A terrible crime has been committed, but is the suspect guilty?
It was a clear-cut case. The victim. A guilty looking suspect. All the clues added up neatly, like two plus two making four, and the verdict slammed down and crushed Alison’s heart, feeling not dissimilar to a hammer hitting a blown eggshell, if you were the egg.
But Detective Alison picked up the shattered pieces and put them back together again; she was tough, hardened, and a broken heart was no reason at all to let unfairness exist a moment longer. She turned to her partner, Junior Detective Samuel, who was wet-behind-the-ears in more than one sense, having been hustled out of the bath in a hurry once the case became known. He blinked up at her fierce gaze.
“Sam, we’ve got to save Bailey!” She hissed, taking care that the prosecution couldn’t hear her. They wouldn’t want her ferreting out new facts, oh no, they were quite content to let this travesty stand.
“Otherwise, they’ll...” the words caught in her throat. Thoughts of cold concrete, bare walls, the chill winter air thronged in her mind, but she shook her head as though to clear them and they... not went, but retreated long enough for her to finish her thought. “They’ll take him away. Lock him up - maybe forever.”
And there was no doubt in her mind - that could not be allowed to happen. Not now. Not ever.
Dragging her reluctant partner behind her, she slipped out a side door without anyone noticing.
The crime scene was almost worse with no-one else in the room. The earlier press of people had made it surreal, but now there was just her and the victim. Junior Detective Samuel didn’t count, sulking in a corner after having pouted and made clear that he had wanted to stay and watch the show in the court room. If you could even dignify it with that name. Kangaroo court, more like, Alison thought as she scanned the crime scene for clues.
It really was a gruesome sight; chunks of... Alison stumbled slightly over the word, flesh strewn across the tiles. Crimson streaks spattering the floor, the cupboard doors, a broken bowl in pieces on the ground. She rebuked Samuel sharply for stepping into the sad red puddle and interfering with the crime scene.
Carefully slowing her breathing, Detective Alison composed her thoughts. Outside the window, the chill November wind stripped flame-coloured leaves from branches and sent the swirling soggily through the air. A bright red sportscar rolled past, out of place against the dingy background; a cat ambled after it. It... all made sense, that was the worst part, the part that she didn’t want to admit to herself. The motive was clear; Bailey had been deprived of gratification, year after year after year, no matter how he begged and pleaded. Denied the one thing he truly, desperately wanted. Unfairly denied, it was true, for everyone should be able to partake, it was the whole point of the exercise, but did the situation justify... this? Alison’s eyes saw floured pawprints tracking across the countertop, snaking from the pumpkin pie dough and over to near where the victim lay.
In fact... mind spinning, she frantically calculated in her head, numbers dancing before her mental eyes... 91. Bailey was 91, an old, old man with grey whiskers and saggy jowls. No spry youngster, full of spirit and strength and vigour. His old bones, she knew, complained when he had to get out of bed and even the stairs were a painful challenge. To commit this crime... No, he simply wouldn’t have had the strength. Not at first, anyway, whispered the sly, snide voice of painful truth in the back of her mind. But if the opportunity arose, if he came across the victim already down and vulnerable... Well, what then?
As hard as she tried to deny it, Detective Alison knew in her heart of hearts that Bailey had committed that final, fatal act. He had had help, others had set the scene so that he could finally, after years and years and years, get what he wanted. But Bailey, and Bailey alone, had done the deed.
Tears pricking her eyes, Alison also knew in her heart of hearts that she simply didn’t care. It wasn’t fair, none of it was fair, and she wasn’t going to condemn Bailey to the cold concrete today. Eyes glittered from atop the kitchen cabinets as the cat watched her storm from the room, delicately licking flour from its paws.
The jury had been dubious when she had flown into the room like a storm, shouting that she had done it and that Bailey was innocent and please, please, please don’t take him away! But she had railed and cried and sworn up and down that she was guilty, although she hadn’t really sworn because then she would have gotten in real trouble.
And now it was later. Orange and red bunting hung over the fireplace, before which Bailey lay sprawled. Alison gazed wistfully at the slices of pumpkin pie with whipped cream being doled out to everyone except for her, but despite her stomach’s complaints her heart knew she’d done the right thing. Thanksgiving was nearly over, the table was filled with the remains of the feast and everyone was filled full of food, although of course only Bailey was full of turkey. Across the table her dad was still muttering about the difficulty of removing cranberry sauce from kitchen cabinets, but Alison was distracted as her mum slid her a slice of pumpkin pie with a smile and extra whipped cream. And as Samuel began flinging peas from his highchair, Alison knew that today was a good day after all.