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Chapter 19: Going To Trial

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Parsonage
A novel about life behind the scenes for an evangelical pastor's family: in the church, the parsonage, the community.

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© 1996 G. Edwin Lint

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The day after the arraignment was a Saturday and Jim and Debra indulged in indolence and slept until six-thirty. It might have been later, but Ben came clumping into the bedroom dragging a 36-inch bat and begging his dad to hit him some grounders. Jim begged for a reprieve, promising he'd be down in an hour.

As the senior Hogans yawned and stretched, Debra suddenly sat bolt upright. "Jim, that big bat Ben just had in here made me remember something that happened down in York, back during the tournament."

"What's that, Hon?" Jim mumbled. He had just started to doze off again.

"Dave says he lost his bat, that Louisville Slugger-- didn't he say he lost that bat at the tournament."

"That's right," Jim yawned.

Debra had that faraway look in her eyes which meant the wheels were really turning. "And how did that bat get in Tessa's bedroom--"

"You're not saying you think Dave--"

"Of course not. That's my point. I'm just trying to figure out how that bat got from the York sports complex to Tessa's bedroom. And just a while ago, when Ben was in here clumping around with that bat, I started remembering something about the tournament."

"Debbie, Paul says we can't prove a link between that bat being stolen down at York and Tessa's attacker."

"I know that's what he said. But if we knew more about how that bat turned up missing, maybe it would help Dave."

Jim was starting to doze off again when Debra hopped out of bed and started pacing back and forth like a caged lion. Suddenly she slapped her hands together and Jim eyes flew wide open.

"Debbie, I don't know who's worse. Ben and his bat, or you and your--"

"Jim, I think I remember what's been bugging me about that bat ever since Dave was arrested. This was down at York during the tournament and it was when we had a break between games. I was resting in the shade and talking to a couple of the wives when I saw this strange man over behind the backstop where we had played the last game."

Jim yawned again. "Strange. How do you mean, strange?"

"Just really strange. Kind of weird looking. Odd, somehow."

Jim was bending over the side of the bed, looking for his slippers. "Do you think you can get a little more specific with that word 'strange?" There must be a couple hundred people within hiking distance of where we sit who could match that description."

"Jim, if all you can do is make fun . . ." Debra replied with irritation.

"I'd not making fun," Jim soothed, "but if all you can remember is that he was strange, I'm not sure I see how that can help." The aroma of fresh coffee was wafting up from the kitchen where the timer had kicked in about thirty minutes ago. "Tell you what. Let me get my shower and some toast and coffee. Then we'll talk to Paul about this before he drives back to Washington. Maybe he knows how to get it out of you when I can't."

"Uummm. Okay. You take the main bathroom and I'll take my shower in here."

 

Forty-five minutes later, the Hogans and Paul were around the kitchen table having toast, coffee, and the stuff people were never allowed to call jelly.

"Y'all need to tell me some more about this strange man at the tournament," stated Paul with his untied Nikes propped on another chair. Although he was very relaxed, his eyes were bright and Jim had a sense that the North Carolinian was very interested in Debra's stranger.

"Finally, somebody around here wants to take me seriously," said Debra with a sideways glance at Jim.

"Yeah, yeah . . . " said Jim good-humoredly.

Debra went over to the counter and poured herself another half-cup of coffee. "Paul?"

"No thanks. I'm fine. I want to at least get over the Mason-Dixon line without needing a rest stop."

Debra settled herself with her coffee and took a sip. "The word which always comes to mind is 'strange'. Strange in the sense that I'd never seen him before. And strange in the sense that he appeared to be odd. He was shorter than average and had an oversized ball cap pulled low over his face. And, even though it was warm enough for the twins to be running around in T-shirts and shorts, this man was wearing a buttoned-up trench coat which was at least three sizes too big for him. The coat's belt was not buckled and one side of the belt was dragging on the ground."

Paul dropped his feet to the floor. "Hey, Debbie, maybe you got something here. What else did you see?"

Debra couldn't resist a small, smug smile at Jim. "Well, this guy seemed to be rooting around in a bunch of bats leaning against the backstop. I know I was thinking that this guy has no business messing with our team's bats. But then, somebody came up and starting talking to me. When I looked back, he was gone."

"That it?" Paul asked.

"That's about it, Debra replied. "I wish there was more."

"Hey, that's more than we had yesterday this time," said Paul as he stood and reached for his suit carrier and duffel bag. "Tell you what let's do. I know this gal down in Alexandria who does this thing with her computer. Gets witnesses, victims, folks like that to tell her about what a person looked like and she comes up with a pret-ty good picture. Faster than a sketch artist, and a lot better picture, too."

"Do you think she can get Debra to remember exactly what this guy looked like," asked Jim with interest.

"I watched her work a couple times and it's kind of like landing a twenty-pound bass on ten pound test. She puts in a facial feature, like the eyes or nose, and then asks the witness if that is close. Keeps doing that. Little by little, with a few clicks of the mouse, a picture comes into focus. It's really neat, the way she does it."

"What's the next step?" asked Debra with real interest.

"I'll make an appointment with my computer friend and then have you down for a session of a couple hours or so. When we get a picture you think is pretty good, we'll start looking for this guy. If he was unusual-looking to you, chances are some other folks will remember seeing him, too."

"Let's do it," said Jim decisively. "Just tell us when and where."

"I'll be on it Monday morning like a duck on a June bug," drawled Paul with his suit carrier over his shoulder and his duffel dangling from a long bony arm. "One thing though. Let's hold off telling anybody about this computer thing until we see how it turns out."

