tagNovels and NovellasBen & Nancy Ch. 16

Ben & Nancy Ch. 16

byD.C. Roi©

Passion in James County XV: Ben and Nancy

Ben was wakened by early the next morning someone pounding on his apartment door. He had a lot of papers to read and some tests to correct, and had to do all of it after Marya left, so it was late before he finished what he had to do and got to bed. Bleary-eyed, he looked at his clock. When he finally managed to get his eyes to focus, he saw that it was five a.m.

"Who the hell is that at this hour?" he muttered as he got out of bed, slipped on his bathrobe, and stumbled to his front door.

He opened the door and found two men, wearing sweatshirts, jeans, and dark jackets standing there. White letters across the sweatshirt of one man said, "SHERIFF." One of the men held up something. He peered at it and, as his eyes focused, he realized it was a leather case holding a shiny gold star.

"Sheriff's department," the man said. "I'm Sheriff Martin, this is Lt. Jackman. Are you Benjamin Morris?"

"Ah...yes...yes I am," Ben replied. He was still half-asleep, but was waking up fast. "What...what is this all about?"

"May we come in, Mr. Morris?" the second man asked. "We have some questions we need to ask you."

"Ah...sure, come on in," Ben said. He walked into the living room and sat down on his sofa. Why were the police here at this hour? What was wrong?

The man who'd identified himself as Sheriff Martin sat down on Ben's recliner. The other man moved next to the sofa and stood there, looking down at Ben with undisguised anger and contempt in his eyes. Ben had no idea what he'd done to make this man, who he didn't know, angry with him.

"Mr. Morris, before we ask you any questions, I think it's best if I advise you of your rights," the sheriff said. He read the Miranda warning from a card he took from his pocket. "Do you understand these rights as I've explained them, Mr. Morris?" the sheriff asked when he finished.

A knot of fear tightened in Ben's belly. "Yes...of...of course I do," he said. What did they think he'd done? What was this all about?

"Would you like to have an attorney present, Mr. Morris?" the sheriff asked.

Ben shook his head. Why did he need a lawyer? He hadn't done anything. "No, of course not," he replied. He was fully awake now. "I haven't done anything, why would I need an attorney?" He didn't understand why the man standing next to him gave a derisive snort when he said that.

"Mr. Morris, do you know a young woman named Latricia Wilkins?" the sheriff asked.

"I..." Ben stammered. At first he didn't recognize the name, then he realized they were talking about Trish. "Yes, she's one of my students. She also works on the school newspaper. I...I'm the advisor for the paper."

"When was the last time you saw her?" the sheriff continued.

"Yesterday," Ben said. He was growing more and more confused, and scared, by the second. Why were the police there this early in the morning, asking him about Trish? "I have her in one class, and she was in the newspaper office later, working on an article." He looked from the sheriff to the other man. "What is this all about? Did something happen to Trish?"

"Why don't you tell us?" the man standing next to him, Lt. Jackman, said. His voice was low and threatening.

Ben shrank back away from the man and looked at the sheriff. "What is this all about?" he asked. "Why are you here?"

"Mr. Morris, what time did you leave school yesterday?" the sheriff asked.

"I...I left right after close of school," Ben said. "I...I..." He started to tell them that he'd met Marya here at his house and that they had spent the evening together, but he decided against doing that. There wasn't any point in causing Marya trouble by implicating her in whatever it was the police were here about. After all, he hadn't done anything, why should he mess up Marya's life over a misunderstanding? He was sure this was a mistake and would be cleared up quickly. And he had promised Marya he would never tell anyone about them.

"You what, Mr. Morris?" the sheriff asked.

"I...I came home and spent the evening correcting papers," Ben said. "I...I had some tests to correct and some essays to read. Actually, I was up quite late doing that."

"Is there anyone who can verify that?" the sheriff continued.

"Ah...no...no, I was here alone, all by myself," Ben replied. "What is this all about?"

