Friday, August 29, 2008

Scarlet Moon

He was just a shadow in the dark but the familiar sound of his voice gave him away. Mark was holding something in his left hand, the other hand hidden behind his back. The pounding on my chest grew stronger the closer he got to me.

"So you came, my dear best friend... So you came... What a surprise... Good evening Jim... Take this, my present to you". His laughter reverberated with pure evil, and as I stood there stunned, he tossed to me the thing he was holding, it was round and black, and oozing slime.

As I caught the thing in my hands, the dim light under the scarlet moon allowing me to barely recognize it, I was mortified to be holding the severed head of Trixie.

Mark advanced, the hidden hand now exposed, he held it over his head and the butcher's knife glimmered in the dark, lusting for my blood. I reached for the magnum tucked in my waist. The last thing I remember was pulling the trigger then hearing an audible snap as the butcher's knife tore through my collarbone. Then I passed out.

We slept in the same room, dodged bullets and endured all kinds of humiliation from the drill sergeant at boot camp. My destiny was to become a cop and I resigned myself to fate with neither regret nor reservation. But Mark thought he was meant for bigger things. The top graduate of Batch '74, he went straight to law school while serving the command, and in five years he blossomed into a hotshot lawyer. The whole time, I was barely making ends meet catching criminals. Finally, I decided to take his lead, and followed my best friend to the legal profession but by then it was already twelve years after he had topped the bar examination. My mid-life decision to change careers was fueled not only by economic necessity but even more so by a nagging envy, which I wouldn't admit. I was nearing fifty when I finally passed the bar, at my fifth try. And then came the fateful night, the frantic call from Marian, the screaming in the background followed by a dead silence, the bloodbath, the night that I almost died.

The first thing I asked for as soon as I regained consciousness, three weeks after the incident was the forensic investigation report. I couldn't stand the post-mortem on Marianne and Little Mark, my godson, whose bodies were discovered in the bathroom. The report included the dog without a head, Trixie, a mild-mannered Rottweiler, the puppy I gave the boy on his eighth birthday and has since grown to become his playmate and friend. There was a graphic description of two dying men at the porch of the Balderrama Mansion, one had a slug inches from his heart, the other had a butcher's knife still stuck at the base of his neck, spewing blood. Yet miraculously, both men survived. Immediately after my release from hospital, I surrendered my badge and left the police force, which felt like losing your true love, but I have a new life now and I shall dedicate this second life to the defense of my best friend, not as a lawman but as a full-pledged lawyer. Nothing else matters.

With a plot full of twist made for the movies, the Balderrama massacre fueled a national hysteria. The family of Marianne was deluged with offers from big law firms hungry for the publicity to gain if they could send the accused to prison, some are simply looking for revenge, his own colleagues who couldn't get over the humiliation Mark inflicted in past courtroom encounters. On the other hand, I painstakingly went bank to my law books, searched the depths of my learning and memory and labored for long hours trying to muster every ounce of useful knowledge from my training in criminal law and police investigation. When a tabloid flashed my mug shot on the side bar of the running story of the massacre with the intriguing caption describing me as a former police major with limited litigation experience having only recently passed the bar, and hinting that the reporter knew of my four previous failures in the bar examination, I wanted to quit. I went from one sleazy bar to the next and stayed drunk for weeks until I was convinced it's still worth a try.

Sparks don't fly when lawyers make their arguments in court. It may seem that way in the movies but in real life, the courtroom is not a theatrical stage of intellectuals who speak in metaphors and pull rabbits out of a hat to win cases. I believe that litigation is hard work and he who put in the grater effort should enjoy a better chance at success; my blue collar approach to what people used to call a white collar job. My faith in my theory never wavered from the day I accepted the case, which no lawyer would dare touch, until the closing arguments.

"Your Honor, my client is insane and he is entitled to the exempting circumstance of insanity".

