Continued from yesterday:
“Sara isn’t ready for this kind of interview,” warned Doctor Philips. “She has a history of violent episodes and something like this might set her off.”
“We’ll be careful,” said Stabler.
“Her delusion about the rape would only receive justification if you mention the case you’re working on.”
“She was raped, too?”
“No, she’s still a virgin,” he answered. “She claims she was *almost* raped, but cut the offender in self-defense.”
“Cut him where?” asked Olivia.
“Where he most offended, of course.”
Stabler got right up to him. “We have five women who can only identify their attacker by his scarred penis. If she’s the girl who put that scar there, we have a case. We have a case against him. We have a case against his family for covering it up, and we have a case against *you* for trying to tell a serial rapist’s first victim that it was all in her head. Now get out of our way.”
Sara was in art therapy. When they started asking her about the attack, she picked up a sketchbook and started working on it as she talked.
“The police report says you phoned in a hoax before the attack,” said Olivia. “It wasn’t a hoax, was it?”
“Boys will be boys,” Sara intoned, her hand never stopped moving. “That’s the motto from Mother’s side of the family. Daughters must be dutiful and beautiful, but boys will be boys. I watched them delay the police while the others pried him off of me and hid him - the important, damning part of him - behind the bar. They kept him slicing lemons and limes for the punch during the interview. And not one of the police thought to *check*.” She sighed. “They made sure the police were gone and told me to stop playing, quote, ‘silly games’ unquote. And then they left me alone with him.”
“But you still fought,” said Olivia.
“With the very same knife he was using on the assorted citrus,” she smiled and added, “I imagine that must have stung.”
Stabler had to wipe the smirk off his face.
“And after that?”
“More police and an ambulance. They whisked me away fairly quickly. I was committed in that very dress. Tears, bloodstains and all.” She tore off the page, folded it neatly, and handed it to Olivia. “This might be helpful for -ah- photo lineups.”
“What is it?”
“A drawing of dear cousin Roals’ -ahem- equipment. Plus the scar I put there.”
She peeked. Almost photo-realistic. The title was obscurable, and gave 'dear cousin Roals’ his full name.
“Oh, I’m much happier,” Sara told Charles. “Apparently Roals is trying old tricks in new areas. I may be fully vindicated, yet.”
The Professor smiled. “Go on.”
“They came asking about my -er- trigger event,” said Sara. “I drew them a picture.”
Oh dear. Judging by her thoughts, it was a very accurate one. “This may complicate matters in some areas, but it remains good news.”
“Oh, I’m sure I’m still bonkers for cutting him anyway. Or the Gorgons will find a way to make it all vanish. Or dear cousin Roals will come up with one of his famous excuses. Nothing ever goes straight when there’s Gorgons in the picture.”
Only with him, or the other girls in this place, did she feel safe using her peculiar shorthand.
“I’m glad for Sara and all? But my Dad hasn’t shown any sign of wanting me out of here. The sooner I’m gone, the better.”
“A drawing of a penis, no matter *how* photorealistic, is not admissable when drawn by an inmate in a lunatic asylum,” said the ADA. “Sorry.”
“Damnit,” sighed Olivia. “We coulda had him.”
“You won’t believe this,” said Munch. “Three guesses who just posted a picture he entitled, 'What Drives Them Wild’ on his blog?”
“Great. Now we just need to manage a photo lineup with six other scarred Johnsons,” said Stabler. “How hard could that be?”
Three of his fellow detectives started giggling.
“Shut up…” said Stabler.
They did, eventually, find five other scarred caucasian penis photographs. The one that matched Sara’s picture - the one belonging to Roals Daniel Favisham, was the one witnesses picked every single time.
“Motion to suppress identification of the accused.”
“On what grounds?”
“Poison fruit, your honour. The investigating team were essentially following the word of a crazy woman. She’s the one who named my client, leading the team to watch his blog and so on.”
“With respect, your honour, it’s looking like our breakthrough witness isn’t as insane as some people have been lead to believe.”
“If she isn’t insane, why hasn’t she been released?”
“Because her current psychiatrist believes that her experience of attempted rape is nothing more than a delusion. We found evidence of the attempted rape on the party dress marked as People’s exhibit 2A.”
“Are we certain that this is *his* DNA in this -ah- sample?”
“We have several uncontaminated samples that match the blood on the dress.”
The judge smacked down his gavel. “Both of you get independent psychiatrists to assess this breakthrough witness of yours. Let’s hear it from her own lips if we can.”
“Wanda can have the floor,” said Sara to the good Professor. “I’m all but talked out.”
“Hot and cold visiting shrinks. I did my level best not to pull any stunts with them, since they were focussing on my violent outbursts and dear sweet cousin Roals. Don’t know if I succeeded. Bleh.”
