Crime Middle School Mystery

Sixth-grader Kevin Barker was sound asleep in his small bedroom off the kitchen. The house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast town of Bay St. Louis was built about 1850.

Kevin’s room was cold and he was not anxious to get out from his electric blanket, which was the only source of heat in his room. He lay listening to his father talking, no, arguing with someone inside their house. 

Having heard his name, he sat up and slid into his slippers. On his way to the living room, he saw the green stove clock read 2:04. As he entered the living room, he immediately saw the two large police officers standing in the foyer area talking with his father. His mother was standing in her old robe near him. 

“Son,” his father addressed him, “where did you go after the game tonight?”

Still not sure what was going on, Kevin began to think. “I left with Haley because she wanted me to walk her to her house.” 

“Why was that?” one policeman asked. 

“Haley asked me because her sister left the game with a friend and Haley didn’t want to walk home alone. Her house is on our street, so it’s right on my way,” he said referring to the house only four houses down the street. 

“Was everything ok with Ms. Bennett when you left her?” asked the other officer.

“Yes,” Kevin said thinking, “She waved at me and went inside her house. I never even went inside her front gate,” Kevin said. “Is she ok? Did something happen?”

“Kevin, we need to take you down to the station for your statement,” the taller officer said stepping forward. Kevin realized that he was the higher ranking officer with more stripes on his sleeve.

Kevin’s mother held him and pulled him to his father. “He’s only twelve years old!”

“Ma’am, he admitted to being with Ms. Bennett,” the taller officer stated. “He is the last person to have seen her alive.”

“What!” Kevin exclaimed. “What happened to Haley?” 

“Mr. and Mrs. Barker, we need to continue this at the station,” the officer stated producing a pair of handcuffs.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Mr. Barker stated stepping in front of his son. “Are you arresting him?”

The officer stated that it was more of a formality for transport. Mr. Barker would not move so the officer said, “We have more handcuffs, sir.” 

Kevin was arrested and taken to the squad car and buckled into the back seat. Neighbors and friends were watching from across the street. Kevin sat wrecking his brain and trying to imagine what could have happened to Haley. 

He met her in the lunch line on his first day. She was right behind him in line and he reached into the cooler and got her a carton of milk. When he stood up and gave it to her he was immediately in awe of her beauty. 

She was a cheerleader and was chased by all the football players. Kevin’s eclectic group of friends warned him not to be smitten by her, so he remained aloof, which only seemed to make her more attracted to him. Of all the girls he knew, she was his favorite. Everyone liked her.

‘Who would want to hurt her’, he wondered too loud?

“What was that, boy?” the officer in the front asked as he played with his cell phone. 

“Nothing, sir. I guess I was talking to myself,” Kevin asked. 

“Ok. Your dad and mom are still talking with Officer Jacobi,” he said. “We can talk if you want, just not about what happened.” 

“Uh-huh,” Kevin said quietly. 

“Sixth grade, huh? I can hardly remember the sixth grade,” he continued. “I went to the old middle school. It’s an elementary school now. I wonder if that means I only had an elementary education in middle school,” the officer said laughing without Kevin really getting the joke. 

“You don’t think that’s funny, boy?” 

“Uh, What?” Kevin asked still lost in his own thoughts. 

“Aww, hell. Nevermind. What should I expect from you? You’re back there under arrest.”

“I didn’t do it,” Kevin said quietly. 

“I’ll give you this. You must be cold-blooded,” the officer said. “I’m a grown-ass man and I’m still shaking. That was gruesome; more blood than when I shoot a deer.” 

Kevin felt a wave of nausea come over him. He remembered Haley smiling and saying, “Thanks, Kevin Barker,” as she went into her house. It was a funny way she teased him; using his full name. Because she volunteered in the school office, she had seen his full name on a list. So when he met her she used his full name.

He only saw one car parked on the street when he continued walking down to his house. A Fed-Ex truck made a delivery at Kevin’s neighbor’s house and drove past him just as he reached his house. Did it stop at Haley’s house? He didn’t remember. He was so giddy to have walked Haley home that he burst into the house wanting to tell his parents, but didn’t. 

At the station, Kevin was fingerprinted and taken to a holding cell where he tried to sleep on the bottom bunk of a squeaky metal bunk bed.

He didn’t know what time it was, but the officer told him that his parents and the public defender would be there at about eight o’clock. The lights remained on and it seemed when Kevin was almost asleep the guard would do his rounds and cause him to wake up. 

It was still dark when the guard opened his cell and a man wearing a sport coat entered. 

“Wakey, Wakey,” he said throwing a plastic bag on Kevin’s bed. “I’m Jim Griffin. I’m a lawyer,” he said tossing the bag on Kevin’s bed. “I know you’re tired, but hey, you’re dad woke me up about four o’clock. He told me you’re innocent. I think we can get this cleared up.” 

“Good,” Kevin said rummaging through the for the bag. 

“Get dressed and we’ll go to a private room and talk then I can get you out of here.” 

Kevin’s shoelaces had been removed so he shuffled as he followed Mr. Griffin to a room that looked just like he’d seen on TV. He thought his parents might be behind the big mirror he was facing. 

