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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Testimony - No. 11C

Tabitha clicked on the typewriter's keys, her fingers dashing as Vince Anderson rambled from the witness stand.

Dismissed by the Defense attorney, Vince gave the courtroom a smirk and sauntered down the center aisle, donning his fedora and tugging every gaze with him as he exited. The first officer at the scene mounted the stand next and was sworn in by the bailiff. The DA sauntered across the bench, posing his questions.

Tabitha captured each query and reply in her rapid tapping.

The police man’s testimony drew to a close with corroborating evidence about the placement of the bloody knife at the scene. Judge Walters then dismissed the jury and banged his gavel to close the trial until rebuttals after the weekend.

Chairs scraped against the wooden floor as everyone rose.

Tabitha stretched out her fingers and smoothed the front of her olive pencil skirt while the judge descended his bench and the sequestered jury was guided through the courtroom's side door by an armed guard. After whispered conversation with her attorney, the tawny haired defendant, Ms. Butler, immaculate in her plush honey business suit, was led by two officers from the room, heading back to her waiting cell. Snaps from briefcases drowned beneath the ambient mumbles, camera flashes and scribbling pens, all blooming in the once hushed space.

Dropping into her wooden chair, Tabitha cranked the last sheet from the typewriter. She separated the front page from the carbon paper underneath and added each to the appropriate piles on her desk. Sorting the documents into chronological order, she stacked one pile across the other. With her fingers the dividing the set, she scooped up her purse and stood. Nudging the chair in with her hip, she found herself alone in the courtroom except for the janitor and the slop of his mop into a grungy bucket.

"Evening Martin," said Tabitha.

"Evening," said Martin, bald head gleaming while his downcast gaze followed the frayed strands across the floor.

With a thud from her stout heels, Tabitha left from the courtroom and down deserted checkered hallways. Secretaries, reporters and lawyers of every ilk, coursed by in the opposite direction bent on departing for the evening. Upon reaching the clerk’s office, Tabitha held the door open as Mary hovered before the time clock.

The puncher docked her card and she stuffed the hard rectangle into a waiting slot for Monday morning.

"Thanks, Tabitha," said Mary, slinging her purse over her shoulder. "'Night, Neil." Mary scurried through the door, brisk pace taking her toward the lobby and bustling city streets.

With a weary sigh, Tabitha entered the office and locked the latch behind her.

"You're running late." Neil thumped a fat leather book closed and earned a cloud of dust. He sniffed and adjusted his thin glasses as he rose from his chair.

"Blame the DA," said Tabitha, winding past him to the file cabinets lining the back wall. "He can ramble like no one I've ever recorded."

"They don't like us here after hours you know." Neil folded his arms across his chest, crinkling his vest, tie and starched button down shirt.

"That's not my problem," said Tabitha. She yanked the second drawer open and flipped across the manila tabs until she found the appropriate docket number. Opening the folder, she scowled. "Where are the rest of the transcripts?"

"What do you mean?"

"Look." She held up the cluttered folder. Sheets of white pages stained with purple letters fluttered. "Yesterday's testimony from Ms. Butler is missing."

Neil frowned over her shoulder and flipped through the pages. "Check the copies."

Tabitha left her piles on top of the steel tower and hurried over to a second cabinet on the other side of the office. She found the corresponding folder and the tension leaked from her shoulders.

"They're here." Flipping through the indigo sheets of carbon copies to be sure, she skimmed over the defendant’s statements she had captured on Thursday.

"That doesn't explain why the originals aren’t here," said Neil.

They stared at one another across the half dozen desks. The wall clock clicked with the passing seconds.

"We should tell the DA," said Tabitha.

Neil nodded. "I'll put these away, why don't you try and catch him."

Tabitha hefted her purse and stormed for the opaque door, her heart thumping as a bit of perspiration sprouted from her manicured hairline. She left Neil shuffling papers as she headed toward the marble stairs, her stride trapped by the hem of her skirt. She guided her assent with a hand on the chilled banister, each step echoing in the cavernous lobby. The carpet lining the upper floors smothered her footsteps as she surged down the second floor corridor.

She knocked on the frosted window labeled District Attorney and held her breath. Scuffs and murmurs answered but no invitation came for her enter. She rapped her knuckles again before trying the knob. The door opened with a groan of hinges.

The smell of blood stung her nose. Tabitha slumped onto the frame, hand over her mouth as the two bodies, one of the gray suited DA, the other his secretary, Janice, lay in crimson pools upon the navy blue carpet. The muffled sounds from within the DA's personal office ceased and the interceding door creaked open.

"It’s the clerk," said a hoarse bass from within the shadowed room.

"Get her," said another, his tone like grinding rocks, "Vince said no witnesses."

Tabitha backpedaled, her gaze locked on a scarlet knife held in the leathery hands of a massive man who filled the threshold with slabs for shoulders, a piercing sneer and nail-hard eyes. Releasing a trembling shriek, she raced for the barren stairs, the pounding of the mammoth man’s feet in swift pursuit.

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