day 5

Chapter Twenty-Eight continued

Allen was suitably bashful when the camera crews showed up on the doorstep, as befits a man with a long rap sheet. But Mom ate up her moment in the sun, keeping the crews waiting on the lawn for hours while she got dressed, and then lecturing each reporter at length about the case. They got great sound bites out of her, and she gave nonstop interviews.

***

But Mom sat tight-lipped on the witness stand, having taken an instant dislike to the prosecutor, who acted like the whole family was on trial. She was made to feel intensely uncomfortable – on display in front of strangers, while the lawyer pried into her family’s business. All of it in a very insinuating manner. Mom was deeply insulted, but the judge made her answer the questions, even tho they were obviously biased, and left out all the pertinent details.

Like how they all were as children, and how any faults they may have had were their father’s fault, because God knows she did everything anyone could do to raise her children right.

She couldn’t keep from sighing deeply before she answered the slightest question. And she found it so hard to force herself to take another breath. Oh, that it would come to this. She was glad her husband was dead so he didn’t have to see her being humiliated.

***

It was hard to keep from explaining to the court that Judy’s predicament was her own fault. But when pressed to come right out and call her a murderess, Mom was forced to point out that Judy was trying to save the whole family from Cindy, and must have gotten carried away and shot Laurie in the heat of the moment.

At least she hadn’t tried to kill her own mother. That should count for something.

***

“Of course I recognize the welcome mat,” Mom snapped at the prosecutor. “Judy and Frank gave it to me years ago, and I’ve always kept it on the front porch.”

“Are you sure it was a gift from the defendant?”

This got a whithering stare from Mom. The prosecutor looked at her hands. “She painted it herself. I would have preferred a plain ‘welcome’ in tasteful black, but Judy likes colors.”

You couldn’t tell from what was left of the mat, however. Black just about summed it up for color.

“Thank heaven she didn’t misspell ‘welcome’,” she continued. “We used to tease her after she missed it in that spelling bee…whatever grade it was. She never competed in anything after that. And she was such a good speller.”

The prosecution made much of Judy’s spelling when it came to the various notes and emails they found, and they made much of her handwriting when it came to deciphering her stickies.

***

“Oh yes, Judy was insanely jealous of her sister Cindy from the time they were children.” Mom had lost her reticence once the prosecutor congratulated her on raising so many children under such difficult circumstances. Mom liked her a great deal more after that.

“It was because they’re so close in age – ten months – and Judy resented being number two.” She stopped, fishing for a memory to illustrate. “I once pulled Judy off of Cindy, she was trying to strangle her. I think they were eight or nine. I don’t know. Could have been when they were teenagers. It didn’t calm down around the house until Judy moved out after high school.”

***

“She confessed to you after the murders that she intended to kill all of her brothers and sisters?”

“She apologized for everything. She said she was responsible for everything.” She looked at her daughter. “She said she did it so I’d know she loved me. She said she hoped it would make me love her.” She shook her head and looked noble. “I do love my daughter. She’s my only child now, even tho…she’s responsible…”

She started tearing up, and after a moment took hold of herself. “But I hope she didn’t expect me to lie to protect her. It’s that kind of lax moral standard that ruined her, and I only wish I’d known that when they were all still young.” She sniffled. “They would all still be alive.”

***

“Poison?” Mom considered it. “I might be able to believe it of her. Judy was always secretive, and loved to make foul concoctions in the basement. Why, we had to call the fire department and leave the house once because of something she set off. It left black marks all over the ceiling down in the basement. We had to spend the night in a motel, too. And those were the days when it was expensive to stay in places like that. I had a mind to make her pay for it. She was grounded for months, and we never let her touch a chemistry set again.”

***

“How did Rick and Judy get along? Well, he looked up to her when they were young, of course, but when she turned into a rebel…” Mom had visions of Judy wanting to join protest marches. They grounded her proactively and Rick led the chorus, calling her a Communist and barring her from their games.

“And as adults?”

“Well. When they were older and Rick was successful and Judy was still unemployed, I remember him going out of his way – several times – to help her with loans and even a job, but she always turned him down – rudely if I might say so.” Because all of his offers had strings. Judy only fell for it once.

***

“I never heard what actually happened, because neither of my daughters ever saw fit to confess it to me, but they always hated each other after Cindy’s wedding. And Judy was always trying to make it up to Cindy, and that always made it worse. Whatever it was, I’m glad I don’t know. I would have had to disown one of them, I’m sure.”

She sighed. Two daughters that couldn’t be more different, each an anti-caricature of the other, each fatally flawed. The same for Rick and Gordon, now that she thought about it.

None of them was her fault.

***

“Just try to relax, and tell us what happened that night, Mr. Monroe. In your own words.” Allen was sweating. The lawyer was yet another ballbreaker of a woman. If they were all like this then he almost wished he were back in prison, where everybody was gay.

