Terror Firma

Chapter 17

Tuesday 29th August

In the crowded old courtroom, Sam took his place in the witness box. He still wore the cervical collar, although he could now bear to spend short periods without it if he didn't make any sudden moves.

He took the proffered Bible, and prepared to be sworn in. This moment had caused him some deep soul-searching. He was a God-fearing man and a law-abiding citizen. He did not take lightly the fact that he would be standing here, swearing before his Maker to tell the truth, whilst perjuring himself over something as fundamental as his identity.

In the end, he decided that the veracity of his evidence was the salient factor, and anyway Ziggy pointed out that for the relevant period Sam was David Beckett to all intents and purposes; that he wasn't really telling a lie at all.

He gave his testimony clearly and accurately, his photographic memory providing every detail of what his photographs would have shown had they not been destroyed.

He confessed freely that he was guilty of forced entry and criminal damage, as well as destroying evidence and submitted himself to the Court for whatever punishment was deemed appropriate. As Al predicted, the Court was lenient. It was decided that the Company involved was not in a position to press charges against him, and that his actions had been prompted by the noblest of motives, albeit his methods were not to be condoned. It was also felt that his suffering at the hands of his assailants had been punishment enough – a sort of Trial by Ordeal, as one of the court reporters called it. He was admonished to temper his enthusiasm with caution and a greater respect for the Law in future, and told that no further action would be taken on this occasion. In other words, as Al had put it, he got off with a slap on the wrist.

The cross-examination by Counsel for the Defense was intense and rigorous. Whilst it was not contested that David Beckett had undoubtedly suffered horrifically inside the cement mixer – a fact to which Miss Sally Reynolds attested during her evidence – the perpetrators of this heinous crime, and the identities of those involved with the drugs, were in dispute.

Much was made of David's concussion and the fact that a severe blow to the head can make a person imagine things, or at least remember them inaccurately.

Sam remained unshakable on every detail, and despite very clever questioning they could not trip him up on any aspect of his testimony. He couldn't actually tell the whole truth, of course. He had to leave out the real motive behind his impulse to trash the lab. How would he have explained about Scott and Deke? But his – David's – reputation as a scholar had preceded him. He convinced the Court that the mere sight of the chemicals in the lab and the obvious suffering of the caged animals had been enough to tell him the harm that this synthetic narcotic could do, and that this in turn had persuaded him that it should be destroyed forthwith. Experts from forensics, who had analyzed the substance and discovered it to be highly addictive, strongly hallucinogenic and in every way very dangerous verified his scientific assessment. In other words, it was a menace to society.

Both Robert Daniels, MD and Sergeant Thomas Maxwell, were called to the stand to corroborate the claim that David had been clear in his recollection from the outset. Officer Maxwell referred to his notes taken at the time, and stated that he had no reason to doubt the veracity of the story presented to him, which had led the Narcotics Squad directly to the hidden lab and thence to the whole drugs cartel. He conceded that the statement had been given against medical advice, but refuted any claim that this suggested a fabrication on Mr. Beckett's part. He insisted that Mr. Beckett did not strike him as a vengeful man, who would make such accusations solely to frame the brothers, even if he had a motive to do so, which was unlikely.

Everything he'd said had been borne out by the evidence discovered in the lab. And he certainly hadn't put himself into the cement mixer.

Whilst Dr Daniels confirmed that head injuries could sometimes cause amnesia, he cited the fact that Mr. Beckett readily remembered his own name to support his considered opinion that such had not been the case with this particular patient. Besides, the doctor pointed out, both he and Nurse Woods had witnessed the conclusion of the brutal attack upon Mr. Beckett by one of the accused, whom he now identified as being the one named Guido Ruggiero. He described it as a cowardly assault on a weak and defenseless individual, who had survived only through an amazing display of dexterity, borne of sheer desperation, and the strongest instinct for self-preservation that the medic had ever encountered. He spoke of his amazement that in the midst of his nightmare of suffering, and despite excruciating pain, Mr. Beckett had imparted vital knowledge of the drug, which had allowed them to save the life of the would-be assassin. The physician gave it as his opinion that this act spoke volumes for the character of the witness whose testimony they were trying so hard to throw into doubt.

Dr Daniels also informed the Judge that he had received threats warning him to use his testimony to discredit Mr. Beckett, but he had decided to ignore them. If young Mr. Beckett had the courage to stand up to the punks, he reasoned that an old man such as himself who'd 'had a good innings' should do no less.

As the days stretched on, the evidence became more and more incontrovertible. Officers from the Drug Squad described the lab as the slickest operation they'd ever busted and spoke of the vast scale of the production.

Papers had been discovered, concealed both in the laboratory and in the offices, which incriminated several individuals beyond a shadow of a doubt. Counsel for Defense changed tactics, abandoning fairly rapidly the suggestion of mistaken identity, and trying instead to play on technicalities in the law to secure a mistrial. This ploy also failed miserably, due at least in part to the vast store of knowledge relating to case histories – citing precedents and refuting erroneous claims et cetera - which kept finding its way to the Prosecuting Counsel's desk, from a mysterious and enigmatic researcher who signed himself "Ziggy".

Sam and the Donahues stepped out of the Courtroom and descended the long flight of steps. At last it was all over. Guido had received the longest sentence, having been found guilty on two counts of attempted homicide in addition to the drugs related offenses, not to mention the manslaughter of his brother. It had been a very satisfactory outcome.

Justice had been served.

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