When We Were Married Ch. 03BbyDanielQSteele1©
My name is William Maitland. I'm an Assistant State Attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. Until three months ago I had a job I loved and a wife I loved who I thought loved me. Since then, I've learned that she stopped loving me, and I may have stopped loving my job.
To do my job, I've had to have the faith that it is a job worth doing because there is an innate justice in the world. And if there isn't justice, it's the job of people to make it exist.
Which is probably why the last case I prosecuted, yesterday, has shaken my faith in that concept of justice. A 74-year-old man had murdered his dying wife by giving her an overdose of morphine. He admitted what he had done, but hadn't mentioned that he'd been carrying on an affair with a neighbor as his wife died.
Did he overdose his wife to be free of her and have his girlfriend? I was sure he had. But if he had committed murder in cold blood, all he had done was kill a woman so far gone to all intents and purposes she wasn't really alive anymore. I had brought out the affair and an almost-confession that was as good as the real thing. He might have been sent to prison. At the least, his life was ruined. One daughter had turned away from him; his girlfriend would never be with him again after their affair was exposed.
And for what? He was no threat to society. He wouldn't be out raping and pillaging at the ripe old age of 74, suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis. A friend, who happened to be a fighter on the other side of the bar, had told me I was playing God and I could not put myself in the husband's mind as he made the decision to kill his wife.
And he was right. But if I ignored what he had done, and what I had learned, it meant that I had let pity over ride the demands of justice. Would I start looking the other way when friends got in trouble and the ultimate decision of what to do with them came in front of me? It was too hard as it was not to bend the law to my personal needs. I'd known and heard of other chief prosecutors who let themselves be swayed by those human feelings.
Sometimes they got away with it. Sometimes they put a gun in their mouth. Sometimes they wound up behind bars rubbing elbows with people they had put away – for a little while. They usually didn't last too long.
On the other hand, if I had let what I knew remain hidden in a few documents that no one would ever look at, an old man who had suffered for years to do what was right of his wife would alive now. He would probably be going home to his two daughters. And in time, probably be loving a woman he had known for 30 years that he was now free to openly be with. His two daughters could have grieved their mother, loved their father, wished him happiness in his new relationship, and remained sisters.
But, I had done what I thought was right, the old man had killed himself, the two daughters had ripped apart their relationship and might never be sisters again, and the daughter who had stayed at his side spit in my face and hoped that somebody would break my heart too.
And so I sit in my office today, the door locked, taking no calls. The daughter didn't know that my loving wife had already done what she wished for. So I have lost my wife and my children and my family.
And because I had let the old man's tragedy get to me, shake my faith in the rightness of what I am, shake my faith that justice is more than a word, I sit here alone and wonder if I want to do this job anymore.
If I can't believe in my job, and I have been a miserable failure as a husband and father, obviously, what do I have left?
Tuesday, July 12, 2005 – NOON
Debbie opened the door and knew immediately that something was wrong. She heard the television in the den going and she knew she had turned it off before she left. She turned to walk back away quickly and call the police, but realized there was a more likely possibility than burglars.
"Kelly? BJ? Are you here? Answer me."
After a minute there was a 'Hey, mom. What are you doing home?"
Bill Jr. stepped into sight with a sheepish grin on his face. He was dressed in shorts and a muscle shirt. And he was not at Peterson Academies of Technology on Jacksonville's Westside taking a summer college prep English enrichment class she had paid good money to get him into, English being far from his best subject.
"Now it's not enough to skip regular school, you're skipping summer school as well?"
"Mom, that class is boring. I'm just skipping one day. Have a heart. The day's already half over, anyway. Tommy and Reese are going to be coming over in a couple of hours and we're going to see the Fantastic Four 8 o'clock showing. It's got that Jessica Alba in it. God, what a fox!"
She thought about chewing him out, but-
"Hey, what are you doing home, anyway? Don't you have classes?"
She tried to cover, saying with a smile, "You're not the only one that likes to play hooky once in a while"
"Doug's going to be coming over, isn't he?"
A look of disgust crossed his face.
