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Belief

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Like every other day of my retirement life, I started my day the coffee my wife brewed for me looking newspaper. I can see that my wife is reading a book in the chair in the kitchen. Man, she should stop obsessing with books. And if I say that to her, she replies, ‘one day you would find something to obsess and you will know how I feel.’ I am now 55 and worked as a successful criminal lawyer for 25 years but there is nothing, I am obsessed of other than my wife. With a smile on my face and I changed my attention to the paper. While going through the routine crime news one article attracted me.

A mother for justice:

I noticed my son being different when he was around 5 years old. Being a single mom at the age of 25, meeting my errands itself was my biggest problem until I heard that my son is diagnosed as autistic. That day when I walked out of the hospital with Nate’s hand in my hand, I suddenly realised I am completely alone in this world. I took him to his favourite ice-cream place and while he is enjoying his treat, I was lost in my thoughts of praying god to tell me that all this is a lie. I came back to the world when Nate pushed me calling, ‘mama’. He knew I am in a bad mood but he can’t form a sentence to ask me what’s wrong so instead he just hugged me. While embracing him I realised I need to fight for my son and that I need to be strong for him to survive in this world.

Since then my world has completely shifted to Nate. I worked every possible hour I can to earn extra penny for Nate’s care. It’s a real battle when I leave him with the caretaker before my work. Nate can get quite furious even from a very young age. He once threw a glass towards me when he was just 7. I met people, read books and attended sessions to know more about Nate. But mostly Nate loves physical touch. He loves to express his thoughts like love you and thank you by kissing and hugging. While we are battling our own problems, we have encountered few stupid people too. My colleague at work asked me if I consumed alcohol while I was pregnant? Apparently, Google told her that pregnant women consuming alcohol can lead to autism babies. And another guy asked me if I am comfortable when my 15-year-old son hug and kiss me. Amidst all of this I only know one thing, that I only care about my son wellbeing.

Life went on when one day my son said he love being with the new caretaker. I was glad as he is now making new friends other than me.

10 years later:

Years passed and one day I realised that my son suddenly is craving for privacy from me. I laughed to myself for this new habit but encouraged Nate to be as he like. Few months later Nate told me that he wants to marry his caretaker’s daughter. I do know that Ayana used to accompany her mother when she babysits my son. I have known her since she is 15 years old. She is the only friend Nate had and she is the only girl who isn’t scared of Nate. I never knew that my son loves her. I guess that’s when I knew the meaning of a phrase, I heard in one of the classes, ‘for an Autistic person, family is the close stranger.’ I met Ayana after my son’s confession to me about his love. She is working as an ER nurse. When I met her, I realised why my son loves her. They both look perfectly happy in their own bubble and for the first time in my life I slept well that night relieved to know that there is someone to look after Nate if something happens to me.

But my happy bubble didn’t stay for long, that evening when I came home at around 7PM. I could see that the doors are locked which is very odd as Nate has always been home around this time. I pulled out my phone and dialled Nate’s number. While I was waiting for him to pick up the phone, I unlocked the door and stepped in. I could hear Nate’s mobile ringing inside the house so I called out, ’Nate, are you home, sweety?’ switching on the lights. But I stopped right where I was standing and fell to my knees with my eyes wide open with fear. Nate is covered in blood and his hands are on his ears. I could see a trail of blood from his feet to the nearby Ayana’s body. I immediately rushed to Ayana to see if she still has any pulse but her body is as hard as a block indicating It’s too late. I turned to Nate asking, ’Sweetie, what happened? Who did this?’. Nate simply started patting his ears fast and has been repeating the same words ‘Ayana’, ’blood’. I immediately contacted police and the house has been filled with so many people at once.

