[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Prologue 001-002 Chap 1 003-005 Chap 2 006 Chap 3 007-008
Chap 4 009-010 Chap 5 011-013 Chap 6 014-017 Chap 7 018-019
Chap 8 020-023 Chap 9 024-027 Chap 10 028-031 Chap 11 032-041
Chap 12 042-048 Chap 13 049-055 Chap 14 056-063 Chap 15 064-074
Chap 16 075-084 Chap 17 85-95 Chap 18 96-110 Chap 19 111-123
Chap 20 (124-131)
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 21 (132-133): Recovering
The Final Six Months: Payback
Revenge should have no bounds.
Shakespeare Hamlet IV.vii.141
I have taken a shower.
The sheets are clean, and folded back; chilled blasts from the air conditioning have been playing over their cotton surfaces.
It is not quite night yet, and I sprawl across the bed, pulling up the sheets and blanket. I burrow into the warming coolness. The muggy day’s threat of rain is finally made good, and as I begin to wander off into that delicious liminal world between not fully awake and almost asleep, the drops begin to fall outside. First I imagine hearing the wet sound of cars on the streets far below, and then the drops come cascading down against the window in greater urgency. As my eyelids flicker the rain steadies.
Why is one of my favorite things lying in bed and almost falling asleep while it rains outside?
It is harmless enough: it promotes no war, wastes no electricity, uses no fossil fuels, injures no dolphins or whales. But there is a peacefulness beyond description about this posture. The tensions of the day dissipate, the body unfurls, the mind relaxes. There is nothing but the ineffable now.
If I do drift off for a minute or two, a crack of thunder prods me awake, as if to assure that I shall not remain unconscious and unaware of the delicious state in which I find myself. Since I have not pulled down the shades, I can see a flash of lightning briefly illuminate my bedroom as it bounces around the pale walls. The shower increases in intensity.
The grasses and flowers and trees are now soaking up the rain and I almost think I can scent through the windows their aromas blended with those of wet and moistened earth. The smell seems to hover in the still bedroom and invade the corners. I curl up into a fetal ball on the fresh sheets and savor the gentle assault on my sensorium. Once more I stray onto the perimeters of sleep, and now the sound of falling rain pulls me back to wakefulness.
Rain purifies – the leaves, the limbs, the streets, the homes. Nature here recapitulates, macrocosm to microcosm. I am washed clean as I lie and as I listen, caressed, gentled – here, in my own bed, in my own place, a few days after my acquittal in the trial for murder.
As I fight the insistence of state-altering Morpheus, finally fluttering off into languid sleep, I dance through the events of my joyful, exultant days since that crushing burden was lifted from me.
It is the first Friday in August, a week after my acquittal. It has been a week at times peaceful, at times frightening, at times numbing. To say that I am grateful that things turned out as they did is to make the understatement of the new millennium. But sometimes I would allow my frantic imagination to run its private screenings of lurid mind-movies of myself in prison, eating horrible food, fighting off the hairy bull dykes, being alternately bored and frightened to death on a daily basis, deteriorating year by year, reduced ultimately to something sub-human. It seemed at times unbelievable that I had dodged the bullet.
I knew of course that I had not killed Trinh, but knowing something about the disgraceful circus that the American criminal justice system has become, I was still enormously grateful to Natalie Siu and her co-counsel Danny Hochstel – and the full power and resources of Wu, Hisen, Blair & Balthazar, from the limo drivers and chefs on up to the investigators, researchers and the litigators themselves – for mounting the kind of powerhouse defense they had. I got my money’s worth – all one point three million of it. This was definitely part of what enraged me about the whole thing: yes, I could afford this kind of defense to clear myself, but what about the poor schmuck who toiled away honestly at fifty grand a year before taxes and deductions? She’d have ended up in prison for life, innocent, fucked by the fucking system. But me, earning my big bucks in an illegal trade protected by the same power-players who supposedly were upholding fairness and justice and the American way – I had the means. And people wonder why women turn tricks? Justice was like everything else in America: you bought the best your financial means could afford, so make sure you had plenty of those means.
