Murder has Two Faces
Tonya S. Coley
For disclaimers see Part 1
Alma woke up to an empty bed. She sighed when she felt only coolness where her wife was supposed to be. She managed to sit up, and then rise from the bed and waddled into the bathroom. After taking care of her needs she made her way into the kitchen and turned on the coffeemaker. She looked out of the window and noticed that Johnnie's Navigator was missing.
"I wonder where she went to this early?" She asked aloud.
"She and Tori went somewhere to meet Annie." Ceecee revealed, startling Alma.
"Jesus Ceecee, you almost made my water break." Alma said as she clutched her enormous belly.
Ceecee smiled. "Sorry, I thought you heard me come in." She paused. "Why are you up so early?"
Alma handed her a juice glass and walked over to the refrigerator. "I missed Johnnie."
"Figures." Ceecee smiled. "So what do you want for breakfast? I can whip us up something because I know neither one of us will be going back to sleep."
Alma filled both glasses with juice. "To tell you the truth, I'm not really hungry."
"Uh huh. Well I have strict orders not to let you leave this house unless you eat something."
"I don't have any plans to go anywhere."
Ceecee eyed her friend suspiciously. "Yeah, right."
"Save it, Alma. I know you are going to the courthouse as soon as they open the doors."
Alma blushed. "Ok, busted. How did Johnnie know that I was going?"
"She knows that you will be waiting in the lobby as soon as it's over." Ceecee said. "I have a feeling that after today, all of this will be over. So young lady, no food, no courthouse."
"Alright. I don't want you to get into trouble because of me. I'll have toast."
Ceecee folded her arms over her chest.
"A granola bar?"
She cleared her throat.
"Ok already." Alma laughed. "We'll have the works."
"Good girl." Ceecee said, patting Alma on her shoulder.
Tori stood away from the circle of people that surrounded Johnnie. She watched in awe as the group that was ceremonially dressed chanted and danced around her friend. The sound of the drums breaking the silence of the early morning sounded as if they were ushering in the new day. The sun, peaking over the horizon, reflected off the Shaman's headdress. Annie sat next to her grandfather as they both sat inside the circle with Johnnie. Tori couldn't make out what the Shaman had in his hand, but she could see that it was adorned with long feathers of many colors.
When the members of the assembly ended their chanting Tori stood, but immediately sat down when the Shaman stood. He proceeded to walk around Johnnie and chanted. The members of the assembly answered in their native tongue. After a few more moments a war cry echoed, and it was over. Annie signaled Tori, and she walked over to the thinning crowd. She got close to Johnnie when she heard Annie's grandfather speaking with Johnnie in their tongue.
"Be strong, Red Owl. This ordeal will be over soon, and you will be able to go on with your life. " The Shaman said.
"I will. The Great Spirit showed me that it is only a matter of time."
He smiled and patted her on her shoulder. "You will bring the new one before the council?"
"Good. We will be awaiting your arrival."
Johnnie turned to Tori and smiled. "Thank you for bringing me."
"I was glad to do it. You look wiped."
"I am." Johnnie revealed. "Annie said that we could go over to her place to shower and change. I think I'll give Alma a call to see how she is when we get there."
"Why didn't you tell her about this?" Tori asked as they walked over to Johnnie's truck.
"I knew she would want to come, and it's just too early." Johnnie revealed. "She hasn't been sleeping well."
"She getting at that stage now. No matter what position she gets in, she'll never be comfortable."
"Yeah, and the stress of all this is getting to her as well. Once this is over, I'm gonna take her up to Goldsboro for a little R and R on the farm."
"Sounds like something you both need." Tori said.
Johnnie gave her a half-hearted smile. "Indeed it is, my friend."
Karen was excited that Mr. Whitfield had called her and set up the meeting between she and Mrs. McFarland. All the ill will she felt toward the woman went out the window after she walked into McFarland's husband's law firm.
This place is so pretentious. Karen thought as she walked along the corridors smirking at the way her feet sank into the plush carpet. She looked over at Mr. Whitfield. Maybe one day you can get that stick up your ass surgically removed. She snickered, but played it off as a sneeze.
"God bless you." He said politely. "Well, here we are. Mrs. McFarland is expecting you." He said, pointing at the office door.
