Tipper Henderson sat in the upright chair of the jury box and shifted uncomfortably. She had informed the Jury commissioner that as the town vet, she knew most everyone in town, by their pets, she was acquainted with the defendant, and the plaintiff, and she had heard details of the crime on the radio- the whole town had- it was asked of her, could she be impartial? Tipper sighed. Probably had been her answer along with 14 other people. She really- really didn’t want to be spending her time in the court room- at the payment of 9 dollars a day- it meant shutting down her vet practice while she sat listening to people drama- something, the reason why she did so well with the pets that their drama was simple, they were sick, she made them better. People drama was emotionally exhausting, and she swore to herself, the next time she was picked that she would say no, hang them all.
She had heard the sheriff say that the case would be open and shut- they had the D. N. A. off of the murder weapon, though, the rest of it was the stuff tabloid drama was made from. 16 yr old Tiffany Barns had been raped, and strangled behind the Mini Mart next to the docks late Saturday evening. No one had heard anything. The body was discovered about midnight when the sheriff was making his rounds and saw her slumped next to the dumpster. Tipper knew that Harrison the Mini Mart owner locked up the Mini Mart about 8:30 every night before walking with his daughter to their home. He always placed the trash in the dumpster in the back , it was well lit from the harbor lights, and if she was there before that time they would have seen her.
The murder weapon had been a man’s tie- a bright neon tie that had the 60’s style Flower Power print all over it. There was only one such tie in their small town, and the owner was well known to everyone. Mr. Mitch Kelvin had worn that particular tie every Friday since his wife Flora had won it for him 15 years before at the fair. It was his relaxation tie, and with out fail, he would spill sauce on it from something requiring it to be cleaned on Saturday to be picked up on Monday. Flora’s statement was that when she got to the cleaners on sat, it wasn’t one of the things that she checked with them, and she thought she had left it at their home. She had made three stops that day, one to the library and the second one to deposit her paycheck in the bank that was located next to the school and then she stopped at the pharmacy to pick up her husbands glipizide for his diabeties. She had bundled the clothing in a pile on the front passenger seat and left the window down when she went in. Flora remembered that the school parking lot was full, and some of the over flow parking, as well as a bus for the team was in the pharmacy’s parking lot.
Tipper knew Mitch and Flora had been having disagreements for the last few years, some over silly things, some over major things- the resounding theme was that Mitch just- didn’t seem to think things through. but she also knew Mitch and Flora were good people and despite any disagreements they may have had, they were still very much in love with each other. Mitch just didn’t seem to have it in him to harm any one and wouldn’t even raise his voice over Flora’s when they were having a disagreement. When the sheriff had announced that he was arresting Mitch for the murder and rape of Tiffany, Tipper had been shocked. Yes. She had heard many times, Still waters run deep- but this was different.
Edam Wallace got on the stand and glanced over at the jury before looking at the district attorney. Edam ran the Shady Lady Tavern two doors down from the Mini Mart. The Shady Lady Tavern had changed hands a few times, Edam had taken it from a sleazy dive to a family friendly place that had an eclectic collection of items on the wall from child hood toys to gears and fishing traps that hung in clusters. Every once in a while he would change the collection so that people would come in to see how he decorated. Sports had been the theme with an entire room devoted to the tools that were used in the games. He had made the decision to change it for the charity game- the states rugby team vs the student athletes. All sorts of wagers were placed on who would win, how many goals were to be made and for that weekend, business would boom.
His face was pale and his brow sweaty as he leaned to the mike.
“I don’t know where to begin” he said at last.
“Just start by telling us what happened the night of the murder” the district attorney said gently. Edam nodded. In the 4 years that he had been owner of the Shady Lady Tavern, nothing like this had happened before.
“Right, well, it being payday, the tavern was pretty full, even more so because of the bus that broke down earlier – right after their charity match. It stranded them overnight and they were staying in our upper rooms. The whole rugby team was in the pool room having dinner and walking all over the tavern signing autographs for people. They kept the place going until we closed at midnight. I see Tiffany come in and it’s a bit near nine when she does to get her take out order.
