The Sacred Secret
Chapter 13 - Child's Play
'Ladies and Gentlemen,' said Judge Brendon Hacket, from the lofty
height of his bench, 'I should like to make plain the reason for this
trial and what is required of your consideration. You, the jury, are
not here to make a finding on the guilt or otherwise of the accused,
Mary Alexis Loxton.
On her own account she has already admitted, under oath, to the death
at her hands of her husband, Ronald Dale Loxton on the night of
December fifth, Two thousand and two. Your duty is to apportion the
degree of culpability that should apply in this case and so come to a
fair and correct sentence. To that end, you are here gathered to ensure
justice be done!' So saying, the judge banged his gavel on the wooden
block and sat back in his high seat, awaiting proceedings.
'O.K. Cut!' called a red-headed fellow whose nick-name, for some
unknown reason, was Top-Up. The cameraman tilted his camera forward,
locked it off and removed his headset.
Priscilla and the others looked away from the bank of T.V. monitors in
the control room and down onto the studio floor. Judge Hacket was
shuffling out of his bench and removing his courtly wig. 'Bloody
irritating thing,' they heard him mutter, before audio faded the
microphone hidden beneath his robes.
'I think it's in the Can, Darlings!' exclaimed Stefen Manns, beaming
around at all those in the control room. 'Well fourth time lucky. Just
get the all-clear from tape and then we can press on. Kay, we'll insert
the cutaways of the jury during old Hacket's speech, as per script, in
Kay, the continuity girl, nodded and made some notes.
'Do you want me to herd them in now?' came Top-Up's voice from the
studio floor below.
'Yes Darling, send in the crones,' said Stefen, stretching and standing
away from the control panel. 'Whoops! I think it's time for a short
black, and I mean C.O.F.F.E.E. of course! Now how are those... oh my
goodness! How dreadful of me...' he uttered, gazing at the group
crammed into the far corner of the control room.
Monica, Monique's mother, rose and detached herself from the
youngsters, 'That's quite alright Mister Manns, when I was a young lady
I often fancied a tall black myself. Now if there's a cup of tea
Stefen tilted his angular head, fingers delicately perched upon his
jaw, 'Of certainty, Dear Lady, follow moi!' and he flounced off,
leading the way. 'Rachael tells me that you and your husband are in the
documentary business, I've always been keen on film. You must tell
'Hooboy!' said Priscilla, 'And we thought Mister Dance was a... Well
'Bit of a screamer?' suggested Henry.
'Henry! Mum would kill you if... wait a minute... this is where Mum
works, I mean I got the idea from what she's said, but... '
'It's all about Thespians, Darling,' said Henry, drawling out the words
in a worldly-wise tone. 'Actors are, well a bit over the top and so are
directors, I suppose.' He reclined against the wall, a fat script
clutched in one hand, and drew his forearm across his brow in a
'You imbecile!' exclaimed Priscilla, kicking his bent legs out from
under him so that his rump hit the floor with a thud.
'Look, the cast are coming in!' exclaimed John Wynd, pointing down
through the control-room window at the studio floor, 'there's your Mum,
Henry, gee she looks different in those clothes.'
'And very plain too,' said Monique. 'The Make-up people have made her
look, how do you say it? Haggard?'
The four youngsters watched as the jury took their place and Rachael,
playing the part of Mary Loxton, sat down next to her Defence Lawyer,
whose name according to the cast list, was Primrose Aughty. The
Prosecuting Lawyer, a rather imposing, grey-haired actor, with a
styrene coffee cup in his hand, stood chatting with the judge and
Top-Up the floor manager.
Briefly, Rachael glanced up at the control room window, smiled and gave
a little wave.
'Are we there yet?' said Stefan, returning with Monica, both holding
steaming porcelain mugs. 'Here Monica Darling, why don't you squeeze in
with me, my T.D. won't mind, will you Brian?'
The Technical Director leaned over and dragged another chair into
position between himself and the Director. 'The more the merrier,' he
said. Then leaning forward he spoke into a microphone on the control
panel, 'Get a chart will you Top-Up, and I'll fire up camera four. I'll
only be a minute,' he said, turning back to Stefen.
'That's fine Darling. Toppy-Dear, let the actors run their lines while
we're waiting, and then do another camera rehearsal for the moves,'
said Stefan with a flourish, sweeping back his cascading black locks.
'Alright, quiet on the floor!' commanded Top-Up, brandishing a
clapper-board. 'Child's Play, scene seventy three, take one. Standby...
and... action!' he cried, cueing the actors with his extended arm.
