Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Murder in Greensboro
Murder in Greensboro
Everyone gasped when Sheriff Daniels stood at the door of the Clear Lake cabin and announced Oscar Crowley was under arrest for the murder of Marlin Cooper.
“I'm going with you,” cried Nettie
“Sorry ma'am. This is official business and you will not be allowed to ride with Mr. Crowley. You may follow us to the police station and wait to see him until after we complete our investigation.”
“Nettie, darling. Go back home with Jonas. Tell Richard and Robert what is happening and have one of them meet me in Greensboro. There has been a huge misunderstanding. I want you to go home and wait for me. I'm sure I will be there before dinner tonight. Jonas please take Nettie back to Camden Corners.”
Off the sheriff went with his prisoner in tow. Nettie and her friends were watching in disbelief as Oscar was hauled away like a common criminal.
Jonas said “Let's get back to Camden Corners right away. The best way we can help Oscar is to let his sons know what is going on.”
The ride back to town was a somber one. Not anything like the trip to the cabin just the previous morning when they were laughing and singing. Nettie couldn't understand why that sheriff would even consider her Oscar could do such a thing.
They finally arrived in Camden Corners and went directly to the law office. Robert was standing at the doorway.
“We know father was arrested. Richard is already on his way there. I was waiting for Nettie to return. We knew she would want to go with me to Greensboro. Polly is at your place, Nettie. She is packing an overnight bag for you. Emma is taking care of Faith for a few days. Polly will be joining us also.
“Of course she will. In my state of mind I have only been thinking of Oscar. I haven't even considered the fact that Polly's father is dead. I'm sure she has mixed feelings about him but he was her father. Robert, why on earth would they think Oscar of all people would have anything to do with a murder? It's absurd.”
“I don't know what led them to Father. The sheriff showed up at your house early this morning he handed the housekeeper a search warrant. She didn't know what to do and rushed to our house very distraught. The sheriff found a bloody knife tucked in the seat of Father's carriage. Robert and I are sure someone planted it there when Father was in Greensboro the other day. Unfortunately, he was spotted at the hospital talking with Mrs. Cooper. He didn't mention going into the room to see Marlin and I can't imagine that he did. The sheriff referred to an anonymous tip. Nothing adds up here. We know Oscar Crowley is incapable of murder. We will get to the bottom of this Nettie, I promise you.”
Polly was anxious to arrive in Greensboro. The trip seemed to take longer than usual and the snow packed roads didn't help. Nettie held her hand trying to calm her but Nettie was upset herself.
“Paw was a mean husband and horrible father Nettie, but he was my father. I can't help but wonder what in his life made him the way he was. I have a hard time believing a man can be born evil. I won't be shedding a tear for him but I am concerned about Mama. I know she has all but abandoned the children and now with Paw gone I don't know how she will cope with the loss. The Prestons have been a godsend to our family. I can't imagine what would have happened to the children without money to buy food or clothing. I feel so guilty about living in such a happy home with you and Oscar while my siblings were suffering so.”
“Polly, don't be so harsh toward yourself. You were told not to come home or to try to see the children. There was nothing you could do for them. Gladys Preston told me your little sister, Ginny has started calling her mama. The other children are all happy and healthy. We will make sure your mama is taken care of. She may need some rest you know. There is a small home just outside of Greensboro that helps people who are distraught. Oscar visited the home when he was in Greensboro the other day. He was very impressed with the caregivers there. I know he'd planned to discuss it with you. It may be where your mama needs to be for a while.”
When they arrived in Greensboro, Polly went directly to the Preston house. The children were happy to see their big sister again. They were adjusting well to the news of Paw's death but were worried about their mother. Gladys told her Alice was still sitting in the waiting room of the hospital. She didn't seem to understand that her husband was dead. The nurses were willing to let her stay until Polly arrived in town but something had to be done soon. Polly was the oldest and therefore had the authority to have her mother placed in the home Oscar had been to a few days ago. Arthur accompanied Polly and Gretchen to the hospital. Their mother was still sitting on the sofa in the waiting room.
“Mama” Polly said tearfully, “It's Polly.”
There was no response. The frail woman was staring into space. Polly and Gretchen agreed that she would not be able to go back to the family home. Alice was taken out of the hospital and escorted to the rehabilitation home as both girls held each other and cried for their mama.
Polly left her sister and Arthur promising to return to the Preston house in time for supper. She needed to be with Nettie as she waited to hear word of Oscar.
