Saturday, June 13, 2020

Llewellyn Hanson- Dead Detective- Chapter 19

Move over Poirot, a new detective is here - columns - Hindustan Times

Here is the Link to the Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16, Chapter 17, and Chapter 18

The next morning, Hanson and Trout sat waiting in Chief Grassly’s office.

“How does this all work?” Trout asked.

“Once they have a judge and a location, the chief will get us. After he ports us to the spot, you are free to get Caden and bring him back to the courtroom. Then the trial will begin.”

“Is it like trials on the other side?”

“What do you think?” Hanson asked.

“No.”

“You’re right. I mean there is a judge, but court over here is much more an open conversation and takes as much or little time as needed. I have seen whole cases start and finish in five minutes and I had one last three weeks without a break. But just like back home, the judge runs everything, and just as the judges on the other side have certain powers and authorities, so do the judges over here.”

The explanation was barely finished when the Chief ported in. He had hardly appeared when Hanson asked, “Who’d we get?”

“Sherman. Not that it matters,” the chief replied.

“Sherman! Not Sherman!” Hanson bemoaned.

“Who’s Sherman?” Trout asked.

“She’s the judge,” Grassly answered. “Hanson and her don’t always see eye to eye. He finds her a bit lenient at times.”

“A bit!?” Hanson cried out.

“We better get going,” the chief said, and seconds later they were in the courtroom.

However, Trout would not have called it a courtroom. He would have more likely guessed it was a room for a group therapy session. It was a fairly large room with a circle of chairs. There were two people already sitting in the circle. One stood and walked to them. “Welcome, welcome, I am Judge Sherman.” She was a kind, older woman. Trout was shocked that Hanson could say anything bad about this woman, she seemed so inherently kind.

Hanson leaned towards Trout, “Go get Caden. I’ll tell the judge where you are.”

Trout appeared in the living room where Caden sat jovially speaking with the Worthlins. “Oh, hi Trout. Is it time for the trial?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” Trout said he wasn’t sure how quickly he was expected back and didn’t want to hold up the trial.

“Can the Worthlin’s come?”

“Um…” Trout had no idea if they would be allowed. “I guess so...?” While it was a bit awkward, Trout asked that they all put a hand on him and a second later they were back in the courtroom.

“Oh, a few guests, how nice. Good thing we have a few extra chairs,” said Judge Sherman excitedly. They headed into the circle and sat down. Trout, who sat next to Hanson whispered, “Who is the other lady?”

“Reviewing judge,” Hanson replied. “They always have two. One runs the show and the other reviews and watches. The second won’t speak.”

“Welcome everyone.” Judge Sherman began. “Well Hanson, before we do official introductions why don’t you tell us why we have all gathered here today.”

“Thank you, your honor.”

“Oh, Hanson, you can call me Jill. You know that.”

Hanson had warned Trout that the court was different, but he was still ill-prepared for just how different the atmosphere was.

“Thank you Jill,” Hanson started over “I have called us together because Stacy Wall directly influenced Jim Gillman to kill Caden Mason, and I believe if actions are not taken she will continue to influence others in an attempt to destroy the lives of others.”

As Hanson mentioned Stacy, the Worthlin’s gasped slightly. Clearly they, unlike Caden, had heard of her.

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. Before the case begins we will invite Mrs. Stacy Wall to join us.” The Judge said.

Instantly Stacy appeared in one of the empty seats next to the judge. She looked shocked and then almost instantly angry. Anger was clearly the predominant feature in her eyes. One by one, she took an inventory of who was there while she looked around the room.

“Stacy, I’m Judge Jill Sherman, but you are welcome to call me Jill. I believed you were informed yesterday that you had been asked to appear.”

“And I told them no,” Stacy interrupted.

“I do understand that it is not always convenient, but we are glad you made the time to be here.”

“I was forced.”

