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 Category:  Mystery and Crime Fiction
  Posted: October 15, 2020      Views: 17
Chapters:
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Chapter 12 of the book Pewter's Homecoming
The team goes to Gately's for lunch.
"Chapter 4 - Present" by teols2016
Background
Five years later, a closed homicide gets a second look.


Previously in "Pewter's Homecoming":

Marcy Sellers starts her junior year as a new student at Pewter Public High School in western Texas. She meets Lily Harvey, who shows her around. A few weeks later, both girls are attacked. The police quickly arrest a suspect, but, five years later, Roland Davis, a lawyer from Dallas, is given a chance to review the case.


After three more days of research, Roland, along with the reluctant pair of Janice and Phillip, boarded an American Eagle flight to El Paso. He had to lecture his team on the time change when the pilot's announcement about their arrival time caused confusion. Since that western slither of Texas was one hour behind the rest of the state, it initially seemed they would be in the air for two and a half hours. In reality, it was under ninety minutes.

At the El Paso International Airport, they picked up a reserved SUV from the rental agency and made the hour-long trip to Pewter. After checking into one of the town's two local hotels, they decided to get some lunch. Roland suggested Gately's, his research having shown the eatery was still in business.

"That's where all the students from the high school hung out," he explained as he drove. "Maybe we can get some information."

"And we won't look creepy doing so?" Phillip asked, incredulous. "I mean, three adults just sitting there, asking random teenagers questions about rape and murder. I might want to call the cops on myself."

"Plus, it was five years ago," Janice said. "Anyone in school with the girls is probably off to college or the military or somewhere else. The current students won't be much help."

But they went along with Roland's idea. After all, he was their boss, and the SUV's driver.

Gately's was just a short drive from the hotel. They passed the Pewter Public High School along the way, noticing the garden which was planted as a memorial for Lilian and Marcy. A large plaque near the front of the plot confirmed this in big, gold letters.

"Marcy Sellers is still alive, right?" Phillip asked from the backseat of the SUV.

"Yeah," Janice replied. "As far as the articles suggest, she never woke up from her coma. Her parents moved her away from Pewter, probably to get away from what happened."

"That's gotta be rough."

As he drove, Roland could only nod, trying to figure out what he'd researched about the Sellers, in particular the parents. This conversation about them suddenly seemed to make such information very important.
"There it is," Janice said, pointing out the yellow and blue sign that read "Gately's" in bold letters.

"Tacky," Phillip remarked, studying the sign as Roland parked. "Bet it's a reject from Vegas."

The three of them entered the eatery and Roland saw Tony Andrews, the owner and manager, behind the counter.

"Afternoon, folks," Tony said without looking up from the glass he was cleaning. "Sit anywhere and someone will be right with you."

"Thank you," Phillip said as the trio slid into a nearby booth and plucked menus from the rack by the wall.

Looking around, Roland spotted a juke box against one wall. He rose to investigate. Getting closer, he saw it didn't contain records, but instead a screen from which it seemed one could select a song for a price. Roland inserted a dollar into the slot and, impressed with the apparently-endless list of options, chose "Good Life" by One Republic, "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw, and "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey.

"Great," Phillip remarked as Roland returned. "Music with your food."

A woman in a yellow and blue uniform soon came to their booth. Phillip's expression suggested the uniform matched the tacky sign outside. Roland had to agree to a point as he studied the woman.

"What can I get you folks?" the server asked, her pad and pen ready.

Roland figured this brunette was in her mid-30s, around his age. Was the economy still in such a sorry state that this was the best job available for her?

"I'll have a Bud and a burger," Phillip said.

"Ginger Ale and the tuna salad sandwich," Janice said.

"And you?" the waitress, her nametag reading "Emily", asked, looking at Roland.

"Water and the double cheeseburger with bacon," Roland replied.

"You look like you can eat that," Emily remarked. "It is big."

Roland wasn't as fit as he'd been during his days in the NFL, but he was still large and tall.

"Where you folks from anyway?" Emily asked. "I haven't seen you around here before."

"Dallas," Roland replied.

"What brings you to our quiet corner of the world?"

"Work," Roland replied. He wasn't quite prepared to disclose their reason for coming to Pewter.

"Well," Emily said, "enjoy your stay. I'll be right back with your drinks."

As she left, Janice turned to Roland.

"What do we do after lunch?" she queried.

"Talk to the sheriff," Roland replied. "I want to see if we can get a look at the actual evidence."

"No way that'll happen without some kind of court order," Phillip remarked.

