Saturday, September 12, 2015

Practical Magic: Present Day (Practical Magic #9)

Deidre took one last look in the mirror before leaving. She looked every inch the Warrior today. She wasn’t sure if that would be a good thing or a bad thing in the long run though. Today was an unusual work day for her. She was to hear testimony and be part of a detail of guards for a joint trial. One of The Gifted was facing charges in an Other’s court of law. This was rare but not completely unheard of since the time of The Joining. Their legal systems were so different that generally they each tried their own. Notifying both sides of results and punishments but they kept their own systems.

Deidre often thought that The Joining was a bad name for what had happened. The Acknowledgment was more accurate. After all The Others and The Gifted had been aware of each other for centuries. They had shared history. Though depending on which community you belonged to the stories were very different. The Others treating The Gifted as creatures in their nightmares, witches and such. The Gifted doing much the same, thinking of The Others as their barbarian cousins more often than not. During the time of The Joining much was done to work through old stereotypes and reach some sort of understanding of each other. Progress had been made but some things were too difficult to blend easily, such as legal systems, and so for years a sort of dual system had been maintained.

The Gifted had a simple system. A trial generally lasted no more than a few hours. The accused was brought before a council of three. One member of their own called, one Prophet and then one from the remaining two called. For instance a Warrior would be tried by a Warrior, a Prophet and either a Healer or a Spell-Caster. The case was laid out and the council asked questions of the accused and the accuser until they understood the situation. After testimony was given the three members of the council spent a few moments discussing the case and the gave the verdict. If the defendant was found innocent they were released that moment and if they were found guilty punishment was also done that instance. There was also the chance that the accuser could be found guilty of bringing charges that were knowingly false in which case they were made to pay restitution to the person they falsely accused. There were no appeals.

The Others could not understand this as they had their more complex system of lawyers and judges and juries and appeals. How could they say that a person was guilty and punish them within the span of a few hours? Especially if the judgment reached was death? The Gifted had tried to explain, there was no need for appeals, the truth was the truth. With a Prophet listening to testimony no one would lie. At least no one could get away with lying. Having a member of their own called on the council helped with mitigating circumstances. A Warrior might be acting in a way that would be considered unlawful for a Healer but not for a Warrior. This also puzzled The Others, why would law apply differently to different people? The Gifted were equally puzzled by The Others strict adherence to one set of rules for everyone regardless of circumstance. And so they maintained different systems. Usually.

Generally when a case was brought before the court system of a group it was due to a law being broken in their area. If one of The Gifted was living among the The Others as one of them and broke their law they could stand trial as an Other. The same with The Others. If they were among The Gifted and broke a law they could be tried in a Gifted court. Often what happened instead was they were turned over to the legal branch of their own group to be dealt with. But it was within each groups’ rights to hold the perpetrator liable in their own court system, though if that was the case representatives from their own group could and generally were present at the trial. Today was one of those days.

Deidre was working as a guard for her Aunt Dot and would also hear testimony in an unusual case. A Spell-Caster was being charged with theft but claimed innocence. Even though there was security footage from a hidden camera showing him stealing the items. Even after being shown the footage the man repeated he had never been to the store, he would never have taken the items. He had no use for them. And this was true. The items he had been charged with stealing with children’s things. Clothing, toys and books. He had no children of his own. A search of his house had not turned up the items that were stolen and as he was claiming he did not take them he would not say where they had gone. Deidre, Dot and Al, an elderly Spell-Caster Deidre had never met before, would act as an informal council and hear testimony and offer their own verdict to the court but the court of the Others did not have to take what they believed in to consideration when making their judgment.

Deidre would also act as security for her Aunt and the Spell-Caster along with a team of 2 other Warriors. Even after The Joining there were those among The Others who felt it was their sacred duty to persecute The Gifted. Shouts of “Suffer not a witch to live!” were often heard before a rock was tossed, or worse. Even though religions were often shared among The Others and The Gifted, like the legal systems they only bore a superficial similarity to each other at times. The Gifted were not above persecuting The Others as well. Many among The Gifted had not been pleased with The Joining and worked diligently to keep themselves as separate as possible. There were even those that felt Shakel might have been right and that it was their place to rule over The Others.