“That may be true, but I appreciate you being here regardless. Let’s begin by introducing ourselves. I already introduced myself, next to me is our review judge, Judge Jane Bolin. As a reviewer she is here to ensure I operate this court in accordance with policy. She will not speak. Let’s go around the room. Tell me who you are and why you are here.”

The Worthlins went first, after saying who they were, added, “The deceased is our son-in-law and we were curious about the process.”

“Thank you, but we’re all deceased here. I assume you mean Caden is your son-in-law.” The judge said.

“That’s correct.”

“Thank you for coming.”

Next, Caden stood up, “So, I’m Caden Mason and I was killed recently. I guess that’s why we are here. I have no idea who Stacy is. So listen judge, this detective guy is okay,” he pointed to Hanson. “But he’s done some weird stuff the last few days. I’m not sure he knows what he is doing when it comes to this Stacy lady.”

Hanson, as usual, was not happy to have Caden along, but restrained himself from reaching over and porting him out of the room.

“Thank you Caden, I’ll keep that in mind. I’m glad to see you appear well. Death been okay?”

“Oh yeah, I’m fine, takes some getting used to but it’s been overall okay. Honestly, Detective Trout has been a huge help. He showed me how to get around with your magic, which is helpful. In fact, you want to hear something rather funny, Judge?”

Hanson shook his head and buried his face in his hands as Judge Sherman said, “You can call me Jill and I’d love to hear something funny.”

“Well, in some ways my family’s better off with me dead, and I mean it. Last night my brother-in-law and his daughter stayed in my home, something I would have never allowed when I was alive.” Then he recalled that Tom had been sneaking into his home. “At least not knowingly, and I realized I was being dumb - plain old dumb about it. I think there has been a lot of healing.”

Stacy squirmed and rage filled her face as Caden spoke, something the judge seemed to ignore. “I’m very glad to hear it, and very mature of you to recognize it.”

Stacy’s fists were clenched and she began to visibly shake as Jill turned to her, “I am sorry Stacy, but porting out of here is not possible, so you can stop trying.”

“Then I’m leaving,” she yelled. Trout had no concept of exactly where they were. There were some windows but they were high above eye level and while light was streaming in, it was impossible to see anything out of them.There was only one door into the room and it was toward that door that Stacy now headed. Once she made it to the door she yelled, “I demand you open this door!”

The judge walked over to Stacy, and in a soft voice said, “Stacy, I know you don’t want to be here but it will be easier for you and all of us if we all work together. Can you come back and sit in your seat?”

“No.”

“Very well,” The judge walked back to her chair, “Go on,” she said, gesturing for Chief Grassly who was next to introduce himself. He, Trout and Hanson all introduced themselves, briefly stating who they were.

The only one left was Stacy, who now sat in the fetal position on the floor by the door. She had her hands over her ears, which was purely symbolic because doing so had almost no effect in limiting what she heard. “Stacy would you like to introduce yourself?” the judge asked.

Silence prevailed, so the judge continued, “Very well.”

“Stacy, we are here because Hanson has accused you of influencing Jim Gillman to commit murder. It is our job to work together to come to an understanding of the facts of what happened. If we cannot agree, it’s left to my judgement as to what happened and what to do about it. Stacy, we’d rather proceed with your involvement but we will proceed either way. The silence continued.

“Hanson, what do you believe occured?”

“Thank you Jill,” he said as he stood. Hanson went to the middle of the circle and turned his focus directly to the judge. Some people are said to have presence and Trout couldn’t say why, but Hanson had it now. The focus was on him and he spoke without a hint of embarrassment or fear. He conveyed confidence and authority. And while he was never unsure of himself, this was something more. Clearly he was no stranger to the courtroom. “About six years ago Thomas Worthlin did a horrible thing. In a fit of rage and sorrow he took Daisy’s vehicle to find his wife who had run out on him. He discovered her in the arms of another man. He quickly left in even greater rage, seeking comfort from the only place he knew where to find it, a needle full of heroin. High as he could afford to get himself, he got behind the wheel of Daisy Mason’s Toyota Camry to get back home. At the intersection of Branch and Loos in Hartford, Wisconsin, he ran a red light, T-boning a Nissan Leaf being driven by a 19-year-old, Trish Wall. She died instantly.” The Worthlins were crying. The story still came with a certain amount of pain to them.

