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HG: The Narrow Path, Chapter Twenty-Four - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
HG: The Narrow Path, Chapter Twenty-Four
Katniss's trial begins, in the odd situation of not really having a functional government to run it.

Chapter Twenty-Four
There is not much for either side to do in establishing the facts of the case. Katniss shot Alma Coin on live television, during mandatory viewing. There is no one in Panem who doesn't know that.

"This actually works to our advantage," Plutarch says the night before testimony begins. We are meeting in the production booth -- just Plutarch, me, Aurelius, Ruth, and Peeta. "There's nothing for the prosecution to prove. Their case is open and shut."

"How in the world is that helpful?" Ruth asks.

"Because it will be over almost before anyone notices," Plutarch says. "Then we present an extremely thorough defense. My goal here isn't just to legally exonerate her, but to rehabilitate her public reputation, so that she doesn't end up in a de facto prison because she doesn't dare go out."

"Delly Cartwright will be able to help with that," I say, ignoring a raised partial eyebrow from Peeta. "I sent her back to Thirteen to gather information on Coin's plans, and she came back this morning. She says she has materials, and she's over at Gale's. Paylor sent a deputy to preserve the chain of evidence -- "

"I don't think we should play it that way," Plutarch says. He nods at the screen, where Katniss is singing a song about a teapot, and doing a little dance. "If she were in any condition to testify, maybe. It would be powerful. But right now, we have a better chance if we portray her as a poor, crazy girl who was pushed too far."

"Which is not entirely inaccurate," Aurelius says.

"But you'll let people go off not knowing about Coin?" Ruth shakes her head. "No. I want everyone to know."

"They will," Plutarch says. "But instead of trying to use it to explain that Katniss was justified in doing what she did, we'll use it to show what pushed her over the edge."

"She was justified," Peeta says. "That woman -- "

"Is dead." Plutarch looks around. "It's all well and good for us to agree here that, had Katniss not killed her, we would be in a great deal of trouble. We all know perfectly well that she never would have been charged or stood trial for her crimes, and that there was no alternative short of Katniss's. That is, however, speculative, as it isn't what happened. In fact, I think Katniss sacrificed her good name and her sanity to save all of us. But she is on trial for taking the law into her own hands. Arguing that it's all right to do so is a terrible start to a new government. It's a question of narrative, Peeta. Argue with me. Go ahead."

Peeta clamps his jaw shut and sits down hard, looking away.

"Good," Plutarch says. "Now, tomorrow is going to be our worst day. The prosecution will play that tape. They'll point out that Katniss obviously made a conscious decision. Paylor has taken execution off the table, but they will certainly argue for a lifetime imprisonment. They'll accuse her of being bloodthirsty and vengeful. They may even argue that she wanted the presidency for herself -- "

"That's nuts!" I say.

"Yes. And that's why I almost hope they'll go there. It would be easy to refute. But the point is, you will be hearing very bad things sad about her. You will sit still. Dignified. No one will stand up and scream. No one will make threats. And I am talking directly to you on that, Haymitch. No threats about slitting anyone's throat or bashing anyone's skull. It won't help, and it'll only get you arrested, too. And with good reason. Ruth, cry if you like -- it will play well -- but no outbursts. When the news comes, whatever Delly has discovered, you will act like you knew it all along, and just be stoic. Peeta, you will be on camera, and Katniss's life depends on what Panem is about to see. So be smart. And make sure Haymitch doesn't have his knife when he gets to the courthouse."

Ruth and Peeta and I leave together, and go to a large house in the foothills. I don't know who it belonged to before, but whoever it is has not come to claim it, and the Hawthorne family has taken up residence, along with Beetee. Coin gave it to Gale as a spoil of war before he started questioning her, and let him keep it when he started behaving again. He might have given it up as part of his atonement, but it's big, well-equipped, and set up with all the amenities for the wheelchair Beetee still uses most of the time. He will most likely be transferred over to District Two after the trial -- they'd have elected him as their representative if he was a citizen, and Paylor wants him to go and be her local liaison -- but for now, this place remains convenient.

