Home   International Poetry Fiction Non-fiction
© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland  

BlackEagle Girls
The Sacred Secret

Chapter 14 - In Vino Veritas

When Monica and the four youngsters were again ushered into the Control-room by Jennifer, the Director's Assistant, the cast were assembled, camera-rehearsed and ready for a first take at the final, main court-room scene.
'Right everyone, Wayne? Any problems with that quick repo from the Jury back to the Judge?' asked Stefan, speaking into his microphone.
A cameraman on the studio floor gave a thumbs up. 'No worries Steppy, I'll just have to cross-shoot over Four, as long as he remembers to de-elevate,' came his reply through the control-room speakers.
'O.K. Fine. Top-Up, ready to fire?' asked the Director.
'Go when you're mad,' answered the Floor Manager, lifting up a clapper board in front of camera one.
'And roll tape,' said the T.D.
'Rolling,' called Video-Tape from somewhere else in the building.
'Mark it!' said Stefan.
'Child's Play, scene seventy-six, take one... Standby... and... action!'
'Your Honour,' said Primrose Aughty, Defence Counsellor for Mary Loxton, 'My client is now ready to take the witness stand again. May I proceed?'
'Proceed Counsellor.'
'Mary Loxton, be aware that you are still under oath, do you wish to make a further statement regarding the events that transpired on the night of December the fifth, Two Thousand and Two, at Seventeen Airy Lane?'
Rachael, as Mary Loxton, hunched in the witness box, looked up, her face now strained with emotion. 'I do,' she replied.
'Will you now tell the court what it is that you have to say?'
There was a long pause before Mary broke the silence. 'As I have already told the court, I stabbed my husband on that night. It was by my hand and my hand alone that he died.'
'But what of the Prosecution's claims of other weapons and the randomness of the stab wounds?'
'I was distraught after I found the children. When I discovered him outside, I just went back into the kitchen and grabbed a handful of knives, I don't know. I was frantic, weak with fear and loathing. I went out again and struck at him as I crawled about, I was crying and hysterical. Anyway, I stabbed him, and... it's like a dream now... took the knives and... I must have washed them and put them away again without even thinking what I was doing... Then, after a while, I remember that I had a terrible feeling that he might still be alive, and so I went back to the drawer and took out the carver... Afterwards I made the phone calls as I have already told the court.'
'Thank you Mary. Your Honour, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, my client was in a state of total confusion after arriving home to find her children badly traumatized by the actions of her husband, is it any wonder that she might have excluded details or confused certain elements of the events of that night since that time?'
'Counsellor Aughty,' said Judge Hacket, his knuckles white on the bench, 'it is your duty to defend your client in the best legal manner possible, however I wonder if you are not stretching the Court's patience and credibility in this matter. We will proceed, yet I also ponder the Jury's feelings to this point. Your witness, Prosecution!'
The Prosecutor, Sam Romsey, rose from his seat and slowly approached Mary Loxton where she awaited him in the dock, her eyes focused on some distant, invisible point as if she was willing herself to remain calm. 'Well Missus Loxton, Mary, you have now made two statements as to the events of that night which differ in many important details but come to the same conclusion. And as we are unable to question the children in regard to those events because of their ages and because little would be gained even if the Prosecution were able to so do, we are still left with your version, or versions, as our only guidelines. There are just one or two further questions to ask of you. In the light of this second version, what time do you say that you arrived home from your workplace?'
'As I have said earlier, about ten-thirty... '
'And you called the Police at... '
'You already have the record of the times for the three calls I made.'
'Yes, indeed we do. The first, to Cathy Poulton was at eleven twenty, the second, to the cab company, took place eleven minutes after, and the call to the Police was made at eleven fifty-seven, twenty six minutes later. We have a confirmation that a taxi arrived at your home at eleven forty-five, so that fits within the time scale, however there is one other element that does not fit the picture. That is the estimated time of death, which was placed at around nine thirty, almost an hour before you claim to have arrived home, Missus Loxton.'
'That can't be! There must be some mistake!' shouted Mary, looking frantically towards the Defence bench.
'No further questions, Your Honour.'
'Counsel for the Defence, do you wish to re-examine the accused?'
