Deleted Scenes

CLASSIFIED: Deleted pages

Book source: The Spider in the Corner of the Room

Scene: Harry Warren QC cross-examining witness -Sister Mary – in the state versus Dr Maria Martinez


Harry holds up a document. ‘By a bit difficult, you mean he was a bit of a sex pest, isn’t that correct?’


Harry rolls his eyes. ‘Your honour, I have a file here that confirms complaints against Father O’Donnell of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  parents of boys in the church choir. It is all documented. The prosecution should already know this.’

‘Overruled,’ the judge says after a moment.

Harry thanks him then turns to the nun. ‘Did Father O’Donnell ever harass you, Sister Mary?’

Harry laughs. ‘My learned friend seems to like the sound of his own voice.’

‘Overruled,’ says the judge.

‘Thank you, your honour,’ Harry says. ‘Sister Mary, did Father O’Donnell every pester you, sexually, in any way?’
I watch as she touches her neck. ‘He was fond of female company,’ she says, after three seconds, but it is so quiet, the judge asks her to repeat it.

‘And by “female company” you mean the nuns?’ Harry asks.
‘And you? Was he fond of you, Sister Mary?’

She hesitates. A cough echoes around the gallery. ‘xxxx,’ she whispers.
The judge leans towards her. ‘Louder once more for the court, please, Sister, if you do not mind.’
She leans in close to the microphone. ‘xxxx’ A loud ring vibrates around the room. I press my hands against my ears. The clerk scurries up, adjusts the microphone then sits.

As the screech subsides, Harry consults his notes. ‘Sister Mary, did you ever file a complaint against Father O’Donnell?’

I try to see Harry’s face as the jury is lead in, but he stands with his back to me and it is impossible.
My hands are clammy. Nothing can stem the flow.

Once the judge has instructed the jury, Harry steps forward.
‘Sister Mary,’ he says, his arms crossed, ‘how long have you known the defendant, Dr Maria Cruz-Martinez?’
I remain still; I did not expect him to ask her questions of me.
‘Let me see,’ she says, her brow furrowed, ‘nine months, possibly eleven?’
‘Since she began working for the convent?’
‘That is correct.’
‘And what jobs did she do for you?’
‘She was very good at our DIY jobs. She would fix things. Very good – for a slip of a woman.’

Voices echo around the courtroom.
Harry nods. ‘What sort of things would Dr Martinez fix, Sister Mary?’
‘Let me see…Leaks, guttering, shelves. She said she learned from the builders and carpenters growing up. I get the impression her home in Spain was something of an estate rather than simply a house – it required tending. She knew what to do.’

‘And did you get to know her over the period of time she worked for you?’
‘Dr Martinez is a closed book,’ she says. ‘We met when I was visiting a friend at St James’ hospital where the doctor worked. I told her about the convent, our repair issues, and she offered to help. She wouldn’t talk much when she was at the convent, but she would often come in for a cup of tea and some cake, though.’ She looks to the jury. ‘We like to bake cakes, you see, at the convent.’ They all smile at her. She returns her gaze to Harry. ‘Dr Martinez especially liked the coffee cake, if I remember correctly.’

The gallery lets out a trickle of laughter. I frown; I have never liked coffee cake.
Harry smiles and taps his stomach. ‘Don’t we all,’ he says. ‘Can I just ask, when she – Dr Martinez – came in for tea, did you talk?’
‘A little.’

Harry keeps smiling. ‘And what did your conversations consist of?’
‘The usual, I suppose… Although, she isn’t really one for small-talk. She did chat about her job, sometimes, at the hospital, her plastic surgery work. She helped burns victims. Did you know? But that was all we discussed.’
‘And did she mention anything else about herself?’
The Sister hesitates and glances to me; I look away.
‘I will remind you that you are under oath, Sister,’ Harry says.
‘Yes,’ she says. ‘She did talk about herself. A little.’
‘And what did she say?’

Someone sneezes several times in quick succession. Everyone searches for the culprit.
‘She spoke of her childhood,’ the Sister says, twiddling her crucifix. ‘You understand, it wasn’t part of any conversation, per se. She would just suddenly, well, talk, but not to me, rather talk at me. About how her father died when he was just a girl, how she missed him.’ She pauses. ‘Once or twice Maria would show us a picture. On the occasions we asked about xxxxxxxxxxx…well, she would often go quiet.’

My hands are shaking. I slip them under my thighs.
‘Would she talk about anything else, Sister?’
‘There was one time…’ The Sister falters.
‘Please,’ Harry says, ‘continue.’
‘Sorry.’ She takes a sip of water. ‘There was one time when Dr Martinez talked about how her mother used to make her visit the local priest in Salamanca where they lived. She had to visit him every week. She said this priest used to…’ She stops.

What is she doing?
‘You are under oath,’ Harry gently reminds her.
She nods at Harry. ‘She said that…that the priest used to xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.. Maria said that she doubted the man was really a priest.’
My mind begins to panic; I did not say anything like this to the Sister.
‘Did she say why she thought that?’ Harry asks.

She pauses. ‘I do not recall. All I know was that she xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx that she could not be trusted. But we just assumed that’s what she thought then, as a girl, growing up. Girls growing up all go through phases of hating xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx, of saying xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx that they shouldn’t.’ She makes a point of looking at me. ‘Things that they later regret.’

A bang sounds as someone drops a phone to the floor. The nun’s eyes glance up to the gallery.
‘How did this make you feel, Sister, when Dr Martinez revealed this information to you?’
She lowers her eyes.
‘It made me cross,’ she says, suddenly looking up.
‘In what way?’
‘But you are a nun, do you think –’

‘Yes!’ the nun suddenly shouts. Everyone becomes still.
‘I am a nun,’ she continues, her voice raised, ‘but that does not give anyone, anyone the right xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx  and think that I will not say anything. And priests should know better.’ Her shoulders drop. ‘They should just know better.’
‘And should Father O’Donnell have known better, Sister?