"Latricia Wilkins was raped and beaten almost to death in the newspaper office at school last night," the sheriff said.

Shock caused Ben's insides to turn cold. "Oh my God! Is...is she all right?" he asked.

"She's in the hospital, in a coma, in critical condition," Tim said.

"Will...will she be all right?" Ben asked.

"They told us there's less than a a fifty-fifty chance she'll survive," the sheriff said.

Then, suddenly, realization of why the officers were there swept through Ben's brain. "You...you think I did it, don't you?" he stammered. "You believe I did that horrible thing to Trish."

"I think you better come with us, Mr. Morris," the sheriff said. "We need to talk some more and I think it's best if we do that at the Sheriff's office."

"Can...can I get dressed, first?" Ben asked. "I...I'd rather not go down there in my robe."

"I don't see why not," the sheriff said. "But Lt. Jackman will have to go with you while you get changed."

"OK," Ben said. He got up and, with the scowling officer following him, went into his bedroom and slipped into his sweat suit and sneakers. Once he was dressed, he went back out to the living room where the sheriff was waiting.

"Mr. Morris," the sheriff said, "Will you give me permission to have my crime scene specialists search your apartment and car?"

"Of...of course," Ben replied. "I...I have nothing to hide."

"Would you please sign this form stating you gave us permission for a search?" the sheriff asked. He handed Ben a clipboard and pen.

His hands trembling, Ben signed the document and handed it back to the sheriff.

"Thank you, Mr. Morris," the sheriff said. "Now, if you don't mind, would you please turn around and interlace your fingers on top of your head?"

"Why?" Ben asked.

"Just do what the sheriff says, asshole!" Tim barked.

"Please, Mr. Morris, it's just a formality," the sheriff said. "Our insurance carrier insists that all prisoners we transport be in restraints."

"Does that mean...am...am I under arrest?" Ben asked. His legs were trembling so hard he feared he'd fall.

"Yes, I'm afraid you are, Mr. Morris," the sheriff said. "Now, would you please put your hands on your head?"

Ben did as he was told.

Tim, showing no kindness, snapped handcuffs on the man's left wrist, then he pulled it down and jammed it up into the middle of the teacher's back. He pulled Ben's other arm down, and fastened the other handcuff on that wrist. "Let's go," he said, shoving Ben toward the door.

When Ben emerged from his apartment, he was stunned to see four police cars, and a van with police markings, parked in front of the building.

A crowd had formed and people stared at him as the sheriff and his deputy led him to an unmarked car and put him in the back seat. The two officers got in the front seat, started the car, and Ben looked out helplessly as the car started down the street.

When they reached the sheriff's office, Ben was ushered into a room that held only a plain metal table a few chairs, and had a steel bench along the wall. A pipe was fastened to the wall above the bench.

"Have a seat," Tim said.

Ben sat down and Tim unlocked one handcuff, removed it from his wrist, and clicked it over the pipe.

Tim stood up and looked at the man chained to the bench. He'd seen the victim, knew how much damage had been done to her, and was as angry as he'd ever been in his life. This guy was going to do serious jail time! "Make yourself comfortable," he said sarcastically. "We'll be in to talk with you in a while."

Ben had never been more scared, or uncomfortable, in his life. "This has to be a bad dream," he told himself. "Any minute now, I'll wake up."

After he had spent what felt like hours staring at the room's bare pale green cement block wall, the door opened. The sheriff and a rather severe-looking woman in a brown business suit who had a manila envelope in her hand, entered the room. Ben found that he felt relieved to have company, even if it was the officers who'd put him here in the first place. Now, maybe, he'd be able to get this straightened out.

"This is Sergeant Marilyn Dewars, Mr. Morris," the sheriff said. "She heads up our sex crimes unit. We have more questions to ask you."

The woman laid the manila envelope on the table, then she and the sheriff sat down.

