This story is by Kristine Donahue and won an Honorable Mention in our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Kristine Donahue is a former technical writer with a degree in Political Science. She’s a stay-at-home author who regularly competes in short story competitions. She launched her own website in January 2018, www.kristinedonahue.com, where she features her short stories and blogs about the inanities, peculiarities, and challenges of chasing dreams.
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“Miss Corvalin, let’s talk about the events of March 18th. Did you know the deceased, Mr. Travis Fabrizi?”
Easy, Katherine. Whatever the outcome, he’s gone.
“How did you know him?”
“He was my sister’s boyfriend.”
“How long had they been dating?”
“Approximately two years.”
“Would you say theirs was a happy relationship?”
The first of many, I’m sure. No matter, we expected this.
“Miss Corvalin, what did you observe about your sister’s relationship with the deceased.”
I didn’t know everything. But I knew enough.
“It didn’t seem like a happy relationship. My sister was always in a foul mood. She worked full-time and had two part-time jobs to support them both because he wouldn’t get a job. She became isolated from the family.”
“What did you observe about Mr. Fabrizi’s behavior?”
“He was controlling, very jealous. I learned of instances where he broke into her email or text messages and accused her of cheating. I’d witnessed him several times become verbally aggressive with her, particularly when he drank.”
“Did you suspect that Mr. Fabrizi was physically abusive with your sister?”
“Yes. She’d have bruises with flimsy explanations. I’d also notice things would go missing from their house. She’d tell me things got broken. These instances always came with new injuries.”
Surprising, we expected more objections by now.
“Did you discuss this with others?”
“I tried to talk to family members about it. No one wanted to see it.”
“Do you remember ever seeing him physically harm your sister?”
Remember? That memory will never fade.
“The evening of March 18th.”
“What did you see?”
“I was in the kitchen, cutting up vegetables for dinner. The two of them were having a heated conversation in the living room, out of my eyesight. I couldn’t hear what they were saying until my sister said, ‘we’ll talk about this later.’ Trav — Mr. Fabrizi responded by yelling ‘we’ll talk about this whenever the hell I want to. Get your fat ass back here!’ I heard a struggle, so I put down the knife and went to look. When I rounded the corner, I saw him hit her across the face, then grab her by the arms and throw her back toward the couch. She stumbled and fell into the glass coffee table.”
I can’t stop shaking.
“What did you do?”
“I screamed at him to stop and went to check on my sister. He intercepted me and shoved me backward, blocking my way to her. I screamed at him to get the hell out of my way.”
“What, exactly, did you say?”
“’Get the hell out of my way you abusive, dead-beat, waste of flesh.’”
“Then what happened?”
“He started coming toward me. I could see my sister struggling to stand up, but I couldn’t get to her. He was getting close enough to grab me again, so I started backing up. He backed me into the kitchen.”
I led him into the kitchen.
“I saw the phone out of the corner of my eye and lunged for it, but I wasn’t fast enough. He grabbed me around the waist and hurled me against the granite counter top, fracturing my rib.”
He didn’t throw you that hard.
“He hit me across the face and wrapped his hands around my throat —”
Good, that catch in your voice was good. You’ve got them. Take a moment, like you practiced.
“I know this is hard, Miss Corvalin, but I need you to continue.”
“He was trying to kill me. He was in a rage. He had me pinned against the counter with his body weight, bent backward over the sink, and he was choking the life out of me. I flailed, and my hand hit the knife I’d left on the counter. Everything started to go dark, but I managed the grab the knife and I just thrust it out. Then everything went black.”
“You became unconscious?”
“Yes, for a few moments. Then next thing I knew his weight was off me and I could breathe again. I heard screaming, but my vision took a few seconds to clear. When I could see again my sister, bloody herself, was crouched over him. He was laying against the wall gasping. The knife was stuck in his side.”
“Did the police come?”
“Yes, a neighbor must have heard the fight and called the cops. They arrived just as I was reaching for the phone to call 911 myself.”
“Thank you, Miss Corvalin. No further questions.”
This is it. We roll played this a thousand times. He’s been taking notes. He’s ready. So am I.
“So, you killed him, Miss Corvalin?”
“I defended myself.”
“You had a knife. He had a knife wound. Wouldn’t you say that the conclusion was that you killed him?”
Stay calm. Remember what you practiced.
“I had a knife because I was cutting vegetables. He had a knife wound because he was trying to kill me.”
“Did you deliver the knife wound?”
“I was —”
“Yes or no, Miss Corvalin. Did you deliver the knife wound that killed Mr. Fabrizi?”
“I didn’t —”
“Yes or no.”
“The answer is not a simple yes or no!”
Keep your calm! This is what he wants!
“Yes, it is. And if you don’t answer the question I’ll move to have you declared a hostile witness.”
Take a moment. Prepare yourself.
“Yes, I delivered the knife wound.”
“Now, you write murder mysteries, correct?”
“And you’ve researched how to kill someone with a knife?”
“In fact, in your first novel, doesn’t your victim die of a knife wound similar to that of Mr. Fabrizi?”
“So you knew what a wound like that would do, based on your research?”
“More or less.”
“Miss Corvalin, is it true that you knew about the nature of your sister’s relationship with Mr. Fabrizi before the events of March 18th?”
“I didn’t know. I suspected he was abusive, but I didn’t know.”
The semantics of murder.
“I see. Did your suspicion ever lead you to call the police?”
“I hadn’t heard from my sister and couldn’t get ahold of her.”
“So, you called the police when you thought something was wrong. But you didn’t call the police when you actually saw something happen to her?”
“I tried to —”
“Yes, yes, you tried. But not before you provoked Mr. Fabrizi?”
“I didn’t provoke him.”
“You knew he had a temper, but you called him names anyway. What did you think was going to happen?”
“I didn’t think about that. He had just beaten my sister. I was trying to get him away from her so I could help her.”
“Of course. You’re often helping your sister, aren’t you?”
“Worrying about her?”
“What sister wouldn’t?”
“Trying to fix her problems?”
Don’t fall for it.
“She leads her own life.”
“But as her older sister, it’s your job to protect her, isn’t it?”
“Maybe when we were kids, but —”
“In fact, you’ve been protecting her your whole life.”
“I’ve tried to.”
Here we go.
“So when you suspected something was wrong with her relationship, you took it upon yourself to protect her from it, didn’t you?”
“I tried helping her see the truth of her relationship.”
“And when that didn’t work you decided you’d fix the problem for her.”
“That’s not how —”
“You went over to their house with a plan. You set the stage and you waited for an opportunity.”
“No, I —”
Just let him talk. Wait for him to ask you a question.
“You volunteered to cut vegetables so that you’d have reasonable access to a knife. Then you waited, knowing that he would eventually lose control of himself. Let me ask you this: how many times did you go over there to chop vegetables before your opportunity arose?”
How many times, indeed?
“Objection, your honor.”
“Miss Corvalin, do you admit that you killed Mr. Fabrizi?”
“But you admit that you wielded the knife that delivered that fatal stab wound to Mr. Fabrizi?”
“So you killed him? Yes or no.”
“Re-direct, your honor. Miss Corvalin, please reiterate for the court why you stabbed Mr. Fabrizi.”
“He was trying to kill me. It was the only way to stop him.”
“Miss Corvalin, as you await the verdict. How do you feel?”
How do I feel? How would you feel?
“How does it feel to know that the entire world is watching you go through this?”
“How will you celebrate if acquitted?”
“Miss Corvalin, Miss Corvalin. You testified that you had tried to warn others about Mr. Fabrizi. Regardless of the verdict, do you feel redeemed?”
Redemption, what a tricky thing.