Sample text for Murder one / William Bernhardt.
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"Sergeant Callery, would you please describe the condition of the
body when you found it?"
Callery swallowed hard before answering. "Are you sure you want me to?"
This would be the focal point, Ben Kincaid realized, for the entire trial-
all that came before and all that followed. Every murder trial had one-an
indelible moment in which sympathies were polarized and the full gravity of the
crime struck the jury like a ball peen hammer to the head. Even though he
knew there was not a soul in the courtroom who did not already know the answer
to this question in gruesome and graphic detail, this would be the moment
when everything changed, and not for the better.
"I'm sure," Assistant District Attorney Nick Dexter said. He obviously
didn't mind the delay. A little suspense preceding the big moment could only
increase the jury's attention level. "Please tell us what you saw."
Sergeant Callery licked his lips. His eyes drifted toward the floor. His hesitation was not just for dramatic effect. He was not anxious to proceed.
And Ben didn't blame him. Describing a crime scene was always difficult. But
when it was a cop talking about the murder of another cop-one he knew per-sonally and had worked with on many occasions-it bordered on the unbearable.
"When I arrived, I discovered that Sergeant McNaughton's body had been
stripped of clothing. He was chained naked to the base of the main fountain
in Bartlett Square-right in the center of the downtown plaza. He'd been hog-tied; his arms and legs were pulled back to such an extent that some of his
bones were actually broken. He'd been stabbed repeatedly, twenty or thirty
times. A word had been smeared across his chest-written in his own blood."
"And what was the word?"
"It was hard to tell at first, given the condition of the body. But when we
finally got him down and put him on a stretcher, it looked to me like it said
"Was there anything else . . . noteworthy about the body?"
The witness nodded. The spectators in the courtroom gallery collectively
held their breath. They knew what was coming.
"His penis had been severed. Cut off-and stuck in his mouth."
To Ben, it was an almost surreal moment, as if they were all actors in a
play. After all, everyone knew what questions would be asked, as well as what
answers would be given. There were no surprises; they were just going through
their prescribed motions. And yet, the singular horror of the crime had an
impact that left no one in the courtroom unmoved.
This case had been high drama from the outset. Everyone knew about this
ghastly crime. How could they not? The body had been on display for almost
an hour before the police managed to get it down. Workers going downtown
that cold Thursday morning couldn't help but see the macabre, almost sacrificial tableau.
The location had been well chosen. Downtown Tulsa was a place where
people worked, but almost no one went there for any other reason. From the
time the workday ended until sunup, it was virtually deserted. Even the police
rarely patrolled; the inner downtown streets were inaccessible by car and there
was simply no justification for mounted patrols at that time of night, when no
one was present. And so the killer was able to create a grisly spectacle that had been etched into the city's collective consciousness during the seven months
since the crime occurred.
"Why are they spending so much time describing the body?" a voice beside
Ben whispered. "How is that relevant to who committed the crime?"
The question came from the defendant-Ben's client, Keri Dalcanton.
She was a petite woman, barely five foot two. She had rich platinum blond
hair and skin the color of milk. She was wearing no makeup today-on Ben's
advice. She was a natural beauty, with perhaps the most perfectly proportioned
body Ben had observed in his entire life. And he'd had a lot of time to
observe it, during the months they'd spent preparing for this trial.
Even in the courtroom, Ben was struck by how Keri exuded youth and energy.
But that was not surprising. She was only nineteen.
"It isn't relevant," Ben whispered back. "But Dexter knows the gory details
will appall most jurors and make them more inclined to convict. That's why
we're spending so much time here."
"But it isn't fair," Keri said, her eyes wide and troubled. "I didn't do those
things. I couldn't-"
"I know." Ben patted her hand sympathetically. He wanted to take care of
his client, but at the moment it was more important that he pay attention to
the testimony. If Dexter thought Ben wasn't listening, all kinds of objection-able questions would follow.
Dexter continued. "Did you check the body for vital signs?"
"Of course. When I first arrived. But it wasn't necessary. He was dead. As
anyone could see at a glance." A tremor passed through Callery's shoulders.
"No one could have lived in that condition."
"Why did it take so long to free the body?"
"We weren't allowed to alter the position of the body until the forensic
teams had been out to make a video record and to search for trace evidence.