2 weeks passed and Forensic has given a report that Nate’s sperm can be found on Ayana’s body and that it isn’t clear if the sex was consensual or forced. They have given a possibility of 30% being consensual and 70% as forced. Her death was happened due to the blunt injury on her head, she got hit multiple times by something like a vase and eventually passed away due to heavy bleeding. She was roughly estimated to be passed away from 3-4Pm in the afternoon. Profiler has given a report that the injury can be caused only by a male depending on the depth of the injury and the scenario they provided was it might have happened during an argument.

Investigation has been completed and my son Nate has been arrested as the primary suspect. During the interrogation, Nate uttered only two words ‘Ayana’,’blood’. When they asked questions like what happened and how?. Nate couldn’t respond. But when the detective asked Nate, ‘Did you guys make love?’ Nate said ‘yes’. Detective: ’Did something happen when you were making love?’ Nate: ’I just did what Ayana asked me to’ (patting his ears and looking around uncomfortably). Detective: ‘so if Ayana has asked you to hit her? is there a possibility that you would have hit her using this vase?’ Nate kept thinking for an hour when the detective repeated the same question in different ways and Nate finally said yes.

Nate’s case was portrayed in the media as ‘An Autistic murdering his girlfriend’. People didn’t wait for the court to issue the verdict before making the assumptions. I tried to yell stating that my son isn’t a killer but there is no one to hear my voice including the court. Due to media and country’s attention, Nate’s case has been ordered to Jury’s verdict including Judge. The team opposite has brought up how Nate can be so violent since childhood. They have collected all the evidences from his art school and hospital visit memo’s. They proved the point that Nate can get quite aggressive to the court. And to the next one, when they interrogated me asking if I have contacted my son that afternoon. I have explained that I wasn’t able to contact him but I know his plans of meeting Ayana that day. One of the friends of Ayana told the court that Ayana was seen with few injuries on her body recently and when she asked Ayana about the injuries it was told that she just smiled. By this they established a point that Nate has been aggressive with Ayana even before the incident. Nate’s team spoke to me and suggested me that the best way to reduce the sentence is Nate confessing to the court as guilty and compelling them on humanitarian grounds based on his health. I didn’t accept the confession part and the lawyer made his final statement to consider Nate’s health condition. Guess the defence lawyer was waiting for this part and he started making his closing statement providing the details and the percentile of sex offenders being Autistic. He made a statement that the verdict needs to be given based on the death of a 25-year-old young woman and it can’t be based on the murderer’s health condition. He finished his statement saying Ayana’s parents need to get justice. Jury and judge gave the final verdict as death sentence. date yet to be finalised.

I know all the evidence shows Nate killed Ayana but I know and I believe that my son Nate can never do something so brutal to his loved one. I know I can’t prove my son’s innocence based on my belief but I want one person who can believe me and help us. One person who can stand beside me.

I have looked around after reading the newspaper article. I do know about Nate’s case from the news. I got up and went inside to see if my beautiful wife has finished her book so we can have our breakfast.

During breakfast I saw news being telecasted about Nate’s case. After breakfast I went to my desk and started making notes of Nate’s case. I don’t know what sparked interest in me but I felt the urge to know the case details. I have contacted the news channel requesting Nate’s mom contact information. Even though retired, being a reputed criminal lawyer and owning a firm has made it easier to obtain the details.

I met her at my firm and introduced myself, ‘Hi, I am Matt’, “Hi, I am Sheila’. After asking her permission for me to dig her son’s case, I asked her to let me know what she knew till then and I heard the same details as the article I have read. I made an appointment to meet Nate and Nate didn’t utter any more words other than ‘I love Ayana’ and when I asked him about that evening, he just said ‘blood’, ‘so much blood’, ‘Ayana’ And later I requested to meet Ayana’s parents. I do know Ayana’s father had been very furious and has made some violent remarks like killing Nate on the television. I met Ayana’s mother who was once a caretaker for Nate. Surprisingly she said, she can’t believe that Nate could do something cruel. She said that she took care of him for years and it is true that Nate can get quite violent but if he sees his loved one’s getting hurt, he would move himself to a corner and stay there until he was given permission to come out. I asked her opinion on Ayana and Nate’s relationship. She said that they are so lovey-dovey and never saw them fighting. I asked her if she knew anything about the injuries her friend mentioned in the court but she said, she got no idea about it. She misses her daughter but she definitely can’t imagine Nate doing that to her. I met Ayana’s father separately. He was sad and grieving for his daughter. He said the death penalty for Nate isn’t enough and that he would like to kill Nate himself. Being a father myself for two wonderful daughters I think I can relate to him.

