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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A 36 year-old murder case is resurrected with DNA. The jury trial resurrects a shocking past, peopled by the guilty, the innocent---and the real murderer.

Submitted: November 15, 2016

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Submitted: November 15, 2016




 A Short Story in Chapters

Nicholas Cochran

 Chapter Nineteen


“This is a terrible subject for you, I know, Mrs. Corrigan,” sighed Allan, “As the chief of a  homicide squad, I have interviewed hundreds of people in your position. I respect and honor your personal and private life, but we are talking about a murder case.

“A young man is on trial at his moment in the county courthouse for a murder that we’re positive he didn’t commit.”

Allan then explained the extraordinarily unusual situation of the trial and how it was being restarted, probably tomorrow, and that we wanted to help the judge, the DA, and particularly the Public Defender, with any information that might remove some of the layers of confusion and ignorance that covered this incident for the past thirty-six years.

“You see,” continued Allan, “Doctor Davies and I are convinced that someone else murdered Seth’s betrothed, but we need proof. Anything and everything will help. There are no dumb questions and no dumb answers in a murder case.”

Diana Corrigan appeared to be relieved. The creases on her brow as well as in the corners of her eyes vanished. 

With a soft sigh, “Seth was deeply in love with Jemma. He should have been here with her that Labor Day weekend.  But he had to fly out. The Phd. program at Cornell accepted Seth but they wanted him there the weekend before classes began. He had to find housing on campus and they were going to show him around; get him oriented. He flew back on a Friday night red eye.” 

Mrs. Corrigan’s eyes began to loosen some small tears.

“They tried to reach him Sunday morning but he was out on campus. There were no cell phones then. He didn’t receive the message about Jemma until early Monday morning when the police out here insisted that someone go find him. A new student in an unknown housing situation. Well, you can imagine.

“Seth immediately flew home. He cried for hours while his parents tried to console him. 

“I had been all over the lake during the Labor Day weekend and visited all the parties; well, the three all-weekenders.”

She stopped very suddenly and straightened her back while the visions of that weekend scrolled past her inner eye.

Her jaw appeared to tighten as though she was either determined to make a comment about some aspect of that weekend; or she was angry with someone she was pulling up from her memory.

Doctor Davies recognized the look as well as the body language of Mrs. Corrigan.

“I gather, Mrs. Corrigan , that you saw or heard something that weekend that is still disturbing you. "Was it something that happened at one of the parties?”

She was silent for several moments. 

She slowly picked up her coffee and took a careful sip. After settling her cup on the Wedgwood saucer, she audibly inhaled and answered the Doctor’s question. 

“Yes. You’re absolutely right, Doctor Davies.

"I was at Neville’s party, along with a few girlfriends. We were drinking and eating hot dogs and hamburgers and enjoying the gorgeous night air, the stars—the whole atmosphere. I think we were all in a state of carefree bliss.

“I went into the cottage next to Neville’s, the one his cousin Reggie uses. I was looking for the bathroom, when I saw SusanTaylor and Harry Goodsall talking with Jemma. They were all laughing and smiling and they waved to me as I went by. 

“When I came out of the bathroom, Harry Goodsall was pouring a huge amount of Scotch into Jemma’s glass. She didn’t seem to notice. I was walked back to rejoin my friends and I told them what I’d seen. 

“All of them knew Jemma, and Heather Duncan was shocked. She immediately left and went to find Jemma—and particularly Harry Goodsall.

"Apparently Jemma had been diagnosed with some condition where a very small amount of alcohol can produce all the symptoms of extreme intoxication.” Allan was nodding. 

“I saw Jemma about a half hour later. She was laughing and lifting her skirt in a very . . . well, openly flirtatious way; a way that was not lost on any number of drunk or semi-drunk guys.

"She was obviously extremely drunk. I tried to help her as did Heather and a couple of other friends, but she moved away from us and began walking along the road back toward Jemsen. "Every once in a while she would stop and raise her arm and crook her index finger in a ‘come here’ motion.”

Mrs. Corrigan stopped and sipped some more coffee.

“I never saw her again; alive, that is. Of course, we all went to her funeral. It was just awful, as you can imagine.”

