Of Innocence and Guilt (part 10 of 14)
Of Innocence and Guilt (part 10 of 14) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2
ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Under pressure.

Of Innocence and Guilt (part 10 of 14)

The disappointment showed on his tired face.

Evan's copycat silence and the snatch of conversation between the brothers his sergeant had heard, left him ruing his decision not to separate the boys earlier.

Now, all he could hope for was either damning evidence from either Dr Troy or the Stanton home, or to get one of the boys to somehow open up.

Whatever, everything was going to have to wait until morning. It was late. Everyone was tired, him especially.

Shadwell left the station into the glare of the street lights. The Chief Constable turned his collar against the chill night air and hoped Hyle had supper cooking.

By noon the following day Shadwell Bartosiewicz had almost more 'evidence' on his desk than he could cope with.

First, there was the report from Dr Troy, complete with sketches, tables, test results and a long printout that he couldn't understand no matter which way he held it up.

The conclusion, though, was simple enough. The knife found under the floorboards in Arthur's room was the same as the one which had ended Magrat's life.

To this, Shadwell paperclipped the report from his own people.

Admittedly, they were still new to the forensics gathering side of things but, a fingerprint is a fingerprint, and one of the two sets of prints taken from the knife belonged to the victim.

The other set, well, they absolutely belonged to Arthur Stanton.

The rest of the growing pile of reports and witness statements that took up most of the remaining space on his desktop came from the organised chaos that was going on in the main office of the

constabulary.

Hope Springs is a small town, and in small towns news travels like a virus. It comes in through open windows and fleeting contacts on the street as residents walk to work.

It is passed around at breakfast tables and at in the fields.

By the time Shadwell reached his desk this morning, there was already a murmuring crowd outside the constabulary and another at the town hall.

There were other, smaller gatherings at the post office, the store, the hostels and even outside the school.

But these people weren't angry, even those who had so vocally rebel-roused before. They were in shock.

Shock that two children, two brothers known to everyone in the town, could have done such a horrible thing.

However, Shadwell couldn't take the risk that the shock might wear off and white-hot anger brew in the hole it left behind.

So, he had constables, just a single one to each gathering, stand nearby.

Not doing anything, not threatening, just leaning against a wall or standing in a doorway, for all the world just enjoying the beautiful morning.

And then they started to come. Singly at first, then in ones and twos. Forming a line at the duty desk that soon snaked out the door and towards the wafflehouse.

Residents of Hope who had information to give.

Most of it was of little or no use of course because that is the nature of such things,

but every now and then a sheet of paper would arrive on Shadwell's desk that added tiny pieces to the growing jigsaw of evidence.

And what these little pieces revealed brought a growing feeling of relief to the hard-bitten, often crusty chief constable.

From three of the teenagers who habitually hung around the statue of Noah Barret, young Evan was seen leaving the wafflehouse alone at around 18:20 on the evening of the murder.

Prior to that, the boy had been in sight of Theis, the manager since his arrival. Remaining in their sight, Evan walked past the statue in the direction of his home.

The teenagers did not see him again.

However, from those same teenagers, Arthur was reported arriving at the Black Beer at around 18:00.

Importantly, Magrat, the victim, walked past the front of the bar towards the wafflehouse just a few minutes later.

Another piece of paper is the statement of the barman that night. Arthur Stanton bought four beers for his father. Nothing unusual there according to the barman, Arthur often did that.

However, two of those beers were found unopened in the bathroom sometime later. The barman did not recall seeing Arthur leaving.

So, rather damning, albeit circumstantial, evidence against Arthur Stanton.

But the evidence of the teenagers concerning Evan basically exonerated the younger Stanton brother from being involved in the murder. Directly at least.

Shadwell sat back, rocking backwards on the rear legs of his chair while he re-read the reports and the statements.

Suddenly, the chair dropped forwards onto all four legs and Shadwell raised his voice.

"Sergeant!"

Alana appeared around the door.

"Yes, Chief."

"We're releasing Evan Stanton, dropping the charges."

Alana's face broke into a grin that lit up the room.

"That's great news, Chief."

Shadwell stood up.

"It is. But before we do, I want a word with his brother. Bring him to the interview room, will you?"

The sergeant started to duck back out, but Shadwell stopped her.

"Alana?"

"Chief?"

"Say nothing to Arthur."

"Yes, Chief."

The door closed behind his sergeant and Shadwell took a moment to gather his thoughts.

He had one last chance to break the older Stanton boy's stubborn silent routine and wrap this whole thing up. His face set hard as he left the office for the interview room.

Arthur fidgeted. Then he looked up to the ceiling. He coughed a couple of times and unfolded his arms for a few seconds to scratch his knee.

Occasionally, subdued noise from the small line of people still outside would drift up from below, and Arthur would glance at the window.

But mainly he just sat and looked at the scratched and gouged, grey PVC that covered the table in front of him.

Across that table, Shadwell silently watched him. They had been sitting together like this for several minutes.

Arthur on one side with constable Sweetly sitting almost, but not quite, next to him. The ex-enforcer' face set into professional disinterest.

Sweetly's only apparent concern being to monitor the recording device on his end of the table.

The chief placed the folder, which he had been nursing on his knee all the while, onto the table. He turned it so that it faced the sullen seventeen-year-old and opened the front cover.

"Please carry on with the silent treatment all you want, Arthur. It's actually quite restful just sitting here with everything going on outside like it is.

" Arthur deliberately didn't look at the open folder or the picture on the first page which showed the knife from his room laying alongside a ruler to show scale.

So, Shadwell went on, matter-of-factly.

"The fact is, we now know that the knife found under your floor is the murder weapon. We also know that the fingerprints on it are yours.

" Still nothing from the truculent teen, so Shadwell slowly pushed the open file directly into Arthur's line of sight.

"Witnesses have come forward placing you in the Black Beer bar at the time of the murder. Those same Witnesses also put your brother just outside at the same time."

Arthur's eyes flicked upwards and held Shadwell's for just long enough to betray a glimmer of anger. Shadwell lounged back against his chair.

"Read it if you want to, you'll see." Now Arthur did look at the folder, stared hard at the picture of the amputation knife. Shadwell kept his voice conversational. "Yup.

I reckon we've got all we need now to send you two away for a long, long time."

Arthur's breathing became angry, and he was struggling to keep up the feigned disinterest he was sure would lead to himself and Evan being released.

Say nothing, isn't that what they said? Don't incriminate yourself. But the picture in front of him... It held his gaze and it dawned on him that he had never looked closely at it before.

Never since...

Shadwell could see how close he was. Just one more little push.

"It's a shame for Evan though. The terrible things that can happen to young boys in those places..."

Arthur lurched to his feet, but that's as far as he got as constable Sweetly's iron-hard hand descended on his shoulder and easily, and painfully, pushed him back down into his seat.

The teenager's head bowed.

"Evan had nothing to do with this." Shadwell glanced at the recorder to be sure it was working. It was. He turned back to Arthur in time to hear a wet-sounding sniffle. "He wasn't there...

He... He doesn't even know..."

Arthur lifted his head. Tears and snot exposed the failure of the emotional dam Arthur had been building. He stared at Shadwell with eyes that were almost pleading.

"It was an accident."

It was an accident.

Shadwell struggled to keep under control the sudden desire to see Arthur Stanton spread evenly in a thin film across the wall behind him.

Constable Sweetly, picking up on the dangerous atmosphere, turned his head towards Arthur but kept his eyes firmly fixed on his boss. His words were softly spoken.

"What happened, son?"

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