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Crime Drama Contemporary

The judge's words rang throughout the courtroom, ‘Michael Jonathan Greary sentenced to life in prison . . .’

The gallery, like a pot left simmering for weeks, boiled over and cries rose up from either side.  Some were happy and some were devastated, but collectively what settled was a sense of relief.  It was finally over.  People could go back to their lives and some semblance of a normal  existence.

The bailiffs cleared the courtroom. The crowd moved noisily through the halls and spilled onto the street.  Cameras and microphones were pushed into Sonya’s face and she got caught up in the sea of bodies moving as if it was hightide.  She found herself perched on the top step of the courthouse.  Reporters blocked her escape.  At her elbow was Fatima, the Victim’s Services Support advocate.  Fatima whispered words of encouragement and Sonya felt a protective arm snake around her shoulders.  She took a deep breath.

“Mrs. Greary, do you feel that justice has been served?”

“What are your plans now that the trial is over?”

“How is your child Mrs. Greary?  Will you be taking her to visit her father in prison?”

The last question stabbed at her heart.  She felt her knees buckle, but Fatima perhaps foreshadowing this, drew her arm tighter around her shoulders.  She leaned on her gratefully.

“I am only going to make a brief statement,” her voice came out scratchy, like she hadn’t used it in days.  She cleared her throat and continued.  “I am relieved that Mich . . . that he has received the maximum sentence.  This hasn’t been easy for anyone.  I only wish to put this horrific ordeal behind me and I wish nothing but peace and healing for the victims and their loved ones.”

Cameras flashed in her face and follow up questions buzzed around her head like pesky mosquitoes.  She was saved by Mrs. Colter’s emergence from the courthouse.  Fatima grabbed her elbow and they dashed to the carpark.  Sonya sank into the passenger seat and let out a long sigh.  

“I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for the past two years.”  Her eyes watched the passing landscape.  Seeing, but not seeing.  The only thing that ran through her brain was, it’s over.  It’s finally over.  The media will soon move onto the next sensational story and she can begin rebuilding.  A fresh start and the first order of business will be to finalize the divorce and revert back to her maiden name.  

Greary.  A name that evoked horror in this town.  Sonya could barely speak of the despicable acts committed by her husband, but she couldn’t stop the thoughts that crept into her head when she least expected it.  On tiny silent feet terrible thoughts entered her brain when she was doing the most mundane task.  When she took out the garbage, she thought of how Michael had tossed the body of Jessa Colter down an embankment off the old forest service road.  Her body left there to rot in the summer heat and for animals to pick at her remains.  When she loaded the washing machine, thoughts crept in of her husband washing his victims DNA from his clothes.  When she laid down in the bed that they shared, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut, but still the image came - her husband on top of her as they made love.  Was that the last image that Jessa Colter had?  Of Michael on top of her as she was being strangled to death?

With the help of therapy and Fatima, who had been by her side since the arrest, these images became less frequent and less intense.  Sonya was grateful that her little girl was too young to know what was happening.  Noelle was only eight months old when Michael was arrested, but someday she would start asking questions and Sonya would have to tell her the painful details.   Your dad raped three women, but they were the lucky ones.  The fourth one he murdered.  Now Michael was gone.  Gone for the rest of his life and he would never hurt anyone else.  

“You’re quiet,” said Fatima. Her dark eyes leaving the road to glance at Sonya.

“I just can’t believe it’s all over.  I don’t even know what’s next.  Where do I start?  So much of my energy was just trying to get through the trial.”

She patted her thigh.  “You’ve stronger than you think you are,” she said as she pulled in front of  a non-descript three story apartment building.  

Sonya paused before opening the car door.  Uncertain of how to thank this woman for her support these past two years.  She had seen her cry, scream and despondent.  As if reading her mind, she spoke.

“You got this and this isn’t goodbye.  I’ll check up on you from time to time and you can always reach out to me as well.”  