She stopped and Allan and the Doctor waited silently for her to continue.

When it became  clear to both men that Mrs. Corrigan was not going to resume talking right away, Allan spoke.

“I know a lawyer who had a client with the same alcohol intolerance condition as Jemma. “The results for his client were tragic in his case as well. Do you think that all of Jemma’s conduct was a result of the alcohol?”

“Absolutely. She was the type of young woman who would have been mortified beyond belief if there had been a movie taken of her. Yes. She was not at all like that. 

"Apparently her mother said that some boys had taken advantage of Jemma a couple of years earlier when she quickly became intoxicated after no more than two beers.

"I know everyone who is stopped by the Highway Patrol uses that ‘only two beers’ line, but with Jemma, it was true.” She suddenly stopped as she remembered the consequences of that episode. After a moment, “at least five other girls—young women—saw her definitely drink only two beers.

“Apparently the transformation was frightening on many levels. Your friend’s client evidently had the same breathtaking result. 

“None of the other young women knew what to do. Most thought she was putting on an act. “However, two of the women did everything to bring her out of her stupor; but to no avail. The next thing that happened was that a group of boys had found her in a bedroom and proceeded to take advantage of her although I knew some of the guys and they said that Jemma had insisted on their making love to her. 

“She was conscious and apparently her libido was on ultra high, at least according to two of the boys—guys—who I knew; and trusted.”

Diana looked at her hands, then out the bay window to the trees, the terrace, and the lake where so many scenes of her youth unfolded. 

Without a word, she got up and began striding back and forth in front of  the immense flagstone fireplace. Her head alternately rose and fell while she carefully pulled scattered memories into her consciousness to be fashioned into a result; a conclusion.

“I think I have the answer you were looking for.”

*  *  *

Gail Bernal was typing while she listened to the staggering information from her mysterious caller on speakerphone.

“And is she still around?”

The freaky tones of an altered voice replied. “She is. She goes by Mrs. Sloane these days, Agnes Sloane. Here’s her address and phone number.”

“Great: shoot.”

The modern “Mysterious Traveler” gave her both and hung up.

Gail was entering her personal twilight zone inhabited by a failing memory, no doubt eased into the odd abyss of walking sleep.

She refused to look at her iWatch or on her computer.

Time was proving to be the shifting ‘social construct’ that philosophers and physicists yammered on about at the drop of an ion. 

A couple of her comrades came by for an hour or so to work on cases on calendar the next day. They merely said hi and saw nothing suggesting the total collapse of Gail Bernal for want of sleep and real food. She pressed on.

“Yes; Mrs. Clark, Gail Bernal here; sorry to interrupt your Sunday but it is very important.”

Mrs. Amy Clark paused, sniffled, and sighed, “ Yes, what is it? Are you the one defending Sanderson; not the DA?”

“Yes, Mrs. Clark, I am. I just have a quick question. If I got a certain person to speak to you with that certain person using the identical make and model of the ship-to-shore telephone of thirty-six years ago, do you think you would recognize the voice?”

Immediately, “Yes. Absolutelydamned right. That voice is still in my head. Gave me the creeps,” stabilizing her thoughts, “yes; would you like me to come to court again; for the experiment, I guess is what you’d call it?”

“Yes, Mrs. Clark, I certainly would. You know, I have you subpoenaed for Friday, but could you get over here tomorrow sometime?”

After a moment, “Yes, Ms. Bernal; yes, I can do that; what time.”

“Nine, if you can make it that early?”
“Fine; I can even be there earlier; eight or so; my husband is up at seven for work; so yes.”
“Eight would be excellent, Mrs. Clark. Can I get someone to pick you up?”

“Well, that would be very nice,” thinking, “how will I get . . .?”

“Back?” Gail cut in, “Of course we’ll drive you back Mrs. Clark. Gladly. So, thank you again and I’ll see you tomorrow. Your ride will be there at seven-thirty; okay?”

Getting in the spirit of things, “I’ll say, okay; this could be a treat, right?”

“Yes, Mrs. Clark; for all of us, I hope. Bye.”


End of Chapter Nineteen

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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