When we ring the bell on the green door, I hear a high, girlish shriek, and a moment later, Posy throws the door open, chased by Johanna. Johanna picks her up and swings her aside. "I've got you, you little beast," she says. "Now go upstairs to bed like your mother told you." She gives her a gentle push, then turns to us. "Meeting over?"

"Yeah," I say. "Are Delly and Dalton here?"

"We're all upstairs in Gale's study," she says. "There's a lot to go through."

We take the stairs to a room on the second floor. It's a luxurious place, with a wide window that looks out over the city, toward the lake. There's a collection of fine old sculptures, a fireplace, and an elevator that opens directly into the room for Beetee.

At present, it is strewn with papers, and several people are already at work. A deputy from Paylor's office is observing everything to make sure no one tampers, but I can't see how anyone would have time to tamper when there's this much to get through. Aside from the large crate Delly and Dalton brought from Thirteen, Paylor issued a warrant for anything Coin did here in the Capitol.

Hazelle is scanning through the contents of a folder. Gale is working with a handheld device, trying to get through encryptions. Beetee and Dalton are working on something together. I notice that Dalton's arm is in a sling. Unexpectedly, Greasy Sae from the Hob is there as well, with her little dreamy-faced granddaughter, unpacking the crate. Delly stands up when we come in. She has a black eye.

"What happened?" I ask her.

"A little trouble getting out with this stuff," she says. "Even when President Paylor ordered a warrant for it, they didn't want to give it up."

"Are we going to be at war with Thirteen now?" Ruth asks.

"No," Delly says. "There are just some diehards in Coin's upper command structure that are still there. Most people are just confused. And a lot of them aren't exactly crying over Coin. They're getting a council together to choose a new leader. They're going to call the new one a mayor, like any of the other districts."

Peeta hugs her and sits down on an overstuffed footstool. "How did you get out?"

Dalton laughs. "Luckily, Sae here is pretty handy in a fight. A couple of Coin's goons had grabbed Delly and me, and she came out of nowhere with large, heavy objects."

"I didn't make a place in the Hob for a decade without knowing how to defend my space," she says, and squints at something in her hand. "Unfortunately, I never did learn reading very well. I'm at a loss with this." She goes to Ruth. "Awful sorry about Primrose, Mrs. Everdeen. We sure loved her. Is there anything I can do for you to help ease things?"

"It sounds like you already have, Miz Sae. Thank you." Ruth smiles, but it's thin and stretched. Sae pats her shoulder.

We all settle in to work. No one is exactly deputized as a member of the court, but we're all Katniss's defense team, in one way or another, and the real deputy will keep it honest. I'd guess they had one back in Thirteen as well, since there's an official looking check-in sheet to consult before we open any given folder. Every item is to be catalogued in front of the deputy.

"What exactly are we looking for?" Peeta asks.

"I want everything on those bombs," Gale says. "Every damned thing."

I nod. "In terms of Katniss's defense, if we can find anything written down about her plans for another Hunger Games, or about planning to kill Capitol citizens, we need it."

Most of what I find in the first file I pick up is useless, except in establishing that she was a control nut. Stores of food that she wouldn't release because she felt the people shouldn't become accustomed to more than they needed. Luxuries rationed for no particular reason, other than that she felt these things oughtn't be freely available. I catalog each list of rations with the deputy, though I can't think what anyone could use them for.

Peeta finds the first reference to the Games. She was a fairly avid tracker of Snow's Games, tuning in every year even though there was no mandatory viewing in Thirteen. She kept meticulous notes on each year's traps and mutts. Seven years ago -- somewhere between Finnick's Games and Johanna's -- she made a cryptic note beside the description of a nasty fire trap, suggesting that she was considering where to put one.

