The countdown continues as the final draft of "Of Murder and Monsters" is nearly finished. At this point the mantra has been "polish, polish, and polish some more" before everything is sent off for final copy editing. Feedback from the kind souls who've volunteered to be beta readers of the current draft has been incredibly helpful. So it looks like everything is on track for the anticipated July 2014 publication date. The book will be released as an e-book. Announcements as to which platforms will be forthcoming. Meanwhile, for those who've asked for a teaser, below is a free excerpt from one of the book's chapters.
It was almost nine-thirty in the evening before I pulled into the parking lot of the Osceola County jail. I wasn't entirely sure why I came back to see her again so soon, especially after a mini-marathon session translating for Mandy after my trial. Yet here I was. Chances were, this meeting would go down the same route it did on Sunday. But I had to try. I needed to know what the hell was going on with this case.
“Why didn't I just go straight home after the damn trial?” I muttered to myself. I shrugged as I grabbed the Keller file and headed towards the jail’s entrance.
Once again I went to where Savannah Keller was being kept. Once again I asked the corrections guard to open up the bean hole so that I could speak with my client. This time, however, I asked the guard to give me a little privacy to speak with my client, and a chair. I reassured her that I wouldn't get too close to the hole and that I’d be careful. She’d still be within earshot, but I was hoping that this time my client would be a bit chattier than last time.
“Ms. Keller?” I called to my client once the guard had left. “You remember me, right? I came to see you yesterday.” I said into the darkened room. Not a sound came from inside of the cell. Savannah didn't moved in response to me or anything I had just said. From what little I could actually see inside of the room, it seemed as though she hadn't moved since the last time I came to visit her.
“Well, let’s try this again. I’m your attorney and, again…my name is Sean Valdez. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot. I came here earlier to talk about trying to get you a bond, so you could get out of jail. You didn't seem like you wanted to talk. I’m guessing it’s because you don’t actually want to get out of jail.” I said and then paused, waiting to see if she stirred like before. When no response came, when no movement or reaction occurred, I decided to press my luck further.
“Most people want to get out of jail as quickly as they can. So they don’t miss work and can keep their jobs. So they don’t lose their home or their belongings. As long as I've been doing this most folks just want to get out of jail ASAP.” I stopped again. It was like a grave in that room. I couldn't even hear her breathe.
“Now other clients of mine, the ones that have been around the block, have all sorts of things in place and know the system well enough that they don’t even fool with bonding out until the State decides whether they’re going to file charges. They figure, why waste the money on bond if there’s a chance the State will dump the case. And if the State does pick up charges, they start off with a nice cushion of jail credit in case they have to take a plea deal for jail or prison time. But as far as I know, you don’t have any criminal history, so we both know that’s not what’s going here.” I paused and stared hard into the room, trying to make out anything that would give me a clue as to how this line of dialogue was playing with her. I licked my lips, but instead of saying anything immediately, I just continued to look into the room. I kept my eyes trained to where I thought she would be sitting. It was a staring contest. I just didn't know whether or not my opponent was staring back at me. I don’t know how long I sat there, but I figure it could not have been more than two or three minutes. But I was never a good judge of time. The fact that a five minute translation session turned into a protracted trial strategy session with my trial partner’s client immediately came to mind. I must have looked ridiculous to the guards who were sitting forty feet or so away.
“So I’m thinking you actually don’t want a bond because you don’t want to leave the jail.” I lowered my voice and leaned as close to the bean hole as I dared.
“Maybe that’s because you feel like it’s safer for you to be here. In here, you’re safe from…whoever…out there.” Could that have been a rustle of cloth that I heard? Finally! I was getting somewhere.
“I think that you’re worried about retaliation. You’re worried about someone coming after you. But they can’t get you if you’re in here, can they?” And that was the sales pitch. That was the bait at the end of this hook that I had thrown out there. And if she took it, if Savannah Keller answered that simple question then I would finally have something to work with other than the woman who just sat in her cell without saying a single word.
But when no words came after the first minute, I grew anxious. By the second minute, my frustration had returned. And by the close of the third minute, I was as angry now as I had been earlier today.
“I’m just trying to help you.” The words came as a harsh whisper more to myself than to my quiet client. For the second time I felt as though I had wasted my time on someone who was either incapable of letting me help her, or who simply wouldn't. The pain inside of my head had returned and although I had walked into the jail hungry and looking forward to grabbing some dinner on the way home, eating was now that last thing on my mind.
“You know what? Fine. I’m trying to help you, but…” I stopped myself before I shouted everything that came to my mind in that instant. “I can’t help you if you won’t let me and, frankly….Forget it! Sit in the dark for as long as you like. I got a hundred and forty-seven other people that actually want my help.” My stomach felt like it was trying to dissolve something it couldn't.
“…Can’t save me, and I won’t save you.” The words were whispered, but the power behind them stopped me cold. I had turned my back on the cell and was only a few paces away when I heard those words so clearly. But when I turned back towards the cell, my movements and thinking felt so sluggish.
I don’t remember walking back towards the bean hole of Savannah’s cell. I don’t remember putting one foot in front of the other. I don’t remember dropping the file on the ground. I don’t remember stooping over so that I could look directly inside of the cell through the bean hole. My mind raced as the impact of those words settled upon me.
I stood, or stooped, rather, just inches away from the bean hole. I was as desperate to see something or hear some response from the client as I was to make the steady pounding in my head go away.
“What…what did you just say?” I don’t remember either not seeing or just completely ignoring the yellow line on the floor. Something very basic and very primal screamed at me from the evolutionary pit that my ancestors had clawed out of to back away from the door.
“Step back from the door, PD!” The guard’s voice made me jump back. I looked over at her, angry at the interruption and because of how much her shout had startled me. Before I could say anything to her, the bean hole banged shut.
“How the hell?” I began to ask, turning back to the closed bean hole door.
“That’s why we got the yellow line on the floor, man.” The guard said, as she grabbed the keys from her desk. “Just about any of ‘em can reach out from that door. And it’s worse with the women. Most of them be skinny enough to reach out further than you’d think they could.”
She locked the bean hole and then walked away from me. I didn't argue. I didn't fight it. I was done here tonight. The guard’s act of locking the bean hole merely served to clarify that Savannah was done with our mostly one-sided conversation.