I'd been sitting there in the courtroom all day, looking at the back of people's heads, mostly Andy Munson's. In that situation you couldn't help but sit and wonder what went on inside there, in Andy's head. I'd known him as long as I could remember. There were a lot of people in town I'd known as long as I could remember, and some of them I knew better than Andy but I suppose I knew Andy better than most. But there was always something about Andy you couldn't know. Maybe it was hard to figure out Andy because Andy didn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out himself.
The courtroom was cold, it was a fucking icebox, I would have rather been outside in the snow almost, even in just my long sleeve shirt. I didn't dress up to testify, just a collared shirt and a newer pair of jeans, because I didn't have any nice clothes. It was snowing like crazy in the morning when I got to the courthouse, and I was wondering whether I'd be able to get home without my snow tires, which I'd taken off the week before. It was practically April. So I knew the snow was piling up, but the thing kept dragging on, and I couldn't leave to go check the weather because they wouldn't tell me when I'd be called to testify. Every once in a while the judge would send the jury back to the jury room so he could settle some point of law with the attorneys, but he never said the court was recessed or told us we could go outside for a smoke, and I could have used one.
Honestly I was getting a little nervous. They'd told me what to say, the prosecutors, or not what to say specifically, but how to say it, like, Okay, that's good, that's fine, Mike, just tell it like that, just tell the truth like you'd naturally tell it, or if they didn't like how I was saying something they'd wrinkle up their faces, the two of them, the County Prosecutor and the Deputy Prosecutor, both women, the second one good looking enough for me to have kind of fallen in love with and the first one not, and they'd say, Is it possible that you're leaving something out? Is it possible that you might remember that in more detail? And then they'd say stuff like be confident because you're telling the truth and speak loud and clear and so on. But I was beginning to think that was easier said than done.
They had Andy's girlfriend Jessica up on the stand, and between the two of them, the prosecution and the defense, they'd worked her over pretty good. The prosecutor was a little woman, barely five foot I'd guess, with a stringy body that didn't even feature any breasts beneath her jacket and shirt as far as I could tell, and she walked just like an edgy little man, someone who was on edge all the time, and she talked hard and fast and she was tough as a fucking badger, even though she talked nice enough to me. Why shouldn't she talk nice to me? I'd turned state's witness in order to avoid an accessory- to-murder charge. I was on the side of the State of Idaho.
So was Jessica, though, and that hadn't helped her much. She'd been crying ever since the woman made her describe how Andy had hit her on occasion, how he'd cracked her front teeth with a beer glass, etc., and I knew Jessica was crying because of the things the prosecutor wouldn't give her the chance to tell, how Andy could be really sweet when he wanted to be, how he'd bought her a necklace and they were going to get married when he came into the rest of his inheritance, the shit she would always say whenever you told her she should just get the fuck away from him, or at least when she wasn't saying he was the biggest asshole on earth. And now the defense attorney was taking his shot at her and she was crying because, unlike the prosecutor, he was insisting Andy wasn't the biggest asshole on earth, and suggesting that none of it had ever happened or it had mostly been her fault, which might have been kind of true, in a way. She was a piece of work, no doubt, always. I wouldn't have gone out with her, and my standards are pretty low. And by that time she was basically a meth whore, skinny as shit and all bedraggled, so whatever attraction there might have been at one time was long gone.
I figured I could handle myself better than Jessica, but none of it looked like too much fun. I kept telling myself I wasn't in any danger, there was only one thing I intended to lie about, really, and it was something mostly inside me, and because Nolan wasn't testifying the only one who could tell what I wasn't going to was Andy, and it wasn't in his best interest.
I was looking at the back of Andy's head again and drifting in my thoughts, nervous, like I say, when the prosecutor declined the chance to follow up and the judge called next witness and the prosecutor said the state called Michael Jerome Bond to the stand. That was me.
I went up and they made me state my name and they made me put my hand on the Bible and swear the oath and then they told me to sit down and I did, and a funny thing happened--I felt completely relaxed. Sitting up there on the witness stand, higher up than anyone but the judge, it felt like my courtroom. Dark green carpet, varnished wood, stark overhead lighting--mine. I hadn't felt that feeling in a while. I turned and looked right at the jury. They didn't bother me. The room didn't even feel cold anymore.
Could I tell the court my relationship to the defendant?
Yes, I could. I was his friend.
How long had I been friends with the defendant?
I didn't know. Fifteen years, give or take a few. I thought I remembered playing with him on the playground as far back as first grade.
State my age for the court?
Did I remember the events of the afternoon of August 8, 2005?
Yes, I did. If that was the day Jeremy died.
Where was I on August 8?
I was at Andy Munson's house.
For the record, the house owned by Andrew Munson at 314 Lake Street?
Were there other people there?
Jeremy and Nolan.
Jeremy Schiff and Nolan Saylor?
And on that afternoon Jeremy Schiff was killed?
Objection. Legal explanation regarding objection, so on and so forth.
Sustained. Rephrase the question.
And on that afternoon Jeremy Schiff died?
For the first time since I took the stand I looked at Andy. It wasn't that I'd been avoiding looking at him. It just hadn't occurred to me up to that point. It felt good that he had so little hold on me. It was surprising, though, how he looked, and it threw me off for a minute. I'd never seen him look like that. He looked half dead. He looked shit at and hit. He looked like he might have been crying when Jessica was on the stand, I was kind of shocked to see, because I hadn't imagined, of all things, Andy Munson crying about anything, ever, and he was kind of slumped down in his chair and even his expensive charcoal gray suit couldn't help defeat the overall impression of someone who'd lost whatever there was to lose in this world. I was embarrassed for him. It wasn't how you wanted to look. I wished Nolan could see him like that. He would have turned state's evidence like I did. Fuck Andy. Nolan was afraid to say that, was still afraid of Andy, would rather face serious jail time than screw him over. Me? I was ready to let Andy end up where the legal system said he should end up. If they set him loose, I was probably in for some shit, but what was he going to do, kill me? He'd already gone that route once, and look where it got him.
