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| Category: || Mystery and Crime Fiction |
Posted:|| October 18, 2020 Views: 16|
Chapter 18 of the book Pewter's Homecoming
Roland meets more residents of Pewter than he would like to.
"Chapter 6 - Present"
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.
"What's the address again?" Roland asked as he drove. His GPS hadn't been able to locate this place, so he and his support staff had to rely on a map they'd gotten at the Alter County civic building.
"Should be coming up on the left ... ugh," Janice said as the SUV hit another pothole.
The road they were navigating wasn't made of dirt, but it needed some serious work to match its counterparts further within Pewter's limits.
"That's it," Janice said, pointing over Roland's shoulder.
She was pointing at a small white house with a gray roof. The lawn wasn't overgrown, but there were plenty of weeds visible. There were a few potted plants, all of which were doing their best to die. At least one window had tape across it.
"Poor lady," Phillip remarked as Roland pulled to the side of the road. "Bet a lot of landscapers or handymen aren't keen to come to fix things here."
Roland didn't comment as they got out and walked towards the house. As they got closer, the inside door opened and a woman appeared, staring at them through the screen door.
"Mrs. Mooruff?" Roland asked.
"Yes?" the old woman asked, her face neutral and one hand on the inside door.
She was short and had white hair. The lines across her face indicated the years of stress she'd been enduring. She was wearing faded blue sweatpants and a matching hooded sweatshirt.
"Hi there," Roland said, coming up to the screen door. "I'm Roland Davis."
A weak smile appeared on the woman's face.
"You're my son's new lawyer," she said.
"Yes," Roland confirmed. "These are my associates, Janice Cooper and Phillip Decker. Can we speak with you for a few minutes?"
"Andy told me about you. We talk on the phone once every other week. It's not long, but it's nice. I don't get over to that prison very often, so we talk on the phone."
Her words sounded drawn-out and tired.
"He told me about you," she continued. "He said you were a nice man. He said you were going to help."
She managed a small chuckle.
"He didn't make it clear just how big you were," she commented, looking up at Roland's face. "Oh my."
"Do you have a few minutes to talk?" Roland asked, ignoring her reaction to his size.
The old woman sighed.
"I've got plenty of time," she said, pushing open the screen door. "Come on in."
Roland led the way. The inside of the small house was the opposite of its exterior. The floor was immaculate. A few pairs of shoes were neatly lined up against one wall. The group could see a well-organized bookcase in the adjacent den.
"I've got plenty of time to clean," the old woman remarked, watching them. "People don't come by much and I don't have many places to go."
"Mrs. Mooruff ..." Roland began.
"Call me Angela. Come into the kitchen."
The kitchen was as clean and organized as the rest of the house. Angela invited the group to sit as she put a tea kettle on the stove. Roland had a brief moment of fear that he'd break one of these spindly chairs by sitting in it, but it held. Still, He moved as little as possible.
"We're here to learn more about your son and what happened," he explained.
"What do you want to know?" Angela asked. "I know he didn't hurt those girls. It's not in his nature."
"I believe that. But, we've heard rumors."
Angela shook her head and made a clucking sound with her tongue.
"Rumors," she said. "You can guess I don't trust them."
"So, Andrew never spied on anyone?" he asked.
"Nope," Angela replied without hesitation. "Oh, he'd look at a pretty girl who's walking by, but show me a man who doesn't do that. I'm sure you're just the same, Mr. Davis."
Roland didn't answer.
"Did anyone ever talk to you about such allegations?" Janice asked.
"Mr. Ericson did," Angela replied. "The nice man who got Andy that job at the high school. He always believed in my boy. He said Andy followed the rules and wouldn't spy on anyone."
She took a deep breath.
"Andy did not hurt those girls," she declared. "Can you help him, Mr. Davis?"
"We're going to do everything we can," Roland replied.
* * *
"Where to now, Boss?" Phillip asked from the SUV's backseat.
"I want to talk to that custodian," Roland replied as he drove and ignored the new nickname. "Ashley Ericson. He saw Andrew around the school all the time."
"Ashley?" Phillip asked in disbelief.
"It was originally a common name for boys," Janice offered. "It didn't gain popularity as a girl's name until the 1980s and it's still a popular boy's name in England."
"How do you just know that?"
"My husband and I were thinking about the name for our son. We wanted to it to be different, but we decided that name would invite too many problems."
"What did you wind up going with?"
"Sounds like a bodyguard's name."
Roland wasn't interested in this conversation. A name wouldn't resolve this case and, more importantly, the questions which kept nagging at him.
He checked the time on the dashboard. 4:12. The custodian was probably still at the high school, so they'd go there. If what Andrew's mother had said was true, he'd want to talk to them.
They turned onto Elvalon Drive. Roland recognized a gas station. He realized they were just off Main Street. They'd head there and orient themselves before continuing towards the school.
Suddenly, a Jeep sped out of the upcoming intersection and turned towards them. Roland was driving straight at it.
"Jesus!" he exclaimed, slamming his foot on the brakes.
Tires squealed and the SUV fish-tailed, but it stopped after a few heart-racing seconds.
"Everyone okay?" Roland asked, staring out the windshield. He could see the Jeep's front bumper. It was about five feet from the front of the SUV. They hadn't hit it.
"Yeah," Janice and Phillip muttered behind him. They'd grabbed the seats in front of them to brace themselves.