'Your Honour, the Jury has heard a broad outline of events on the
fateful night of the murder of Ronald Dale Loxton, and now I should
like to call his wife, Mary Alexis Loxton, to the witness box so that
she can tell the Jury, in her own words, what took place,' said the
actress playing Primrose Aughty, Mary's defence lawyer.
Rachael, as Mary Loxton, rose and was followed by a camera, holding her
in midshot, to the polished timber witness-box that was a part of the
large court-room set.
'Right Two, let her sit out of shot. Camera Three, ready to pick her up
in medium close-up,' said Stefan Manns, getting serious as he watched
the monitors in the control-room, 'and cut to Three as she enters
Below, on the studio floor, the Defence Lawyer strode toward the stand,
her robes rustling as she moved. 'Now Missus Loxton, bearing in mind
that you are already under oath, please tell the court in your own
words, what took place at your home, Seventeen Airy Lane, on the night
of December fifth, Two thousand and two.'
Rachael, as Mary Loxton, rested her hand upon the bible on the arm of
the box and began to relate her story in a rising, somewhat fractured,
voice. 'On that night, I finished my shift and drove home. When I
arrived and went inside I found the house turned upside-down, and I
wasn't surprised at that... '
'What do you mean by "wasn't surprised"?' said Primrose Aughty.
'It wasn't unusual,' replied Mary. 'By then Ron had become...
predictably unpredictable. After the birth of our third daughter things
started going that way. Then, when Jasmine came along it just got
'What do you mean by "worse"? What happened before and after the birth
of your fourth daughter?'
'I don't know, I suppose... Perhaps I was imagining it... It just
seemed to me that Ron was often angry... maybe about not having a
son... You know... resentful after three daughters, and then a fourth
girl. He was drinking a lot, and gambling... betting on the races, and
at the casino...'
'Did his drinking and gambling have an effect on your home life?'
'Oh yes, he had these violent mood swings. If he won, he sometimes came
home drunk but happy enough. He'd bring flowers and then later complain
about his dinner or the kids, or whatever, and throw things around...'
'And if he lost?'
'That was worse. I'd get it first, and if the girls were trying to
protect me so would they.'
'You use the term "get it", tell the Jury what exactly does that mean?'
'He'd belt into us. I often had to make excuses at the hospital and the
school about bruises... It was very distressing for the girls... We
lived in the shadow of his brutality all the time.'
'Why didn't you take the girls and leave him?'
'I really had nowhere else to go. I have no family in Australia. I was
born in England, where we first met... A couple of times I tried to get
away, but he came after us and brought us back. He threatened to harm
the children if I tried to again.'
'So you felt trapped. In your own mind, you and your four daughters
were virtually prisoners...'
'Objection!' said the Prosecuting Attorney Sam Romsey, 'Defence is
leading the Accused.'
'Sustained,' said Judge Hacket. 'Defence will withdraw the remark.'
'Very well, Your Honour,' said Primrose. 'I shall rephrase the comment.
Over a period of time, how did your husband's actions make you feel?'
'That I had no way of changing the situation unless, perhaps, I had
another child; a son.'
'You were prepared to have a fifth child on the off chance that it
would be a boy?'
'I didn't know what else I could do. I was alone here, with my four
daughters; the twins in grade four and the younger two in first and
'I see,' said Primrose, moving away from the witness box as if in deep
thought. Turning back, she said, 'Let us again move to the events of
that night. After you arrived and found your home in a state of turmoil
what exactly did you do next?'
'My first thought was for the girls. I went to the twin's bedroom and
found it empty, then I went to Loren's room, and saw them
all there cowering together. Jane had dried blood on her face, and
little Janet had bruises all over her arms.'
'What was your reaction?'
'I... I'm not sure that I can say... I seem to recall comforting them,
and... and then telling them to stay quietly in the bedroom, and that I
would come back... I know that I was crying... I closed their door and
went carefully through the house looking for Ron.'
'And where exactly did you find him?'
'Outside, on the patio. He was lying on his back with a kind of grin on
his face... '
'I don't know really, it was dark, the patio light globe had blown, it
looked like a grin to me, but I was crying... upset, afraid of what he
might have done to the girls, of what he had done... I just looked down
at him, passed out in a drunken stupor with the broken glass of a wine
bottle all around him and I... I suddenly became furious.'
'What did you do then, Missus Loxton?'
'I suppose I just sort of snapped... lost control... I went back inside
to the kitchen and got a knife out of the drawer and then outside
again... and... and then I did it!'
'What did you do?' Primrose Aughty pressed.