“It was at that intersection, only a few days ago, that I realized where I had seen Stacy, who is with us today. Oh, I had seen her at several places related to this case, but that is where I had seen her the first time. It was a picture of a grieving mother at that intersection laying a cross on the side of the road for her daughter. That grieving mother, Stacy Wall, was and still is, devastated.

“Tom pled guilty to manslaughter and was given 7 years. Stacy was outraged, she demanded that the penalty was a mere slap on the wrist. And while Tom was rotting in jail, Stacy began to see her life fall apart. Her bitterness was overwhelming and when her husband begged her to get help, she angrily decided he did not understand. Her marriage and her health deteriorated, and three years to the very day of the incident she died.

“First she was happy to be reunited with her daughter, but soon grew disappointed that her daughter was so forgiving of the fact that her life had been taken from her so early. Her daughter had done what she couldn’t - she moved on. The bitterness became rekindled and as it grew, so did the distance between her and her daughter. She blamed Tom and the person who had given him the weapon to kill her daughter, Daisy. When he was released after serving only five years for good behavior, she was ready. She came up with a plot to rob the two people she blamed for her daughter’s death of the things they loved most. For Tom, it was being with his daughter and for Daisy it was her husband Caden. In order for her to find a way, she needed someone easily influenced who would be willing to do her dirty work. She quickly focused on Jim Gillman. His lavish lifestyle left him deeply in debt and greedy for opportunities to enrich himself. It took some work, but she was able to help him land the CEO job at Canine Hope, an organization the Mason’s were already associated with. That set up Jim to be the perfect accomplice.

Suddenly Stacy jumped up and began to yell, “It’s not true!” as she walked towards the circle, “It’s a lie, he lies!”

“Stacy, thanks for joining us. Can you tell me what portion of what Detective Hanson has said is a lie?” the judge asked in a calm tone that was in perfect contrast to the emotions Stacy displayed.

“All of it, every word!” She yelled.

“Stacy, I’m afraid I need you to be more specific.” The judge replied.

“Why should I be? Let me out of here!”

“Stacy, I need you to calm down and not yell.” The Judge kept her calm.

“I will not calm down. Nor will I listen anymore. This system is ridiculous!”

“I will ask one more time. Please calm down.”

“No. I will not! If I need to I will keep yelling until this is over, or you let me out. I don’t need to be subjected…”

Suddenly Stacy ported next to the judge and while it appeared she was still yelling, no one could hear her. She stood and tried to go back to the corner she had been in but an invisible box constrained her to stay where she was. The constraint did not diminish her anger, but despite every visible sign of yelling, silence prevailed.

Trout was in awe. When alive he would have given half his income to have the ability to do that with his children.

“Continue, Hanson,” requested the Judge.

“Once it was clear that Jim would be her accomplice, Stacy began to work on motive. In order for her to be able to influence Jim, she needed Jim to have an incentive. The easy connection was for the Masons to leave money in their will for Canine Hope. After all, it was an organization they believed in deeply but despite her consistent prodings they would only leave token amounts. Caden, as you recall, you told me, ‘we felt the need and prodding to give more, and several times adjusted our will to give ten or twenty thousand dollars.’ But despite a large nest egg, Caden wanted his wife to be secure upon his death. Stacy needed the Masons to first, feel they were each separately secure without the other and second, to get a large sum that would finally make them feel set for life. The obvious solution came clear. The Worthlins needed to die.”

Mr. and Mrs. Worthlin looked at each other in shock. The idea that someone had orchestrated their deaths had never crossed their mind and even as they heard this theory they questioned its validity.