"So much for a spontaneous idea to quell district rage," Beetee says, scanning it. Peeta continues going through the file of Games notes, and finds several more notations from Coin, leaving little doubt that the thought had more than crossed her mind over the years. This doesn't mean that there weren't people clamoring for a genocide, or that she wouldn't have been just as happy to commit one, but I'm reasonably convinced by the end of the night that she would have proposed the Games no matter what. That she had such a big cudgel to force them with was convenient for her, but not necessary.

Gale can find nothing on the City Circle bombs, though there is ample evidence that she siphoned ideas from Beetee's computer. Ruth does not look at Gale and Beetee or talk to them after she sees it all.

I go home after three hours of this. Effie is annoyed that I didn't call. I'm annoyed that she didn't guess where I was. We snipe at each other a little bit, then drop it to watch the news. Opening arguments in Katniss's case lead, followed by the day's legislative deliberations, the construction report, the weather, and finally a piece on the re-opening of the schools in the Capitol and most of the districts. (Seven and Eleven are still out, as is, obviously, Twelve.)

"I told Tazzy that I'd take guardianship of Solly," Effie says. "So she can have a bit of her own life."

"That's a pretty big decision," I say.

"Well, I just wanted to help and..." She puts her hand to her forehead. "Oh. I wasn't thinking about us. I... I guess I should have talked to you about it. I'm not used to not being able to just make a decision. I'm sorry."

The thought of her consulting with me about it hadn't crossed my mind, and now, there's a distant kind of panic. It's not necessarily a bad feeling, but it's a little overwhelming. "I... um... it's fine," I say.

She's quiet for a very long time while we watch the beginning of a comedy show Plutarch has been developing. Finally, she says, "Haymitch, are we at a place where we need to talk about things like that? How... how together are we?"

"I don't know, Effie. We're living together. That's something."

"Do you love me?"

I don't know how to answer that question. I'm comfortable with her. I like coming home at night and finding her here (or being here when she gets back from Paylor's office), and I like being the only person who sees her hair. I like that she drives me crazier than anyone else. I like sitting around doing nothing with her, and I like talking with her, and I like the feel of her beside me in the dark. I was scared of losing her when I thought she was gone. And she's my friend. One way or another, she's always been my friend. I have no idea what that all means when you put it together, though I know I'm not possessed of any great desire to start writing bad poetry or making declarations of undying passion. On the other hand, if the opportunity came up to pick her a flower, I'd probably do it. I really have no idea if any of that means anything.


"I don't know," I say. "What about you?"

"I don't know, either." She bites her lip. "I like this, though. This, that we have."

"I like it, too. Let's leave it be."

She nods after a minute, then cuddles up beside me again. We don't talk about it anymore. She asks me about Katniss's trial prep, and tells me that she visited Plutarch after her work day. He was still talking with Aurelius. He's going to make it quite a spectacle, from the sound of it. I guess when it's countering a nationally broadcast crime, it has to be.

Testimony begins the next morning. As Plutarch pointed out, there's not much for the prosecution to present. They show the tape. An analyst looks at Katniss's body language and declares that the action was premeditated. One of Coin's people testifies that Katniss was always "rude" to Coin, and never respected her authority. A legal historian talks about the price of vigilantism, and defines Katniss's act in that way -- it's really the only way make a charge stick when there's a new legal system in place since the crime occurred. (Well, other than just declaring something a crime and then condemning anyone who committed it ex post facto, but this didn't strike anyone as a good idea.) That basic laws against murder and assault were never dropped is a given, but they know our defense will be either mental instability or justification, not any dispute of the facts.

The chief prosecutor, brought in from District Three, calls Enobaria to testify about the meeting before, apparently deciding that the rest of us were likely to be sympathetic to Katniss. She's sworn in, and describes the events of Coin's meetings by rote.

"And you had a clear view of Katniss Everdeen during these proceedings?" the prosecutor asks.


"Did she seem agitated?"

Plutarch waves his hand, and the defense counsel, a jittery boy from the Capitol, stands up and says, "Calls for speculation."