What was I doing at Andrew Munson's house that afternoon?
Hanging out. Getting high.
What did I mean by getting high?
Doing drugs. I shrugged at her.
What kind of drugs?
What else was I doing?
Hanging out, like I said.
That was the first time I noticed the look in her eye, this look that meant maybe she'd gone too far with the confidence deal, that I'd turned a corner from confident to cocky, and she could sense it, and she wasn't too happy.
What was Jeremy Schiff doing during that time?
Methamphetamine and marijuana?
Meth. He didn't smoke any pot that day that I knew of, at least not when I was with him.
What time was I with him?
From, like, maybe three o'clock or so until, like, maybe seven.
According to the coroner's report Jeremy Schiff died at approximately 6:00 p.m.
That sounded about right.
What time did we arrive at the residence at 314 Lake Street?
I'd say a little after four.
Where were we before then?
At the arcade.
She walked back to her table and the deputy prosecutor flipped some pages of notes and handed them to her.
At Buzzy's Amusements at 203 First Street?
She put down the notes and walked like an excited little man back over to me.
What were we doing there?
Playing video games. I worked there. Andy and Jeremy and Nolan hung out there all the time when I was working.
She stopped for a second and looked at me like to say silently don't say too much, don't answer more than I'm asking. I wasn't worried about her, though, the badger, the prosecutor. By that point I'd already decided I could give a shit what she thought. I looked at the deputy prosecutor. Her name was Chris. She wore the same kind of shirt and jacket outfit but she filled it out a lot better. I'd had my eye on her since about September, pretty soon after they'd first arrested me. She had straight blonde hair and water-blue eyes and a little pouty mouth with just a tiny bit of lipstick and she always looked exactly the same and spoke in exactly the same voice, kind of soft and moderately high. She also wore glasses with thin black frames, for no other reason than to make her look serious, I'd decided. During all the questioning before the trial she'd been extremely nice to me and I knew she'd been to law school and whatever but she wasn't much older than I was, really, I could tell that much, and the prosecutor had let her make the opening statement that morning at the start of the trial, and you could tell she was scared to death, that she didn't have much more experience in a courtroom than me. And I didn't have any. I felt like I was looking at her to calm her down, tell her it was all right, we were on the same team, I liked her, she was okay by me.
So we had been at the video arcade until around four o'clock, at which time we left for the residence on Lake Street?
And we were having fun at the arcade? No arguments, nothing of that sort?
Yes. I meant no, no arguments.
Nothing that would have made Andrew Munson angry at Jeremy Schiff?
No, not that I had seen.
Could I tell her about the relationship between Andrew and Jeremy?
Objection. Blah blah blah. Overruled.
They were friends.
Didn't Andrew Munson bully Jeremy? Was that what I called being friends?
Had I ever seen Andrew Munson injure Jeremy?
Yes. I meant, I guessed we'd all picked on him a little.
Had I seen Andrew Munson run over Jeremy in a car when Jeremy was walking down the street?
Objection. Immaterial, etc. Overruled.
I hadn't seen Andrew run over Jeremy?
He didn't run over him.
What would I call it, then?
More like struck.
Andrew Munson struck Jeremy Schiff with a vehicle.
What else? What other kind of things did Andrew do to Jeremy?
Usual stuff. Twist his arm behind his back, rub his face into the carpet, things like that.
All just good clean fun?
More or less.
She crossed her arms and shook her head toward the jury.
You'd have had to know Jeremy. It wasn't like he asked for it, but you just couldn't help it in a way, although I was always nicer to him than his other friends, maybe because I knew him better. It wasn't that he was fat or weak or stupid or ugly. He wasn't. He was just different in a way that wasn't cool, like his hobbies and stuff. He had this huge collection of model airplanes, for instance. And he was nervous all the time. The guy worried about everything. If he had a perfectly good day with maybe one small thing that went wrong, he'd go to sleep at night thinking the whole day had been a disaster and his whole life was ruined. I know this because I lived with him. I lived with him when we were in junior high and I was living with him again, in these rooms above his parents' garage, at the time when he died. I first got to know him because his mother and father were my foster parents after my own mom and dad got divorced when I was in seventh grade. Neither one of them wanted me and neither one of them was "fit," so I got sent to live with Jeremy. And even back then Jeremy would go to bed at night talking about all the shit that was wrong with him, at least when he wasn't talking about planes. I've never known a guy who could see the glass half empty so consistently. He always thought he had a life-threatening disease. He always thought nobody liked him. At the rare times when he had a girlfriend, he would immediately be convinced that she didn't really like him, and he would drive her crazy with his questions and his insecurities, and then pretty soon she wouldn't like him anymore, and that would just make him more convinced he'd been right all along. He was incredibly paranoid about the cops. Every time we went to Andy's house he'd start worrying that the cops were going to raid the place. If you went out the side door to smoke a joint, just because it was a nice day outside for instance and you wanted to smoke a joint in the sunshine, he'd keep nagging you to go down to the basement. In fact that might have been how the whole thing started that afternoon--him nagging Andy about making us come inside.
Could I tell the court about my own relationship to Jeremy Schiff?
We were friends.
In the same way that Andrew Munson and Jeremy were friends?
More or less.
She stood there for a second with her arms crossed, staring at me, then she walked back over to her table and sorted through some papers. I wasn't playing by the script was the problem. I knew what she was doing--trying to contrast my friendship with Jeremy to Andy's, so she could make Andy look bad--but for some reason I didn't want to make it easy on her. I wanted her to have to root it out, prove it to me, sort of. I guess the truth was I'd been waiting for the trial all this time to understand myself what it was that really happened that day and why and who was to blame and how much. I thought the State of Idaho should be able to decide that, and I didn't want to make it easier on anyone, including myself, by helping people jump to conclusions. I looked over at the jury to see how they were taking it all in--thirteen people staring at me, no big deal, none of them standing out for any particular reason, the anonymous faces of justice. I hoped they were keeping everything straight, and I was glad to see at least a couple of them were taking notes.