"That's wise," agreed Debra. Dave and Patricia have enough right now without worrying how I make out with this computer lady.

 

Within a week, a computer-assisted likeness of Debra's stranger was on every vertical surface of the York Sports Complex. Do you remember seeing this man at the Memorial Day tournament last May? each flyer asked.

Although Debra was amazed at how realistic the picture was, there were no responses during the following week.

Paul checked in that Friday afternoon. "How y'all doing with your poster boy?" he asked. "Any leads?"

"Nothing so far," answered Debra dispiritedly. "But it's not the fault of that picture your computer lady made. That couldn't look more like what I remember than if I'd snapped his picture."

"Then let's crank things up a notch," responded Paul. "Tell Jim to call a local press conference. I'll fax y'all a statement to read. Get as many print and TV people as you can. Then, if that don't get results, I'll pull some strings and we'll go national."

 

Again no results from the local press conference Jim held in Fellowship Hall. The print and electronic media were well represented and the reporters seemed interested, taking notes and asking questions. When Jim called Paul a week later and reported another apparent dry hole, the lawyer said it was time to go national.

Before the national press conference, Paul had Jim and Debra drive back down to Washington so there could be another sessions with the computer artist and her clicking mouse. Again Debra searched her brain for any slight improvement that could be made to the already-realistic computer image. A few changes were made and Debra was satisfied that what she saw on the screen and what rolled out of the high-resolution laser printer was exactly as she remembered the man at the bat rack.

Paul drove up from Washington for the national press conference he had instigated. This time, Fellowship Hall had a standing-room only crowd. There were recognizable names and faces from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNBC, CNN, AP, and Reuters. Everyone was given a glossy camera-ready original of the slightly improved likeness of the mystery man.

The national press conference drew dozens of leads and quite a few crank calls, as well. When each possibility had been checked out, the results were the same. Debra's strange little man with the oversized rain coat seemed to have vanished from the proverbial face of the earth.

Two weeks after the last lead and crank call had led to a dead end, Paul drove up to meet with Dave Court, Patricia, and the Hogans. The trial was scheduled to begin in less than a week.

The mood was pretty somber around the table in the church conference room as Sandy served coffee to those who wanted it. Most declined but Paul loaded his with the usual two creams and two sugars. He took a good swig and spoke first.

"Y'all know we're scheduled to go to trial Monday. And I can't think of a better thing to do right now than to call on Jim to ask the Holy Spirit to sharpen my mind so I can do the best possible job by Dave, here, in this accusation against him. Pastor?"

As Jim began to pray conversationally and sincerely, Debra couldn't keep here mind from straying back to the strange little man. She had been so sure that the computer, and the press conferences, and all the publicity would provide some information on how Dave's bat came to be in Tessa's room the night.

The computer artist had sure done her job and the press had done theirs. How could thousands of copies of that crisp, sharp image been distributed and broadcast around the world with no valid result? Several victims' rights sites on the World Wide Web had even included a scan of the picture on their home pages. But the end result of all the coverage had been a big, fat zero.

Maybe I don't remember how he looked. Maybe I should have asked for the eyes to be closer together, the nose a little longer. Maybe if I could have remembered the logo on that ball cap . . .

" . . . in Jesus' name we pray. Amen."

Jim's Amen brought Debra sharply back into focus.

"Dave and I are going to meet in a bit to make sure we're singing from the right page," said Paul. "Before we do that, though, I wanted to make sure y'all don't have something else we need to know about or talk about first. Jim? Anyone? Paul was about to close the meeting when Debra spoke hesitantly. "I know we've been over this before, but is there any chance we can get the DA to postpone the trial a little? Give folks more chance to respond to our pictures and all the publicity?

Paul sighed, and spoke gently. "Debbie, I know how y'all feel about that little man at the tournament, and the mystery about how Dave's bat got into Tessa's bedroom. Fact is, we don't have much to go on far as a continuance is concerned. With all the publicity and no solid leads, the DA's gonna want us to show cause how more time before the trial will make any real difference." Paul perched on the corner of a table and folded his arms on his chest. "I don't think there is any more I can say or do to convince him. Sorry, but I think this is it. Unless the People ask for more time, the trial starts at nine Monday morning."

There were a few minutes of silence. If the clock had been spring-wound instead of quartz, you could have heard it ticking loudly.

"All right," said Paul softly. "Maybe Dave and I'll see y'all someplace round lunch time. Dave, why don't you and I go down to my office." Paul's office at the church during the trial would be small counseling room with a table and four chairs.

 

"Superior Court for the County of Cumberland is now in session," intoned the court recorder doubling as court clerk. "Judge Amos Schwartz presiding. All rise."

I'm about sick of hearing this prattle, thought Patricia with irritation. It was a lot more than the mindless courtroom littany which was causing the irritation and Patricia knew it. Dave was obviously innocent, but where this all was going to end, she couldn't say. Would God allow an innocent man to go to prison? He answered their prayers about bail, but would that apply to the actual trial itself? What if Dave was still in prison when the baby was born?

The early fall sun was shining through the windows on Patricia's side of the room, but she still hugged herself with an involuntary shudder.

Parsonage Table of Contents
Links to Other Resources

Disclaimer
About the DiskBooks copyright
How to Download DiskBooks Files
Return to Parsonage Home Page
Return to DiskBooks Home Page
How to Order Disk Copies

Send E-Mail

 

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