The prosecutor waves her hand generously. "I'll rephrase. Could you describe the actions of Katniss Everdeen in this meeting?"

"She was out of it," Enobaria says. "She was staring at Snow's white rose through most of it."

"And when President Coin recommended another Hunger Games?"

"She didn't say anything other than to vote yes."

"To vote yes for what reason?" the prosecutor prods.

"She said, 'For Prim.' Her sister. Then the vote moved on to Haymitch."

"Did Katniss Everdeen hesitate before giving her vote?"

"Not for long," Enobaria says. "But she waited through five other people. Plenty of time to do any hesitating she meant to do."

"How long would you estimate it was between Coin's statement of her intent, and Miss Everdeen's vote?"

"Five minutes, maybe."

"And this is long enough for you to consider any hesitation to have already been taken? To assume that any doubts she had already went through her mind in such a brief time, rather than that she'd decided what to do before she ever heard about the Capitol Games?"

Enobaria narrows her eyes. "Have you ever been in the arena? Never mind. I can answer that. You're not a victor, and you're alive, so you haven't. If you can't make a decision in less than five minutes in the arena, you lose. And if you lose, you're dead. So, no, I don't think she needed to have any plan in place before Coin decided to throw that at her. I think she made her decision, then and there. There's not much reason for her to do it, otherwise."

"Now, the witness is speculating," the prosecutor says.

I look at the jury -- a national case, so a juror has been chosen from every district except the defendant's. This was the call of the legislative assembly. I can't get a read on them.

The judge instructs Enobaria not to make any further guesses. She finishes her testimony.

They spend the afternoon trying to prove Katniss's violent tendencies with scenes from her Games and propos. Plutarch leans over smugly and says, "I hoped they'd do that." He has cameramen stationed from every angle. The testimony is going out live. I don't know what his play is, exactly.

The prosecution rests at the end of the day. I go home. Effie is still at work, so Aurelian and I get most of the description of the girls' day at school. Aurelian is looking for a job, though some damage he took to his leg in the beating prevents a lot of the more physical ones he feels qualified for. I suggest college, but the university isn't open yet. Solly wants none of this kind of talk, and insists on getting back to the more important matter of how pretty her teacher is, and how Sejanus Sly made fun of her for carrying a Katniss dolly, but she's going to keep carrying it until the show is over and everyone knows that Katniss wins. Tazzy tells her to be careful, but goes about the business of cleaning the doll and its clothes for the next day.

I have dinner with Effie when she gets home, then we head over to Plutarch's to observe Katniss. Plutarch is taping her. "Just in case she stops singing when we start the live feed," he says.

"What are you doing to that poor girl?" Effie asks.

"Getting her off a murder charge."

The defense testimony starts the next day, with Dr. Aurelius. He testifies that Katniss is shell-shocked and mentally unstable, from the stress of the Games and subsequent events. He gives expert testimony on psychiatric problems that victors have had, not to mention victims of torture and violent crime. Plutarch lets him go on for hours. The prosecution tries to pin him by suggesting that Katniss is the only victor ever accused of murder outside the arena.

I expect Aurelius to say that this is a matter of sheer luck, but instead, he says, "Katniss Everdeen was not outside the arena."

"In her mind, you mean," the prosecutor says.

"No. I don't mean that at all. Katniss had been placed, for a third time, in the role of a tribute. She was handed a weapon and ordered to kill, at the end of a very deadly Game in which she'd lost many of her comrades, and the sister she was willing to sacrifice her life for."

I hear Ruth sob beside me, and am not surprised to glance at the little screen Plutarch is holding, which shows the broadcast, and see this in a full close-up.

"You're turning it into entertainment," I hiss at him at the end of the day. "It's her life, and you're turning it into a show. Again."

"Yes, I am," he says. "And there won't be a dry eye in the house by the time I'm done."

