by D R Evans
the start of the first story for a compilation of short horror/mystery
“Hey Gates, wake up”
John Gates opened eyes.
“Gates wake up, who let him sleep? We don’t need him fresh.”
A hand shook his shoulder.
John lifted his head. There was a dull pain on his temple. He tried to rub the pain away but his hands were chained.
“Why am I chained, where am I?” he said
He looked around the room he found himself in. The owner of the hand that had shook him out of his sleep came around to the front of the table.
The stark grey door on the far end of the room opened, a second man entered the room. He was carrying a folder, John could see the words “Case Number 12421 Murder Alice Gates” written on the side.
“Jim” said the first man “where have you been this s man was fast asleep. “
“I was only gone ten minutes, how much sleep could he have gotten”
“You seem to be missing the point, he is a murder suspect. We don’t like them alert, we don’t let them get some shut eye and gather their strength and get their wits back”
“Sorry Sarge, there was some papers missing and”
“Never mind let’s get on with this”
“What is going on?” asked john
“Mr Simpson, please don’t try that ‘I don’t know where I am’ trick, I have been interrogating murderers for a long time.” Said the sergeant.
The small grey room john found himself in was starting to get smaller, the senior man , who john now came to the realization was a police officer, was now leaning in to get closer to john, his thick hands gripping the ends of the table.
“But I don’t know what is going on” said john. “How did I get here, why are my hands in handcuffs and who are you?”
The steel interrogation table creaked.
“Sarge, Wait let me try” said the second man.
The burly sergeant glared at john for a few more seconds then pushed himself away from the table turned then stood against the far wall.
“OK then” he said “have at it, but I will not wait long, this piece of…”
The younger man held up his hand.
“I have this” he said.
He pulled up a chair, set it down next to the table then sat down. He opened the file then began to look through it.
“OK Mr Gates, I am going to play along,” he said
He pulled out three photos from the file laying them down in front of john one at a time.
“These are the pictures of your wife’s murder scene”
John looked at the picture. A young woman lay on the floor her body slumped against a kitchen cupboard. Her white dress stained red. A knife lay a short distance away, it too was stained red.
John moved his hand as far as he could picking up the closet photos. It looked like his wife, the kitchen looked his kitchen from their brownstone in Manhattan. Hi felt his anger boiling up in his belly.
“Is this some kind of sick joke?? He said “who would do such a sick thing, where is Alice”
The young police officer turned to look at his senior colleague then turn back to look at John.
“Mr Gates all these games are not helping your case, here” he said.
John pulled at his restraints. He pushed the photos away.
“I want to speak to a lawyer’ he said.
“Yes that is your right but I would suggest you help us first so we can make a case for leniency from the judge.” He said.
“You will hear nothing form me until my lawyer is present.” Said john.
The young detective stood packed the photos back into his folder. The older policeman stood up yanked open the door then walked out.
The younger cop turned to follow him. At the door he stopped and turned to john.
“Mr Gates, be honest with us, it will help your case” he said then walked out of the room.
Johns head lifted from the steel for a second time as the door the grey door banged open. The elder sergeant pointed to john.
He is all yours then turned to walk away. A small man entered the room shutting the door behind him.
“Mr Gates “he said “my name is Paul Simpson, I have been appointed to present your case to the judge”
Simpson put a file down on the table.
“OK let’s see” he said “you are going to be tried for the murder of you wife, a one Alice Gates 32 years of age. According to the file………”
“Wait just wait” said John “I have no idea what is going on. The last thing I remember is being shaken wake by that...that brute of a sergeant. I cannot remember my wife's death or being brought here.”
The lawyer looked at John then back to the file. He used a chubby hand to push his glasses back onto his face.
“Mm very interesting, but I am afraid the judge will not find that a very compelling argument.” He said “the judge take a statement like that as a ploy for insanity. There is no insanity defense for these trials. He will not allow it.”
John tried to raise his hands to his face, the restraints would not allow it.
“Please, please tell me what is going on” said John, “I really don’t know what is happening”
The lawyer took his glasses off, he laid them down on the table. The little man lent back against his chair not taking his eyes off john.
“OK, I believe you.” he said.
The sigh that left john was audible, the look of relief palpable. He put his head back down on the table.
“OK” he said” what now?”
“I don’t know” said Simpson “I have never had this problem before. Yes, a few accused suspects have initial memory loss. But it goes away. OK let’s go through the file. The first visit in front of the judge is less than twenty minutes away, and the judge does not like to be messed around.”
John lifted his head to look into the face of his lawyer.
“Twenty minutes? How can that be possible?” he said “surely we have to have time to prepare my defense? What can we achieve in twenty minutes? This is absolute….”
“Now, now calm down. It is only a meet and greet. The judge will see the parameters of the case and give us the charge sheet we have to defend against. So let’s quickly go over your case. The judge will want a few answers from you. You will plead not guilty, that goes without saying.”
“Now” the lawyer continued “you are being trial for the murder of your wife. The police found you lying on the floor next to your wife. The knife in your hand, you hand prints all over her dress. You were 5 times over the alcohol limit. “
He paged through file.
