A Complicated Business

 When the assassination had ended well, I introduced myself to my new lawyers. Although I had taken measures in order not to be discovered, I said to myself I had to be careful. Several agents had already started to loom around. Come on, pluck up your courage and contact some legal counselor, preferably having a PhD in Law, maybe even from Brussels. Both those who will accuse and those who will defend me will have graduated from law school: the thing is your own perspective on the matter."Dear doctor," I said to the lawyer, "I need you guiding light. I foresee a difficult trial. I may even get arrested: everything is possible in this country!""If you are a communist, my competence is of no use to you. There's no time for riots and disorder. The society needs calmness and meditation, and every madman has an attitude and ideas which are not in conformity with the great demands of the present time. We always have some 'moment' and the current one is one of the most difficult. Please, mind your business. Go and see another lawyer. Good bye; I am busy. My clients are awaiting me."I didn't let him stand up and dismiss me."I've come for a different thing, doctor.""Call me maestro. Doctor is for midwives.""Doctor maestro, here is the reason for my coming to you.""It is not appropriate to use doctor and maestro, as the former is contained within the latter," remarked my future-to-be lawyer…"Bankruptcy due to fraud?""No, maestro, something else.""Money counterfeit? Notes of twenty, one hundred, one thousand? Take a seat.""No, wrong again.""You seem to be an interesting case. Embezzlement? How much?""I've killed!" I said.The maestro frowned: he thought I was jealous and had taken revenge out of love."Don't let yourself defeated by love, what the hell! You will rot in prison!" (the maestro was a feminist). "Don't women have the right to cheat on you for once? You are so ready to take out your gun and shoot!"It is true that, due to his age, the maestro, who had been a big womanizer in his day, didn't belong to the plural, not even to the 2nd person plural. He was heading for epicene."Honorable maestro," I answered in a monotonous tone of voice. "It is true that I killed my aunt, her mother and my wife, but not for the reason you suspect.""Why didn't you say so in the first place? Family arguments? Motivated anger?""No, maestro. Money!""What do you mean by money? Be more specific!" said the maestro, becoming more interested."For money, maestro…"As I felt that the maestro started to get annoyed, taking me for an ordinary murderer, who had killed for a purse, I reassured him."Lots of money, maestro, twelve million. A fortune, an inheritance.""Why don't you say so? Sit next to me and tell me everything…would you like a coffee? Have a cigarette. So, you resorted to me as you know I am a good and famous lawyer, didn't you?" "Of course, but don't tell anyone I committed a crime. This information is just for you, and you only.""In the legal system, things change. Nowhere else do things change, as they do in the legal system. How did you do it?""I strangled the first of them; I poisoned the second; I hit the third with an axe, to make it quick. She was sleeping.""Are you the only heir?""Yes"."No accomplice?""No.""May I see the papers?" asked the maestro, adjusting his monocle.After he had examined the papers, he said:"That will cost you 250 thousand lei. And maybe something more. Complicated business."I had a twitch of content. My crime started to be called "business" and the maestro needed a legal term, in order to feel better. "Complicated business" was even better, as it gave the crime a political meaning. Troubled by a stench rising from my soul, I took the risk of asking a question."What does blood represent in legal terms, maestro?" "Evidence," he answered."What about the axe?""There is no such a thing in legal terms, said the maestro, and even if there is a hurtful object involved, we don't mention it. Objects belong only to the trivial vocabulary of the judge and of the prosecutor, who don't matter. We discuss from an abstract point of view.""250 thousand? Isn't it a little bit too much?" I asked, feeling a bit offended."For twelve million? That's a very small percentage."In principle, the maestro was right, but when you have twelve million, the percentage is annoying."And my defense will be one worthy of its sacred name. My hypothesis has no doubt whatsoever: you are not guilty and you can't be guilty. Do you know who the culprit is? The prosecutor. The legal system is guiltier than any criminal." "I like this word," I said, flattered. "And I believe there are some more to be heard.""As many as you like, my dear," said the maestro. "Our politeness is for culprits and prisoners. Even if you are imprisoned and trialed, you are not a convict yet, since you can be an appealing party for years. In two years' time everybody will have forgotten everything, even you will do so.""Won't you charge me less?""No way. It's a difficult case."I had become a "case", so I left comforted. Now they could go on and arrest me.Since I had no cash on me, I gave my maestro a deposit: my aunt's pair of pearl earrings. I had pulled them out of her ears, after she had fallen down, without bothering to undo them, so maybe they still had pieces of her flesh and drops of her blood on them, when I placed them in the maestro's hand.He said ironically:"I wonder if these earrings know anything…"And he locked them up in a drawer."How can you believe such a thing? I couldn't be so vile.""I'm only kidding, said the maestro. Bring me the money tomorrow."What I like about my lawyer is that he is a helpful man. He is willing to help you for a quarter of a million as well as for ten thousand lei, and for him there is no difference between a robber, a crook, or a pickpocket. Since he is a psychologist, his mind is open and unbiased. He is one of the chosen mortals, chosen to protect and save mankind; he is a redeemer. His conscience is admirably clean, he listens to infamous confessions, deals with blankets spotted with blood and with bandages full of pus, as serene as an angel who smiles. On the stairs of the beautiful cubist apartment that he inhabits, the entire clientele of the prison were awaiting their turn and he welcomed everybody with the same pity and kindness, sharing with the nomad gipsy, with the horse thief or the robber, half or at least twenty-five percent, the fee for the work of these unfortunate people of the criminal code. He does not choose, as in for example preferring a victim to an assassin, rejecting a case under the pretext that the latter is odious, a filthy cause. For him, just like for a doctor, all swellings can be operated, both those in the roof of your mouth and those in the intestines. It is his moral obligation, his divine duty. All you have to do is to come up with the right money and he will put his finger and smell no matter what orifice. The only kind of person who does not come up to his legal expectations and his humane ideal is the penniless client, who, after having stabbed a whole family in their sleep, was not able to find and save, in view of interpreting the law and his rights, at least one hundred thousand lei, paid in advance. 

by Tudor Arghezi (1880-1967)