The Conspiracy
Errid Farland
Break
Ross Davenport's glory killed him. Just like Absalom and his hair getting stuck in that tree branch and him dangling there until Joab came along and slit his throat. That's no way to run a war, with hair so big it gets stuck in a low hanging tree branch during a hot pursuit. What kind of pretty boy wouldn't get his hair cut off when he's trying to take over a kingdom? It's not like he was Samson or anything.
Well, Ross Davenport was the same. Ross was an asshole, there's no denying that. He was rich, his daddy was dead, and his mama went along behind him, bailing him out of all the asshole trouble he got himself into. That's how Ross developed his simultaneous love and disdain for the legal system. He learned that if a man has money, law is superfluous.
Ross was a handsome young man. He was tall, he had perfectly groomed brown hair, and perfectly manicured nails. His hands had nary a callous, he dressed impeccably, he had all his teeth, and they were white. Girls were willing to overlook his assholeness, particularly if he'd buy them little gifts, or use his power and influence to threaten and intimidate their enemies, usually an old beau. They loved that.
He one time succeeded in getting social services to take custody of Mark Perkins' three children, just because Mark pissed him off one time. He sent those kids to foster care and poor Mark didn't have the money to fight to get them back. Mark had a problem with alcohol, it was known, but he never endangered those children, everybody knew that, too. That's when Ross' power went from being an annoyance to being a genuine threat.
There was this undercurrent of hatred and fear against the Davenports. Sometimes someone would get pissed enough to cause some kind of mischief or another, some little vandalism against Ross' car, or maybe his coat while it hung untended in the Pickled Pig, or even his mother's mansion. Anytime it happened, a rash of lawsuits would spread through town like some kind of epidemic. He'd take it out on everybody.
Then Lila Brown turned up dead, disfigured by some sharp object, and the sheriff went to the Pickled Pig because she was a regular fixture there. I saw her leave. She left with a man from out of town, got into his white Cadillac Esplanade, and I was close enough to hear that he had his radio tuned to an oldies station. The reason I noted that fact was because I thought it odd that a man like that, with a car like that, would have his radio on, instead of CDs or DVDs or whatever those cars have. He was a bald man, and short, probably five foot seven inches. He wasn't fat, though. He wore a business suit with a blue tie pulled free from his neck, and the top button of his shirt undone. The license plate on the Esplanade started with EXEC.
It was a shame about Lila. She was sweet little old gal, had a real problem with drink, and didn't mind doing favors for lonely men whose wives had long since locked their knees together, as long as she was fairly compensated for it. But the man was from out of town, probably would never come back, and our town was pretty sick, and when the sheriff came around asking about Lila, I didn't really even think twice. As soon as I found out she was killed, I spoke up and said I saw her leave with Ross Davenport. The whole place heard me say it, a hush fell hard, and I admit, I put my hand in my pocket because it shook a bit. But I stuck by my story. Then, somehow, a bit of Lila's blood showed up in Ross' car, smeared here and there, and that turquoise ring she always wore on her middle finger was found in his console, and a screwdriver with Lila's blood and Ross' fingerprints turned up by the creek.
Well, we all took the stand. There were about twenty-five witnesses against the defendant. Some saw him with some sort of sharp object in his hand, might've been a screwdriver. Some saw him leading her out to the woods. Some saw his car pulled over to the side of the road at precisely the time of death. One after another the witnesses came, placed their hands on the Bible, and swore to God and man that they were telling the gospel truth. Not one cracked. Not one wavered.
The jury recommended death.
Ross Davenport is caught up in appeals.
The town is starting to relax again, like it went and released this collective sigh of relief. It's a nice town, a friendly, easy place.
We all chipped in and got Lila a pretty gravestone.
Errid Farland lives in Southern California and writes at a cluttered table where a candle burns to create an aura of serenity. Sometimes she accidentally catches things on fire which turns the aura into angry yellows and reds and sort of wrecks the whole serenity thing. Her stories have appeared in Underground Voices, storySouth, Pindeldyboz, and other places.