"Am I supposed to wait until I am ushered inside?" She asked, unable to mask her sarcasm.
"Just knock on the door." He huffed and walked away.
Karen smiled, happy that she could get under the impassionate man's skin. She straightened her business suit, cleared her throat and then knocked on the door. A voice beckoned her inside. She opened the door and saw a diminutive woman sitting behind the large desk. "Mrs. McFarland?"
"Yes. Come in, dear." She told her as she stood and walked around the desk. She extended an elegant hand to Karen, which she accepted. "I apologize for not being here for our scheduled meeting, but it could not be avoided."
"It's alright, Mrs. McFarland." Karen lied through her teeth. Should I feel guilty about the outrageous tab I ran up at the hotel? NAH!
"No dear, it isn't. I hope that you took advantage of the amenities that the hotel had to offer."
Karen blushed furiously. "Yes ma'am, I did."
"Have a seat dear." Mrs. McFarland offered.
Karen watched the smaller woman as she walked back around the desk. Her hair was wrapped in a stylish bun, and her suit was definitely tailored.
"Would you care for anything? I can have coffee and croissants brought in." She said as she reached for the telephone.
"No ma'am. I am anxious to get home."
"Of course you are." She said. "Again, I apologize for detaining you."
Karen smiled politely. "I am trying to find Danny Scott. Mr. Whitfield called me and told me that you may be able to shed some light on his whereabouts."
Mrs. McFarland's body stiffened at the mention of Danny's name, and it didn't go by unnoticed by Karen. "I can help you with that, Ms. Grace."
Karen immediately sat on the edge of her seat, and listened intently.
"My husband was a philanderer, Ms. Grace, plain and simple. If it wore a skirt he was after it. He wasn't smart enough to keep it secret from me, nor a few other people that knew of his escapades." She revealed. "Young Daniel Scott's father was one of them. Daniel appeared out of the blue a few years before my husband died, demanding that he help get him a new identity so that he would be able to help his sister."
Karen nodded her head in acknowledgement. "I know that she is in prison."
"A bit of nasty business, I must say." She added. "Well, young Daniel came to see my husband and threatened to expose him and his tawdry affairs."
"Why would he have helped him? Judge McFarland was in the private sector, so it shouldn't have made any difference."
The older woman laughed. "My dear, my husband was a pompous man. He lived for his "sterling" reputation. It made his move into the elite society here far easier than it should have been. He would have done anything to keep his reputation in tact."
"Including forging papers and creating an identity for someone." Karen flatly stated.
"Exactly." She said. "As I said my husband was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, and he didn't bother getting proof that he and Daniel were even, after he handled all the paperwork. Fortunately for me, my mother didn't raise a fool."
Karen laughed at the statement the older woman made. "I'm sorry."
Mrs. McFarland smiled. "No need. It's the truth."
"Well, do you still have all the documents that your husband had prepared?"
"I do, and I also have a little something extra." She said as she pushed the thick manila envelope across the desk.
Karen stood to pick up the envelope. "Oh yeah, what is it?"
"This." She whispered as she reached for the remote control to a videocassette recorder. "I had my husband's meeting with Daniel taped. I didn't want him popping back in for another favor."
Smart lady. "I don't blame you one bit." Karen said, anxiously waiting to see Danny as he is now.
The tape began to play. It wasn't the best quality, but that's to be expected. They both watched as the participants came into view.
"He looks very familiar." Karen said of the man who was Danny Scott. She moved closer to the monitor, tilting her head to get a better look. She couldn't shake the sense of familiarity the young man had. She looked at the envelope that she held in her hand and decided to open it. She pulled a couple of pages out of the folder, and scanned them for a name. She found the name, and then immediately looked back up at the monitor. "Oh my god." She gasped.
"What is it, dear?" Mrs. McFarland asked as she noticed the color drain from the younger woman's face.
"I…I have to go." Karen said. "Thank you for your time." Saying that, the rushed out of the woman's office.
Christina Ricotta decided that she would go into her office early. She walked into the quiet building and smiled at the clicking of her heels on the marble floor. She stopped and did a little tap step, and then she was quickly startled by the applause that echoed in the lobby.
"Goodness Jerry, you scared me to death." She said as she clutched her chest.
