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.
The next morning, Roland caught his American Eagle flight to Chicago. From there, he boarded a Southwest Airlines plane bound for Baltimore, arriving in the early afternoon. He picked up another reserved rental car and drove directly to the Johns Hopkins Medical Center.
Flirting with nurses as he passed, he got directions to the long-term care wing. The tiny, gruff receptionist there did not seem the type to be charmed like some of her younger colleagues.
"Can I help you?" she demanded rather than asked.
"I'm looking for Marcy Sellers's room," Roland explained, deciding a straight, truthful answer was best.
"Are you a doctor?" the receptionist asked, already seeming to know the answer.
"Are you a family member?"
Roland thought quickly.
"Yes. A second cousin, once removed."
The receptionist narrowed her eyes.
"Can I see some ID," she said.
Roland handed over his driver's license and she made a copy of it. He supposed this was some sort of test. Anyone with ill intentions probably wouldn't want to leave a trace of their identity.
"Down that hallway," the receptionist said, pointing and sounding a little friendlier. "Turn right and it'll be the third door on your left. Room three-zero-seven."
"Thank you," Roland said and hurried forward before she could reply. He didn't want to press his luck.
The directions were easy to follow, and he soon found room 307, a plastic plaque adjacent to the door confirming his location. Roland took a deep breath, feeling as though he were about to burst in on a very private moment. He tried the door handle and, finding the door was unlocked, entered.
The room was small, maybe forty square feet, and a large bed occupied most of the space. Approaching the bed, Roland got his first in-person look at Marcy Sellers.
The girl, now twenty-two, lay in the bed, her eyes closed. Tubes stuck out all over her body, providing oxygen and nutrients while removing waste. Her physique, already petit in the photos Roland had studied, looked withered and frail. The pajamas she wore and the blanket that covered most of her body looked loose and ill-fitting. Her brunette hair was gaunt and her skin pale. Shy and withdrawn as she had been in school, Marcy was a shell of her former self. The only upside was that the horrific injuries she'd endured alongside Lilian Harvey were no longer visible.
Staring at her, Roland tried to remember why he'd come. Marcy Sellers obviously couldn't provide any answers, yet coming to see her felt very important.
"Who are you?" a surprised voice asked.
Roland whirled around to see a man had entered the room. He was shorter than Roland, though most people were, and he looked thin and tired. His suit and briefcase suggested he'd come from work.
"Mr. Sellers?" Roland asked, seeing the familial resemblance in the man's worn face.
"Yeah," the man said. "And you are?"
"My name is Roland Davis. I'm an attorney from Dallas, Texas."
Mr. Sellers ... Burk Sellers, nodded.
"You're a long way from home," he remarked.
Roland's plan reentered his mind, but he felt lost as to how to execute it.
"My firm ... I represent Andrew Mooruff," he explained, very aware of the possibility he might suddenly be hit. "I'd like to speak with you."
To his surprise, there was no eruption. There was no reaction at all. Burk Sellers just kept regarding him.
After a few silent seconds, Burk Sellers withdrew a business card and a pen from his pocket. He flipped the card over.
"Not here," he said as he jotted something on the card. "Come by my house in two hours. I think my wife needs to be a part of this. For now, I'd like some time with my daughter."
Roland nodded and left before the opportunity to do so was retracted. He studied the address on the back of the business card.
4603 Schenley Road
He'd check it on his phone once he was back in his car, but Roland supposed the address was legit. He was more consumed by the fact he wasn't leaving the hospital without fresh bruises. He had a lot more questions for the Sellers, and it looked like he might soon get some answers. He kept going, setting an alarm on his phone as he passed the receptionist, who said nothing.
* * *
At the Sellers's home, Roland was introduced to Valerie, Marcy's mother. There was even more of a resemblance and Roland understood who their daughter really took after.
Valerie was also petit with long, brown hair. Like her husband, she too looked worn out and was still wearing her work attire consisting of a white blouse and black slacks, though the exact nature of her job remained a mystery. Roland made a silent promise to keep his visit short.
"How are the appeals going?" Valerie asked as they all sat in the den.
"I haven't filed anything new since receiving the case a couple weeks ago," Roland admitted. "I'm still acquainting myself with all the facts."
"And you came all the way to Baltimore to do that?" Burk asked.
"Why did you move here?" Roland queried. "Quite a trip to make from western Texas, especially for your daughter."
The Sellers exchanged a long glance, probably reliving the grueling logistics of transporting a comatose teenager halfway across the country.
"My family lives here," Valerie explained. "My parents, my brother and sister, and a few cousins, plus the families they've built. I guess I was kind of the oddball in the family. I went to Southern Methodist University, met Burk, and built my life in Texas. Anyway, we thought it would be easier to take care of Marcy with some support. Thankfully, we were right."
Her husband nodded in agreement while Roland tried to withhold a blush. Their choice of where to relocate and the reasoning behind it should have been obvious. A quick Google search would have told him they had family living in Maryland.
