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Author's Note: All I know about the law I learned from Law and Order and Perry Mason reruns. So forgive any inappropriate use of the legal system here. I'm not even sure if cases like these are played out in a courtroom. Just chalk it all up to poetic license. -
Living in Algernon
Miss Parker sat rigidly on the hard wooden bench. Her hair had been recently trimmed and professionally styled at the salon. The gray hair interspersed with the brown had been carefully camouflaged with dye and highlights. Her clothes, expensively tailored and fitted gave her the air of a professional woman. Her feet, strapped into delicate high-heeled shoes purchased less than a week ago, had already begun to ache. Even after being back in her own home for the past five months, Miss Parker still couldn't quite reacquaint herself with the style of shoes that had once been her trademark.
Her cool façade belied the nervousness churning in her stomach. But she would not let her anxiety show. If the last several years had taught her anything, it had taught her to never show any fear. Fear made you a target, easy pickings for the animals that had surrounded her. So Parker sat quietly, the only visible tension was in the soldier like straightness of her back as she waited.
A middle-aged man in a dark blue suit hurried down the hall toward Miss Parker. He carried a fancy leather attaché case in one hand as he stretched the other toward Parker in greeting.
"I apologize for my tardiness, Miss Parker." The man said. "I hope you haven't been waiting long."
"I arrived early, Mr. Langford." Parker's voice was clipped and tight.
The man cleared his throat uncomfortably. Ushering Parker through a large set of double doors, Mr. Langford started talking rapidly. "I've just been talking with the social worker." He said. "I'm afraid we may have a problem."
Parker glared icily at the man. "I pay you very well, Mr. Langford. The idea is that you take care of these problems. If your firm can't handle litigation on my behalf I will find other legal representation."
Mr. Langford sighed. He had known Miss Parker for nearly eight years now. Never once in that time had she ever backed down from any fight. This was far too important to her.
"Miss Parker," He said calmly. "You haven't got the time to find another lawyer. I am hoping that the judge will make a final determination today."
"So what's the problem?" Parker asked.
Mr. Langford went on. "As you know, we expected the state to subpoena Dr. Frazier from the institute."
Parker nodded briefly.
"I didn't expect them to bring Jarod along." Mr. Langford said.
Parker frowned in confusion. "I don't understand the problem."
Langford sighed. "He is an unexpected variable. I have no way of knowing what he will say if they put him on the stand."
Parker thought for a moment. "I only think that his testimony can help our position, Mr. Langford." She said finally. "Jarod wants this as much as I do."
Mr. Langford nodded. "I hope you are right, Miss Parker. The judge should be calling us into the courtroom any moment. Are you prepared for this? They won't make it easy you know."
"If it was easy, it wouldn't be worth fighting for." Parker said firmly.
Just then, a guard stepped into the hallway and called their case number. Parker followed her attorney into the courtroom and sat beside him at one of the large tables facing the judge's bench. The judge was a gray haired older man, currently deep in conversation with one of his assistants.
Parker tried not to fidget as she saw Dr. Frazier enter the room and take a seat in the back row. She had never liked the psychiatrist, but she had been unable to get the case reassigned to another doctor. Since Sydney's death from a stroke four years ago, Frazier had been in charge of all treatment rendered at the institute.
Her body relaxed imperceptibly when an orderly that Parker recognized walked in with Jarod at his side. Jarod was looking around furtively, trying to learn as much about his surroundings as possible. When he saw Parker, his face lit up with unvarnished joy.
"Hello, Miss Parker!" Jarod called across the room.
Parker smiled affectionately at him and waved a greeting.
"Look, Tony." Jarod said to the orderly. "Miss Parker is here."
"Yes I know." The other man said in a kind, soft voice. When Jarod started to walk toward Miss Parker, the orderly expertly deflected his progress, steering him instead toward a seat on the other side of the courtroom. Jarod looked toward Parker in confusion until she gave him a reassuring nod.
The state's attorney arrived with the institute's administrator. The two of them sat at the second table facing the judge. Once everyone was settled, the judge banged his gavel and called the court to order.
