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| Category: || Mystery and Crime Fiction |
Posted:|| November 15, 2020 Views: 94|
A jolt of electricity to brighten the day
by Brett Matthew West
Silence, glorious silence, filled the stagnant air. Though dusty, Sparky stood alone in the darkness. He could not remember the last time electricity massaged his circuitry. The amber current always brought him to life.
Three busloads of curious spectators filed into the courtroom. Extra bailiffs had been stationed for crowd control. Before the jury arrived to their assigned seats in the box, the little judge came in to look around. In search of the lion's share of the ratings, the major networks had strategically installed their finest crews to capture the proceedings for a national television audience.
Exaggerating arrogance, Woodbury Crockett was a self-important stuffed shirt worth celebrating. At least, in his pompous mind. Crockett claimed to be descended from a long line of top tier esquires. He further professed lineage to a certain famous frontiersman. Like the folklore of yesteryear, cameras adored his suave personality. Possessing grand visions, and feasting on crumbs of glory, his theatrics were clamored for. As the helter-skelter scene unfolded, Crockett twirled the whiskers of his horseshoe moustache. Vertical extensions of hair darkened by cocoa paste raced beyond his upper lip and down to his jawline.
Crockett scoffed. He told his underlings, "Look at 'em. Just look at 'em all in there gawking like there's no tomorrow. The damn fools want their show and we're going to give them a performance for the ages. One they will never forget. Let's go."
As Sparky maintained his steadfastness and waited, the battle's inferno raged.
To begin his histrionics, Woodbury Crockett passed a sly wink in the direction of a long-faced spinster seated in the front row. Steamy in the courtroom, the priss gushed back. She dabbed the sweat off her forehead with a crumpled Klennex Ultra Soft she clutched in her wrinkled hand and exclaimed, "Oh my!" It was easy to discern she had long ago passed the prime age.
Crockett turned to the defendant and asked, "What is your occupation, Miss Comstock?"
"I am a professional Drag Queen for the female persuasion," the accused remarked.
"Let's go over this one more time, shall we, Miss Comstock?" Woodbury Crockett began.
With reluctant acquiescence, Beverly Comstock adjusted her position. Her cool demeanor captivated the rubbernecked assemblage. She replied, "I strolled into Pterodactyls in my thigh-high Laredos. Soon thereafter, the cabinet of curiosities invited me to come over and share a Heineken with her like the butt-kicking wench I am."
To stir a rise, Crockett implied, "By that comment you mean the deceased, Maryanne Mortenson. Who you murdered in merciless cold blood, I dare add."
The barrister's accusation achieved its desired effect. A loud gasp emitted from the packed courtroom as Marvin Wilkinson leaped to his wing-tipped Gucci loafers. The Defense Attorney felt the authentic leather insoles press against his arches through his Argyles. He liked the diamonds, and their solid backgrounds.
Wilkinson bellowed, "Objection! Your Honor, the prosecutor is badgering my client with an unproven allegation."
The judge, a paradoxical slip of a man, with wire-rimmed spectacles and a lightweight opaque robe, pounded his gavel down hard on his bench. The mahogany implement careened uncontrolled back at him. The mallet nipped his noggin.
"Consarn it!" The magistrate howled. He rubbed the goose egg that rapidly developed in the middle of his cranium.
Close-set between the bridge of his nose and his grey temples, flames blazed in his eyes when Judge Hal Mortimer screeched, "Order! Order in my courtroom or I will have the bailiffs clear everyone of you noise-making louts out of here! And, strike me pink, I mean it!"
It was Beverly Comstock's insightful speech that settled the horde down. She informed the court, "Coming from a corner booth, Maryanne's invitation caught my undivided attention. Garth Brooks' "Friends In Low Places" emanated from the jukebox. And, I assure you, they couldn't get much lower than Maryanne Mortenson." Lost in thought, she snickered, "What I would have preferred to do was to put on a kickboxing exhibition, right up beside Maryanne's mean and petty face. The witch knew I owed her a good one and would have made a choice, as well as a delectable, ahem, shall we say victim?"
In a concerted effort to keep the ratcheted pressure on the defendant in front of him, Woodbury Crockett began his next set of questions. He handed her a glossy 8X10 full-colored photograph and smiled at the multitude. Rhythmically, Crockett drummed his fingers on the railing. In a distinct monotone, he proposed, "Isn't it a proven fact, Miss Comstock, you and Maryanne Mortenson had your well known publicized differences that often played out in the news?"
The indomitable participator responded with a cheeky, "Our issues had been ongoing for, count them, six long years. Instead of becoming repetitive they expanded, which made them much more challenging. Violence became part of the narrative and I always exasperated my opposition. Believe me, the opportunities were not rare."
Crockett moved next to a blank poster board on a three-legged easel. He retrieved a black marker and turned the writing utensil in his fingers. He pulled the cap off. Prepared to take notes he stated, "If it pleases the court, I would like to have Miss Comstock elaborate about what some of these 'so called' opportunities, as she so eloquently labeled them, entailed."
As though an explanation was no big deal, Beverly Comstock shrugged her slender shoulders and replied, "Lengthy messages, and occasional drawings, became commonplace. From time to time, thirty-five millimeter cinematic films were created of our excursions. I could not imagine missing or omitting any details from these wondrous events. They added interest, power, and originality to our outings. Social incidents were to be overlooked."
Circling overhead like a vulture in search of carrion, Woodbury Crockett solicited, "Miss Comstock, what did you gain from these productions?"