I tell her it will be a minute or so, and Mitch starts talking to her and I see him give her a hug like you give a kid you know- His hands were up on her shoulders and they just got close for a few seconds- that’s all. I can’t hear what they are saying but she seemed really excited. I go back in the kitchen to yell at the short order cook a while then I came out and I give Mitch his order and he went, and then I had to go back into the kitchen to get Tiffany’s hers, and she pays me and then I got called into the kitchen again cause they kept having problems with the rugby team order and it’s messing up the whole line of other peoples orders. The captain kept swatting the backsides of the waitresses and they didn’t want to go near him , they said he was a crea…. “
“Do you recognize this?” the district attorney interrupted Edam as he held up the neon tie marked exhibit A. Edam nodded. “That’s Mitch’s tie, everyone knows that. But- he wasn’t wearing it that night, he only wears it on Friday.” The district attorney paused and looked at the tie, then placed it on the table.
“Can you tell me what happened two days later?” Edam began to wring his hands as he nodded. He took a breath then closed his eyes as if to blot out the memory.
“It was bad…Monday afternoon was when it all happened. Everyone was using the tavern as a meeting place to talk about what happened. The sheriff said that the D.N.A. results would be back by then, and every one was just – waiting. Bessie Clarks cell phone rang, her brother Jeramy works at the lab in Portland, and she yells out that the only D. N. A that was found at all belonged to Mitch. It, got ugly then- it was like a mob gone wild. Mr. Barns grabbed one of the baseball bats from the wall and started swinging it at Mitch. I know it connected a few times, and Flora was yelling for him to stop, and then she got behind the counter and grabbed my gun and just plugged Mr. Barn’s in the shoulder, and then in the hip and she’s yelling at him to stop hitting her husband. He wouldn’t though, he was swinging for Mitch’s head when she fired again and it got Mr. Barns in the right side of his chest.
Mr. Barns went down on his knees and dropped the bat. She held the gun ready to shoot any one else while she checked to be sure her husband was still alive. Mr. Barn’s fully intended to kill Mitch for harming his daughter, but, that, wasn’t… that …” Edam burst into tears. “Oh its been awful” he sobbed. “I keep hearing the gunshots and seeing the blood and Mitch’s look of surprise when the blows of the bat fell, I can’t get it out of my mind. Mitch wouldn’t harm anyone. I haven’t been able to open the tavern since then.”
Lunch time came. Tipper chewed thoughtfully on the turkey club sandwich that had been brought in. There had been no drugs in Tiffany’s system, though she had eaten, which meant time had passed since she left the Shady Lady Tavern- unless she ate it outside which was doubtful, her parents had said she had brought the meal back and they had eaten it together. So, what would have drawn her back to that area? There was something that nagged in the back of Tippers mind that troubled her. She gathered her rubbish and tossed it in the bin before heading to the elevator to go to the court room and spend time reflecting on the testimony. As she waited for the doors to close, the DA stepped in the elevator and punched the button for the court room.
She waited until the doors closed before blurting out in a soft voice “Yes, I know this could lead to a mistrial. At lunchtime I remembered some news story about a rugby team having problems – I can’t remember exactly what it was, my gut tells me that the events are connected. You might want to put Edam back on the stand and get details of what his waitresses were saying…” She saw the DA. regard her. “Your basing this on.. exactly what.. Ms Henderson? Tipper straightened her spine to almost look him in the chin. “ It’s Dr. Henderson, DVM. Mitch is diabetic. Physical relations aren’t something done – quickly for diabetics. Do the math.” She said curtly before the doors opened up leaving the DA to stand there in silence.
Tipper strode out of the elevator to the lady’s room. She had to lean against the wall as she shook like a leaf. What on earth had posessed her to blurt that out? When she had calmed herself she went and sat in the jury’s waiting room with the others waiting for the jury balif to call them in. Tiffany’s Barn’s mother and father were angry, to be sure, and were holding Mitch accountable for their daughter, and Flora for shooting Mr. Barn’s.
As the Sheriff had said, it was open and shut. Flora had shot Mr. Barns in front of witnesses, but, only in the defense of her husband who would have been beaten to death by Mr. Barns. While the gunshot wounds were serious, the beating Mitch had sustained from Mr. Barns was far more serious in nature. Healing for Mitch would take years of physical therapy, if the injurys healed at all. Flora had been informed by the public defender that she would not be able press counter charges against Mr. Barns for her husband’s injurys as long as the charges against her husband were still in effect.
Glancing at her watch, Tipper realized that court should have began by then - was the DA asking for a mistrial? She caught her breath as the bailif came into the room and called for everyones attention. “The DA has asked for , and has been granted a continuance for the case until tomorrow morning at 8 am.” She heard the usual ‘don’t discuss this etc’ then her pager went off. All eyes were on her. “ What? I’m a Dr. I *have * to keep it on,” she said before looking down at the message. “Room 310, 10 min. DA.”it said.