Wasn't it true that Jeremy and I were more like brothers?
She'd gotten that from something I'd told her once during questioning, but at that point it was basically a way to cover my ass. I was still thinking defensively then. Andy's attorney got ready to object, sitting up straight in his seat, but then he decided to let it go. This was an important question, one I wasn't sure I knew the answer to. It made me look for a second at Jeremy's mother and father on their side of the courtroom, and I wished right away I hadn't done that. The look on their faces didn't make me feel good. It was like I could see on their faces every misgiving they'd had about me for the past ten years.
I didn't know. We were foster brothers for a year in junior high, if there was such a thing, and we stayed friends after that. We were roommates in the apartment above his parents' garage before he died. I didn't have any brothers and sisters and Jeremy only had two sisters who were quite a bit older so I guessed maybe we were like brothers to each other in that way.
Hadn't Jeremy told me on at least one occasion that I was like his brother, like an older brother?
Yes, he had.
Why did I suppose he'd say that?
I wasn't sure. It didn't make any sense, for one thing, since we were the same age. But I supposed he'd kind of looked up to me.
Wasn't it true that Jeremy essentially followed my lead?
Maybe. I didn't know. He didn't have to.
But wasn't it true that when he didn't follow my lead, when he didn't act the way I thought he was supposed to, the cool way, the way Andrew Munson acted, he was made to suffer consequences?
Objection, objection. Leading the witness, etc. Sustained.
Why had I been removed from the Schiff's home in eighth grade after living with them for a year?
Mr. and Mrs. Schiff thought I was a bad influence.
Why was that?
Me and Jeremy had started smoking pot.
And whose idea had that been?
Could I tell the court about the occasion when Andrew Munson struck Jeremy Schiff with the car?
Objection. Immaterial. Overruled.
She was definitely pretty shrewd. It wasn't going the way I'd expected. I could see what she was getting at--Jeremy was easily manipulated, and when he didn't play along we took it out on him, and it was mostly my fault. It was an interesting way to look at things, and I wasn't totally unprepared to accept it.
Me and Andy and Nolan and Jeremy were at the movies. We'd snuck two bottles of vodka in and we were mixing it with 7-Up. After the movie, Jeremy thought we shouldn't drive because the cops would pick us up for underage drinking and DUI, and--
How old were we at that time?
So Jeremy wouldn't get in Andy's car. Andy told me to tell him to get in, but he wouldn't. He started walking across the parking lot like he was going to leave by himself. Andy let the windows down and started driving along beside him. He kept saying, Does Jeremy need a ride? And Jeremy would tell him to... he would cuss at him. And Andy kept saying Does Jeremy need a ride, and Jeremy kept saying the same thing back, and pretty soon it got funny and Nolan and I started laughing. Then Andy stopped the car and let Jeremy get a little ways in front of him, then he said, Jeremy needs a ride, and he hit the gas and ran into Jeremy from behind, and Jeremy flipped up on the hood.
Had Jeremy been injured?
What were his injuries?
Sprained ankle and some bad bruises.
How bad were the bruises?
Well, they were up and down his backside, so I hadn't exactly looked at them except the ones on his lower back. But he said they went all the way down to his thighs.
And what happened after that? After Andrew Munson ran into Jeremy?
Jeremy got in the car.
I checked out Andy again right at that point but he was looking down at his hands in his lap. The prosecutor went back over to the table and she and the deputy prosecutor put some papers in order. I was watching the deputy. I could see her calves under the table. She wasn't looking at me. The prosecutor marched back over to me and put her head down like she was concentrating really hard, then started talking in a little softer voice than she'd been using.
Could I tell the court what happened at Andrew Munson's after we arrived there from the arcade?
We turned on the tv and started doing crystal.
Describe how we did it.
We snorted it. We never smoked it or injected it, except I thought Andy maybe smoked it when none of us were around.
Objection. Approach the bench, your honor.
The attorneys approached the bench and they talked for a minute and the defense attorney waved his arms around a couple of times. I didn't really look at anybody or focus on anything. I was remembering us doing crystal that day at Andy's house, and it was starting to make me feel nervous again and a little sick. I could see it all pretty clear.
Sustained. Witness's last statement, beginning from "except I thought," etc., to be stricken from the record. Jury instructed to ignore. Witness please restrict his statements blah blah.
How long before that day had I been using methamphetamine?
Since sometime in the spring. Three months or so.
And when had Jeremy Schiff started?
Same time I had.
How often did we use it?
Pretty much every day.
How did we get it?
Andy got it from someone he knew.
Who paid for it?
That was one of the things about Andy. He could be a real asshole, but he could also be very generous. He had a butt load of money he inherited from his grandfather, who was a famous doctor around town because he'd invented some device that was used in the treatment of paralysis victims. Andy had gotten part of his inheritance when he turned eighteen, and then he was supposed to get the rest of it when he graduated from college, which he never did. At the time when Jeremy died, he was going through legal proceedings that were supposed to get him the rest of his money through some loophole. He talked about it all the time, and it seemed like it would have been easier just to finish fucking college. But he never worried about money or made anyone else pay for anything or ever made you feel like you had to pay him back. He could be a good guy that way, and he could also be very funny at times, like just the way he would say things, and he was good looking and women liked him, all of which made him worthwhile to hang around with, despite the fact that he very obviously used all those things to control you.
Please continue describing the events of August 8.
We were watching tv, some tennis match with Maria Sharapova. We'd just finished with the crystal. Nolan wanted to get high, so Andy went and got a baggie of dope and handed it to him. Andy and Jeremy didn't want to smoke, so Nolan and I went outside by ourselves.
Nolan and I went outside to smoke a joint?
Nolan had a pipe.
And the two of us left Andy and Jeremy alone together?
