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BARBARA Mierzwa, 2017-09-28
Język angielski, Różne
- How did it all happen, Mr Collins? – the judge asked.
- We (I mean – my wife and me) were sitting in our house, watching a comedy and laughing loudly. Lori – our one-year-old baby – was sleeping in her small room upstairs and Brian, eighteen, went to the capital with his girlfriend. There was a display of airplanes there or something like that. They dreamt to see that. After the show they planned to go to eat some candle-lit dinner at an exclusive restaurant. The village we live in is always calm, some inhabitants don’t even lock their doors when going out. The rumour has it some people died of boredom here, but it’s obviously untrue. But, let’s get to the point, we were both relaxing in front of our big screen when suddenly somebody put a gun to my wife’s head. I wasn’t even able to stop him when he pulled the trigger. She died on the spot. I didn’t even have the chance to give her first aid, Your Honour – he emptied his pockets to find some handkerchief and wiped away the tears falling down from his shiny eyes.
- And how did he enter your house? Did he break the window perhaps?
- No, not at all. He had no problems to get in. He used the door as it wasn’t closed. I know you might find it irrational, but this is what the whole situation looked like. Oh, if only I had known that such a terrible tragedy could take place in my house in such a peaceful village, I would have installed tens or even hundreds of padlocks to defend my family! I would have bolted the door! I would have done everything to protect them!
- Mr Collins, I must ask you a question here. Do you suspect anybody? How do you know it was “he” and not “she”? Did the person say anything?
- Well, yes, I’m absolutely sure it was “he”, because leaving me in the puddle of my wife’s blood, this man’s voice kept repeating: “Serves you right!”. I didn’t dare move, I was in deep shock. Even these days, the mere thought of the tone of his voice, full of anger, hatred and violence still makes me incapable of action. I feel mentally paralyzed.
- What might he have meant by saying it? And who do you think those words were addressed to? You or your wife, peace be upon her?
- Frankly speaking, I have never thought of it, Your Honour. I couldn’t reconcile myself with the loss of my wife so much that for a long period of time I wasn’t able to think who might have wanted her death. To be honest, I didn’t even care who did it at that particular moment – my wife was dead – nothing could make her be still alive and that was the worse. I couldn’t turn back time. I was only focused on the fact that I’m left stranded, that the woman I loved most was no longer with me.
- Is this the reason why you didn’t report the crime to the police or is there something else behind your decision not to do it?
- Errr, I was so desperately plunged in sorrow that I did not realize I should report a crime as soon as possible. And the criminal could never be caught! Because of my irresponsibility and sadness. Because of my passivity. So, answering your question: yes, my state of mind, my depression after Susan’s death made me totally forget to report the crime.
- Ok, but luckily the police had already initiated proceedings with a view to finding the murderer on their own and according to the them the suspect, Mr Hawkes – that is – your wife’s first husband might be guilty of the committed crime, therefore he is being looked for all around the country now. After finding him he will be remanded in custody until he is exonerated.
- I beg your pardon? Why didn’t the police officers who later came to search my house inform me that Hawkes is their main suspect? Well, I don’t think he could have done it. I’m sure he didn’t. It is ridiculous, he didn’t have any reason for that. I am sure it is someone else who is responsible for killing my wife.
- Right, sir, so who did it then, in your opinion?
- Well, I fail to know the murderer for the time being, that’s why I am here standing in front of you, Your Honour. But one thing is certain – Hawkes had no reason for killing Susan.
- Mr Collins, there is no need for you to raise your voice first of all. And whether he did it or not still remains a mystery.
- Oh, yes, I am really sorry, Your Honour.
- As the killer failed to leave any murder weapon and because he did his wicked act using gloves as there were no fingerprints left in your house, it does not make the process of investigation any easier. It will be a really challenging and arduous task, therefore we do need any necessary information that might help the police catch the culprit. Mr Collins, if you could now describe his appearance, please. What did the man look like? Did you spot any distinguishing features when it comes to his appearance or behaviour? Tell us all the details, anything that you remember from that happening.
- Well, as every criminal, he was wearing a black balaclava and a long dark coat so it was difficult for me to recognize him. He was very loud so he must have been wearing some heavy boots. He was a tall and well-built guy with no scruples to give several shots to murder my wife. Or maybe that was just the coat that made him look like that. This is all I remember, Your Honour. Oh, and there is one more thing that cannot be omitted: he had a terrible speech impediment that he could barely be understood. But I know what he was saying as he was shouting the same words all the time.
- Oh, that information might come in handy. And didn’t you notice any tattoos or scars on his face? Any permanent wounds perhaps?
- No, absolutely nothing.
- Ok, I understand. Let us move on. Tell me now, Mr Collins, how did you meet your future wife, Mrs Susan Collins?
