THE GODS DEFENSE
“This is ridiculous, Your Honor.” I slapped the judge’s desk before I could stop myself. “Can you say Twinkie defense?”
“Objection.” Reily shot out of his chair.
“Sit down, Mr. Reily. This isn’t a courtroom. And tone it down, Ms. Berry,” Judge Spenser said, giving me a light glare over his bifocals as Reily sat back down. “This may be an informal meeting, but that’s a little tarter than I like my lawyers.”
It was a little tarter than the wrinkled old prune liked his women.
I perched on the edge of my chair in Spenser’s office. If I sat back, it would’ve dwarfed me. Not meant for small women. Geez, even Spenser’s chairs were chauvinistic.
“I apologize, Your Honor,” I said, gripping the briefcase in my lap for all I was worth. My boss was always teasing me about my ‘talking hands.’ “But there is no basis for this defense. Mr. Reily is merely trying to use the recent confusion to muddle our case. Why doesn’t he just take the plea now and save me the paperwork?”
“I have the right to present an alternate theory of the crime, and this is a valid defense, Your Honor,” Reily said, rat face pinching up. “Hamstead v. Polok, last year, the judge allowed…”
“That was in New York.” I flung my left hand out and Reily jerked away, my fingernail barley missing his cheek. Oops. I grabbed my briefcase again. “It was pled out, it never even made it to appellate court. It has no relevance in this case.”
“The judge allowed the defense to use it. The man pled out after the defense was allowed. Since then there have been two more cases where the defendants used the Gods Defense. O’Connor v. G…”
“Neither of those were criminal cases.” Hold onto the briefcase. Hold onto the briefcase. “Those were civil disputes where the gods hired corporations, giving them trade secrets in return. They were not saying the gods made them assault someone.”
Reily held up a finger. “Could you please ask Ms. Berry to stop interrupting me? I know she’s young and pretty, but…”
“I can understand Mr. Reily being annoyed at my interrupting, but I wouldn’t do it so much if he had anything relevant to say. For instance, what do my age or looks have to do with anything?”
Reily and Spenser shared a look. You know, that ‘boys club’ look older guys get when they’re faced with a young female who was raised in a society that expounds equality.
I thought I was screwed the second Spenser was assigned this case. Now I knew I was.
“The law must change with the times,” Spenser said, standing up. Reily and I did, too. “Every day since the Awakening, we’ve tried to determine what laws apply to the gods and what they can do. We know they can affect people’s minds and actions. Unless you can prove Dionysus could not have affected this man, I’m allowing the defense.”
Was he shitting me?
“Your Honor,” my hand flew, fingers twitching as I waved it in front of me, “if you allow this, even if he doesn’t win, defendants will be using this as an argument every time they’re put on trial. ‘Oh, I didn’t mean to kill my wife, a god made me do it. He wanted a sacrifice.’ He has no,” I punctuated with a slash of my hand, “evidence Dionysus was in any way involved. Dionysus had no motive. There’s no reason to allow this defense. It’s… it’s… it’s ludicrous! Your Honor.”
Spenser’s narrowed his eyes. “You are dangerously close to a contempt charge, Ms. Berry. This meeting’s over. I’ll see you in court tomorrow.”
# # #
The sunset as I exited the courthouse was amazing: all bright pinks and oranges, with yellow and green streaking though. Sunsets before the Awakening were never that spectacular.
Helios was in a good mood.
Sigh, at least someone was.
I turned on the courthouse steps. Henry Hepner jogged up them, panting. His thousand dollar suit hid the extra weight around his middle quite well, but it couldn’t do anything about what shape he was actually in. He was pushing middle aged, with a bald spot in the middle of his dark brown hair, a little goatee to make up for what he was missing up top, and brown eyes that were always soft and sweet.
Even when he was making deals with naive young things to sell their souls.
Devil’s advocate had never been literal before the gods woke up.
“Hello, Henry. Here to sign up souls, or is this a social visit?”
“Cute.” He smiled, all white teeth and twinkling eyes. Used car salesmen had smiles like that. But the worst they’d do to you was take your money. “I want to talk to you.”
Really? “It’s a little, nothing assault case.”
“My client doesn’t want this defense becoming common.”
“Why does he care?”
Henry paused. “People blaming the gods for every little indiscretion could put the gods in a very bad light if others start to believe it. They’re already struggling with reconciling… their ways with the law.”
“Their ways, huh? Nice way of saying enslaving.”
“Now, Cassandra, they’re not enslaving people. They’re merely building a following. Everyone follows of their own free will. And they can leave whenever they wish. Just like any other religion.”
“Don’t spin me that bullshit!” My hands dug into my briefcase’s handle so hard I was surprised the steel didn’t melt into my skin, and I loosened my grip with a deep breath.
His smile stayed in place but his eyes went sad. “Has working as a prosecutor made you this hostile?”
“I’m not hostile.”