"Sorry Ms. Ricotta." Jerry said apologetically.
She smiled at the friendly guard. "It's ok, Jerry. That's what I get for goofing off."
"I won't go to the press about this Madam Mayor." Jerry laughed. "Though I probably could get big bucks for something like this."
"Yeah, right." Christina said. "I guess I had better go upstairs before I embarrass myself further."
Jerry took a seat at the security desk. "Have a good day."
"Thanks, Jerry. You too." She said as she walked into the waiting elevator.
Once Christina entered her office she closed the door and smiled. Well, this is it. It's time for you to take this city into the 21st century. She walked over to her new desk and sat down behind it. She studied her new digs, and then remembered how showy Ballantine's furniture was. That man was an arrogant asshole through and through. She shook her head in disgust as she rummaged through her purse for some gum. Her eyes widened at bit as her hand ran across a rectangular object. Pulling the object from her purse she chuckled. I forgot all about this thing. She held the micro cassette recorder in her hand. I wonder if it still works. She pressed the rewind button and then smiled at the hiss of the tape as it went into reverse. "Let's see what good old Alex was up to." She whispered as she pressed play.
Tori ran up the courthouse steps and then into the lobby where she met Alma and Ceecee. She kissed Alma on her cheek, and then kissed her wife chastely on her lips.
"Where's Johnnie?" Alma asked, looking around for her wife.
"She and Bob will be here in a moment. He had a few things that he wanted to go over with her before the session started." Tori revealed as she caught her breath.
"Where did you two go off to so early this morning?" Alma inquired.
"Why don't we take a seat and then I will tell you where we went." Tori suggested. They all walked over to a nearby bench and took a seat. "Ok, Annie called last night and said that she needed to see Johnnie this morning before sunrise. They had some sort of ceremony this morning. Had something to do with The Great Spirit."
Alma nodded her head in acknowledgement. "How did it go?"
"It went well, I think." Tori said. "The Shaman said that he would see her when she brought the baby before the council."
Any more conversation was halted when they saw Abbott walking toward them to go into the courtroom. Abbot smirked and then gave Alma a wink as he continued walking.
Ceecee saw it and rolled her eyes, all the while holding on to Tori's forearm. She knew by the way she was glaring at him that she had better keep Tori in her seat. "I hate that man."
"So do I." Alma added. The very sight of him disgusted her.
"What's with the sour faces?" Johnnie asked the waiting trio. She helped Alma as she stood, and then embraced her. "You ok, babygirl?"
"I'm fine." Alma assured her. "The asshole of the century just blew through here." She reveled in Johnnie's embrace. "Where's Bob?"
Johnnie kissed her on top of her head. "He'll be along in a minute. He had to make a pit stop, if you know what I mean."
They chuckled at Johnnie's statement. Johnnie stopped laughing when she saw Tracy, Mark and a woman that she did not know enter the lobby. She smiled at Tracy, and he returned her smile with an even larger one of his own. They both knew that they could not have any contact, so Tracy and the group he was with continued walking. It took everything that Johnnie had not to run over to him and give him a hug.
"It's ok, Querida. You and Tracy will be together soon." Alma whispered as she cupped Johnnie's cheek.
"I know." Johnnie said as she struggled to hold back her tears. She missed Tracy terribly.
"Who was that with Tracy and Mark?" Tori asked as she continued to watch them as they entered one of the rooms.
"Why don't you take a picture, it will last longer." Ceecee quipped.
"Yeah, she was fine." Tori said, giving Ceecee a side-glance to gage her reaction.
Ceecee caught the glance, but didn't let Tori know. "You do that, Victoria." She said flatly as she walked over to another bench and sat down.
Oh shit, she said the V word. Tori stood and quickly walked over and kneeled in front of Ceecee. "Baby, I was just joking."
Johnnie and Alma chuckled at their friends. "She is such an easy mark."
"Indeed she is." Alma added, as she pulled Johnnie down for a kiss. It was interrupted when they heard the clicking of a camera. Johnnie was about to charge the photographer and take his camera, but Alma wouldn't release her from her grasp.
"Ignore him, my love. Soon, we will be free from all this madness." Alma soothed.
"All set?" Bob asked as she walked over to Johnnie and patted her shoulder.
