This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 20; the twentieth edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
All characters and incidents in this story are purely fictional. Any similarity to anyone dead or alive is purely a coincidence.
… was a moment.
It is a cloudy day. I am at my desk, both feet on it, my suede jacket hanging from the back of my chair, in one hand a steaming mug of coffee and in the other, the folded sports section of the New York Times. I don’t expect my cell phone to not beep today calling me to work. The weather can never be an excuse to not go if it happens. No, wait, scratch that. Not if, but when it happens. The door opens, and she comes in with a box in her hand. I open it; take the first one out and am about to dunk it in the coffee when it happens. “Beep, beep.” I get up. Donuts and dead bodies just don’t go together.
I step out as the first drops of rain kiss my forehead. I think they must have been waiting for me. I open the umbrella and head toward the awaiting squad car. I don’t know more details, so I pray the crime scene isn’t outdoors waiting for the rain to wash away any clues I might find. I make no conjectures till I reach the scene. Bias without insight is always a wrong turn in an investigation according to me. Even the name of the place is somewhat new to me. I tell the officer at the wheel the place, and he continues the drive. I close my eyes for a moment and meditate to get my focus on the job at hand. Then the car stops, and I find myself at the railway station.
Greening County is not in my jurisdiction, but this was a special case. I have been requested because the county police are few in total. No. I’ve been requested because the dead woman is the richest in the county, or even in the neighboring five counties. The train is speeding on, and the stop is nearing. I can see countryside through the glass window, through the little drops that are slowly inching their way down. A fence runs between the tracks and the adjacent road, so close that I feel I can touch it if the glass wasn’t there. Little houses which weren’t stacked close to each other like the city. It looked beautiful in the blanket of rain. When I got down a few minutes later at the station, I noticed I was only one of three people who alighted, the others being a man who hurried away in the opposite direction and of course, my partner Sue. A lone officer stood there waiting for us.
“Tiffany Doherty, second in command at the station her, sir. We’re glad you could come”, she said.
“Jeff Dale, commanding officer, Jersey CSI. This is Sue Griffiths, second in command. Can you tell us more about the case Officer Doherty?”
She opens an umbrella, and gives one for each of us as well. The crime scene is nearby, she says and we walk. She seems very eager for the culprit to be caught, for she mentions that over and over. Quick to a first name basis, she iterates, “No Jeff, not a clue we could find. She looks healthy, but we think its poison. So we asked for help.” “Yes Sue, we’re doing our best to keep the family out of the room, but they’re not making it any easier for us.” By the time we got to the scene, we knew a lot more than we did before. An officer was standing at the wicket gate; possibly the fourth in command I think. Near the door is a swing. In the swing sits a little girl, not crying, or smiling. She still believes that her mother is only asleep. I give her a smile as I enter the house, but she just continues expressionless.
The woman’s body is on the couch. She’s in her nightclothes, her face pale white and her vacant eyes casting empty stares at the ceiling. As I enter the hall, the officer there looks at me and with a curt nod begins to talk. “The victim is Sheila Staunton. She’s a bigwig, owned quite many vineyards in Napa. Hit it big in the wine industry. Widowed few months back, husband died in a car accident. No suspicious circumstances as such, but we thought we’d check anyways. Next of kin is the daughter, Ashley. Five years old, and the fortune goes to her. Mrs. Staunton’s will mentions no guardian but legally, her brother Sean will be the one, I believe. He’s in the master bedroom. He refused to have an enquiry into the death, but his younger sister Samantha, elder to Mrs. Staunton was the one who demanded that someone from Jersey PD be called in, just to make sure nothing wrong in her death. She’s in the kitchen. Body’s been kept as it was found.”
I give him a nod of understanding, ask his name. “James Crafts, commanding officer in this little town’s PD, sir”, he says.
I bend over the body, examining it for bruises or signs that she was mistreated in some way. I can’t find any, but that doesn’t always mean they aren’t there. I call Dr. Reynolds in. It’ll take him three quarters of an hour to get here. Till then, I’ve to check the crime scene. I feel a tug on my coat. I turn back to see the little girl there. I smile and say, “Hi Ashley.”
“Has my mommy gone to meet daddy?” she asks.
All it took was a moment.