'No Your Honour,' said Primrose Aughty, meeting Mary's desperate gaze. 'I have no further questions of the accused.'
'Very well. Missus Loxton, you may leave the stand.' Judge Hacket waited as Mary Loxton dragged herself to her feet and made her way back to the Defence bench.
' Now, Counsellor Aughty, do you have any other witnesses or Sayers for the Defence?'
'Yes, Your Honour, I should like to re-call the attending doctor on the night of Ronald Dale Loxton's death.'
'Doctor Leany! Calling Doctor Leany!' shouted a bailiff, opening an outer court door. A moment later a rather thin, balding man entered and hurried toward the box. Once seated, he was cautioned that he was still under oath and Primrose Aughty began, 'Now Doctor Leany... '
'Excuse me,' said the doctor, bristling with indignation, 'that's Le Nay, Doctor Le Nay, not Leany!'
'So sorry, Doctor... Le Nay... I should like to question the method of ascertaining the time of death of any deceased person on discovery.'
'In Situ, I take it that you mean?'
'Yes doctor, as you say, or later, after the body has been removed.'
'Well,' said Doctor Le Nay, warming to his subject, 'body temperature, blood coagulation if present, the general state of the deceased, which encompasses Rigor Mortis or post Rigor Mortis... '
'And would you care to remind the Jury as to what was your opinion in this particular case?'
The doctor looked somewhat disappointed, as if he was expecting to be examined on some new issue. 'Yes,' he sighed, 'as I have already told the court, there was no sign of Rigor Mortis when I attended around midnight, and along with other factors, leading me to conclude that the victim had died less than three to four hours earlier, thus broadly giving us a time span of eight o'clock onward. Then, by observance after the body had been removed, the time of Rigor Mortis setting in gave us a frame of plus or minus roughly a half hour from ten o'clock... '
'So, Doctor Le Nay, are you saying that Ronald Loxton could have met his death as early as nine thirty, or as late as ten thirty?'
'Somewhere in that area, certainly.'
'Thankyou Doctor Le Nay. No further questions,Your Honour,' said Primrose Aughty, a tiny smile playing at the corners of her mouth.
'Counsel for the Prosecution, do you wish to cross-examine?'
'No, Your Honour,' said Sam Romsey absently, as he flipped through a pile of documents before him.
'Well then, in view of the time, I think we can adjourn for the day and return tomorrow for Counsel's summation to the Jury before they retire to consider their verdict.'
'All rise in Court!'
'And stop tape!' cried Stefan Manns triumphantly, waving his hands like a musical conductor and pushing back his chair.
'Cut! Relax and just hold your positions while they check the tape. I think Steppenwolf is happy with that one,' said Top-Up as the cameras pulled back out of the way. 'If it's a goer, that will be a wardrobe change and make-up check and back on the floor A.S.A.P.'
'Everything alright technically? Lighting? Audio?' asked Stefan, getting a thumbs raised from those in the control-room. 'Good, well if all is fine with Tape, we'll do this turn around and shoot the final jury scene straight away, then most of the cast can go and we'll do the pickup scenes next week,' said Stefan, 'I'm going for a cuppa, Monica Dear? Anyone else?'
'That scene checks,' called Video Tape from the speaker on the Control-Room wall as the Director, Monica and some of the others filed out.
'Gee, it started to get pretty involved didn't it,' said Henry while they waited for the cast to re-assemble. 'I wonder if I should just read the end and see how it comes out... '
'Don't you dare!' cried Priscilla, reaching over and shutting the script that lay on Henry's knees.
'Only kidding Cilla, it's too interesting to spoil it all. What do you reckon John?' he asked, turning to John Wynd, where he sat, quietly staring down at the studio floor and the repositioning of cameras and boom microphones.
'I hope she really didn't do it,' he replied softly, 'or if she did, that she gets off anyway. Kids need their Mum... Kids need their parents... ' he ended faintly.
'Of course they do,' said Monique gently, and then to change the conversation she added, 'I thought all the actors were very good, especially our Missus Black... I mean Rachael, and the lady playing her defence counsellor.'
'What about the Judge, John?' added Henry brightly, trying to lift John Wynd's sombre mood. 'He was pretty good, did ya see how his knuckles went white when he had a go at Primrose?'