She swallowed, then gathered her things and joined the others in their going out. Many of them milled at the elevator, she paused seeing the crush of people and shrugged before ducking into the ladys room again. She allowed a good 5 min before going out again. The elevator, and the hall were empty. She took the elevator down three floors and knocked on the door before hearing “Enter” She saw the DA sitting at his computer, his fingers flying over the keys. He glanced up at her and nodded for her to close the door.
“Am I in trouble?” she blurted out. She watched the DA take a breath.
“No, But I am.” He said at last. He saw her tilt his head. “I, like all of the town, except you, jumped to conclusions. I – didn’t do the math.” He sighed again. “I spoke with the sheriff, and he mentioned that I’d do well to listen to what you had to say because you have helped him in the past. That’s the primary reason why I haven’t pulled you from the jury pool, and, to be honest, we were hoping that you would have seen something that we overlooked.
I have asked the judge for the continuance because I would rather take the day to track down the information rather than explain why I had to toss you into a cell for contempt of court. You were right about talking to Edam.
I called Edam to the judges chambers and got more details regarding the rugby team captains actions with the waitresses, and, I did some research on the captain of the team - Jarrad McMasters - He’s been accused of raping 6 women over the last 3 years, but always slid by on technical reasons. A couple of them were party girls, one of them, the last one and her case is still pending, went to the hospital and told them she was raped, and the hospital failed to notify the athoritys within the specific period of time- but they did do a rape kit on her. Because she is a minor, the results are classified until he would be formaly charged by the police for it, but they didn’t see any reason to as the other 5 were dismissed”
“How can he keep getting away with it?” Tipper asked shocked. The DA sighed. “It isn’t from lack of trying on our part.” He sighed again. “We don’t have any evidence besides his behavior that he even approched her. I find it more than cooincdental that where he played the game was at the schools field, and he was tossed early from the game for penaltys, about the same time that Flora had her car parked there… and, Tiffany was at that game as well.
Tipper regarded the DA for a moment as she chewed her bottom lip. “Did they find out what happened to the bus?” she asked curious. He nodded. “Darndest thing- a couple of the wires for the electrical system were burnt through- no sign of wear, just- like someone held a lighter to them. It’s happened before.”
“Let me guess- 6 other time’s before?” asked Tipper. He shook his head. “4 times, and yes, it did corrispond with the reported rapes in the other citys. We – didn’t catch it because no one was really mentioned by name- and well, honestly, rugby isn’t one of the sports that we follow as it has little to do with lobster fishing. If the school hadn’t invited them to come for the charity game… ” he shook his head.”
For a moment there was silence between them. “So, what happens now?” Tipper asked. “Flora did shoot Mr. Barns, but in defending her husband. The lab should have never released the information like they did- that- breaks every rule that a lab can do. Mr. Barns didn’t have any right taking the law into his own hands”
“I know- I know.” He said, then he regarded her longer “Do the other jury members feel this way?” he asked.
She shrugged. “pretty much.” Tipper slumped for a moment, then, she straightened up.
“OHMYGOSH” she exclamed.
“The security camera behind the Mini mart!” The DA shook his head.
“There isn’t a security camera behind the Mini Mart, I asked Harrison” Tipper shook her head “ Harrison doesn’t own it” she said looking directly at him “It was put in by the dock steward because the kids were messing with the boats, it runs on a motion detector and the tapes are reviewed every week when the dock steward makes his rounds. He would be up north for the next two days, I am sure there would be something on the tape that can help us… the recorder is kept in the shed to the left of the mini mart…”
The DA regarded her. Tipper said it with such conviction that it caused him to blink a few times.
“Hmm. Guess we will have to check into that when he gets into town…” he said nodding. “You, young lady, should be getting back to your practice of being a vet. ” He said pointing to the door. “I expect you do it very well.” He said watching her nod.
Tipper couldn’t sleep. She paced the floors of her bedroom then went down the steps to her kitchen where she made herself a cup of tea by the illumination of her street light. The news of the security camera footage to be recovered made the 5 o’clock news- she glanced at her watch. 2 am. It would be dawn in 2 and a half hours. If he was stupid, he would do something stupid…It was the best chance that Mitch had- that Flora had- that the Barn’s had to come to terms with their daughters death. The whole east coast had been hanging on the edge of their seats- she knew that it would take time to drive from the city that
She could see docks and the bridge going over the bay to the other side from her upstairs window. The sheriff, the DA, and some others were stationed around- if this didn’t work…
A round of gunfire caused her to jump. Hot tea sloshed on her hand as she grasped the window sill. It had come from the Mini Mart back lot. More gunfire coming up the street- what idiot would run up the street fireing a gun? Placing her mug on the side board Tipper went to the shelf- her fingers closed around the wooden barrol- She had only used it once on a person before. Cracking it open she fished for a handful and headed for her upper deck. She knew she was able to see the street line from there- though be unseen from her perch. She caught her breath as she studied the road, not seeing any movement- Why would he be coming this way? She thought to herself.