Sonya offered her a faint smile and stepped out of the car before Fatima could see her tears.  She had seen her cry enough times.  

As she entered her apartment, she was greeted by the cries of Noelle.  

“I’m sorry, Sonya,” said Carmen.  “She's been very fussy.”

She held out her arms and took Noelle from her.  She stroked her back and smelt her hair.  It seemed to have a calming effect on both of them as Noelle settled in her arms. She felt herself relax for the first time that day.  Sonya kicked off her shoes and got them settled on the couch.  

“I’d ask you how it went, but it has already been all over the news.”  

She was grateful that she didn’t ask her if she was okay.  She was sick and tired of being asked that.  She was alive, wasn’t she?  That should be enough.

“Are you hungry?  I can get you something to eat.”  

“Not really, but I should eat.  I’m starting to not recognize myself when I look in the mirror.”

Carmen ordered a pizza and after they ate, Sonya tucked Noelle into bed.  The two women retreated to the couch with a bottle of red wine.  For a while it felt like old times.  Just two friends catching up on each other’s lives, but then the conversation shifted as it inevitably did.

Sonya reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.  As her hand touched her hair, she remembered that she had it cut to a chin length bob soon after the details of her husband’s horrific crimes came out.  All of his victims were petite blondes with long straight hair.  Sonya was now a brunette.  

“I just don’t get it.  They all looked like me.  Why?”  She had asked this question many times and no answer was ever given that made any sense.

“He’s a monster.”

“But why did he choose to marry me?  Why didn’t he do to me what he did to those poor women?  What was so special about me?  The guilt eats at me. I should have known what he was doing. I could have stopped it."  

“Don't.  You’re a victim too, just like those women.  He ruined a lot of lives with what he did and the only person to blame is rotting in jail as we speak.  You are just going to drive yourself crazy if you keep dwelling on it.  He’s a sick bastard.  That’s all you need to know.  He’s locked up and you’re free.  You and Noelle are free.”

“I know you're right.  I think it’s the wine talking,” she said as she put down her wine glass.  “I have been working on it with my therapist.”

“Good.  Not to sound like a walking cliche, but take one day at a time.  With the passage of time, things will get better.”

“Thanks Hallmark,” she said and managed a small smile.

Later, after a cab took Carmen home, Sonya stood in the centre of the living room.  Silence greeted her as she looked around the modest apartment.  A far cry from the spacious four bedroom house on Brookswood Drive, but at least they were safe here.  It was just the two of them now.

Sonya woke the next morning with the kind of pounding headache that she only gets from too much red wine.  Rolling over onto her back her thoughts shifted as they often did to Mrs. Colter.  Everyday she was the first person in the gallery to ensure her spot just behind the Crown Counsel.  Her back ramrod straight and her keen eyes, behind black wire rimmed glasses, stared down the jury as if daring them to find Michael innocent.  As always, clutched in her hands was a framed 8x10 portrait of her daughter, Jessa.  The 20 year old had a pretty smile and a smattering of pale freckles across her snub nose. 

Hearing Noelle fussing in her bedroom, Sonya struggled to untangle herself from her sheets.  Thoughts of Mrs. Colter faded until a couple of days later when the phone rang.

“Fatima, I’m surprised to hear from you so soon.”

“Mrs. Colter reached out to me.”

“What, why?”

“It’s not bad news.  She just asked me to pass along her phone number to you.”

“Why would I want that?”

“My guess, closure.”

“I couldn’t possibly have anything to say to her.  I’m sure she hates me.”

“She doesn’t hate you.  Listen Sonya, I can’t tell you what to do, but my professional opinion is  you should call her.”

The numbers sat on a scratch pad on the kitchen counter for five days.  Every time she went into the kitchen the innocuous numbers stared back at her.  Sonya had stared at it so many times that the number was as familiar as her own cell phone number.