'That's not acting!' hooted Ray, the man in charge of Audio, coming out of his booth, 'Fred Best is a great character actor, but he's also a punter. Somewhere in Australia the gee-gees are racing and he'll be betting on the long shots. He doesn't just have a mike on under his gown, beneath the wig he's also got an ear-piece connected to a pocket radio. That's why his knuckles go white. He's listening as the nags head into the home-stretch. I have to keep his mike faded in case he mutters something like "Go boy, go!" He's into method acting, as long as the odds are twenty to one!'
Minutes later, the rest of the control-room crew returned and settled in for the final court-room scene. This was the big one and had been rehearsed by both the actors and the crew in the preceding week.
On the studio floor below, Rachael waved up at the children watching from above, and then turned to concentrate upon her role, as tape rolled and the Floor Manager marked the clapper. 'Child's Play, scene seventy nine, stand by and... action!'
'Ladies and Gentleman of the Jury,' said Judge Hacket, 'you have heard the evidence and the statements from all those involved in this case. As I indicated at the beginning of these proceedings, you are here required to make a finding as to the culpability of the accused in relation to the death of her husband, Ronald Dale Loxton. I now call upon the Prosecution and the Defence to make their final summations before you retire. Councillor for the Prosecution, please lead.'
Sam Romsey nodded his wigged head and rose to face the jury. 'Did Mary Alexis Loxton murder her husband? That must be the first question asked. She claims, as she has steadfastly claimed all along, that she did, and if you, the Jury take that as fact, then you need only weigh the circumstances whereby she committed this crime. What would be a fitting punishment for a woman driven to such, by the actions of a husband who wilfully and repeatedly, caused physical damage to herself and their children and was intent upon the inevitable destruction of the environment of the family home? Was this an unpremeditated act?
Did Mary simply see red? Did she act on the spur of the moment, compelled by outrage and shock?
Did she suddenly see an opportunity to rid herself and her children of this monster? Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, what would you have done in her place? Does she deserve imprisonment for her actions, her children taken into care, her life shattered? That is what you must consider if you believe that the death of her husband came about by her hand and her hand alone.
However, there is more than that scenario to consider. What if the children themselves were involved? What if, after the final assault upon them on that night, they retaliated?
What if all that Mary Loxton has told us is a fabrication to protect them? What if it was they who struck their father when he lay outside in a drunken stupor!'
'That's not true!' shouted Mary, rising, shaking and distraught, 'I've said it over and over, how many more times do I have to say that I did it!'
'The defendant will resume her seat and remain quiet, or I will have her removed from the court-room!' called Judge Hacket, above a gathering rumble of voices.
Mary did as she was told, slumping down beside her Defence, Primrose Aughty.
'Go on Councillor,' said the Judge.
'As I was saying, if that were so, if the children were involved, then where does that leave your considered opinion as to punishment? Is Mary Loxton guilty of perjury only; attempting to shield her children, prepared to go to jail in that cause if need be? I am put in mind of a tale in a children's collection of years gone by, where a mother bird in her nest of newly hatched chicks spreads her wings in a vain attempt to hold back the rising flood waters that are soon to engulf her and them. That she will not abandon them is testament to her love, a love that leads to her doom as well as theirs. Is this the case here? Is this mother acting a part in order to spare her children?'
Sam Romsey paused to allow this thought to sink in, and in that moment Judge Hacket took it that the Prosecution address had concluded.
'Councillor, it would seem by your comments, that you are taking an almost deferential position towards the accused. Are you then so bent on aiding the case for the Defence?'
Samuel Romsey, stalled in his train of thoughts, slowly turned his gaze to the Judge. 'No, Your Honour. It is not the business of the Prosecution to aid the Defence. However, the Prosecution is not only concerned with the pursuit of justice and consequence, but also the establishment of truth; whatever that might reveal.'
He swept about once more to face the Jury, his robes rasping about his knees. 'I say again, is this mother acting to spare her children from the public knowledge that they participated in such gruesome event?