- I met her on the train to London. She sat down next to me and we started talking, I mean she started speaking to me as I was busy reading the newspaper about the political elections in the US. I wasn’t happy about the results but “Never mind, US is not my country” – I finally thought and joined in the conversation. She told me her story about her husband who had just left her and their thirteen-year-old son Brian and had chosen another woman. I was sorry for her. I wanted to console her somehow. She was suffering a great deal. It was visible. We met several times in London and this is how we fell in love with each other. It all happened so quickly. I accepted her son Brian and soon we got married, that is - about a year after Mr Hawkes had left her. Of course, as every marriage couple, we desired to have a baby but Susan couldn’t become pregnant for some reason, but we never gave up. Susan was so determined, we both were, and one evening she made me the happiest man in the world when she announced she was pregnant. I couldn’t hide my emotions, my joy and chief satisfaction. I could feel tears of happiness on my face. She gave birth to our child Lori. Can you imagine? After waiting for such a long time. We were a close-knit family. But the only thing we needed was peace and quiet, that’s why we decided to live in the countryside far from all the traffic and noise. Far from problems. Far from city life. We were really happy until that ill-fated evening… or rather night, to be more precise…
Saying the last sentence, Mr Collins’s voice started to falter. He still felt terrible pain in his heart after that crime. He still remembered Susan’s dead body covered in her own blood, lying in the living room where literally one minute earlier there was plenty of uncontrollable laughter and happiness.
- Oh, yes, yes, we already know what happened then. Well, Mr Collins, it is getting really late, we are all very tired right now. Let us finish for today, shall we? Rest well and be patient. Goodbye, see you all next time.
With many unanswered questions Mr Collins left court and was looking forward to the next court hearing. He wanted badly the truth to be revealed. His desire to find the criminal was getting stronger and stronger each day. He wanted justice. On the way back home he went to the cemetery and put some flowers on his wife’s grave. He always did it and with every visit he prayed in silence:
- God, help me find Susan’s murderer, let him rot away in prison, in pain. Dreadful pain, agony and torture. Let him suffer as much as I do now. Don’t show any mercy toward this ruthless bastard.
Leaving the graveyard he could not stop thinking of who might have killed his beloved spouse. Who might have committed this wicked act? Definitely someone deprived of any human feelings and emotions, but who exactly this horrendous deed was committed by – he had absolutely no idea. Who might have wanted her death? Who? Surely not their neighbours who were really friendly and helpful and so were all the residents of the small village dwelt by them.
While returning home, he passed the only bookshop in the village and decided to step in. Reading thick novels was his favourite free-time activity which he had almost forgotten when Susan had still been alive but after her death he now again had more time to immerse in the life and adventures of fictitious protagonists. He spent hours looking through all the titles and reviews placed on the back covers of the books in order to find the best one for himself. As usual, not being able to choose just one, he ended up buying a dozen masterpieces of the most famous authors all around the globe. He also did some shopping in the organic shop on the way and then, exhausted due to carrying such heavy bags, he entered his house, a big detached house which he had bought for the whole family. The impressive building was really outstanding among the remaining dull grey small houses joined together in long rows. It was in fact the hugest house in all the village. It looked gorgeous from the outside as it was surrounded by the enormous garden full of colourful flowers and plants which Susan used to adore. Indeed, she gave a lot of attention to the garden (her biggest passion), she could afford the rarest types of flowers which the neighbours were envious of. Everybody was impressed with what Susan was able to create and achieve with the help of her rich husband. The inside of the house was spectacular as well. The visitors to the house were first of all stunned seeing the walls of the living room which were decorated with paintings of the most famous artists in the world, but this should not be weird for anybody who paid a visit to this opulent family since they could afford any kind of luxury. But the instant wealth did not make Susan any different. She was always an open, sociable person who really enjoyed inviting plenty of people to her house. She used to say that the house lived its own life when full of joy and loud, sincere laughter. Each time the visitors were greeted with special kindness and warmth as Susan loved their company. She would always treat them with the greatest foreign meals which were served in the most expensive and exclusive porcelain crockery. Susan did pay attention to details and she always had to stick to the rules of savoir vivre. Whenever Mr Collins made a faux pas at the table, which didn’t in fact happen to him very often luckily, she poked him in a delicate way so that it couldn’t be seen by her guests whom she respected a great deal. He immediately knew what was going on and changed his behavior. But what she appreciated most were all the compliments she heard, compliments about her wealth and generosity which she used to show to other people. Mr Collins was quite the opposite. Although he was a millionaire working in business, he did not like demonstrating his wealth as much as his wife did. He was always in Susan’s shadow. He just wanted to make her feel like a real queen by satisfying all her whims because before they met, she had not been that rich – she had been a woman working in an office earning an average salary. That’s why he allowed her to spend his money on whatever she needed and so she did not hesitate to do it. It did not bother Mr Collins at all. On the contrary, he was happy and pleased to see his wife feeling good. That was everything he needed.
