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    Book of the Month Contest Winner 
 Category:  Mystery and Crime Fiction
  Posted: January 5, 2020      Views: 184
Chapters:
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Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
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Chapter 31 of the book What The Blind Girl Saw
The finale.
"What The Blind Girl Saw Finale" by Sally Law



~**~

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost~ The Road Less Traveled

~**~

The courtroom was as packed as it had ever been. The trial for the murder of my uncle, Andre Dupree, pressed forward into the sixth week.

Spectators were standing on the courthouse steps trying to get a glimpse of me and my family--especially my showstopping dog, King.

Paul Bellamy's testimony had corroborated, in accurate detail, the events from the day Andre Dupree was murdered, and were identical to the letter penned from Charles Dupree.

However, Charles had failed to mention Paul Bellamy and his involvement on the day of the murder. This created a hole in the state's case against Philippe Savard, and allowed for reasonable doubt to take hold.

The formidable Roy Fitzgerald Owens would not be sidelined, and dug deep into his years of experience to close this gap. He kept his sights set on a guilty conviction.

A surveillance camera recording from the day Philippe Savard had dinner with both Charles Dupree and Paul Bellamy was ready for viewing as court resumed.

A picture or two, with a professional lip reader, really is worth gold.

"All rise. The Honorable Judge Preston Hawthorne is presiding," announced the bailiff.

Loren Townsend, a retired speech pathologist and local expert on video camera surveillance, was called forward and sworn in.

To avoid confusion in today's video, photos of every person who was present at Andre Dupree's residence on the day of his murder were displayed front and center. Paul Bellamy, also known as my washroom attacker, was the most recently added photo. He had just given sworn testimony, admitting his involvement in Andre's murder, turning state's evidence in exchange for immunity to prosecution.

Unfortunately, my washroom attacker didn't look too good in the photo, which had been leaked to the Lafayette Township Gazette. This morning's front page read: "What The Blind Girl Clawed."

Personally, I wanted to hide under the courtroom's antique furniture. But, if I won justice for my uncle, then it will be worth it.

********************

Fermier Dairy Farm. Strasbourg, France. Late September, 1944~

Life had improved for Andre Dupree, but his littlest girl, as he called her, was still missing. Jeanne-Louise seemed to have vanished into the depths of France. He promised Maman he would never give up the search for her--no matter what. Their hearts ached to see her and hold her once again. This war had proved to be cruel, separating the five-year-old from her maman and older brother.

For whatever reason, Andre decided to mount his mare and venture down to his family's farm. The last time he was there, it was occupied by drunken German soldiers having a book burning party.

Leo saw him preparing to leave and stepped in. He was not his father, but he felt compelled to say something.

"Where are you off to, Andre?"

"I miss my home and farm. Perhaps there are some books remaining that weren't scorched. Photos of our family were left on the mantle, and I was hoping to bring them here. Am I crazy?"

"No, you're not. I completely understand," assured Leo. "But please wait until I can go with you. I'm not ready to leave the women alone--not just yet. France is still a dangerous place."

"You love her, don't you, Mr. Fermier?"

Leo was taken back by Andre's observations. "Yes, but I haven't told her, not with words. I hope Hava sees it in my actions."

"Ask her," Andre said, plainly. "I think you might be pleasantly surprised. Don't let her go."

"How old are you, Andre?"

"I'm fifteen going on thirty! War has aged me, I do believe. Just allow yourself to look in Hava's eyes for a moment and you'll see it. She loves you."

The young man was right, and Leo knew it.

"I can see why David and Hava named their son after you, Andre. You have a quality about you."

"I'm the only son of my parents. I recognize true love when I see it. My father and mother would look at each other that way," Andre said, smiling.

Leo weighed his young friend's good advice. He tiptoed to his bedroom while Hava was out in the garden with Maman and little Andre. Baby Rachel, who was the exact likeness of her mother, slept soundly in the bassinet. Leo loved to watch her sleep, and listen to her soft baby sounds. He tucked the blanket around her as if she were his own.

Moving quickly, Leo opened his armoire to search for the amethyst ring his mother once wore. His hand felt around for the enameled box he knew was stashed in the top drawer. "Aha! Here it is."