Mr. Griffin pulled out a long yellow notepad. He turned on a small tape recorder and mumbled through an introduction for the tape and asked Kevin his name and grade and if he knew Haley Bennett.

Kevin said ‘yes’, then asked if his parents were in the next room. 

Mr. Griffin quickly turned off the tape recorder and said, “I think so,” then he turned the tape recorder back on. “In your words, tell me what happened last night.” 

“My father said not to say anything until he gets here. May I see him?” Kevin said talking to the mirror. “Dad, Mom are you there?”

Even more irritated, Mr. Griffin turned the recorder off again. “Ok, no they're not here yet, but they should be soon. We can be done before they get here.” 

“Now, Kevin,” he said looking at his watch, “Are you ready to tell me what happened last night.” 

“Why do you want to tape-record the conversation?” Kevin asked. 

“God damn it, kid! You have to let me help you!” 

“I need to see my father or mother before we go on,” Kevin said standing. 

“Guard!” the lawyer shouted. “Get this kid back to his cell. He can rot for all I care,” he said as he stormed off. 

The officer hurried down the hall and motioned for Kevin to get back in his cell. 

“Wow, what did you say to the DA to get him so upset,” the guard asked as he was locking Kevin’s cell. 

“Who?” Kevin asked. “He said he was my lawyer.” 

“Uh-oh. He’s been warned ‘bout that before.”

“How did he get my clothes?” 

“Your dad dropped them off about five. I had to go through them and make sure there’s no weapons or drugs. No shoelaces either. Hanging is not allowed here," he said laughing. "I think your dad said he’d be here at eight with your lawyer.” 

Kevin barely closed his eyes and was relieved to see his father and the lawyer standing at his cell door. The officer opened the door and Kevin hugged his dad. The lawyer introduced himself, Stan Watson with Watson, Watson, and Legere. In the interview room, the lawyer and Kevin’s dad talked while Kevin quickly ate a McDonald’s Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit and washed it down with a McDonald’s milk. 

Kevin told them about the DA coming by and how he had a tape recorder. The lawyer was really upset by this and confirmed that Kevin did not say anything significant on the tape recorder. He made a note about getting the officer at the desk to testify that it happened. 

Kevin told Mr. Watson, who didn't have a tape recorder, about the evening. How he waved at Haley from the sidewalk. How she called him “Kevin Barker”. He explained why she said that. How he saw her go inside the house waving to him as if nothing was wrong. Kevin mentioned the Fed-Ex truck he saw as he went into his house. 

Kevin insisted that there was no reason that he would want to do any harm to Haley. Kevin knew it wasn’t his idea to walk her home, but he couldn’t remember if anyone heard her ask him.

Kevin answered other questions: No. He didn’t think Haley she felt threatened, or at least not while he was walking her home. He added that he was not particularly strong or would provide that much protection. No. He did not own a knife. No. He didn’t see anyone walking behind them.  

“Well, I didn’t want to do this,” the lawyer said picking up his briefcase. “These photos are really gruesome, but I need to let you see the photos.

“These might give you nightmares for a long time. The prosecution will eventually shove them in front of you to see how you react.”

“Mr. Barker,” the lawyer said nodding his head toward the trash can, “please have that ready.”

And with that, the lawyer laid out three 8 x 10 color photos of the murder scene in front of Kevin. 

Kevin, who often blushed, felt himself go pale. He was immediately saddened as he looked at the three photos. He fought off the nausea with anger. He looked down and closed his eyes forcing his tears to burn. With his eyes closed, he remembered Haley waving at him. He looked again at the pictures. 

“Is that her cell phone?” Kevin asked pointing. 

“I believe it is,” the lawyer said looking closer at the two photographs with the phone. 

Kevin thought for a moment and said, “Her hands were empty. She didn’t have her phone when we walked to her house. I remember because she wanted to call her mom, but I didn’t have a phone either. She said because she was cheerleading, she put it in Elizabeth’s purse then Elizabeth left early with Haley’s cell phone."  

“Ok, so you think maybe she went in the house and came out with her phone, which her sister had? Do you think her sister was home before her?”

“I don’t know, maybe Elizabeth realized it and dropped it off at the house, then left before we Haley got home.”

“Ok, that’s reasonable doubt,” the lawyer concluded. “There’s an arraignment at ten o’clock. That’s where the judge hears preliminary evidence and decides if you need to be released, or charged. If you're being charged there may be a separate bond hearing."

“Do you both understand?” Kevin and his father nodded. “Additionally, I’m going to file a complaint against DA Griffin for pretending to be your lawyer. 

“Until then, you need to wait in your cell. Your dad probably wants to wait nearby,” the lawyer said rising. “Stay strong, Kevin.” 

After a few hours, Kevin walked, handcuffed between two officers to a courtroom. Haley’s mother and sister were sitting behind the DA. Kevin’s father was behind him and Mr. Watson.

Mr. Watson briefed him about standing when Judge Banister entered. 

The judge scolded the DA for visiting Kevin without his lawyer present and he said that he had been warned before. This time he would be fined. 