Johnnie sighed heavily as she tried to reign in her temper. "Yeah, let's go." She leaned down and kissed Alma once more, and said goodbye to her friends.
After Judge O'Connell informed the jury of the change in venue, Bob was allowed to call Tracy to the stand. The bailiff called for Tracy, and he and Dr. Wilson entered the courtroom. She took a seat behind the defense table while Tracy proceeded to the witness stand. Johnnie noticed that Abbott had a smug look on his face.
"What is it with him? He looks like that cat that swallowed the canary." Johnnie whispered.
Bob looked over at Abbott, and Abbott's smile broadened. He turned back to look at Johnnie. "I don't know, but he is definitely up to something."
Tracy was sworn in, and then Bob stood to begin questioning him. "Mr. Kenon, could you tell us what you do for a living?"
"I am a private investigator."
"What firm do you work for, and how long have you been with them."
"I work with Green and Associates, and I have been there for a little over three years."
"Is that how you know the defendant?"
"No, I have known her for almost ten years. She and I were members of the Wilmington Police Department."
"Did you both work in the same division?"
"No, she worked homicide and I was with the special victims unit."
Bob continued his questions, working his way to the night of the murder. "Mr. Kenon, please tell the jury why you were at the mayor's office on the night of the murder."
Tracy cleared his throat and straightened up in his chair. "I went to the mayor's office hoping that I could convince him to stop his campaign against Johnnie. After what happened at the funeral, I felt that I had to do something." He paused. "I sat in the outer office for a while, trying to get the nerve to approach him. I had no idea what I was going to say to him, I just knew that I had to try. I was sitting in the darkened corner of the outer office when I heard the elevator doors open. I watched as Johnnie staggered out and made her way into Ballantine's office. At first all I could hear was quiet tones, then all of a sudden they started yelling. I watched as Johnnie walked around his desk, and then I saw her reaching as if she were drawing her weapon. Ballantine rushed her and they both fell to the floor. They struggled, and then Johnnie regained control. The fight ended, she leaned over him and said something that I couldn't hear and then she stood up and staggered out, slamming the door behind her." Members of the jury sat up and listened intently, shocked at the new information.
"Why didn't you stop her from going in, or even intervene when they fought?"
Tracy looked over to Dr. Wilson. She gave him a reassuring smile, and he continued. "I can't explain it, but for some reason I was to frightened to move. I don't know what happened, but I was terrified."
"What happened after Ms. Green left?"
"Well, I sat there for a moment trying to will myself to move. I saw a light come from the stairwell, as the door opened. A man came into the outer office and stood at the closed door for a moment, and then he went in."
"Did he close the door?"
"No, he left it open. He walked over to the desk and he and the mayor talked. I couldn't hear what was being said. Then the man picked up the ashtray and hit the mayor over the head. He fell from the chair, and the man went over to him and started hitting him over and over again." Tracy shook his head from the memory.
"What happened next?"
"The man came out, he was covered in blood."
"What did you do?"
"I was in shock. I couldn't move. I don't know how much time passed before I finally left."
"One more question, Mr. Kenon. Why didn't you report this to the police?"
"I repressed the memory. I couldn't report it because I blocked it all out. I had no recollection of even being at the mayor's office until I regained consciousness from the coma that I was in."
"Thank you, Mr. Kenon." Bob stepped back from the witness stand. "No further questions for this witness, Your Honor."
Judge O'Connell turned in his chair to look at the prosecutor. "Your witness, Mr. Abbott."
Marie listened to Ballantine's voice on the tape as he went on and on about his plans for construction on I-40, when she heard him pause when his door was opened.
"What are you doing here, Green?"
"I just came to get one last look at you on your throne."
"What do you mean?"
"Your life is over, Alex. May I call you Alex?"
"You're drunk, Green. Get the hell out of my office."
"I told you that you were a dead man, Ballantine."
"Oh my God." Marie gasped as she continued to listen to Ballantine and Johnnie argue back and forth.
"What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to kill you like I said I would."
"No, Please don't."
Marie immediately shut the tape off. She had to catch her breath because she was disturbed that she was hearing the last moments of Ballantine's life. "I have got to get this to the police." She grabbed her purse and the recorder and ran out the door.