He pulled out the cloisonne box and sat in the light to examine its contents. To his surprise, there were several rings, each one with precious stones. He admired them all, but the most beautiful one was the diamond. Leo couldn't believe it. It was as if it had been there all this time, waiting for him as Hava was that day on the country road.

Leo slid the diamond ring into his pocket, just as Hava came inside to check on Rachel.

"Excuse me, Leo. Do you need your room back? You've been so kind to let me use it."

"No. You and the children are welcome to stay in here for as long as you like. I was searching for something that belonged to my mother." They stood in silence, unable to turn their eyes away from each other.

"You must know by now, that I love you, Hava. So much, it's overwhelming."

Hava cocked her head to one side. "Well then, what should we do with this overwhelming love between us, Leo?"

"Would you marry me? Can you marry a gentile, or is this forbidden by Jewish law?"

"The law of love is the highest law that exists. I love you, Leo Fermier; and I will marry you without hesitation."

Leo knelt next to where Rachel was sleeping. "Yours is the face I look for every morning and the last voice I hear in the house at night. Your sweet humming and tender words fill my dreams. I never want to be without you." Leo wiped tears on his sleeves as his voice trembled. "I love everything about you, and I adore your children. Will you marry me?"

Hava held out her left hand in acceptance, and sealed it with a kiss--a good, long kiss.

********************

Colmar, France. Late September, 1944~

A sedan loaded with suitcases and personal belongings was headed south from Colmar, making its way to the Swiss border.

Jeanne-Louise sat securely with her only possession from her previous life--her dolly. She never went anywhere without the special gift she had received from Papa Noel.

Jeanne-Louise Dupree was now Jeanne-Louise Segal according to her papers, officially adopted by Francois and Marie Segal.

Doctor Segal had accepted the administrator's position at the city hospital in Bern; and a new life had already begun for him.

He was a Frenchman through and through, and knew he would return to Colmar one day. But in the meantime, he had to think of his family and their personal well-being. His sister-in-law, Carine, was traveling with them; hoping to start over, as well.

The neutrality of Switzerland was a welcome sight, along with its natural beauty, mountain landscapes, and the crystal blue Aare River winding through Bern.

The first thing was to check into his new position at the city's largest hospital and settle his family into the adjacent house. His second concern was to find a private school for Jeanne-Louise. The child abandoned to their care months ago was already reading, and had a keen mind for many things.

The grey Renault neared the Swiss border after two solid hours of driving. One of three guards approached their car to inspect and question them, as they did everyone attempting to come into the country.

"Bonjour. Your papers, please, and a form of identification."

"Bonjour," said Dr. Segal, and handed over the required documents.

"And this little girl, she is your daughter?" questioned the guard.

"Yes, a war orphan. We just finalized the adoption. Here are her papers."

The Swiss border guard studied the documents as if he were in no hurry. A German truck driver was waiting rather impatiently behind the Segal's car, honking and yelling. The guard said something to the man in German, then signaled for him to pull his truck over to one side.

"That truck driver is in trouble now, for honking and swearing at us like that," commented Jeanne-Louise.

To their complete shock, their five-year-old had understood German.

The hospital in Bern was much larger than the one in Colmar, but the physician's housing was something positively medieval. They all agreed on one thing: the rose garden was lovely. But the kitchen was cramped together, and the stairs so narrow the good doctor could hardly make it upstairs and back down again. Having a size twelve shoe was laughable on most days.

Jeanne-Louise loved her little nook of a room with its slanted ceiling and a cut-out where her dolly could sit. A small window let in the morning sunshine.

The Segals were adoring, loving, and kissed away her pains, except for one.

Late at night when the house was all settled and quiet, Marie Segal could hear her daughter crying and calling out his name. "Andre, mon frere!"

********************

After Prosecutor Owens had familiarized the court with the upcoming video, the lights were lowered.

The video began with Philippe Savard and Charles Dupree dining at 'Mouth of the South' cafe. Charles had excused himself after ordering and headed towards the men's restroom area.

Savard reached into his sportscoat and pulled out a velvet pouch.

The camera zoomed in at this point and you could see a small Star of David etched on the outside. Savard fished out something from it, and was unable to control himself from admiring his prize. There was no mistaking it for anything else. The pink diamond sparkled as it caught the overhead light. He quickly put it into Charles' dinner and looked around nonchalantly.