Was that unusual?
But then right away I started thinking how it was unusual. It was always all four of us or at least three of us going outside to smoke a bowl, or we just stayed in the house. It just happened that day that it was me and Nolan, and that we wanted to go outside because it was a nice day. But I couldn't see why the prosecutor would want to infer anything from that. What? That Andy was bound to kill Jeremy if they were left alone for ten minutes? That it was like leaving the housecat inside with a Doberman? She was trying to cut corners again, so I stuck with the answer I gave.
Then what happened?
Nothing. Nolan and I smoked a couple of bowls.
What sort of state were we in at that point?
I didn't object to a question like that. Here I was in front of all these people--the jury, Mr. and Mrs. Schiff, Andy's parents, who were back there holding hands, the deputy prosecutor--being asked to say what a fuck up I was. One reason I guess I didn't care was I'd been pretty much clean since then. First I was in jail, then with Andy in jail I didn't know where to get meth if I wanted to, because it was always Andy, and then I suppose I was just disinclined. It felt good being straight after a while. Part of the attraction of meth is that no matter how fucked up it makes you, it always gives you something to look forward to, and what you look forward to is that feeling it gives you that there's something going on, something meaningful and exciting, even if you're just sitting in a room with other fucked up people thinking the same thing you are while everything goes downhill. But after I got released there was always something going on too, that took the place of the meth high, which was the fact that I was involved in a murder trial. And I can't pretend I was aware of it at the time, but I did feel even during the middle of my testimony that kind of deflation that comes when a high gets near the end. What would I be doing tomorrow? And then I also didn't care what I told people because I didn't really have any family and my friends were either dead or in jail. Who gave a shit?
Well, we were high, but that was kind of usual.
We were usually high?
Sure. Back then.
Would I say that I was able to think clearly, make rational decisions?
It seemed that way at the time. I couldn't really be sure.
But I felt at the time that I was in control of my actions?
This was an important point for her, one we'd gone over fairly extensively, and I'd given her the answer she wanted with a minimum of fuss, and I could almost see her smiling at me, sort of caressing me with her eyes and patting me on the head. But I was only saying it because it happened to be the truth. I did feel like I was in control of my actions. All four of us acted like we were in control of our actions all the time. It was only the results that called the feeling into question.
Even after I smoked marijuana?
And only me and Nolan smoked marijuana that day?
Andrew Munson hadn't smoked marijuana?
No. Not that I knew of.
So, in my opinion, it would be safe to say then that Andrew Munson was in control of his actions?
Objection. Sustained. Witness will refrain from answering the question. Would the prosecution please restrict its line of questioning to blah blah blah. It didn't matter. She'd scored her point anyway. Apologies, your honor, etc.
What happened when we were outside that caused us to go back in?
We heard the gun go off.
And when we went back inside, what did we find?
Andy was sitting in a chair and Jeremy was sitting on the couch, same as how we'd left them.
How would I describe Jeremy at that point?
He looked like he was hurt. I thought maybe he'd got shot.
I thought Andrew Munson shot him?
Why would I think that?
Because there was a gunshot.
And did anyone say anything?
I asked Jeremy what happened.
And what did Jeremy say?
Nothing. Andy said Jeremy hit his head.
She pointed her finger at me for a second and her mouth hung open. Then before I could even figure out what she was up to she'd gone back to her table and pulled out some papers.
Andrew Munson said that Jeremy hit his head?
Yes. I thought so.
She held up a paper.
In a statement given to police on the morning of August 9, I reported that Andrew Munson said, "He got busted upside the head."
I didn't know what to say. She looked angry. I just sat there.
Did I deny making that statement?
I couldn't remember the statement and I couldn't remember anyone ever asking me about it. I was in the room that day and then Jeremy was dead and then we'd had the police and the EMTs and everybody and then I had to answer a lot of questions and then they'd told me I was free to go for now but I didn't have anywhere to go to, because I sure as hell wasn't going to go to my room at Jeremy's house, and so I slept in the grass down by the lake and the next morning the cops picked me up while I was walking downtown and arrested me and took me in for questioning. I couldn't remember what I'd said then and I couldn't remember exactly what Andy said, either, but right then, sitting on the witness stand, what I thought I heard him saying was, "He hit his head."
No. But that's not how I remember it now.
Approach the bench, etc. The judge sent the jury to the jury room. There was a discussion about, as near as I could tell, introducing my statement to the police as evidence. The defense won the argument, whatever it was, and the judge called the jury back in. The prosecutor got back to work, looking a little pissed.
Andrew Munson said that Jeremy hit his head.
She kind of stood there and frowned and tapped her foot on the floor, to show the jury she didn't believe my statement for one second, but unfortunately there was nothing she could do about it. She was very resourceful when it came to that sort of thing.
What was Jeremy doing?
He was just sitting on the couch kind of cradling his head.
What about the gunshot?
Andy said he and Jeremy were goofing around wrestling with the gun and it went off.
Where was the gun?
It was lying on the floor.
Had anyone touched the gun before the police arrived?
No. Not that I saw.
It was still there on the floor in the same position when the police arrived?
She went over to her table and picked up the gun from a big box underneath and brought it over to show me. She'd shown it to me before. It had a little numbered tag on it.
Did I recognize this gun as that same 20-gauge shotgun belonging to Andrew Munson, the one that was lying on the floor?
How was I sure it was the same gun?
It had the same gouges and scuff marks on the stock I'd seen before.
Where did Andrew Munson keep the gun?
On a gun rack on the wall in his bedroom.
Had I ever seen him take the gun down off the rack before?
He used to do it all the time as a joke.
Do what as a joke?
Take it off the rack and bring it out and threaten people. It was kind of a running joke.
It didn't sound very funny.
I guessed you had to be there.
What kind of things would he threaten people for?
Disagreeing with him. Not listening when he was talking. Disrespecting his property. It was always just a joke. We laughed at him and gave him shit, I meant gave him a hard time.