Because it was the way to the other side of the bay – over the hill was the small private docks where weekend fishermen hooked up their boats and didn’t worry about them until the following week. If he had spent any time in the town, which the team had the whole afternoon and part of the morning to explore, he would know about it. To risk taking off in an open boat, with no lights at night though was suicide. There was another shot- followed by some down the hill. Tipper perched the gun on the rail and used the scope to search the area. She found him hiding behind a tree- unseen from those coming up the road, half of his body exposed to her view.
She pressed against the house so not to attract his attention. She saw him turn as her gun slipped a bit, scraping the wood. He had heard it, and didn’t know what the sound was. He was panting, and his face wore the expression of the hunted. She saw him swing the gun around again as voices were coming up the hill, telling him to give up. She saw him take aim at the sheriff who had paused in the middle of the street. Late night chases were not in his job discription he would say later. This night was no exception.
Tipper gently squeezed the trigger sending the tranq dart into the young man’s shoulder. She heard him snarl, and turn towards her. She cleared the cartridge and fired again, getting him in the hip. He wobbled as he pulled the trigger, falling to the ground. Tipper felt the bite of wood sting her hand as she rolled across the deck floor.
”OWWWCHAHW” she exclaimed picking the fragments from her hand. She could see that his bullet had impacted the wood post where she was leaning. A few more inches to the right and it would have impacted her. Looking up, she saw the young man laying prone on the road. The sheriff and the others hurried to him and rolled him over. Closing her eyes, Tipper hoped that some sense could be made from all this madness.
The soft brease floated across the bay and ruffled the napkin that held the blueberry bagel smothered with cream cheese Tipper was nibbling on. Across from her Harrison pulled up a chair as he deposited a plate with more fresh bagles and two mugs of steaming hot tea. The trial had ended a few days before and Tipper had flung herself into her work for as long as she could avoiding the questions that were being asked. When she went down to the Mini Mart to get her weekly grocerys, Harrison had suggest they take a walk down the docks to grab something to eat at the pastry shop- he was starved he said, and he knew she didn’t eat as well as she should.
“My daughter thinks we should move, and find some place safer.” He said quietly. “But, as I’ve told her, there aren’t many places that we would find, better. There are good, and bad people everywhere.” He paused. “Now, that its over, the case I mean- do you want to talk about it?- the jury decision I mean”
“One of her teachers said that Tiffany had made the honor roll, she was so excited she was telling everyone. I guess that’s why she had hugged Mitch- and maybe was the reason why she caught that guys eye.- He said in his statement she agreed to meet with him after her parents went to bed. The lab, knew better. Because of them releasing the information out of turn, two people were injured. The phone records match, as well as the testimony of the people there. The only call that should have been made was to the sheriffs office, which, it wasn’t until after the call to the emergency dispatcher was made. The company that owned the lab agreed, and, are taking care of things… well, they said they would. I think they just expected a few pills for nerves, not- not the injurys that Mitch suffered.
Of course they could argue that Mr. Barns inflicted the injurys,- but he wouldn’t have had the reason if proticol had been followed. The rugby team owner is being pulled in on the costs as well, as they were aware of what he was doing and didn’t take steps to prevent it. Hero, or not, the team owners have the responsibility to keep their members in check. They were able to identify his teeth marks on her hand- the bruises showed up post mortim. He was, learning from his mistakes, he knew not to leave DNA behind, or someone to identify him but he wasn’t counting on a camera over his shoulder. Or one that we though was there.”
“I don’t blame Mr. Barns. If it was my daughter Molly…”
“You’re a level headed guy Harrison… you wouldn’t – do that. Not like what he did. You would look for the truth first…”
“And then?” he asked taking a bite of the bagel.
“Then- well..” she met his gaze. “This is a great neighborhood. Lots of friends, and support. “ she said not breaking his gaze. Tipper watched as he spread more cream cheese on his bagel. She saw him finally give her a nod.
“We will keep Molly, and all the other children safe Harrison.” She said softly. “We become their heros so that when they want to follow some one’s example it’s a good one.” It was all that she could promise him, or herself.