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A Time of Their Own — Excerpt of Novella 1 — A Law of Her Own

perf5.000x8.000.indd     Turner couldn’t help but stare at the blond haired woman. He’d never seen a woman with her hair cut so short and wearing such large earrings. Who was she and why was she here? His gaze was drawn to her face—blue eyes, brown eyebrows and lashes, and pink lips. She was lovely. When he peered into the depths of her eyes, he felt an electrical jolt. Did he know her?

He mentally shook himself and continued to the table where his skinny inept lawyer sat. The man tried but he just didn’t have the backbone to go toe to-toe with the prosecutor. He might have been better off to defend himself.

The bailiff announced, “All rise for Judge Howell.” The judge fluttered in with his black robe flowing and sat down at the desk on the dais. He gave Turner a hard look and then turned to the prosecution.

“Are you ready to finish your charges against the defendant, Mr. Jamison?”

The rotund prosecutor stood and pulled his vest down tightly over his large belly. “Yes, sir, I am. I just have one more thing to add.” He turned to his assistant. “Will you please move the chalkboard around to the other side?”

The young man did so. “Now, Doctor Wilson, will you draw a torso and show us how the woman was cut, and how the fatal wound was delivered?”

Doc stood, walked to the chalkboard, and picked up a piece of chalk. It didn’t take him long to show the terrible knife wound that started on the victim’s left side and continued over and up under her right breast. The thought of Lucinda dying such a horrible death was nauseating. If he ever got out of this fix, he’d find her murderer and make him pay.

Jamison parroted in front of the jury. “Now, Doctor, would you say that was a good rendering? That’s exactly how the wound looked?”

Doc Wilson nodded. “Yes.”

“How deep did you say the wound was?”

“Jamison, I’ve said three times already the wound was three inches deep in places.” Doc was livid. He turned to the chalkboard, picked up the chalk, and wrote three inches deep. “There, do you think that’s clear enough for you?”

The room roared with laughter. Judge Howell pounded on the gavel. “That’ll be enough. Silence or I’ll empty this court.” The room settled to a low hum and then became quiet.

Jamison’s neck was red as he turned to the jury. “Take a good look at that horrendous wound, folks.” Then he pivoted and pointed at Turner. Everyone in the room turned toward him. Some glances were sympathetic, others were filled with hate. He continued to doodle on the pad in front of him, and without luck, tried to ignore their stares. “And that’s the man who inflicted it. The state rests, Your Honor.”

Turner’s attention, along with the audience’s, quickly moved to the strange blonde as she struggled with the sheriff. Finally he let her go and she moved to sit behind the defense table. What could she be up to?

Judge Howell scowled. “Young woman, you will remain seated in my court.”

She stood, nodded, and replied. “Yes, sir, Your Honor.” Her voice was warm and scratchy like good rye whiskey. The judge appeared mollified by her dignified answer and nodded back.

Judge Howell turned to Turner’s attorney. “Mr. Bailey, are you ready to present your evidence for the defense?”

Bailey stood and voice quaking, stuttered, “Yes…sir, your…Honor.” He started picking through papers. The woman behind them pulled on his coattail and he bent down while she whispered in his ear. His faced registered shock and he shook his head, but she leaned over, slapped the rail with her palm, and whispered again.

Flustered, he said, “Uh, Your Honor…I have a surprise witness.” Sweat was pouring from his face and he pulled at his collar.

“Well, get on with it, Bailey,” said the judge.

Bailey appeared to plea to the heavens, but took a deep breath and announced, “Miss Charity Dawson, please take the stand.”

The sheriff and Jamison both jumped up at the same time. “I object, Your Honor,” said Jamison. The sheriff, shouted, “That young woman just arrived here this morning; she can’t know anything about the murder.”

The judge scowled at the woman. “Is that true, Miss Dawson?”

“Yes sir, it is. But, I’m a lawyer from New York with some skill in forensic science that I think will greatly help this case. I beg your indulgence, Your Honor. Please let me speak.”

Sheriff Cannon threw up his hands. Jamison howled, “I object Your Honor. Who ever heard of a woman lawyer?”

Judge Howell scratched his head.  “I’ll allow it, Mr. Bailey, but it better be good.”

“Yes, sir, Judge.”

Turner watched in fascination as the young woman was sworn in and took the stand. She sat down in the witness box with no fear as if she did it everyday.

“First, Miss,” said Bailey. “Will you define forensic science for the court?”

She smiled and her blue eyes lit with excitement. “It is the study of evidence in cases and how to use those facts to prove or disprove someone’s innocence or guilt.”

A quiet murmur went through the audience.

“Do you have some information that is helpful in this case?”

“Yes, I do.”

Jamison jumped up again. “I strongly object, Your Honor.”

“Objection so noted, prosecutor. Now sit down and shut up,” ordered the judge. Jamison fell into his chair, and closed his mouth. Turner wanted to chuckle but restrained the urge. Doing so would just make the prosecutor more determined to hang him.

“Now, Miss Dawson, please continue,” said Judge Howell.

“May I move to the chalkboard, Your Honor? I’d like to point out something about the wound that will be helpful.”

Turner didn’t know what was going on, but he prayed the woman was for real and knew something they didn’t. Pencil clenched in his hand, he watched as the bailiff helped her down from the box.

Turner followed her progress across the front of the court as did every man in the room. Her hips swayed gracefully under that unusual skirt, and her bracelets jangled with each step she took. The white blouse showed her neck and chest, though her breasts were hidden, and the skin was tanned like she worked in the sun a lot.

She stood before the doctor’s diagram and pointed to the wound. “First let me say a man’s strength in his arm is here.” She put her hand around her bicep, turned to the jury, and then to the courtroom. “Would you gentlemen in the room agree with that?”

Heads nodded and Turner heard several, “yeses,” and “that’s true.”

“Now, if you’ve been watching Mr. Reardon during the proceedings, you’ll have noted which hand he’s been using to write on the pad before him. From your observations, what is your conclusion?”

Head tilted, eyebrow quirked, she opened her left palm and waved it toward the audience.

Some peered around trying to see him while others sang out, “He’s a lefty,” and “Used that southpaw ever since I knowed him.”

She smiled. “Now, since we’ve clarified that, look back at the diagram. There is no way the defendant could have caused this wound. It was inflicted by a right-handed man.” She pointed to Turner. “As established, the defendant is left handed. If he’d inflicted the wound it would’ve gone in the opposite direction.”

The courtroom erupted into a round of loud claps and whistles. The defendant’s eyes met hers and a slow, lazy smile softened his features. He nodded and she returned the courtesy. God, he was a charmer.

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