Hanson continued, “This solution was almost perfect. The Worthlins would bring sorrow to Daisy and Tom, it would cause a windfall for Daisy, and give her the security she needed. Tom had been in prison for almost five years and the thought of his mother dying before he was freed made her cold heart warm. But in that, there was one snag because Tom had been in jail for five years, and that was five years of sobriety. He was determined to stay that way for his daughter, Riley. Of course, Stacy would do all in her power to ensure he did go back to drugs but what if he had the strength to stay clean? Also, if the Worthlins died one-half of all they had would go to Tom. Not only would that diminish Daisy’s windfall but Tom would leave prison a wealthy man. He could afford to move out of the slums, where temptation and access to drugs was plentiful. His life might actually be good. That was something Stacy could not risk. So, before she could take care of the Worthlins she needed them to change their will. She began telling them daily, ‘No drug addict can handle that money. He’s only been sober because he’s been in prison. He needs to prove himself while he’s free.’

“And as she pressed these thoughts daily, the Worthlins contemplated giving Tom less and less, with more and more constraints.” Barbara began to cry and Stilton resolutely looked directly forward but his expression betrayed his thoughts. Both knew Hanson spoke the truth, but they were not angry at Stacy. Rather they felt remorse that they had listened to her promptings. Both felt that reducing Tom’s inheritance was wrong but couldn’t shake the feeling that they needed to. Now they knew why.

“A week after meeting with their solicitor to change their will, they were dead.”

The judge looked to Barbara who simply nodded. Hanson pressed on. “Killed by a drunk driver. When I met you, Mr. Worthlin, you called it poetic justice, yet it was actually planned, planned justice, or at least Stacy Wall’s form of justice. From the moment the ink dried on the updated will she became 100% dedicated to finding people under the influence and using them. Those with impared mental faculties are far easier to encourage and she didn’t need to convince them to kill you, just to get behind the wheel. Where to? Anywhere that would cross your path. The fact that encouraging them to get behind the wheel of a car might destroy or end their lives and the lives of other innocent people didn’t mean anything to her.

“She also likely encouraged you to spend more time on the road,” he said turning to the Worthlins. “Simple things: grocery runs, to the hardware store, sudden thoughts that it has been awhile since you went to the beach. Where were you going on the night you were killed?”

A courtroom of eyes turned to the Worthlins. The Worthlins turned to each other. Barbara was trying to gather the fragments of emotions that lay around her, at least enough to speak, “We were on our way home from the theater. It had been years since we went. The drive was longer than we generally took but I wanted to see, ‘A Street Car Named Desire.’ While it wasn’t something I’d usually thought of, I had several people tell me how good it was. A stranger in the line in the supermarket even mentioned it...” She trailed off, overcome by emotions. The thought that she allowed herself to be manipulated and it led to her grave left her wondering how much of her life was hers at all.

Hanson hated to cause distress but was tasked with bringing truth to light and continued. “While Stacy was pleased that her plan was progressing, her bliss was short lived. Bill Stoleman, the driver she had convinced onto the road that night was given 20 years for gross vehicular manslaughter. A sentence almost three times harsher than what Tom received for the death of her daughter.”

Everyone could tell Hanson was getting to Stacy. She had given up trying to end the proceeding by screaming, now with a deep scowl and stare she fixated on Hanson. Her internal suffering and pain was only overshadowed by her desire for Hanson to feel the same. Everyone felt the truth in what Hanson said, especially Stacy as he went on, “She felt it diminished her daughter's life. Why did Bill receive a worse sentence than Tom? Were the Worthlins of more value than her daughter? Her rage only accelerated her plan.