'I took to him with the knife... I just couldn't let him go on
destroying our lives... I... when it was over, I went back inside...
for a while I just kind of sat at the kitchen table and cried. Sometime
later I knew what I had to do. But I was shaking so much that I could
barely use the phone to ring Cathy... '
'Cathy Poulton, she's a friend of mine who lives out in the northern
suburbs. I was hoping she hadn't gone to bed but I must have woken her
I think. Anyway, I asked if I could send the kids over to her for the
night, I told her we'd had trouble and I wanted the children out of the
house. She said that she'd have them and I thanked her. Then I rang for
a taxi and when it arrived I had them ready to go.'
'What did you do next?'
'I don't know, just sat at the kitchen table in a daze for a while... I
remember that I was holding the knife when I rang the police. I was
glad when they came and took me out of the house... '
'Thankyou Mary, that will be all for the moment,' said Primrose,
turning toward the prosecution bench.
'Missus Loxton, or may I address you as Mary, as has my Learned
Associate before me?' queried Sam Romsey, rising from his seat and
advancing toward Mary Loxton. She nodded almost imperceptibly, her eyes
downcast, and he continued, 'On the evening of December fifth, you say
in your statement that you arrived home at ten... was it thirty?'
'Around that time, yes.'
'And you rang for the police at what time?'
'An hour or so later, I think.'
'You think. Well the police record shows the incoming call at exactly
eleven fifty-seven, well over an hour later. What were you doing during
all that time?'
'I... I've already said... I cried... I was distressed... '
'You were distressed, yes, so you say. After all you had just multiply
stabbed your husband.'
'Objection Your Honour. Prosecution is making an assertion.'
'Over-ruled, the Accused has already confessed to the crime. Continue.'
'Thank you, My Lord,' said Prosecutor Romsey. 'Now, Mary, can you tell
the court how many times you struck your husband?'
'I don't know, a lot of times I suppose.'
'Five, ten, fifteen?'
'I... probably ten or so, I was in a rage, I didn't know what I was
'Indeed, so it appears. Now Your Honour, I should like to beg the
Court's indulgence here and introduce a model of the deceased, for
demonstration purposes to the Jury.'
'Does the Defence have any objection?' asked Judge Hacket.
'No, Your Honour,' replied Primrose Aughty.
'Very well,' said Sam Romsey, beckoning. A few moments later a
life-size cardboard cut-out of a human figure was laid upon the chamber
floor. 'Now I should like to ask the accused to step down and, using
this pen, show the jury just how she went about striking at the victim.
Hesitantly, Rachael, playing the part of Mary Loxton, rose from her
chair and stepped down. With a shaking hand she accepted the ball-point
pen offered her and proceeded to kneel along the left side of the
cut-out, where she then indicated a number of stabbing motions.
'Why the left side, Missus Loxton?'
'I'm right-handed, how else would I strike him?'
'Oh, you could have done so from the right side, although granted that
would have been somewhat awkward, would you not agree?'
'I wouldn't know... nor care. I just want this to be over... please!'
The Judge interrupted. 'I think that is quite sufficient. We do not
need to labour the situation further, Counsellor.'
'Of course, Your Honour. Please Mary, allow me to help you make your
way back to the box,' said Sam Romsey, offering his arm.
When she was again seated, he said, 'Now Mary, are you satisfied that
you have demonstrated to the Jury, as accurately as you can remember,
how you delivered the blows to the deceased?'
'I... I think so... Yes.'
'Very good,' he answered. 'And now, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury,'
he said, sweeping about to face those watching the proceedings, 'I
should like to show the Jury exhibit number One.' He strode to his
table and lifted up a large carving knife inside a clear plastic bag.
'Here is the weapon that police took from Mary Loxton when they arrived
on the night in question. I ask that the Jury take note.
Sam Romsey returned the knife to the table and turned back to the box.
'What was your husband, Ronald Loxton wearing when you discovered him
lying outside that night?'
'Oh... his red robe, his red towelling robe, the one that he sometimes
wore over his clothes... it was like a dressing gown... he called it a
smoking jacket, I suppose he decided to put it on sometime that
evening, but the police knew all that.'
'And noted the fact of course. I merely wanted you to verify for the
benefit of the jury. Moving forward, Mary, can you explain why the
report by the Coroner indicates that not all the wounds sustained by
the deceased were of the same strength; in other words, some were
'I don't know. I suppose I was so distraught that... '
'Furthermore, can you give some explanation to the findings that the
angles of the incisions were random and not consistent with your
statement, and today's demonstration, that they were all executed from
the left of the body?'
'Wha... what do you mean?'
'I mean that they appear to have been done by several different hands,
'No, no! That isn't true... perhaps I forgot where I was kneeling or
maybe I moved about as I was doing it... I can't remember... Can't you
just leave it alone? I said I did it, that's all that matters!'
'I am very much afraid that I and this Court "can't just leave it
alone" Missus Loxton, because that isn't all that was discovered.'