Roland sighed with relief, seeing the Jeep's driver's side door open. He definitely needed to get out and find out what was going on. This person had deliberately pulled out to block them.
Roland unbuckled his seatbelt and pushed his door open. He got out and circled around the back of the SUV to confront the Jeep's driver.
He was already becoming angrier with every step. The sheriff had warned him that his reasons for coming to Pewter wouldn't remain a secret for long. He was sure this had something to do with the case. But being against the issue of someone's innocence was a big difference from risking an accident.
As he approached the Jeep, the driver jumped out, followed quickly by a passenger from the backseat. It was a young man and woman ... probably college students. He was carrying a camera and raising it as she stepped forward and whirled to face it.
"I'm Olivia Paulsen and we have an exclusive opportunity to speak with Roland Davis, the latest in a line of attorneys representing convicted murderer Andrew Mooruff."
"What is this?" Roland demanded as Phillip climbed out of the SUV, Janice sliding out behind him.
"Mr. Davis," Olivia Paulsen said, whirling to face him, "what do you think you can do given how guilty Andrew Mooruff is? I mean, there's DNA evidence. Everyone in town knows he did it."
"Who are you?" Janice asked, trying to stay out of sight of the camera by stepping behind Roland.
"Can we get a statement?" Olivia Paulsen asked.
"Are you nuts?" Roland asked. "You idiots nearly got us all killed. I've got nothing to say to you."
"Oh yeah?" the young man holding the camera asked. "You sure you don't owe the people of Texas an explanation? Guess it figures. You couldn't even play for us in the NFL."
Roland had heard this a few times and the jab didn't bother him. Pushing it aside, he thought the blond young man looked familiar. He decided to be forward.
"I know you?" he asked.
The blond kid actually puffed out his chest. It wasn't impressive.
"I'm Gabriel Harvey," he announced.
It clicked in Roland's mind. Lillian Harvey, the girl who died in that locker room. Roland could see a familial resemblance.
"I'm sorry about what happened," he said.
Gabriel Harvey glowered at him.
"Don't you dare say that," he snapped. "You've done enough to hurt my family. You and the others. Why won't you get it. He killed my sister."
"We're making a documentary," Olivia Paulsen chimed in. "We're going to expose the truth. Andrew Mooruff is guilty and needs to die, but the courts won't allow it because you lawyers keep lying about all kinds of things being wrong in this case."
Roland remembered that Lilian Harvey's older brother had been a film student at UT Austin. He worked to ignore the fact he'd somehow gone to the same school as this uninformed nutcase.
"How did you get involved in this idea?" Janice asked. With Gabriel more focused on ranting than filming, she'd stepped out from behind Roland's broad frame.
"I'm Gabe's girlfriend," Olivia replied. "He told me the whole story and I think what you're doing is wrong."
Roland wasn't a journalist nor filmmaker. Still, he could mentally compose a lengthy list of ethical conflicts applying to this situation while standing at this intersection.
"Let's go," he said, turning away.
All too glad to obey, Janice and Phillip scrambled back towards the SUV.
"Hey," Gabriel Harvey said, lowering his camera. "You're not going anywhere."
He lunged forward and grabbed Roland's arm. Roland stared at the idiot. He had half a foot and about fifty pounds on him. Did the kid really think this could end well.
A siren's squawk interrupted the tableau. Everyone turned to see sheriff Aaron Waller emerging from an Alter County Sheriff's Department cruiser.
"What's going on here?" the sheriff asked. "Folks in the local shops said there was almost an accident."
"Just some misjudgment by a young driver," Roland said. "No one's hurt and the cars never touched."
He was more interested in getting out of here than sparing Gabriel and his friend from having to answer for their stupidity.
"Misjudgment," Sheriff Waller muttered, studying the scene. "You don't say."
"That's all it is," Roland insisted.
The sheriff studied him and then nodded. He turned to Gabriel and his girlfriend.
"Be more careful next time," he advised. "Now, please pack up and leave. You're blocking the intersection."
There was no car waiting, but the sheriff's stern expression made it clear what he wanted.
"Come on, Chuck!" Gabriel called.
At this, another young man got off a nearby bench and hurried over to the Jeep. As he climbed in, Roland wondered if he'd been a lookout for the group. He hadn't noticed this third stooge earlier.
Gabriel and Olivia climbed back into the Jeep and its engine came to life. It was soon passing the SUV and driving away.
Sheriff Waller turned to Roland.
"Making friends, I see," he commented without smiling.
"Kind of," Roland replied. "I don't want to follow up on this."
Sheriff Waller nodded.
"That's maybe for the best," he said. "I suggest you take it one step further and leave. Have you actually found any new evidence?"
Roland didn't speak, but he knew his silence was telling. The sheriff nodded again.
"I'm all for freedom of speech and for letting people do what they want," he said. "I just don't want to get dragged into it. If you find evidence, you'll have the full support of me and my department. But if you're just going to get people riled up, then please do it back home in Dallas."
Not giving Roland a chance to reply, He turned and walked back to his cruiser, whistling as he went.
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. The "After Homecoming" section also has the largest time shift throughout the 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.
Aaron Waller: sheriff of Alter County. Defeated/succeeded Sheriff Keith Darden.
Angela Mooruff: Andrew's mother.
Gabriel Harvey: Lily's older brother.
Feedback, specifically suggestions for additions/subtractions/alterations, is always welcome. Enjoy.
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