Wanda laughed. “It even got on the TV before the orderlies turned it off. Your Dad’s suing everyone he can think of to get you free. Colour me green.”
“I know your father, Wanda,” said Xavier. “His excuses for putting you here… were nothing short of feeble… and the greatest errors a man could make.”
An orderly knocked on the open door. “Visitor for Adriens? I was told she was in here?”
“Boo,” said Sara, right next to him. “Did they leave a name?”
“Off I go again. Sigh. Bon Chance, dear Wanda. And you, Professor.” She skipped behind the orderly because it kept her visible. She’d gone invisible a number of times in transit, causing panics and diverse alarums. So now she skipped.
Olivia had her drawing and a folder almost hidden under one arm. “Hello, Sara.”
“Hello, Ms Benson.” Sara sat down. “Some concerns vis-a-vis the case?”
“You read people very well,” she said.
Sara shrugged. “It’s just a trick.”
“I’m a little worried,” she confessed. “Your picture… the one you drew? It shows a very accurate scar… rather than the cut you put there.”
“I’ve some experience with how wounds heal.” Sara drew up her sleeves. “These are the direct result of a mis-strung harp, before you ask. See? I used a closer model and some knowledge of anatomy to hypothesize how it’d heal up.”
“It’s one hundred percent accurate,” said Olivia. She bought out a photo. “This is a recent snap from his blog.”
“Hm. Monumentally stupid of him,” said Sara. “No. Not one hundred percent. Look.” She pointed out the disparities. “I misplaced five of the stitches. There, there, there, there, and there.”
Olivia raised her eyebrows, looking again. “Either way, someone could argue that you’d managed to see it after the injury had been inflicted and treated.”
“Not if you point out the differences in court. Preferably before the defense does.”
“You know they’re arguing about how sane you are versus how well you can fake being sane.”
“Oh good grief… Anyone could argue that a sane person in an asylum is faking sanity. That’s grade school! How can anyone in an asylum prove they’re sane? Especially if their shrink says they’re not?”
“That’s what our side is saying.”
“So of course their side is doing anything to discredit me. Have they unearthed the fistfight in the boarding school?”
“Head girl was a raging lesbian and intent on forced conversion. So I refused just as enthusiastically.”
“Really,” said Olivia. “She tried to rape you too?”
“I sense your skepticism,” said Sara. “She was capital-S Society, so our lawyers buried it under censure. You might want to see if Felicia has come out, yet.”
“That’s her! Last I heard, she was doing the benefit circuit.”
“She’s a very public bisexual, now,” said Olivia. “She’s been campaigning for equal rights for transsexuals.”
“Well, at least she’s not in the closet. See if she remembers me.”
Felicia Chilton’s apartment. Upper East Side.
“Sara Louise? Oh yes. That. I deeply regret what I did to poor Sara, and I quite forgive the three teeth she forcibly removed. We got over it, eventually. And poor mother finally forgave her last year.” A smile. “When I settled down with my girlfriend, Sally.”
Sally bore a remarkable resemblance to Sara Louise.
“And the statute of limitations is long over,” said Felicia, “so I have no trouble testifying.”
“And what about Roals Favisham?”
“That demented boy wouldn’t lie straight on a stretcher,” said Felicia. “He’s practically pathological. Stole my tiara, right off my head and in front of everyone, and then said I said he could have it to smash. Little bastard.”
“And Sara herself?”
“Ah, Sara. Dear Sara. So brutally honest that the whole world thinks she’s lying. Poor girl. It’s those beasts on her mother’s side of the family, you know. Horrible social climbers, the lot of them.” A malicious grin. “They’re every worst colour of 'ist’ you can imagine. Racist, genderist, ageist, et cetera. Use it against them on the stand, eh?”
“Your current therapist says you’re very clever.”
“My current therapist says a lot of things,” said Sara. They’d let her buy clothes so she could appear civilized. She’d done her best with dress and jeans and a colourful scarf. “One among the many is that I’m completely bonkers. I’m inclined to disagree.”
“He also says that you’re clever enough to fake being sane.”
“I could say the same of you. Care to disprove it sufficiently?”
The People’s lawyer smirked. “Quite. That’s the hard part, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Having met some genuinely insane people, I can happily say I don’t share their illusions, but that’s hardly proof. Likewise, thinking oneself perfectly sane is a certain sign of insanity… and so is confessing insanity. I’m done like a dinner coming and going.”
The judge had to wipe a smile off his face.
“And do you think of yourself as perfectly sane?”
“I happen to think I’m as *im*perfectly sane as the next person walking down the street,” she said. “My personal quirks are a little odd, but so’s a fear of the number thirteen, or carrying around a rabbit’s foot for luck.”
The judge glared at her. Whoops. She’d meant to aim at the defendant’s lawyer.
“Why were you admitted to the asylum?”
