The Confession of the Priest
‘If you don’t mind... I brought my own and...’
The bailiff looked at the judge; it wasn’t that uncommon for a priest (or a Catholic father or the likes) asked to be allowed to make the oath with his own Bible, so the judge allowed it.
‘State your name and profession please.’
‘Bellamy Gordon Beckett, priest of the Blue Horse Street Church in ***********, **, for the past thirty one years and 6 months.’
‘Thank you, Mr. Beckett; do you know... do you have a good idea about the reasons that brought you here? In this state so far away from your own?’
‘Yes. There is going to be a mayor’s election in the next month in this town. Seems like that to say that it’s a very dirty political fight going on would be an understatement. A local newspaperman published a story, backed by a certain Wallace Raleigh that I knew many years ago, in which he claims that the late mother of one of the candidates worked in a saloon in my hometown... as a prostitute. The widower, which is now the accused at this trial, beat both men quite harshly and recklessly and sent them to the hospital with many broken bones. In order to prevent that his father spends some time in a prison, the candidate went after anyone of my hometown that knew the said... woman. And here I am.’
‘And what do you have to say about the said story?’
‘Hogwash, pure and simple.’
‘To say that... well we might realize that you knew the certain... Belle Brant, right?’
‘Her real name, wherever she is now, alive or dead, is Beatrice Gallows. And I personally delivered to each and every woman of her... kind the ‘ticket out of town’ as we call it. Do you realize how the street where the church I serve in is located is called? ‘Blue Horse Street’? Thirty years ago, I regret to say it, my hometown was a lawless town. Saloons, many shootouts on a weekly or even daily basis and... Women like her by the dozens and dozens. Now, in those days we are living in, if a man of my town wants to... have such company, he has to go to a nearby town. My town is cleaned of the presence of... such women. And I personally gave to each and every one of them the ticket that got my hometown rid of their presence, among other acts of my part!’
‘But Mr. Beckett, according to your own words, back in the day there were many women like this Belle in your town, and it was thirty years ago! How can you...’
‘Because I have a few regrets of things that I did and shouldn’t have. And expel Belle Brant from town the way I did was... IS... the biggest regret I have in my life.’
Now he had the full attention of everybody in the courtroom. The judge, the jurors, the DA, the attendance and the reporters were really interested in his next words...
But not as Caryl and his son were.
‘She saved my wife’s life four times in a single night. And I treated her like ****!’
No one was talking in the attendance, the reporters were looking at him while write down every word he said and he was feeling... Dizzy? Finally he would be able to put it out...
‘Back in 18**, exactly thirty years ago, I had been a priest for less than a year when it seemed that law and decency were coming to town. We were about to get a train station, we had two schools and four churches in town and it seemed that the wild days were soon to be just story material for the pulps. But that did not mean that those who profited with the lawlessness would go down without a fight. We have had four different sheriffs in less than two years, and I didn’t (like most people in town) trusted much the young fella that had ‘inherited’ the job after the death of his antecessor. He was too young, too soft to be taken seriously by anyone... he has been our sheriff ever since but in his first months in the job... Anyway. As I was saying there was this group of worthless maggots that didn’t liked to see their power and influence diminished the way it was. They started a campaign of terror that ended up showing how good the young sheriff we had was. So they changed their strategy to a more subtle one... and got him arrested by a US Marshal for suspicion of participation of a murder in a town nearby three or four years previously. A false accusation, just like the one that motivated this whole story we’re in, but sheriff Amadeus had faith in the legal system as we all did now (he had gotten rid of a bunch of guys regularly called to be jurors in town and whom sold their votes for the highest bidder), and besides... he had many proofs of his innocence in that other town’s public records! He wasn’t even in the town when that dentist was killed! He asked to a friend to mail them, the evidences in his behalf, to his attorney, so he would not have to face the indignity of being led out of town shackled inside a stagecoach, and if the lawyer’s wife’s mouth wasn’t that big as it was...’
He asked for a glass of water, it would be a long story and his mouth was already dry.