Richard finally came out of the interrogation room. “There isn't much to tell. Father is doing well. He is more worried about you Nettie than he is about his situation. He will mostly likely be staying the night in a jail cell. I think the district attorney has a vendetta against Father because of a case he tried here a few years ago. He made a fool of him and he is still carrying a grudge.”
Robert spoke up, “They aren't going to let you see Father tonight. He insists we register you and Polly at the hotel on Main Street for the night. We will escort you to the Preston house where you are expected for supper and Arthur will make sure you arrive safely at the hotel later this evening. Richard and I have a bit of investigating to do. We will meet you at the hotel and fill you in on what we find.”
Reluctantly, Nettie agreed to the plan. She didn't want Oscar worrying about her so she did as he asked.
The children were relieved their mama was going to be well taken care of. Polly spoke privately with the older children. Their house would have to be sold to pay for their mother's room and care. Oscar Crowley had set up a trust fund for Alice but Polly refused to allow him to shoulder the expense of caring for her mother. The children were all in agreement. The house had been filled with nothing but unpleasant memories for several years. They were happy they would be able to stay with the Prestons.
Oscar told his sons everything he could remember about his time in Greensboro. His first stop was to the Preston house. He was assured the children were happy living with Gladys and Arthur. One by one the children all arrived home from school. They had all put on weight since Polly's wedding just a couple of weeks ago. It was obvious they were being well taken care of. While Oscar was there Danny Mackenzie came calling for Gretchen. It was unmistakable the boy was smitten and Gretchen couldn't keep the smile off her face. Oscar was happy for her. She couldn't ask for a nicer family to be a part of. Gladys said she was was worried about Alice. She had been to see her just yesterday. The woman just sits in the waiting room until the nurse tells her it's time to visit with Marlin. She doesn't seem to be aware of her surroundings. Gladys mentioned the home in town. I would much rather see her in a place like that rather than an asylum. I have spoken with the director and she said they have had people like Alice and with time they have been able to come back to the living. Oscar's next stop was to the hospital. He sat with Alice for a while but she didn't respond to him. There were many people in and out of the area but he did remember seeing a disheveled looking gentlemen entering Marlin's room. The man didn't stay for long and had his head turned but Oscar recalled seeing that face somewhere before. He'd left his carriage in front of the hospital. He remembered the valet telling him a gentleman was getting very close to his carriage and he approached the man and asked if he could help him. He told him no, he was just admiring the carriage. When he described him, Oscar thought it sounded very much like the fellow he had seen coming out of Marlin's room. He left to tour the home that had been recommended for Alice and spoke with the director and caregivers. He met Cody Hill who had just finished his classes at the university for an early supper and then left for home.
The sheriff was much more cooperative than the district attorney. He told the Crowleys a messenger had dropped off an envelope with a torn piece of paper in it with the words. Oscar Crowley is a killer. Look in his carriage. We had to investigate because it was a known fact that your father was in the hospital just before Marlin Cooper was found stabbed to death. Sheriff Daniels thought the whole thing seemed fishy but the DA insisted we go after Oscar.
The Crowleys examined the paper and determined it had probably come from butcher paper that was used to cover tables in some of the less than desirable watering holes. They knew Marlin had frequented Shaky's Bar and headed there to see if they could find any evidence of the torn paper.
The lights were dim in the dingy little bar. The Crowley brothers realized they were out of place in their natty suits and overcoats. All heads turned when the two men walked through the doors.
“What can I get ya?” the bartender grumbled.
“A couple of beers and a little information” Richard said “Our old man is in jail accused of murdering Marlin Cooper. Anybody in here know anything about that?”
A squirrely little man started toward the back door. Robert went after him and caught him by the collar of his frayed jacket.
“Come on pal. Let me buy you a drink. Come sit down with my brother and me. We want to ask you a few questions.”
“Hey, stop disturbing the customers. If your father did off Marlin Cooper he should be given a medal. Benjy, tell these blokes to leave you alone.”
Benjy felt his knees go weak. A drink sounded awfully good and with these guys buyin' he was gonna get himself a double shot of the best bourbon in the joint.
“Don't know nothin' about no murder but I'll take that drink.”
After Benjy downed the drink in one swallow Richard said “Tasted pretty good huh Benjy? How would you like another?”
Benjy nodded his head and thought he must have died and gone to heaven.
“We'll get you another one Benjy as soon as you tell us what you know about Marlin Cooper and how he died.”
Benjy thought for a minute. It really wasn't his fault Marlin was dead. It was self defense after all. His mouth was watering for another shot, this time he'd order a triple.
