London, October 2004
“Emma! What the hell is this?”
Martin Windsor held the photograph in front of her face, his fingers as red and bloated as his round, jowly head. She looked at her boss over the top of her glasses, not at the picture. She didn’t have to or want to. Emma was the one who had put it on his desk after having it enlarged as much as the office copier could.
The photo showed a set of rusty iron manacles, set into a rendered stone wall. The edges of the cuffs were cruelly burred to deter attempts to slip out of them. Caked dry blood showed someone had tried anyway.
Cally Frost had tried. Ten year old Cally.
She had bled to death trying to free herself. What he was doing to her was worse than severing her own hands to escape.
She took the picture and turned it back to face him.
“The rust Marty. The rust. Those cuffs had been there a long time. Probably used before” said Emma.
“But no evidence was found of other victims” argued Martin.
“He altered them by hand. Customised them. Liked them. Liked how they worked. The cuffs were the only constant.”
She wanted to slap Marty’s smug face.
“The guy is smart” she said exasperatedly. “What about the drugs he used? Those doses had to be incredibly accurate to achieve what he wanted. And he used plastic. Acids. Bleaches.”
“O.K. Emma, keep your voice down. You did your job. The court did theirs. You know how it is. On to the next one.”
She shook her head wistfully. “Martin, I interviewed him over a four day period. Thirteen hours in all. He was a textbook case. Broken, low income home. Promiscuous mother. Violent stepfather. Began harming animals, other children. Textbook. He poured his heart out to me and I could barely keep my composure at the incredible sadness in him.”
“It would certainly help explain how he turned out the way he did” reasoned Martin. He rubbed his hand over his oil slicked hair.
“You don’t listen very well for someone in our line of work do you? Textbook Marty. He made it up. He was acting.”
Martin seemed offended by this.
“Well your case notes helped win him an insanity verdict Emma. He’s in the best of care now.”
“No Marty your testimony won him that verdict. I was kept off the stand because of my age and sex. You presented my notes, but not my summary. You and that defence lawyer twisted it. That’s what saved him from a life sentence. He’ll do five years at Wellingsgate. They’ll review his progress. He’ll act his way through the whole process. There’ll be remorse, remarkable improvement. The doctors at the ‘Gate will be still slapping each other on the back when he finds the next one. He’ll be back raping and torturing little girls about the same time your Lucy is turning ten. The same age as Cally Frost.”
The photo of Martin’s freckle faced five year old beamed at them from its proud place in his office. The use of her name in Emma’s argument was boiling his blood.
“How dare you!”
Emma ignored him. “On his way out of court he winked at me Marty. He knew exactly how it would play out. I got a P.I. to check out the details of his story, and a few other things as well. He got a few smacks as a kid, sure, but he was never beaten. He added countless embellishments to his saga. His poor mum worked her butt off to provide for him. Only the parts about his own cruelty were true.”
“This man is not mentally ill, at least not by the definition which spared him from prison. He’s smart. Very, very smart. He didn’t do it because he was sick. He did it because it was fun.”
A single line of perspiration ran down Martin’s temple.
Her boss went to the door and closed it.
“Emma..” he began.
“We have to go to the courts and resubmit Marty. Admit our part in this miscarriage of justice.”
“Listen to yourself Emma! That would make a mockery of this firm’s reputation. More than half our work is legal. Think of what it would do to us!”
“Are you telling me that’s more important than another Cally Frost turning up?”
He hesitated a moment too long.
“To the senior partners, yes”
“It could be Lucy next time!”
He leant towards her.
“You’re one of our best and brightest Emma Stone. You let this go right now. Keep your mouth shut and the sky’s the limit for you.” He withdrew to the plush chair, stroking a stray hair back into the fold.
Emma looked across at the man who until recently, she had admired greatly.
“Sadly, I knew you’d say that Marty. That’s why I’ve written a revision of the case study, highlighting the real relevance in it. Included with it are statements from private investigators and family services. There is a summary of faults and omissions from the trial, the biased defence questioning and our firms’ ties to that of the lawyers.”
Martin Windsor’s eyes widened as much as his fleshy cheeks would allow.
“Emma, where is this document?” He sounded like a schoolboy who’d lost his lunch money.
“In the hands of the Frosts’ lawyer. Along with a cheque for fifteen thousand pounds to fund the preparation for a mistrial.”
“Oh sweet Jesus, what have you done?”
“You really don’t listen that well at all do you? I just told you exactly what I’ve done.”
Emma began gathering personal belongings from her desk as Marty sat like a bullfrog in shock.
“It’s the designer defence. We are constantly building back stories for criminals. Pitying them because of their poor mistreated pasts. Their crimes are forgotten as the catalogue of woe is poured out. Our opinions are taken like the word of God in a courtroom. Think of the horrors we have helped excuse in the name of mental illness.”
She slammed her hand down on the photograph.
“Enough!” she yelled in his face.
She tossed the last of her things in her bag and stood.
Martin opened his mouth, his eyes suddenly menacing.
“Don’t bother threatening me Marty. You’ll never work in this town again. See you in court. Cement boots. Or any other crap you’re contemplating. You can’t scare me.”
She took off her jacket and began pulling up her blouse to expose her side.
“Not everyone who’s had it tough becomes a serial killer.”
From her hip to her collar bone, a litany of horrific scars covered her. The marks continued down her thigh and around her chest and back. She ran her finger over them, listing the implements that had been used on her.
“Belt buckle. Poker. Cigarettes.”
She touched her oddly angled upper arm, which had been broken and not set properly.
She pulled down her blouse and reached for her jacket.
“I was thirteen before I found out not all daddies showed they love their daughters this way.”
Emma picked up her bag and opened the office door.
“No one can scare me anymore.”
(from the novel “Last Goddess”)