"Maybe he'll at least talk to us."

"Not when he finds out why we're here," Janice said, sliding out of the booth.

"Where are you going?" Phillip asked.

"If we're going to do this, let's get started," Janice hissed over her shoulder.

She walked over to the counter, where Tony was cleaning another glass.

"Excuse me," she said, putting a southern twang in her tone. "This is where those girls were murdered, right? Over at the high school?"

"Yeah," Tony replied, still not looking up. "One of them died. The other ... I'm not sure where she's at now."

Janice nodded.

"We're doing research on that case," she explained. "Could you answer a couple questions?"

"Maybe," Tony replied.

"Those girls ever come in here?"

Tony paused his cleaning but still didn't look anywhere else. He seemed to be thinking.

"Yeah," he said after a few seconds. "Lots of kids came here after school. They mainly got the fries. Those are cheap."

"This a popular place around here?" Janice asked.

"I suppose. Pewter's pretty much the only town in Alter County and this is the closest we've got to anything 'downtown'."

He waved at the quiet neighborhood visible through the diner's large windows.**

"I'll bet the jurors on that trial came in here," Janice said, pretending to look fascinated.

"I suppose," Tony said. "We're not far from the courthouse."

He paused again, this time looking up at Janice.

"Come to think of it," he continued. "They were in here a lot. Always in a group. They all sat together, taking three or four booths. Never said much to anyone, and some folks tried to engage them in simple conversation."

"Ever have a problem with them being here?" Janice asked, frowning a bit.

"Not really. Some people got passionate about the case, so the talk got heated, but those folks stayed out of it. Brought in some good money for me for a while. I mean, reporters and other people were also coming in while that trial was happening."

"Hmm," Janice said, her frown growing.

Tony frowned as well. His eyes narrowed as he stared at her.

"What did you say you were here for?" he asked.

"Leave the poor girl alone, Tony," Emily admonished, coming with the group's drinks. "You don't need to go prying into everybody's business. It's natural for someone to be curious about what happened."

Janice was walking back to the booth as Emily set the drinks down for everyone.

"Sorry about him," she said. "He's very protective of the kids from the high school, especially after what happened. Even though they're gone, he still cares about those girls."

Roland nodded, studying Tony, who was staring at their booth.

"I'll be back soon with your food," Emily said and walked away again.

"Bet he spits in that food," Phillip said in a low voice, glancing at Tony. "I thought the trial was moved to another venue."

"No," Janice whispered back, "they just had an imported jury. It should have been moved. They drove those jurors to and from here for ninety minutes every morning and night."

She looked around the eatery. A few people were there, enjoying a late lunch. It was too early for the high school to let out, so no one was under twenty.

"A lot of good the imported jury must have done," she continued. "If even some of those jurors came in here every day during the trial for lunch, they would have heard people talking about the case. You can't tell me the town's emotional state influencing the jury wouldn't be grounds for reversible error."

"We'd need a juror to come forward to confirm this," Roland said. "Even then, it would still be a long shot, especially if we only get one. We still need to weaken the weight of the evidence."

"You've got a one-track mind," Phillip remarked as Emily came with their food.

Roland shrugged as he studied the waitress again. He then noticed Tony was still staring at them.

The book continues with Chapter 5 - Before Homecoming. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
These chapters are, for the most part, divided into 3 sections: "Before Homecoming", "After Homecoming", and "Present". There will be a couple exceptions to this structure in the last few chapters.

Pewter is a fictional town in fictional and rural Alter County in western Texas.

Cast of characters:

Marcy Sellers: a new student at Pewter Public High School,, starting her junior year. Was raped and left comatose in the girls' locker room after the Pewter Homecoming game.

Lillian "Lily" Harvey: a junior at Pewter Public High and a cheerleader. Was raped and murdered in the girls' locker room after the Pewter Homecoming game.

Andrew Mooruff: custodian at Pewter Public High. Convicted and sentenced to death for the locker room attack. Awaiting execution on Texas's Death Row.

Roland Davis: corporate attorney and former NFL player who is assigned to work pro-bono on Andrew Mooruff's appeals.

Janice Cooper: junior associate assigned to assist Roland in reviewing Andrew's case.

Phillip Decker: paralegal assigned to assist Roland in reviewing Andrew's case.

Tony Andrews: owner and manager of Gately's, a local eatery in Pewter which is popular with the high school students.

Emily Winters: server at Gately's.

Feedback, specifically suggestions for additions/subtractions/alterations, is always welcome. Enjoy.
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