Allen laughed nervously. “What happened? Which part of what happened? To who? Starting when?” There were so many bits of history to get thru before the whole truth was told, and the stories got twisted up so fast that he couldn’t keep them straight in his own mind. And there was so much that happened while he was doing other things, like being blinded by rubber masks and peeing on himself – half of what he knew was only a guess.

“Tell us what happened when the defendant shot the deceased – Miss LaRue.”

“But Judy didn’t shoot her. It was Cindy, I’m sure of that. Cindy was the one who shot her,” he insisted, and explained how they were too in the middle of things to see who’d actually pulled the trigger on Laurie. Unfortunately, his speech was full of inconsistencies and adjectives, and didn’t favorably impress the jury.

The lawyer leaned in. Allen looked down her cleavage and gulped. “You testified ten minutes ago that the defendant had the gun in her sole possession when it was fired. The State has shown that the defendant had gunpowder residue on her hands and clothing. And the defendant was hiding the gun on her person when she was apprehended. What makes you sure one of the other victims pulled the trigger? And here’s something – if the defendant caused both deaths indirectly, don’t you think she is responsible for both deaths, no matter who actually pulled the trigger?” She sneered at him. He flinched and felt stupid.

Allen’s head was spinning. He only half-heard the ensuing fight between lawyers, and stared at the prosecutor blankly as she fumed. It was funny how horrible women looked when they got mean. He almost giggled – nerves did that to him. “No,” he said. “The gun. I don’t know.” He tried to say something helpful. “Judy’s just a natural pack rat. She puts everything in her pockets. She probably didn’t even notice it was there. Why, you should see all the stickies she has. I’ll bet she’s got some in her pockets right now.” He felt awful. He should have taken a Xanax before being called up to the stand. Three.

He tried again. “Judy would never shoot anyone on purpose.” He wanted to make that clear. “It had to be an accident.”

Allen hated the way it was going. He’d tried to speak directly to the judge earlier, in the middle of his testimony. The lawyer cunt had been harassing him about stupid things and he’d turned to the judge in frustration. “She’s twisting my words, your Honor,” he’d pleaded, but then he couldn’t say exactly how his words had been twisted, and after that the judge didn’t want to know.

He tried his best to turn the jury toward Judy, even with the bitch lawyer from hell twisting everything he said. So when it was time for her lawyer to get up and ask him about Judy, he painted a picture of a sincere, kind Judy, sitting with her friends and talking about philosophy and art – evidence of her gentle and refined nature.

Unfortunately, he also painted a picture of Judy sitting in a drug den smoking pot and swilling cheap whisky. The jury laughed, tho, so Allen figured he’d done well by his friend, and gave her a thumbs-up while the judge wasn’t looking.

***

“The defendant admitted in custody that she repeatedly moved the welcome mat – the device that electrocuted her youngest brother Gordon – her favorite, as you stated – and that she knew that the device was in his path – in anyone’s path who was going to or from the back yard. Did she say anything that made you think she intended to kill her mother instead of her brother?”

Allen thought back to that dinner he cooked for his engagement party. “Yeah, but it wasn’t Judy. Gordon told me it was Frank that booby-trapped all the things at the house.” Stair rails, rotting floors, fucked up wiring, fire hazards, the cast iron bathtub, the unbalanced washing machine. “But that was Frank. I don’t think Judy knew about any of it.”

“But she hand painted the welcome mat.”

And sewed the burning curtains. And made a cover for the shorted-out heating pad. And all sorts of other Frank-and-Judy amateur productions that Mom only kept around so she could complain about missed stitching and hippie touches that were obvious signs of Judy’s illness. Allen was starting to wonder if he really knew Judy as well as he thought. “Maybe she might have known about it,” he mumbled, staring at his knees.

***

“Did the defendant ever say anything that would indicate a grudge against her sister Cynthia, due to an alleged incident that occurred at Cynthia’s wedding?” She’d asked him about that six times already, in various different ways, and he really didn’t know anything about it.

It was just something they didn’t talk about. Judy didn’t like to burden people with her family. This lady lawyer was never going to get married, with an aggressive attitude like that. Allen would certainly kick her out of bed after he came. “Well,” he replied, “the only thing she ever said to me was that Cindy should have been mad at Bill, not her. But, really, we never, ever, talked about Cindy. I didn’t even know they were related, not for years.”

“You’re telling me that – for years – you never once talked about Cindy while you were smoking pot and drinking alcohol together in your trap?” the lawyer asked, looking at the jury.

He’d actually called it that. It was a little embarrassing that she kept bringing it up. “Uh, that’s right.”

She changed the subject. “Did you ever talk about poison?”