"Case number 114723-T." The judge read in a deep monotone voice. "Custody suit regarding guardianship of the subject known as Jarod Doe." He looked over some of the papers in front of him for a moment then nodded briefly at Mr. Langford.
Parker clasped her hands tightly in her lap as her attorney stood and began talking.
"Your Honor," Mr. Langford said in a strong but gentle voice. "My client has known this man for most of her life. They grew up together. They were friends." Langford folded his hands behind his back and began to pace slowly in front of the bench. "Since Mr. Doe's injury, my client has been his main source of support, both financially and emotionally. There is no one else to care for him. During this hearing today, we plan to show the court that my client is more than capable of providing all the care required by the subject, hiring in home aides when necessary. We will demonstrate to the court that my client wants only what is best for Mr. Doe. She will give him a loving home and a small sense of freedom that fate has seen fit to deny him for so long."
Mr. Langford sat back down in his chair, patting Miss Parker's arm in a consoling gesture.
The state's attorney stood. "Your Honor this woman," the frumpy little man began, pointing at Parker. "Is a convicted killer. By her own admission she willingly murdered two men in cold blood. She walked up to them on a busy street and shot them dead in front of dozens of witnesses."
Parker steeled her face into a mask of grim resolution as the other attorney ranted further.
"One of those men was her twin brother." The little attorney cried. "Her brother! Your honor, this woman is a dangerous criminal and we strongly protest her petition for guardianship."
The other attorney, finished with his opening statement, sank into his chair with a huff.
The judge seemed to contemplate the statements for a minute before turning a neutral look toward Parker's table.
"Mr. Langford," The judge said. "Call your first witness."
Langford stood. "We call Mr. Harlan Nemec to the stand."
Parker turned toward the chairs situated behind her. Sometime during the opening arguments, Harry had entered the courtroom. Parker nodded at the big black man as he walked passed her toward the stand.
After the large man had been sworn in, Mr. Langford began his questioning.
"Mr. Nemec, for the record, will you please state your name and occupation." Langford said.
In a deep rolling voice that rumbled like thunder, Mr. Nemec answered. "My name is Harlan Nemec. Everyone except my momma calls me Harry. I'm a parole officer in this great state of Delaware."
"And how are you acquainted with my client, Mr. Nemec." Langford asked.
"I'm her PO. Her case was assigned to me upon her release from the state penitentiary five months ago." Nemec responded.
Mr. Langford strolled slowly toward the stand. "What has been your impression of my client during that time, Mr. Nemec?"
"She is a strong woman." The big black man said proudly. "Not many women can spend seven years in the joint and still come out with the kind of class she's got."
"Has she ever spoken to you about the subject in question?"
"Constantly." Harry chuckled. "Getting Jarod out of that hospital and back at home with her has been her mission in life for several years now."
Langford turned and glared at Harry. "Would my client do anything to jeopardize Mr. Doe's safety?"
"Never." Harry answered without hesitation. "She wants to make him as happy as possible. She only wants to give him a home."
Mr. Langford gave a single nod. "Thank you Mr. Nemec. No further questions."
The states attorney stood but did not move away from the table. "Mr. Nemec, you stated that Miss Parker was in the state penitentiary. What was her crime?"
Harry sighed then said bluntly. "Two counts of second degree murder."
"And how long will Miss Parker remain under your supervision?"
"She's on parole for the next five years." Harry answered.
"Thank you. I have no other questions."
The judge looked toward Harry and said quietly, "You may go Mr. Nemec, thank you."
Once the parole officer had left, Mr. Langford stood and said. "Your honor, I have only one other witness. I call Miss Merriweather Parker to the stand."
Parker swallowed and walked with false confidence to the witness stand. She focused on Jarod's face as she was sworn in. He was looking up at the ceiling in wide-eyed fascination. As Parker sat down, she glanced up and saw the object of Jarod's attentiveness. There were four fans rotating slowly above their heads. One of the four was off balance so that it swayed back and forth hypnotically.
Mr. Langford leaned nonchalantly against the railing at Parker's side, trying to put her more at ease. "Miss Parker." He began. "Could you tell us about the first time you met Jarod."