Or, is there an even more sinister explanation? What if Mary Loxton has been telling the truth from the very beginning, and yet with a totally different motive. What if this was in fact a murder awaiting a moment? What if Mary Loxton had conceived a plan at some earlier time and merely waited for an opportunity to arrive? What if she came home, found her distressed daughters and then discovered her drunken husband, passed out on the patio? What if she then, calculatedly went inside, selected a number of knives from the kitchen drawer, went back outside, stabbed him randomly, took the weapons back again, washed them in the kitchen sink, replaced them in the drawer, waited a short time, selected the carver and stabbed her husband again. In short, to make it appear that she had covered for her own children, when they in fact had nothing to do with it! What lie-detector would contradict  a person who claimed to be guilty? Could this be the actual truth? Did Mary Loxton manipulate the situation so that you the Jury would find in favour of her because of an element of doubt regarding her children's involvement?
Has she, in fact, cleverly constructed her own alibi in such a way that the doubt remains; the possibility that her children were involved, though denying it vehemently, so as to leave you with little choice but to find her not guilty? In which case, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, she would walk free, without even the charge of perjury hanging over her head, and you would never be the wiser. If you come to the conclusion that that is what she wilfully and knowing did; that this was indeed a pre-meditated murder, then you must find her guilty as charged and send Mary Loxton to prison! Thankyou Your Honour.'
Sam Romsey, bowed his head, pivoted on his heel and walked back to his seat at the prosecution bench.
In her turn, Primrose Aughty rose and addressed the judge. 'Your Honour, may I have leave to introduce a last item of interest in this case?'
There came a general murmur around the court-room and those at the Defence table seemed genuinely puzzled.
'Errm, this is rather irregular Counsellor, why was it not produced earlier than at time of summation?'
'Your Honour, I was not fully aware of the significance of the evidence until last evening when I decided to go back through the statements and reports.'
'Very well Councillor, if you feel this new evidence is admissible you may produce it,' said Judge Hacket, grudgingly.
'I believe the exhibit is admissible, Your Honour, considering that it is not new but has been passed over with little interest during the course of this trial,' and so saying Councillor Aughty removed the lid from a white plastic container and reaching in, carefully withdrew a clear plastic bag. Raising the object within, she said, 'This, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury is a shard of glass that was the neck of a wine bottle, it and the rest of the shattered glass was collected at the scene of Ronald Loxton's demise. Please take note of the jagged nature of this object. Early this morning I had it compared to all the knives claimed as possible murder weapons. Its form, though slightly curved in profile, is similar to two of the knives in width, and conforms closely enough to the wound that penetrated the deceased's heart, even though somewhat disguised amongst the others. It, like much else at the scene, bares traces of Ronald Loxton's blood, but by the time it came to be examined, that fact appears to have been ignored. It is, perhaps, easy enough to see how this vital piece of evidence might have been overlooked, considering the confession of Mary Loxton, who genuinely believed that she had killed her husband. As to the multiple and random stab wounds on the deceased's person' body, the Jury may consider them to be by the hands of the Loxton girls or Mary herself. However and whoever inflicted them becomes immaterial in the light of this revelation.'
'Councillor, are you contending that Ronald Loxton was killed by a wine bottle?' exclaimed the judge.
'I am contending that Ronald Loxton may well have died through the actions of his fall; clutching the bottle as he fell, its shattering on impact with the patio tiles, the entry of the sharp spike of glass, his agony as he rolled over, releasing the neck, its spilling away from his hand and he left, dying from a wound to his heart, a grin that was, in fact, a grimace on his face. In the shadows of the patio, with its blown light globe, wearing the red robe, a death agony might well be confused with a drunken grin, and a quantity of blood, soaking into a like-coloured towelling material, could well be missed by a woman in a frantic state of mind.'
'Your Honour! This is preposterous!' shouted Samuel Romsey, standing abruptly. 'The Defence is basing this so-called 'new evidence' on nothing more than supposition! What actual ground is there to support such a claim?'
Judge Hacket, his hands gripping the timber railing of his high seat, said, 'Councillor Aughty, what have you to say to that?'
Primrose Aughty lowered the plastic bag containing the broken neck of the bottle. 'I should like to have this item noted again, exhibit nine as tagged, and add that Prosecution seems to have based its case on a number of suppositions, none of them proven conclusively. I submit to the Jury that Mary Alexis Loxton did do as she has always claimed; namely that she stabbed her husband... But not to death! Because he was already dead!'