"Mr. Morris," Sgt. Dewars asked, "I know I'm probably asking you some of the same questions the sheriff asked you, but would you mind telling me again what time you left school yesterday?"

"I...I told the...the sheriff," Ben replied. "I...I left shortly after close of school."

"Did you see or talk to anyone while you were on your way out, or did anyone see you?" the sergeant continued. "Is there someone you know of who could confirm the time you left school?"

"I...I have no idea," Ben replied. "I...I saw some people as I was leaving, but it I'm not sure exactly who, or if they saw me."

"And you drove straight home?" she asked.

"Yes, of course," Ben said.

"What route do you take?" the sheriff asked.

Ben told him the route he normally used to go to and from school. "I...I go that way every day. It's the shortest route," he babbled, unable to keep quiet.

"Did you see anyone, or did anyone see you when you got home?" Sgt. Dewars asked. "Did you happen to talk to any of your neighbors, or anyone else?"

"I didn't talk to anyone," Ben said. "I suppose somebody could have seen me arriving home. I didn't notice anyone when I got home, at least not that I can remember."

"And you spent the night at home, alone, correcting papers, is that correct?" the sergeant inquired.

"Yes," Ben said. "Like I told the sheriff, I had a lot of work to get finished and..."

"Are you sure about that, Mr. Morris?" the female detective asked, her face hardening. "Are you sure what you've told us so far is what you did?"

"Of course I am!" Ben said. "I did exactly what I told you. I left school shortly after closing, went home, and corrected papers."

Sergeant Dewars turned around, picked up the manila envelope, and dumped the contents on the table.

Ben stared at what lay on the table, his heart pounding. It was a pair of torn women's panties. Marya's panties. He'd ripped them off her when they started making love the night before. They had both had forgotten about them.

"Well, Mr. Morris?" Sgt. Dewars said. "You're a bachelor, you live alone, and you say you were home alone all last night."

"The thing is, Mr. Morris..." the sheriff said, picking up where his deputy left off, "...those panties show signs of being, ah, occupied fairly recently. If you're planning to tell us they've been lying under your bed for months, don't. We know better, and we can prove it."

Ben continued to stare at the pile of torn white cloth on the table. All he had to do was tell them who the panties belonged to and he'd be off the hook. But he was innocent, and if he told them about Marya, her affair with him would be exposed, which could put her marriage in jeopardy. When Trish got better, she'd tell them he wasn't the one who did it, and he'd be off the hook.

"Mr. Morris, I'm waiting for your answer," Sgt. Dewars said, her voice growing impatient.

"I...I guess one...one of my lady friends must have...forgotten them," Ben stammered. "I..."

"Mr. Morris, why don't you listen to what the sheriff is saying and stop lying to us?" Sgt. Dewars said. "We know those panties were on somebody yesterday. Our lab can prove that."

"Mr. Morris, let me tell you what we have on you," the sheriff said, all traces of politeness gone from his voice. "We have a victim who may or may not live because she was raped and beaten nearly to death. A girl whose panties are missing. We have a guy who can't account for his whereabouts during the time that vicious attack happened. A guy who just happens to have a pair of torn women's panties stashed under his bed and who is lying through his teeth about how they got there and probably a whole lot more."

The sheriff paused to let what he'd told Ben sink in. "Oh, yes, there is one more thing, Mr. Morris," he said. "We have a witness who heard the victim identify the person who raped and beat her."

"You...you do?" Ben choked. It couldn't be, Trish wouldn't have done that to him!

"Before she lost consciousness because she'd been beaten so badly her parents couldn't recognize her..." Sgt. Dewars said, "...the victim told the school janitor that you were the person who did it to her."

Ben felt as if he was going to faint. That couldn't be true! Why would Trish say that about him?

"Now, Mr. Morris," Sgt. Dewars said, "is there anything you'd like to say?"

"I...I want a lawyer," Ben said. "I...I need a lawyer."

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