The Beating of His Heart
By Catherine P.
“Will the secretary for the prosecution please stand?”
He was a little man beyond middle age, his sparse gray hair combed haphazardly over the gleaming pink globe of his scalp. His nose, almost straight, was hooked by a conglomeration of cartilage at the bridge, and it was on this protuberance that his spectacles rested. Through these he eyed the gathering of jurors malevolently before he turned to the defendant. Mr. James William Fitzgerald, the best money could buy, began.
“Mrs. Kieran, you are the wife of the deceased, Mr. Terry Kieran.”
Blair inclined her head. “Yes.”
“We have only sympathy for you, Mrs. Kieran, in your loss.”
Blair inclined her head. “Thank you.”
Mr. Fitzgerald shuffled the top paper of his stack to the bottom. Blair found herself wondering what was on that paper. Perhaps the phrase, “We have only sympathy for you, Mrs. Kieran, in your loss.”
Mr. Fitzgerald cleared his throat.
“You have stated for the jury that on the 14th of April, a Sunday, you were at home suffering from a high temperature.”
Blair inclined her head.
“In the future, please respond verbally to my question, Mrs. Kieran. It helps it all go so much faster.”
Blair was silent.
“On the 14th of April, 1992, you did not leave your home.”
“Did you have contact with anyone that day? The mailman, perhaps?”
“No, I didn’t leave the house. I was in bed.”
“Naturally. However, Mrs. Kieran, due to the unfortunate nature of criminal investigations, having no eyewitnesses to say that you were not, in fact, at the scene of the crime- being your husband’s hotel room, 214, in the Plaza- on the 14th of April, we are forced to consider you as a suspect for his murder.”
Blair was silent.
“Mrs. Kieran, what were, may I ask, the terms between you and your husband?”
After a brief pause, she answered, “We had been married seven year.”
“Pardon me, Mrs. Kieran, but that was not my question. How were the relations between you and Mrs. Kieran? At the time?”
“I don’t understand. We were on good terms, if that’s what you mean.”
“That is precisely what I mean. You didn’t quarrel?”
“Well, of course, the little things. The laundry, and the cleaning. But we were on excellent terms.”
“And yet, Mrs. Kieran, your husband was living apart from you.”
Blair was silent. Mr. Fitzgerald said nothing. At last she spoke. “This was in April…I remember then that he had several meetings- of an important kind- downtown, and he decided a hotel would be easier for some time…”
“Mrs. Kieran, we have taken the liberty of investigating Mr. Kieran’s reservations at the hotel. He had taken a room for two months.”
It isn’t true- it can’t be.. he never said anything about staying at the hotel. Of course we were both angry, both had a right to be- but he was going to come home… it’s not true.
“I- I’m afraid- I don’t understand.”
“Mrs. Kieran,” said Mr. Fitzgerald in a clipped, clear voice, “Your husband had made reservations to stay at the Plaza for tow months time. Now, I’d like to venture the question of why your husband would make these reservations if, as you say, the both of you were on ‘perfectly good terms.’ Mrs. Kieran, can you explain your husband’s actions?”
Falteringly, she responded: “He never said anything about it. How should I now that he wanted to stay for two months?”
“Well, you see, Mrs. Kieran, in general, husbands who are on good terms with their wives do not make plans of this sort in secret.”
Suddenly tired, she closed her eyes.
“Are you sure, Mrs. Kieran, that there is nothing you can thing of to explain your husband’s actions?”
He never said anything. We had been angry before, but two months? Victoria, perhaps- had a habit of interrupting our happiness like that- oh God could it be.. when he told her not to call him anymore, how did she react? She was very angry…
“Any little argument, one he could have considered more important than you?”
“I hadn’t thought- I didn’t know he considered it this way- it must have been about a week before- before…”
“Before he died. Go on.”
It was in the evening. You see, he knew a woman before we met, called Victoria. This was before we were married, of course.”
“Of course.” Was it her imagination, or did this nostrils wide, ever so slightly? He leaned forward, marginally, his mouth drooping a little to show the pink flesh of his tongue as he listened, perhaps more avidly than before…
“She never really overcame her feelings for him, I suppose… But she wrote to him often. Harmless little things, like buying a new rug, having an old friend of theirs over to lunch, seeing the doctor… She had trouble with her intestines.”
“Yes. Do go on.”
She wrote to tell Terry that she was coming to see him… and she did, but he never told me.. and she wrote again, but I found the letter and she had written all about how she still loved him… and she wanted him to come away with her. Stupid woman.
“I felt a bit… invaded, and told him so, and we were both stupid and irritated, and that’s all. That’s all that happened about it.”
But no, it wasn’t. Terry got so angry. I was frightened, and he said… he said things that I don’t like to think about now… he said he would leave with Victoria because she- what was it?- she valued him. Valued him more than I did. Then in the next week he must have made reservations…that’s when he planned to leave, I suppose…
“Are you very sure, Mrs. Kieran?”
“Of course I’m sure,” Icily.