"Jarod and I met more than three decades ago." Parker said. On hearing Parker utter his name, Jarod's attention was pulled away from the swaying appliance. He looked at Parker and beamed at her with a smile of total innocence. "We were about ten. The Centre wanted to test Jarod's reaction to biological stimuli." Parker smiled sadly. "I was the first girl he'd ever met."
"Your honor," The state attorney popped out of his seat. "The state is willing to forgo this line of questioning. We all read the papers when the horrors of that place were uncovered. There is no arguing the fact that Mr. Doe and others like him were treated to the most terrible of abuses. But that has no bearing on the dispensation of his care at this time."
"I'm afraid that I must agree with the state on this matter." The judge said firmly. "Get back to the case in question, Mr. Langford."
"Your honor," Langford protested. "We only wish to establish the true tragedy of this case. Mr. Doe was possessed of a brilliant intellect. His genius was of such value that evil men had exploited it throughout his childhood."
"You've made your point, Mr. Langford." The judge said kindly. "Get on with it."
Parker felt panic clawing at her as she watched her attorney pace in thought. They had just lost their main ploy. Langford abruptly turned toward Parker with a gleam in his eye and Parker relaxed a bit. Langford was an exceptional attorney well worth the huge sums he was charging her. He had been her representation during the trial seven years ago. The fact that Parker had spent less than a decade in prison was a testament to the man's abilities.
Langford began his questioning along a new track. "Miss Parker, the state will attempt to sway this court with your prison record. Would you tell us please about the day William Raines and Lyle Parker died?"
Parker sighed and started to tell the story. "Lyle had trapped Jarod in a little cabin in Mississippi and dragged him kicking and screaming back to The Centre. For days I had tried to get in to see Jarod but Lyle managed to keep me away for nearly a week."
"I finally found him in the renewal wing." She whispered. Painful tears filled her eyes as Parker remembered that morning. She recalled how terribly she had failed her old friend. "He was hooked up to a bunch of monitors and tubes. The chart hanging at the foot of his bed had post- operative instructions on it. That's when I found out what they had done."
"Tell us." Langford urged.
Parker's voice cracked and she was forced to clear her throat before she could go on. "Raines had ordered a frontal lobe separation - a lobotomy. I saw Raines' signature on the medical orders."
"Why would Mr. Raines do such a thing to a brilliant mind?" Langford asked.
"Objection, your honor." The other attorney interjected. "The witness is not a mind reader. She could not possibly know the deceased man's motives."
"Sustained." The judge intoned.
Parker sighed. She didn't need to be a mind reader to know why they had ruined Jarod's mind. Parker knew how The Centre worked. Jarod's excursion into the real world had destroyed his ability to sim with detached emotionality. By rendering Jarod mentally insensate, they could control him without fear that he would try to escape again. The Centre was a patient villain. They could use Jarod's body to breed dozens of new pretenders, a new generation of victims. It would take years, but The Centre would ultimately have their prize.
Langford changed his question. "What was your reaction to this discovery, Miss Parker?"
"I wept." She answered honestly. "I felt responsible in a way. I should have been able to stop them. I should have been faster. I had failed. I went looking for Lyle and Raines. I couldn't reverse what they had done. But I could make damn sure that they paid dearly for it."
"You went looking for the two men with the express intent of killing them." Langford stated.
"Pretty much." Parker answered simply.
"Why?" Langford asked.
Parker frowned in confusion. "I told you." She said. "They had carved up Jarod's mind like a holiday turkey."
"And that bothered you?" Her attorney asked.
"Of course." Parker cried.
"Why?" Langford asked again with a tilt of his head.
"Because he was important to me." Parker whispered. "He was my friend."
"Do you realize how much care Jarod requires now?" Langford asked gently.
"Yes." Parker answered. "I've been paying all the bills since it happened. I'm aware of his needs."
"What about his family?" Langford asked her. "Have they offered assistance in this in any way?"
"I haven't been able to locate his family." Parker answered. "During my trial, when the media was plastering Centre business around the globe, I used the opportunity to advertise for them. No one came forward. I think something must have happened to them."