‘She told her bridge partners about the upcoming evidences of the sheriff’s innocence, and turns out that one of her partners was one of the aforementioned maggots! That woman kept a firm face and rushed back home as fast as she could and told her husband what she had just heard, he then called a couple of goons to ‘get that envelope’ no matter what! My wife and her father were at the time our local post officers. My hopefully soon-to-be father-in-law (I was still dating my wife at that time) had this grocery store that was also an US Post Office and they had locked the envelope to the attorney (who had a sudden out-of-town emergency but would be back in the following morning) in a safe as soon as it had arrived. He went home earlier because it was ‘poker night’ at one of his friends’ home and she stayed behind to close the store and Post Office. At the last moment one of her best customers, an illiterate foreman, arrived and asked her to write a long letter to his brother. A very long letter. She wrote and posted it, he paid and she closed the whole small building over half an hour late. We had agreed to dinner at Mrs. Walters’ hostel and she decided to take a shortcut through the back of the buildings, while I had the same idea when I decided to check what was keeping her. We saw each other, waved at each other... and suddenly, as she was passing in front of an alley, two pair of hands grabbed her and pulled her inside the alley! Just like that, one moment she was coming towards me mouthing ‘I’m sorry’ and in the next she was gone and only the skirt of her black and blue dress were poking out of the alley. And she seemed to be fighting her captors! Not thinking for a moment I rushed into the alley, I had no gun with me and it was quite a deserted spot of the town but...’
‘You couldn’t care less. And those captors, were they the goons you mentioned before?’
‘No, it was Belle and another... lady holding my then fiancée in a tight lock! Belle was or perhaps still is a tall woman, 6’ tall, and the other woman wasn’t exactly small or thin. My wife was not a real wildcat, she dressed as conservatively as women should (exactly the opposite of Belle and the other with those revealing and colorful garments) and behaved as women should, and anyway those two... women holding her were far stronger than her. I didn’t not married a statue of glass, it was simply a case of strong... women holding a not-so-strong one. And the third one of the pack nearly crashed my skull with a bottle...’
‘The third one? There were more women?’
‘Now wait a moment! What’s this meaningless story has to do with the case at hand? Your honor, the defense is clearly trying to divert the attention of the jurors...’
‘Your honor, we have not challenged any ‘intimate knowledge’ that Mr. Raleigh has or had of Belle Brant, just his assertion that she was the late Mrs. Herald. The District Attorney practically challenged us to find someone who could testify the contrary and here is this someone, Mr. Beckett!!! And his wife, Lucile Beckett!!! And the former mayor of the town where Mr. Raleigh supposedly met Belle Brant, Norman Jamison! And the sheriff of said town, Kenneth Amadeus!!! But they only agreed to testify if the reverend is the first to speak. It’s their only demand. Now, let’s be honest your honor, what kind of credibility has a priest that claims to have known Belle Brant very well? Unless he has proofs, like the ones he brought to us today and that we are giving to the court right now, that their relationship was incidental and yet powerful enough to make Mr. Beckett adamantly sure that Belle Brant and Stella Herald were not the same woman, then his words are more damaging to the defense’s case that anything else we could think of doing!’
‘What kind of proofs are those documents?’
The old judge’s small desk in front of him had now three different sealed envelopes that sported the seal of Beckett’s hometown in it.
‘They are affidavit copies of the legal procedures that sent Barney ‘the Bear’ Ramblin and Carl ‘Pozz’ Pozynski to the cemetery, after they were found guilty of murder! Mr. Beckett is practically repeating his sworn testimony of that case to us, plus a few details that he heard from the parts involved in the case (and one of them was Belle Brant), and both (his testimony and these affidavits) are the greatest proof we could have that Mr. Herald merely reacted as any man would when his late wife’s reputation is tarnished the way it was!’
‘Very well... I agree that if Belle Brant saved his wife, then fiancée,‘s life it would be more than enough to have her face and looks imprinted in his mind as the wife’s face is. So I will allow Mr. Beckett to keep telling us his... confession...’
‘...As long as in the end I don’t feel like he is wasting my and the jury’s time... Therefore, you better have a good story to confess to us that can explain how could you have met Belle Brant without being involved in her... usual activities so to speak...’
‘He isn’t your honor, I read those documents and they explain (just like I believe Mr. Beckett will) how it is be possible that a priest knows the face of a prostitute even better than the self proclaimed ‘most regular client’ of hers!’
