the school murder case (part ten)

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The next question came from a girl with dark hair and glasses, and she seemed rather shy and apologetic. I had the impression that she would have been just as happy if she had been skipped over.

"I have a question," she said. "It's really from my mother, when she heard you were going to be here." She hesitated.

"First off," my employer said in her friendliest voice, "what is your name?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am. I'm Amy, Amy Brewster."

Jan leaned forward and said conspiratorially, "Well, Amy, you don't have to ask your mother's question, if you'd rather ask one of your own. We won't tell. Or, if you want, you can ask me two questions, hers and one of your own."

"No, that's okay," she said very seriously. "It's about... There's this woman. She lives across the street from us, and my mother says that she's crazy and she's killed hundreds of people. My mother wants to know why you don't arrest her and put her away."

Jan nodded slowly. "I could say that that's not my job, but that would be an evasion." She smiled. "And I don't want to teach you to evade the difficult questions.

"The woman you're talking about is starling, of course. She is a murderer, many times over, but she has not murdered anybody here, at least not anybody who was not threatening her or someone she cared about.

"So, should we prosecute her for crimes committed elsewhere? Would the United States prosecute anybody for a crime committed here? We know they wouldn't.

"Many people come here to live in some way they couldn't live anywhere else." She smiled. "There's probably never been a country in human history where so many people are living under new names, names they weren't born with. A lot of that is just in fun, but perhaps she's come here to reinvent herself in a more important way. If so, we should give her that chance."

"My dad says she should be put down," Willy said. "Like a mad dog."

Jan shook her head. "I disagree with that, since she is neither of those things." Her mouth twitched for a second as she suppressed a smile. I knew she'd thought for a moment about Pete and starling, and their roommate, Daphne, who was a dog (although apparently not mad).

"In any case," she continued, "I don't think that's the solution. Does she deserve death, for what she's done? Perhaps. Many who live deserve death. Do her victims, or at least some of them, deserve life? Probably, but we can't give it to them, no matter how much we might think they got a raw deal. So, if you can't restore life to the dead, don't be too eager to deal out death in judgment to the living."

Amy asked, "Is that from the Bible?"

Jan smiled. "I'm an atheist, so no, it's not."

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About Anthony Lee Collins

I write.
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