Deidre was fascinated with the legal system The Others followed. From the swearing in, “Do you swear to tell the whole truth?” Why rely on them to swear they will tell the truth if you can know? To the examination and cross examination. Instead of focusing just on the crime itself the lawyers seemed to like questions that pertained more to the accused’s personality. Had they ever cheated on anything? Did they feel that things should be theirs for the taking? And the objections! If a question was asked that one side didn’t like they could object to the asking, and the judge then got to decide if they were allowed to ask or not.

The case seemed very straightforward to Deidre. She watched the video showing Charles (that was the Spell-Caster’s name, Charles Standing) cast a simple spell to open the door to the store, then a series of splices from other cameras as they filmed him walking through the store picking out clothing and toys and some books. Back to the camera on the front door where you could see him walking from the store with an armful of stolen goods. Then he came back in view and cast another spell to re-lock the door. If the security guard wasn’t in the habit of reviewing security footage every morning he would have gotten away with the theft as he left no trace in the store that he had been there, except for the missing merchandise, but that would have taken weeks to discover. Deidre wasn’t sure why he was bothering to deny he had committed the crime. They video evidence clearly showed him opening the door, taking the items and then leaving the store again only to return after placing the items in his car (presumably) to lock the store again so they would be no immediate evidence of a break in.

After both sides had rested their cases the jury left to deliberate. During this time Deidre, Dot and Al also spent time going over the case. Al agreed with Deidre that it was a pretty straightforward case. There was no provision in their law for any of the called that allowed for stealing so he had no defense to offer for Charles’ actions. He was as confused as Deidre was that he was even denying stealing the items. Al turned to Deidre’s aunt, “Dot, what do you think?”

“He denies stealing the items because he truly believes he did not take them. He is nothing but confused as to why he is on that video at all. He believes he was home sleeping. Just as he told the arresting officers. He is denying the crime because he has no memory of committing it.”

“Sleep walking? Can you steal things in your sleep?” Al asked.

“Even if he had been asleep there would be part of his mind aware of the crime. There is nothing there. No part of him recognizes committing the crime. Or even being in that store. If you were to take him there right now he would swear it was the first time he had ever been in the area. He remembers going to sleep in his own bed that night and waking up there in the morning. There is no memory at all of committing this crime.”

“So what do we do? You can see him on the tape. He was there. Unless there is another Spell-Caster out there that looks just like him. Were the tapes tampered with?”

Dot shook her head, “I don’t believe so. The security guard was truthful when he said he reviewed the tapes as he does every morning and that he saw the crime on the video and then reported it to the police. The only changes from what we saw to what he watched was the feeds were spliced together so we didn’t have to watch hours of nothing before and after the crime.”

Al held up his hands in frustration, “So what do we do? The footage shows him committing the crime, however he has no memory of committing the crime. There was a crime committed. The store showed inventory counts showing the merchandise he stole even though the merchandise was never recovered. What is our recommendation to the court?”

Deidre spoke up, “We tell them what we know. Which is that he believes he did not commit the crime and that he has no memory of the crime so we are unsure what this means. And then we should ask that he be released to our custody and we should have him examined further to see if those memories can be recovered.”

Dot looked at her niece, “Are you concerned he is acting under someone else’s influence?”

“Aren’t you? It’s a small crime, granted, but a crime committed with no memory, or a false memory of the time planted? Doesn’t this sound familiar to you?”

Dot placed her hand over her niece’s knee, “We don’t know that this is what has happened, it could be guilt or a break we have never seen before. But you are right, we need to find out for sure.”

As Al found the court Bailiff to pass along their opinion Dot and Deidre sat quietly. Dot did not need to be a Prophet to know that Deidre was thinking only of the man who had killed her husband.

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