“You have been to me ever since…” His eyes narrowed.
“Yeah, ever since you left academia and started working for the gods. Dammit, Henry, you used to stand for something. You were the one who said ethics were the cornerstone of law. And now look at you. You sold out.”
His face froze. “Everyone has a price, Cassandra.”
“No, they don’t. That’s just what people say when someone waves enough money in front of their nose. How much was your soul worth, Henry?”
His smile went up a few notches. “My client wants you to plead this out.” Nice change of subject. Can you say hit a nerve? “He wants this before others start getting ideas about accusing the gods without basis.”
My hairs stood on end. There was… something. I focused on him.
My peripheral vision fuzzed away, everyone else on the stairs becoming blotches of moving colors. Henry’s head came into sharp focus, red light bleeding out of it. Black streaks ran through it like poison in the veins. Two years ago, if you saw colors around someone’s head, it meant they were standing in front of a neon sign or you were just nuts. Now, to me, they meant emotions, thoughts, possible actions. It took me months after the Awakening to figure out what I was seeing.
I clucked my tongue. “Not nice to lie to a psychic, Henry.”
His smile warmed, the streaks disappearing. “Finally admitting what you are?”
“What? I have no problems with being a psychic.”
He spread his hands. “But you refuse to acknowledge your patron god.”
I jabbed my finger up at his face. “When the gods awoke, they brought magic back. They didn’t give me my powers, they just stopped withholding them. I don’t owe him anything.”
“I never said you did. I said he’s your patron.” He held up his hands with that same easy smile. He probably had that smile when wandering around his boss’s new underworld. “I was sent to deliver two messages. First, plead this case out. Second, your god wants to talk to you.”
I fingered the tiny cross resting just above my collar. “He’s not my god. God didn’t stop existing just because beings with magic who call themselves gods woke up. He’s still up there. Watching over us.”
“And yet He hasn’t come down, even though there are ‘false gods’ among us now. Makes you wonder if He’s really there.” Henry held up his hands. “Sorry, we’re getting off topic. The gods are playing within the rules the government set out, not forcing anyone to worship or heed them. That doesn’t mean they can’t do a hell of a lot more than they show the public. You don’t talk to Apollo soon, he’s going to stop playing nice with you.”
My face froze. I’m not scary usually, at five one and a hundred and ten pounds, I’m far from it. But just as I can sense thoughts and emotions, I can project them, too. I met his eyes, going to my quiet place. The logical, cold center of my being. I oozed dread over him and he shivered.
“Don’t threaten me.”
“I’m not. Don’t shoot the messenger.” At least his smarmy smile faded. “Manipulating emotions like that might be illegal soon, you know?”
I smiled sweetly. “I think it should be. Using my powers to make people do what I want is wrong. Of course, people like you are fighting to keep that legislation from going through, huh?”
His smile grew again. I really hated that smile. “You have the message. I’m sure I’ll be seeing you in Olympus soon. Always a pleasure, Cassandra.” He turned on a heel and walked to the street where his limo waited.
Yeah, like I was going to just let him go without telling me what he was really up to.
“Get back here.” I rushed after him.
An eye appeared in front of me and I slammed on the brakes, glad I was wearing black boots instead of heels today. It’s hard to slam to a stop in stilettos.
The eye was a foot across and nearly as tall. The iris was dark purple, with a midnight blue six pointed star around the pupil; the skin on the eyelid a sun kissed gold and lashes that long, curled, blackest black women spend a fortune at Sephora to get.
I looked around. Not one of the suited, briefcased masses swarming over the steps looked at the eye or gave me a second glance.
I shook my head and slashed my hand through the eye. It went straight through. Illusion. The gods could make things out of thin air, but it took energy. Mostly they just did illusions. Usually just as effective, and more energy efficient.
Henry’s limo pulled away and I walked through the eye.
The gods could contact ‘their people’ mentally. I wasn’t one of Apollo’s people so he couldn’t invade my mind like that, but any of them could pick on anyone in their territory they wanted. For some reason, Apollo wanted me.
Good freaking question!
Psychics weren’t a dime a dozen, but it wasn’t like I was the only one in the country. I wasn’t even the only one in Nashville, not that that mattered. Sure, it was the city Apollo chose as ‘his,’ but he could go all over the country. The Greek gods had all of the U.S.
My mind whirled as I walked to the office. Why would the gods care about an assault case? Henry said they didn’t want accusing them to become common. I could see how that could make some bad press. Maybe I could use that to my advantage.
Huh. Idea. Probably even a good idea.
If I didn’t mind a little risk of my sanity, life, and soul.
The eye appeared in front of me three more times on the way to the office. I didn’t tell it to go away. I didn’t swipe at it again.
Ignore it, tell it it doesn’t exist, and maybe, just maybe, you can believe it away.
It worked on illusions.
Too bad it didn’t work on the gods themselves.
# # #