Tracy waited for Abbott to begin his questions. He remembered how Abbott antagonized witnesses for the defense and had prepared himself. You can do this. Just answer his questions and it will be over. Johnnie will be free and she and Alma can move on with their lives.
The courtroom was eerily quiet, as Abbott did not rush to get up and begin his cross-examination. Judge O'Connell cleared his throat. "Mr. Abbott, do you have questions for this witness?"
Abbott, who was pretending to busily look through papers looked up at the judge. "Indeed I do, Your Honor." He stood up and straightened his jacket, and then grinned at Tracy. "This won't take too long, Mr. Kenon."
Tracy was well aware of the posturing that Abbott was doing. He knew that he had to remain calm and just answer the question. He sat up in his seat, and looked first at Johnnie then at Dr. Wilson. Both women gave him reassuring smiles.
"Is it your testimony that the defendant had nothing to do with the murder of Alexander Ballantine?" Abbott asked as he walked closer to the witness stand.
"Yes it is." Tracy answered warily.
"You saw the entire thing, but you did nothing to stop it. Is that what you are trying to get us to believe?" Abbott sarcastically asked.
"I was unable…"
"Yes, Mr. Kenon, you told us. A man of your stature afraid to intervene in a murder."
"Objection." Bob yelled.
"Sustained." Judge O'Connell ruled. "Mr. Abbott, I warn you to keep your comments to yourself, or you will be held in contempt."
Abbot stepped back from the witness stand. "My apologies to the court." He turned and walked back to his table. His assistant handed him a file, and he turned to walk back toward Tracy. "Mr. Kenon, you do realize that it is hard for us to believe this tale of yours. Are you making this up to get your friend and employer out of trouble?"
"No." Tracy said sincerely.
"Why not? It wouldn't be the first time someone perjured themselves to save a friend." Abbott spat.
"I am not lying to save Johnnie. I am telling the truth."
"Your Honor, I would like to introduce into evidence proof that not only Mr. Kenon is lying to protect his friend, but that he has done it before."
Bob nearly knocked his chair over when he stood. "Objection. This so called evidence was not disclosed by the prosecution."
"Counsels approach." The judge ordered. He waited as the two rivals stood at his bench. "Mr. Wooten has a valid point, Mr. Abbott. How long have you had this evidence?"
"About two weeks after you ruled that the defense would get their recess, Your Honor."
"And you felt no need to turn over a copy of this to the defense?" Bob demanded; his outrage was evident in his voice.
"Tell my why I should allow this counselor, and why I shouldn't hold you and contempt and report this to the Bar Association?" O'Connell hissed through clenched teeth.
"Your Honor, this file that I have is public record. That is how we discovered it. I don't feel that it is my job to hand over information that was found here in this very courthouse." Abbott stated.
"Let me take a look at this information." The judge said. He took the file from Abbott and began reading.
"This is outrageous, Abbott." Bob spat.
"It's not my job to prove your client's innocence. I'm trying to put her away, remember?"
"You son of a…" Bob was interrupted when the judge cleared his throat. He looked up into admonishing eyes, and reigned in his indignation.
"This is unusual, but I will have to allow this to be entered into evidence." O'Connell said. "Step back."
Abbott smirked at Bob as he made his way back to the defense table. Bob was furious that Abbott would pull a stunt like this.
Johnnie leaned over to Bob. "What does he have, Bob?"
"It is something that is of public record. I guess we will find out as soon as the peacock stops strutting."
Johnnie looked up into the face of a grinning prosecutor. He winked at her. She thought back, trying to figure out what Abbott could possibly have that could discredit Tracy. "Oh shit."
Abbott slowly walked toward Tracy, like a panther stalking it's prey. "Mr. Kenon, do you know what this is?" He asked, waving the file in the air.
"Other than in being some sort of file, I can't say that I do."
"This is a court document from a case that was tried about eleven years ago."
"Ok, if you say it is." Tracy said, remembering the case and cursing Abbott for finding it.
"Mr. Kenon, I think you know exactly what I am getting at." He paused and opened the file. "The State of North Carolina vs. Albert Henning. Mr. Henning was being tried for sexual abuse against a minor."
Tracy stiffened. "He raped his daughter for years."
