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Queen of Swords: a novel

Chapter XXIII – The Hierophant

I was looking forward to Mr. O’Hara’s cross-examination. He promised us an entertaining afternoon overlooking the gladiatorial pit. Of the two gladiators before us, Mr. O’Hara is the dirtier fighter. He may betray a close relationship with and knowledge of, the sword family. I certainly hope so.

Under an impartial sky, the man who dares anything should win. But this is not an impartial sky. Alas, for my purposes Mr. O’Hara needs to lose. That makes him a loser and I was beginning to wash my hands of him already. Is Mr. O’Hara’s card the Hierophant? Naïve people think Death and the Hanged Man are the dangerous cards. They are not. Death represents transformation; the Hanged Man is taking charge of forceful, radical change.

The Hierophant is born to suffer, because he is a rigid thinker prone to errors in judgment. The Hierophant is born to suffer because he can’t adapt to changing conditions. He attempts to impose static values on dynamic situations. On my card he hangs suspended from a roadside stake shaped suspiciously like a cross.

Mr. O’Hara’s Bond girl set up a large, white piece of pasteboard on an easel and handed her boss a big black marker. She wore an attractive miniskirt, expensive looking boots, and a cropped jacket.

I began sizing her up to be a victim. She would be more fun than O’Hara. And in those fashion magazines she’d donated, hadn’t I found a piece of junk mail bearing her address? I promised myself to take a careful look.

Mr. O’Hara came out swinging. “Mr. Haymaker, you’re a murderer, isn’t that right?”
Obviously the witness was loath to agree.

“Aren’t you pleading guilty to ordering a hit?”

“If that makes me a murderer, I guess I am,” said Reuben Haymaker finally. O’Hara wrote the word MURDERER in black magic marker.

“And you’re a thief. Isn’t that what you just testified to?”

“My intention was always to replace it the money.”

“Was that money YOURS to TAKE?” demanded O’Hara.


O’Hara wrote THIEF under MURDERER. “Presumably insurance agents take some sort of ethical vow through their professional organizations, as part of their training, isn’t that right?”

“We’re bonded,” agreed Mr. Haymaker with sour humor. “We’re not supposed to pocket the client’s money.”

“And you didn’t take your marital vows any more seriously than your professional ones, did you? Did you?”

“I guess not.”

“You lied to your wife, you lied to your clients, you lied to the police when they first questioned you. Didn’t you?”

Mr. Haymaker looked out into his courtroom in search of a savior, some fearless knight to ride into battle bearing his colors. But none among us took him up on it.

O’Hara wrote LIAR, ADULTERER, CON MAN on his chart.

“Did you report that money you stole on the income tax? You’re supposed to, you know.”
The witness made an explosive little noise that might have been incredulous disgust.

“I think we can take that as a no,” said O’Hara, adding CHEATER to his column. “Now didn’t I hear something about offering your wife to some businessman in order to get a break on your foreclosure problems?”

“It didn’t happen exactly like that,” objected the witness.

“Oh, so you’re weaseling now,” said O’Hara. “Let’s add “weasel” to this list. The formal word is “prevaricator” but I think “weasel” says it so much better. Would you like the court reporter read back to you exactly what you said?”

“What word are you trying to write?” asked the witness.

O’Hara wrote PIMP. “You have a problem with that? You want to object?”

“I’ll let it stand,” said Haymaker. “But we didn’t actually get any money for it.”

“What?” roared O’Hara. “What was that? I dare you to repeat that to this courtroom.”

“WE DIDN’T GET ANY MONEY FOR IT,” shouted Haymaker back at him. “They were sex parties. Sex play. Nobody got hurt.”

“You’re also not getting away with murder or thievery and you’re still a murderer and a thief,” said O’Hara. “The fact that you didn’t benefit the way you’d hoped is immaterial.” He wrote the word PUSHER and ADDICT. “I understand as soon as your wife emerged from rehab she divorced you.”
“She had to,” said Haymaker. “Because of the lawsuits.”

“I think we can take it for granted that you’re not making your court ordered support payments,” said O’Hara, writing, DEADBEAT DAD.

“How can I?” shouted the witness. “They’re insisting on restitution first!”

“And we both know that won’t happen, don’t we?” O’Hara asked sarcastically. “Anyone betting on you is looking at disappointment.”

“There isn’t any money left,” Haymaker grumbled.