“Huh?” Allen tried to think about poison. “Well, we talked about alcohol a lot.” He glanced at the audience, nodding to make his point. “Alcohol’s a poison. And Judy disapproves of tobacco, because it’s a poison, too. And we used to talk about overdoses a bunch. But she wasn’t into that kind of thing. To talk about, I mean. Poisoning someone.” He trailed off and scratched his chin.

“When did you first see the defendant with the poisoned chocolates?”

“Uh, well.” There were so many of those chocolates, as it turned out. In all sorts of places. Being carried around and left places and getting squished into things. “I think it was in my trap, like.” He grinned bashfully. “Or at the club. I don’t know. No, Judy never showed up at the club. It must have been at my place I first saw them.”

The bitch waved his answer away. “What was her stated purpose for having them?”

“Um.” She was asking about a box of chocolates that he’d actually found, in Mom’s trash, and taken back to his apartment, where Judy had snatched them up like they were gold, and then made off with the whole box when they were chased out by Rick. But he didn’t want to explain all that in front of Mom. Or the jury. “Uh, maybe she was…probably she just loves chocolates. Everybody else seems to.” The chocolates made the circuit a couple of times, and most everybody had one at some point. “I hate chocolates, myself,” he finished.

The lawyer changed the subject again. “To your knowledge, is the defendant skilled in arts and crafts? In making things from scratch?”

Allen wondered if this was a trick question. He put his head to one side and thought. “Well, she’s real artsy-fartsy, if you know what I mean.” He smiled to acknowledge the audience appreciation. “She’s always making things by hand, sewing on things, drawing stuff. She made me a pillow that I still use to rest my weary head when I get tired riding around in my car.” He thought to say it had a great smuggling pouch, too, but the lawyer rushed ahead to her next question.

“How about concoctions? You know, herbal remedies, things like that?”

Allen brightened. “Yeah, Judy’s a homopath. She’s a doctor, like, and the medicines she makes are like so pure there’s nothing there. And herbs. And she makes potions – for luck and stuff.” And smokes a lot of weed, he wanted to say, and was almost glad that the bitch lawyer kept not letting him finish his thought. But, for once, the lawyer let him go on and on, and the jury scooped up more candid details of life at the bottom.

***

“That’s just wrong. Judy had nothing to do with Rick’s death. I remember her calling him ‘Asshole’ once, but – not to speak bad of the dead – everybody called him that.”

***

“Um? Bill and Judy? They never had nothing to say to each other. I wasn’t around at the time, of course, but it seemed to me that Cindy was the one held the grudge. But then, nothing ever pleased Cindy.”

***

The prosecution wasn’t really interested in either Mom’s or Allen’s testimony on most of the other deaths when it became clear that had nothing more salacious to add than ,’they didn’t get along.’ But they didn’t need anything from the family. They already had plenty of evidence to convict Judy on the other counts, and were just hoping for a few friendly condemnations from the relative and friend.

So the pair were dismissed, and spent every day of the rest of the trial in the public gallery, and gave detailed opinions to the press every evening. Allen looked forward to the end of the trial, sad because it was happening to a friend of his, and Mom dreaded the end of the trial, because she really enjoyed the attention, and Judy deserved what she got for not listening.

***

Once the chocolates were linked to her, it was easy to prove her responsibility for various poisonings, as well as her incidental contribution to the deaths of Laurie, Cindy, Rick, and Gordon, who would not have been fatally impaired had they not been so callously poisoned.

Once the prosecution established that the gun was hers, it was easy to prove her part in the serial killings, as it was the primary weapon used on six dogs and four humans (Tzingdii mistaking them for dragons).

Bill’s death (Sindee tied him up and disembowled him in the cab of one of his trucks) caused them some consternation, because they weren’t sure whether to classify it as a serial killing, or a siblicide, or even a terrorist killing (this last due to all the paperwork Sam and Dave concocted switching their villain at the last minute from Rick to Bill).

Once all these charges were substantiated, it was easy to prove that Judy was responsible for all the attempted murders of her own mother, even tho she never once tried to kill her, and was the only one of the family who never seriously considered it.

Even tho Mom was certain that Judy never meant her any harm – and in fact was now Mom’s favorite daughter, and had been all along – it became apparent that Judy was behind all the drive-by shootings, all the attacks on the road, all the sabotages of the car and the house, even the devices they found in Frank’s workshop.

Once she was seen to be capable of all that, it was easy to prove that Judy killed Frank. The scars and bruises, the pattern of hospital visits – it was obvious that Judy had been abusing and torturing her husband for years. This was the most shocking thing of all. Everybody had thought they were a happy couple. Nobody dreamed she was capable of killing her husband in such a disturbing manner.

Once it was understood that Judy was a complete psychopath, it was easy to see how she could be linked to drug trafficking, money laundering, and terrorism, and the work of Sam and Dave was once again brought to bear (behind closed doors).

***

Go to chapter 29

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  1. Pingback: day 4 | Train Wreck: The Wrath of Mom

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