Peter and Josephine Falcone stood outside the wooden doors that led the courtroom, impeccably dressed and necessarily solemn. They had never been ones for outward warmth, but a day that would decide their futures called for a certain degree of coldness and an odd degree of love.
Josephine was barely able to speak above a whisper, almost gasping for air with every word. “Peter…you know I’ll always think you did the right thing…no matter what they try to make you out to be, you put your family first. For that, Peter, I love you.”
Cutting the tender moment short was Roger Harper. “All right folks, we’re going in there, and we’ll do our best. You’re up first, Peter. Remember, it’s about family.”
Peter rolled his eyes. Of course it was about family. It had always been about family.
Roger Harper through open the double doors and allowed the Falcones to enter. Peter took his long trip down the center aisle of the courtroom, glancing at the benches where his friends and family were seated, their feelings about him forever changed. Josephine gave her husband a quick peck on the cheek before taking her seat.
For an air-conditioned room, the air felt unbearably hot, probably because Michael and Louise sat a row behind Josephine, fuming. Their faces were blank slates that could not bear to look at either of the accused.
“All rise for the Honorable Judge Elisabeth Cartwright,” announced the bailiff.
A bead of sweat erupted from Peter’s forehead as the judge approached the bench. He heard little of what she said, until he was addressed directly. “Mr. Falcone? Mr. Falcone? I said, how do you plead?”
Peter looked around the room. He caught a glimpse of Josephine, then Michael and Louise, and even the Gardner and Bains families. Everyone in that room had a family.
He gulped. “Not guilty, your honor.”
Dr. Rocco Bianchi, being a close family friend of the Falcones, knew he was more than welcome to let himself into their home. Grabbing the spare key that was concealed in a loose brick, he opened the door, determined to find his sickly patient her stationary.
He worried a great deal about Josephine. For as long as he had known her, she had never been sick, not even a cold. It was strange that, all of a sudden, she should develop something as serious as lymphoma. Of course, it had not been all it once, but Josephine Falcone had a strange resilience others lacked. Whatever it was, he felt sorry for her. The woman didn’t know how to weak.
As he mounted the staircase, he began to admire the portraits and paintings that hung from the walls. Each piece was of a Falcone, each done in better days. One in particular caught his eye– a portrait of Josephine. She stood outside in her garden, surrounded by her beloved flowers, almost melting into them. Though she looked quite different with jet black hair and about an extra two inches in height, there was something else. Her expression was softer, less bitter. It was a happier time.
The doctor found his way into Michael and Louise’s bedroom. The afternoon sun poured over the writing desk that sat in front of the window. Every item was neatly in place, as Louise kept everything. Order and organization. It was hard to understand why Josephine didn’t like her. They were so similar.
Dr. Bianchi began to look through the drawers in search of the stationary. Most of them contained old letters, bills, and assorted knickknacks. As he came upon the bottom drawer, he found the light blue paper monogrammed with an ‘F’ that he had been searching for. As he began to shut the drawer, he noticed something else: a small bottle of white tablets. They were labeled “Arsenic.”
He dropped the stationary. “Oh my God.”