‘Back to your chairs gentlemen..., Mr. Beckett…’
‘As I was saying… I stood there dumbfounded for a moment as I saw Lucy fighting those two women. Belle had a strong grip over her mouth with her left hand and was practically lifting her from the ground with her right arm and hand, the other girl was holding Lucy’s hands together as she wrapped turns and turns of what looked like a scarf around them. Then I sensed something behind and crouched as a bottle aimed at my skull passed exactly where it had been just a moment before! It was a third woman and she had another bottle ready. By this time Belle had shoved a handkerchief inside Lucy’s mouth and the second woman was wrapping a scarf around her head to keep it in place. I dodged a couple of attacks of the redhair wildcat in front of me and then I grabbed her pulse and yanked it. Soon I had the now broken bottle out of her hands and was having trouble to hold her. But before I could shout any cry for help Belle showed me the blade of a knife that was way too close of Lucy’s neck… and then she told me to stay quiet as she explained to us what was going on and what had been the reason of their attack on Lucy. I let the third woman (whose name I forgot) go and she and the second one held Lucy in between them as me and Belle settled down our business. IT’S NOT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING! To put it simple the second… prostitute, Mona if I am not mistaken, had overheard a talk between three good-for-nothing vultures that were at the saloon in which she worked. They were the ones behind the murder for which the sheriff had been framed, and they had heard that proofs of their guiltiness or his innocence or both were in the US Post Office, so they were going to rob it that night. Now, as I told you before, there was a nascent moralization movement in our town, and all… women like Belle and the others knew that their hour was arriving. So they decided to cash in the whole story, and the attack on Lucy was part of their plans…’
‘Well the plan was to grab Lucy, bind and gag her and leave her in the alley (where she eventually would be found or free herself). Meanwhile they would get back to the grocery store/US Post Office and, with the help of her keys (the reason behind the attack), they would steal the envelope with the proofs and sell it to the highest bidder!’
‘But… to whom?’
‘The worms behind sheriff Amadeus’ arrest or the good and decent people wanting him out of jail. They would hide the envelope somewhere safe (that only Belle was supposed to know its location) and the first side that brought them three thousand dollars, a thousand per head, would get the envelope. So she told me that, when I came to, I would be able to find Lucy in the Post Office but no envelope, and showed me a blackjack.’
‘What else could I do? They had Lucy in their clutches, and while Belle was explaining to me why they were doing what they were doing, Mona and the other girl added more and more rope to Lucy torso, trapping her arms over her chest as if she was praying, and both of them were carrying blades! So I turned around and it was lights out for me!’
‘Excuse me for a moment…’
It was the judge, the reverend looked at him and mouthed ‘yes?’.
‘I can agree that the face of someone who does that to a loved one is not an easily forgettable one, but you say that you feel regrets towards Belle Brant?’
‘Yes your honor. It’s quite easy to understand after I tell the rest…’
‘But... did you take part in the following events after you woke up?’
‘Not in all of them, I admit. I must have been out for half an hour, perhaps more. I woke up with the greatest headache of my life and the obvious need to go to the Sheriff’s office. People looked at me as I walked to there and soon there was a crowd forming around me, I was bleeding and disheveled. The US Marshal appeared and demanded that someone called the doctor, as my head injury was being treated I told him and the deputies what had happened. About this time Jonah, my soon-to-be father-in-law, arrived saying that Lucy was missing. It didn’t take long for the Marshal and the deputies went to the Post Office. Me and Jonah wanted to go but he ordered the sheriff, in whom he trusted enough to leave out of the cell from time to time, to prevent us from doing so. Thirty minutes later he returned with Mona and the other... woman roped up like calves, but no Lucy, no Belle and no documents. Actually, there was no safe at Jonah’s place!’
‘And what had happened?’
