[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Abdul Bédard-Lellouche was doing his best to follow the trial from his jail cell. The guards had given him a few newspapers earlier that morning and he was now allowed to watch the 6 o’clock news on CBC News.

“Today was a very straightforward one in the trial of Jean-François Toussignant, accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of his parents. After opening statements by the lawyers it was time for the crown to start laying out the case against Toussignant by presenting the physical evidence it has against the accused. A particularly poignant moment took place when the crown played the video confession by the accused obtained shortly after his arrest. We are not allowed to show you that video, unfortunately, but I can tell you that you could have heard a pin drop in that courtroom for at least 20 seconds after the short video ended.”

“Now, Jason,” the anchor asked, “can you summarize the opening statements for our viewers?”

Jason Martel, who was standing on the stone steps outside the Laval courthouse, was more than happy to oblige. This was, after all, his big break into TV stardom. “Certainly. First the crown prosecutor made a very simple statement telling the jury that the crown did have a straightforward case against the accused that shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused is guilty of premeditated murder. This was widely expected and as a result the opening statement from the prosecution did not surprise anyone in the audience. The opening statement from defence lawyer Paul Smith, however, was the source of a small commotion that almost forced the judge to clear the room.”

Clear the room. He liked that turn of phrase. He’d worked on it a while before the live broadcast, rejecting longer terms such as evacuated in favour of a short, active-voice verb.

“The lawyer defending Toussignant got up, removed his glasses and took the time to clean them up before addressing the jury in what must be the closest thing to a friendly tone in a courtroom. He said that while his client did not deny ordering the deaths of his parents, it was his intention to show the jury that his actions were motivated by self-protection and that he was confident the jury would return a verdict of not-guilty once they were made familiar with the case to be presented later by the defence.”

“Interesting. Now what’s on the menu for tomorrow, Jason?”

“Tomorrow we hear more from the prosecution on the evidence they have collected against Toussignant. Now one more thing I wanted to make sure our viewers understood is this: There were two men in jail who were accused of performing assisted suicides and sometimes euthanasia. Yesterday, before the case against Toussignant got underway, we heard that one of those men, Jean Simoneau, had been found dead in his cell. Authorities did not provide us with any details about what happened to him, and of course there is rampant speculation that there might be foul play involved. Security around the other prisoner, Abdul Bédard-Lellouche, who is accused of being the ringleader of this operation, has been increased, just in case.”

“Alright, Jason, this is all very interesting. We look forward to hearing your reports tomorrow. That was Jason Martel, outside the Laval courtroom where the trial of Jean-François Toussignant, accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of his elderly parents, just got underway today. Thanks again Jason.”

Abdul would have been lying if he’d said he wasn’t afraid. My suicide looked like anything but, and for a very good reason. It wasn’t one. Abdul very much feared the gang had decided we both needed to go. He always understood he was expendable; in this sort of business this was always a very real possibility. But now if felt uncomfortably concrete. Wow, concrete. What a word to use in this context…

Abdul was afraid. He didn’t want to die, for one thing, but more than anything he was afraid they would make him suffer. He’d heard plenty of stories that still sent a shiver down his spine. At this point he estimated his odds of surviving until the morning were 50-50 at best, and his pessimistic side didn’t give him that much.

He shouldn’t have bothered with the odds. They were hopelessly stacked against him.

[next chapter]