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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic
Mr. Washington spies people in the audience of a murder trial revolving around a cold case 36 years old, who he swears were in his store the day of the murder.
The past is rapidly becoming the present and the real killer may be in the audience---or on the jury.

Submitted: October 09, 2016

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Submitted: October 09, 2016




  A Short Story in Chapters

  Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Twelve


Well, as you can imagine, once more everything and everyone in the courtroom chilled. Even Judge Tan was motionless.

I guess we were all trying to figure out what to do with Jemma’s mother; and why was she so anxious to leave the courtroom—to just not be here.

Bob continued to hold her, but she had stopped struggling and so he gradually let her go.

“Mrs. Caine,” Judge Tan was the first to speak, “are you all right now?”

After a few moments, Rachel Caine gradually raised her head to look at the judge. 

Her face was beautiful: perfect skin, a straight nose, a strong chin, and two sensual lips. She wore her dark hair long and turned out in the latest fashion.

“Yes—thank you, Your Honor; I’m fine now.”  She hesitated and then sighed very deeply.

In the quiet of the courtroom it was a though she was talking with each one of us individually.

“I think I was just overcome by it all—and seeing Mr. Washington again; somehow I feel like Jemma died just a few days—maybe only hours ago. Excuse me, but I’m fine now.”

She moved to her right to resume her seat. Bob did not try to stop her.

When Mrs. Caine was standing in front of her seat, she raised her chin and spoke.

“My name is Mrs. Rachel Caine, C-A-I-N-E. I Live at 4350 Ocean Avenue in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.” She sat down.

By this time, some of the people in the courtroom were talking softly while the jury just stared at Mrs. Caine.

Judge Tan took a very deep breath.

“Well . . . we were asking those people who Mr. Washingtonrecognized in the audience to stand and give us their information,” turning to Mr. Washington, “you can proceed Mr.Washington.”

Mr. Washington was clearly rattled by all the unfolding events and appeared to me to be very reluctant to go on.  But he visibly pulled himself together by stretching his neck and slightly rolling his shoulders as though he had just woken up—or come out of a trance; or hypnosis.

“Yes, Your Honor.”

He once again leaned as far out over the witness box railing as he could, while he scanned the left side of the audience. He paused for a moment and then looked closely at the members of the audience who were standing or sitting on the right side of the courtroom.

“There, standing back there in the corner, behind the seats, that woman in the dark blue jacket and the white scarf.”

“Yes, Ms., would you please state your name, spell your last name and tell us where you live.”  Judge Tan spoke these words as though she was either very tired or still upset by the appearance of Jemma’s mother.

The woman in the back right corner of the audience was not very tall and appeared to be a bit chubby. But she was very well dressed and her make-up was perfect She was a blonde and looked to me to be about late forties, early fifties, but her whole appearance was so good that she could be in her early sixties.

“My name is Janice Tanner, T-A-N-N-E-R. I live at 7589 Rock Road, Lake Balfort.”

A man in the first row got up and offered her his seat. She sidled by all the other standing people and came up to the first row and sat down.

Judge Tan was silent while she looked at the left side of the audience and waited for Mr. Washington to continue.

Mr. Washington was focusing on those seated on the right. He took quite a while. Then he sat back in the witness chair and suddenly leaned as far forward as he could and glared at someone in the third row.

“There; in the third row; that man in the middle; there, with the black beard and wearing the black jacket.”

Mr. Washington remained in his tense pointing position, like a pointer dog that has spotted a bird.

Suddenly, everyone—including the jury and the entire courtroom staff—turned to stare at this rather intimidating man. He didn’t move and simply glared back at Mr. Washington.

Judge Tan seemed to be paralyzed—or hypnotized while she too stared at this eerie figure.

Very slowly, the man in black stood up.

He was wearing black pants and held a black cowboy hat in his right hand.

By the time he was fully standing, he had to be over six and a half feet.

His hair was black and he had a black moustache.  Even as he stood there, standing among , oh, maybe two hundred and fifty people all told, it was as though he was standing alone on a hill looking down at all of us—or maybe he wasn’t seeing us at all.

My hands started to shake and I doubted if I could transcribe if anyone spoke. 

No one did.

The silence was so deep that I think I could hear his breathing; it seemed that everyone else was holding their breath; as a unit; a group.  Us and him.

“My name is TrevorRansome.” His voice was very deep and appeared to be coming from all directions, out of or off of the walls of the courtroom. 

He looked only about early twenties or so, but his voice was one that you would associate with an older person. He looked down at his right hand holding his hat and then took his hat in both hands and sighed. “R-A-N-S-O-M-E. I live at number One, Last Coast Road, in Oil City.” 

