by Denny E. Marshall
An offer not to be refused
Rick hears a slight noise and peers out the kitchen
window. He looks in
the backyard and sees Jim. He does not like Jim, and the feeling is
mutual. They have an ongoing feud that has lasted for years. The reasons are
many, the last being Rick dating Jim’s ex-girlfriend, Irene. Rick is no
longer serious about Irene, but the two still date off and on.
Rick has had it
with Jim. He snaps, and a demon is unleashed. It takes control
and he loses the ability to reason. Rick runs to the bedroom and grabs his gun
from the dresser drawer, then runs outside to confront Jim. Rick can see
him walking along the side of the house toward the front yard. When they
both reach the front yard, Jim sees Rick and walks toward him, yelling
profanities, unaware Rick has a gun. Once he is close, Rick shoots three times
and Jim falls dead to the ground. A large pool of blood is visible. Rick
bends down to check Jim’s pulse to make sure he is dead.
Rick looks up and sees Mrs. Jackson, the
retired schoolteacher who
lives across the street, staring at him after witnessing the shooting. Upon
seeing Rick look her way, she runs inside and calls the police. What is she
doing up at this late hour? Rick is thinking, unaware she has just
returned from a trip to see her grandchildren.
Rick runs into the
house to find something to put the body in and hide it before the police get
there. After he finds an old duffel bag, he runs back outside. The body is gone
and all that remains is a small spot of blood! What the hell? He
looks around and does not see
anything. After a quick search he comes up empty.
When the police arrive
at Mrs. Jackson’s door, Rick walks back into his house. Soon they are knocking
at his door. Rick denies everything and offers no information. Police search
the house and yard. Forensics is called to look for and collect evidence; the
only clue they find is a small amount of blood in the front yard and the gun
with ammo in the bedroom. Rick is taken down to the station for a gunshot
residue test and put in a holding cell.
One of the officers, Detective Moore, drives over
to Jim’s place to look
for clues and information. He knocks on the door and is greeted by a man
saying, “Yes, can I help you with something?”
The officer explains who he is and why he has
stopped by. The man is Jim’s
brother and roommate, Scott.
“I find that hard to believe, since he called
me ten minutes ago and said
he is spending the night with a woman he met.”
When the officer asks him to call his brother,
there is no answer,
so Scott leaves a message to call him back right away because it
is urgent. Detective Moore thanks him and heads back to the station.
Moore releases Rick and
tells him not to leave town. He will wait for the DNA results and get a
subpoena to check Jim’s phone records. All he is sure of right now is that
Rick did fire a gun, since the gunshot residue test came back positive. At who
or what he will have to find out.
Rick arrives home late. He sees
Milo, the next-door neighbor, on his porch smiling at him. Milo has never
smiled at him. In fact, in all the years Rick has lived in the neighborhood he
has only seen Milo twice before. Does he know something? Milo is a strange man
as far as Rick is concerned. He wears dark clothing all the time, and is tall
and thin with squinty eyes and jet-black hair with a receding
hairline, the hair kept combed straight back with too much gel applied. Milo’s
house is unkempt, unlike the surrounding houses. Tall, untrimmed hedges
and bushes obscure most of the yard, its grass high and full of weeds. The
exterior could use paint or repairs in some spots.
As Rick reaches the door Milo says, “We
should talk sometime, Rick.” At
odds with his appearance, his voice is powerful without being
Rick is surprised, since Milo has never said
a word to him before.
After the initial shock Rick responds, “Sure Milo, anytime,” and walks into
house. The invitation is more of a chance to find out what he knows than a
The next evening Jim hears knocking on his door.
It is Milo, so he invites
him inside. Now is Rick’s chance to find out what he knows, if anything.
Milo wastes no time and calmly states, “I
witnessed you killing a man in
your yard.” Before Rick can respond, he continues, “I’ll make a deal with you
if you’re interested.”
“Go on...I’m listening,” Rick
says, indeed interested.
The conversation lasts a half hour. Milo bids
him farewell and departs.
Rick contemplates Milo’s proposal and thinks of his options. He will give him
an answer tomorrow night.
The next night, near the time
Milo should arrive, Rick is at his front door looking out the peephole. He
can see Milo approaching. He opens the door, walks out, and shoots him just
like he did Jim. He also makes sure the police will not find his
As before, Mrs. Jackson is up late and sees the
shooting. She has been
having a hard time sleeping since she witnessed the first murder. Rick runs
toward her, but she goes into the house, locks the door, and calls the police
for the second time this week.
Rick pounds on her door, trying to break in. Before
he succeeds, police
arrive and arrest him. While Rick is placed in a squad car and driven downtown,
police search the area and find no body, just like before. They are unable to
find Jim’s second gun. The search for blood evidence is unsuccessful because of
heavy rains. The detectives are unsure of the exact area to search in.
After the DNA results come back
from the first shooting, the blood found in Rick’s front yard is a DNA match to
Jim. The detectives think the phone call Jim’s brother received was made by
Rick, even though his brother Scott swears it was Jim’s voice. Jim has not been
seen or heard from since that night, his car found abandoned a few blocks from
Rick’s house. There is still no sign of the body.
The prosecution feels that, with Mrs. Jackson's
testimony, the DNA from
the first murder and two positive tests will show that Rick had fired
a weapon: a slam-dunk case.
Rick is charged with two counts of
first-degree murder. He decides to defend himself, even though the
judge warns him this is a bad idea in a capital case, but grants his
request after various hearings. She assigns a lawyer advisor to assist
Rick; if he wants advice or council, the choice is his.
