Philip Margolin

Gone,but not forgotten

Part One

WAKE-UP CALL.

Chapter One

'Have you reached a verdict?' judge Alfred Neff asked the eight men and four women seated in the jury box.

A heavy-set, barrel-chested man in his mid-sixties struggled to his feet. Betsy Tannenbaum checked the chart she had drawn up two weeks ago during jury selection. This was Walter Korn, a retired welder. Betsy felt uncomfortable with Korn as the foreman. He was a member of the jury only because Betsy had run out of challenges.

The bailiff took the verdict form from Korn and handed it to the judge.

Betsy's eyes followed the folded square of white paper. As the judge opened it and read the verdict to himself, she watched his face for a telltale sign, but there was none.

Betsy stole a glance at Andrea Hammermill, the plump, matronly woman sitting beside her. Andrea stared straight ahead, as subdued and resigned as she had been throughout her trial for the murder of her husband. The only time Andrea had shown any emotion was during direct examination when she explained why she shot Sidney Hammermill to death.

As she told the jury about firing the revolver over and over until the dull click of hammer on steel told her there were no more bullets, her hands trembled, her body shook and she sobbed pitifully.

'Will the defendant please stand,' judge Neff said.

Andrea got to her feet unsteadily. Betsy stood with her, eyes forward.

'Omitting the caption, the verdict reads as follows: 'We the jury, being duly impaneled and sworn, do find the defendant, Andrea Marie Hammermill, not guilty…''

Betsy could not hear the rest of the verdict over the din in the courtroom. Andrea collapsed on her chair, sobbing into her hands.

'it's okay,' Betsy said, 'it's okay.' She felt tears on her cheeks as she wrapped a protective arm around Andrea's shoulders. Someone tapped Betsy on the arm. She looked up. Randy Highsmith, the prosecutor, was standing over her holding a glass of water.

'Can she use this?' he asked.

Betsy took the glass and handed it to her client.

Highsmith waited a moment while Andrea regained her composure.

'Mrs. Hammermill,' he said, 'I want you to know that I prosecuted you because I believe you took the law into your own hands. But I also want you to know that I don't think your husband had the right to treat you the way he did. I don't care who he was. If you had come to me, instead of shooting him, I would have done my best to put him in jail. I hope you can put this behind you and go on with your life. You seem like a good person.'

Betsy wanted to thank Highsmith for his kind words, but she was too choked up to speak. As Andrea's friends and supporters started to crowd around her Betsy pushed away from the throng to get some air. Over the crowd she could see Highsmith, alone, bent over his table, gathering law books and files. As the assistant district attorney started toward the door, he noticed Betsy standing on the fringe of the crowd. Now that the trial was over, the two lawyers were superfluous. Highsmith nodded.

Betsy nodded back.

With his back arched, his sleek muscles straining and his head tipped back, Martin Darius looked like a wolf baying over fallen prey. The blonde lying beneath him tightened her legs around his waist. Darius shuddered and closed his eyes. The woman panted from exertion. Darius's face contorted, then he collapsed. His cheek fell against her breast. He heard the blonde's heart beat and smelled perspiration mingled with a telltale trace of perfume. The woman threw an arm across her face.

Darius ran a lazy hand along her leg and glanced across her flat stomach at the cheap digital clock on the motel end table.

It was two p.m. Darius sat up slowly and dropped his legs over the side of the bed. The woman heard the bed move and watched Darius cross the room.

'I wish you didn't have to go,' she said, unable to hide her disappointment.

Darius grabbed his kit off the low-slung chest of drawers and padded toward the bathroom.

'I've got a meeting at three,' he answered, without looking back.

Darius washed away the sheen of sweat he had worked up during sex, then toweled himself thoroughly in the narrow confines of the motel bathroom.

Steam from the shower misted the mirror. He wiped the glass surface and saw a gaunt face with deep-set blue eyes. His neatly trimmed beard and mustache framed a devil's mouth that could be seductive or intimidating.

Darius used a portable dryer, then combed his straight black hair and beard.

When he opened the bathroom door, the blonde was still in bed. A few times, she had tried to lure him back into bed — after he was showered and dressed. He guessed she was trying to exercise sexual control over him and refused to give in.

'I've decided we should stop seeing each other,' Darius said casually as he buttoned his white silk shirt.

The blonde sat up in bed, a shocked expression on her normally confident, cheer-leader face. He had her attention now. She was not used to being dumped. Darius turned slightly so she would not see his smile.

'Why?' she managed as he stepped into his charcoal gray suit trousers.

Darius turned to look at her so he could enjoy the play of emotions on her face. 'For your credit, you are beautiful and good in bed,' he said, knotting his tie, 'but you're boring.'

The blonde gaped at him for a moment, then flushed with anger.

'You shit.'

Darius laughed and picked up his suit jacket.

'You can't mean it,' she went on, her anger passing quickly.

'I'm very serious. We're through. It was nice for a while, but I want to move on.'

'And you think you can use me, then toss me away like a cigarette,' she said, the anger back. 'I'll tell your wife, you son-of-a-bitch. I'll call her right now.'

Darius stopped smiling. The expression on his face forced the blonde back against the headboard. Darius strolled around the bed Slowly, until he was standing over her. She cowered back and put her hands up. Darius watched her for a moment, the way a biologist would study a specimen on a slide. Then he grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm until she was bent forward on the bed, her forehead against the crumpled sheets.

Darius admired the curve of her body from her backside to her slender neck as she knelt in pain. He ran his free hand along her rump, then applied pressure to her wrist to make her body quiver. He liked watching her breasts sway rapidly as she jerked to attention.

'Let me make one thing very clear to you,' Darius said in the same tone he might use with a recalcitrant child. 'You will never call my wife, or me, ever. Do you understand?'

'Yes,' the blonde gasped as he twisted her arm behind her, pushing it slowly up toward her shoulder.

'Tell me what you will never do,' he commanded calmly, releasing the pressure for a moment and stroking the curve of her buttocks with his hand. 'I won't call, Martin. I swear,' she wept.

'Why won't you call my wife or bother me?' Darius asked, putting pressure on the wrist.

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