Had the gun ever gone off before?
Could we see that day where the gun had discharged?
Yes. It went into the ceiling. Andy was looking at it and complaining he'd have to get new ceiling tiles.
Andrew Munson was concerned about his ceiling tiles.
She stopped for a second to let that one sink in.
And where did Andrew Munson say that Jeremy Schiff hit his head?
Well, not at first.
When had Andrew Munson mentioned how Jeremy Schiff hit his head?
After Jeremy was dead.
And he said Jeremy hit his head where, then, when he finally got around to mentioning it?
Objection. Prejudicial something something. Overruled.
On the coffee table.
How did he say that it happened?
They were wrestling with the gun, just goofing around, and Jeremy accidentally pulled the trigger and the gun went off and it scared Jeremy and he fell over backward and hit his head.
Jeremy accidentally pulled the trigger?
Andrew Munson said that Jeremy accidentally pulled the trigger?
Yes. That's what he said.
And how would I explain the fact that when the gun was recovered the safety was still on?
Objection! Witness had not been submitted to the court as an expert on firearms.
I was surprised that she'd never brought this up to me before, but I wasn't surprised by what she was telling me. I knew Andy had killed Jeremy. I knew it. I knew it as a kind of fact that settled in over the course of time, but had been there from the very start. And the information she'd just given me helped to explain how it happened. If the shotgun went off when the safety was on, it wasn't because Jeremy pulled the trigger. It was because the gun struck against something, and hard.
Nolan and I had gone outside. Jeremy had probably started to complain--why didn't Andy make us come back in the house, what about the neighbors? And Andy went and grabbed the shotgun and came back out with it and told Jeremy to shut the fuck up. But it wasn't funny because Nolan and I weren't there. And so Andy started to get seriously pissed and told Jeremy he was like an eight-year-old girl or whatever. You know what the fuck your problem is, Jeremy? Your problem is you ________. Fill in the blank. And Jeremy said the same thing he always said when Andy pissed him off enough to make him stand up for himself, even if he knew it meant he'd get his arm twisted behind his back or his face rubbed into the carpet, or he'd get punched hard in the chest. Fuck off. And since Nolan and I weren't there to tell them to cool it, Andy took it to the next level, and he pointed the gun at Jeremy and said What the fuck did you just say to me, asshole? And Jeremy said, not looking up at Andy from where he sat on the couch, Fuck off. And so Andy walked around the coffee table to Jeremy and pointed the gun in his face. What did you say, asshole? Fuck off. And Jeremy shoved the gun barrel away. And Andy put it back again. And Jeremy stood up and grabbed the gun and tried to take it from Andy and they fought over it for a few seconds before Andy pulled it away, because he was bigger and stronger, and then, because Andy was angry and because Andy didn't think much about the things he did or why he did them, he raised the shotgun and used the butt to hit Jeremy hard on the side of the head, and the gun discharged due to the impact and blew a hole in Andy's ceiling, and Jeremy suffered an epidural hematoma that led him to sit there on the couch for a while holding his head and then go into the bedroom to lie down, because he said he wasn't feeling so hot, and slowly bleed to death. I knew it like I knew my name.
Tell the court what happened after that.
Things pretty much went back to normal.
Things went back to normal?
Pretty much. Jeremy sat there on the couch holding his head and the rest of us talked and watched the tennis match.
We talked and watched the tennis match? What had we talked about?
Maria Sharapova. How Andy and Jeremy had blown a hole in the ceiling. About whether we should hide the drugs because some neighbor might have called the cops.
We didn't talk about Jeremy's injury?
No? When had the subject finally come up?
After he was dead, I guessed.
She was standing there with her arms crossed and she hung her head and looked at the floor and stayed quiet for a few seconds. I looked at the deputy prosecutor. She was looking down at some notes. I glanced over at the jury and they were all looking at me, a woman in a dark blue dress, an old man with glasses, a younger guy wearing a collared shirt.
Tell the court about Jeremy's death.
I shifted in the chair. It was kind of an abrupt question, and for a second I actually drew a blank, couldn't quite remember it. It was a strange feeling, because it was something I thought about all the time.
He said he wanted to lie down for a while because he wasn't feeling good. He sounded kind of tired and groggy. He went in and lay down on Andy's bed. Me and Nolan and Andy just sat there talking. Then Andy went to the bedroom to put the drugs away, but he didn't come back for a minute. Then he came out and said Jeremy was dead.
How would I describe Andrew Munson's reaction at that point?
Objection, blah blah. Overruled.
I didn't know. He wasn't, like, panicked or anything. Sad, I guessed I'd say, right at first. He looked sad.
It was so hard to say with Andy. You just couldn't tell anything by looking at his face, looking in his eyes, never. The book was closed when it came to Andy. But I was drawn to look at him right then, right at that point in my testimony, and what I saw, I think, scared me more than anything else that had happened, scared me more than Jeremy dying even, more than getting arrested, more than going to jail. Andy was leaned forward in his seat, rocking a little back and forth, and he was sobbing. You could hear him. I didn't know how I hadn't heard him before. It was the loudest thing in the courtroom. And it was like, for me, everything had broken open, the world had come unglued. If Andrew Munson could sit there crying that way then everything I'd ever known was wrong, a form of imposture, and we were all, all of us there in that courtroom, hanging on by a thin, thin thread. We didn't even know the kind of danger we were in.
And what happened when Andrew Munson told us Jeremy was dead?
We called the police.
No, I guessed not, not right away.
What had we done first?
Andy told us about Jeremy hitting his head on the coffee table. We hid the drugs in the basement.
We hadn't gone in to look at the body?