Parker preferred to think that Jarod's family had been killed somehow. The alternative answer to the long silence was that knowing of Jarod's incapacity, they no longer wanted him. While the Parker family would definitely have acted in such a way, Miss Parker could not bring herself to believe that someone of Jarod's generous nature could have come from a family like that.
"There is no one but me." Parker said firmly. "My father left me a large inheritance so money is no problem. I won't have to work to support Jarod."
"What can you offer Jarod that he can not receive at the hospital, Miss Parker? Why do you feel that he'll be better off in your care?" Her attorney asked.
"His mind may not be what it once was," Miss Parker said gently. "But he is still Jarod. He has such a great potential for caring and generosity. To deny him the affection he craves is dooming him to a prison much like the one he ran away from."
"You intend to give him that affection?" Langford asked.
Parker nodded. "And he won't have to wait his turn. If he is with me, he'll get one hundred percent of everything I have to give. There won't be other patients in the next room vying for my attention."
"Thank you, Miss Parker." Her attorney smiled reassuringly at her as he returned to the table.
The rival attorney stood and swayed menacingly toward her.
"Miss Parker," the little man drawled. "Do you have any experience dealing with a mentally challenged individual?"
"Not really." Parker answered.
"Do you have any medical or psychological training?"
"No." Parker sighed.
"Has your relationship with Mr. Doe ever been of a sexual nature?" The little man asked.
"No." Parker clipped angrily.
"You are still a beautiful woman, Miss Parker." The attorney said. "Do you plan on abandoning that aspect of your life?"
"I don't think that's any of your damned business." Parker snarled.
"If you intend to take this innocent being into your home and use him for lascivious purposes, then it becomes the business of this court." The man said.
"I wouldn't take advantage of him that way." Parker ground out through angry tears. "He wouldn't understand what was happening anyway. It would probably just frighten him."
The stout little lawyer went on. "Regarding the murder of your brother and Mr. Raines, knowing what you know now, would you have handled the situation differently?"
"No." Parker said honestly. "They deserved to be shot for what they did. I truly hope they are both rotting in Hell."
The short little attorney grinned triumphantly and said, "I have no further questions your honor."
Parker went back to her seat with her head held high. Inside, she felt like she was dying. She really did want to shared her home with Jarod, give his life some semblance of stability. But if this trial didn't go in her favor, Parker had already decided that she would simply take her old friend and run away somewhere. She would not let Jarod live his entire life behind windows lined with bars.
It was now the state's turn to call its own witnesses. The first was Dr. Frazier from the institute. The stocky little state's attorney clasped his hands behind his back importantly and began questioning the doctor.
"Doctor, would you please explain to the court the nature of Mr. Doe's affliction." The lawyer said importantly.
Dr Frazier was a hawk-nosed scrawny man that had always reminded Parker of Ichabod Crane. He seemed nice enough but he tended to see his patients as cases rather than as people. Parker knew that Jarod had always hated being someone's project. Because Jarod could no longer comprehend the difference in the way he was treated, Parker had to dislike the situation for him.
"During a lobotomy, the nerves of the frontal lobe are intentionally severed from the rest of the brain. Such operations used to be commonplace with the mentally ill many years ago. But due to the extreme nature of the side effects, the procedure fell out of practice. Medications were developed that could achieve many of the same goals with less permanent damage."
"What kind of side effects are you referring to, Doctor?"
"Seizures, mental dysfunction, violent personality changes, paralysis." The doctor said.
"Does Mr. Doe suffer from any of these effects?" the state attorney asked.
"Yes." Dr Frazier answered. "His seizures are currently controlled with medication. There is the obvious damage to his level of intelligence. When he gets frustrated, he has been known on occasion to become violent in an attempt to express his distress."
"Could you tell the court in greater detail about the current level of Mr. Doe's intellect?" the attorney requested.
"Jarod's IQ is currently testing at about 45 which is the equivalent of a four or five-year old child." The doctor stated.
"In your professional opinion," the attorney said. "Is Jarod capable of caring for himself for any length of time? Say one hour?"