‘Doublecross, plain and simple. Mona and the other woman had realized that they could split Belle’s part between them. Actually the original plan was just between them, Belle got involved by forcing her way into their scheme. So they told Belle that she was a blabbermouth and because of that they would change the plan a bit. Instead of leaving Lucy with me, they would take her with them to the Post Office and leave her there. Belle tried to argue with them but they were adamant about it. As soon as they started to move Belle realized that she had fallen in a trap. She and Lucy stood in front of the pair and, as Belle was helping Lucy to stand up, Mona pulled a gun (a Derringer) from... between her... breasts... and pointed it at Belle and Lucy, the other woman bound Belle’s hand behind her back and gagged her with a tick towel. They called her names, very foul ones as they poked them in the back with the gun. Then all four went to the Post Office, only to find that it had just been invaded by three cowboys: Barney ‘the Bear’ Ramblin, Judd Malloy and Carl ‘Pozz’ Pozynski. The third woman opened the back door with Lucy’s keys, entered pushing Lucy and Belle followed them as Mona poked her again with the gun, then as they were moving towards the safe behind the counter, Barney jumped from behind the back door and grabbed Mona’s gun with one hand as he wrapped his other one over her lips, then Judd got the third girl in his arms as he appeared out of nowhere and when Belle tried to run away she collided with Carl massive frame (the guy was also called ‘The Wall’). Soon all four women were kneeling or sitting on the floor, bound hand and foot with strips of their own clothes (Lucy and belle’s bonds were just reinforced at the knees and arms so they were a bit more... covered than the two others) and gagged, as they worked on the safe. Barney produced a few sticks of dynamite and said that he was going to fuse the lit and explode it, with the women inside the building and close to the safe...’
‘That was the second time that night in which she saved my wife’s life. She stomped her bound feet until she attracted the attention of the men. They removed her gag as they warned her not to make any stupid sound. She simply called them idiots. Just like that, and got slapped for it, but she proved to them that they were being idiots anyway. The daughter of the owner of the place was with them, so why not simply use her key? The safe was just a sturdy and reinforced metal box with a big and giant lock. It would take a while to file it and they were in a hurry. They promptly complied and opened the safe... and found no envelope. I mean there was a lot of stuff, including some money that they robbed, but not the big and brown envelope that they were expecting. Belle realized that none of the three men could read and decided to use it in her favor, she made them believe that a very bulky envelope was the one they were searching and asked the guys how much they were getting from those who had paid them to do the job. She provoked their greed very quickly. Why not? They could get paid for getting that proof (against them) out of the picture...’
‘They weren’t being paid for that... job?’
‘No, it was... how that you legal people says?... quid pro quo. Tit for tat. They had managed to accuse sheriff Amadeus of their crime but they were unaware that there was a proof of his innocence and their guilt, so in order to receive the money they had been promised to for their efforts (and obviously in order to avoid the noose) they went after the envelope!’
‘Which, according to you, wasn’t there... ?’
‘It’s not ‘according to me’, IT WASN’T THERE!!! There wasn’t any envelope! I mean, there were many envelopes but not a single one for the sheriff’s lawyer! So Belle made them pick one that had in reality a catalog and pretended that it was the one for the lawyer. Now they had witnesses to deal with. Belle and the others could be reasonable as long as they got paid or threatened enough, but what about Lucy? They decided to take her with them and leave the other women to free themselves, but it was obvious that they had second and third thoughts about what they would do with Lucy. So Belle convinced them to take her with them... No I will not say what she said to make them agree with her, read it on the files yourself. I refuse, I sternly refuse! And I mean it!’
Both the judge and the accusation read that part of the old trial files and blushed, and thus agreed that the priest had a good reason to not repeat that in public.
‘And about the other two... ladies?’
‘They just threatened them and promised a few bucks as reward, then they roped them a little more, to the point that their arms were one and their fingers touched their soles and locked them inside a closet in the store, they were really mean and the rope cut into the women’s flesh, who were relieved of their ordeal just enough so they could stand and walk to the sheriff’s office by the Marshall and the deputies. There they started to tell a story about how Belle was in cohorts with the unknown cowboys (and they weren’t) that had took Lucy and the envelope and, when people were already starting to shout ‘Let’s get that.... (I won’t repeat what they said)’ or ‘Let’s find her and hang her!’ the Marshall did something really unexpected. He ordered the deputies to gag both women and he meant ‘Gag’!’
‘Why? Why he did it?’