In deep contemplation, Beverly Comstock replied, "If you want things to change then be the change you're looking for. I wanted large denominations of greenbacks and plenty of them. That's what flows my juices."
At Melville State Prison, adorned in his raspberry button-down shirt, and coordinated wine-colored tie, the rugged Warden Johann Schneider flipped a switch. For a brief moment, Sparky came to life. His 10 amps surged, and the potential for 2,450 volts remained in place. A deep, audible, sigh reverberated throughout the execution chamber. The test completed at 1:48 p.m., Warden Schneider signed the log and shut Sparky down. All systems dwelled on go.
A sweaty palm clamped down tight on the middle of Woodbury Crockett's ample brow. He leaned back against the bar and skimmed his eyes to see who in the gallery focused on him. In feigned surprise, he shrieked, "Egad, Miss Comstock! Do you realize you just provided the court your motive for committing this murder? You drugged Maryanne Mortenson, dismembered her body, stuffed her remains in a burn barrel, and set them on fire. Why don't you come out and admit what you did?"
Marvin Wilkinson blistered an explosive, "Your Honor, the prosecutor is once again deluding my client with assertions that have not been proven!"
Judge Mortimer responded with a crisp, "Sustained!" He glared at the prosecutor and warned, "Mr. Crockett, should you pull anymore such capers, I shall hold you in contempt of my court. Rephrase your question. The jury shall disregard the prosecutor's last comment."
With a camouflaged smirk, Woodbury Crockett returned, "Yes, Your Honor." He faced the defendant. In a downplayed tone he questioned, "Miss Comstock, is it possible you realize you may have just provided this court with a possible motive for the commission of this murder?"
As though offended, Beverly Comstock elaborated, "I never confessed to any such affair. I allowed my opposition to believe I stored past transgressions on the Internet. My aspirations were loftier and required I evaluate all situations I encountered. That's all."
In rebuttal, Woodbury Crockett pressed, "Tell me, Miss Comstock, the last time you saw her, how would you describe Maryanne Mortenson?"
A quick acknowledgement resounded, "Vigorous and healthy." Beverly Comstock looked around the courtroom and said, "Maryanne possessed a copious figure and peroxide curls. However, her natural blonde hair no longer existed. New color adorned her follicles and that ruined our photo shoot. She would have been better served to use lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar, for a subtle color change. We could have worked with that. She could have even used chamomile or cinnamon to bring her highlights to the forefront."
Crockett probed, "Miss Comstock, did you resent the fact your photo shoot with Maryanne Mortenson did not turn out as planned?"
Scoffing, Beverly Comstock countered, "Give me a break. You know how it goes in certain neighborhoods, especially those where killers like to prey on young, defenseless, women." She pondered, "We've never had such a hideous monster before on Taysom Hill. But, there's a first time for everything."
The implication obvious, Woodbury Crockett scowled at her and asked, "If one did exist, Miss Comstock, what acorn would you use to catch the squirrel?"
"I always play my targets that way," Beverly Comstock admitted. A black dot on the far wall drew her pinpointed attention. She said, "My reputation precedes me."
"Particularly in the Violent Criminal Apprehension Unit of our local Police Department," Crockett retorted, "their records indicate you have been arrested on four previous escalating counts of assault. The first when you were..." He paused to consult his legal pad then confirmed, "seventeen years old." He ran his finger down the list, looked up and added, "You also served three years in custody for beating up an eighty-six-year-old nun in the rectory of Saint Thomas Cathedral. My, but you have been a naughty little girl, haven't you?"
A crooned murmur hummed through the gallery as Beverly Comstock adjusted her posture on the witness stand. She uttered, "Once again, my Ph.D. in psychosis comes back to haunt me." A shrill laughter followed. "I even played the Blues on my harmonica." A somber appearance settled over her when she stated, "Now, I see the bigger picture and the worthwhile observations were to be respected."
Glee glistened in Woodbury Crockett's eye. He honed in on the defendant. She smelled the fire of his breath. He fixed his gaze on the jury. Each word emphasized for effect, he began, "The howling wind can blow mighty cold, Miss Comstock. When I look at you, I no longer see the swagger or the bravado. What I see is a timid mouse afraid to nibble on the cheese of life. If there is something you need to inform this court about, now is the time."
The broken sparrow fluttered in the hurricane that engulfed her. On the verge of a meltdown, Beverly Comstock whimpered, "Don't you understand why I had to kill her? I needed Maryanne's exorbitant large butt to stew in my crockpot and feast on. I added three cut up carrots, several turnips, a stalk of celery, and a dash of curry powder to flavor the delicacy. Immaculate! I split her butt cheeks wide open, sectioned them, and wrapped bacon around each part. Then, I placed four onions in the cookery. For the next two hours, I basted the meat every fifteen minutes with a wooden spoon. That made her butt nice and juicy and seared through, just the way I like my banquets. I ate all the meat in five days. I couldn't have my hard work spoil. Now could I? Never have I tasted any treat half as luxurious as her plump rump."
Flabbergasted by the twisted developments in Beverly Comstock's confession, the twelve members of the jury stirred. Stunned expressions filled the assembly in Courtroom 2E. News cameras flashed with excitement. Headlines around the world would soon scream CANNIBAL CONVICTED!
Woodbury Crocket smiled with a disbelieving shake of his head, "The prosecution rests, Your Honor."
Brett Matthew West Prose Challenge contest entry
I Want To LIVE, by MKFlood, selected to complement my story.
So, thanks MKFlood, for the use of your picture. It goes so nicely with my story.
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