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The Trial of Catrina: Bam Said the Jury

by on March 25, 2013

Last time, in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine’s trial for the murder of an alien blob was finally getting underway. There had been jury selection and opening statements, and now the real fun begins: the questioning of witnesses….

“And so,” Edmund said, his voice fairly oozing with sympathy, “after Catrina threatened to murder you just as she had murdered your friend-”

“Objection,” Tyr protested wearily, for what in his estimation was the fifty-seventh time. “Leading question, assumes facts not in evidence, asked and answered, and a host of other specific grounds which I have stated and restated. It has not yet been established that my client murdered anyone. That is the whole point of this trial!”

Edmund glared at the defense attorney. “I shall rephrase. Steve, what did you do after Catrina’s question?”

As the three-tailed blue-furred squirrel-like alien chittered in reply, Catrina leaned over and whispered to Tyr. “Question. Is that alien really named Steve? Shouldn’t he have some sort of more complicated name? Three syllables and a glottal stop, or something?”

“Not particularly,” Tyr said. “It turns out that ordinary names are quite common in that sector. The alien blob you, ah, encountered was named Bill.”

“Bill. Gee, my author’s certainly calling it in on this one, isn’t he?”

Meanwhile, Steve had finished his reply, essentially testifying that he had broken down and told Catrina what she had wanted, mainly that Susan had been going to the center of the meta-verse. The whole experience had been terrifying, Catrina threatening to explode him with her towel and all, and little Steve claimed he had been forced to seek psychiatric help. He’d been put off acorns (or at least his planet’s version of acorns) for weeks. And of course, he emphasized particularly that Catrina had been the first one to fire.

Tyr rose from his place, his hand casually in his pocket. “So,” he began, “Steve, I wonder if you would mind repeating exactly what you said before Catrina deployed her towel?”

“Er,” the alien squirrel said, its three tails bristling nervously, “I was translating what Bill said. ‘You must be Princess Catrina’. That’s what I said, truly.'”

“But was that all you said?’

“Well….not exactly….” Steve admitted, shooting a terrified glance at Edmund the prosecutor. He didn’t much like the way Sludgepipe was glowering at him from Edmund’s shoulder. He was really hoping Tyr would just let it go. Unfortunately, Tyr didn’t.

“Then what, entirely, did you say?”

Steve ran through it so quickly, and quietly, that Tyr was obliged to ask him to repeat itself. “I said,” Steve began again, “It [Bill, I mean] says that you must be Princess Catrina. Susan was here. She told us about you. She offered us a one-million squirtnink reward if we disposed of you. We have been waiting for your arrival a long time.”

“I see,” Tyr said. “So you told Catrina that you had been offered a very large reward to dispose of her, yes?”

“Well, yes, but we weren’t going to go through with it! We was only fooling!”

“We were only fooling,” Tyr corrected. “And, if I might refer to Defense Exhibit 11, did you not sign the purchase receipt for the Marion Face-Melter Mark Three?”

“Er, yes-” Steve admitted, just as Edmund fired off a vociferous objection. He was promptly overruled by the judge, and Tyr went on.

“The same weapon that you had given your friend Bill to wield only moments before Catrina entered the bar?”

“I did, but-”

“The same weapon that has no stun setting? That is, in fact, so dangerous that if its energy bolt comes into the slightest contact with even one cell of a person, that person’s face melts off?”

“That was the one, yes-”

“So you weren’t really fooling, were you? You planned to kill my client, didn’t you?”

“No!” Steve squeaked. “But Bill-”

“Objection, hearsay!” Edmund popped in. “What Bill may have told the witness is prohibited by Galactic Rule of Evidence 801!”

“Your honor, I think Bill’s statement is admissible, given that Bill’s unable to testify, on account of him being dead and all.”

Edmund smiled. “Ah, but it’s not a dying declaration, because he hadn’t died yet, and it doesn’t fall into any of the other categories, does it? I checked. Neener, neener, neener.”

The judge, though unhappy with Edmund’s somewhat unprofessional behavior, upheld the objection, and Steve was allowed to go. That finished out the prosecution’s witnesses; next up was the defense. Tyr called Catrina first to the stand. She calmly testified that she had only wanted to ask the bar patrons where Susan had gone, that she had been quite alarmed when Steve explained that they were going to kill her, and that she had seen Bill the alien blob moving towards its weapon. “So I defended myself,” she said matter-of-factly. “I had to.”

When Tyr had finished, Edmund moved in on his sister like the shark emoticon that one can use for Facebook statuses now. “Tell me, Catrina, were you familiar at all with the Marian Face-Melter Mark Three before the testimony in court today?”

“Of course not,” Catrina said unwarily. “It sounds ghastly.”

