[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] The trial was set for the middle of April. Jeff Toussignant used the time he got to spend in prison awaiting the trial very wisely indeed. Better than I did, if you insist on comparing us. I was not a difficult prisoner, but I sure got busy being surly. Fortunately for the prison guards, I didn’t have much longer to be making angry faces at them. They would soon be rid of me. But back to Jeff.

He used his time to write his story, organizing his thoughts neatly and carefully, arranging everything in a pile of papers that was now a solid two-inch thick. He revised his manuscript many times, reading it out loud whenever he could find a few moments of relative solitude, to make sure his prose sounded right in spoken form as well as in writing.

He used the first two weeks of April, immediately before the trial, to do one final re-arranging on an iPad he’d asked his sister to get for him. She wasn’t wild about spending the money on him like that, especially for his writing, which had proved such a colossal waste of time and resources to this point in his life, but he had no money and no means of earning any and she reluctantly agreed to get it for him. Jeff said he wanted his story to look polished, organized, and thoughtful. He wasn’t insane and didn’t want to look, or sound, like it. She wasn’t entirely sure about his mental state, mind you, but he seemed to know where he was going.

Jeff had also asked his sister to get four new suits and a bunch of shirts and ties for the duration of his trial – which he expected was going to last about two weeks. At least, that’s what he was hoping for, because he had a lot to say and he sure as hell wanted to have enough time to say it, at his own pace. If a jury of his peers was going to send him to prison for life without possibility of parole for at least 25 years, as was the statutory punishment for first-degree murder, well, that jury would have to sit through his story, chapter and verse and everything in between. With four suits he figured he could cycle through them and always look neat and reasonably fresh. Nathalie got him new shoes, too. He’d trusted his sister to pick something good for him. Not that he had much of a choice.

It had been a few months since that conversation with Marc during which Nathalie first aired out her conflicted emotions about helping her brother. She was still as conflicted as ever, but like everything else she found she was slowly getting used to it. Besides, a small part of her hoped beyond hope that Jeff had not actually done the deed. Brother and sister never talked about the crime itself; somehow that way Nathalie could maintain the illusion that it was all a giant mistake. But even if it turned out that he was guilty, he was entitled to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

She knew he intended to defend himself vigorously, and she wasn’t looking forward to the proceedings. But at the same time she wasn’t sure what she was doing constituted helping him avoid punishment. Certainly Marc had been quite stern with her on that subject. He was of the view that she should do what she could to help her brother, provided her help was reasonable, legal and honest. “Nobody’s asking you to martyr yourself for him, honey,” he’d told her more than once. “But trust me when I say you will not regret those small acts of kindness, no matter how the trial turns out. I promise you that. Besides, you’re his only family member and he needs you. Helping him is the right thing to do.”

So she gritted her teeth and did what Jeff asked.

****

Jason Martel was only 24 years old, and he had all the energy and annoying enthusiasm of his age. The idealism, too. He was pursuing his masters in journalism while working part-time as a web reporter for the state-owned CBC/Radio-Canada in Montreal. Like most Montrealers his age, he was perfectly bilingual and bicultural, equally at ease in French and English. Not all that useful in his current job, which consisted mainly of scouring the web for social media trends and occasionally writing short blurbs about community events for the local news on television and radio, but hey. It was one tiny step up from soul-crushing, really, especially for an aspiring reporter with his kind of talent. For he had grand ambitions; one day he would travel the world to help his fellow countrymen and women better understand their planet and its weird inhabitants. He would be a globe-trotter, and he would be famous.

For now, Jason Martel was busy trolling twitter for $18.75 an hour. Oh well, at least it paid some bills. Good thing his parents were covering his tuition and most of his living expenses.

He was just back from the Starbucks across the street with his mid-morning soy grande chai latte when he got a note from Carla Laframboise, one of the on-air television news reporters on the French side. “Hi Jason, remember the guy in Laval accused of murdering his parents and making it look like a double suicide? His trial is coming up and his lawyer just sent me a note offering a preview of his defense. I think he just wants attention and I’m not sure I want to give it to him, but he’s probably going to go to other media if we don’t pick up his story so I thought we should at least have a look at who is he and what he has to say before we decide what to do about him. But I’m swamped at the moment so I was wondering if you would have time to help me with the research? Let me know, tx!”

Carla was becoming famous in the province for her coverage of the big corruption scandals involving construction companies and well-placed politicians. It had been going on for months now and already it had cost a few big wheels their jobs and reputations. But her first journalistic love was criminal trials, where she excelled at painting an honest portrait of the people involved in a way that thoroughly engaged her audience.

It was all fine and good for her, Jason thought, but he wasn’t really made for what the French call “faits divers,” or, more colloquially, “la rubrique des chats écrasés.” The small potatoes stuff; petty crimes, car crashes, lost pets, traffic woes. In fact, Jason wasn’t even interested in more major crime stories either, unless they involved Syrian dictators or a Clinton. Those kinds of stories were always complex and multi-faceted. But some guy accused of offing his folks? Meh.

“I’ll see what I can do,” he wrote back, thinking he might have five minutes to look into it in the afternoon.