We head over to the training center. Peeta is there already. He's arguing with the keepers, trying to get them to let him go up and see Katniss. They claim that she is already being granted welfare visits with Aurelius, and that's as far as her privileges extend. He comes home with me and asks Effie to set up an appointment with Paylor for him the next day. It doesn't go well. "She says she can't unilaterally change the arrangement, because everyone agreed that they'd be in charge," he fumes at Plutarch's later. "She's president! Why can't she do that?"

"Because the law is above the president," Plutarch says. "For the first time since the establishment of Panem."

"They have Katniss in solitary. Well, mostly."

"You'll find the 'mostly' carries a good deal of weight, legally."

Peeta grinds his teeth and starts drawing.

The testimony goes on. Gale testifies that he knows Coin had access to plans for a double-exploding bomb, because he designed it. This gets a gasp from the crowd. Beetee quickly testifies that neither he nor Gale had the slightest intent of using it, and such ideas had been scrapped, then stolen. I suspect that this may not be entirely true on Gale's part, but nothing more is said.

Dalton testifies to the plans for the Games. He has gone through every scrap of paper in Coin's collection, and has years of jotted notes and unformed thoughts. The crazy witch actually had drawn a parade, in which Capitol children were brought to City Circle in shackles, the way District children were during the first Games.

"And her threat against the Capitol was not idle, either. There were sections of Special Weaponry dedicated to studying efficient mass killing. Bombs are too unpredictable, and too likely to destroy valuable targets. She wanted delivery systems for poison gas, and biological weapons that would expire when they'd run their course. The main difficulty was isolating the Capitol for the attack, and she had people working on that."

Beside me, Beetee looks shocked. "I knew those people," he says later. "I knew them, and I had no idea." He presses his fists to the sides of his head, like he's trying to pop open a noxious swelling. "The force field! That's why they wanted to know more about force field technology!"

For the next two days, they call in character witnesses for Katniss. Rue's dad takes a break from his work in the assembly. Venia testifies to Katniss's actions in saving her, along with the rest of the prep team, from the dungeon in Thirteen. Peeta describes the lengths Katniss was willing to go to in order to prevent massive destruction, managing to shock people, even now, by admitting that the proposal was a fake, intended to quell the flames because Snow convinced her that she was responsible.

All of it is set-up.

After the weekend, Plutarch Heavensbee takes the stand.

For three days, he testifies. He talks about the history of the Hunger Games, the meaning of them. He talks about how they were meant to break the districts with wins as well as losses, about how tributes -- and later, victors -- were pawns in Snow's power plays. He's able to flesh out the psychological games that were deliberately played each year, and the sadistic tricks he was taught, with the object of keeping the tributes crazy enough to keep playing their insane game. He talks about his own "re-education," before he came back around to the rebellion, and about how Katniss Everdeen was targeted from the moment she cried out, "I volunteer!"

"We talked about it immediately," he says. "Before she was even on the train. We knew she would be a favorite. At first, the order was to squelch her quickly, but that wasn’t an option after Cinna's costume in the parade, or her appearance -- and Peeta's -- on Caesar's stage. The last chance was the bloodbath at the Cornucopia, but her mentor had very wisely advised her to stay clear of it.

"After that, it was a question of breaking her.

"The lack of water. The fire set on her to mock her costume... everything that didn't come from the other tributes came directly from us. And some of what came from them came from us. The boy Marvel was led to Rue McKissack's location. And of course, the feast was engineered to either kill her directly or break her by not letting her save Peeta. Right up until the very last move -- when she was ordered to kill him herself -- it was us calling the shots.

"Then Snow -- who, you will remember, began his career as a Gamemaker -- began to torment her in earnest after she destroyed his plan. He maneuvered her into ridiculous façade with Peeta Mellark, and when he realized that it had long since stopped being a façade, he started to use it against her, finally culminating in the horror of what he did to Peeta in captivity."

"None of this is new," the prosecutor says dully. "How is this relevant?"