I can’t lie to kids. I’ve never been good at it. Sue knows, so she takes over and consoles her somehow. A tear slides down her cheek like the raindrops on the glass. But Ashley doesn’t stay with Sue. She runs to me again, buries her head in my coat and starts to cry. I hug her tight and stay close. I take her to the swing and we swing together, slowly. She’s tired and falls asleep soon. I gently take her hands away from me and walk back inside. An argument has broken out. Reynolds wants to take the body back to Jersey for the preliminary postmortem, but Sean Staunton is refusing. Officers Crafts and Doherty ask him otherwise, but he’s adamant. Jersey PD can’t do anything, he argues. I can’t argue. He’s right in his protest, but it still makes me suspicious as to why he doesn’t want the body examined by Reynolds. Even Samantha wishes the body not to go outside of Greening. “It was her wish to not be cut open. We will not see it broken.”
I walk outside. The countryside is beautiful in the rain. Sheila has a small garden in her backyard. Neatly planted rows of vegetables greet me. She has even erected a quite comical looking scarecrow to keep the birds away. “Thank God crows don’t know humor from fear. They’d have created a ruckus with all the laughing”, I imagine, a smile on my face. Below the chap I notice something odd. Something is caught on a nail in the wooden pole. I go nearby to see. It’s a piece of cloth, a shade of aqua green I’d seen before. And in that moment, I knew. And in the next moment, I knew I was right. I felt her hand on my shoulder, and looked behind to see. The little girl is still crying, but she speaks, burying her head in my coat again.
I take her into my arms. She doesn’t protest as I carried her inside. I call Officers Crafts and Doherty into another room, let Ashley speak without interference. “I saw mommy and Uncle Sean in the garden early morning. They were arguing near the scarecrow but I couldn’t hear them. Then Auntie Sam closed the curtains, and took me along to buy milk. When we came back, mommy was on the couch. Uncle Sean said she was sleeping.” When Crafts looks at me, I say “There’s nothing except a piece of Mrs. Staunton’s night dress caught on the nail. Evidence isn’t sufficient to prove death there. Maybe it was poison and she fell on the nail, maybe he hit her, without examining the body, I can’t determine anything from the ground there. Rain has washed away any footprints including hers. It’s an open and shut case. Can you get a court order for the postmortem?” I find that it’s useless. Samantha Staunton is the judge in Greening jurisdiction. So the open and shut case now is to be just shut. I walk out to see Sean at the door. He has a triumphant smile on his face. It was all about the fortune then. I call him aside and ask him something. An hour more, and I will be on the train back home.
All it took was a moment.
I am back on the train to Greening today. Sue is with me. The train is speeding on, and the stop is nearing. I can see countryside through the glass window, through the little drops that are slowly inching their way down. I could swear they are the same drops from two weeks before. We reach the station and alight. Tiffany is there again with the umbrellas. We walk together, talking. It takes us fifteen minutes to reach the place. I don’t need to think. The decision was made long before I took the train to Greening today. I finish the formalities. I smile and walk away. Tiffany escorts us back to the station. I look at Sue. She’s crying, but the rain masks it well. Not that she wants it to. As the train back speeds out of Greening station, I still have a sense of leaving something incomplete. I still can’t understand why two weeks back; Samantha Staunton had requested an investigation that she stopped in between. I still can’t understand why Sean Staunton needed to murder his sister for a vast fortune. I still can’t get over the fact that I couldn’t give solace to Sheila Staunton’s soul by proving her murder and getting her siblings the sentence they deserved. I still can’t…
“Don’t worry. She’s happy now, the rain is her tears of happiness”, her voice drifts in. I look at the little girl in the seat opposite to me, and I smile. I knew that day, Ashley wouldn’t live happily with her aunt and uncle. Though she was rich beyond her wildest dreams, she wouldn’t get the love she deserved. So I asked Sean that day, if he could have all the money, without a penny for Ashley, could I have her? Money was all that mattered.
Today, I adopted Ashley as my daughter, with Judge Samantha Staunton approving the adoption. The legal formalities were complete.
“Daddy…” she says. The rest of her voice is lost to me for now. I look at her, at the raindrops on the glass. I smile, laugh in happiness that I might have just saved her childhood. I haven’t left anything incomplete. Not really.
All it takes is a moment, to realize I shall remember the raindrops forever.
© Leo 07/05/2011