I could feel the fury start rising like a sour, thickening bolus of vomitus in my gorge, a powerful emetic of disgust at everything I’d been put through.
After a week of solitude to contemplate the entire scenario that had almost robbed me of my life and certainly stolen a considerable chunk of my financial assets to prove my innocence, my rage began to kick into high gear. It had been building during the trial, but it now had a more focused object on which to unleash its hitherto dormant energy. No longer distracted by the extraneous considerations of my juridical ordeal, it was not the kind of non-reasoning, pre-mental rage that chokes your reason and wraps your faculties of thought in a benighting smoke of irrationality. But it had been gestating a long time and now parturition was imminent, the birth of a living thing I had to tend and feed and see to maturity.
I wanted revenge.
I had hinted at this in the numerous telephone conversations I’d had with my parents, with Craig, with Valerie, with Michelle. They all advised me against taking any kind of action: “Put it behind you, honey, and get on with your life.” I think Natalie Siu sensed something of what was going through my heart and mind – after all, she had been litigating murder defenses for fifteen years, and I knew I was not the only innocent defendant she had ever dealt with – and one of the last things she reminded me of was, as she put it, ‘a wise proverb supposedly invented by my ancestors’: Before you launch a journey of revenge, dig two graves.
What did they know?
I examined what I knew. As the trial had worn on and I tried to put things together in my own mind I had become increasingly suspicious of Yukiko. I knew from sad experience with her that there was an element of craziness about her, a kind of schizoid quality, something she cunningly disguised during her testimony. And I knew about Su Lien Rahman, of course. Had there been other Su Liens and other Mazarines in Yukiko’s life? I’d never get anything from her personally, but there was one person who did know her well: Fabian Darling. Maybe I would have to swallow some pride and look him up.
At my request Natalie had gotten me a full transcript, along with all memoranda, affidavits, reports, evidence and blah and blah and blah, of the entire proceedings, starting with the police reports and interviews. It had cost me a pretty penny, but next to one point three mill, what was another couple thousand? I’d started to study this massive material the past couple of days, and I knew about Fabian’s foot operation the weekend Trinh was killed. I really did not think he’d been involved anyway, because scattered observations offered up en passant by Trinh during the month or so the three of us ladies had been together made it clear she and Fabian were serious. This was a point Yukiko had been at pains to reiterate from time to time, not entirely without resentment.
They say the family is the first suspect in any murder investigation. I had met the Caos once, at that afternoon tea, and I had read the write-up of their police interview with those two detectives, Phoebe Light and Ulla Sundelius. With reference to both incidents, I could see no earthly motive the parents might have had for murdering their daughter. Parents and daughters were supposed to be genuinely loving towards each other. But this was the whole question in all of this, wasn’t it: was I in fact seeing with clarity? In any event, if not the parents and not the boyfriend, who?
What are the usual motives for murder, for the intentional taking of another person’s life? Money, revenge, love. The big ones. On the fringes – but for all that no less horrific — I suppose one could add such things as silencing a witness, the random act of a madman, perhaps even hate. Of these, only hate seemed a viable possibility. In today’s America I thought a lethal animosity towards race and sexual orientation was seldom a viable motive, though it sadly did happen; there was usually something more primary at work. Trinh may have associated with lesbians, but she certainly was not one, as I could vouch for from that last time she and I had gotten together with Yukiko and her outrageous suggestion of a threesome; and although she was Vietnamese, race hadn’t once come up in the course of our times together. And Trinh was not herself rich, nor was there any hint of anyone wanting to exact some kind of revenge from her. That left love.
Love and hate.
These are in effect but two sides of a single street, streaming in opposite directions but so proximate that they could easily run into each other. And if love or hate was involved, and Fabian was not a consideration, Yukiko made a not unattractive prospect.
But was she really that crazy? And how could she have brought it off?
I resolved on the first move of my own investigation.