by Michael Guillebeau
Enjoy this never before published mystery short story.
I sat and watched her dying and did nothing.
I smoothed the clean white sheets and straightened the clear plastic lines, patted her still warm hand and did nothing. There was a faint throbbing at the wrist. I tried to let go but couldn’t move away and stood there with my own hand hovering an inch above hers where I could still feel her warmth. I looked at the clock again, and saw that it had barely moved. Not sure whether I wanted the time to go slow or rush to the inevitable. No, that’s not true. I was praying the prayer of an ungodly and cowardly man for both at the same time. For the sake of my precious baby, I was praying for a quick end to this, but, with each labored breath I prayed for just one more moment for myself.
I remembered a story I read once about desperate men in a lifeboat in a storm. All they could see was the ocean as each wave built and threatened to collapse on them, then the flood of relief when they had survived one more. I was watching every breath that way, my own breath catching every time hers started to build, frozen as I prayed this one would make it to the peak, amazed each time we made it to the top again. My breath came in a whoosh as we slid down the other side, praying as I rode the exhale for just one more.
“She had twenty good years.” The voice behind me was Yolanda, the sympathetic nurse. I wanted to scream at the hypocrisy, like having twenty years meant she shouldn’t have thirty or forty or a hundred. But I just nodded my head and watched for the next wave. It started at the same time my cell squalled. I ignored it and watched another miraculous breath start. When we had made it to the top and I was exhaling once more, I couldn’t take it anymore and snatched the phone out of my pocket.
“I told you, don’t call me now.”
The voice said a few things and I said, “I’m not coming in to work now. Handle it yourselves.”
The voice was saying something more but I wasn’t listening. Yolanda put her hand on my shoulder. “Might do you good to get out of here for a little while, Mr. Simpson. Give us a chance to do some things for her, too, like change her sheets.”
I gave her a glare to tell her to go away, but nurses don’t intimidate as easy as most.
“It’s not going to happen today, anyway,” she said. “Go on for a little bit.”
I decided to get out before I said what I really thought.
As I stood up, she said, “Not today, but the time is coming where you have to turn her loose.”
Times like this, nurses don’t do any good, either. I didn’t get half a step into the office before Detective Bailey grabbed me.
“This is a waste of your time, sir,” he said. “We don’t need you for this.”
“Sheila said you did. Said you had to have me.”
“Well, she’s not talking like an Assistant DA. She’s talking like your…”
His voice trailed off and I gave him a flat look and waited for his word choice. He looked down. “Your friend.”
Sheila stood right behind him. “‘Friend’ wouldn’t be bad,” she said. “A friend might want John to get out of the hospital for a while. And help us with this.”
Bailey half turned and sneered.
She said to the side of his face. “The DA has always insisted on doing everything by the book. The book says it’s the DA’s job to rule on confessions himself. Not Assistant DA’s like me, and certainly not Detectives like you.”
Bailey turned to her. “This isn’t a real confession. This is a sad joke, and you know it.”
“Maybe. But I’m not the DA – yet.” She tried to smile at the last but nobody here was smiling today.
“So this is real,” I said, “and not just you deciding that I’ve spent too much time bedside?”
She turned on her heel and walked away.“Just do your job.”
I picked up a cup of coffee and followed them into a conference room. There was a man a little older than me, but who looked even more used up than I felt right now: hair sticking out in every direction, half-shaved and the kind of deep tracks under his eyes that take more than one night of crying. I took a seat across from him and Sheila and Bailey flanked me.
Bailey said, “This is the district attorney, Mr. Trahan. We need you to tell him your fairy tale.”
Sheila said, “Detective.” Bailey raised his hands and made a gesture of locking his lips.
“Whatever,” I said. “Sheila, bring me up to speed.”
“This is Thomas Trahan. Mr. Trahan has informed us that he is responsible for the killing of Dave Morbooks.”
I looked at her. “Morbooks, the drug dealer? Thought we already had his killer in custody, solid case.”
“We do,” said Bailey. The lock on his lips must have rusted. “Maria Francis Trahan.”
I looked across the table and said, “Your daughter.”