After his wife’s death things changed in Mr Collins’s life. He couldn’t forget about Susan, plunged into mourning and grief after her loss, he failed to need any consolation among his loyal and sympathetic friends who did try to help him on a regular basis, but he always rejected any kind of support pretending not to be at home. He started avoiding people and became more reserved and withdrawn than it used to be. He preferred to stay at home rather than go out with his acquaintances, he always wanted to be alone listening to silence around him. Then it was the best time to immerse in deep reflection about all his life. He was always busy thinking in his room. In silence. After Susan’s death he did not like spending time in the living room anymore as it reminded him of her murder. One night he reached for some Scottish brandy, sat down in the comfortable armchair near the window and started brooding deeply. He would have fallen asleep then if he hadn’t flinched all of a sudden as something interrupted his thoughts. Being in a state of anxiety and nervousness, he stood up impatiently and started walking around in the entire room looking for something saying to himself: “Where on earth is it? Where might it be? I can’t believe it’s gone!” when small Lori came in.
- Oh, Lori, my lovely daughter, come in, come in. I wasn’t sleeping, I was dreaming about your mum. – he said.
- What are you looking for, daddy?
- Oh, nothing special, sweetheart, nothing special, come to me. You know, when you were a baby, your mum used to take you in her loving arms and sing some soothing songs about bears. You loved them so much, because each time mum started singing you began smiling and then you fell asleep. That was adorable.
- Where is she now?
- In Heaven, she is probably looking at you and me from up above and she’s very proud to see you grow so fast. You can’t remember her as you were too little when she was taken there – the man stroked the girl’s head gently – but believe me, Lori, it is the best place ever. Absolutely the best.
- Can she see the angels singing there? – she asked.
- Oh, yes, of course she can, she can even talk to them, you know?
- Really? That’s awesome. She must be so happy in Heaven.
- Oh, definitely.
The man kept telling Lori the most beautiful and touching stories of angels and at one moment he could see that the girl had just drifted off to sleep. He was gazing at her for a while to realize how much she took after her mother: the same big blue eyes, sincere smile and shiny long hair but also the same inborn highly skill reflected in her manners that cannot be taught in any way. He was looking and smiling. He felt proud. Having eventually woken up from his deep reflection and admiration of Lori he took the child to her own room, covered with a soft blanket and put her favourite teddy bear next to her and left the room silently failing to close the slightly creaky door. Then he returned to his own room, took a photo of Susan from the chest of drawers and hugged it. The photograph presented Susan being pregnant with Lori. She was wearing her long fair hair down and she was smiling broadly showing her teeth which were as white as pearls. “Susan, it’s been almost two years since you left me and we still don’t know anything, why did you do that? Who did that to you? It’s Lori’s third birthday tomorrow, you should celebrate with her, with us, you should smile and enjoy with us”. Having finished his monologue, he returned to looking for the lost item. After a lot of time of searching, full of rage, he was about to finally give up when he decided to use Brian’s absence and sneak into his room. “Maybe it’s in there” – he thought – and stepped in. Back in his own room, with empty hands, however, he reached for another glass of brandy and another one, and, slightly drunk, he fell asleep. The alcohol made him sleep like a log and nothing could interrupt his sound sleep. The following day was very important to Lori as she was three that day. Mr Collins ordered a big sweet heart-shaped cake for this occasion and gave a little gift to his daughter wishing her all the best. She was really happy to spend this time playing different board games with her father who was losing each time. And she knew very well that her birthday was the only day in the whole year when she was allowed to eat as many sweets as she wanted to. And no one could forbid her from doing it. She absolutely loved that! Mr Collins was truly impressed to see how many candies and ice-cream she is able to consume. He was ready to stop it telling her it is not the healthiest thing to do but he knew it would be all in vain as Lori knew her rights perfectly, contrary to her duties. That’s why Mr Collins decided not to intervene, he let her make her dreams come true that day. He was happy that he could forget about his daily problems and even just for a while feel like a little kid who needs some entertainment.
- Daddy, why isn’t Brian celebrating with me? Do you think he forgot about my birthday?
- No, Lori, he didn’t forget it, he had to go to the town with his future wife. – Mr Collins assured her. This calmed her down.
Little did the child understand, however. Mr Collins was aware that Brian generally preferred spending time with his fiancée, which was a normal thing, which to Lori, however, might not be so obvious. This day was special, unique in her eyes – did he really forget about his sister’s birthday? Mr Collins attempted to explain Brian’s absence to poor Lori although he was really curious about it too. He had never missed such important occasions before – but not this time. Nonetheless Mr Collins couldn’t do anything about it. He prepared Lori for sleeping and he himself, after a tiring day went to bed too. While he was dreaming deeply, some noise made him rise from bed quickly. He got scared. He took a glance at the clock which showed 2.24 am. and with a torch taken from the drawer he silently entered the kitchen to check what was going on. Then he noticed that the light was on in Brian’s room. He heaved a sigh of relief and decided to enter. He came in, took a seat and asked:
- What’s up?