"Why don't you guys just get a room?"
"We've got one. It's upstairs. In MY house."
"Yours and Dad's."
"For now. Why don't you do something to try not to make this day a complete waste, educationally."
"yeah, sure. Hey, did you hear about dad? They're reaming him out a new one."
"What? Your dad? What's going on."
Bill Jr. turned and walked into the den and she followed him. It would probably be an hour before Doug got there. She wondered idly why she was so hot for him after four crashing climaxes the day before.
"Maybe I am turning into a slut," she thought. But if she was, she might as well enjoy it because she it was the best sex she'd had in years and Doug wasn't going to last much longer and who knows who or what might come along later.
"...the guy is a prick. Sorry, that's probably one of those things the FCC will go after me for, so everyone keep quiet, okay? But honestly, the old guy has been taking care of his wife for years, he's finally getting some on the side, and this pr- this A-hole takes it upon himself to play God and drives him to kill himself. And that's our tax dollars are works, folks. Honestly, I wonder how that A-hole, Maitland I think his name is, sleeps at night.
"I tell you, I just wish I'd run into him in a bar some night. Any guy that would abuse a sick old man has got to be a chickenshit coward. I'd like to see how he does against somebody closer to his age, somebody who doesn't have one foot in the grave. I see the phone lines are lighting up. People are slobbering to tell me what they think of Mr. A-Hole Maitland. Or the Angel of Death as they've started calling him. Shit. He's no angel."
"You're on line one."
"The guy killed his wife, you dumbass. You think he should have walked away from that.?"
"How do you kill someone who's been a vegetable for years, according to the stories I've seen. The old guy didn't do anything any of us wouldn't have done. His wife probably would have kissed him for letting her go. Except for you, right. You're the same kind of chickenshit this Angel of Death is. You'd probably back him up in a bar fight. Oh, except like him, you'd be crapping in your pants. Another chickenshit."
"Sorry chickenshit, on to the next line. You're on, and you've got some sense. You think the Angel of Death is the Angel of Shit."
"Yeah, that guy is the reason people hate lawyers. The old guy should have been left alone, not pushed into offing himself."
BJ looked at Debbie and said, "I've had guys call me already. They think Dad is a real asshole."
She found herself grabbing the remote from him and clicking off the television which had been turned to one of the local radio stations on the access channel.
"I'm not going to listen to any more of that crap, and you can tell your little asshole friends that none of them, or their fathers, are half the man your father is."
BJ looked at her funny.
"C'mon, mom, dad is ...okay. But he does do a lot of bad things, like driving that old guy to kill himself. And he's not exactly an action figure, you got to admit."
She found herself imaging what Bill was feeling this morning. She had seen the newspaper story Carl Cameron had written about the trial in this morning's paper. And that "Angel of Death" crap. She shouldn't have been interested, but she still read anything that had his name in it. And you couldn't be married to a man for 17 years and not know when he would be hurting. She knew he had to be. He wasn't the hard man that most people saw him as professionally.
But he wasn't her husband anymore, or at least he wouldn't be for long. His pain was no longer her problem. But-
"You don't know anything about your father, BJ."
He looked at her curiously.
"You don't even know the true story of how we met. You should, but you don't."
"I've heard that story before. You were crossing a street at UF and Dad pushed you out of the way and got smashed. Wound up in the hospital and you got to know him while he was recovering."
She walked over and sat at the coffee table. She looked away from him because even though he was almost grown, this was still going to be embarrassing.
"No, not exactly like that. I – uh – you're old enough to hear this. I..was kind of wild when I was your sister's age. I wasn't the kind of woman I'd want her to be, or you to have anything to do with. I was a freshman at UF and I joined a sorority. I was – I looked pretty much like I do now, except better and the Frat guys loved me.
"Anyway, there was a party there one night and there was a guy – he was on the football team and I thought I was crazy about him. He invited me and there was a lot of alcohol and pot and some cocaine. Anyway, I was stoned and out of it and we started making out. I didn't know too much about what was going on except that I liked it. Then I heard some loud noises, people yelling.