The silence remained while he remained standing. 

He took a deep breath and looked over at the jury. 

His eyes stopped when they reached the jurors nearest the witness box and the judge; those sitting farthest from the courtroom doors. Then his eyes stopped and I couldn’t tell who he was looking at.

Suddenly he slowly began to nod his head up and down while his hands gripped his hat. His beard was not covering all of his jaw and I saw some muscles clenching very tightly as he silently moved his head.

Mr. Washington had remained in his pointer position and was furrowing his brow as the seconds went by. I guess he was wondering—we all were wondering—how he could identify a man who wasn’t even born on that day in his store thirty-six years ago.

Now my hands were really shaking. Was this a ghost?

Mr. Washington started to shake as well.

For some reason, I looked at Mr. Hamilton and Doctor Davies. Their brows were also creased but their look was that of understanding, not the opposite.

Mr. Hamilton began to nod his head back and forth as well; as though he not only knew who this man was but also what he would be able to tell the court and the jury about the murder.

Suddenly, Mr. Washington quickly drew back and began to shake.  His eyes bugged out and his mouth hung open.  He really looked as though he was seeing a ghost.

Judge Tan broke the spell—again.

I suddenly wondered how many more of these mysterious people would be picked out by Mr. Washington, and, more to the point, what they would be able to tell us about the crime.

“Thank you Mr. Ransome. By the way, I must ask you: how old are you?

The tall man in black slowly stood up again and once again looked at the jurors near the far end of the jury box.
“Twenty-two, Your Honor.” And he slowly sat down.

Now Judge Tan looked from Mr. Ransome to Mr. Washingtonand the question was clearly imprinted on her brow.
“Mr. Washington,” pausing, and then resuming with a very polite tone, “this man is twenty-two. The crime occurred thirty-six years ago; how . . . well—are you thinking of seeing him more recently somewhere; for example, around Rossmoor, where you live.?”

Mr. Washington was still under some sort of mental fever; like a spell, but of course, he wasn’t.  But he just continued to stare atMr. Ransome, and his eyes were still quite bugged, although he had closed his mouth; and gulped a few times as well.

He didn’t appear to hear the Judge.

“Mr.Washington.” This time, the judge really raised her voice; and it worked.

Mr. Washington seemed to snap out of it and turned, still with bugging eyes, to look at the judge.

“Yes, Your Honor . . . what was the question?”

Judge Tan repeated her question and Mr. Washington looked at her with a blank face while—I guess—he was trying to understand the contradictions and whether or not he had seen Mr. Ransome somewhere else, more recently.

“I don’t know, Your Honor; I really don’t. I was thinking of that weekend and I’m sure I saw him there, but  . . .well, I couldn’t have. I realize that. I just could not have seen him.  But,” wagging his head from side to side, “I can’t explain it . . . I’m sorry, but . . . I just can’t explain it.”

“Well; we’ll continue and maybe it will all sort out after we clear the courtroom and listen to the men and women who you have identified here today. And, by the way, all of those who Mr.Washington has identified, we had best have you questioned one at a time while the others wait out in the hall.”

“I was just going to request that.” Gail said while Hilo nodded her intention to make the same request.

“Very well. All right, Mr. Washington. Is there anyone else in the audience who you believe you saw that weekend; in your store, thirty-six years ago?”

Mr. Washington didn’t even bother to look over the remaining people either standing or sitting on the right side of the audience.

“No, Your Honor.” His voice quavered and almost cracked.  Very obviously, something about Mr. Washington and his interaction with Mr. Ransome had somehow unhinged Mr.Washington’s nerves.

“All right, Mr. Washington. The Deputy District Attorney, Ms.Falange, was asking you about the members of the jury that you recognized from your store on the Labor Day weekend back then. Ms. Falange, you may proceed.”

Hilo rose rather shakily, as though the last thirty minutes had unsettled her nerves.

“Yes, Your Honor,” turning to face Mr. Washington, who remained in a state of what looked like to me to be collapse; like he was down for the count, “You remember that we began this long journey of the last half hour with a question to you about seeing any members on the jury who were in your store over that Labor Day weekend.”Hilo twisted a pencil in her fingers as she waited for Mr. Washington’s answer.

Some member of the audience had been coughing at the conclusion of Mr. Washington’s identification of witnesses sitting and standing in the audience.

Suddenly, the deepest of all dead silences cloaked everything and everyone in the courtroom.

Slowly, as though he was reluctant to do any more identifying today, he moved his head to the right and looked at the members of the jury.  This time he looked at each one for more than a few seconds.

Finally, as we were all about to release our held breath, he spoke.


End of Chapter Twelve

© Copyright 2019 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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