I was going through the notes again and called Ayana’s mom to obtain her friends list. Ayana used to date a guy from her work 3 years ago but even after breaking up they still met quite often. I contacted him requesting to meet him and he came by to my office. After talking to him for an hour, I asked him if he is ok to come to court to repeat the exact words, he has told me. He said he is okay with it. I met Nate again, tried to spend some time with him this time before asking him questions. ‘So, Nate what time did you meet Ayana on that day?’ Nate: ’Ayana, Ayana always come to me at lunch time’. Matt: ‘Nate, were you with Ayana the whole time? Did you go somewhere leaving her alone?’. Nate took some time to think but he nodded his head indicating No.

I was again standing at the start line unsure of where to start. Apart from what Ayana’s friend said I couldn’t find any new information. I can’t find any suspects around. I checked her call records and everything has been clean. If someone has killed her during burglary then why didn’t they kill Nate? And why didn’t they steal anything from Nate’s home? So, it’s definitely not a burglary and what if it is a random kill by a passer-by who kills for fun. But this idea doesn’t fit in the scenario. Mostly because Ayana body wasn’t penetrated by anyone else other than Nate and the blunt injury on her head looks like someone has hit her in a momentary lapse. While I was thinking I decided to meet Sheila again. I messaged her to come by to my office tomorrow at 10AM.

While I was looking into Nate’s file again, I was checking what other things I might have missed? I decided that I need to check her bank account statements. While I was making a note of it, Sheila walked in. She looked weak may be because her energy was drained with everything happening around. She took a chair opposite to me in the private meeting room. Matt: ‘How are you holding?’ Sheila: ‘Enough to get on my feet’ Matt: ’Did you meet Nate this weekend?’ Sheila:’yes and he didn’t say anything about that day’ Matt: ‘Do you think there is a reason why he isn’t speaking about that day?’ Sheila: ‘Maybe he doesn’t know what happened or maybe he is too scared to rethink the same thing he saw’ Matt: ‘Did it occur to you if maybe he is trying to protect someone?’ Sheila: ‘what do you mean?’ Matt: ‘I feel like he is trying to cover up the person who committed the murder?’ Sheila: ’Why do you think so?’ Matt: ‘Ok, tell me how was your relationship with Anaya?’ Sheila: ‘We used to have a very friendly relationship.’ Matt: ‘Friendly as in?’ Sheila: ’what are you trying to impose?’ I stood up and walked to her chair and sat on the desk facing her directly into the eyes, ‘Did you kill her Sheila?’ Her pupils dilated with my question. She stuttered to find the correct words to respond back to me ‘what are you saying?’ Matt: ‘I’ll tell you a story. A witch who loves her daughter very much, took her away from the world and started living with her in a castle far away in the deep forest. When her daughter loved a hunter and tried to elope from the castle, the witch tried to kill the hunter but as it’s a fairy tale the witch failed to do so. You have been single since you are 20 years old and Nate has always been your world. And if someone else has walked into your own world and crashed it by saying that the world belongs to her. What would the person who owns that world would do? They will try to remove the person just like the witch. But you never guessed that Nate would take the blow. So, tell me Sheila how did you kill her’. She heard what I said with utter silence and once I am done, she got up from the seat. She stood directly to my face and said, ‘why don’t you try your career as a writer Mr. The so called Successful lawyer.’ And she started walking away from the door. ‘Are you scared that I know your secret?’. She turned back and said, ‘I would never ever do such a thing and even if I did how could you think that I would allow Nate to take the blow for me? Its true of what you said about how I felt when Anaya walked into my life but that was momentary. I was glad there is someone to take care of Nate when I am no more. I don’t know what you are trying to achieve here but I didn’t kill Anaya. And If this is your conclusion, I am happy to take the death penalty rather than Nate.’ I could see tears in her eyes and one of the suspects in my list has now been crossed.