“With the inheritance going to Daisy, combined with the constant prodding from Stacy, it was only a few weeks before Caden and Daisy adjusted their wills. And after one more week Tom was out again. He had his daughter back but little else. Stacy saw to that. She worked double time to remind any potential employer that Tom couldn’t be trusted. Likewise, she kept working on Caden to ensure the rift in the family remained strong. But she knew Daisy couldn’t be turned against Tom. Daisy had failed to stop him from using her car that fateful night and her failure to say no this time would be her downfall. With Tom desperate for any work, she began to prompt Jim at Canine Hope to hire him. Why? It was perfect, she told him. Not only was he cheap skilled labor, something that appealed to Jim, he lived far enough away that he would need to stay somewhere closer, especially if he was forced to work late. Jim could ensure that would happen. Given the distance, he’d be violating his parole every time he went to work, an extra bonus just in case she needed it.

“As planned, a job was offered and accepted, Tom tried to make the commute work but constantly asked to stay late and come early and eventually he did what Stacy knew he would do; He asked Daisy if he could stay at her home at night. Daisy knew how hard it was for a felon to get work and decided to allow it, but didn’t think Caden would feel the same way. She worked out a deal that allowed Tom to come in through the doggy door late and leave the same way early. And to ensure Caden didn’t awake, she began giving him sleep medication. The dishonesty made her uncomfortable and she began to be more distant from her husband, but never told him. So, the secret was safe for a time but eventually Tom told Jim. Why? I’m not sure. Jim, likely at Stacy’s prompting, asked him where he was staying and if there was anything he could do to help. And Tom admitted he was at Daisy’s and must have told him about the peculiar relationship with Caden and thus the need to use the doggy door.

“The trap was laid. Stacy correctly guessed it was only a matter of time before Jim would be desperate for money, and she made sure to plant the obvious solution, have Canine Hope, the charity from which he was busily embezzling money, cash in on the Mason’s inheritance.

“But first the Mason’s two dalmations, who stood watch at the home, had to go. That part was simple, a night when Tom was forced to stay late he’d stop by the Mason’s and throw poison-laced dog treats over the fence. At least that was the plan until an email from Rebecca, a few days before the plan was put into action. That email said she was looking for a dalmatian. He knew the dog of her dreams would open up the purse strings, so why not nab one and poison the other? So he did.

“With the dogs out of the way, it was time for the next move. The plan was simple, Caden visited Canine Hope regularly, signing in at the front desk. This would provide the hand writing sample Jim would need to copy to create the suicide note. He mimicked the handwriting fairly well but like most counterfeits, pressed harder than is natural. Tom was forced to work all night, leaving Jim time to sneak through the doggy door, an easy feat with the dogs gone, then kill Caden and leave the suicide note.

“It was that note that first tipped me off that this was no suicide. I instantly recognized it’s lack of any specificity common to suicides, but something else bothered me that I couldn’t put my finger on.

“The note read: I can’t go on. I have been living a lie. I have cheated on my wife and know she will be devastated. I can’t be without her. So we say goodbye.”

“The last ‘we.’ I guess it could be interpreted that it was Caden saying goodbye to Daisy, but the note is not to Daisy. The note was written for Daisy and Caden to both say goodbye to the world because Jim had planned to kill them both. The problem was Caden.”

Caden noted that the last sentence was delivered with more emphasis, Hanson seemed to enjoy that sentence more than the others.

“Caden had grown leary of his wife’s sleep aides and refused to take them. Perhaps this was even influenced by our good friend Stacy. He heard Jim enter, got his gun and headed downstairs. Jim did not want a confrontation. The plan had been to shoot both at point blank range while they slept and then set the scene of the supposed murder, suicide. As he heard Caden come down the stairs he quickly jumped into the large safe in the corner of the room and waited, waited for time to help Caden drift off to sleep. Once all was quiet, he crept out of the safe and saw Caden on the sofa. The plan to kill both would require him to shoot Caden and then go upstairs to kill Daisy. He had a silencer but what if she heard? With the encouragement of the only other person in the room, he decided one death was enough.