Even after that was done-Sergeant McNaughton's body had been double-chained
to the fountain and the lock was buried. We couldn't get him loose. We
eventually had to bring out a team of welders. Even then, progress was slow."
"And during this entire time, the decedent's naked mutilated body was on
"There wasn't much we could do. We couldn't cover the body and work at
the same time. And there's no way to block off Bartlett Square."
"Were you and your men finally able to get the body free?"
"Eventually. Even then, though"-his head fell-"nothing happened the
way it should. His right arm had been pulled back to such an extreme degree
that when we released the chains-it snapped off. And the second we moved
McNaughton's body, his-member-spilled out onto the ground." The man's
jaw was tight, even as he spoke. "It would've been horrible, even if I hadn't
known Sergeant McNaughton so well and trained under him. I've been on the
force six years, but this was the worst, most horrible . . . goddamnedest thing
I've seen in my career. Or ever will see."
Ben knew Judge Hart didn't like swearing in her courtroom, but he had a
hunch she would excuse it this time.
The media representatives in the gallery-and there were a lot of them-
were furiously taking notes. The McNaughton murder had dominated the papers
and the airwaves for at least a month after the crime occurred, and the
onset of the trial had refueled the obsessive coverage. Ben had never had so
many microphones shoved in his face against his will; he'd never seen so many
people insist that he had some sort of constitutional duty to give them an inter-view. His office manager, Jones, had even found a reporter hiding in the office broom closet, just hoping he might overhear some tasty tidbit of information. His legal assistant, Christina McCall, had the office swept for listening device. A blockade of reporters awaited them every time they left the office; another greeted them as soon as they arrived at the courthouse. It was like living under siege.
Dexter was asking routine predicate questions to get his exhibits admitted.
It was an obvious preliminary to passing the witness.
"Psst. Planning to cross?"
Ben glanced over his shoulder. It was Christina. For years, she'd been indispensable to him as a legal assistant. And now she was on the verge of graduating from law school.
"I don't see much point," he whispered back to her. "Nothing he said was
Christina nodded. "But I'm not sure this business with the body was
handled properly. I think the police bungled it six ways to Sunday."
"Granted. But why? Because they were so traumatized by the hideous
death of their colleague, a fact we don't particularly want to emphasize. And
what difference does it make? None of the evidence found at the crime scene
directly incriminates Keri."
"You may be right. But I still think any cross is better than none. Whether
he actually says it or not, Dexter is implying that Keri is responsible for these atrocities. We shouldn't take that lying down."
Ben frowned. He didn't want to cross, but he had learned to trust
Christina's instincts. "Got any suggestions?"
She considered a moment. "I'd go with physical strength."
"It's a plan."
Dexter had returned to his table. Judge Sarah Hart, a sturdy woman in her
midfifties, was addressing defense counsel.
"Mr. Kincaid, do you wish to cross?"
"Of course." Ben rose and strode to the podium. "Sergeant Callery, it
sounds as if you and your men had a fair amount of trouble cutting that body
The change in Callery's demeanor and body language when Ben became
his inquisitor was unmistakable. He drew back in his chair, receding from the
microphone. "It took a while, yeah."
"Sounds to me like it was hard and required a great deal of strength."
"And if it was hard to get the body down, it must've been even more difficult
to get the body up." He paused, letting the wheels turn in the jurors'
minds. "The individual who chained Sergeant McNaughton up there must've
been one seriously strong person, wouldn't you agree?"
Callery had obviously been expecting this. "Not necessarily, no. The killer
Ben didn't give him a chance to recite whatever explanation he and Dexter
had cooked up ahead of time. "How much did Sergeant McNaughton's body
"I couldn't say exactly."
"You must have some idea."
"It would just be a guess."
"You were there, weren't you, officer?"
"Ye-ess . . ."
"You were, I assume, paying some degree of attention when your men
were cutting the body loose?"
Callery tucked in his chin. "Yes-"
"So how much did McNaughton's body weigh?"
Callery frowned. "I'd guess about two ten, two twenty pounds."
"Two hundred and twenty pounds. And of course, he was dead,
"I think everyone in the courtroom is aware of that fact, counsel."
Just like a game of cat and mouse, Ben marveled, not for the first time.
Two diametrically opposed archenemies pretending to be civil. "Would it be
fair to say that it's harder to move a dead body than a live one?"
