The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction. I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters. I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.
Chapter 13 is here.
Before the sound of Mrs. Whitebread’s steps fully faded away, Sarah had tapped out a text message to Michael. She mentioned Lucas but not the black SUV that had taken off as soon as Mrs. Whitebread had turned away from the window. She dropped the phone and rubbed her face, massaging sweat into her skin. She wanted to go back to her cottage, take a long shower, and then curl into bed and sleep until the deadline for Misty’s clemency petition had passed and there would be nothing they could do for her.
What a bitch, she thought to herself, of herself. What a pathetic, scaredy-cat bitch. What kind of lawyer would I be if I run away from every hard, every dangerous case. She hadn’t studied law to work on real estate transactions or trade agreements or copyright infringements. She hadn’t studied law to make money. She wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, people who didn’t have anyone advocating for them because they were poor or the wrong color or the wrong ethnicity. She wanted to advocate for the disenfranchised, people like Misty who didn’t have the means or the savvy to obtain a good defense. People who pled guilty even they weren’t guilty. They were just scared by a system that seemed to have nothing but contempt for them.
Her phone buzzed. It wasn’t Michael returning her call. It was the same caller as before, the one she had gotten just before Mrs. Whitebread’s strange visit. This time she took the call.
She froze when she heard the voice. She could almost smell the cigar smoke.
“Miss Mansfield. This is Sheriff Cooley. I believe I have some information that might help Misty’s case.”
“What information?” Sarah managed to sit down but every sense in her body was telling her to put the phone down and run.
“Well, actually, it’s something her half-sister Melody wants to tell you. Could you drive over here now, to Oyster Point?”
“Now?” Sarah glanced outside the window. It was getting dark. The faux-19th century street lamps were slowly coming on, making the natural light darker than it would otherwise be. Still, by the time she could get to Oyster Point, it would be dark. And she didn’t have any protection. She had never liked guns. Her father had given her target lessons when she was a teen-ager, which she had hated because of the noise and the recoil that her small frame always struggled with. But he had been persistent about it especially after one of her classmates was raped and murdered in her own home while her parents were on a weekend trip. It didn’t matter to her father that it was the young girl’s boyfriend who was the murderer and that Sarah never had a boyfriend and that her parents never left her alone overnight. It didn’t matter. What mattered to her father was that she’d know how to use a gun. The problem right now was that she didn’t have one.
“Yes, ma’am. I think Melody has a confession of sorts to make. She’s in distress right now otherwise I’d put her on the phone.”
Sarah hadn’t yet met Melody but nothing she had heard about the woman made Sarah feel she could trust her anymore than she could trust Cooley. Still, Melody had been at the scene of the crime when law enforcement arrived. One of the reports said that she had had blood on her, JImmy’s blood it was presumed, although no one bothered to test it to be sure.
“Okay. It will take me a couple of hours.”
“That’s fine, Miss Mansfield. I do apologize for the inconvenience, but I believe it will be worth your while.”
Sarah ended the call and stared at her phone for a few moments. Should she text or call Michael, she wondered? But he hadn’t yet responded to her text. Maybe he was busy with his “friend.” She didn’t know why it bothered her that he might have a female friend. It would probably be strange if he didn’t. Maybe he had more than one friend. Oh, damn, why did she care? He wasn’t her type. Too muscular. Too dark, not just in coloring with his dark eyes and dark hair (at least what little bit he left unshaved) and heavily tanned skin. He was all dark nature, like someone who would spend hours hiking through a forest but not even a few minutes reading a book. He was … sensual, not cool and distant like Lucas, like her dad, like the men she had been drawn to in law school. Men who tended not to return her interest once they learned that her student loans really were needed to pay her tuition and books, not to finance a fancy lifestyle.
She threw her phone into her messenger bag and slung the heavy thing over her shoulders. She didn’t try to be quiet as she ran down the stairs, her steps making an awful racket. Enough of one that Mrs. Whitebread appeared at her doorway, grimacing from the noise and the vibration Sarah’s clomping had set about her fine bone china teacups and saucers.
“Sorry, I’m in a hurry, Mrs. Whitebread.” She rushed past the woman, only momentarily wondering if she should stop and ask for the small unloaded pistol. But she decided against false confidence. Having a gun could be more dangerous than not having one, she thought as she practically flew out the back door to her car.