“I attempted to cut off my cousin Roals’ penis,” she said, “and I wouldn’t stop saying it was in self-defense.”
“You claim your cousin tried to rape you.”
“Yes. And it’s a claim I stand by.”
“And did this claim lead to your psychiatrist sending your dress away to be analysed?”
“I suggested the possibility of such a test,” she said, “but he never told me whether or not he followed through.”
“Do you believe Sara could fake sanity?” asked the defense.
“Sara is of such high intelligence that she could fake anything she pleased,” said the shrink on the stand. “Only an expert could tell the difference between the act and the genuine article.”
“Do you know of any such expert?” said the defense, asking one question too many.
“Yes,” said the shrink, “Professor Charles Xavier.”
Sara grinned like the cat who had found the canary in the cream. She was as good as free and dear cousin Roals was as good as toast.
It was still a long trial. Money like the Pierce side of the family can buy the lengthiest of law proceedings and the wiliest of cross-examiners. Yet they were mysteriously foxed at every turn.
The prosecution knew where all the metaphorical bodies were buried, and bought up every last bone. It was as if someone were ferreting all the secrets out of dear cousin Roals’ brain.
Sara felt she owed Professor Xavier big time.
Doctor Philips wasn’t exactly discredited, but a large volume of his patients were re-assessed and he now worked in a team of fellow learned who would debate his conclusions.
But Sara and Wanda walked free.
Her roommate was a cheerful redhead two years her senior and five inches shorter. She not only greeted Sara with a handshake, but the mental spidery-tickery feeling that meant a mental scan.
“Are you sure you’re sane?” said the redhead. “That was an awful lot of static.”
“It’s normal for me,” Sara explained. East balcony. Lovely. “I process enormous amounts of information very rapidly. Trust me, it can get to be a curse.”
“That must suck,” said the redhead. “I’m Jean Grey.”
“Sara Louise Adrien, my mother’s a big fan of yours.”
“Wanda Magnus in the next room over used to suffer me when we were both in the nuthatch. Just in case I start speaking in tongues, she makes an adequate translator.”
“Relax, we’re not crazy. We have proof.”
“That’s… not as reassuring as you might think.”
Sara laughed. “Oh, just wait until I get back into the swing. So many projects. So little time.”
“Now you’re scaring me…”
“Oh relax. It’s not like I deliberately *try* to cause permanent damage. I’m very careful about that.”
Jean did her level best to not make any sudden moves.
Sara did her level best not to do her evil laugh.
Wanda kept to the reds, and they did her complexion well. Sara, though, tended to favour purple when she didn’t succumb to bright and sparkly or tees that betrayed her core weirdness. And yet, she was the only mutant in mutant manor without any apparent powers.
Certainly, she could cause fear and trepidation among those who knew her with nothing more than a legal pad and this week’s Ritual Pen. Or inspire vulture-like curiosity with a sketchbook and pencil. Therefore, at least for the latter, Sara was wont to take her art to places where people didn’t know her.
And that was how she espied Todd.
Having spent some significant time in the asylum, she gleaned something of a vibe for troubled souls. He stood as if expecting attack from every corner. He walked like a victim. Scurried, actually.
Sara followed him home from the grocers.
“Quite the load, there,” she said.
“It ain’t that heavy,” he mumbled. He had both arms tight around four bags.
“Perhaps not, but… it certainly looks awkward. Let me help?”
Baleful yellowish eyes glared out from under a mop of unkempt hair. “Ain’t never no help,” he said. “Not with no angle.”
“As I’m fond of saying, there’s always a first time for a second chance.”
“I take it you don’t believe me.”
“Damn straight, yo.”
Sara peered into the bags. “Awful lot of instant meals, there. Doesn’t your family cook?”
“Mom can’t. She’s… sick.”
Sounds like you need a helping hand,“ Sara produced one of her business cards. "I can also help with any cleaning that’s gone awry.”
“Can’t afford t’ pay,” he muttered.
“And you won’t take charity?”
Another baleful glare,
“How do you feel about sweat equity? Some of my enterprises need assistance and–”
“How d'you feel about slaggin’ off?” he snarled. “Don’t want no help, don’t need no help an’ I can manage… FINE!” By some sympathetic magic, he managed to wrangle a key free to open his door. He was through in an instant and slammed it shut.
Too late by instants.
Sara had already smelled it.
She was one of the elderly Sara was a 'helping hand’ for. Sara came by once a week to help her out with the little things that she had trouble with, these days. And all the things that were too tall, too stiff, or too fiddly for her.
She was very nearly ninety-eight when she died. Some two days before Sara’s last visit, she passed away whilst watching television.
Sara would never forget that smell as long as she lived.
She had to spend an infinite half-hour in the same house with it until the authorities arrived. Phoning relatives and friends. Trying to find somebody who was both close enough and in possession of enough time to take care of things.