“Mm, they have video footage of you having an argument with you wife five hours earlier, where you left her at the theater and stormed out. They have eye witness accounts of you at a bar on fifth till one hour before your wife’s death. Your neighbor heard you banging on the door of your apartment, screaming at your wife. You entered the apartment fifteen before the neighbors heard your wife scream. The police arrived two minutes later and found the murder scene. You were arrested and taken to the 15 precinct.”
He flipped through a few more pages. Then closed the file and put it down.
“OK, there is the long and short of it. Any of it coming back?” he asked.
John shook his head. His hands strained on the handcuffs.
“No, no I am remembering nothing, not a single thing, I mean I remember my wife, I remember the apartment but I do not remember going to any play or having any argument with my wife. “
A tear moved down his check as he remembered his wife, the realization that his beautiful wife was dead. That she was brutally murdered and that it could have been him who took her life.
Simpson lent forward putting his hands in John’s hands.
“Come on chin up, all is not lost. Let’s hear the charges then we can formalize a defense. We can get to the end of this matter then get you on your way.”
There was knock on the rooms door. A man wearing a uniform put his head in.
“The judge will see you now.” He said.
He a guard followed him in undid the cuffs and helped john to his feet.
The side door to the court room opened. John was led past the chairs to a table facing a raised dais. His hands were re handcuffed to the table. All around him people walked about. No one seemed to even notice him. They just went about their business, carrying around folder, talking to each other, not even glancing in his direction. A hand touched his shoulder. He looked round to see Simpson moving to sit next to him at his table.
“How you doing John, they treating you alright” he asked.
John nodded his head still mesmerized by all the activity around him.
“I don’t remember… the door opened… and I was here” he said.
The court went quiet, all the people stopped and turned to face the dais. An old man, john thought must be at least sixty-five years old, walked up to the front of the dais.
“Hear he hear he. The honourable judge Paul Schooner is entering the court. Everyone be up standing”
A door opened at the rear of the court. A man entered the court room. The black robe hanging over his narrow shoulders. His long thin hands carried a heavy bound book. He climbed slowly up the stairs then turned to face his court. He placed the book on the dais then sat down.
The court orderly motioned to the people in the court to sit down. People scurried to their chairs then sat down waiting for more instructions from the judge.
The orderly went to a table, picked up a file, he walked over the judge then handed it to him.
He then moved back to his table and sat down waiting for the judge.
The judge opened the file. He read through it slowly, taking his time. He then looked up straight at John.
“Stand” he said.
John stood slowly, Simpson helped him up.
“You are on trial for causing the death of your wife” the judge droned “how do you plead?”
“I am innocent, I did not do it” john pleaded “I did not kill my wife. I have no idea what happened. I am innocent”
The judge put down the file. He looked at john. Then he looked at his lawyer.
“Mr Simpson.” He said “your client seems to be at a loss. Is he competent to stand trial?”
“Um, yes mi lord he is a bit groggy on the details and does not remember much of what has happened.” Said Simpson “I am afraid he is not one hundred percent aware of his situation”
“And you have not tried to explain to him?”
“Yes your honor, I have tried to breach the subject with him but I was hoping the court would jolt his memories.” He said. “I thought his own eyes would show him the light”
“Well” said the judge “I am not in the habit of wasting time as you are aware”
He turned to John.
“John Gates, I am not sure that you are aware of what is happening. You are not here to defend yourself for the death of your wife. You have already been found guilty of that.”
John raised his head to look at the judge.
“Mr Gates “continued the judge “you have been tried and been found guilty of her murder.”
John turned to Simpson. His lawyer did not look back. He turned back to the judge.
“Then why am I here… what is happening, I don’t…. understand” he stammered.
“Mr Gates, you have already been executed. “Said the judge “You are not here to defend your life. You are here to defend your soul. Mr Gates, this, is your judgment day.”
John felt his head start to spin, for the first time he noticed the people in the court room, they were all looking at him. He noticed that they were all dressed in costumes, period costumes he noticed.
H looked to the judge. The judge was not what he first thought he had been. The gaunt face and long fingers were not just then thin, they were skeletal. His eyes were not bright blue but light blue flames that shown trough his flesh-less skull.
“Mr Gates” said the judge” if found innocent you will climb the ladder to salvation but if found guilty you will be walk down the stairs to damnation.”
He turned to face Simpson.
“Mr Simpson” said the judge.
Simpson stood straight.
“Yes your honor”
“Simpson, I have decided that you will need more time.” Said the judge “Mr Gates, we are not interested in the happenings in the world of the living. Here we are more interested in the souls of the dead. We now every second of your life, it is here in this book”
He put his bony hand on the great book he had brought in.
“You came home after a drunken binge, got into a fought with your wife and killed in a rage. This we know as it in the minutes of your life. What we are here to determine is your inner thoughts while perpetrating this heinous dead. That we have not knowledge of.”
The judge closed the file in front of him.
“When the creator created man he decide to give you freedom of thought and of deed. Giving man freedom of thought meant no one was allowed to know man own inner thoughts except for that man. So go back to your cell, speak to your lawyer, and figure out what happened. Your soul depends on it”
He picked up a hammer then let is drop with a bang
The bailiff stood up. John now noticed that he the whole left side of the bailiff’s face was missing. All that was there was a great black hole.
“All rise” he said” the honorable judge Paul Schooner is leaving the court”