I have applied for the higher court to reopen the case. It was accepted and the court date is in 10 days. I started digging more. I met Anaya friends and colleagues. I have checked all of her call recordings for the past 6 months and her bank accounts. When I was looking the bank accounts, I felt that few transactions have been very frequent. As an ER nurse Anaya is earning more but what happened to her money. I dug deeper and I started investigating the people who had frequent transactions from her account. Days went by and the court date is tomorrow.

I was in my office when my wife walked in with a cup of coffee that night. ‘Honey, has it been nearly 3 months you picked up this case?’ I took my glasses off and nodded as yes. She went behind my chair and started massaging my head. I relaxed back on the chair closing my eyes and forgetting the stress. She said, ‘Remember when I told you that you would find something to obsess, I think this is it baby’. I pulled her hands and now her head is on my shoulders touching my cheeks. I asked her, ‘why do you think so?’. She said, ‘in your 25-year career I have never seen you investigating a case by yourself. You always hire a private investigator to do it for you. What attracted you to this case baby?’ I turned my chair to her and made her sit on my lap and said, ‘I think I saw my mom in Sheila. I could see the same helplessness in her eyes that I have witnessed in my mom’s eyes when my dad left us on a road when I am only 10 years old. I owe my mom everything I own today. I think I believe what I saw in Sheila’s eyes. I don’t know if I can win this case baby but I want to fight for her.’ My wife didn’t say anything but hugged me. That hug has given me peace and confidence for the next day.

The court session started and the media is covering it live. The opposite lawyer has stated that the verdict given by the lower court is completely correct and that all the evidences provided before shows Nate as the primary suspect. I waited for my turn and when given, I got up and asked Anaya’s friend who has given testimony previously about her injuries to come to the witness chair. Once she sat and took the oath, ’so, you said you found injuries on her body? Can you describe how bad the injuries are?’ she said, ’they looked green and some red as if she is being beaten continuously’ Matt: ‘Does she ever looked unhappy?’ She said, ‘No, she is the most cheerful girl I have ever met.’ Matt: ‘That’s it Mr.Judge. Now I would like the next witness Anaya’s ex-boyfriend to come to witness chair’ Judge: ‘Granted’. After the oath, Matt: ‘how long have you dated?’ He said, ’for a year’ Matt: ‘Most exes don’t stay in touch after their breakup. How come you guys became good friends?’ He said,’ we used to be good friends even before our relationship so that might have been why?’ Matt: ‘so this might be a personal question but how was your sex life?’ As he was expecting this question, he didn’t feel awkward. He said,’ good’. Matt:’ so was there any violence included during your intercourse?’. He took 10 seconds before answering, ‘yes’ Matt: ’Do you mind elaborating it for us?’ He said,’ Ayana likes to be submissive. She insists on getting beaten and being violent during the intercourse?’ Matt: ‘So you are saying it is Ayana’s preference to be treated like that’ He was quiet for 5 seconds and looked like he is picking his words carefully to make sure Ayana isn’t judged by his answers. Matt: ‘You can be assured that no one would judge anyone’s preferences. What you are is completely up to you and no one has any right to judge.’ He nodded his head in understanding and said,’ yes, it is Ayana’s preference to be treated violently as she is into that’ Matt: ‘So Mr.Judge, as per the previous witness the injuries on her body was consensual and that proves that whatever has happened between Nate and Anaya has always been consensual. The forensic report shows that the intercourse can be 70% forced but as per Anaya’s Ex-boyfriend statement you can understand that it was their preference to be rough and violent during intercourse. So, this proves that Nate has always done what is consensual between them and nothing more. I hope this proves the point that Nate didn’t hurt Anaya and hasn’t been aggressive with her.’