“I'll tell ya what happened. Marlin is a pal of mine. We were in the pokey together. They said I was a vagrant just because I was sleepin' in the alley. I'm no vagrant. I have a home. I was just too tired to walk there that night. Marlin was madder than a pistol when he was in that jail cell. He said he was goin' to go to some little town down the road and wring the neck of somebody named Polly. Then he said he'd do the same thing to Oscar Crowley. I remembered a fellow named Oscar Crowley. He was a friend of Judge Martin. I like the judge. He always put two bits in my hat when I was just sitting and resting by the court house. I used to see him with Oscar Crowley too. I knew Mr. Crowley because of the time I had a really awful belly ache. Mr. Crowley stopped when he saw me and asked if he could help. Everybody else just passed me by. Mr. Crowley took me to the hospital and they fixed me up good. This pretty little nurse told me Mr. Crowley paid the doctor to help me feel better. Now I'm feelin' kinda low 'cause of what I did. He didn't deserve to be blamed for Marlin bein' dead.
When I got outta the pokey a few days later I went to see Marlin. I thought he was my friend but boy was I wrong there. He gave me a knife that he had swiped from somewhere. It wasn't a very big knife so I guess he could hide it pretty easy. He said the nurse told him Oscar Crowley was out in the visitor's room with his wife. He said he was tired of the woman 'cause she was always cryin' about somethin'. He told me to go out there and stick the knife into his wife's heart and then yell that Mr. Crowley killed her. Oh yeah I was suppose to hide the knife in the sofa. I told Marlin I ain't never killed nobody before and I didn't want to do it. He started yellin' at me and called me all kinds a names and then he started laughin' at me sayin' I was a yellow bellied coward. I just wanted him to stop. My paw always called me a coward just before he took his belt to me. I had that knife in my hand and before I knew what was happening, I had shoved that knife deep into Marlin Cooper's belly. I'll never forget the look on his face when he realized I wasn't a coward after all.
I walked out of the hospital and saw a swell lookin' carriage there. The doorman asked what I was doin' near Mr. Crowley's carriage. It was like I wasn't good enough to stand by a fancy carriage. When he turned his head I stuck the knife in between the seats. When I got here to Shaky's, I started wonderin' if maybe somebody saw me in Marlin's room. That was when I wrote that note about Mr. Crowley bein' a murderer.”
Robert brought the anticipated shot of bourbon to Benjy. “It's a triple, just like you wanted Benjy.” It would be the last drop of bourbon Benjy would enjoy for a long, long time.
After telling the sheriff his story, Oscar was released immediately. On his way out of the jail, he told Benjy he would arrange to have one of his friends represent him. Oscar knew what kind of a man Marlin Cooper could be and that he was capable of angering someone to the point of murder. He knew he would be sentenced to a prison term but a good defense lawyer should be able to shorten the term. He also was hopeful Benjy would be able to get some help with his drinking problem. He really wasn't a bad guy.
Arthur Preston walked Nettie and Polly through the doors of the hotel. They looked up to see Oscar waiting for them with his arms wide open.
Polly listened silently as Oscar repeated Benjy's confession to the murder of her father, Marlin Cooper. Tears were streaming down her cheeks at the thought of her father's intent to kill her mother. She knew he was an evil man but this was too much even for him.
“I can't believe Paw would go so far as to have my mama killed.”
Oscar put his arm around her. “Polly dear, it's true your paw was not a kind man by any stretch of the imagination but from what the doctors told Robert and Richard he was also a very sick man. There was nothing that could be done for him to make him well. The medicine he was given to relieve the pain most likely affected his reasoning. Since he considered me the enemy and heard that I was with your mama he thought of her as the enemy too.”
Polly cried in Nettie's arms. She cried for her father who she hoped had found the peace in death that he never had in life. She cried for her mother who lost her spirit but with the help she would be getting had a chance to find it again. She cried for her siblings who lost one set of parents but had a chance for a full and happy life thanks to the Prestons. She then thought of her new husband Randy and her precious Faith and the love she felt from these two wonderful people who sat beside her. The tears stopped and she was able to smile again.
The next morning after a brief stop at the Preston household to say goodbye to the children, the group headed towards Camden Corners. It would be so good to be home.
Oscar's incarceration had been the talk of the town and everyone was relieved when he arrived back home
Josie Blackburn's editorial was a demand for the firing of the district attorney. She talked about the vendetta he had against Oscar and how he'd forced the sheriff to arrest an innocent man. Anyone who knew Oscar Crowley knew he would never commit murder and even if he did he wouldn't be dumb enough to hide the murder weapon in his own carriage. Arthur Preston reprinted Josie's editorial in the Greensboro News and the following week it was announced that the mayor had appointed a new district attorney.