“Stacy liked it better that way. She didn’t want Daisy dead... not yet at least. Rather, she relished the thought of Daisy living through the devastation of her husband’s supposed suicide. Plus, with Daisy alive, if they figured out it wasn’t a suicide they would find out Tom had been going to the home, a convict who hated his brother-in-law. Having him back in jail for murder before she decided to take Daisy and rob him of yet another loved one while he was behind bars, that would be perfect, and she almost got it.

“She had a busy couple of days. Making sure Jim fired Tom as soon as he left Caden’s. Making sure the neighbor regularly shared drugs with Tom, and pointing the police in his direction. I might throw in getting Jim to poison Daisy, but I’m not sure if Stacy helped on that one. Jim may have been on his own by that time. Either way it didn’t work.

“But,” he said, turning to the judge, “as you can see Stacy has consistently used her influence to harm, kill and lead to suffering and I put to the court she should be stopped... indefinitely.”

The judge sat back, looked at Hanson and said, “You have put this together very nicely but, with what evidence?”

For the first time since the trial began Stacy sat up from her sulking position and smiled. She, like everyone in the room, knew that evidence of people influencing others was hard to obtain. After all, physical evidence didn’t exist because physically she didn’t. And therefore physically hadn’t done anything.

But her smile diminished a bit as she turned to Hanson and saw he also smiled.

“Of course, I have extensive circumstantial evidence. Stacy’s clear anger at Tom. The fact that she was always there, at Caden’s on the day of his death, at Tom’s apartment in several cases, and at the police station...but I understand that is only circumstantial. I’d like to call my first and only witness, Trish Wall.”

Stacy’s look was of absolute horror, and for the first time since the judge had confined her, the court heard her speak, “My daughter should not have to come here.”

The judge maintained her calm demeanor and said, “You are correct. She does not have to come but she can choose to. Do you have an objection to hearing her testimony if she chooses to speak?”

The room was silent and after a long pause, Stacy finally said. “Yes.”

“And what is your objection?” questioned the judge.

Again silence owned the moment. And then you could see it. Stacy changed from a cold-hearted and defiant defendant to a mother, “because she’s honest.”

The judge said nothing, allowing the transformation to take place and as it did, Stacy in calm loving tones said, “She’s always been. Honest to a fault. It doesn’t matter who it was or who tried to stop her, she always told the truth. When the other kids in the neighborhood blamed others she’d admit when it was her. I remember the first time she broke a window. She told me right away. I always loved that about her. I loved everything about her. And then that man, that horrible man took it all from me, from her. Stole my chance to be at her wedding, to see her be a mother, and look into my grandkid’s eyes. Those are things I would never experience. So, yes, I believed he should pay. Trish wanted me to move on, to forgive. Somehow she could, but I couldn’t. The justice system in life had failed, so I did my best in death to correct it. I learned we could influence people and as the detective stated, I did. And I told Trish all along what I had done for her. She kept telling me to drop it, which only pulled us further apart, increasing my pain and my need for true justice. Yes, I influenced people but only to get justice for my little girl.” As she closed, tears flowed freely from her face.

“Thank you.” The judge said softly. “I know that is hard to say and I am grateful for your honesty, but just so I am clear, did you encourage Jim Gillman to kill Caden Mason?”

Reluctantly, she nodded.

“Stacy Wall,” The judge spoke softly with a compassionate tone, very different from how Trout was used to hearing a judge pass sentencing. “You have misused your influence in a way that shows disregard for the value of life. Influence is privilege, but for a time you will lose it. For the next five years, you…”

“Five years!” Hanson interrupted, clearly he was not afraid to let his views of the judge’s sentence be known.

The judge looked up at Hanson like a parent who is warning a child not to cross a line. Once she had a clear view right into his eyes she said, “You of all people should know how quickly people can change.” Hanson turned from her gaze. There would be no more outburst from him.

