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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
A 36 year-old murder case is resurrected by DNA; along with all the passions and hatreds, loves and losses from decades past.
Two ex-jurors determine to find the real killer as they supply the Public Defender with their latest discoveries.

Submitted: December 03, 2016

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Submitted: December 03, 2016




 A Short Story in Chapters

 Nicholas Cochran

Chapter Twenty-One


I was out for our Sunday run with my husband when Hilo called and asked if I could be at court at seven-thirty tomorrow, when the Judge arrives; and that Gail would be there as well.

When I asked what it was all about, Hilo told me about her meeting with Gail and that there were a ton of things that had to be done before the jury came to court at nine thirty. I was immediately agreeable.

Taylor and I turned back, picking up the pace so that I could be comfortable and relaxed when Gail called.

I hadn’t been out of the shower three minutes when Gail rang and told me of the extravaganza planned for tomorrow. I think she went into a lot more detail than she meant to but I was all ears and nodded while I sipped a Bloody Mary and imagined all the drama that was sure to unfold. 

Of course, what did not surprise me was that the two people on the jury that I had thought were behaving oddly, were the chief suspects of Gail and some mysterious caller who continued to call her with new information about dates and times, as well as names and addresses. 

I had my theory about the mysterious caller. He had to be someone not only acquainted with the case in court but also capable of using the court testimony and evidence to build a case, and, in effect, act as an investigator for both Hilo and Gail.

When Gail told me her theory of why Jemma was murdered, I took a few gulps of my drink and prepared to hear more surprises. 

And were there ever a bunch of them. 

She didn’t have to tell me who had murdered Jemma. After my ’briefing’, I knew. 

Then I became very sad, despite the fact that Mr. Sandersonwould go free and Jemma’s killer would go to prison. 

All the events and memories, hatreds and loves of thirty-six years ago, overwhelmed me. Taylor heard me beginning to sniffle and then to quietly sob. 

I told him the truth: I was so battered by all these revelations that I felt very vulnerable. He hugged me for a long time while the names and faces, both known and imagined, scrolled across my inner eye.

* **

Allan and Peter drove to Susan Taylor’s mansion in the Taylor compound. 

Susan had been married and divorced twice, with the result that she became a millionaire by simply sleeping with two rich guys for a few years each.

She had taken half their money, both their Ferraris, and her maiden name. There were no kids.

“I suppose we could cancel this one, Peter—after what Harry told us about Susan not knowing about Jemma’s medical condition. But she may have some more incriminating evidence that Gail can use; together with Hilo and the Judge tomorrow morning.”

Late afternoon was creeping around everyone’s back door on the lake.


Susan had ‘come home’, to build truly disgustingly obscene McMansions for herself and her family members. Locals called her the Queen of Balfort, but not in a deferential way; in fact, quite the opposite. 

Susie had always been out of favor with the locals for one reason or another.

One time was an abortion, another time was falling down drunk and soiling herself outside Rick’s Bar, but the final straw in the craw of the locals was their belief that Susan, out of jealousy, had deliberately forced Jemma Jefferson to drink full glasses of alcohol, hours before she was murdered. 

Unfortunately, Harry Goodsall was not the best of character witnesses when he personally went to practically every resident—both summer and year-long, around the lake—to tell then that Susan had not known about Jemma’s condition and that he, Harry was to blame if anyone was.

And so the reputation of Susan Taylor among the old and the young had remained blackened; dishonored for decades. All attempts to win herself into favor with the lake people failed. 

She left for twenty years before returning with the millions and a continuing sorrow. 

She gave millions to the Lake Preservation Society; another million to the summer camp on the other side of the lake, as well as several millions to the town of Jensen for both public works and good works. 

When Allan stopped at the guard shack of the Taylor gated community, the guard on duty, a pigeon-toed man of forty-something, wearing a spiffy red and black cap with a bill but no uniform, shuffled his morbidly obese body over to the driver’s side, and politely asked their business. Allan told him and he returned to their car in a few minutes. 

“Miss Taylor would like to know some more details of the nature of your business.”

“Tell her that Harry Goodsall strongly suggested that we talk to Miss Taylor about the fact that she was not involved in the death of Jemma Jefferson. And she’s going to get a subpoena from either the District Attorney or the Public Defender before night falls.”

“I remember that case, sir; about thirty years ago, right? I was only ten or eleven. It was the talk of the town for years. See they caught the fella who did her in. Hope they gas the son-of-a-bitch, right?,” waiting for hurrahs—or at least  at couple of “you bet”s. 

Neither hearing nor discerning anything in agreement with either his attitude or his remark, “yeah, she’ll see you. Her house is at the farthest side, on the water.”

