his client with a twitching smile and mouthed something encouraging.
Judge Ketch leaned back and propped his cheek with his right hand looking expectantly at Sir Payne, who traced his thin thread of a beard with his index finger before starting to speak.
"Your Honors and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Justice," he said, standing up. "I'm a humble lawyer with no right to thrust upon you my beliefs, principles or convictions of any kind. Justice roots in facts, doesn't it?"
Payne looked like an artist in the middle of creating a masterpiece. He accompanied his every argument with wide, open gestures of his hands, drawing frames and circles in the air. He walked across the courtroom without being annoying, he managed to catch the eyes of every single judge at the exact moment of making an important point. He stepped and turned with the grace of a panther, his claws retracted but still palpable in his every word.
"While Mr. Geragos may believe whomever he wants to believe, you don't have to believe anything. Like I don't believe anything. I don't have to believe Mr. Rawotzki's innocent, I know it for a fact, and that's a defendant's job to point out facts. Mr. Geragos said he believed Mr. Stevenson's story, a story he's just so eloquently told you. Well, I don't think it's bedtime already, though I did feel sleepy a couple of times during this melancholic saga of self-sacrifice. Let me pep you up a little with bare truth and obvious facts that leave no doubt that Mr. Rawotzki had nothing to do with the death of Diod Medina, or rather let me remind you of them."