"We object to that, your Honor. There was no evidence of insanity before, during and after the commission of the act. If anything, the accused is not only mentally sound, but he is actually very intelligent, brilliant if I must say so, being a high-profiled lawyer and a bar topnotcher".


"Your Honor, what motive can you have to commit something like this?

"Objection your Honor, motive is immaterial when the identity of the accused and his participation in the criminal act are clearly established. And we have sufficiently established that, your Honor".


I knew I was losing it. But I would rather die than accept my fate. I ripped my clothes, off exposing the ten-inch scar dealt by the butcher knife that ruptured my collarbone. The women covered their eyes and the men cursed. I had thrown the gauntlet at the judge to cite me for contempt but he was too shock to react. I was a man possessed, shouting and cursing while security men struggled to drag me out of the courtroom.

Look here, all you motherfuckers. Mr. Balderrama did this to me. If he had struck sideways, he would have cut my head off and I won't be here speaking to you now. But guess what? I don't hold grudges and I could live with what he did but what I couldn't take is to allow you and your fucking laws to condemn to death this innocent man. The accused is crazy goddammit but you can't see that because you are all crazy blood-thirsty motherfuckers yourselves. Goddamn crazy motherfuckers.

few months later, the entire nation was in a state of shock. Even the President, stunned, could only quip "no comment" when pressed in an ambush interview. She just couldn't say it was a travesty without incurring the wrath of the justices. It's even worse to call it "the triumph of justice" although that would make for a dramatic soundbite except that it would alienate the voters and seal his coffin in the next elections. Sometimes, it sucks to be a President.

I was literally dragged into a press conference the minute the verdict was announced. There I was chided, ridiculed, and then lionized by a press gone wild over the balding David, as one newspaper put it, who slew not one but a whole battalion of Goliaths in what was dubbed as the trial of the century. The David monicker sits well with me, but I hated the balding part. Can't they learn to give the compliment minus the insult? I was asked the usual questions and I gave the usual answers: how I feel, my message to the family of Marian, my opinion on capital punishment, I was bored from it all. My cellphone rang in the middle of the press conference. The secretary of one of the high-profile law firms was on the line requesting if I can meet her bosses asap, they would be pleased to know if I would consider joining the firm. We'll see.That was all I could say. Then someone from the press asked who would I choose to play myself if this case is made into a movie? The King, no less. But he's dead, they protested. Well, don't they say Long live, the King? The women thought I was cute, and how come you didn't marry, asked one of the women on the front row. It's none of your business, I answered smiling. Then a gay movie reporter apparently eavesdropping during my phone call earlier would like to know if I don't feel embarrassed being seen in public using the cheapest Nokia. I wanted to throw my 5210 at his face but decided against it so I walked out.

Tonight, all the television channels devoted entire newscasts to the verdict. It's amazing how easily these crusading journalists can turn full circle when not so long ago they have all but tried, convicted and crucified my client. Now they all concur that he was just a victim of circumstances and I am the savior. The news ended with snapshots from the reading of the decision, as the closing credits rolled down there was Marian's family grieving, screaming out loud, cursing but unable to comprehend this most hideous of pain, this crushing setback, this madness, this day in hell; and I know that from this moment until the day they die, they will hate me more than they had ever hated Mark, and they will condemn my soul to hell no matter if the whole world loves me now.

I turned off the teevee set and went downstairs to find the gate open. I instinctively reached for my waist, where my gun used to be, and realized just how much I missed my gun and my life as an officer. I looked around but found nothing unusual. Who would dare break into the house of a former police officer? And what's there to rob anyway? The night is cold and the moon is full, so full that it looks so near and almost scarlet in its fullness. I locked the gate, returned upstairs and walked into my bedroom. When I turned on the light, Mark stood in the corner, smiling a wide smile, and with fire in his eyes. He was holding a butcher's knife.

1 comment:

Sayz Lim said...

I'm not really sure what is going on with the story, but I find it scary. My imagination always drive me to crazy, and this one really good. I'll subscribe to your blog for sure, waiting for your next story.