Off the Cuff

Happy Saturday! Here’s a short story I whipped up today…

The crackling electricity of the cuff stings Jos’ wrist.

“According to the Martian New Technologies law of 3001, your right to free speech has been temporarily removed while you testify in this Court of the Law. Do you understand and willingly consent to this of your own volition?”

Jos swallows past the nerves in his throat. The cuffs they use in Courts of the Law, to ensure the wearer told the truth, are old tech. He’d learned about it in school, of course, but he couldn’t remember the date they’d been invented. At least thirty years ago, he thinks. Long enough ago that they shouldn’t have to tell him all about it before he testifies. It’s standard procedure, out-of-date like so many things about the Martian Courts.

“Mahsor?” The Courter asks from her high stand, towering above Jos.

“I willingly consent, mahsa.” He’s careful to hide the low-city accent in his voice. Me willin’ to agree, ma’.

Jos’ voice feels uncomfortable in his throat as he speaks. It’s the cuff, checking all his words on the way out. Wearing the cuff while he agrees to speak means he can’t agree simply because someone else is forcing him to speak. If he really didn’t want to say the truth of it, he would have said no and they would have let him out.

It matters, as he looks out past the high bench where the judge sits at the glass his family sits behind. His aunts stare at the screen inside the box, where they can see and hear him. His sister, however, looks directly through the glass across the long space to him. Her toddler son shifts on her lap. Her husband has an arm around her and is kissing her on the cheek.

It matters.

He is going to tell the truth. His whole family will know he wants to tell the truth.

A set of doors slides open and a Questioner, dressed in all black with black hair slicked away from his face, walks in.

“Mahsor Questioner,” the Courter’s voice echoes through the room, “As is required by Martian law, the Criminal in Question has been removed from the room.”

“Acknowledged.” The Questioner responds, voice low and official.

Jos had known in advance that his father wouldn’t be in the room. Not that it will matter, in the end. His father will know what Jos says today in this room. He will know that Jos’ sister hadn’t said it, had never believed it.

She hadn’t seen what Jos had.

“In your interview before this questioning, you told me that you think you can offer insight that neither your sister, nor her husband, can provide. Can you confirm that statement?”

“Yes, mahsor, I know more than they do.”

“Can you explain why?” The Questioner paces slowly in front of Jos’ seat.

Jos pauses before answering, unsure how to say it without using his street words. She movin’ up too quick.

“She…” He hesitates, “She had a baby when she was young. She moved out four years ago, before he changed.”

“So you are telling me you have a better understanding of who your father has become recently?”

Jos blinks. Hadn’t he just said that? Had he been unclear?

“Yes, mahsor.”

“Where were you on the night that your mother was murdered?”

Jos sighs. He’s told the story at least a dozen times.

“It was a Friday. I was at work.”

The Questioner says something to the Courter, drawing her attention to some document that confirms Jos’ story.

“So there is absolutely no way you are responsible for your mother’s murder.”

“Na, neva!” He blurts out, before he can stop himself. He clears his throat. “No, mahsor.”

The Questioner nods, paces back and forth a few more times.

“Do you have reason to believe that your father did, in fact, kill your mother?”

Jos sees his sister’s hand fly up to cover her mouth, tears streaming out of her eyes. This will hurt her. It will separate the two of them forever.

“Yes, I do.”

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