'What do you mean?' said Mary, staring at the Prosecutor with wild eyes.
'Not only were the wounds made randomly and with varying pressures, but
they were not all inflicted with the same knife as the one here named
'I don't know what you're talking about.'
'I'm talking about these, Missus Loxton,' said the Prosecutor, striding
again to his table and unwrapping several other knives, all in labelled
plastic bags. 'These are also kitchen knives, Missus Loxton, all taken
from the cutlery drawer in your home.'
'What of it?' she replied.
'Simply this, first, they are consistent with some of the wounds
inflicted, and secondly, they are completely devoid of fingerprints,
not even a smear on any of them.'
'So, what does that prove?'
'Well, unlike all the other cutlery in the same drawer, these have been
washed and wiped clean and placed back into the drawer without being
handled, as if they were being held in a cloth by someone who wanted to
remove all traces from them, without the thought occurring that to do
so in such a way was most irregular. For instance, your fingerprints
are on almost all of the rest of the knives and forks in that drawer
'What are you saying?' said Mary, fixedly staring at the knives.
'I am saying that you aren't telling the court the truth, or at least
not all of it. I'm saying that you are covering up what actually
happened. That you did not act alone. That one, or perhaps all of your
children participated in the stabbing of Ronald Dale Loxton!'
'No!' shrieked Mary, rising in the box, her hands gripping the rail,
'No! That's a lie! They had nothing to do with it! They were in the
bedroom all the time. I did it I tell you! I did it!' She sagged
forward and began to sob hysterically.
'Mum!' shouted Priscilla involuntarily, watching absorbed in the
control-room, her fingers to her mouth.
'Keep it down Sis, she's acting!' said Henry, his own fingers screwing
at the script.
'Your Honour, Your Honour!' called Primrose Aughty, Defence Counsel for
Mary Loxton, above the rising din in the court-room, 'I request a
thirty minute recess so that I may consult with my client!'
'Request granted, Counsellor, and see that Missus Loxton is in a fit
state to take the stand again. I believe that both you and the
Prosecution have more work to do!'
'All rise!' cried a Steward at the side of the judge's bench.
'And... stop tape!' said Stefen Manns, pushing back his chair from the
'Cut! Thankyou,' called Top-Up, the Floor Manager, and immediately the
cameras panned away or were locked off as the camera-crew relaxed and
the boom guys climbed down from their platforms.
'What do you think?' said Stefan to the control-room in general.
'Light levels were down a tad, and camera Three was just caught
repositioning,' said Brian, the Technical Director, 'and I think we
need to check the tape for a soft-focus shot of Mary when she caved in
at the end.'
'I'd like to do a couple of adjustments anyway,' answered the Lighting
'Umm... I think we can get one better,' said Stefan, nodding. 'Toppy,
give the crew a break -
and tell the cast I'm coming down with a few notes. We need Make-up to
the floor for Rachael and a cup of coffee for everyone.'
By lunchtime they had re-shot the scene twice more, and on the third
try everyone seemed satisfied.
'Yesss! That's a bought one!' exclaimed Stefan, leaning back limply in
his chair. 'I think we'll call a break for cast and crew, forty-five
minutes everyone, and Toppy-Dear, if you and the crew are going to the
pub, make sure they top-up with some food!'
'When we get back, we'll push on with the last big scene as per
schedule. I want to get all the stuff with the majority of the cast out
of the way A.S.A.P. After all, it is Saturday and some people might
like a life.' said Stefan, delicately picking away at a ham and cheese
'What do you all think of it so far,' asked Kay, the continuity girl,
as the four youngsters got stuck into their fish burgers and salads.
'It was sort of scary, seeing Mum like that,' said Priscilla. 'You kind
of get sucked into the story, like it's really real, even when you know
'That's the magic of television and the glitz of the studio and sets,'
replied Kay with a smile. 'You do get used to it after a while. I once
saw an Extra go completely ga-ga when we were shooting a prison riot on
a feature. The crew had to drag her out from under a table at the end
of the scene. She was shell-shocked, so much that it took an hour to
calm her down.'
'Is Mum like that?' asked Henry, concern in his voice.
'No, not at all. She's a professional actress; gets in and out of
character without letting her work blur into real life. She'll be in
her dressing room, eating lunch and going over her lines for what's
coming up next right now.'
'Take your time over lunch, people,' said Stefan, pushing back his
plate and draining a fruit juice, 'Jennifer my D.A. will give you a
quick tour of the other studios where they shoot those dreadful soapies
and sports shows; that's alright Darls, we'll just do the prep and
techie stuff until you get back. I want to try shooting by one-thirty.'
Chapter 14 [next]