"Because I was doing the same thing to her," he says. "I'm not proud of it, and it wasn't as sadistic as what Snow did. But I played her, just the same. I kept her in the dark about important things. I put her in a costume and threw her in battle in front of the cameras, and used her to rally people. I kept her in that arena. I kept her just crazy enough to do what I needed her to do, and I've done it for two years. What Coin suggested was the final, tiny straw that broke her, after everything else failed."

With this, he uses a control to bring up a live feed. Katniss does not disappoint. She is sitting in a corner, her knees drawn up to her chest, singing "The Hanging Tree" in a soft, detached voice.

The defense rests.

The jury goes into deliberations. There is nothing to watch.

I catch up with Plutarch outside. "Did you just take the blame for everything she did?"

"I'm not worried," he says. "I already have immunity as a Gamemaker. And what I said isn't untrue."

"You may have legal immunity," I say. "But if I were you, I'd steer clear of McKissack."

Deliberations go on for a week and a half. During that time, I still can't get in to see Katniss. Ruth tries again, and is unseen again. They have started to cut down on Katniss's morphling. She stops eating and takes to her bed.

Peeta stops going to sleep in his room, and spends all of his time in the control booth, sleeping with his head in his arms, afraid that she'll slip away if he's not "with" her at all times.

The news, unable to cover much more of the trial until the verdict, moves to cover the Assembly, which has managed to produce a one page document stating the basic rights of each of the fourteen districts of Panem, and the citizens in them. The first item illegalizes "all blood sport" in the nation. The second calls for the destruction of the arenas, and memorials to the tributes put up in their places. After that are more general calls for freedom. There is hot debate over freedom of the airwaves, since we all know what effective propaganda can do. Paylor is asked to decide, but she wants to leave it to the people.

The people are still deciding when the jury comes back with its verdict.
11 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 22nd, 2013 06:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I've said it before, but I don't think it hurts to say it again: there is something about the way you write that makes readers (and I'm pretty sure it can't just be me) forget that, for the most part, they already know what happens next. You, my dear, are magical. Your writing both enthralls and delights, and I eagerly await the next chapter.

Kobe G
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you! I enjoy doing this.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 22nd, 2013 10:16 am (UTC) (Link)
The tension here is very good, and I like Effie and Haymitch's "relationship conversation", such as it is - it seems right for those two.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2013 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
I figured it was about time they at least tried to figure out what they're doing.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: May 22nd, 2013 01:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really enjoyed Haymitch and Effie trying to figure out their relationship. It was very adult and self-aware. Quite the switch from Katniss's relationship drama.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 22nd, 2013 03:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a big difference between seventeen and forty-two. Though I think, to some extent, that Haymitch is still operating on the expectations of a sixteen year old kid who's patiently waiting to feel something "important" and has no clue what he's really feeling.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: May 23rd, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
In a lot of ways, Haymitch has been...in stasis. He's been stuck in his tribute year for the past 26 years.
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 22nd, 2013 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

I Really...

Liked Plutarch "owning" his role as Gamemaker and his role in all this.

But I don't understand, logistically, how the Gamemakers could have led Marvel to Rue. Any thoughts?

Sara Libby

PS: One of the best novels with insight into relationships that I ever read was "Middlemarch." Can you help Haymitch get hold of a copy? ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 23rd, 2013 04:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: I Really...

I think probably they led him there subtly -- location of water, attractive food bushes. Maybe they even amplified the sounds of her footsteps. He seems to have gotten in the area to set the trap.
torturedbabycow From: torturedbabycow Date: May 23rd, 2013 09:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is continuing to be fabulous! I like this more fleshed-out version of Katniss's trial, and Hayffie is pretty cute. Especially the bit about the flower-picking.

I'm sure I've noticed other particularly fabulous moments in the past... many chapters, but I have no idea what they were anymore. Still, it's been consistently fun to read, despite the more wrenching bits.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: May 24th, 2013 07:27 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I like Hayffie.
11 comments or Leave a comment