“Didn’t you take a video of yourself and Karen Sivarro having sex – without her permission, I might add – and post it on the Internet?”

Sensation in the courtroom! Haymaker hesitated.

Mr. O’Hara uttered an explosive sigh. “Are you really going to force me to show it in this courtroom? It’s Item I-115 in evidence.”

Did that mean we were going to get to see it? Several jury members licked their lips.
“I was high at the time,” whined the witness.

“Is that a yes?”

Probably realizing that no video of himself in the nude could possibly make him look good, Haymaker folded. “It’s true,” he said.

O’Hara wrote PORNOGRAPHER. We were getting quite a list. And O’Hara wasn’t finished yet.
PERJURER. “In your first sworn statement you said you had nothing to do with Zanelli’s death. Didn’t you? Will you admit it or do you want me to introduce that statement into evidence?”

The witness held himself rigidly. “The death penalty was on the table,” he said.

“So you made a deal,” O’Hara proffered. “You’d deliver another victim to the state to save your own neck, isn’t that what you said? Another woman you’d sworn to love? They’re an unlucky crew, those women, aren’t they?”

“Your Honor, I object,” Wilmot vaulted to his feet. “He’s making an argument! Sounds like a closing argument to me.”

“I was asking a question,” responded O’Hara mildly.
“What’s the question?” The witness was at sea.

“Ask your question, Mr. O’Hara, dismissed the judge. I wondered if they golfed together. His Honor teed up so perfectly for the defense counsel.

“What I’m asking, Mr. Haymaker,” said O’Hara, laying his arm confidentially along our jury rail, “Is this. You tried addicting Ms. Sivarro to cocaine the way you addicted your wife and that didn’t work. Did it?”

“She was addicted to high living,” barked Haymaker, fighting back.

“I guess that will serve as testimony that you tried to addict her to something, didn’t you? If you needed to keep her at your side, what better way than to kill the man she was came into the office crying about and tell her she was involved in the crime?”

“She told me to do it,” said the witness stalwartly. “I never would have dine it without her.”

“And who are you?” demanded O’Hara. “You’re a proven MURDERER, THIEF, LIAR, ADULTERER, CON MAN, CHEATER, PIMP, WEASEL, PORNOGRAPHER, DRUG ADDICT, DRUG PUSHER, DEADBEAT DAD, and PERJURER.” O’Hara tossed down his marker in exaggerated disgust. But he let the poster stand. “Character is destiny, and chickens come home to roost. Why should we believe anything you say? No more questions, your Honor. I think the jury got the picture.”
Character is destiny, all right. Or destiny makes character, how about that? As to whether “chickens come home” – that’s a ridiculous cliché. Some chickens get eaten and nothing’s left but the wishbone. Stupid chickens crossing the road are hit by cars. Other chickens are buried down so deep they can’t be found.

I think I can say the whole jury was so stunned by the simplicity of this cross-examination; we barely minded that Mr. Wilmot had dragged all attorneys and clients into one of their boringly endless sidebars so we could think it over. Surrendering his swords and becoming a whiney, complainy, endlessly post-adolescent is not a good look for our prosecutor.

Still, it gives me a chance to fill up this ugly juror notebook with my letter to you; kike a lovestruck girl. I have been assured the notebooks are ours to keep, that they go home with each of us, and will remain forever confidential. Unfortunately, being a juror, it seems, means I have to stick to this courthouse whenever they want me. And my beautiful book would attract too much attention. Mr. Wilmot might have no further questions to ask, but you better believe he hustled that poster down fast. O’Hara had some impressive swordplay with which to entertain us. Each and every one of us jurors had a lengthy opportunity to copy down his list of pejoratives against the state’s star witness, right into the notebooks we will take into the jury room. Which I’m sure was O’Hara’s intention.

Because really, what else is there to do? Watching justice is like watching paint dry. Such is the desperation of their competition, I’m sure they’re both counting on pure boredom to turn us. One way or the other.

Sitting over coffee in the jury room I assessed my fellow jurors in a new light. Every day with you is an adventure and every adventure changes me. They might forbid us to talk about the case all they want but I could plainly see that the state’s star witness had collapsed in everybody’s eyes. What if this group wanted to let Karen Sivarro go!

That’s not my plan, but I didn’t get this far playing a Hierophant. I can make adjustments. I pledge to you now, if they insist on freeing Karen Sivarro, she will be our Substitute Sacrifice.

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