We had gone in to look at the body. We had gone in to look at Jeremy. It was the first thing we'd done, actually. I had been hoping she would forget to mention it. Andy and Nolan stood at the foot of the bed, and I stood at the side, next to Jeremy. You couldn't see anything wrong with him except a little blood coming from his nose. I reached down and put my hand over his heart and I didn't feel anything. It was odd. You don't realize how used you are to feeling a heartbeat there until you don't feel one. I shook Jeremy's shoulder and said his name a couple of times. I thought he would lurch awake like he always did. His eyes stayed shut. He didn't move. There was something fucked up and strange going on, and I thought it had to do with the drugs. If I could just get my brain clear of the drugs, something different would be happening. Several months before that I had started snorting meth every day and when I was snorting meth I had come to feel that I wasn't doing any drugs at all and when I wasn't doing drugs I felt like I was on them, but not in a good way. Things had gotten twisted around somehow, what was real wasn't real and vice versa, and if I could clear my brain I wouldn't be standing there next to Jeremy Schiff's dead body. I would be doing something else, which would be the real thing. I would be doing what I was doing a couple of hours before, which was playing Pac-Man with Jeremy at the arcade. Jeremy and I liked the retro games. You didn't have to wait to get on the machines because nobody else played them, and there was something about the flatness of them, their innocence, the way they didn't try to thrust you in the middle of some scene of blood and gore. They made us feel like kids again. We would laugh the way we did in junior high and not care about anything. We didn't have to pay any attention to Andy and Nolan. I was the king of Pac-Man, and I was teaching Jeremy. I knew the patterns all the way up to the thirteenth key, but Jeremy could never make it to the keys, he always got stuck on the dragons. That day he had finally made it past the dragons but he had been so excited that he lost his last Pac-Man almost immediately when he got to the first key. I was proud of him, though. Not many people ever make it to the keys, and he would do even better next time. But he was still lying on the bed and not moving. The thing was to get him up off the bed and back down to the arcade. I pumped my hands against his chest a couple of times. I closed his nostrils and pulled down his chin and tried to blow air into his lungs. The same thing kept happening. He kept lying there.
After a minute I noticed that Andy and Nolan were gone. I could hear them out in the other room. I kept looking at Jeremy. He looked peaceful. Usually Jeremy looked agitated, his face tight and his eyes nervous, always moving his hands. He was quieter than I had ever seen him, quieter even than when he was asleep, when he used to toss and turn and sometimes grind his teeth. He looked like he was sleeping soundly for the first time in his life. I left him there that way.
Yes, we'd looked at the body.
All three of us together?
Had Andrew Munson said anything then?
No. He just stood there.
When had he said how Jeremy hit his head?
When I got back out in the living room with him and Nolan.
I was in the bedroom alone for some time?
For how long?
Just a minute.
And what was I doing?
Just standing there. Then I tried to give him CPR. Then I tried mouth-to-mouth.
Did I have any training in either of those procedures?
She paced back and forth for a few seconds.
Who decided to call 911?
How long had it taken him to decide?
A few minutes.
He had taken a few minutes to tell us how it happened first?
How Jeremy hit his head on the coffee table?
Had I heard the forensic pathologist's testimony that morning?
Had I heard his testimony regarding depressed skull fractures of the type Jeremy suffered?
Had I heard him say that a fracture of that sort was the result of significant force?
Did I know what Andrew Munson's coffee table was constructed of?
I thought it was some kind of cheap composite.
And did it have sharp corners?
I couldn't remember.
She walked off for a second and I looked at Andy. He was still crying, but quieter now. I was glad he'd quieted down some. He didn't seem to want to look at me or anyone. I felt bad for him to have to be in front of all those people like that. It was like he'd been gutted and turned inside out, and it made me uncomfortable and scared.
Was this Andrew Munson's living room?
She was showing me a photograph. I remembered it from witness preparation now.
His coffee table?
How would I describe the corners and edges?
Blunt. Kind of rounded.
She went and put the picture back.
Who told the police about the gun?
And had he told them the same thing he told me and Nolan? That Jeremy had fired the gun accidentally?
When had he told the police?
As soon as they got there.
As soon as they got there? Would I say that Andrew Munson was in a bigger hurry to tell his story to the police than he was to call 911 in the first place?
Objection! Prosecution continues to something something, your honor. Sustained.
She crossed her arms and held one hand to her chin and closed her eyes like she was thinking really hard.
Had I heard the forensic pathologist say that only roughly twenty percent of epidural hematomas resulted in fatalities?
And had I heard him say what the single most important factor in the treatment of epidural hematomas was?
And what was that factor?
Prompt medical attention.
She nodded her head up and down to the jury and said the words over again--prompt medical attention--nodding her head up and down with each word.
During the time between when Nolan and I heard the gun go off and the time that Andrew Munson told us Jeremy Schiff was dead, had any of us suggested that we take Jeremy to the hospital?
Had Andrew Munson suggested it?
Had I suggested it?
Had it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to take Jeremy Schiff to the hospital?
No, I guessed it hadn't.
Not when Andrew Munson said that Jeremy had hit his head, not when Jeremy said that his head hurt, not when he said he needed to go lie down because he didn't feel so hot?
She was through being nice to me, the prosecutor, that much was obvious, and she was asking me questions she hadn't asked me before, and we were getting close to the area I didn't want to get close to, and I didn't know how to explain my reaction that day. The only thing that occurred to me at the time, really, was that we shouldn't have gone over to Andy's. I can remember thinking that much. I knew Jeremy wasn't happy with me for bringing him there.
About a week before, the two of us had borrowed Jeremy's uncle's boat to go water skiing. It was something we used to do in high school, and Jeremy wanted to go out one day because he said we needed exercise and fresh air. We drove the boat out of the lake and up into the river, where the water was smooth like glass. But when we got all the way there we realized we'd left the ski in Jeremy's uncle's garage.
