tagNovels and NovellasBen & Nancy Ch. 17

Ben & Nancy Ch. 17

byD.C. Roi©

Passion in James County XV: Ben and Nancy

Nancy was making breakfast when her daughter, tears streaming down her cheeks, burst into the kitchen. "Mom! You...you aren't going to...to believe what I...I just...just heard on...on the...radio!" Dawn sobbed.

Nancy asked gathered her sobbing daughter into her arms. "What is it, Honey?" she asked. "What did you hear that has you so upset?"

"They...they...they said...a...a girl...was...was beaten and raped at school...yesterday..." Dawn sobbed.

"My God!" Nancy whispered. "Did they say who it was? Did they catch the person who did it?"

"N-no...they...they didn't..." Dawn sobbed. "They...they said it...it happened...in...in the school newspaper office, though. Mom, Trish was going to the newspaper office when I saw her yesterday!"

"Oh, Honey," Nancy said as tears filled her eyes, too. "Honey, why don't you sit down over there. I'll call Heidi Jackman and see if she knows anything she can tell us."

Heidi Jackman, the school nurse at Jamestown High, was a close friend of Nancy's. And she happened to be married to a detective who worked for the sheriff. If anyone would know what was going on, Heidi would.

"Heidi, I know I'm imposing on you," Nancy said when her friend answered the phone, "You can tell me to hang up and I will. But Dawn's really upset. She heard the news report about what happened at school and she's really worried that the victim might be Trish Wilkins. They're best friends."

"I probably shouldn't tell you," Heidi replied, "but we've been friends a long time, and I know how close Trish and Dawn were. It was Trish. She was raped and beaten severely."

"Oh, God!" Nancy exclaimed, "I can't believe something like this could happen here in Jamestown. Do...do they have any idea who did it?"

"They do," Heidi said. "It will probably be in this afternoon's paper, so I'm not giving anything away. Tim and the sheriff arrested a male teacher from the high school this morning."

As far as Nancy was concerned, this was getting worse and worse. She knew most of the teachers at the high school and couldn't imagine any of them being depraved enough to do what had been done to Trish. "Who, for God's sake?" she asked.

"Tim said he's a new teacher, but he graduated from Jamestown High about five years ago," Heidi replied. "His name is Morris, Ben Morris."

"No!" Nancy exclaimed. "It...it can't be him! They have to be wrong!" She didn't know how she knew it, but she knew Ben didn't do this horrible thing, no matter what the police thought.

"Nancy," Heidi said, "Tim was just here. He's sure this Morris guy did it. They found a pair of women's panties under his bed."

"So, what kind of evidence is that?" Nancy retorted. "He's a single man. I bet if you checked under the beds of half the single men in town, you'd find women's panties. You'd probably find them under some of the married men's beds, too."

"Nancy, how well do you know this guy?" Heidi asked. "It sounds like you know him pretty well, or at least have some pretty strong feelings about him."

"Dawn has him for English comp," Nancy replied. "He's made a big difference in her life. She thinks he's the best teacher she ever had, and I'd be tempted to agree with her, judging in the change in her I've seen since he took over that class. And...years ago, when he was a kid, Ben used to do some chores around the house when we needed help."

"Wow," Heidi said. "That's going to make this really tough on Dawn, isn't it? I mean, her best friend is in a coma in the hospital, and the teacher she most admires is accused of putting her friend there. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"I...I don't know," Nancy said. "Are...are those panties the only evidence the police have?"

"Nancy," Heidi said, her voice low, "I shouldn't be telling you this, but I think it might help you accept reality. The girl wasn't unconscious when she was found. And she told the man who found her, the school janitor, that Mr. Morris was the one who'd done it. He lied when they were questioning him, too, then he stopped talking and asked for a lawyer."

"Oh," Nancy said. "I see. Well, thanks for telling me all this, Heidi. I promise it will stay between you and me. I...I've got to go and see how Dawn's doing."

"No! It isn't true! It can't be true! Mr. Morris wouldn't do something like that!" Dawn cried when her mother told her what she'd learned from Heidi. "I don't care what the police say, Mr. Morris didn't do it."

"I know he didn't, Honey," Nancy said. She was surprised there wasn't even a trace of doubt in her mind about Ben's innocence. She knew, as sure as she was sitting on her daughter's bed with Dawn sobbing in her arms, that Ben Morris hadn't done what he was accused of doing.

"I wonder if Ben has a lawyer yet," Nancy mused while her daughter continued to sob. Ever the businesswoman, she continued to think about what would have to happen. "I wonder if there's any way to check. If he hasn't, I wonder if Will Rosenberg is available."

Will Rosenberg, who had the well-earned reputation of being the most skillful criminal lawyer in James County, was one of Nancy's husband's college classmates. Will and George had remained close through the years, and Will was one of the pall bearers at George's funeral. She decided to give him a call and see if he'd take Ben's case. She hoped Ben wouldn't be angry with her for interfering in his life.

"Nancy, how are you doing?" Will asked once Nancy had gotten past his secretary. "Marcie tells me you have an emergency? Is something wrong with Dawn or the boys?"

"No, Will, that's not it at all," Nancy said. "The boys are fine and, except for being upset, Dawn's fine, too. I suppose you've heard what happened at the high school yesterday?"

"Yes, I did," Will replied. "And I understand the police have a man in custody, who was identified by the victim."

"His name's Ben Morris, and he's a friend of ours," Nancy said. "And I know he's innocent. I'd like you to represent him."

"Wait a minute!" Will said. "I'm not sure I understand this. How do you know this man?"

"He used to do odd jobs for us when he was a kid," Nancy explained. "And Dawn is in the class he teaches."

"And you know he's innocent, right?" Will said. "I'm not even going to ask you how you know that."

"If you did ask, I wouldn't tell you," Nancy said. A plan had already begun forming in her mind. It was an audacious plan, one she'd only resort to if nothing else worked, but she was determined to do whatever was necessary to get Ben off the hook.

"This probably sounds callous," Will said, "but there is a little matter of money. I do not come cheap, my dear. And I understand that the young man who is in custody is a teacher. I'm not sure he can afford my services."

"I don't know whether Ben can afford you or not, but I can," Nancy said. "Between my salary and my income from the trust fund you helped me set up with George's estate, money won't be a problem. Ben deserves the best lawyer he can get, and as far as I know, that's you."

"Thank you for your confidence, my dear." Will said. "I'm not sure I understand any of this, but I'll head over to the sheriff's office right now and see what I can do."

"Thanks, Will," Nancy said. She started to feel a little better. She got up and went back to Dawn's bedroom to tell her daughter what she'd done.

"Uncle Will's going to represent Mr. Morris?" Dawn asked, sniffling a little.

"Yes," Nancy said. "I think your favorite teacher deserves the best lawyer we can get, don't you?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Dawn said, a faint smile appearing on her face. "And Uncle Will is good, isn't he?"

"He's the best," Nancy said.

"Mom?" Dawn sniffled.

"What?" Nancy asked.

"Do...do you think we could go over to the hospital and see how Trish is?" her daughter asked.

"Go take a bath and get dressed," Nancy said. "I will, too, then we can go to the hospital."

Dawn kissed her. "Thanks, Mom," she said. "I love you."

"I...I love you, too, honey," Nancy said.

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