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Justice Served
By: Belinda Stevens

CHAPTER I

They found him in the inner sanctum of his law office, deader than a doornail, with his severed forefinger shoved halfway down his throat. No one knew whether he died of shock resulting from the loss of blood or as a result of a heart attack brought on by sheer, unadulterated terror. But I knew, because I severed the finger and I caused his untimely, but well-deserved, death!

There was a gathering at Joe's Diner across from the courthouse. It's where the local attorneys and court clerks go for their morning coffee. They were all talking about the gruesome discovery. I sat at a table in the corner and eavesdropped on their comments. I almost laughed out loud at their "who done it" theories. If they only knew, I thought. Wouldn't they be surprised?
"Who found the body?"
"I think it was Sara Beth. They said you could hear her screams all the way in the parking lot!"
"Well, you know Sara Beth. She always was a screamer."
"That's not funny, Ralph."
"Oh, Susie, give me a break. Where's your sense of humor? You know Judge Edwards deserved exactly what he got." Martin laughed. "I'm glad somebody finally found a good use for that finger of his." Ralph chuckled. "Whoever killed the bastard should have stuck that finger where the sun don't shine." Ralph and Susie were Public Defenders who had endured Judge Edwards' finger-wagging and general abuse for the last four years. Martin was the newly elected Circuit Clerk. He had defeated the Judge's brother-in-law, so there was no love lost between Martin Wilson and Judge Edwards. Bad blood had existed between the Edwards and Wilson families for several generations.

Martin's grandfather, a former prosecutor, hounded Judge Edwards' great-uncle out of office. Not only was Raymond Edwards forced to resign as County Court Judge, he ended up serving time for one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) in kickbacks and other nefarious activities. It would seem the fickle finger of fate would point to Martin as a likely suspect. But Lancaster County's newly elected Circuit Clerk had an iron-clad alibi. He was being certified by the Secretary of State's Office and being sworn in by his best friend, Leslie Brooks, Mississippi's Senior Judge on the appellate court, at the time of the murder.

As I left the diner, I heard Susie say the local police were interviewing persons of interest, essentially everyone who was in the courthouse at the estimated time of death. The first to be interrogated was Sara Beth, the lady who found the Judge's body. Again, I laughed. They'd never figure this one out.

Sara Beth
I've been a court reporter for seventeen years. The last fifteen of those years I worked for Judge Edwards. The first day on the job, the Judge hit on me. I was single then but now I'm married with three children. The last time Judge Edwards came on to me was three days before his murder. Not only did the man look like a bulldog on a three day drunk, he was the nastiest, most chauvinistic son-of-a-bitch I've ever had the misfortune to know. I worked for him because I had a family to help feed and because I needed the years for state retirement, but there was no amount of money that could persuade me to sleep with that sleaze bag. I'm not sorry he's dead. I'm just sorry I'm the one who found his body.

As I entered the interrogation room, I began to shake. The sight of three detectives with various colored pictures of the severed finger and the Judge's battered body made me slightly nauseous.
"Please sit down, Ms. Spencer. Or is it Mrs.?"
"Detective Sparks, you know it's Mrs. and you've known that for at least eight years. That's how long you've been on the force, right?" I asked.
"Of course, Sara Beth, just a few questions, okay?"
"Okay."
"First of all, where were you between 8:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. this morning?"
"I was in the Clerk's Office having coffee with the girls until 9:15. After that, I went to the post office and then to the bank. I got back to the courthouse shortly before 10:00 A.M."
"Who did you see at the post office and at the bank?"
"Well, Miss Omega sold me stamps and Miss Nancy waited on me at the bank," I responded.

Next, Detective Taylor asked me about the discovery of the body. I told him the Judge's door was ajar but I had still knocked. When there was no answer, I entered and found the Judge lying face-up next to his desk. The first and only thing I noticed was the bloody finger sticking out of his mouth. I ran from the room screaming. Detective Sparks asked if I noticed anything else. I told him no; nothing out of place, just that grisly finger. After further questioning, I told Detective Banks if there had been anything out of place, I wouldn't have known; I was in too much of a hurry to get out of that room!