- I’m fine, we were at a gig in town. Absolutely marvelous!
- It was Lori’s birthday today. Did you forget it?
- Oh, yes, I did. I forgot about it.
- Oh, this is what I thought. I had to lie to her saying you needed to go to the town to do something important. Anyway, Brian, since your mum’s funeral I’ve been really nervous. I think about her all the time. Who do you think your mum was killed by?
- How should I know? – he murmured – we might soon discover the truth.
- I wonder who might have done that…
- Search me.
- Let’s go to sleep, it’s really late. Good night, Brian.
- Good night, sleep well.
Days were passing quickly and finally the time of the next court hearing came. Mr Collins hoped that maybe this time the most mysterious riddle of Susan’s death would be solved. “Will this malicious coward appear in court? – he asked himself this question in his head after which he visibly toned down the strong tide of emotions bottled up inside of him: “if he pleaded guilty, maybe he would be treated more mildly in return?” He needed some rest after all the hearings he had to take part in, he was tired of being questioned although he never tried to show it. Each time he hoped the criminal will be found and placed in prison it turned out that he must be patient till the next meeting. It did not motivate him in any way. Hopeless, he began acting strangely, as if he didn’t need to discover the truth anymore.
- Mr Collins, have you perhaps found any witnesses of the incident that took place in your house?
- No, unfortunately not, Your Honour. As you know, it happened late at night, I don’t think anyone could hear or see it.
- And you still fail to know who might have killed your wife? Did she have any enemies? Did she hate anybody?
- Believe me, Your Honour, she was such a good, open and the most tolerant person, always smiling, she loved everybody and everybody loved her, I don’t think she could have any enemies.
- Mr Collins, I am now going to ask you one more time about her ex-husband? Why don’t you suspect him? Why do you think he is innocent?
- Well, why would he want to do it? He didn’t have any reason. We must remember that he left Susan as he found a new woman, it was his decision to leave Susan so why would he want to kill her? This would be illogical, wouldn’t it? It doesn’t make sense at all, does it?
- Are you sure it was so? Why do you think he found a new woman? – the judge asked suspiciously.
- Your Honour, what do you suggest by saying that? That Susan was an evil person?! – he shouted.
- Mr Collins, please do not address me in such a way, I remind you of that. No, what I mean is that maybe they had been quarreling a lot before she met you and maybe they were both responsible for breaking their marriage. Are you sure Susan was telling you the truth then? Because if it had been the woman who had made the relationship finish, he could indeed have had the motive to revenge on her. And there could be some evidence linking Mr Hawkes to the murder. Think about it and look at it from that perspective.
Mr Collins stood still for a couple of minutes. He was struck hearing the judge’s words. He looked worried and a bit confused.
- Your Honour – he continued – he didn’t do it.
When the hearing, which did not last long this time due to the lack of any additional bits of information, ended, Mr Collins resolved to gather some useful information about Susan’s first husband by himself as if, at all costs, he wanted to prove he is right. He left the giant building immediately and, not being able to visit Susan’s grave this time, he rushed to the railway station as quickly as he could. “Should I defend Hawkes from murdering Susan or not? Maybe if he were found guilty, all the investigation would finally come to an end, with Hawkes in jail?” – torn up inside, he analyzed his thoughts in his mind while on the train – “Oh, no, no, how stupid I am! I cannot make an innocent man be put behind bars. That would be so malicious of me if I did it! No! No! I’m talking rubbish! What am I thinking of?”
- I’m 100 per cent sure Hawkes isn’t guilty, Your Honour. – he uttered those words at the very beginning of the following trial.
- How do you know it, Mr Collins?
- He didn’t do this. He can’t have done it. He is in another country now with his new family. Believe me, he didn’t kill Susan. I know I could blame that man for murdering my wife, things could be easier now for all of us if I now said that he must have killed her but I am absolutely sure he didn’t do it. I don’t want to accuse someone who didn’t do it, I would feel bad with that.
- The police are still looking for him in the country. How do you know he is abroad, Mr Collins? Why did you refuse to share the information about his stay in a foreign country with the police? When did you find it out?
- I know, I ought to have said it at the beginning of today’s hearing but it somehow slipped my mind. I did not find this detail of his current stay vital in the case. But what I do find important and what I want to mention now is the indisputable alibi that he has. Believe me that he does have it. This might be of prime significance, Your Honour, I have recently found Hawkes’s colleague who has informed me that Hawkes is in the habit of going abroad, to Sweden, every single summer to earn some extra money. As it turns out, he has two brothers there and this is the best opportunity for him to meet them and to make some money. But…
- But for God’s sake, it’s November, Mr Collins! – the irritated judge interrupted – so it doesn’t mean he is there now.