Both Peter and Allan disbelieved the guard and presumed that Susan was not occupying a houseboat but probably had a long terrace sloping to the docks, boathouses and eventually, the water; water that had been cleared to virtually one hundred percent, mostly as a result of the five or ten million dollars donated by Susan.

The approach to the compound was at least a quarter of a mile. Both Allan and Peter were impressed in a positive way so far.

However, those few minutes of positive vibes were replaced with a type of revulsion as they passed immense, gaudy, McMansion after McMansion until they saw the end of the road where stood a structure that was almost comical in its mélange of styles, including some unpainted cross timbers with white stucco in an attempt to make one believe that that part of the house at least, was Tudor. 

Later, to their astonishment, they learned that Susan had—not unlike William Randolph Hearst—bought a Tudor mansion in England, had it dismantled, shipped, and reassembled on the shore of Lake Balfort. 

Surrounding the authentic architecture were several wings of modern kitsch designs and proportions which, unfortunately, nullified the genuine charm of the authentic Tudor that was stuck onto the sides and backs of the modern trashy bits.

“Well, Sherlock, you should feel right at home, true?” Peter laughed with genuine pleasure, watching the face of Holmes react to the suggestion.

“Peter, despite the nod to the genuine Old Country architecture, this place is a dog’s breakfast of the first order.” Nevertheless, he laughed all the same.


Following a butler through at least five rooms, the two men were escorted to an immense conservatory with a stunning view of the lake, a panorama that eliminated any sight of the docks and boathouses.

Susan Taylor was waiting for them and stood to greet them.

Both men considered this a good sign: that although she was extremely wealthy and possessed terrible tastes in architecture, she had not become the ‘to the manor born’ character of the British telly.

Susan had invisible scars of several nip and tuck sessions with the best in North America.

As a result of these sanctioned tortures, she presented as fine a face and figure as any in the world at the age of fifty-seven.

She appeared to be a different person than the one who  appeared in court as one of the first witnesses. 

She was draped in diaphanous layers of white with occasions of black piping.

A long separate sash of blood-red fell across her arresting chest, all the way to the floor. Despite the early evening hour, the two men expected a host of guests to burst in from a drawing room to join the them here for cocktails before dinner in some colossal dining room with a table fashioned from a single section of an extremely old black walnut, shaped to seat forty diners.

Susan smiled at both men as she extended her hand. 

She was an extremely beautiful woman of five–eleven, with long arms, hands, and nails. Her neck was smooth and delicate. She wore her blond hair in a short stylish cut, neither too young nor too old. Her teeth were perfectly straight and appeared to glow in her tanned face while she smiled.

“Very pleased to meet you both.”

The men introduced themselves and were waved to any number of comfortable lakeside chairs where one could relax for an entire day with a good book or, these days, a good video game.

Susan inhaled and then with a devastating smile, exhaled, ‘What can I do for you about this matter, gentlemen? I’ve already been called and testified for the District Attorney about a week ago?” Her tone contained neither malice not petulance. She was simple and direct.

Peter could tell immediately that Allan Hamilton was besotted with the woman; and speechless.

Peter began. “Miss Taylor . .”
“Please, gentlemen, Susan.” She smiled and shifted slightly, a movement that spoke of no undergarments. Now Peter caught a flicker of lust in Sherlock’s eyes.

Peter continued while Allan gathered himself. 

“We have spoken with many people connected—or rather, I should say, knowledgeable about the facts of the case, but we are still somewhat confused by a number of events and particularly the timing of those events. 

We just came from Harry Goodsall’s and we are here at his request. Of course, he absolves you of any responsibility for the death of Jemma; in fact he stated without any hesitation or prompting that you were completely innocent of anything that happened to Jemma.” The Doctor stopped and waited for a moment to allow for corrections of what he had just said from either Susan or Allan.

Susan’s smile retreated somewhat.

“Harry has been my best friend and my worst enemy over the years. When he’s not on Bimini, he’s here and visits me . . . which is fine. But then he starts going around the lake asking everyone to give me a break; forget the past; I wasn’t responsible,” sighing, “but you’ve met –and seen Harry. He doesn’t make a good appearance; even at the best of times. And so I beg him to stop every time he comes over to tell me how much he’s sorry for getting me involved, and he ends up drunk and slobbering . . . I have to get George or Martha to drive him home.”

She looked downs at her hands and her facial expression changed.

Allan and I later figured out that she was seeing in her palms all the bad things she had done in her life, but that the death of Jemma Jefferson still topped her list of regrets; choices that she could never reverse.

From her extremely cheery and glowing persona upon first meeting the two men, Susan was rapidly sliding into a tearful state, unable to contain the imagined guilt of contributing to Jemma’s death.

Allan jumped in to rescue her. He took a very big chance when he went over to Susan, sat down beside her, and cuddled her to his chest while he patted her back with the tenderness of a father calming an infant. 


End of Chapter Twenty-One

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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