‘No one understood it at first. Mona was trembling and shacking as the triple knotted scarf was tied three times around her head while the third woman was just furious. The Marshall himself applied more rope on Mona and ordered that Frank, one of the deputies, carried her to the back of the building and thus she went, carried as a bag of potatoes by the biggest and ugliest deputy of the town (he had only one eye and a mean scar in half his face) to outside were she stayed all the while. Then the Marshall shouted that we should all stay quiet, and we all obeyed (the room was a bit overcrowded) at once, since he was going to interrogate the third woman... which he didn’t. It was all just a performance, not for us but for Mona and he kept shouting that ‘I know this’ or ‘I know that’ and ‘No! Really?’. Then he ordered (after lowering considerably his voice) that the third woman’s gag was far more reinforced than Mona’s had been (the woman’s lower face disappeared soon under a mass of rope, scarves and strips of cloth) and she was carried to the next building in silence. After that he ordered that Mona was brought back to the room and boy, wasn’t that girl shacking! He made Frank sit Mona in a chair in the middle of the room and removed her gag, then he threw the bomb. Belle couldn’t have been in cohorts with the cowboys because she was in cohorts with him! She was working for him in order to bring down the ones that had killed someone she really cared about, a brother or another relative, and because he had promised to her the US$ 500,00 dollars reward that the arrest of the killers of the man the sheriff had been framed to be the murderer of would grant her. She was his eyes and ears at the Golden Chandelier Saloon, sort of a HQ for the big ones in the local scum, and if, just if, she had taken part of the kidnapping of Lucy then there was a bigger reason than the hot air that she (Mona) and the third woman were talking about, and according to what the third woman had just said to him, there was, and it implied Mona very deeply...’
‘But wait a second, YOU just said that the third woman stayed gagged all along during the Marshall’s ‘act’, then how could she...’
‘Yes, the woman couldn’t have spoke a word about anything. But Mona didn’t knew about it. It was SO EASY for the Marshall to conduct the girl after she realized that she was being implied into participation in a murder and kidnapping! She got desperate, and she wasn’t playing, she was really scared of everything! She told us everything, every little bit about what had happened so far that night and why Belle had taken part of their plan...’
‘And it was because...?’
‘To save Lucy’s life! Their original plan was to rob the keys from the store from Lucy’s corpse (they ended up accusing each other of that part of the plan) and rob the envelope but Belle overheard their conversation and thus saved Lucy’s life for the first time that night. She not only made the women believe that she was as dirty and greedy as themselves but that to kill Lucy was an ‘unnecessary treat’ (her words) to their lives. So they agreed that they would just bind and gag her and not slice her throat!’
There was a commotion in the attendance at this point and it took a while for the proper silence be reinstated. Then the DA tried again to make the priest’s testimony disqualified, but since he had just told how a prostitute had saved his wife’s life twice in just one night, and there were another two times that he had to tell about, the judge ignored him.
‘Well, after Mona spilled everything about her original plan, Belle’s plan, the intervention of the cowboys (that she said had implied themselves as the real culprits of the murder the sheriff had been framed of) and the aftermath, including the part you just read. So in no time there was a crowd of guys wanting to be part of a posse to save Lucy’s life and pride!’
‘Forgive me if I look like a bit repetitive but... and the two... ladies?’
‘After the ruse of the Marshall was up they seemed to have started a very heated argument and, when we all returned to town a few hours later, they were stringently tied to chairs in the sheriff’s office, I do mean stringently! Every one of them had rope enough for three or four women binding their legs, lap, torso and arms together and to the chair, and both sported a tight cleave gag that held two hankies in each mouth!’
‘Very well, but ‘...when we all returned to town...’?’
‘I took part of the posse as well, even without carrying any gun. I wasn’t there to kill a man (even if such grace could be applied to any of those three cowboys) but to save Lucy. We were in about twenty to twenty five, I’m not sure about the exact number, and we went as fast as we could to what looked like the most probable place they might had taken Lucy and Belle, Judd’s cabin in a place called Moonwoods which is about 15 miles from town. It’s a very secluded place up the hills around the South West of my hometown and have two ways of arriving there. One is exclusive for humans and the other accepts ponies, horses and (nowadays) cars. As we got uphill through the later, Lucy and Belle went downhill in the first. But of course, we could not know about it at that time. Nor that as we went up there a couple of riders saw us, and managed to successfully hide behind some bushes and then resume their pursuit against the escaping women...’