"We sit with Marcy in shifts throughout the day," Burk added. "She's rarely alone. We talk to her, read to her, do the exercises the physical therapist showed us to prevent bedsores and the like ... you know."
Roland didn't. He couldn't possibly imagine caring for a comatose family member for five years with no sign of improvement on their part. But, he didn't say this. Instead, he gave the couple a sympathetic nod, trying not to think about the tasks they hadn't listed.
"It works," Burk finished, a note of resignation in his tone.
"If you don't mind my asking," Roland said, "what do the doctors say? Will she ever wake up?"
Across the coffee table from him, the couple exchanged a longer, more sorrowful glance.
"They put it at about thirty percent," Valerie replied. "Those odds aren't great, but we have faith ... and hope. If there's a chance for our baby to come back, we'll take it."
"Mr. Davis," Burk said, "I'm sure you did not come all this way to get a sense of Marcy's prognosis."
Roland shook his head. It was time to get some answers.
"I'll admit your behavior surprises me," he said. "Most parents in your position would want to do me physical harm, or at least tell me to get lost forever. All things considered, you've been very kind to me, and it is a bit baffling."
Granted, they hadn't offered him a drink or anything when he arrived at their home, but their conduct could still be considered hospitable under the circumstances.
"We have strong convictions against the death penalty," Burk explained. "Religious, moral ... you name it. It's another reason we left Texas. We didn't want to get roped into all those appeals and the fanfare that surrounds the whole thing. We could never imagine going to Huntsville to watch the execution."
"We suppose it's similar to our faith that Marcy might wake up someday," Valerie added.
Roland had nowhere near enough experience in the realm of capital punishment to know if they were being truthful, but he'd accept their reasoning. Again, they were speaking with him and they were being more than civil about it.
"Do you think he did it, Mr. Davis?" Valerie asked. "Do you believe Andrew Mooruff killed Lilian Harvey and hurt our daughter?"
The couple shuddered in unison, as though remembering their daughter's violent attack.
"I'm trying to figure that out," Roland said. "It isn't clear to me ..."
He paused, his mind trying to determine if he should say what he was thinking. With only seconds to decide, he chose to push forward.
"I'm getting the feeling it isn't clear for you either," he said. "Maybe that's another reason you are willing to speak with me."
The couple exchanged another glance.
"We always worried that something would happen to Marcy," Burk said. "I mean, what parent doesn't worry about their child? But it was a bit different with Marcy. She hasn't always had an easy life and we thought it might be the cause of what happened when we first heard ... when the deputies and troopers first came to our house and drove us to the hospital."
Valerie retrieved some tissues from a box on the coffee table and wiped her wet eyes.
"We didn't know what to think at first," she added. "Marcy was in surgery and no one was really telling us anything. We hadn't even seen her, and they were saying how she needed to be air-lifted to another hospital which was better equipped to help her. Someone was making all the arrangements and the only thing we could do was wonder how this had happened and what might have caused it. Naturally, we drew our own conclusions based on what we knew."
"Then," Burk said, "a deputy told us someone had been arrested. A custodian at the school. At first, we didn't believe it. Then, people were telling us about fingerprints and DNA evidence. I suppose that laid our own conclusions to rest. With all that in hand, we figured they had the right guy."
He regarded Roland for a few silent seconds.
"We've told you a lot, Mr. Davis," he said, his eyes narrowing. "I think you need to be fair and tell us a few things."
This was the closest he'd come to being hostile and Roland was quick to oblige.
"What would you like to know?" he asked.
"You seem to be doing more than just trying to figure things out," Burk said. "Something's itching and you can't let it go. What's going on?"
Roland sensed he could be honest.
"It doesn't add up," he explained. "So many things don't add up. To start, this attack is way too personal. Whoever attacked Lilian Harvey and your daughter was not driven by lust, but by rage. They did too much damage if they were just out to violate the girls."
The couple shuddered again and Roland was sure they were thinking about their daughter's injuries. Those might have healed, but the memories hadn't.
"You must have thought the same thing when you first learned about the attack," Roland continued. "You were drawing your own conclusions based on your fears. What were you thinking?"
The couple exchanged yet another long glance. Burk then looked at Roland with a very slight smile flickering across his face.
"Back to us, huh?" He asked. "Well, that's simple. We love our daughter. Always have and always will. We just knew she would never lead an easy life, especially where we were living. Not everyone was as accepting as we were. So, we had our fears. And, like you said, they drove our conclusions when we first learned what happened that afternoon."
"What?" Roland asked, feeling he was close to a revelation. "What fears did you have about your daughter? How was she different?"
There was another exchange of glances, though this one was concluded with a simultaneous, almost imperceptible nod. The couple looked back at Roland.
"Mr. Davis," Valerie said. "Our daughter was gay."
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.
Valerie Sellers: Marcy's mother.
Burk Sellers: Marcy's father.
Feedback, specifically suggestions for additions/subtractions/alterations, is always welcome. Enjoy.