Trahan nodded. I looked at Sheila and she looked away. I exhaled and took a sip of coffee. It tasted bad. “OK. Let’s get this done.”
Sheila nodded to Trahan. He took a deep breath and began. “On February 17th, at approximately 7 pm., I shot David Morbooks to death. I have been advised of my right to counsel ? repeatedly ? and have waived it repeatedly.
“No,” she said. “Start from the beginning.”
“My daughter was beautiful and happy. You should have seen her, before. He was the source of all of her problems.”
Not good, I thought, when a confession starts off with the man lying to himself. Morbooks may have been Mary Francis Trahan’s last drug dealer, but she had already had more second chances and hard time than anyone deserved and was still on parole from her last screw-up. Her prosecution for murdering Morbooks in a drug deal gone bad was the poster child for our new campaign of getting tough.
I shot Sheila another look but then tried to put a patient look back on my face. We waited. The idea is to let the guy do the confessing, not help him, but my patience was only on my face.
“So he was a bad man,” I said. “So when did you decide to kill him?”
“When she come home. Beat up, crying.”
“Beat up?” Bailey made a note on his pad and Trahan hesitated.
“Maybe just kind of beat down.”
“Blood on her?”
More hesitation.“I don’t remember.”
Bailey rolled his eyes and dropped his pen. I motioned for Trahan to continue.
“So I took the gun ?”
Bailey interrupted. “The gun your daughter bought the day before?”
He looked around and didn’t say anything.
“Then what?” I said.
“I went down to the corner and shot him.”
“How many times?”
He was right about that. We hadn’t told the press how many times Morbooks had been shot, but he could have gotten that from his daughter.
“In the chest and in the gut.”
Right answer, but again, not conclusive. “Then what?”
“I come home. By the time I got there, the police were already there, arresting Maria Francis.”
Arresting Maria Francis Trahan, with Morbooks’ blood on her and the gun still warm.
I pushed away from the table. “Outside.” Bailey started to say something at the door but I waved him quiet. We went to the observation room next door. I looked through the glass at Trahan. Red eyes focused idly on some point beyond the wall.
Bailey said, “This one’s easy.”
I kept looking at Trahan. “This is never easy, Bailey. The day it gets easy for you is the day you need to go back to writing traffic tickets.”
I turned to Sheila. “Why am I here?”
“Your job to rule on these things, not mine.”
I stared at her and said nothing.
“And I thought it would be good for you. See the mistakes a father makes when he tries to do too much. Accept that, sometimes, doing nothing is all you can do and the best you can do. If Trahan would listen, what would you tell him?”
“I’d tell him to go home. Get drunk, go pray, cry on somebody’s shoulder.”
She nodded a told-you-so.
“But he wouldn’t listen.” I reached down to the recorder and popped the tape out, put it in my pocket and put a fresh one in. Took the pad and pen out of Bailey’s hand and walked back into the interrogation room.
Bailey made a noise, but neither of them said a word as they followed me. I tore the pages Bailey had written on and gave Trahan the now-fresh pad. “Mr. Trahan,” I said. “Just to reiterate. I heard you say that your daughter came home beat up. You were mad and you took her down to the corner to confront Morbooks. When you got there, he laughed at you and hit her and threatened you both with bodily harm. Your daughter pulled the gun out of her purse, a gun you didn’t know she had. You took it away from her and Morbooks tried to take it away from you. The gun went off ? you don’t know how, you don’t know anything about guns ? twice. Your daughter got blood all over her and you dragged her home. You left her at home and went for a walk to think what to do. When you got back, the police were arresting your daughter and wouldn’t listen to her or you.”
He nodded and Bailey swore.
“Write all that down, in your own handwriting. Do it now, while it’s all fresh.”
I turned to Sheila. “Charge him. I accept his story. Charge him and let her go.”
“John, you can’t ?”
“Let her go. Transfer her parole to me personally.” Then, one time, to nobody and everybody. “Let her go.”
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A thought provoking and interesting story. Thanks for sharing it.
Good story. I recognize the author’s name from the Killer Nashville group. Also, he put a book together recently with excerpts from authors, a few I know here in Nashville. Eight Mystery writers You Need to Know, I think. I ordered the book, but haven’t gotten to it yet.