Copyright © Karl Dahlke, 2020
The year was 31,624, some 350 years into the Second Renaissance. Technology was rising again, slowly, since the storehouse of fossil fuels had been thoroughly depleted by the first civilization. A handful of cities prospered, on the strength of hydroelectric power. Factories were just beginning to produce solar panels, to harness the power of the sun. These would soon make other cities and towns possible.
At the same time, archiologists searched for precious information from the first civilization, information that could jumpstart mathematics, engineering, aggriculture, medicine, and government. The languages were cryptic however: English, Chinese, Russian, French. Scholars were just beginning to decipher these ancient tongues. Ken Raman was one of these linguists, and he was part of a team of professors working on something called the Constitution. This document, still in fragments, provided clues to one of the governments in North America. They had just discovered the sixth amendment, and translated it as best they could. Ironically, Mr. Raman was now on trial for his very life, a trial that was shaped, in part, by the sixth amendment.
Nobody was sure what “trial by jury” meant, but Judge Graham did his best to enforce the spirit of that ancient text. Of course, everything must be interpreted in the light of the Covenant, the Word of Springsteen, which is the absolute truth, perfect and eternal. Springsteen warned of Deuce, the Devil, and his unwitting servants here on Earth. Was Mr Raman possessed by Deuce? The prosecution was about to make its case.
Mr Jerad was a tall man with a receding hairline. He rose and addressed the judge and jury simultaneously, barely glancing at the defendant. “I introduce exhibit A, a recording of the defendant made some four weeks ago.”
“So noted.” Judge Graham took the small memory chip and placed it in his playback. Soon, Mr Raman’s voice could be heard throughout the courtroom.
“I’m telling you, the words of the Covenant make no sense. I’m one of only 6 people on Earth who can read ancient English, and I’ve read the Covenant again and again, in its original text, and it’s gibberish. … “Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat” … “Silicone sister with a manager mister” … “Early-Pearly came by in his curly-wurly” … I tell you it's gibberish!”
Gasps could be heard throughout the courtroom. Even the jurors put their hands to their mouths. Mrs Raman buried her head in her hands, for her husband was as good as convicted. The prosecutor hammered his point home.
“I call your attention to the first line of the Covenant: ‘Blinded by the light’. This is explained in the book of Francis, verse 79. Hear the words of the prophet Francis.” He fumbled through his notes for a moment, then found the appropriate piece of paper. “ ‘Those who are possessed by the Deuce cannot understand the words of Springsteen. When presented with the truth, they are blinded by the light’.” He snapped his notebook shut with an air of finality. “Ladies and gentlemen, this man, Ken Raman, seated before you here today, is utterly baffled by the words of Springsteen. He is blinded by the light, and is, therefore, possessed by Deuce.”
“Care to cross examine?” asked the judge.
“Yes your honor.” Mrs Shelby had the unenviable task of defending Mr Raman. “Are you certain that is Mr Raman’s voice we heard on the recording?”
“Expert witnesses have compared the voice on this recording to that of the defendant. I can call these witnesses to the stand if you wish.”
There was no need, for her own experts had arrived at the same damning conclusion. She had hoped Mr Jerad would forget to authenticate the voice, then she could plant a reasonable doubt, but she had underestimated him, and now she looked like a fool. He claimed that that was indeed Mr Raman’s voice, and she was in no position to contest the assertion. She had to move on, and quickly.
“How was the recording made?”
“We placed a laser recorder a block away from the Raman household and captured his voice.”
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, one certainly cannot hear and record a quiet conversation from a block away.”
“I’m afraid we can, Mrs Shelby. This is the latest technology. When Mr Raman spoke, the glass in his window vibrated in sync with his words. A laser beam, reflected off that window, can record the vibrations of the glass, thus capturing his conversation. This technology is used by the government, and is admissible in a court of law.”
Mrs Shelby was stunned. If they had planted a bug in his home with no warrant, she could have the case thrown out, but any information obtained from a public location is fair game. There was only one thing left to do, and it was a long shot. She hoped Mr Raman would put on a good show.
“Your honor, each of us has hundreds of conversations every day. Words, sentences, even entire paragraphs can be taken out of context. Since Mr Raman’s words are being used against him, he must be given a chance to explain the context in which they were spoken.”
Mr Jerad, anxious to burn another heretic, was about to object, but Judge Graham concurred. “I quite agree.”
Mr Raman was sworn in, and Mrs Shelby continued. “Mr Raman, were those your words?”
“They were, but …” He straightened his tie, which he had been advised to wear for the trial, cleared his throat, and started again. “They were, but that’s not what I meant.”
“Can you explain?”
“I was telling my wife that the Covenant could not be understood without the interpretations of the prophets. It makes no sense, even in the original English, until Springsteen revealed his meaning through the prophets.”
“Then there was more to your conversation?”
“Yes, but they didn’t bother to record the rest.” Three or four jurors looked at him with some sympathy. This seemed to be a reasonable doubt.
Mr Jerad went on the attack. “Mr Raman, even without the interpretations, I don’t think anyone in this courtroom would refer to the Covenant as gibberish. I think the words are pretty clear all by themselves.”
“Then tell us, Mr Jerad,” Mrs Shelby almost pounced on the opportunity, “why you yourself had to refer to the book of Francis to explain the first line of the Covenant. Your honor, would you read back that portion of the prosecutor’s argument, where he invokes the book of Francis?”