I knew the hideous discovery in my hometown would be on the nightly news and that my name would be mentioned. Tannersville is forty-five miles south of Jackson, the state capitol. It's located in a section of the state referred to as the Piney Woods area. This part of the state is mainly rural; where farmers meet at the local general store for morning coffee to discuss their neighbors, warts and all. Tannersville is one of the larger towns in the Piney Woods area with a population of fifteen thousand. It's a town still small enough for everyone to know everybody else's business, but the locals don't know everything about me. They considered me a local beauty queen that went to Ole Miss after graduating from high school. I majored in Journalism with a straight-A average. I mysteriously dropped out of college my senior year and only my family knows the reason why. I was the victim of a date rape. It wasn't until Jeff came along that I began to trust again. Two years after I starting working for Judge Edwards, I married Jeff.

My husband commutes every day to Jackson. He is the manager of a women's clothing store. Gentle and unceasingly patient, he always listens to my rants about the comments of the Judge and other local brain-dead males who seem obsessed with my full figure. What I didn't tell Detective Sparks is that if I had murdered Edwards, I would have castrated him B not cut off his finger!


CHAPTER II

After Sara Beth left the interrogation room, the detectives discussed her alibi and the general truthfulness of her statement. None of them knew that Edwards' killer was in an outer connecting room. No one saw me slip in and I remained quiet as a mouse as I took in every word they spoke. It was funny to listen to those keystone cops. They couldn't solve a simple robbery at high noon, much less a murder.

"What do you think?" asked Banks.
"I don't think she could have done it," responded Taylor. "First, she has an alibi that's easy to verify. Second, how could she subdue a man twice her height and weight and forcibly cut off his finger and then shove it halfway down his throat?"
"Maybe she drugged him," said Sparks, taking another sip of overcooked coffee that had been sitting out since 8:30 A.M. that morning.
"We don't have a pathology report, autopsy results or anything else B not even a murder weapon. So everything's only speculation at this point," stated Banks, pacing the floor.

"Well, I still say she's probably in the clear," said Taylor. The others agreed. At that point, they decided to take a break before questioning the District Attorney, Dan Scott. I hid in the bathroom while they filed past me into the hallway.

Dan Scott was Lancaster County's first black District Attorney. Most people gave him the benefit of the doubt, but not Judge Edwards. He goaded Dan every chance he got. When Edwards wasn't telling tasteless racist jokes, he was talking down to Dan as though the D.A. had a third grade education. Dan stood his ground. He never went over the line with Edwards but he didn't tolerate his insults either.

Judge Edwards was supporting Dan Scott's opponent in the upcoming August election for District Attorney. Dan had held the post of District Attorney for four years and was currently running for re-election. Everyone knew the guy running against Scott was an idiot who barely etched out a living with simple divorces, child custody disputes and preparation of wills, the kind that weren't contested. Charles Bass may have been a simpleton, but he was Judge Edwards' man, or lackey, so to speak. The fact that Edwards was so open in his support of Bass irked Dan Scott, but was it enough for murder?

As I entered the Interrogation Room and saw Sparks, Banks and Taylor sipping that awful courthouse coffee made by inmates four hours earlier, I thought about the first time I laid eyes on those men.

Shortly after my election, I went to the police station to introduce myself to the Chief. I was ushered into a room filled with suspicious faces, including the faces of Sparks, Banks and Taylor. The previous D.A. had alienated everyone with her impossible demands; her way of putting things off until the last minute, and her refusal to return phone calls or communicate with the police on active cases.

I did my best to assure everyone I didn't operate that way. It took a full year, but I gained most people's confidence, although Sparks still didn't like me. Detective Sparks didn't like anyone whose skin wasn't lily-white, and who wasn't male and protestant. Since I was black and Catholic, Sparks didn't trust me as far as he could throw me, which wasn't very far, especially since he was the Donut King of Lancaster County.

Sparks was twenty pounds overweight but considered himself a "ladies man". He boasted that he had three girlfriends in the three surrounding counties, and managed to see each girl at least every other day. He said he burned up the roads visiting his lady friends.

Naturally, Sparks was the first to question me about my whereabouts when Judge Edwards was murdered. Much to his dismay, I was interviewing witnesses in an upcoming case, with both of my assistants present during the interviews. God knows, I wasn't sorry Edwards was gone because he made my life a living hell, and the bastard ruled against me on everything. I couldn't prove it, but it was an open secret that Edwards would rule any way you wanted him to for the right fee. The Judge would give light sentences to repeat offenders if the money passing hands was substantial enough. People said at the end of the day, the length of a defendant's sentence depended solely on the amount of money in the Judge's wallet. No, I didn't kill the son-of-a-bitch, but I'm glad he's dead, and that's exactly what I told Sparks, Banks and Taylor!

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