3.A Chapter by Shiloh Black
When Amphion awoke, the clock read ten minutes to six. Ten minutes before the alarm was to go off. Amphion liked to wake before the alarm -- he could choose to get up early and grasp the virgin hour before it came to fruition, or fall asleep just to spite the coming daylight. With this one decision, he began the day with a sense of control -- he got out of bed and put the coffee pot on.
It would be selfish to wake Rachel this early, he knew -- she had been up late last night with papers to grade for grade seven class she instructed. The thought that he would not see her again until nightfall, however, and then only in the form of a sleepy, nodded greeting while he brushed his teeth, was enough to turn anyone selfish under those circumstances.
Rachel slept across the hall from him in the master bedroom. On slippered feet, Amphion entered and leaned over her bed, eager to catch the first glimpse of her face as dawn’s gray, watery light poured through the window.
The oversized pillows were ones Amphion had insisted on purchasing for their aesthetic. Rachel, however, never removed the pillows before she went to bed. In her sleep they encased her head and made her seem smaller and rosier -- more vulnerable. Amphion plucked a strand of her sand-colour hair from the pillow and found a thing to do in winding it around his index finger.
Rachel stirred and opened her eyes. Her face seemed distant and sunken, as though he were looking at her through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. Amphion blinked the illusion away and gathered his fiancée up in his arms.
“Morning,” Rachel whispered back.
Amphion tilted her chin back so he could see her eyes. There was a warmth in them that was shared by both persons -- a holy fire fanned by denial of their bodies. Their bodies were temples. In his stomach Amphion felt a joy settle, heavier and more fulfilling than any meal or indulgence.
“Coffee on?” asked Rachel.
At him, Rachel smiled. It was a dumb, righteous smile and it meant nothing at all. In the naïvity of his heart, Amphion had once believed that such a smile could save the world.
“Good luck today,” his fiancée murmured. “They won’t find a single blemish on you, Phinny. I just know they won’t.”
On his way out to the kitchen, his side cinched up. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Amphion rolled his shirt up and examined the scar which slashed across his belly. The knife which made the scar had been removed from his body long ago, but it seemed a much blacker agony had remained intact.
The tribunal was held in the headquarters of the NSPD, on the eleventh story. They stuck Amphion in the seat closest to the window. He spent much of his time with his head turned, watching over the throb and hum below with all the anticipation of a hawk.
Commissioner Benjamin Cossack had been named head of the proceedings. He was the type of man Amphion could not fathom. The medals of war Cossack had once proudly borne upon his breast had been laid to rest -- the new Cossack wore a suit and tie and smoked like a chimney. Strength and dignity had never fled from his features, but instead were buried beneath a tide of bureaucracy.
Across the table from Amphion a lawyer, hands folded in his lap, surmised the past few days’ discussions. Though he’d heard it all before, Amphion sat erect in his seat, shoulders straight and head thrown back. This was the appearance he desired -- of a man who was infallible and proud.
“… On June the 17th, the officer in question, Amphion Oswald, was called to the scene of a disturbance. Upon arriving he discovered a certain Jasper Bundy, age seventeen, clearly intoxicated. Bundy made threatening remarks involving the use of a weapon he claimed to have on his person. Officer Oswald issued a warning to Bundy, and when the suspect failed to comply and began acting more erratically, Oswald drew fire. Bundy was wounded. He died in hospital that morning. Upon investigating, no weapon was found on him.”
The room was silent. Twelve sets of eyes all avoided him -- all but one. Cossack was hunched over the table, a cigar hanging from his mouth and his gaze locked on Amphion. He thought the Commissioner’s eyes resembled still-smouldering ash pots.
“So,” Cossack began, “do you have any final remarks to make, Officer Oswald?”