‘I’ll get there. When we arrived at the cabin we saw Carl furiously removing coils and coils of rope from his body while redressing himself as Luther Prewitt, the owner of the Golden Chandelier, seemed to be giving him some orders. Obviously both men stopped doing it when they saw us (we had stopped our furious run and trotted in the last half of a mile) and hid inside the cabin. Carl did shoot a few rounds but the Marshall ordered that we all, except me of course, would give a single shot at the cabin. It was like a thunder! And both men surrendered! The sheriff was happy because if any of the men of the posse had any doubts that he had been framed, the presence of Luther (brother of the owner of our local newspaper and to many people its ‘real’ owner) indicated that the story about the frame up was more than just a story now. But the Marshall was possessed. None of the women were inside the cabin, so he grabbed Carl (who was about five inches taller than him and much more stronger) and looked into his eyes and said ‘Where are they?’ in a way that meant that he wouldn’t take no lies, no excuses, no nothing other than the truth. He spoke with all the authority and fearmongerism that is possible. And Carl received it full in his face!’
‘And how the women had escaped?’
‘When they arrived at the cabin less than two hours before, Belle took Lucy in her charge and quickly had her tied at a corner of the cabin. She made Lucy kneel on the floor, linked the ties of her wrists and ankles with a very short piece of rope, regagged her in a way that not only whimpers could pass from the mass of silk (she used Lucy’s hankies) and then she blindfolded her. Lucy told me that she made Judd and Barney leave almost at once, in order to deliver the envelope with the catalog to their bosses while she and Carl... well after a few moments of intimate sounds she heard a crash, followed by a round of thuds then a lot of cablams and finally her blindfold was removed. Belle had broken a vase, a bottle and a seat (among many things) over Carl’s head as he was... he was...’
‘That’s not necessary to tell!’ – said the judge which prompted a round of laughter from the attendance that took a while to be calmed down.
‘Anyway, Belle untied Lucy and both women quickly bound Carl with all the rope and strips of cloth they could find, then they escaped. Minutes later an enraged Judd, followed by Barney and Luther who ordered immediately that Lucy was found and brought to the cabin, but Belle was expendable. The Marshall punched Luther and warned him that it was better that both women were found alive. At that moment Honest Joe, an Indian that was sort of a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ and a tracker in between it, found the women’s track and we split in three groups. One would go after them following Honest Joe who was following their trail, the other would go through the other trail, the third and much smaller one would take Luther and Carl back to town. I was a member of the first group.’
‘And you found them?’
‘What we found was a most chilling scene. We heard loud voices and the Marshal made us all stay quiet, we got closer and closer and we could identify what was being shouted: orders and demands for Lucy to appear. We were still in the woods and it was a moonless night, so they did not saw us coming. They were in a clearing; Judd, Barney and Belle...’
‘She had... er... switched sides?’
‘NO!!!! No, no, no, no!!! She was on a horse, with her hands bound behind her back, her dress completely disheveled, a gag in and around her mouth and a noose around her neck!’
A collective gasp came from the attendance. At that moment the DA realized that he had lost everything that Raleigh had gained for him the day before.
‘They were threatening her life?’
‘They were going to kill her if Lucy didn’t appeared! They seemed to have been shouting for a while which intrigued me, Lucy wasn’t a heartless woman, she should have had already appeared by now, but they were already croaking and no Lucy. Then Judd raised his hand as if he was going to slap the horse and kill Belle and started to count from ten to zero... that’s when we made our presence known. All nine of us, besides me there was this boy (boy... he’s already a grandfather now...) called Hank Jr. who also hadn’t a gun (he had lost his somewhere in the trail) with him, all others were pointing theirs at them. And Judd, Judd warned us to not come any closer... and then he slapped the horse!’
A louder gasp filled the room.
‘Me and Hank Jr. run those yards like WE were running from the men behind us, we both grabbed each one of Belle’s legs and made sure that the pressure of the noose on her throat was lessened to zero, then I felt Honest Joe climbing my back and cutting the noose from the tree, there were already four men to help her and we heard a shootout. The Marshall went after Judd, Barney had quickly surrendered, and killed him in a fair fight. It was a fair fight no matter what some people might say about it. Meanwhile I had removed the gag from Belle’s mouth and someone had cut her hands free and she was frantic. We had to held her down for a moment until she calmed down and barely managed to say ‘Luzi’ and tried to point to some bushes at about a hundred yards at our left.’