The judge turned back to Stacy. “As I was saying, for the next five years you will be unable to influence the living. This will be a time for you to appreciate how important the opportunity to influence anyone, living or dead is, Stacy.” The judge spoke as if they were the only ones in the room. “You are obviously talented at influencing. Not everyone is. When you get your power back, and you will, I hope you will reconsider using this power for good. You will find there is much healing if you do.” The judge turned to the reviewing judge who sat in complete silence this entire time. They made eye contact and the reviewing judge simply nodded. Judge Sherman looked up and said, “Case adjourned. You are all free to go, but if you are willing I would like to speak to Chief Grassly, Detective Hanson, and then Stacy.”

Trout could hardly believe it. The entire case had opened and shut in less than an hour. It was a whirlwind, and he had so many questions. But before he could ask, Caden and the Worthlins walked up to Hanson and Trout. Caden was the first to speak, “Well thank you, both of you. Even you, Hanson. You not only solved the case, but brought us closer together as a family and we will forever be grateful for that. Thanks.”

“Just doing our job,” Hanson said. It was clear that Hanson would just as soon forgo this part. The group wanted to continue their congratulations, Caden most of all. He wanted to do this by reliving many of the things they had done. He started by telling the Worthlins about the time he found himself jammed in the back seat of Jim’s Corvette. “I recall at that moment telling detective Hanson that there was more to this case than met the eye.”

“Excuse me a moment,” Hanson said as he walked away from the group towards Stacy. She stood, arms folded. Trout wondered what he had to talk to her about. Chief Grassly and the judge were huddled in the back of the room talking. Shortly after Hanson went over to talk to Stacy, the Chief called out to Hanson, “Your turn,” and then ported over behind Trout.

Caden's story clearly was going to go for a long time, Trout hated to be rude but as happy as the moment was he had too many questions not to ask. “Caden, I hate to interrupt but I have to get a few questions straight with my Chief,” he said, gesturing behind him.

“Got it, official business, never a dull moment in the force. Well if you ever need me to solve the case for you and Hanson again, just give me a call.” Caden said with a wink.

“Thanks, Caden.” He turned to the Worthlin’s, “Glad you could both make it.” They acknowledged him and with that ported away, leaving himself and the Chief.

“Did you really have questions or just want to get out of the conversation?” The Chief asked.

“Both.” Trout admitted.

“Okay, ask away.”

“I have so many. First of all, why the nod to that other judge at the end of the trial?”

“That was her validation that Judge Sherman had followed proper protocols and could officially close the trial.”

“I guess that makes sense. Also, there was that moment when Hanson questioned her for sentencing to five years.”

“Yeah, remind me to smack him for that,” the chief said.

“I guess talking back to the judge isn’t any more popular here than on the other side?” Trout asked.

“No, even less so. I’m shocked she didn’t send him to the box.”

“What she put Stacy in?”

“Yes.”

“But that wasn’t my real question. What I am wondering was, she looked at Hanson and said that he of all people should know how quickly people can change. What did she mean?”

“I’m not sure I should be the one to tell you. I mentioned to you that Hanson is the reason we even investigate dead people. I think it is okay for me to tell you that Hanson was involved with the very first trial where we tried someone dead for their part in a murder. And after the trial he was very influential in helping them change, and become a very valued part of society.”

“Hanson was the first one to catch someone influencing living people to murder?”

“Yes, you might say that.”

“What happened?”

“That is not for me to tell. And I’m not sure I would recommend you ask Hanson, but I’ll leave that up to you.”

Trout’s questions were far from answered; in fact the conversation with Chief Grassly brought up more questions than answers. But they would have to wait because Hanson had ported by their side and Stacy began to head over to the judge.

“Shall we head back to my office?” The chief asked. I need to tell you both a few things.

“Sounds good,” Hanson said as he went to put his hand on Trout.

Trout stopped him, “I’ll drive,” he said as he put his hand on Hanson’s shoulder. Hanson rolled his eyes. Just as they were about to port they heard a loud scream come from the direction of the judge and Stacy. Trout turned to see who and why they had screamed but over his shoulder he only saw the wall of Chief Grassly’s office.

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