- Yes, it does. I’ve just wanted to add that he also told me that six months ago Hawkes decided to leave England forever as his, or rather – their – company went bankrupt and settle down in Sweden.
- Before we go any further, one thing bothers me a great deal, and I would like it to be clarified. How and where did you manage to find the witness? According to my knowledge, last week the police went to Mr Hawkes’s hometown – Dawley – in search of any witnesses but they were nowhere to be found. The people of the town allegedly failed to ever hear about Mr Hawkes.
- Yes, that’s right, Your Honour. The town is very small and nobody wants to share their opinion about Hawkes. Frankly speaking, I think everyone there knows Hawkes perfectly, but they refuse to speak. I somehow finally managed to find the person although it wasn’t easy. But I didn’t give up. I was even prepared to pay a large sum of money to the person giving me all necessary facts about Hawkes but that wasn’t necessary. It is Mark Atterberry, forty nine, who was willing to provide all the information to me. He came back from London three days before our conversation. I was really lucky to meet him.
- But, since no one agreed to speak, why did he?
- Well, that was the first question I asked him. It appeared – he explained – that he was the co-owner of the big company set up by Hawkes, who eventually cheated him going abroad and leaving him without any money from their common business. Greedy Hawkes, however, still not satisfied, came to the conclusion that Sweden provides far better opportunities for him. Therefore he resolved to join his brother and work for him. This is all I know, Your Honour.
- Thank you. Oh, and by the way, what does he do there? Does he work legally or not? Do you have any information about the job he has?
- Yes, he does work legally as far as I know. As I have mentioned, one of his brothers set up a company a couple of years ago and since then he has been running his own business. Hawkes just helps him in his company which is thriving. He…
- Ok, let’s not go into details. He works legally, good, this is what I was interested in. So if Mr George Hawkes did not kill your wife, then who did?
- I really have no idea. But remember, Your Honour, that my wife was killed on August 24th. This is why I know Hawkes cannot be found guilty.
Mr Collins was proud but simultaneously quite upset because this time they did not move any further with the investigation either. The criminal failed to turn up, which made Mr Collins miserable and sad. “Maybe what I did was wrong. Perhaps if I had decided to accuse Hawkes, he would now be found guilty… No! Am I mad?! He is innocent! Yes, I did do the right thing, yes, this is what I should have done and I did.” – he murmured to himself going through the tiled floor of the huge corridor of the building. Worried, he left court and he barely managed to turn in the direction of his house when he came up with an idea. Since he did have plenty of time and was not in a hurry he decided to take a longer way to get home. “Why not?” – he thought and started his long walk in the refreshing solitude. Here he used to take long romantic walks with Susan when she was alive but after her death he failed to come back there for obvious reasons. But this day something pushed him to go that way, which he did. He was strolling down the small river and, for the first time, being alone, decided to stop there for a couple of minutes. He didn’t regret his decision. The view of the flowing water allowed him to chill out and calm down. The water was so crystal clear that he could see his reflection – just like in a mirror. He took a small pebble and threw it into the water. He loved this sound of splash which made him reach for another stone and another one and so on and so forth. He sat down under the evergreen tree and closed his eyes. This was the ideal refuge to allow his mind to wander, away from the craziness of everyday life, away from people. Just pure nature, this is what he needed. But soon he had to return to and live his own life. On the way home, as usual, he remembered to go to Susan’s grave to pray. But this time he modified the words of his prayer.
- God, please, forgive Susan’s murderer.
He returned home extremely exhausted. He reached his bedroom, drew the blinds and threw himself on the sofa just as he was. He did not sleep but lay there almost unconscious, staring at the sparkling diamond chandelier hanging from the ceiling. Suddenly, feeling alternately cold and hot, he could feel big drops of sweat all around his body. Days were passing and Mr Collins’s health got worse and worse all the time. He had a high temperature which made him impossible to walk and function normally. He remained in his bed with a fever of forty degrees for four days and, seeing that big deterioration of his state, he finally decided to call for a doctor.
- What is wrong with me, sir? I’ve been like this for days now and I fail to feel any better. Am I ill?
- I think the problem lies inside of you, rather. You don’t seem to have any physical symptoms apart from that high fever, which for some reason, refuses to get lower. Instead, in my view, your poor condition might be rooted in your mentality and mind. Have you dealt with any stressful situations recently?
Mr Collins was too weak to answer this question, he nodded in response. Then he raised his head in the direction of the doctor and whispered:
- Well, I’m suffering a torment after my wife’s death. I still cannot stop thinking of her, you know.
- Oh, I understand where you’re coming from. I know this pain as well. This must be the reason for you poor health. Anyway…
- What am I supposed to do now? – Mr Collins asked in a polite way.
