Innocence is... Bliss?
Eleven pairs of eyes fix themselves upon me as I rise from my seat, my fingers trembling. I hear snickers coming from the audience, but they’re quieted as Judge Marbury silences them with a single glare.
He turns to face me, a stony look upon his face, which seems to be sculped from the earth itself. A long, reedy man with a billowing beard that flows over the top of his robes, he looks as though he has been around since the very first murder case. I wouldn’t doubt it.
I bow my head slightly, shuffling where I stand, but I don’t dare sit down. I clear my throat, awkwardly announcing to the room with a squeaky voice, “Um... permission to speak, Your... Judge-ness...?”
The snickers erupt again, and this time, Marbury doesn’t bother to quiet them. He strokes his beard with a single hand, the other clasped around his gavel, but his expression doesn’t change. A deep rumble escapes from his throat as he thinks.
“Miss...” He adjusts his glasses, squinting to read the nametag that’s fastened to my chest. “McKinsley.”
“McKinney,” I interrupt him. My mouth works faster than my brain sometimes, I swear. Biting my tongue, I hope he doesn’t hear me.
His hearing aids must have been turned all the way up, because he hears me perfectly. He raises a silvery eyebrow questioningly. “Excuse me?”
Sweat begins to drip down the nape of my neck, and I resist the urge to wipe it away. I’m sure the back of my blouse is soaked from the stress, but I know it will look worse if I try to fix it. I just can’t call attention to it.
Well, shit. It’s too late for that. I’ve already gotten the entire court’s eyes on me. My fingers fidget at my sides where I have them pinned down, going through the motions. I raise my voice again, trying to hide the stammer.
“You called me Miss McKinsley. It’s McKinney...” I trail off, fighting the temptation to look down at my feet. These heels are absolutely killing me, and all I want to do is go home and take them off, crawling into bed and sleeping the rest of the day away, but it’s too late for that.
If I would have just kept my goddamn mouth shut, I would have been able to leave by now. We were about to call the trial to a vote, but I had to go and ruin it all.
I saw the look in the suspect’s eyes as he sat on the chair, his head hung, his wrists bound in chains. Name’s Mateo Alvarez. A twenty-three year old Hispanic male, he’s on trial for the murder of Charlie Reynolds, who was found dead of numerous stab wounds.
Mateo’s denied killing the seventeen-year-old boy at least ten times now, refusing to plead guilty, saying he wasn’t anywhere near Bronx when it happened. He’s got somewhat of a rap sheet, though, mostly petty things like shoplifting and the occasional drug deal, but it’s enough to make the jury convinced that it was him.
They didn’t know just how wrong they were, blinded by the truth and the power of prejudice. Because of that, I knew I had to make a stand. Even though I had never seen the kid before in my life, I couldn’t just sit by and watch him get thrown in prison for the rest of his life. Those dark eyes were begging for a miracle, but they had already given up on getting one.
There was only thing to do- the right thing.
Marbury looks at me over the top of his glasses, taking in my petite frame from head to toe. He seems unimpressed, as if he’s wondering who chose me for jury duty.
He sighs, setting down his gavel. That’s when I know shit’s about to go down.
Shifting where he stands, he gestures at me with his veiny hands, complete with paper-thin skin, trademark of a near-corpse. I’d know.
“This is certainly... unusual, Miss McKinney,” he puts extra emphasis on my name this time, with a furtive look at me, “but I must say, I am interested to know why you are so convinced that Mr. Alvarez is innocent.”
I swallow. It’s now or never. I raise my voice, my hand drifting into my pocket slowly, gently tracing the outline of what lies inside. “Because he didn’t kill Charlie Reynolds. I did.”
The court breaks out in a panic, the rest of the jury around me flipping over their chairs in an attempt to get away from me, but I stay rooted where I stand. Screams can be heard from every corner of the room, taking me back to that night.
The way my knife glinted under the cover of the streetlamps, the crimson fountain as I buried it up to its hilt, the life leaving Charlie’s eyes as he lay in the gutter, bleeding out like some common homeless man or street rat, getting what he deserved.
No one wolf-whistles at me. That was certainly the first- and last- time he would ever make that mistake.
The security claps me in handcuffs, immediately pulling the knife out of my pocket, still stained with Charlie’s blood. They drop it in an evidence bag, wondering how they had missed it in my first place, and as I try to pull away, I feel the stun gun touch my side.
I drop to the ground, my every muscle convulsing and spasming and generally just hurting like hell, and even as I lay in pain, trying not to throw up from the combination of stimuli and memories, a smile crosses my face.
Because when I look up, I see Mateo’s eyes looking straight into mine. And I know what they’re saying.