The judge read Mr Jerad’s words back to the jury.
“So you see,” she continued, “the Covenant is indeed unclear, without the explanations of the prophets. My client was having a casual conversation with his wife about the importance of the prophets, and you pulled a piece of that conversation out of context. You are trying to sentence an innocent man to the Month of Torment.”
“Does the prosecution have any more evidence?” asked the judge.
“Indeed I do. The Covenant states that ‘Go-cart Mozart was checkin’ out the weather charts’. This is explained in Paul, verse 25. Mozart was possessed by Deuce, and those who are possessed are drawn to his music. Mr Raman listens to Mozart almost every evening. Your honor, I have recordings of Mozart’s violin concertos, taken from Mr Raman’s window. I’d rather not play such music here in the courtroom, but I have turned this evidence over to the court, and you, the members of the jury, can be sure that it is exactly as I have stated.”
“Your cross, Mrs Shelby.” The Judge wanted to move this case along. He had two more Deuce trials on the docket, and he wanted to get home before rush-hour traffic.
“Did you find this music in Mr Raman’s home?” She already knew the answer to this question, for no such evidence had been presented to her erstwhile. And thanks to Corby v. Marin County, which went all the way to the Supreme Court, the defense had a right to examine all evidence prior to the trial.
“We believe he destroyed his discs before we had a chance to obtain a warrant and search his home.”
“Then you found no such music in his home.” she reaffirmed.
“That’s correct, but as I say, we have the recording; the music was being played inside his home.”
Mrs Shelby was growing more confident by the minute. She adjusted her glasses and pushed a strand of dark brown hair back into place. “Mr Jerad, on these recordings, is Mr Raman singing to Mozart’s music?”
“Singing?” Mr Jerad seemed a little nervous as he shuffled his papers. “These are not songs, they are instrumental pieces. It would be difficult to sing along.”
“Then he is not singing.”
“Can you prove that these Mozart pieces came from his house, rather than the library?”
“You can hear the sounds of his home in the background. Mr and Mrs Raman speak to each other, and to their children. They are preparing dinner, and so on. For heaven sake, at one point he even talks about the weather – while Mozart is playing!”
“Is it possible, with today’s technology, to add sounds together? Could you make a recording of his home, normal conversations, etc, and add Mozart’s concertos underneath?”
“Yes, I suppose that’s possible, but you are weaving a fantasy. I can assure you that this is a single recording made with the laser recorder from Mr Raman’s window.”
“Members of the jury, before we sentence a man to the mutilation and the burning of the Torment, we must be sure, beyond a reasonable doubt. Today, we have heard only a fragment of a conversation taken out of context, and some music that cannot be connected in any way to Mr Raman.” Once again she scored a victory with several jurors. They had all seen the Torment, for it was broadcast on TV at midnight, when the children were asleep. People didn’t make a habit of watching these grisly exhibitions, but almost everyone tuned in now and then. The Torment, described in the book of Jordan, verses 329 through 457, was the only way to drive Deuce from the victim. Still, one should not inflict the Torment under false pretense. You dare not make a mistake in either direction. It was an awesome responsibility.
“Do you have anything else to present?” the Judge asked.
“Just one more thing your honor. Mr Raman is obviously in good shape. In fact, he runs. But here is the point: he runs at night. The Covenant says that possessed individuals are …” Again he flipped through his notebook searching for a specific piece of paper. “They are ‘Revved up like a Deuce, another runner in the night’.” He put the piece of paper away. “I have several eye witnesses that will testify to Mr Raman’s nightly jogs.”
Mrs Shelby had expected this, and she was prepared. “Mr Raman, what time do you run?”
“Between eight and nine. Then I come home, take a shower, and go to bed.”
“Mr Raman, when would you say night begins?”
They had rehearsed this earlier, and he knew to feign ignorance. “I really couldn’t say.”
She turned to the prosecutor. “Mr Jerad, when would you say night begins?”
“I’d say night begins at eight o’clock. Mr Raman is definitely a runner in the night.”
“The Book of Francis disagrees.” Now it was her turn to fumble through her notebook, making a show for the jury’s benefit. She had these passages memorized, but it was more impressive to read them off of a piece of paper.
“Francis, verse 235. ‘And at the twenty-first hour, night fell, and with it, the calliope crashed to the ground’.” She closed her notebook with a snap, as the prosecutor had done. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the twenty first hour is nine PM. Night begins at nine PM. Mr Raman is a runner in the evening, he is not a runner in the night!” She turned to Mr Jerad. “Have any of your witnesses seen Mr Raman running after nine?”
Mr Jerad paused for a moment. “I don’t believe so.”
“I rest my case.”
The jury deliberated for 45 minutes, then returned their verdict. “We the people of Addison county find Mr Raman not guilty of Deuce possession.”
Mr and Mrs Raman sobbed with relief as they held each other in a tight embrace. They had mortgaged their home to pay Mrs Shelby’s fee, but it was worth it. Mr Raman would be more careful in the future. Never again would he utter a word about the Covenant, or listen to Mozart. These were dangerous times, and one could never be too careful.
He held his wife’s hand as they left the courtroom together. Tonight they would celebrate. There was almost no money in the bank, but they would go to the finest restaurant, and order a bottle of wine. His three children could have anything they like, anything at all. If his oldest daughter wanted lobster, that was fine with him! He was going to revel in his new-found freedom – but make no mistake: he would always be home by nine.