- Well, definitely what you need right now is some rest. A lot of rest. And, please, stay in bed for a couple of days and avoid stress at all costs. Try to think positively. Remember, this is really important in your case. But don’t misunderstand me – you do need some peace and quiet now but it doesn’t mean that you should stay in your house and avoid people. After you rest and feel a little bit better, it will do you good to be in society. Under no circumstances can you escape from others. Hiding from people will not improve your health, on the contrary, it will gradually make it deteriorate. Keep this in mind.
The doctor was full of pity for the widower.
- Right. Thank you, doctor Murphy.
- Anyway, I will prescribe you some tranquilizers and you will feel better, I hope. Take one pill a day, two or three hours before sleep. If it doesn’t work, contact me then, will you?
- Oh yes, I will. Thank you once again, doctor.
- You’re welcome. Goodbye, Mr Collins.
Unable to go out, Mr Collins spent his days shut away in his room avoiding people’s faces. He isolated himself from everything and everybody. “This is not what I was told by Doctor Murphy” – he once thought after he seemed to look and feel better – “I must go out and talk to someone”. He tried to raise himself off the sofa but it quickly appeared he was still too weak and fell back into his original position, with his face turned towards the white wall. Looking at the wall for some time, he allowed his thoughts to wander. He was daydreaming when suddenly he was woken up by some frightening visions and nightmares which made his heart beat like mad. Trembling with fear, he opened his eyes to see what it was but instead he saw the darkness. It was the middle of the night. “I’ve absolutely lost the sense of time” – he whispered to himself and, shaking and shivering, he came to the bathroom to take a cooling shower, which let him get rid of all the sweat from his body. Back in his room he returned to his bed and tried to fall asleep, but every time he closed his eyes all the dark thoughts reappeared in his mind. “Am I becoming insane? Am I going mad? What is wrong with me? What should I do? What should I do?” – he asked himself. He couldn’t bear it anymore and decided to read one of the novels he had bought. After the sleepless night he wasn’t aware that it was the time of the next hearing. Still tired, he quickly washed his body, combed his hair and got dressed. Having had no time to grab anything to eat, he left home in a hurry in order not to be late for the trial. Fortunately, as the doctor promised, the fever almost disappeared and Mr Collins felt a little better – because of that the court hearing didn’t need to be postponed. For some reason, he was torn up inside. On the one hand, he was really anxious, but on the other – he was looking forward to some breakthrough in court this time, he expected everything to be explained. He believed the criminal would show up in court to reveal the truth. But as soon as he entered the court ward, looking at the same boring faces, all his hopes vanished in the twinkling of an eye.
- Mr Collins, I regret to inform you that we have not been able to find any person responsible for the mysterious death of your wife Susan Collins. After months of thorough investigation we claim there are no witnesses of the incident that took place in your house that evening. You did not want to sue her ex-husband saying he cannot have murdered your wife as he had no reason for doing that. However, your assumption was not sufficient for us. Above all, we had to verify the credibility of the witness you had found and besides we were obliged to gather all the necessary information about Mr Hawkes, putting the greatest emphasis upon his current place of living. Anyway, your decision turned out to be the right one as our experts have checked all the details connected with Mr Hawkes’s stay. We can now confirm that he was indeed abroad, in Sweden, when Mrs Collins was killed. But the police have also discovered (from some reliable sources), which you know perfectly well, Mr Collins, that you and your wife had known each other before their marriage was destroyed. You two had a love affair when Susan was still married. I’m interested to know why you…
- I did it! – somebody just emerged and, standing at the door, suddenly interrupted – I plead guilty, right here, right now – he gasped and all the people present in the court turned around to see the stranger man who just ran into the room like mad. He was wearing a black balaclava and a long coat.
- Who are you? – the judge asked – can you take off your balaclava, please? It is not a circus. Please, behave properly.
- I will, but not now. Later.
There was something wrong with the man’s voice, he did not speak clearly. He sounded exactly like the man who had burgled the Collins’ house in order to murder Susan.
- Mr Collins – the judge interrupted – is this the same voice you heard that night? Can you recognize it?
Mr Collins acted as if he had not heard the question. He was looking down in absolute silence.
- Mr Collins, can’t you hear me? I’ve asked you about this voice… Is it the same voice that you heard then? Can you recognize it? Have you lost your mind, Mr Collins? Say something.
The silence in the court was immediately interrupted by the man who admitted having killed Susan.
- I know Mr Collins and Susan Hawkes had a love affair when Susan was still married to her first husband. It is a lie that Collins met her after she and her first husband had ended their relationship. And in fact it was Susan who had left her husband – not the other way round! Her husband was unaware of all the mischievous things she was doing behind his back. And the most important thing now: she wanted to make her son Brian hate his father telling him all the lies that his father had found another woman and that he was ready to disown his child to start a new life. She only did it to make Brian stay with her. She was only focused on carrying out her cunning plan to get rid of her husband from her life and the life of Brian once and for all. She achieved her goal. Brian did hate his father until a certain moment. It was exactly two weeks before her death when he encountered her letter addressed to Collins. The date on the envelope as well as its yellowish colour explained all: the two were dating each other when she was still married. You are an incorrigible liar, Collins! – saying those words the man surprisingly did not sound unclear anymore.
