He was not lying.
They all sat there staring at him, staring at a man who sat on his hands yet kept his tongue unbitten. He had to keep the hands contained for fear of slapping their faces. He wasn't a violent man, no, but to be accused over and over of the same thing was trying his patience. His tongue wagged again and again. It bore no fiction. It falsified nothing, yet they did not believe.
“I did not kill him,” he would say.
In came the accusations. The proof. The photos of a corpse he did not remember. The bloody trousers he swore he'd never worn. It was all quite gruesome, truth be told. Whoever had killed the fucker sure was a violent man, that was certain. Smashed the other guy's head against a wall until it split. From the picture, it looked like he kept smashing long after the legs stopped that odd, sporadic, dying-insect twitch. After the eyes had come out of the sockets with odd, wet pops, like shapes out of one of those sorting cubes that children loved to poke around with, looking for the right hole. The eyes wouldn't fit again, though. The holes were too contorted because of the damage done to the skull.
They stared at him. Their hands pawed the photos closer, thrusting them across the table and tapping with bony fingertips. Look, they'd say. We know you did it. We have the proof. We have witnesses. We have. We have. We have.
“I know what I did!”
He'd shouted it. They leaned back in their chairs, eyes widened or narrowed. They waited, expectant.
“And I didn't do that.”
Quieter that time. They scrutinized him, bore down on him with looks of disgust and then tore in again.
A man in the corner scribbled furiously at his notepad. He'd glance up on occasion, perusing the lot with a quizzical brow, and go right back to his frenzied writing. At first he imagined smoke drifting up from his pen, just to be funny – but now he was certain it was actually real.
My word. He'd burn the whole place down, at this rate.
It went on. The accusing, the questioning, the heated responses. Always no, forever no, because he would not admit to something he did not do.
It was clear in his mind's eye. Perfectly so. Rounding the corner at the bar to pick up his fiance. Seeing the victim kissing her, leaning her against the wall. Her kissing him back, pulling him closer when she should have been shoving him away. Screaming for help. He'd run in to save her, beat the man to death, batter his face against the concrete until it was unrecognizable. No one would want him then. No one would want him after -
“I walked on by. I left them there. I showed up at the courthouse to file for a divorce.”
“And do you know why the police were called on you?”
Blank stares around the table. Silence, save for the persistent scribbling of the pen. He was convinced that sound was eternal. That it would go on until the world stopped spinning and God came down to smite everyone who ate bacon and wore dresses made of various fabrics.
“He's not lying.”
Heads whipped towards the notepad man. Their expressions were incredulous, the lot of them, their mouths dropping open.
Finally. Someone gets it.
“He thinks he's telling the truth because that's the way he remembers it. You could shove the corpse in his face and he still wouldn't own up. You could drag his hysterical fiance in here and even she wouldn't be able to convince you. He's telling you what he believes happened, and nothing is going to convince him otherwise. Nothing you could say, anyway.”
“You're willing to testify to that in court, doctor?”
The man snorted. He stood up, screeched the chair over the floor and to the table, reclaiming it with a dull thump.
“After a bit more study of the subject, maybe. Alone.”
A brief, murmured meeting ensued. Glances were cast his way, and still he sat on his hands. Still he sat, though now the tongue was bitten. To be called insane on top of everything else? It was absurd. Insulting.
It was so good he was not a violent man.
The rest of them filed out, a long procession of haughty looks and pointed glares. The door shut behind them with a definitive click. The psychologist took up a place directly across from him, made a bridge of his fingers, and asked:
“Now. One more time. What happened when you found Jessica cheating on you?”
Later, he would swear that the fellow had fallen out of his chair. That he'd gotten that pen stuck straight through his throat because of it, isn't that the damnedest thing? What a way to go, honestly. What a stroke of rotten luck. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
And he didn't know what to make of that security footage, but it certainly wasn't of him.
He was not lying.