"Somebody pulled Brad, my boyfriend, off of me and I would have yelled at them for disturbing us but I couldn't make much noise by then I couldn't talk....because...my mouth was full...."
She kept looking down at the coffee table because she couldn't look her son in the eye.
"Someone pulled...the guy...on me away...and I heard thuds and people yelling and then there wasn't' anybody near me and I opened my eyes. It was dark in the room but I was on a cot...and I was naked. I didn't know what was going on except....they'd been having me...everywhere...I was sore and starting to hurt. There was a light coming from outside. I was in some small room. And I could see...a shape...a figure standing in the light. And he was swinging...I thought I was in a movie and he was swinging a sword, back and forth..."
"Then the shape was gone and there were a lot of people in the room and shouting and I was screaming....because they were on me....and in me...again...and this time it hurt."
"It seemed to go on forever....but sometime there were other people in the room and more shouting and the guys on me were being pulled off and there were a lot of bright lights and then they had a blanket around me. They wrapped me up and the next thing I knew I was in a hospital emergency room and doctors and nurses were treating and examining me.
"At some point, my mom and dad were there and they wouldn't let them take me home because....because I'd been torn...anally and bruised...inside....in my vagina. I fell asleep confused and hurting...not so much the physical pain as the realization that a guy I really liked had lined me up for and was taking part in gangbanging me. He's obviously set it up for this frat brothers, using me like a party favor."
She finally looked up and met her son's eyes. He looked more embarrassed than she was.
"I was a stupid young girl. I had let myself get into a situation where I'd gotten physically hurt. That was when the AIDS crisis was just beginning to be realized, but I could have gotten any number of venereal diseases. I could have been torn up so badly that I could have lost the ability to have children. I might have lost you and your sister forever.
"Except that your father was working at the frat house that night. He'd never pledged and he was a poor kid on an academic scholarship. The frat guys wanted to be free to concentrate on drinks and drugs and...women....so they hired a few nerds to do house cleaning, keep the drinks coming, keep drunks from setting the house on fire, that kind of thing.
"I didn't know any of this at the time, but I learned it afterward. Your father was working when he saw them take me into a storage room toward the back of the house. He knew there was nothing but a cot and some cases of beer back there. He stepped inside and saw what was going on...and...He tried to get them to stop but they were jocks. They just threw him out.
"He came back in with a fireplace poker. They do have fireplaces in Gainesville. It's so far inland it gets cold as hell and the frat guys liked having a fire in the winter. He broke my boyfriend's jaw. Busted another' guy's arm and messed up another guy's shoulder. He cleaned out the room and what I saw was him standing in the doorway swinging that thing to keep their friends outside."
She closed her eyes
"Of course, he couldn't keep them out, couldn't stand up to all of them. They got him down and some of them started beating him while some of the guys who hadn't been busted up started in on me again. There was so much screaming and guys coming out with broken arms that neighbors called the police. When they got there I was still being...raped. They arrested a couple dozen fraternity members that night.
"One of the guys they arrested told the cops later they would have probably stopped working over your father except...he kept getting back up. He said, 'The son of a bitch wouldn't stay down'."
"I found out all of this afterwards. The guys your father busted up even tried to sue him, or their families did, but when I testified and there was the medical evidence and other witnesses they were gang raping me, they decided they didn't want to sue him anymore. But, the bastards put him in Shands – that's the best hospital in the city, the best in that part of the state – in a coma with his brain swelling."
She looked back up. Her son was staring at her like she was an alien from another planet.
"I went in to see him. His mother, Grandma Maitland, was in the room when I walked in. She wasn't happy to see me. To put it mildly. His father had died years before and your father was the only thing she had left. She said some terrible things – things I probably deserved – and threw me out. I came back later when she was gone and stared at him. He was just some stranger, some kid I'd never have noticed if I'd ever seen him around UF. His eyes were closed and he was blanketed in tubes and monitors.
"And he had risked his life to save some girl he'd never seen before. It was like something out of a book, a movie, a fairytale. I knew no matter how much shit guys had given me all my life about how wonderful I was, I wasn't worth dying for."
