a mystery novel
|This writing has not yet been rated and therefore this information is not yet available.|
Epilog Part Two – How We Gained – and Lost – a Fortune
The trustee of Snowton's trust turned out to be a nice man who was horrified at what had happened. For the first time, he fully exercised his powers over the fortune he managed. Citing strict morals clauses in the original trust documents, he refused to allow any of the assets to be used to defend either Snowton or Lester. To feed the public's appetite for any information on the victim, a distant cousin of Jeanie's had been located by the media. Somebody advised her to get a lawyer. The trustee, claiming that punitive damages could wipe out the trust, liquidated most of its assets and quickly negotiated a settlement of over ninety percent of the trust's value, stipulating that most of the money go to charity. The cousin kept a few million for herself, divided a billion or so among existing charities, and with the balance set up the Jean Ellen Rogers Charitable Trust with herself as trustee.
Tanya suggested – read demanded – and Meg concurred that we should threaten to sue the trust also. The trustee again offered a huge settlement rather than risk a larger judgment in court, as unlikely as that seemed. We accepted, made a few charitable donations, kept enough to ensure our comfort for life, replenished my emergency stashes in numbered accounts in discrete foreign banks (just in case – still paranoid after all these years), provided for Marion and David a nice side income, guaranteed our grandkids college funds, and used the rest to establish the Jeanie Rogers Charitable Trust to aid clients of the public defender in all the legal necessities that the State refuses to provide. Of course, we made Tanya the reluctant trustee of that trust. We're relatively well off now, but for a few days we were wealthy!
The lawyer Tanya suggested also took, on contingency, our case against the police department, the District Attorney’s office, and Gorman personally. Naming the agencies should encourage their cooperation against our main target, Gorman, and we’ll probably settle with them in return for that cooperation. We don’t want anything for ourselves out of that suit and intend to donate any proceeds to the Jeanie trust; we just want to tie up Gorman’s assets so they can’t be used to provide her any comforts in prison. Jeanie’s cousin also sued Gorman and the lawyers are working to consolidate both lawsuits.
The trustee of Snowton's trust soon managed to distribute its few remaining assets to others he deemed damaged by the actions of the triad, thereby dissolving the trust and in the process doing himself out of a job. Jeanie's cousin quickly appropriated him to manage the trust she had set up and Tanya hired him to assist her as well. After years of watching Snowton in action, he had learned a lot and, as it turns out, is an excellent manager.
It took a while but I finally got my factual innocence verdict. Judge Feldstein waited until after we settled with Snowton’s trust because once that verdict was fully implemented and the judge fired up his judicial time machine, legally I was never arrested or tried and the trust therefore would have had no reason to compensate us. So everything described here never happened. Legally, anyway. I’m not entirely comfortable with that revised history – saying the worst experience of my life never happened is disconcerting – but that’s the price to be declared totally innocent so I’ll have to live with it. Besides, the media will keep the story alive, at least until the next sensational murder occurs. And there is speculation whether a TV or theater movie will be released first.
While I discussed the matter with the judge he asked a few questions, so, to satisfy his curiosity, I told him a story – strictly hypothetical, you understand. Don’t think he believed all of it: not sure I would have in his place. He’d been reasonably fair to me during the trial and I’d been pleased when there was talk of him getting Abernathy’s seat on the State supreme court. That didn’t happen – he’s not conservative enough for the token one on the court – but he did get promoted to the court of appeals and Tanya says he’s up for the next vacancy on the big one, which, considering the ages of the present members, shouldn’t be too long. They could do a lot worse (and almost did!).
The police department had trouble deciding whether to fire Madero or promote him, so they waited for public opinion to weigh in. CJ, now a lieutenant, and Tanya still get together with Meg and me, some of the Ladies, and a few neighbors regularly for a barbecue where David cooks better steaks and ribs and I pour better wine. Naturally, we all followed Jeanie's case intently right through the three trials to the three sets of verdicts with two death sentences. (Meg and I were about the only people in our group – maybe in the State – who didn’t try to attend any of the trials: we’d both had more than enough of courtrooms for three or four lifetimes.)
The newly appointed District Attorney turned out to be fully as aggressive a prosecutor as her predecessor but hopefully less underhanded. Gorman was tried first and, despite being sentenced to death, agreed to testify against the other two – perhaps hoping such cooperation might earn her a commutation down the road. Or maybe just ensuring she would have her submissives with her in hell. The devil better make sure there are no whips lying around in hell or he’ll end up being whipped while licking Gorman’s hot boots.
Despite everyone’s best efforts, Lester couldn’t be connected to the actual murder before the fact. However, at the last of the three trials Gorman’s testimony against him repeated most of her statements from interrogations. With support by testimony from Lester’s clerk and several judges now trying desperately to distance themselves from their former idol, that provided ample evidence of his active participation afterward in the coverup and put the lie to his claim that he recused himself from my trial because of his involvement with the victim. The jury heard how he arranged to be assigned to my case in the first place to ensure my conviction and lamented when he had to give it up. And the names he called me!
He was convicted on two counts of obstruction of justice, one of accessory after the fact to murder, and several related offenses: his judge gave him the max on everything and made the sentences all run consecutively. Unless he lives to be over a hundred and twenty, he’ll never be eligible for parole and will only leave prison in the proverbial pine box. The appeal process is so long I doubt either woman will actually end up on the gurney, but thinking of them both in their tiny, bare death row cells gives me comfort on sleepless mornings.
Now other cases CJ brings occupy many of our get-togethers. He demands complete discretion on our parts but I think he offers them mostly to titillate the Ladies (one of whom is very likely to become the new Mrs. Madero in the near future). Regardless, he insists their insights have helped him solve several cases.
Martin Bixby seems to be visiting his dad more often now and he’s become a regular, having discovered a heretofore hidden fascination with mysteries. Or steak. I joked to Tanya that he and she had been late arriving the same two times – from her flustered reaction that touched a nerve. I mentioned the incident to Meg and she remarked that she was relieved to learn I hadn’t gone totally blind in my old age. We’ll have to to see what happens there.
On the anniversary of Jeanie’s death we held a memorial. What was intended as a small gathering expanded to the point that we had to rent a hall and caterers for the occasion. Even Jeanie’s cousin, who is a delightful young woman totally unspoiled by her new circumstances, flew in (commercial, economy class) to attend.
In another oddity, it turns out that despite her daily involvement with crime, Tanya is also a mystery fan and now a member of two of Meg’s clubs. But then, my writing previously consisted primarily of fictional spy stories – actually a sub-genre of fantasy since intelligence work itself consists mainly of boredom – which I posted on-line under a pen name. They have garnered a small but consistent readership beyond meteorologists. Lately, however, I’ve been intrigued with the idea of a first-person true crime novel, with a few alterations and redactions to avoid upsetting any old friends.
All in all, considering everything that happened, we're all getting on with life pretty damn well.
* * *
“Thanks for everything, old friend. If I can ever be of help to you, I'm here.”
“Likewise. By the way, recently there was a large anonymous donation to our previously nonexistent retirement fund – you wouldn’t know anything about that?”
“Not a thing.”
“Yeah, sure. Thanks anyway – to whoever our benefactor is. Well, old man, thanks for the memories and all that. It was great fun while it lasted… but let's not do it again anytime soon.”
“Copy that! Out.”