The sun was out really bright, tossing yellow shafts on the water that burst up into my eyes and gave me a headache. We didn't have any drugs or alcohol. Jeremy cut the motor and we floated near an inlet where there were a lot of cattails and a turtle on a log and an osprey nest on the top of an old piling. I started thinking about how soon I could suggest we take the boat back in, and then once we were hitched up and back to town how soon we could go over to Andy's. I was thinking about how I could talk Andy into letting us smoke some. I knew he was smoking it when we weren't there, but he always pretended not, kept saying that we shouldn't smoke it because it was smoking it that made you addicted. I was already addicted anyway so the logic didn't hold for me. It was just another way for Andy to be the boss.
Jeremy was determined to get some exercise, so he stripped off his T-shirt and dove in for a swim. I watched him paddle around in the clear water and fiddled with a life jacket, adjusting the straps for no reason, just something to do. Pretty soon Jeremy swam over to the boat and held onto the ladder. "We going over to Andy's again today?" he asked.
"Sure," I said. "Why not?"
He laid his palm flat on the water and spread his fingers out and moved his arm in little waves, feeling the surface. "I could think of reasons," he said.
"Such as he's an asshole. Such as why do we hang around with him anyway. Such as what exactly do we think we're accomplishing."
"Do we need to accomplish anything?" I said. "I didn't know we needed to accomplish anything today."
He started slapping the water with his palm, tiny slaps that made a kind of plinking sound, the only thing you could hear out there other than the cars humming down the highway on the other side of the river. "We need to accomplish something sometime, don't we?" he said. "Shit, you're the only one out of the four of us that even has a fucking job."
"Andy's got money. He's buying."
"Yeah," he said, and he lowered his mouth into the water and came up spitting water between his teeth. "Big fucking deal."
"You're still just pissed at him for yesterday," I said.
The day before we'd been at Andy's sitting around the kitchen table. Jeremy had a beer and it was kind of behind his elbow on the table. Andy told him he was going to knock the bottle off the table with his elbow. Jeremy told him no, he wasn't, and he didn't. He kept putting the bottle in the same place whenever he drank from it and Andy kept watching him do it. When the beer was about half gone, Andy reached across real quick and shoved Jeremy's arm and Jeremy's elbow went back and knocked the beer off. The bottle didn't break but the beer went all over the floor. "Told you so," Andy said, and he made Jeremy clean it up.
Jeremy climbed up the ladder and got in the boat. He looked skinnier than shit. I looked skinny too, I knew. I didn't like to look at myself, which might have been why I didn't take my shirt off and go in swimming. I worried about that quite a bit, the not eating and not sleeping, and I used to check my teeth in the mirror to see if they were going bad, but they weren't, not yet.
"It's just why do I have to put up with that shit?" Jeremy said.
"You don't have to," I said. "Kick his ass." Which was a way of teasing him, really. Jeremy couldn't kick Andy's ass.
He put his hand on his chest for a second, to test out his heartbeat after he'd gone swimming. He always thought he had cardiac arrhythmia. For a while after he died I even thought maybe he was right, that that had been the reason. But then they got the coroner's report.
"How fucking old is Andy?" Jeremy said. "I mean, is he fucking twelve?"
Andy did act like he was about twelve sometimes. People tended to find it appealing, but I could see how it would start to wear off before too long. He didn't have too many years left of acting that way before he would just start to seem like an idiot.
"You know what, Mike? I feel like I've outgrown all this shit." He was shivering, using his T-shirt to dry himself off, because we'd forgotten to bring towels, too. He tossed the T-shirt on the seat opposite him and kept shivering. "Enough's fucking enough. Maybe you and I should move to Spokane. We could find an apartment and get jobs and save up money for community college."
"Yeah, we could do that," I said. "That sounds like a plan." He looked up at me with a sort of hopeful expression. It wasn't a bad idea, I knew. We could both have used a change. But I wasn't ready to change just then, and if I wasn't ready to change then Jeremy wasn't going to change, even though I never really understood why that was.
"You know, you're like an older brother to me, Mike," he said, as if he was answering the question I had in my mind. That was when he said it, right then, what I told the prosecutors about later on. "We need to get each other out of this," he said.
I nodded, pulling the strap on the life jacket. It was yellow and black, and the foam rubber felt warm in my hands. "You're right," I said. "And we'll do that."
He was still looking at me with that hopeful expression, and I don't know what I looked like or what he saw in my face, but pretty soon he frowned and rolled his eyes and looked over where the cattails were, where the turtle was still just sitting there in the sun, never moving an inch. "Right," he said. "But today we're going to Andy's." Then he didn't say anything else and he went up front and hit the ignition switch and I went and sat across from him and we took the boat back to town and went over to Andy's house. And we kept going over there till the day Jeremy died.
Hadn't there been any indication that Jeremy Schiff was seriously injured?
I didn't think so. I wasn't sure. He seemed all right.
He seemed all right to me?
Sort of. I meant, I guessed.
Hadn't I said that he seemed hurt? Hadn't I said that he was cradling his head? Hadn't I said that he seemed "tired and groggy"?
Was that the way he normally acted after using methamphetamine?
Did he normally want to go lie down because he wasn't feeling well?
In my judgment, didn't that seem like sufficient cause for alarm?
No. I meant, I guessed not. I meant, I wasn't alarmed at the time.
How had we responded when Jeremy Schiff said he wasn't feeling well and he needed to go lie down?
I looked at Andy. He had stopped crying for a minute but he was breathing very hard, like he couldn't get air in, like someone had punched him. He was looking at me, though, and I tried one more time to see if I could get his eyes to tell me something about him, but the only thing I thought I could see in them was that he was very tired, and that he wanted everything to be over with. He even looked maybe like he was feeling the way I'd felt at first, that he just wanted someone to get at the truth of the whole thing, so that everybody could let it rest, let Jeremy rest. He didn't look like he was afraid of what I was about to say. But I was afraid of what I was about to say. I could feel everyone looking at me. I felt like I was being chased, like I needed to escape into a corner somewhere. If I could get into a corner somehow, some place where no one could reach me, I could tell the truth. I had intended to lie, but now I knew I wouldn't. Everything seemed to be calling for the truth. It wasn't just everyone's eyes, it wasn't even just Andy's eyes, it was like even the air in the courtroom was calling for the truth, like the picture I had in my head of Jeremy was calling for the truth, like the truth was something inevitable. I just had to get in that hidden corner to say it. So I closed my eyes, and it worked. I was there.