The trial starts and opening
statements are made. The assistant DA gives an opening statement that lasts
Rick’s opening statement is one line:
“I am not guilty on both counts, and I will prove it.”
The prosecution calls their first
witness, Detective Henry Moore. That is followed by various police officers
and forensic experts (on the blood found on Rick’s front lawn and the gun
and the positive test for gunshot residue). Then a group of Jim’s friends
testify about the long-standing feud between Jim and Rick. Jim’s family
members, including Jim’s brother Scott, testify. They don’t mention the
phone call, just what a great person Jim was.
Rick only cross-examines two of those witnesses.
First, he asks Detective
Moore if they found either of the bodies, to which he answers no. He
asks Scott about the phone call that was supposedly made after Jim’s
death. After some pressure, he admits the call he received did sound like
his brother. Rick enters into record the cell phone logs his advisor acquired
from the prosecution office. Rick had not called Jim’s brother. The
witnesses have testified so far over four days in court. Tomorrow the
DA will call their last witness.
The prosecution saves their best
witness for last. “We call Mrs. Katie Jackson to the stand,” announces the
district attorney. Her testimony lasts for hours and, by the time it is Rick’s
turn to cross-examine her, the judge calls a recess until the next day.
Rick can tell by the jury and prosecution’s
reactions that Mrs. Jackson is
an excellent witness. Since the jury is buying her story, he has his
work cut out for him tomorrow. The only evidence they really have without her
statement is some blood on his lawn and that he fired a gun, since no bodies
have been found. The rest of the trial has not been evidence.
The following day is Rick’s turn
to question Mrs. Jackson. Rick starts with, “How are you today, Mrs. Jackson?”
She replies, “I’m fine, sir.”
He walks closer to her and says, “Mrs. Jackson,
are you one hundred percent
sure of the events you witnessed on both nights in question, and certain
all your prior testimony is accurate and the whole truth?”
She answers confidently, “Yes, I am one
hundred percent certain, and
everything I have said is true.”
“Are you sure both men are dead?”
is Rick’s next question.
Mrs. Jackson looks at him in disgust, then says,
“Yes, I am, and I
did see you shoot them.”
Rick probes, “What about the bodies?”
She does not like being questioned by the defendant,
but answers his
question. “I don’t know because I ran back into the house to call the
police. I don’t know what you did with the bodies, but I did see you shoot both
of those men in cold blood.”
“Nothing further from this witness, Your
Honor.” Rick walks back to
The DA stands up and declares that the prosecution
rests. Court is
adjourned for the day. The prosecution looks over the witness list at a name
that does not register with them. They doubt he can add much to the case.
It is Rick’s turn to present his
case. He calls his first and only witness to the stand. Rick announces, “I call
Walter Van House to the stand, aka Milo Vans.”
The shock in the courtroom is evident. No one
expects a murder victim to
testify in the trial for the person accused of killing him.
Rick's first question is, “Mr. Milo Vans,
are you dead?”
“No sir,” he says.
“Did I shoot you, Mr. Vans?” Rick
Mr. Vans says, “No sir, you did not.”
“No further questions,” Rick says.
The Assistant DA stands and says, “We have
no questions for this witness,
Then both the DA and Assistant DA stand and say
to the judge, “In light of
this new evidence, we request that count two of the indictment filed be
The judge grants their request. The stubborn DA
does not want to drop both
charges, feeling that they have enough evidence with the blood and the
previous history on the first murder to get a conviction, although the
assistant DA disagrees with him. After closing arguments, the jury takes
26 minutes to find Rick “not guilty”. Mrs. Jackson is sitting in the
courtroom in shock and has to be taken to the hospital for observation.
Rick arrives home and takes the rest of day to
A few days later, early in the morning, having
caught up on all the
things he has fallen behind on, Rick visits Milo. He knocks on the door and
hears Milo shout out, “It’s open; come on in, and lock the door behind you.”
They go into Milo’s favorite room to talk.
Milo lies down, and then says, “Promise
to keep your end of the bargain:
run errands for me a few times a month, keep the lawn mowed and the hedges
trimmed—I do not want the city bothering me about it again, or sending someone out
to do it, or giving me a fine—bring the mail into the house once a week, and
keep the exterior of the building in repair as needed?”
Rick answers him, “Yes, I promise, but I
do have a question?”
Milo bites, “What is that?”
“How did you pull off the call to Scott,
and how did you know I would take
the deal beforehand?”
Milo smiles and says, “Well, I can imitate
any sound I wish and was not
sure if you would take the deal. Then I would have returned the body with
bullet slugs that match your gun, which, I might add, I can still do at any
time. Although you were found not guilty, you could still face a civil
lawsuit and lose everything.”
Rick is surprised to hear Milo answer in his voice.
Rick has nothing else to talk about or ask, so
he says, “No, that’s all I
wanted to know.”
Milo is tired and says, “Good, leave me
for now and lock the door on the
way out. Oh, and before you go, pull the lid down on the coffin.”
Rick leaves, congratulating himself on the killer
deal he made with a
Denny E. Marshall, email@example.com, of
Lincoln, Nebraska, who wrote BP #73’s “6 Tanka,” the poem, “Roadside Accident,”
and the tale, “Killer Deal” (+BP #72’s “12 Sci-Fi Haiku” & “9 Zombie
Haiku”; BP #71’s “11 Vampire Haiku” and “Hairball, the Movie” [in the PICTURE
THIS column]; 22 haiku for BP #66; and “Vampire Sent Back in Time” for BP #67),
has had art, poetry, and fiction published. Recent credits include art and
poetry in Stinkwaves #2 and Night to Dawn
#24. He does have a
website with previously published works.