Not long after that, Charles returned to their table and began eating. A few bites into his meal, he appeared to have swallowed something. He signaled to the waiter, coughing and sputtering, requesting more ice water.

The video was stopped at the next portion as a warning was issued by Judge Hawthorne. "Ladies and Gentlemen, it gets rough here, but please hang on. We must get to the bottom of these things. Proceed with your video, Mr. Owens."

Up came the dialogue. It was if the court was viewing a movie in closed captioning. It resumed, but now with the audio conversations in the voice of Mr. Townsend.

Charles Dupree: What was that? It felt like I swallowed a rock.

Philippe Savard: You did swallow a rock. Your daddy was holding out on this big diamond. It will come right out when you are back in France in approximately 24 to 32 hours.

Charles Dupree: You fed me--a what?

Philippe Savard: A beautiful pink diamond worth a fortune! No worrisome searches at the airport. You'll barely feel it.

Charles Dupree: You did not! I think you'd say or do anything at this point. I want nothing to do with you, or any of this.

Philippe Savard: Not so fast. Sit back down, Charlie. We have some loose ends to tie up. I want those white diamonds and the rose painting. I swear-- I'll kill her! The hubby and that damn dog, too.

Charles Dupree: No! She's more than my dad's neighbor, she's my cousin. It's not enough that you killed my father? I'll get the white diamonds and the painting; then meet you in Paris. After that, we are through. I don't ever want to see you again!

Philippe Savard: You say that now, but you"ll be back. Alcohol addictions can be so . . .costly.

The video footage continued on to the bar encounter between Paul Bellamy, Charles Dupree, and the bartender.

Paul Bellamy: Charles, are you doing okay? May I call you a cab?

Charles Dupree: No, Paul, I just need another drink.

Bartender: No more drinks for you, Mr. Dupree. I have some hot coffee on the way.

Charles Dupree: Well, Paul, I guess I'd better get on with my next endeavor or I'll have more blood on my hands. Can you help me?

Paul Bellamy: I see a few cabs parked out front. Here we go, just hold my arm.

Then the last encounter between Philippe Savard and Paul Bellamy rolled on.

Paul Bellamy: I'm concerned about my involvement in today's murder. This is going to cost you, Savard.

Philippe Savard: I just made sure we'd all be taken care of. I fed the pink diamond to Charles just now. He forgot for just a moment that I own him. Now, don't you forget that I own you as well, Paul. You'll get your payment as promised, if you remain patient.

The courtroom went silent, except when I let out a yelp.

Relief washed over me. Philippe Savard had finally been caught on tape. But equally revealing was that my cousin Charles had not only changed; he had saved my life. Uncontrollable tears rolled down the front of me when I realized my life could have been taken in an instant, along with Jackson and King. Diamonds, artwork, and things of this world seemed insignificant in comparison.

After today, the trial would turn on Philippe Savard, and no defense in the world would be good enough to save him. I couldn't see with my eyes, but I could feel it.

Savard had been banned from court on contempt charges, so his testimony was read aloud by Ashley Bishop. It fell on deaf ears, and a story I don't think she or Clayborne Moore could stir themselves to believe.

Judge Hawthorne asked Mr, Owens if he had any cross-examinations for Philippe Savard. He stated so eloquently, "The state has presented a strong case from the first day. There is nothing more to be said, and no more questions to ask. I hope the jury is satisfied, and is eager for deliberation."

Court recessed until the jury was ready to bring back their unanimous decision. Jackson, King, and I went home, tired, but satisfied.

This trial had brought our community together in many ways; and, in the end, we were stronger because of it. I know I was.

Justice would be served, and many would alter or change their careers because of the extraordinary life of Andre Dupree. He had taken the road less traveled and it had made all the difference.

********************

Two days later, the verdict was handed down by the foreman in the case of Louisiana vs. Philippe Savard.

"Mr. Savard, please rise and face the jury as your verdict is read," said Judge Hawthorne. "Have the members of the jury reached their decision?"

"Yes, Your Honor. We, the jury, find Philippe Savard, guilty of murder in the first-degree."

A shout rang out, and no one louder than the blind girl.

To the Epilogue . . . .
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The book continues with What The Blind Girl Saw Epilogue. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.

Author Notes
'Mon frere' is French for 'my brother.'
Art: Woman's Black Hair, https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-s-black-hair-2807495/
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