She stared into her son's eyes, eyes that reminded her of his father.
"That's the kind of man your father is. He might not have been the world's best father, he damn sure wasn't the best husband, but he was and is a good man."
She was crying. Bill started toward her and she put her hand out to stop him.
"It's okay. I'm alright. I just hadn't...thought of that for a long time."
She got up and went to their bedroom. And called Doug.
"Don't come here today, Doug."
"What? Why? Deb, I got somebody to cover my classes. You know how hard it is to get someone to come in during the summer to cover a class? I called in favors, because I wanted to be with you."
She took a deep breath, and wiped her eyes.
"Sorry. I just...lost the mood."
"That son of a bitch, Bill. What did he do now?"
She hung up on him.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005 – NOON
His secretary came back out of his office with Dr. Ernst Teller right on her heels. He was a tall, angular, brown haired man with the hair cut in an old fashioned almost-buzz cut. Combined with the hawk nose, the piercing gaze and the ram-rod straight posture, he could have posed for a World War I German Aircraft Ace Poster. The only thing missing was a monocle and a cigarette held loosely in his lips with a cigarette holder.
"Mr. Maitland," in that dry but friendly tone completely at odds with his appearance. "Or should I say, The Angel of Death. It's only been a day, but you're already becoming a legend. To what do I owe the honor?"
Teller was in his late 50s, maybe older but he was one of those men that could be any age from 45 to 65 and you'd have to guess on which end of the spectrum he belonged. He'd been the prime court-appointed psychiatrist for the entire 10 years I'd been with the State Attorney's Office. We called him in when we wanted to know just how badly screwed up a suspect was, if there were legitimate reasons for considering an insanity, defense or if the defendant was just playing crazy.
Teller was great at seeing through the bullshit. He had no problems saying a defendant was sane and play acting crazy. On the other hand, he had investigated some really horrible people when the public was clamoring for their blood and had no hesitancy in saying they couldn't be held legally liable for their actions, no matter how unpopular that made him with cops, prosecutors or the general public. He was as honest a man as I had ever met.
Of course, the fact that he had his own private psychiatric practice, with a lot of well-heeled patients and apparently although no one could ever prove it, came from money, probably enabled him to be a little more able to say what he felt and let the chips fall wherever they chose to.
"Could I have 15 to 30 minutes of your time, doc?"
"A legal matter?"
He gave me one of those looks that seemed to go straight to your soul. It worked wonders with defendants and most defense and/or prosecution attorneys. Personally, I considered it another one of those shrink tricks they teach you at Shrink U. But he was good.
He thought about it and then told his reception/nurse, "Abby, hold my calls and give Mr. – Smith – a call and tell him I'll have to reschedule for next week. Just tell him not to call his mother and stay away from sharp knives."
Abby grinned at him and he told me over his shoulder, "That's just psychiatric humor, Mr. Maitland. Follow me."
His office was fairly small, intimate would be the word. He had an overstuffed chair that bore the imprint of his body after God knows how many shrink sessions. He had a desk behind him and a low coffee table sat between his chair and a low couch. The coffee table had an inlaid Rorschach black and white ink spot design and there was a large abstract painting on the wall with the same design.
I wondered if he'd run the "what do you see" in the ink spots routine on me. But he was straight.
He gestured to the couch and I sat on it. Damned if I'd lay down. He picked up a pipe, lit it and began puffing contentedly.
"It's your dime, Mr. Maitland. You've never come to me for anything other than my professional advice on cases so I'll admit to being curious as to why you're here. Odds are that it has something to do with the Bingham case, that Angel of Death business. Still, I would have thought you were made of sterner stuff. They don't call you the Iceman for nothing around the office."
When I gave him a questioning look he shrugged and said, "Psychiatrists know and hear everything."
"That must be why psychiatrists have among the highest suicide and divorce rates around."
"Touché. Now, what would you like to talk about? I should tell you that Mr. Edwards already called me and said he might need my services regarding you. Something about your locking yourself in your office, refusing to take calls and acting in a completely un-Iceman-like manner."