Chapter 1: Justina Cabello

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 119
Comments: 1

Getting Away With Murder – Or Not


The law is a lie.  That’s the conclusion I’ve reached after working as a journalist for 20 years and a lawyer for 30. 

How can it be anything but a lie when the guilty go free and the innocent are imprisoned?  I knew this from the start, and pledged I’d never be part of it.

But now, after all these years, I’m left dangling in a web of deceit, and if I follow the ethics of the profession, I’m going to have to play along.

There’s got to be a way out.


1.  Justina Cabello

My mother died in a freak accident when I was six, after which my father took up with a series of women.  He never took any of them seriously.  He’d suddenly stop seeing one and pick up with another right away. 

 One of these women was Louisa Treblinka; a mysterious dark character I thought was a fortune teller or mystic.  She was short, maybe five four, tiny, really, and tied her long black hair on top of her head in a red kerchief.  Louisa carried around the smell of burned black coffee, but I never mentioned that to anybody and nobody else seemed to notice it but me.

Louisa had a daughter named Justina who I never liked.  She was a few years older than me.  This girl had the same dark eyes and hair her mother had, and I thought both of them looked like movie villains.  She had come to our old house in the country with her mother and my father, and they left her there in the house alone with me.

No sooner than the adults were gone, Justina kissed me full on the lips, and not a childish or friendly kiss.  She took my face in both hands and pulled me to her, her damp hands pressed hard against the sides of my face.  She put her tongue in my mouth and held me there for much longer than I thought necessary.  There was no emotion in it at all.  I got the feeling she was trying to reproduce something she’d seen in a movie, an early experiment in sex.  I’m pretty sure she thought I was too young to remember it.  She was way wrong about that.It sticks with me to this day.

My family was very Catholic, and after my mother died, we became more closely involved with the church than before. I wondered if there really was a God and could such a being be responsible for the wonders in my backyard. 

That yard led me to an insatiable curiosity.  A rock collection, for instance, I could not get enough of the stories the rocks told about the millions, billions of years it took for them to end up in a collection box in my bedroom.  I had a chunk of black glass called obsidian, a quartz crystal, talc, pegmatite, granite, all lined up in a box.I admired the huge trees in my yard, oak trees and cherry trees and apple trees.  Even the dirt was a constant wonder.  Was God responsible for all this?  How did he make it happen?

I grew up during the Cold War and it scared me getting under the desks at school to avoid the atom bomb blasts, so I joined the U. S. Marines to fight the communists as soon as I was old enough.  Fortunately I made it back, although there were plenty of close calls.  After I got out of the Marines I went to college, then law school, graduating almost squarely in the middle of the class, not bad, I thought, for the son of an oil man.

I was working at a small firm doing mostly research and clerical work for the older lawyers when I got the call that got me into all this.It was my father, in his hoarse growl delivered devastating news about Justina.

“She’s been arrested for murder.  They say she killed her infant daughter.  Could you go talk to her, see what it’s about?”
This was sticky. I was new at this game, nowhere near ready to represent a woman charged with murder.But he was my father who raised me after my mother died. How could I say no?

“Of course, Dad. I’ll see her.  But look, I’m just learning this stuff. I’m not qualified to represent a woman on a murder charge?”
“Why not? I went to the graduation.  You looked great with that square hat and robe.  You’re a lawyer now.  Do your best.  Her mother, Louisa,you remember her. She can’t afford to hire anybody.”

So I went to see her at the big jail in Tampa. You walk past chain link fences 20 or 30 feet high and topped with razor wire.  Once inside you sit on plastic chairs at plastic tables, all designed to prevent their use as a weapon.

They brought her in an orange jump suit.  The other people I’d seen at the jail looked nervous or scared, but Justina looked only as defiant and determined to get revenge on whoever dealt her this hand.

I explained the attorney client privilege. 

“I am a lawyer, so everything you tell me is privileged. That means The State can’t make me testify about what you tell me.  Understand?”

“I know all about it,” she said, waving a hand.  She tapped the plastic table between us.

“Most people are not that conversant with the law.”

She looked at me with contempt, as though I should not underestimate her.

“My father, he’s in prison.  Did you know that?”

“I did not.”

“He taught me a lot about this shit.”

I nodded.

“By the way, your father taught me a lot, too.  You remember the time he beat the shit out of  me and you watched him do it.”

This was true, of course, an incident I remembered but wished I had not.  My father could be very violent and she had defied him one day when we were visiting.

“I remember telling you that day, Justina, you should not cross him because he had a temper.”

She nodded.  I saw no point in going on with it.

“The state thinks you killed the baby.”

She shook her head, looked at the ceiling, then back at me.

“Can’t prove shit.  I will be released.  They will pay a price.” 

“Please, don’t think that.  The prisons are full of innocent people.”

She stood up. She’d heard enough.

“See you around.” She said, and rang the bell for the deputy to take her back to her cell. 

Interesting chat.  I don’t think she heard a word of it.


Submitted: March 22, 2021

© Copyright 2021 joe46. All rights reserved.


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Add Your Comments:


Jake J. Harrison

For me, you have smoke but not fire. There are some interesting elements. His childhood life growing up and especially the addition of the mother and daughter team are interesting. I want to know more about how he bonded or didn't bond with Justina when they were young. It seems somewhat important to the story.

You do a lot of telling. Rushing through key parts of his life. As I mentioned in the highlighted comments, we go from childhood, to Marines, to lawyer in three paragraphs. I think you're trying to do too much in this first chapter. I'd focus on him entering the jail and visiting Justina. Allude to the childhood but save the details for later. Intrigue the reader with their relationship. Keep them guessing. That's what propels a book forward. Fight the urge to tell everything up front.

I'd get rid of the short prologue also. It doesn't add much and reads a bit cliche.

You write well and it does sound like an intriguing story. I gave you my honest opinion but don't let it discourage you. This is pretty typical for.a draft. Get the story out and then go back and make it a story that keeps readers on their toes.

One other thing: put in a hook to get the reader to chapter 2. What will make me turn the page?

I hope that helps. Let me know if you have any questions.

- Jake

Sun, March 28th, 2021 8:35pm

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