There isn’t much left for the opposite lawyer to cross examine so we moved to the next part. I have called in Anaya’s mom to the witness board. After the oath, Matt: ‘I know that standing here must be really hard for you. But we would like to know only one thing, it was said that Nate can be quite aggressive. As you were his caretaker can you tell me the last time, he got aggressive?’ She said, ‘its been around 6 years back when Nate got quite aggressive. That was because a guy on the road teased me and that provoked Nate. That was the last time ever I have ever seen Nate getting aggressive.’ Matt: ‘Do you believe that Nate could hit Anaya in the moment of temper?’. She said, ‘Nate loves Anaya a lot and it came to as a surprise when I heard Nate is the primary suspect. Nate can’t see blood, I don’t think he can be so brutal’ Matt: ’That’s it Mr.Judge. I would like you to understand that the proofs submitted to the court about Nate’s aggressiveness was from 6 years ago. The hospital memos showing that Nate being treated for anger management was also from 6 years ago even though the dates on the memos appear to be recent. I have obtained CCTV footage to check Nate’s entry but Nate can’t be found entering into the hospital for the last 6 months. Someone has created the memos altering the dates.’ Opposite lawyer has tried to prove his points about the memos and I have submitted hospital footage for the past 6 months to prove that Nate has never entered into the hospital.

Matt: ’Mr.Judge, now I would like my last witness Anaya’s father Mr. Gary to the witness chair’ After the oath, Matt: ‘I know you are Grieving Gary, How are you holding it?’ Gary: ‘I don’t know why we are doing this. The court has already sentenced that bastard as guilty, what are you trying to prove Matt?’ Matt: ’I’ll tell you that in few minutes Gary but before that please tell me how are you managing the household with Anaya not being around’ Gary: ‘what do you mean?’ Matt: ‘these are the bank statements of Anaya’s from the past 1 year. I could see that she is sending you 60% of her income. I have taken that you are using that money for house expenses.’ Gary’s expression changed and his face hardened. Matt: ‘as you aren’t responding. I took the liberty to check your recent hobbies.’ I pulled out few photographs and bills proving that Gary is a gambling addict. Gary started shouting, ‘that isn’t true, and if in case it is true why are my hobbies an issue with my daughter’s death.’ Matt: ’yes, you are right, let’s talk about Ayana. Gary, is Ayana your blood daughter?’ Gary:’ No I got married to her mother when she was 2 years old’ Matt: ‘so she is your step daughter.’ Gary: ’yes but what difference does it make when I love her like my own’ Matt: ‘Is that why you never wanted her to marry Nate. Because she belongs to you, because her money belongs to you so that you can gamble for your entire life.’ Gary: ‘No… No… it isn’t true.’ Matt: ’So you are saying you never opposed her marriage with Nate?’ Gary: ‘I did tell her that it isn’t a wise choice’.

I played a CCTV footage on the screen where it shows Gary getting aggressive on Anaya in a restaurant. Gary slapped Anaya in the recording. Matt: ‘So Gary, this was a recording from 2 days before Anaya’s death. can you explain this?’ Gary didn’t speak. Matt: ‘Tell me Gary, Do you think Ayana is beautiful? Did you ever dream of having sex with her?’ By this question, Gary’s face turned pale with embarrassment. It looked like his dark secret is now open. His words were so sharp when he said ,’shut up’ Matt: ’Its ok Gary, she isn’t your daughter right? There is nothing wrong in dreaming. Its just a heart racing dream where you feel young just by the though of it’ Gary: ‘shut up, shut up, shut up’ By this time Gary got so worked up with flaring nostrils and shaky heads. As per what I have known Gary according to my background check, we only need to make Gary angry and worked up to make him speak. Now I am ready to use my last card.