‘That’s where your wife Lucy was hiding?’
‘No. That’s where Belle had hid Lucy after she bound and gagged her. When they reached the border of the clearing minutes before both Lucy and Belle were in a bad way. The trees had cut their clothes and skin, they were disheveled and scared and exhausted. And Judd was in the clearing, and Barney wasn’t far behind them. Belle knew that by now they wanted her dead and Lucy alive, although she knew exactly what they would do to her before they killed her to leave no witnesses behind. So she said to Lucy that she had a plan, they were hiding in a depression of the land right under a large bush and she said that she was going to need some strips of cloth for a desperate plan. So she and Lucy tore the strips from their own skirts and Lucy was quickly overpowered by Belle and bound hand and foot and gagged with tight strips of cloth, then Belle purposely tried to attract their attention and, after they captured her and didn’t managed to get what they wanted after a beating, they put the noose on her and tried to attract Lucy, who was unable to do anything!’
‘Well, we brought both women back to town and they stayed under the care of Dr. Flogg. There was a trial in which most of the corrupt machinery of the town was exposed and, besides Barney and Carl who were sent to the town were they faced that death accusation and were convicted to death, many people did some jail time. It was a cleansing.’
‘I said it was a cleansing. Belle was in the middle of it... you see, many of the people that helped the town get clean couldn’t stand the presence of a ‘good’ prostitute. She had worked for the law, she had helped us and she had saved Lucy’s life four times and yet, they didn’t wanted her around. And they told me that they could provide the new roof for my church, among many other important things I was in need of... if I got rid of her too...’
‘And you did it.’
There wasn’t much to say afterwards, the DA asked for a time to read the new documents introduced by the defense and the judge granted him that. At the entrance of the court, the priest and the others reinstated that Beatrice Gallows a.k.a. Belle Bernard wasn’t the former name of the late Julie Herald. The DA didn’t challenged this public statement and the case against Caryl Herald went down in a thunderous crash in the following day.
That same night, at the Herald’s home.
‘So the story of the envelope was just a ruse?’
‘Yes. You see, my attorney went to **********, a nearby town, in order to get the papers that would set me free. But we knew that his big mouthed wife would say what we wanted to the wife of that good-for-nothing ************! So she was told that an envelope, with the papers, was due to have arrived that day. The plan was to grab the men as they invaded the store/US Post Office, your mother was supposed to warn us when they decided to go. But she overheard those two *********** planning to kill Lucy and steal her keys and had no other option but do what she did...’
Robert Herald had knew about his mother’s past for a long time, besides him and his father (the, unknown to most people in the town, former US Marshal Caryl Herald) only his wife knew about it. He couldn’t care less, but it could have been his political downfall, and that would meant that those leeches that were bleeding the town for the past years would win the next election. A good people lived in his town, but they were way too conservative...
‘But... there’s one thing that I didn’t understood... actually that I can’t accept!’
‘How could I lie under oath and say that your mother-in-law wasn’t Belle Bernard?’
His wife nodded and the priest handed her the Bible he had used for his oath. It wasn’t a Bible, just a copy of ‘The Complete Comedies of William Shakespeare’ with a leather cover taken from a Bible. And the priest dared to smile a grin so innocent!
‘If they had found out about it, I would have made an oath in the proper way, and I would have repeated every single word I said today, except for the parts in which I denied so adamantly that your mother was known as Belle Bernard once. And if the DA calls them tomorrow, which I doubt (that snake was looking really defeated when I finished, wasn’t him?), they will tell the truth. After all they can’t be allowed to swear on this book, can they? But in any case we will make clear to everybody as to who was Belle Bernard...’
‘Supposing that there is someone that bothers to listen to us if they ever find out about this ruse of your old pal... So, how are you feeling after finally putting that out from you?’
The priest looked at the former Marshall with peace in his eyes.
‘I should never have obeyed the orders of those holier-than-thou bible thumpers! But... I feel good, I do feel good for having said what I said today...’
The soon-to-be mayor’s wife offered to everybody a glass of the soon to be forbidden wine and they all raised their glasses in a toast in the memory of Belle/Beatrice/Julie...