Bing Mulholland watched the clip on the monitor for roughly the twentieth time. Two men in lab coats stood arguing with each other, each pointing fingers into the other’s face. The argument progressed to a shoving match, with lots of cursing. Eventually one of the scientists decided he’d had enough. He produced a vibro-scalpel and with an effortless motion he slit the other scientist’s throat, almost to the spine. Blood sprayed and splattered everywhere, and within seconds the victim, like a sack of pudding, dropped to the floor. The slasher dropped the knife and turned to run. He slipped in the blood and fell to the tiles. He pulled himself to his feet, cursed loudly and made good his escape.
The clip automatically began to play again, but Bing shut it off. Across the table from him sat the slasher from the video, Dr Frank Rutherford. He sat shaking his head indignantly and exhaled angrily through his nostrils.
“So,” began Bing, “you’re sure you want to plead not guilty?”
The quantum chemist sighed. He was wearing a janitor’s jumpsuit which he had been given after his clothing had been taken into evidence. The scientist had bags under his eyes. Despite being the middle of the night, Bing was wide awake. All lawyers who deal with criminal cases have a special gland buried deep in their brain that that releases a natural amphetamine-like chemical to jumpstart their brains when they receive a call in the middle of the night and the word ‘murder’ is mentioned. This gland is not controlled by any sense of morality, justice or inclination to assist one’s fellow man, but the desire for money. For a criminal lawyer, a murder case is the holy grail of profitability. It is another little-known fact that lawyers are a form of supernatural creature; their early ancestors were village-pillaging, gold-hoarding dragons. Much like the common drug-dealer, the lawyer requires a stream of money to keep it from going insane.
“Yes Mr. Mulholland. I am pleading not guilty.”
Bing knew that the emphasis on the ‘Mr’ was intended to be condescending.
“Ok. That’s fine. There will be a hearing in a few hours. If you don’t mind I’d like to call our meeting to a close at this stage to allow me to prepare. The only issue for the hearing is your plea, which we’ve established. Try to get some sleep and I’ll come see you again before the hearing.”
The scientist sighed again, but nodded. Dr Rutherford moved like a thin, dead tree wafting in the wind, ready to break. His arms almost seemed too weak to lift themselves under the additional weight of the handcuffs on his wrists. The guard took him to his cell and left the door open.
Before Bing was ready to leave, he watched the video of the crime one more time. Rutherford and the victim were having an argument. Of course the two scientists would never consider it an argument; they would call it an enthusiastic debate over competing theorems. Rutherford became increasingly animated, more animated than Bing would have thought him capable of being given how thin he was, but the footage was crystal clear. Rutherford turned away, walked a few paces to a drawer, and removed a vibroscalpel. The vibroscalpel had a thick cylindrical handle, like a torch, and a five-inch triangular blade, which was only half an inch wide, and less than a millimetre thick at its base. Rutherford, without another word, marched back to the victim and waved the vibroscalpel at his throat. It wasn’t an overtly violent action, but it didn’t need to be. The victim’s throat opened and pint after pint of blood spilled out onto the floor. The victim collapsed and hit the ground with a splash. He twitched for a minute or so before going completely limp. Rutherford, his client, the one insisting he would be pleading not guilty, stood over his now deceased colleague, surveying his handywork. For a second, Bing imagined he saw a smile creep across Rutherford’s face.I need a fucking coffee, thought Bing.