My eyes were closed and it was quiet. Then I heard Andy start to cry again. I kept my eyes closed. The prosecutor's voice came from the air around my head.
What on earth had there been to laugh at?
My eyes were closed and I was remembering and talking at the same time and I couldn't tell which was which.
Jeremy said he wasn't feeling well and he wanted to go lie down. He asked Andy if he could lie down on his bed. His voice was kind of slurred like a drunk's. Andy said sure, which surprised me. He said it in a soft voice, even. He didn't give Jeremy any shit. Jeremy stood up from the couch with his hand held to the side of his head and he took a step and he bumped into the table and then he kind of staggered to the bedroom. It was like the ground was shifting on him, he kept lurching to the side at each step as if he were trying to go around something, like he was a kid who'd just gotten off a spinning carnival ride. It looked funny. We laughed, all three of us, although I remembered now that Andy hadn't laughed like me and Nolan. His was more half-hearted, like he was just laughing because me and Nolan were. And maybe Nolan wasn't really laughing all that much, either. Maybe I was the only one who was really laughing. Maybe I was the only one who really thought it was funny. I don't know why. It was like the time with the car, it just looked funny. The sun was coming through the curtains and crossing the floor and the gun was lying there and I was laughing at Jeremy while the blood pooled under his crushed skull and put pressure on his brain, disturbing his equilibrium so that he couldn't walk straight.
I opened my eyes. I couldn't tell the difference between what I'd been saying and what I'd been remembering. I looked to see the look in the eyes of the eyes that were looking at me, and they were all the same, the jury, the prosecutor, the deputy prosecutor, Andy's parents, Jeremy's parents, Andy's even. All the eyes in the place were the same--flat, stony, dead, even the ones that had tears flowing from them like Andy's. All the eyes said it was over, done, the book had been closed on something. The eyes were through with me.
No more questions, your honor.
Would the defense like to cross-examine?
The defense lawyers lowered their heads and whispered and Andy sat there with tears coming from his eyes not looking at me anymore and no one was looking at me anymore and the defense attorney stood.
No, your honor.
Witness may step down.
They'd gotten what they wanted from me, and I suppose I'd gotten what I wanted from them. But I didn't want to step down yet. I didn't feel like I was finished. But they didn't give me a choice.
I walked out of the courtroom and down the hallway and out of the courthouse. It was dusk, and it was snowing still. I made my way to my car and cleaned off my windshield and my windows and got inside, but when I turned the key the engine wouldn't start. There was no one in the parking lot to give me a jump, and I didn't feel like waiting. I walked up the street to a bar and ordered a beer and gave the bartender some money and looked in my wallet to see how much was left. It was a dark, dingy bar and no one was there but a few serious drinkers who sat at the bar and didn't talk much and kept their eyes on the tv. But there was a fireplace with a slow burning fire, and there was a small table close to it where I could sit and get warm. I sat there and looked out the window until my beer was gone and then I ordered another one and then another after that, and then my money was gone. I sat with my last beer and watched it get dark outside the window, watched the snow float down. The door opened, and the deputy prosecutor walked in. She was all by herself, and the sight of her set a spark off inside me, but the spark felt old, and I didn't try to smile, just lifted my hand in a wave. She waved back at me with one finger, the expression on her face not changing, still full of the cold outside. I watched her sit at the bar and lay down her purse and order a drink, her back turned toward me. She would never speak to me again, I knew, and I felt like I was off in a little corner of my mind somewhere, trapped in some small space and hidden even from the rest of myself, locked away so that I would never have to fall apart like Andy had, crying for what I had lost. And I knew that for the rest of my life I would always feel the same, always be in that same place. But as I watched her there, sitting on the barstool with her legs crossed, sipping her drink, empty seats to either side of her, I knew the testimony that I had wanted to finish, that I would not go sit next to her and tell.
It was a story about how Jeremy and me would sometimes lie awake in the dark and he would tell me about the one thing he really wanted, which was to become a pilot. He started telling me the story in the dark when we were thirteen years old, and he never really finished it, it went on for years and years. When we were thirteen the story was always about what it would feel like to fly the planes, and I could feel it too, lying there across the room from Jeremy, the way he described it, floating through the clouds. Then when we were older the story was about the steps one had to take to prepare, about how to get a license, how to get into commercial flight school, and how Jeremy intended to do these things, and I would get sleepy listening to this story because I'd heard it too many times and no longer had any encouragement to offer, and because Jeremy would have been an awful pilot, always worried and nervous and scared. And so I would stay quiet and wait for him to be quiet and soon he would, and once he was quiet I knew in his mind he was flying the planes the way he imagined himself, steady and sure at the controls thousands of feet above the ground, and then, while I fell toward sleep, I could be glad for Jeremy that he wanted to be a pilot, because I had never really wanted to be anything. And then I would hear Jeremy move in the dark, and I would know what he was doing, even long after I quit bothering to look--he was lying in the moonlight, placing his hand over his heart, making sure it was still beating there.
To read the rest of “Testimony”, buy Issue 3 or start a subscription today.
Read more in Issue 3
|Fiction||Testimony by Keith Lee Morris|
|IYSSSS||Gene Smith's Sink by Sam Stephenson|
|Fiction||The Month Girls by Martha Cooley|
|Poetry||The Last DJ Spinoza by Eugene Ostashevsky|
|Fiction||Quiet Men by Leslie Jamison|
|Focus||Battlegrounds Real and Fictional by Daniel Alarcón|
|Focus||To Burn the City by Julio Durán|
|Focus||The Complicity of Silence by Santiago Roncagliolo|
|IYSSSS||Everything Is Illuminated : My Love Affair with CSI by Delia Falconer|