The judge read the charges, “Kevin Barker, you have been arrested for the willful and premeditated murder of Haley Bennett. How do you plead?”

Kevin’s lawyer stood putting his hand on Kevin’s shoulder to keep him from standing.

“Your Honor, the defendant pleads, ‘Not Guilty’.”

“I understand,” the judge said. “I’d like to hear more evidence before I decide on charging and bail.” 

“Prosecution, what do you have?”

Mr. Griffin began accusing Kevin of having a crush on Haley and being a jilted lover, of trying to kiss her and being upset and taking a knife and killing her. 

Mr. Watson had objected once but was reminded that it was just an opening statement. When he had his turn, he reminded the judge of Mr. Griffin’s lack of honesty. He said that the defense had no forensic or eyewitness evidence. The defense would produce other witnesses to facts that were easily provable that Kevin was likely not the last one to see Haley alive. He would also produce other suspects such as the Fed-Ex delivery on that street. 

He added that Haley’s cell phone is in the photograph, but she didn’t have it on the walk home, Kevin saw Haley’s sister Elizabeth turning to whisper something to her mother. 

A grizzled old man walked in the back of the courtroom and sat down. Mr. Watson stopped talking and looked at him as did everyone in the room. 

Mr. Watson resumed saying that Mr. Griffin had the wrong person based on circumstantial evidence. It was going to blow up in his face. “We’re going to call a dozen school children to talk about Haley and Kevin. We’re going to call Haley’s mother and sister to see who may have both been with Haley when she got home. Who knows we might call people who were with Mrs. Bennett while her husband was working a night shift at the hospital.  

The judge looked at Mr. Griffin, “I was expecting an objection.” 

Mr. Griffin looked suddenly pale as he looked again at the man in the back of the courtroom. 

“Uh,” Mr. Griffin began, “Sidebar please.” 

“Now, now, Jim,” Judge Banister said. “This is just an arraignment. You can speak freely.”

“We may have acted too quickly on Mr. Barker. In light of new information on the Fed-Ex truck, the county would like to move to drop the charges against Kevin Barker.”

“Mr. Griffin, you know, by saying that,” the judge said smiling, “that the Hancock County is leaving itself vulnerable to a case of false arrest in a civil court.”   

Kevin noticed, Mr. Watson was smiling and nodded slightly.

“Mr. Griffin, please catch Ms. Bennett’s murder as soon as possible.” 

“Mr. Barker, you are free to go with the court’s apologies,” he began.

Kevin was about to say, “Your welcome,” but saw Mr. Watson's hand move slightly.

“Furthermore,” he added, “I'm sure that your counsel can advise you on possible recourse against the county either at large or individual persons.”

And with a “Case Dismissed,” the judge banged his gavel. 

The bailiff commanded with a loud, “All rise.” 

And Kevin and Mr. Watson stood and watched the judge leave. 

Mr. Watson gave Kevin a strong handshake and turned to shake hands over the railing with Kevin’s father.

Mr. Griffin, Mrs. Bennett, and Elizabeth left quickly with Mrs. Bennett hounding Mr. Griffin out the door. 

While Kevin and Mr. Barker were discussing an upcoming case to sue the county for false arrest, the old man in the back of the room came forward and stood at a distance. Mr. Watson came through the swinging gate and shook hands with him.

“Thanks, I’ll be in touch,” Mr. Watson said patting the man on his arm as he turned without being introduced. 

As he left Mr. Watson said, “That’s Ernie. He’s a local bartender.”

“What was he doing here?” Mr. Barker said, asking what Kevin was thinking.

“Ever hear 'Knowledge is power?' I put out a call for info on the DA. He was seen out with a blond woman. I played a hunch that it was Mrs. Bennett. The DA recognized the bartender.”

“So who killed Haley?” Kevin asked.

“My guess it was one of those three that just left,” Mr. Watson said calmly walking toward the courtroom door. 

“Aren’t they going to get away?” Mr. Barker exclaimed following. “Should we call someone?”

“Good idea!” the lawyer said walking out into bright lights. Reporters gathered around began asking questions. 

Kevin and his father followed as Mr. Watson began saying ‘no comment’ as they walked through the front doors of the building. There they saw Mr. Griffin, and Mrs. Bennett and Elizabeth being put in the back of brown police cars. 

Kevin and his dad followed Mr. Watson to their cars. 

“When the dust settles, I doubt you’ll get a bill from me,” Mr. Watson said shaking hands with both of them. “I’ll be in touch.”

The End

December 03, 2020 04:59

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07:49 Dec 10, 2020

I really enjoyed this story it’s very good well done the writing style is interesting but in a good way and I loved the plot twists. Well done Lily


Dan Taylor
18:24 Dec 10, 2020

Thanks! My first short story attempt and my first comment. After 35 years as an engineer, I'm trying to write like a writer. I grew up in that small beach town, but moved away, so I look forward to writing about that special place.


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Mary Bendickson
23:41 Mar 04, 2023

Read your stories but started with the the last one first. I think I understand you are using characters from a book you are writing but you killed off the girl Kevin is to marry later! I know, I know. Just fulfilling the prompts. Good job. Happy to follow your stories.


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