Her heart thudded in her chest and on the first try, her shaking fingers misdialed.  Finally the phone was ringing.  She felt a wave of relief wash over her as it rang six times.  It was going to go to voicemail.

“Hello,” came the breathless voice. 

“Oh, I’m calling for Mrs. Colter?”

“This is she.”

“Oh, hi, um, this is Mrs . . . .  this is Sonya.  I got your number from Fatima at Victim’s Support Services.”  

“I had just about given up that you would call.”

“Yes, I’m sorry, it’s just been difficult.” 

“I need to see you.  Meet me at Winston Park tomorrow at 11:00 AM.”  It was a demand, not a request.

The next day she stood by the covered picnic shelter as instructed.  It was a cool day with a brilliant blue sky that made her eyes ache. She wished she thought to bring sunglasses. 

Her stomach did a somersault as she watched Mrs. Colter stride down the path from the parking lot.  She carried with her the same ramrod posture she had seen everyday in court.  Her short pixie cut blew in the wind. 

“Hello Mrs. Colter.”

“Jane, call me Jane.  Why don’t we walk down to the duck pond.”

They walked in silence.  Sonya wanted nothing more than to be away from this woman.  Seeing the hard edges on Jane’s face close up, anxiety fluttered in Sonya’s chest.  She held her breath and waited for the ugly accusations, the name calling and the messy confrontation.

When she could stand the silence no longer, she said, “Look Jane, I’m not sure why you called me but if you want to yell at me, scream at me, go ahead.  Get it over with.”

Jane stopped and a worn hand snaked out to grab her forearm.

“Oh dear, no.  It’s nothing like that.”

“Then why am I here?”  Jane continued walking and Sonya fell in step with her.

“I noticed you everyday during the trial.  I could feel your eyes on me and when I turned to meet your gaze you would quickly look away.  Like you were scared of me.”

“I was scared of you.  Scared of seeing the pain on your face.  Scared that you would blame me for what happened to Jessa.”

“Blame you? I certainly don’t blame you.  You were a victim as much as Jessa was.  Sometimes I think that you have it worse.  You have to tell your poor daughter who her father is and the crimes he committed.  How do you explain something like that?”

At the mention of Noelle, she started to cry.  Jane led her to the closest bench and they sat down.  Sonya covered her face with her hands.  Jane said nothing until Sonya composed herself.  She dug in her purse for a tissue but found none.

“Here,” said Jane as she pulled a small packet from her purse. “You can keep it.  I’m all out of tears.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Never apologize.  You have nothing to be sorry about.  Don’t be sorry that you fell in love and trusted that person.”

They sat in silence.  Sonya was consumed by her own thoughts.  How could this woman be so understanding?  So forgiving?  The cold bench began to seep through the backs of her legs. She jammed her hands in her pockets.  She was in no rush to leave.

Jane touched Sonya’s hair.  “You’d be so much prettier a blonde.”

February 06, 2021 03:46

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3 comments

Sam Ackman
21:16 Feb 06, 2021

Hey! This is a great story! Such an interesting perspective to write from. Only a few small things popped up... the first is the pot of water boiling for a week... all I could think was it would be empty :p. Maybe changing to a pot left on the stove too long - or something similar. Only other thing was I didn’t quite get a “we feel like family now” feel from these two although they may have gotten there with more time. Really enjoyed reading this! Great story. Hope you keep writing.

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Miss Boo
19:10 Feb 07, 2021

Thanks. I agree with the ending. I actually had a different ending, but it felt kind of hokey to me. I wasn't going to post this story as it felt a bit half-baked, but I did put a few hours into it already, so I thought, why not? It's tough getting it a decent story out in a week.

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Sam Ackman
20:23 Feb 07, 2021

I’m really glad you shared the story! It’s an interesting perspective that isn’t often talked about. I agree - nothing quite like a deadline to make you feel a bit rushed. Without one thought I’m not sure I would ever finish and move on to something new :)

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