…as told by her attorney Tate
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I’m here to tell you the story of one Helen Binney, former First Lady of Massachusetts, and current bane of my retirement.”
I glanced over my shoulder at the aforesaid client, sitting demurely behind the table assigned to the defense. I was counting on the jury not looking beyond the superficial, and seeing only a short, frail-looking, forty-something woman with a cane propped up against her chair. It would be better if they didn’t know she was considerably tougher than she looked.
“As you’re about to hear, Ms. Binney is accused of assaulting a police officer.” I forced myself not to betray my own amusement as I watched the jury look from me to Helen, and then to the alleged victim, Detective Hank Peterson, seated in a wheelchair at the prosecution’s table, and finally back to me again. Their expressions were just what I was hoping for: uncertainty over whether to laugh or be outraged that I was pulling their legs.
“You may be wondering how that’s possible.” I pretended to study the short but sturdy Detective Peterson, whose skin was darkening under the combined scrutiny of myself and the jury. “The Wharton police department hires only the best and brightest of its applicants.”
As an officer of the court, I was required to stick to the truth as I knew it, and that description was true, as far as it went. Wharton was a small town, and there weren’t all that many even minimally qualified candidates for skilled jobs here.
“What happened to the strong, courageous and dedicated detective wasn’t his fault”—Peterson’s coloring returned to normal at the compliments—”but neither is it my client’s fault. Sometimes, accidents just happen, even when all the parties have the best of intentions.”
That, too, was the truth, as far as it went. In this case, however, neither party had had entirely good intentions.
Wharton never had many homicides—although the number had certainly risen since Helen moved to town—so Peterson was frequently assigned to much smaller crimes, like the shoplifting complaint that had brought him to the small convenience store, where Helen had been a witness to the crime.
Peterson should have known better than to ignore Helen, who’d been tugging on his jacket to get his attention, but he’d been caught up in the excitement of having already caught the so-called mastermind behind the crime, a teen-aged girl who was mouthing off about how she would never rat out her partner.
When Peterson finally asked Helen why she was so determined to interfere with police investigations, in a tone that would be better suited to addressing a toddler or a dementia patient, Helen took umbrage. Instead of simply telling him that a second shoplifter, a man in his early twenties, had returned to the scene of the crime, she snapped, telling Peterson that if he wanted to collar the right person for a change, he should follow her.
I did say that neither party was entirely at fault, right? Peterson’s social skills weren’t the best, but Helen’s prickliness didn’t serve her well either.
In any event, Helen headed for where the lead criminal lurked, and Peterson, thinking he was simply humoring a slightly crazy woman, followed her without expecting any trouble. The thief might not have seen Helen as a threat, but he couldn’t ignore the sight of a cop bearing down on him. He panicked, pushed Helen into Peterson, who, to his credit, tried to catch her and keep them both on their feet, but he wasn’t quite agile enough. He twisted as they fell and landed on his knee.
Meanwhile, Helen reached out with her cane and tripped the thief, slowing him down enough for Peterson’s partner to realize what had happened and slap handcuffs on the young man.
And that was the story that would have come out if the young assistant DA had been able to get the self-conscious Detective Peterson to do anything but mumble incoherently on the witness stand. The judge finally took pity on both of them, sent the jury out of the room and called for a bench conference with just the attorneys, the defendant and the so-called victim, to suggest that the case was a waste of the court’s time, and ought to be settled.
Fifteen minutes later—most of it spent trying to convince my client she should offer Peterson the apology he wanted, and her saying she had nothing to be sorry for—Peterson was out of his wheelchair, I was heading for my woodworking studio, and Helen was already looking for a new way to keep me from enjoying a nice,quiet retirement.
You can read more about Helen Binney, and her attorney Tate, in A Denial of Death, the second book in the “Helen Binney” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. The first book in the series is A Dose of Death.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on October 8 for the chance to win a copy of A DENIAL OF DEATH. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
About the author
Gin is a lawyer who specializes in ghost-writing for other lawyers. She prefers to write fiction, though, since she doesn’t have to worry that her sense of humor might get her thrown into jail for contempt of court. In her spare time, Gin makes quilts, grows garlic and serves on the board of directors of the XLH Network. Visit Gin at her website.