"Professionally speaking, I would no more leave him unattended than I would leave a toddler alone in a bathtub." The doctor said.
"Is there any possibility that Mr. Doe's condition will improve to the point that he could care for himself to an extent?"
"Anything is possible, of course," the doctor said warily. "The fact that Jarod can walk and talk is actually quite remarkable when you consider his condition when he first arrived at the institute. But I would have to say that any prognosis for further improvement would be little more than wishful thinking."
"So," the attorney said. "Would it be true to say that Mr. Doe requires and always will require supervisory care twenty-four hours a day for the rest of his life?"
"I believe that to be an accurate statement." Dr. Frazier said.
"Thank you, Doctor." The little man said. "I have no further questions."
Mr. Langford patted Parker's hand in reassurance before he stood to begin questioning the doctor.
"Dr. Frazier," he said. "Is there any way to measure the extent to which Mr. Doe's handicap has afflicted him?"
The doctor shrugged, "We have no verifiable knowledge as to his intelligence level prior to the incident. What we know is little more than rumor and hearsay."
"Give us a rough estimate, professionally speaking of course." Langford said. "How smart was he?"
Squirming uncomfortably the doctor replied, "There is evidence suggesting that his IQ level has dropped more than 170 points."
Langford raised his eyebrows melodramatically. "That would put his original score somewhere around 215, wouldn't it?"
"That's our best estimate." The doctor agreed.
Langford whistled quietly through his teeth. "I am no psychiatrist or anything but I know from my old Psych 101 class that anything over 200 is mighty impressive."
"Tell me, Doctor." Mr. Langford asked. "Is Jarod aware of this? Does he have any comprehension of the abilities he once possessed?"
"We believe he does have some understanding of the situation, yes." The doctor said. "It is the vague concept of things he could once do that causes him such agonizing frustration. He gets very angry with himself and like any other child, he will throw quite a tantrum."
"And what is the standard operating procedure at the institute when Jarod throws one of these 'tantrums'?" The attorney asked.
"Sedation and isolation." The doctor responded. "For his well being and the safety of the other patients, it is really the only way."
Langford smiled eerily as he went on. "When was the last time Jarod had one of these tantrums?"
"A little over one month ago."
Langford nodded. "You sedated him? He was isolated?"
Again, the doctor began to squirm in the chair. "Uh, no." he said.
"Miss Parker arrived for a visit and calmed him down." The doctor said slowly.
Langford smiled again. "How did she manage that? Did she drug him? Tie him down?"
"No." the doctor snapped angrily. "She sent all the orderlies away, sat down beside Jarod and started reading a Dr Seuss book to him."
"And it worked? Just like that." Langford asked snapping his fingers in the air. Leaning toward the doctor with an exaggerated whisper he said, "It sounds like she has a connection with him doesn't it?" Grinning triumphantly, Langford returned to his seat with a dismissive gesture of his hand.
Doctor Frazier vacated the witness stand and returned to the seats behind the state's attorney. The little man stood and said, "I have no further testimony for this court your honor."
The judge nodded and jotted a few notes down in front of him before finally speaking. "This case has tragedy and sorrow written all over it. Ultimately we all want what is best for the subject in question. That is why I have asked that Jarod himself be present for this hearing." The judge raised a hand to quiet the two attorneys as they stood to argue. "Gentlemen, please. We've had a professional with close contact with the patient testify that he has the intelligence and understanding of a five year old. Well, my granddaughter is five and let me tell you she has plenty of opinions of her own." The judge smiled kindly at the people gathered before him. "I want to talk with Jarod and see what he has to say about all this."
Looking toward Jarod and the orderly, the judge motioned for them to come forward.
Jarod was reluctant. Tony the orderly had to coax him down the aisle and reassure him as they approached the bench.
"It will be alright, Jarod." The judge said calmly. "No one will hurt you. I want you to sit in this chair beside me, okay?"
Jarod, wide-eyed and shaken, warily sat on the witness stand.
"Now Jarod." The judge said in a firm voice. "You are under oath. That means you must tell the truth. Do understand that?"