Amphion stood. It seemed to him that there was a weight in his knees that attempted to pull him back into his seat, but he resisted. These men were nothing to fear -- not when the principle of the matter was at stake. “I have little to say,” said Amphion in a voice that did not betray any stray nerves. “Only that I acted in accordance to my own judgment. It seemed to me, at the time, that Mr. Bundy was a threat to the lives of innocent civilians. As for the absence of a weapon, I was never made aware of that fact during the incident. Jasper Bundy gave me every reason to believe he was armed and dangerous.”
Cossack chewed on the end of his cigar. When Amphion finished, he spat a bit of inky tobacco into his flask. “That’s all very well, Amphion. Any one of us would have acted in the same manner, I’m sure.” A murmur of appreciation rose from the Board. “But,” Cossack continued, “it’s not about us. Hell, it’s not even about you. It’s the people. If it had been some bum, some old drunkard, that would have been one thing, but -- Christ! -- a kid, Amphion! Not even a heap of street trash, but the son of a surgeon!”
In the pit of his stomach Amphion felt a bitter mass stir. An image hovered over the other men, an image of hatred and violence framed in the face of a young man severed from inhibition. He could smell his own terror, the dank of sweat and steaming of breath, and the memory consumed him. “It doesn’t matter who he was!” he snapped.
“Oh?” Cossack again, with only a sparse degree of interest.
“He could be the president’s son for all I care,” continued Amphion. “He was deranged. Justice must always be done.”
“Or seem to have been done.” Cossack leaned forward so that the sting of smoke wafted just short of Amphion’s nostrils. He glared at the cheap cigar permanently welded to the Commissioner’s lips, and the black tobacco juices which he carelessly allowed to collect in the corners of his mouth. “Optics, Amphion. It’s all about optics. Do I want justice done? You wouldn’t believe it! But what you’ve got out there is a collective of… of bleedings hearts -- that’s what they are. They see a kid go down in the street without so much as a twig to his name, and there’s a cop all blazing guns -- and they get a little worried you know. Optics. Nobody wants this to look like some kind of commie police-state. We’ve got to seem like we’re worried; say we’ll look into it. Make a show of investigating -- thank God they haven’t brought in a third party yet, that’s all I can say! -- and then no one can say then the NSPD are the bad guys.”
“There will be surveillance brought it,” the lawyer clarified. He seemed too cheery, as if he were the frontrunner of some great victory. “The newest technology -- but only in the cars, of course.”
“We keep an eye on our men -- we’ll be able to say that much. That’ll keep their traps shut for a good while.”
Amphion had ceased to glance out the window. He kept his eyes on his hands, which in the dim room were traced in a pale outline of light -- a hint of the vast sky behind him, captured and concentrated in four huge glass planes. “These -- what did you call them? -- these bleeding hearts of yours, they were incensed over that boy’s death?”
“Oh, some of them were,” the public relations officer piped up. Until the tribunal commenced, no one at the station had even known what exactly was his job. “We’ve managed to keep a good leash on our press people, though.”
“You’ve got the look of a Martyr,” remarked Cossack. “Don’t be beating yourself up, Amphion. You’re a swell guy. One of my best.”
“Things have turned out well for us,” the lawyer reminded him. “We’ve kept the blame away from you. There’s not going to be any charges laid.”
They all looked to Amphion, quietly begging for some trace of relief, but they saw nothing but an impassable cloud, a controlled expression which veiled any feelings. When he spoke, his voice was neither that of a martyr nor a hero, but that of a rehearsed speaker addressing an audience. “If what I am hearing is correct, gentlemen, then you are trying to tell me that society would shield a crook and handicap a good man of law, a man who has dedicated his life for the protection of the innocent. Where is the justice in that?”
Cossack set his cigar down. “We’ve overcome a big one today, Amphion. This isn’t about you -- don’t make it.”
© 2010 Shiloh Black
Added on June 15, 2010
Last Updated on June 15, 2010
A Stone to Kill
Saint John, Canada
AboutI presently reside in Atlantic Canada. My interests, aside from writing include drawing, reading, and indulging in my love of all things British. I'm currently attending the University of Dalhousie, w.. more..