At that moment, Mary Loxton burst into uncontrollable sobbing, her shoulders heaving as she lent her head against the bench, her hands covering her face.
'Your Honour,' said Primrose Aughty, in the silence broken only by the accused's muffled crying, 'I believe that there is now sufficient cause for doubt. The time-frame given by Doctor Le Nay indicates that death could have occurred earlier than ten-thirty, possibly as early as nine-thirty. The Defence moves for a dismissal of this case!'
But for Mary's continued sobbing, there was quiet as Judge Hacket considered the plea. Then one of the Juror's began to clap her hands, and after a few moments others joined in, as did the court-room in general.
'Silence! Silence in the Court!' shouted a steward, as the judge got to his feet.
'Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, in the light of these circumstances I believe that no Jury would find it in their hearts to deliver a guilty verdict against Mary Loxton. Therefore I declare this Jury dismissed and the Crown versus Mary Loxton a mis-trial. Councillor for Prosecution, what say you?'
Sam Romsey stood up and lifting an imaginary glass to the court, said, 'In Vino, Veritas!'
'Indeed, Councillor Romsey, "In wine there is truth", well spoken!' concluded the Judge, resuming his seat.
There was a shot of Mary Loxten, lifting her head, wiping the tears that streaked her cheeks, a look of sudden enlightenment and joy upon her face at the end of a terrible chapter in her life, and then the Director in the control-room called, ' Annnd...Hold Tape! It's a Monty! People! Audio, Lighting, any probs? Top-Up, happy on the floor?'
'Cut! Relax everybody,' said Top-Up through the Control-room speaker, 'I think the cast are happy, better check out any hassles with cameras and audio.'
'Everything's fine with lighting,' said the Lighting Super. 'It was good for us,' called through the Head Cameraman. 'Looked O.K. to me,' said the Technical Director. 'Audio's happy,' said Ray from the booth, 'but not as happy as old Fred down there, have a listen to this,' he faded up a microphone and a voice could be heard muttering, 'Come on girl, go, Go! Gooo! Yesss!'
The youngsters, kneeling enthralled in the furthest corner of the Control Room looked down to where the Judge was now standing again in his railed high seat; he had removed his grey wig and had one hand clamped to his earpiece, the other hand holding a walkman.
'Looks like that one came in for him,' said Ray, laughing as he faded the mike.
'And this one's come in for us my Loves, as long as tape is happy,' said Stefan, his hand cupping his chin delicately as he turned the pages of the script to the final two-hander scenes, his mind already working and worrying over the completion of shooting, then the post-production editing and a number of pick-ups to be done. 'What did you think, Monica Darling, up to standard?' he asked without taking his eyes from his script.
'It was wonderful, Stefan Darling!' she said, the same broad smile as her daughter's spreading across her face.
'Tape's still checking,' came a voice from the speaker-box.
'Gee, I hope they got it all and nothing's faulty,' said Henry to the others.
'Yes, your mother was so good,' added John Wynd. 'It would be a bit of an anticlimax if she had to do it all over.'
'And not only for Rachael, the lady playing Primrose was brilliant too,' said Monique, who was sitting on the floor with her arms around her drawn-up legs, 'I'm glad you didn't read the end of the scene Henry.'
'Yeah, me too, it would have been a shame to know what was coming, especially when Mum broke down, look she's waving to us!' said Priscilla.
The group peered down into the set where the cast were assembled, chatting with the crew and sipping tea and coffee from plastic cups. The youngsters all waved back enthusiastically.
'That checks out with Tape,' came the voice from Video Tape.
A cheer rang out in the Control-Room, as Stefan Mann called to the Floor, 'Darlings, it's in the Can! Stay put, I'm coming down!' And with that he leapt to his feet, 'Coming Monica Love? Children?'
Just at that moment the Control-Room phone rang and Jenny, the D.A. picked it up. 'B. Control, Jennifer speaking. What? Just a moment please! Missus Bateleur! It's the Police, they want to speak with you!'


Chapter 15 [next]

Australian Page email your comments to the author Exchange critiques on the Lit-Talk board