- Mr Collins – the judge interrupted – I would like to hear it from you: do you confirm what the man is saying? Did you have a love affair when Susan still had a husband?
- Yes, that’s true, Your Honour – he answered. I never wanted to admit that. I felt too ashamed.
- So, Mr Hawkes – the judge pointed at the stranger man – everything is clear now. You seem to have had even two reasons for revenging on Susan: firstly, because she left you and secondly, which has become clear just now – because due to her actions your only son hated you for long years. So you weren’t in Sweden then, you really managed to deceive us by inventing a convincing alibi to be cleared of all charges. How were you able to cheat everyone in such a clever way? Anyway, I am pleased to see that you have decided to come for the trial. I really appreciate it. You can now take off your balaclava. You were the only person to have had a motive to kill Susan because she had decided to leave you and marry Mr Samuel Collins as well as set Brian against you spreading her lies. Now we know that you were her only enemy who might have committed the crime. Mr Hawkes, you are sentenced to death imprisonment for murdering Susan Collins – the judge claimed.
Then, after a few minutes of suspense, the man did take his balaclava off but to the great surprise of all the people gathered in the court ward, it was not Mr Hawkes at all. Nobody knew what was going on. Nobody, apart from Mr Collins.
- I knew it was you – said Mr Collins addressing the man – I remember, it was about a fortnight before Susan’s death, while browsing my documents in my room I noticed my old letter from Susan had disappeared, I was looking for it but it was nowhere to be found. I didn’t want to bother Susan about that, but I knew it was a bit weird at least. First I suspected you to have done it but you didn’t seem angry and you behaved normally, as usual. “I must have lost it somewhere while being in a hurry” – I finally thought. Then after two weeks Susan was brutally murdered. It can’t have been a coincidence! I knew Hawkes didn’t kill her as he was too cowardly although he did have the motive to murder Susan. Anyway, I somehow felt he didn’t. So who might have done it? So much time passed and I still had no idea who was behind all of this. I was frustrated. My anger grew stronger and stronger each day. Then, after entire months of investigation I suddenly remembered about the missing letter. I knew it was you, because you were the only person, apart from Susan obviously, who could ever come to my room. So I came to the conclusion you must have stolen it. But still, I had no pure evidence I was right then. When you were once out with your fiancée (one day before Lori’s birthday), I decided to sneak into your room and find it. After a long time of searching I finally managed to find it in the file of your papers but I let it stay there as I was sure you already knew the entire truth. I didn’t want you to be aware I knew about your crime. And then everything was clear. It was strange that you, being then aware that your mother had lied to you and your father, didn’t even try to accuse and suspect your father of killing her. It would be so logical to blame him, he could indeed have a serious motive to do that for all the ruthless things your mother had done to him, couldn’t he? But for some reason you stayed silent. A day later (on the day of Lori’s birthday, remember?) I asked you whether you suspect someone who could have killed Susan. You replied you had no idea. But why? Why didn’t you put all the blame on your father? Everybody would believe you! Then I knew the whole truth. You changed your voice on purpose so that I could not recognize you at that moment. Additionally, though it didn’t matter to me, it later turned out Hawkes had an unquestionable alibi as he was in Sweden while Susan was murdered. But I had already known everything. I know you killed your mum, Brian, and you must pay for it. I hated you then and hoped you would be courageous enough to confess your sin in court. I was waiting for this to be done impatiently – every time I came for hearings I was full of hope to see you there plead guilty but I was always disappointed. Yet, before you go, I want you to know one thing: the whole process of investigation of Susan’s death lasted over two years and for all that time I did not know it was you behind this until I again remembered about the letter. It was the moment of truth, Brian.
- Mr Collins – the judge asked – so let me ask you about something, because I do not understand one thing: when you still had no idea the crime had been committed by Brian and before you found out Hawkes had an alibi, you can’t have been sure he, I mean – Hawkes – hadn’t killed Susan… knowing that he did have a serious motive to kill her, why didn’t you choose to accuse him? You had an ace up your sleeve… Why didn’t you sue him, for God’s sake!? What was your passivity led by? Did you intend to hide anything?
- Well, Your Honour, I was a reputable and well-recognized businessman and that’s why at first, or rather for most of the time, I didn’t want to reveal the whole truth about my relationship with Susan. I know we shouldn’t have been dating each other while Susan was still married, because it was immoral, but a person in love doesn’t think like that. Only three people knew the truth about this love affair: Susan, me and Hawkes and I had to do everything to hide it. If I had sued this man, he would probably have revealed everything about Susan and me in court and everybody would now regard me and Susan as liars, which, in the case of business, cannot take place on any account. I had to calculate and struggle with my hesitation and eventually I came to the conclusion the risk was far too high and decided not to sue him.