She glances to the jury then back to Harry. ‘Yes,’ she says, quietly. ‘But he did not. And look where it got him. Lying spread out by an altar with his hands bound so he couldn’t touch anyone anymore. And Maria knew the priest, she knew what he did, what he really was. And that is why she… That is why she did what she did. That is why she killed him. She killed the Father. God save her soul.’
‘Liar!’ I yell, standing. ‘She is lying!’
The courtroom erupts. The guard rushes over and forces me down onto my chair.
‘Order!’ shouts the judge. ‘Order!’
Harry rests his hand on the counsels’ bench. ‘No further questions, your Honour.’



Book source: The Spider in the Corner of the Room

CLASSIFIED: Deleted pages
Scene: Counsel’s closing arguments in the state versus Dr Maria Martinez


The prosecutor stands to deliver his closing argument.
The people in the gallery sit and melt. The air is heavy and oppressive. The sun is scorching. Above us, the ceiling fan is on full speed, but, in this heat, it makes no difference. The courtroom boils like a furnace.
With a smile, the prosecutor faces the jury to commence his closing speech. My palms grip the edge of my seat.
‘Guilty, ladies and gentlemen,’ the prosecutor says. ‘It means criminal, convicted, at fault. Indeed, all the things that Dr Maria Cruz-Martinez already is.’ He pauses and looks at me. ‘And yet here she is today,’ he continues, ‘trying any way to see if she can escape what judgment has already been passed on her.’
‘Forensics,’ the prosecutor says, ‘placed Dr Martinez at the scene. Witnesses saw her at the scene; her blood was found at the scene. Guilty. We know motive is there. The motive is quite simple.’ He points to me, ‘This woman, who sits before you today – cold, unmoving, emotionally void – wanted revenge.’
He keeps his eyes now on the jury. ‘We know about the defendant’s mother, her time in Spain, the priest, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx the one man she is supposed to trust. A priest. That rage can build in a woman, eat her up, grow into something bigger than her, something that has to come out: a motive. And what does she do? She chooses to volunteer at a convent of all places.’ He pauses. ‘How very convenient.’
The prosecutor rests his hand on the counsels’ bench. ‘Maria Martinez helped at a convent, a place of God. A place where nuns and priests work. Men and women, women and men. Guilty, ladies and gentlemen of the Jury.’ He shakes his head. ‘The defendant claims she was with elderly patients at the time of the crime. And we have been presented with grainy xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx an alibi. But, really? Are we expected to believe a hazy image from a xxxxxxxx that, one year ago, did not exist? And we have a witness – xxxxxxxxxxxxx – who places Dr Martinez at the scene of the crime.’
The prosecutor looks at me again, then back to the jury. ‘Guilty. The only decision you can conclude today, right now, is that Maria Cruz-Martinez is guilty of murder. It is the only verdict you can give.’
The courtroom rustles. I watch the jury. They do not look at each other, instead their eyes rest on me, then on the prosecutor as he returns to his seat. I tuck a stray hair behind my ear, waiting as Harry, from his bench, stands and links his thumbs under the lapels of his gown. I pick up my cup of water and take a large gulp then glance to the priest’s parents.
Harry clears his throat. ‘Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you may have seen and heard many elements about this case.’ He sighs. ‘It has been well-documented in the press, courting publicity, dragging into it the defendant’s family, the victim’s family, anyone considered fair game. But this is not a game. Life, ladies and gentlemen, is not a game.’
I grip my cup and watch.
‘Life is about truth,’ Harry continues. ‘Life is life. Isn’t that what they say? A man’s life was taken. A man of God. A life for a life. But what life? The defendant’s life? The life of a doctor who has dedicated herself to helping others – a doctor – whose only mistake on the night in question was to sit by the bedsides of dying patients, patients that weren’t even hers?’
The jury looks over to me; I keep my eyes fixed on Harry.
‘Now,’ Harry says, ‘the prosecution have argued that the DNA speaks for its case, placing Dr Martinez at the scene of the murder. Again, this is a mistake on Dr Martinez’s part. She helped at the convent. Helped even by giving a pair of her own shoes, shoes she had worn, taken off her own feet and donated to the Church. These shoes rubbed her blister. A blister that bled. A blister that, when put in the shoes, left a trace of Dr Martinez’s blood behind on the inner heel. And then Father O’Donnell wore these shoes.’ He stops. I look at the jury; they all concentrate on Harry.
‘It was a mistake,’ Harry continues. ‘Because the prosecution claim that this blood is evidence, that it links the defendant directly to the crime scene. It does not. Experts stated, in this court, that the blood was old; that the blood sample was too small to test elsewhere. Reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen. It introduces reasonable doubt. And the witness who places the defendant at the crime scene?’ He shrugs. ‘A xxxxxxxxxxxx.’
‘Reasonable doubt,’ Harry says. ‘Reasonable doubt gives you, finally, the xxxxxxxx that shows quite clearly –’ he glances to the prosecutor, ‘xxxxxxxxxx during the time the murder was committed.’
He pauses. ‘Members of the jury, you are required today to convict beyond reasonable doubt, but you cannot. That means the only verdict you can possibly give today is one of not guilty. It is appalling that this woman, this doctor, is here at all. A life for a life? This woman, this Doctor – it is the wrong life to take away. Innocent. Not guilty: it is the only verdict you can make.’
Whispers encircle the courtroom. Harry sits down and keeps his eyes ahead.