Emma looked out of the tiny window as the paparazzi flashed away at the accelerating police van. Blinded temporarily, she was still numb from that day’s evidence in court. The exhibits laid out on the table and the photographs circulated to the jury members were stark reminders of what she was accused. Murder implied forethought, planning and intent. None of that applied to her actions.
She remembered picking up the bread knife. She could hear his loud slurping as she wielded the blade in his face. His laughter changed to a guttural gasping as the blood spurted over the kitchen floor. But she felt oddly distant from what was happening. The scene was acted out in front of her by strangers. He was not her husband, but the dying victim of a senseless act of brutality. She was surprised to find a bloody bread knife in her hand hanging loosely by her side.
Dialling 999 she made the emergency call with calm detachment. “I want to report a murder.” Events then truncated in her memory. The house full of police within minutes. Everyone playing their parts with a professional efficiency and speed. Items bagged up and labelled, even her husband’s corpse.
Bobby slurped his tea absent-mindedly. He had started doing that since watching a documentary about Chinese tea rituals. The tea had to be just the right temperature, not lip-burningly hot nor disappointingly tepid. If he could be bothered, he used Jasmine tea leaves in a proper tea pot, served in a Royal Doulton bone china cup and saucer. But even tea bag tea in a mug got the slurping treatment.
Emma seemed preoccupied with something this morning, she wasn’t her usual chirpy self. He had peeped over his newspaper and studied her for a moment or two. He never really gained any insights from these surreptitious observations. Her face gave little away. Her eyes lacked focus and the lips neither down-turned nor smiling. He gathered his dressing gown around him in their draughty kitchen and turned to the Editorial page of the Guardian. Trump and Brexit depressed him so he skimmed the page hurriedly before attempting the cryptic crossword.
Emma had shifted her position slightly, but was still standing opposite him with the bread knife in hand. Bobby took another slurp of tea, really savouring it on the back of his tongue. The kitchen clock the only background noise this morning which was unusual because they usually listened to John Humphrys on Radio 4.
Bobby was just about to ask Emma for her thoughts on the Article 50 vote in the House of Commons when she raised the bread knife and waved it inches from his face.
“I would like a knife that cuts meat, as well as bread” Emma explained to the sales assistant.
“The small serrations on this knife are ideal for both purposes, Madam” said the smart young man in the Kitchen section of Cleavers department store.
“It will cut meat cleanly without snagging and slice smoothly through bread as well.”
“Perfect! I’ll take it” enthused Emma opening her purse.
Emma stood in the dock as the employee of Cleavers recounted this conversation in precise detail. It was day three of her trial for murder and her barrister looked dismayed at the evidence being given.
“Do you have many customers asking for bread knives that cut meat?” the prosecuting barrister asked.
“This was the first time I had been asked for a knife like that” the witness replied confidently.
“And would the knife cut through tough meat easily?” the barrister asked.
“It has a blade that is forged and precision sharpened for durability and smooth cutting. So it would make light work of the toughest meat.”
“Thank you, Your witness.”
The court had adjourned for lunch. Emma’s lawyer sat beside her solicitor in the cramped cell discussing how they should proceed with her defence. Her barrister, Evangeline Foster QC had removed her wig and arranged the papers on the table with coloured Post-it notes in pastel shades along the edges. She paused thoughtfully before asking “Has your GP prescribed any medication for you in the last month or two?”
“I had been getting bouts of insomnia, so she prescribed some sleeping tablets.”
Herbal remedies had helped Emma get off to sleep in the past, but she was waking at 3 or 4 am and not getting back to sleep. She told her lawyer that she took the tablets at the weekend and woke with a monster headache that Monday morning.
Emma was like driftwood caught in a whirlpool. The case proceeded rapidly in her favour as expert witnesses testified that the insomnia medicine had been the cause of temporary, disastrous changes to her brain chemistry. The jury found her not guilty after a short deliberation and she stood on the steps of the court in the blinding glare of the afternoon sun shaking hands with her barrister.
Later she sat in a café not far from the courthouse watching people outside going hurriedly about their business. She felt a sudden burst of anger course through her tense body as she gripped the butter knife, her knuckles turning white. The woman behind her was oblivious to the rage she had ignited as she noisily slurped her tea.