Parker smiled to herself. It was very apparent that this judge was speaking to Jarod in the same way that he would speak to his granddaughter. For the first time, Parker began to have real hope that they had a chance of winning this thing.
"I, I - I," Jarod stuttered. Squeezing his eyes shut in concentration, he managed to blurt out, "I understand."
"Do you promise to tell the truth?" the judge asked.
"Say it." The judge urged gently.
"I p, -p ,promise." Jarod said panting with the effort.
"Are you okay?" the judge asked.
Jarod nodded miserably. "I'm ssss sss , sorry." He ground out after thumping his knee with one fist. "When I get." Jarod paused and looked frantically around the room. "When I get. I forget the word." He moaned. "That ff ff feeling in here." Jarod pointed to his stomach.
"Scared?" the judge suggested.
"No." Jarod shook his head in frustration. "The other one. When .. when you have to t t t- talk in ff-f-front of a crowd."
"Nervous." Parker offered softly from her seat.
Jarod smiled. "Yes. Nervous. When I gg-g-g- get nervous, tt-t-talking gets hard."
The judge smiled gently, "I understand completely. But I don't want you to be nervous. Just forget about all those other people. Just look at me and just talk to me, okay. Can you do that?"
Jarod shifted in his chair and looked up at the judge. "I'll try."
"Good." The judge smiled. "Do you understand why we are here today, Jarod?"
Jarod nodded. "If the judge man l-l-likes us, I don't have to live at the h- hospital anymore."
The judge nodded. "Would you like to live with Miss Parker at her house?"
Jarod's smile was immediate, lighting up his face with glee. "Oh yes." He exclaimed.
"Why?" The judge asked kindly. "Don't you like the hospital?"
Jarod shrugged. "It's okay. But I want to stay with Miss Parker."
"Why?" The judge asked again.
Jarod blinked in concentration, his gaze wandered over to meet Parker's and he smiled at her. "She can see me." Jarod said softly. "Nobody else can, not really. They see what they want to see. But Miss Parker sees me. Even before I got hurt, nobody could see me the way Miss Parker does."
Parker swallowed hard and dabbed at the moisture in her eyes.
"Do you remember Miss Parker from before?" The judge asked.
Jarod grinned mischievously. "I called her on the telephone. I woke her up." He laughed lightheartedly.
"What else do you remember, Jarod?" The judge asked.
"I remember Sydney." Jarod said as a faraway look came over his face. "I remember books. I know I read lots and lots of books." He sighed heavily. "But I don't know what was in the books." Jarod gripped the edge of the judge's bench and leaned against it. "I miss books. I try to read but the letters just won't stay still. I try and try but it just makes my head hurt. Do you know what I mean?"
The judge nodded sadly. Fate had truly played a cruel trick on the poor man seated at the witness stand. It would have been far kinder to erase the mind completely, but instead this once brilliant man still had the tiniest glimpse of the potential he'd once held.
"Miss Parker reads to me when she comes to visit." Jarod smiled again. "She said that when I go home we can read together every night." His eyes danced with the promise of story time.
"Thank you for talking with me, Jarod." The judge said. "It was very nice to meet you."
"Okay!" Jarod blissfully hopped from the chair and started to move toward Parker. The ever-present orderly again steered him away, leading Jarod into the hallway. - -
Miss Parker slid the painful shoes off of her feet with a sigh and quickly changed into more comfortable clothing. Yanking on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt, Parker left her feet bare and strode quickly down the hall to the next room.
Lying on the bed where she had left him a moment ago, Jarod stared at the ceiling with wide, awestruck eyes, clutching his precious books to his chest.
"Jarod?" Parker asked gently. "Are you okay?"
"This is really my room?" He whispered quietly.
Parker smiled sadly. "Really." She said.
"I've come home." He said with a soft reverence.
"Yes, Jarod." Parker said gently as she sat beside him. "At long last we are finally home."
Jarod shot her a huge teary-eyed grin. Parker stretched out beside him on the bed and pried one of the books away from Jarod's grasp. Opening the cover, Parker turned to the first page and started to read.
"This is George. He lived in Africa. He was a good little monkey, and always very curious."