Matt: ‘ok… lets leave it. Would you be able to explain this?’ And I played another recording on the screen where Gary is disposing his overcoat in a rubbish bin 3KM away from Nate’s house on Anaya’s death day. At this point Gary knows he can’t defend himself anymore. Matt: ’So Gary, Do you have an alibi on that day? Did you really think we will not be able to find your coat which got Anaya’s blood on it.’ He stood silent for few seconds before turning his rage to Nate and started yelling ‘All this happened because of you. We were very happy and you walked in our life asking Anaya’s hand. Why should I give up my golden goose to you? That day I came to your place to hurt you but once I am in, I could hear you guys having sex. My head started filling with anger and I couldn’t move from where I stood. After few minutes Anaya walked out and was shocked to see me there. I tried to barge into the room to kill you but Anaya provoked me with her words and tried to stop me. It all happened in a second. Rage filled my eyes and I took the vase nearby and hit Anaya 5 times until she couldn’t utter a sound. When she isn’t moving anymore, I came back to the reality. As I was already wearing gloves to my shoes and hands, I figured there isn’t nothing to worry other than my jacket. It’s all because of you bloody idiot. I wish I can kill you now.’ It’s like there is no stop for his words. As there weren’t any material proofs including his jacket to prove Gary did, my only card was to provoke Gary to confess. He has confessed everything in front of the judge. As he can’t be controlled. Judge has given 10minutes break and ordered to cuff Gary meanwhile. 

I sat back to my chair, looking into the file to make sure if I haven’t missed anything. Meanwhile at home, Matt’s wife was clapping so hard that she wished he was in front of her to give a kiss. She felt proud to have him as her husband. Media started trolling Matt as a saviour and the heading has now changed to ‘step father killed his daughter for money’. Sheila eyes are watery with what felt like a solace. Amidst all of this there is one woman who lost her family completely and is now alone but her heart was filled with happiness that her daughter death has been avenged.

With all this going around and the entire court’s eyes being on Matt. He is still focused on his file. Nate touched his hand saying ‘Thank you’. Matt with a smile said ‘Nothing is over until it’s over Nate.’

The judge walked in and Gary was made to sit on the nearby bench with two policemen besides him. Judge requested for closing statements. Opposite lawyer advised that there is none from them and Matt stood up. ‘Mr.Judge, the only remaining point for me to speak about what Nate has done after Gary left the house. Nate was sleeping when this happened and once, he woke up he came out and was shocked to see Anaya in the pool of blood. So, he started hugging her and patting her to wake up and forgot his basic instincts to call for an ambulance. This might answer your question of why Nate didn’t call for an ambulance for 4 hours. Those 4 hours Nate hugged Anaya and waited for her to wake up. He moved away from her body when he heard his mother opening the door. I have already made my point with the criminal confessing in the court itself. We are now ready for the judgement.’

Judge gave the verdict as Nate not guilty and to be released today with all the formalities being completed and Gary as Guilty with death penalty, date yet to be confirmed. Judge completed his statement saying ‘It’s always been a pleasure to work with you Mr.Matt. Hope to see you more in action.’

The entire court clapped looking at Matt. Matt turned his eyes to Sheila whose eyes are now filled with a combination of tears happiness and with gratitude. I just smiled at her warmly and head out to my car before media catches me for anymore questions. I went to my car, took my cell phone out and sent 2 messages. One for Sheila that I ll meet her once Nate has been released and the other one for my real obsession, my wife, ‘Babe, get ready… we are heading out for a holiday to Milan’.

And I looked in the rear mirror and told myself ‘All this happened because Sheila believed in me and I believed what I saw in her eyes’

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