Callery nodded. "Much."
"So we're talking about two hundred and twenty pounds of pure dead-weight,
"About that, yeah."
"But someone somehow managed to carry the body to Bartlett Square-
without the use of a car-to elevate it, hog-tie it, and wrap it around the
"That's about the size of it."
"Sergeant Callery, you were pretty good at estimating your deceased colleague's
weight. Would you care to guess what my client, Ms. Dalcanton,
He grinned faintly. "I would never be so indelicate."
"Then I'll tell you. A hundred and three pounds. Wearing shoes." He
paused. "So you're saying that these feats of tremendous strength, which
frankly I doubt you and I could manage working together, were accomplished
by this tiny woman? How?"
A bad question, as it turned out. "We believe she drove the body there. We
found faint traces of tire tracks on Fifth, parallel to the fountain. Someone
drove onto the pedestrian walkway beside Bartlett Square. We believe she
wrapped the chains around the body's hands and feet while it was still in the
car, then dragged him to the fountain. As the coroner can confirm, the body
had any number of scrapes and abrasions that could be the result of being
dragged over the pavement in this manner. Once she had the chain around the
fountain, we believe she was able to improvise a rudimentary pulley system to
haul the body up."
Ben silently cursed himself. This was a classic case of asking one question
too many. "It still sounds to me as if it would require a good deal of
"Maybe. But if I've learned anything in my years on the force, it's that size
is no indicator of strength. Sometimes the most potent medicine comes in
"That's quaint, officer, but are you seriously suggesting-"
"Besides," Callery said, rushing his words in edgewise, "whoever said Keri
Dalcanton wasn't strong?" A small smile played on his lips. "I hear she gets lots of exercise. All that high-octane dancing must build up some stamina."
There was an audible response from the gallery. Callery was referring to
the fact that Ben's client worked-at least until she became a permanent resi-dent of the Tulsa County Jail seven months ago-at a "gentleman's club" at
Thirty-first and Lewis. In other words, she was a stripper. Another dramatic-
and damning-fact that everyone in the courtroom already knew all too well.
The press wouldn't let them forget. No article overlooked the salacious side of
the story. The headlines began STRIPPER SUSPECTED and continued with SEX CLUB SIREN SEIZED.
"Sergeant Callery, it took three men to lower McNaughton's body to the
ground. Are you seriously suggesting-"
"Hey, I saw that picture in the paper. You know, the one with her in nothing
but a bright red G-string thingie? Looked to me like she had lots of muscles."
"Your honor, I object!" Ben knew what Callery was talking about, though.
The day Keri Dalcanton was arrested, a morning paper, in an unaccountable
lapse of taste, had run a picture of her taken on the job. Something a reporter
swiped from a backstage bulletin board, apparently. Tasseled pasties on her
ample breasts; bright red G-string on her rock-'n'-roll hips. The paper apologized the next day, explaining that it was the only photo of Ms. Dalcanton
they could locate, as she had covered her face when arrested. One of the lamest
excuses for tabloid coverage by purportedly "legitimate" journalists Ben had
Ben approached the bench. "Your honor, I object to any discussion or sly
references to my client's former occupation."
Judge Hart lowered her eyeglasses and gave Ben the no-nonsense look he
knew all too well. "On what grounds?"
"It will work extreme prejudice against Ms. Dalcanton."
"Probably. But she should have thought of that before she took the job.
"But your honor-"
"I've ruled, Mr. Kincaid."
"Then I'll object on a different basis."
She arched an eyebrow. "And that would be ...?"
"I object because . . . because the photo in question has not been admitted
"Do you want it to be?"
"Hmm. Good point."
Ben returned to the defense table knowing that his cross had been a
bust. He hadn't put a dent in the prosecution's case, and given what few arrows
he had in his quiver, he was unlikely to do so at any time in the future.
He could see the determination in the eyes of the prosecution and police
officers, and he could see the revulsion in the eyes of the jury. Even Judge
Hart, normally a sympathetic, fair judge, was cutting him no slack. This
time, the stakes were too high. The crime was too appalling, and too well
He had to face facts. Barring some kind of miracle, Keri Dalcanton was
going to be convicted.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Kincaid, Ben (Fictitious character) Fiction, Stripteasers Fiction, Tulsa (Okla, ) Fiction