- Mr Collins, did you really love your wife? Because from what you are saying, it means that you found your career more important than the discovery of her murderer. Don’t tell me you didn’t suspect Hawkes then! Were you really able to let him off the hook just because you wanted to keep your love affair secret? Fishy…
- Of course I loved my wife! But, to be honest, although theoretically Hawkes had a serious reason for the murder, the inner part of me, my intuition (whatever called) told me he hadn’t been responsible for Susan’s death and thus I didn’t want to take the risk of being found out. That was stronger than me then.
- Intuition? Are you serious? – the judge ironically interrupted – Was it just intuition that made you be absolutely sure he was innocent? That is not logical what you are saying. He did have a serious motive to kill – K-I-L-L – your wife and are you trying to tell me it was your intuition that told you he was innocent? That’s incredible, ridiculous! Mr Collins, you must not be led by intuition in such cases! So, be serious and tell me, how had you known he was innocent before it turned out he had his alibi? Oh, and what’s more, you even decided to get engaged in proving his innocence, didn’t you?
- It was my intuition. I have good intuition…. And apart from my intuition I did something else…
- What? What was it that you did?
- Some time after their divorce, my wife was worried that Hawkes will tell their son the truth, that it was Susan who had been cheating and lying all the time, so to avoid that I paid him 500.000 pounds in cash. In return he promised silence forever. He was also told not to mess with our life and he agreed. I know it’s illegal, but I had no choice.
- Oh, now I understand why you didn’t sue him… and why you did everything in order for him not to appear in court. Not only would he have revealed your love affair, but also, which is worse for you, I guess, the fact about the bribe he was given by you.
- Yes, exactly… I, especially, didn’t want the truth to be revealed to Brian. I wanted to avoid that at all costs.
- But did he threaten Susan to tell the truth? Was she blackmailed? Did she have the reason to be afraid? – the judge wanted to find out.
- No, not at all. He lived his own life. He was flabbergasted and he seemed really happy with that considerable amount of money, because he wasn’t cut out for business as his firm never developed in the way he wanted. This is what he enjoyed most. That’s why I knew Susan wasn’t murdered by him. So it wasn’t my intuition in fact... But, please, let me, Your Honour, say something else.
- The floor is yours – here you go.
- So if everybody here now knows about the money I gave to Hawkes, I can say that. Let me put it this way: it was very difficult for me. When I discovered the truth, when I finally got to know Brian had murdered my wife, my business didn’t matter anymore. At first I wanted badly to make the whole truth come to light but I was somehow stopped. I didn’t know what to do, I was losing my mind, I wanted to end it somehow, to turn back time, I was sometimes willing to accuse Hawkes or at least not to defend him but then my conscience dictated me to act properly, that is, to behave as a law-abiding citizen, so to speak.
- Oh, come on, Mr Collins! Law-abiding citizen? – the judge commented with a little smirk on her face.
Mr Collins could feel his face was gradually turning red and, without hesitation – yet ashamed of his unfortunate definition of himself – continued his speech interrupted by the judge.
- So, going back to what I was saying… I knew he was innocent and I couldn’t lead to arresting him. Believe me how difficult it was for me to look in the mirror. On the one hand I hated Brian for what he had done, on the other – I understood, or was trying to understand, his act. I didn’t know what to expect from myself as I had to face the most difficult question in my entire life: should I reveal Brian was the murderer or maybe put all the blame on the innocent man in order to save Brian?
- You finally decided to say no word about Brian whilst you theoretically and practically should have, being in possession of clear evidence of his fault. And because you tried to hide this fact, which made the investigation more difficult, you must take the responsibility for this. But since you failed to give false testimony and you did help us prove Mr Hawkes’s innocence as well as you were not caught red-handed giving the money to the aforementioned person, you will only be fined for that and sentenced to carry out community service, and this is the final decision.
- I accept it, Your Honour.
- Mr Collins, before we all finally leave this place, let me ask you the final question that has just come to my mind, but this is really intriguing to me – when you finally found out that it was Brian who had committed the crime, why didn’t you accuse him then? What was it that stopped you? He wasn’t your son in fact, but the unscrupulous murderer of the woman you loved so much. Did you forgive him?
Mr Collins failed to expect a question like that. Confused, he started blushing. He stood still looking thoughtfully at the wooden floor and he finally raised his head to see two officers handcuffing Brian and taking him to prison to spend there the rest of his life. He, again, put his head down but felt the force of Brian’s fierce look and anger, which seemed to touch Mr Collins’s soul. Remaining quiet and looking serious, he wiped a tear in his right eye and went home, but first, as usual, to visit Susan’s grave.
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