"Yes, it says that in the document. Despicable man if you want to know the truth about it." He said flatly. "Is it true that you testified in this trial?"
"Yes." Tracy answered.
Johnnie began rubbing her forehead in an attempt to forestall the headache she knew was coming. She looked up when Bob touched her shoulder.
"Do you know what this is all about?" He asked.
"Mr. Kenon, you testified that Mr. Henning was properly Mirandized before he was questioned. Is that an accurate statement?"
"You testified that after he was read his Miranda warning, he confessed everything to you." Tracy lowered his head as Abbott continued. "It was later discovered that you had perjured yourself."
"He was about to get off on a technicality." Tracy argued. "He did confess, but it was before I could Mirandize him. He had been drinking and I couldn't get him to shut up and listen to me." His face began to pale and he was beginning to sweat.
Abbott moved closer to him. "Why would he keep talking to you? Were you even telling the truth about the confession?" He demanded as he barraged him with question after question.
Dr. Wilson noticed the change in Tracy's demeanor and she moved to sit directly behind Bob and Johnnie. She tapped Bob in his shoulder. When he turned to face her she whispered, "I think my patient is under a lot of strain, and I am not sure how much more he will be able to take. Can't you do something?"
"Yes." Bob told her. "Objection, the prosecutor is badgering the witness."
"Sustained. Mr. Abbot control yourself." The judge warned.
"Yes, Your Honor." Abbott said as he stepped back to take a breath. He looked at Tracy and noticed that he was sweating. Feeling a bit overwhelmed there, bucko? You ain't seen nothing yet. A feral grin formed on his face.
Tracy began to feel nauseous and dizzy. He ran his sweaty hand through his hair, and then took his handkerchief from his pocket so he could wipe his face.
Abbott walked over to the witness stand and leaned against it. "Now that we know that you have perjured yourself in the past, why should we believe a word you say now?"
Pizo sat at his desk, typing up a report when he heard a commotion outside the doors of homicide. He got up and walked over to the doors and walked outside where he saw the new mayor arguing with a uniformed officer.
"Michaels, what the hell are you doing? Don't you know who she is?" He yelled at the young officer.
"She says that she is the mayor, but she's crazy." He said.
"She is the mayor, you idiot." Pizo told him as he pushed past him. "Sorry about that Madam Mayor. What is it that you need?"
"Thank God, detective." She said, grasping his arm. "I need to speak with you and the captain right now. I found some evidence in the Ballantine murder case."
"Come with me." He said as he rushed her into the squad room.
"Captain, Mayor Ricotta has something that she needs to share with us." Pizo said as he and the mayor entered the captain's office.
He stood up as soon as he saw the mayor come into his office. "Come in mayor. What do you have?"
"I found this tape recorder in my office when the former mayor's furniture was being moved. I place it in my purse and forgot about it. I found it while looking for something and played it this morning. After listening to some of it, I rushed right over here." She said as she handed it over to him.
The captain pressed play and listened to the mayor's dictation, and then he heard Johnnie and the mayor argue and fight. Pizo stood over the desk and stared at the recorder, hoping that it would reveal the truth. They heard Johnnie slam the door as she left.
"She was telling the truth. He was alive when she left him." Pizo said, sighing as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
They listened to the tape as it continued to play. They heard him struggle to his feet and heard him crying.
"Leave me be, Green. Just leave me be."
"Are you ok?"
"Hell no, I'm not ok. I'm fucked. That Green woman is going to the press in the morning. She's going to destroy me."
"Mr. Gardena will not be pleased."
"I don't give a damn about him. It's my ass that's on the line."
"We can't let this get out."
"Well, what the hell do you think we can do?"
"Create a diversion."
"Why do you have on those gloves? What are you do…"
Nothing else could be heard but the sound of something cracking a skull. They heard Ballantine moaning as the murderer continued to strike him.
"Did either of you recognize that voice?" Captain Hill asked as she shut off the recorder.
"I could hardly hear what he was saying." The mayor said as she fought back her tears. No one deserved a death like that. Not even you, Alex.
"I couldn't make it out either. We need to get this to the courthouse so the judge can hear it." Pizo said as he picked up the recorder and waited for the others to follow him out the door.
To be continued in Part 21
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