“Mrs. Kieran, I’m afraid I’m a bit confused about your evidence. You say you and your husband were on ‘perfectly good terms,’ is that not so? But you continue by admitting that you and your husband quarreled over something as petty as another woman ‘invading’ you life, was that what you said? And we have proof that he made the reservations to stay at the Plaza for two months time. This evidence confused me, Mrs.
Kieran. Is it difficult to see why?”
Blair shook her head. No.
“Good. We understand each other. Now Mrs. Kieran, is there anything you would like to say that would help me to become less confused?”
I shouldn’t tell them how much I hated him… That sort of thing gives them power. I imagined killing him, certainly- I have a knife in the kitchen, it’s very sharp, and it gleams when I walk down there in the dark before I’ve turned the lights on. I imagine what his blood would look like. But I didn’t kill him.
“I can’t think of anything, I’m sorry.”
“It’s very much all right, Mrs. Kieran. Now, for a second, I’d like to explain to you something you might not know. There are ways in which people e can kill other people, you see, where it’s not entirely their own fault. Do you understand what I mean, Mrs. Kieran?”
“I’m afraid I- don’t- exactly.”
“Let me explain. Often, when people are very angry, they feel as though they would be helping themselves, as well as others, by killing the person that makes them so angry. Many, many people feel this way, Mrs. Kieran. Have you ever felt this way?”
Yes. “No, I’m afraid not.”
“When someone feels as though they should kill someone else, the line between actually killing them and not killing them becomes very dim.”
Blair was silent.
“When someone is very hurt by another person, and they’re not exactly stable enough to deal with the pain on their own, they may take out that anger and pain by stepping over the line- to kill the other person, although it may seem to them as though they’ve done nothing at all. Do you understand what I mean, Mrs. Kieran?”
“Yes, I think so.” Let it stop. I’m confused. Let it all disappear.
“Good. Then you understand what I mean when I say that the line between murder and-not murder- becomes very dim indeed. And you have told us more than once that on April 14th you were in bed with a very high temperature.”
“Yes, of course.”
“Of course. Isn’t it possible that you were slightly delirious, with such a high temperature?”
Let it stop. “I don’t think so.”
“At a high temperature, don’t you think that the line we have discussed might disappear entirely?”
“I don’t know.”
“Perhaps. But it would be possible, wouldn’t it?”
“I didn’t kill him.”
“Of course not, Mrs. Kieran. Of course you didn’t kill him. But the line disappeared. And what seemed to you like getting rid of pain and grief was actually committing murder.”
Why are they all silent? They know what he’s saying. He’s saying I killed him. “And there are ways to help you, Mrs. Kieran.”
I didn’t know what I was doing, perhaps. Maybe, in my delirium, I did what I had dreamt of doing: I took the knife, gleaming, from the kitchen. How did I travel with such a conspicuous weapon?
“But in order to help you, Mrs. Kieran, we need you to understand that there is a problem that needs to be fixed.”
“I don’t understand.” I took the car- no one saw me- and I hid the knife as I went upstairs in the elevator. That’s how it must have happened.
“The problem is that you killed your husband, Mrs. Kieran. You crossed the line- although for you , it didn’t exist anymore. You were ridding yourself of pain and suffering. For you, it was the right thing to do. You need to understand that there is a problem, Mrs. Kieran, before we can go about fixing it.”
“I didn’t mean to kill him. I’m sure of that.”
“So am I, Mrs. Kieran, so am I. Let me explain. Your husband was not an attentive man. He was not always aware of your emotions.”
“When he received so many letters form another woman, he didn’t understand that you would be angry. He ignored your anger, when you let it show. He didn’t give you the respect of telling this woman to stop writing to him.. Then, when you had to stop the pretences, he became enraged and threatened to leave you. This only added to your grief. But he didn’t realize that. He made plans to move to a hotel.
“And it was then, Mrs. Kieran that your grief and pain became too much for you to handle on your own. The line disappeared, Mrs. Kieran. You rid yourself of anger, pain and grief. You freed yourself. But the problem, Mrs. Kieran, is that you killed your husband. And this problem cannot be fixed.”
Blair was silent.
“We understand that you were emotionally affected, Mrs. Kieran. But that doesn’t get rid of the problem, too, inside you- and that problem can be fixed.”
“I didn’t mean to do anything. I was delirious.”
“Of course you were.”
She didn’t remember it, but it must have happened. She had used the knife, because of course she didn’t own a gun, much less know how to use one.
“You said so yourself. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“And we can help you. You were expressing your grief. You just need to understand that there is a problem, Mrs. Kieran; and we can fix you.”
“I killed him, didn’t I? I said so. I need help. I killed him.”
“Yes, Mrs. Kieran, you did.”
The court door opened slowly. A tall man in a surgeon’s coat entered, then went up to speak with the Justice.
We’ve removed the bullet from the wound. There’s also some new evidence…”
“Keep your voice down, Dr. Moss,” said the Justice, recalling himself. “There’s a confession going on.”