“It does indeed,” Edmund replied. “But, back to my question, you had no idea whether that weapon had a stun setting, or a kill setting, or indeed any sort of setting? You didn’t know anything about the Marian Face-Melter Mark Three, did you?”

Catrina saw the trap, and attempted to steer away. “No, but it was obviously some sort of weapon, and the squirrel-thing had just said-”

“Incidentally,” Edmund cut in, “Since we’re all so very interested in who said what, when Steve said that he had been waiting for you, what was your exact response?”

“I’ll bet,” she said reluctantly, not quite in the spirit in which she had said it the first time.

“I’ll bet,” Edmund repeated. “That implies disbelief, doesn’t it? You weren’t really afraid for your life, were you? You just wanted to make an example of poor Bill so the others would answer your interrogation, didn’t you?”

What she should have said was “No, absolutely not,” and maybe even pounded the table in righteous wrath. But in that second Catrina had a flash of doubt. She’d convinced herself that it had been self-defense; indeed, she’d never really given a thought to the incident since then. It was only a weird alien blob, wasn’t it? But now, hearing the testimony that Bill had been beloved by its Zarminnan devotees, and listening to Edmund’s sharp questioning, she wondered. Had Bill really meant to melt her face off? Suppose….and in that second of hesitancy, she made a very grave mistake. “I…I’m not sure.”

“You’re not sure,” Edmund said, with an oily smile that showed he knew he had won. “You ended the life of an alien being, emotionally devastating an entire community, and now you’re not sure why.”

“But he was going to kill me, he was!” Catrina protested desperately.

“Was he?”

She didn’t know how to answer. Tyr valiantly attempted a redirect, but he knew and she knew it was hopeless. The Norse god of justice called a few other witnesses, mostly the space hamsters who’d flown with Catrina, but they couldn’t really testify as to what Catrina was thinking when she attacked Bill. Edmund tore them to shreds on cross. Tyr had arranged to call a reader, who would testify as to Catrina’s heroic character, but to his distress the reader didn’t show. Tyr managed to get a recess and tried all he could to contact him, but to no avail. Perhaps he hadn’t managed to break through the fourth wall. With no other available witnesses, the defense rested, and the jury retired. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come looked at Catrina as it left the courtroom, and she shuddered. “I have a bad feeling about this,” she said.

“Nonsense,” Tyr said, patting her shoulder awkwardly. “We’ll come out alright. You’ll see.”

“You’re just saying that, aren’t you? You’re pretty sure we’ve lost, yes?”

Tyr wouldn’t have been the god of justice if he weren’t honest. “Pretty sure. But there’s always a chance.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Catrina noticed a small band setting up in the courtroom. They appeared to have a keyboard piano, a few violins, and an electric guitar. “What’s that for?” she asked curiously.

Tyr looked worried. “They’re the ones who play the verdict music, like in the TV shows when the jury comes back in. It’s minor-key if the verdict’s guilty, major key if not. But they shouldn’t be setting up so soon….”

And at that moment the jury returned. Catrina and Tyr both stood, as the clone judge adjusted its little wig, and addressed the jury. “Have you, beings of the jury, reached a verdict?”

“We have,” Moira, oracle of the Fates, said ethereally. “Though it is of no concern to me. I see all verdicts, in all lifetimes-”

“Yes, well,” the judge said, “what is your verdict in this particular lifetime? How do you find?”

“We find the defendant…” Moira paused dramatically, and even the band hesitated on a chord. “Guilty.”

The band started up with a minor-key theme. Edmund smirked. Catrina closed her eyes. The judge reached for a little black cloth hat, and settled it over his wig. “Catrina, Princess of Shmirmingard, you have been found guilty of murder in the first degree. It is the sentence of this court that you be taken from here to a place of execution, and that you be laser-rifled until you are dead, and from there your soul will pass into the lowest pit of Character Hell. May your author have mercy upon you.”

Catrina felt a twitch near her ankle, and without really thinking she bent down and adjusted her shoelaces. If there was one thing she couldn’t stand, it was being convicted of murder in a tight pair of boots. She didn’t think it would matter much now anyway. She was done for. Her last bit of hope had died within her like a character on a TV show that everyone assumes won’t be killed but the writers kill anyway because they’re mean. Despite that, though, Catrina didn’t cry. She wouldn’t have given her brother the satisfaction. So instead she settled for pulling a rude face at him, as the robot bailiff marched her away to the place of execution. She only hoped it would be quick. Catrina imagined that death by laser rifle, whatever else it might be, would at least be that.

To be continued….

***

This has been a rather grim episode of the Catrina Chronicles. To find out whether our heroine can get out of this fairly dire situation, be sure to tune in next Monday. For previous episodes, go here. To buy a copy of Catrina in Space, go here. And as always, thanks for reading!

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One Comment
  1. You do grim well, Michael.

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