General Fiction posted November 24, 2022

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Everyone deserves a fair trial, even primitive cave-dwellers

The Hollow Murder: the Trial ptA

by Wayne Fowler

This is part one of the follow-up to ‘Murder in the Hollow’ where caveman Ohmie investigated a murder, all evidence pointing to a resident of the hollow, a young lady named Missy.

“I ain’t goin’ fronta them an’ sayin’ I cracked that old buzzard. I’m sorry Miss May. I jist cain’t.” Missy had killed a would-be assailant, one who would take her by her hair to his cave, taking her and then binding her to himself for life.

May, Ohmie's wife, understood.

Ohmie’s testimony as to his investigative findings was devastating.

“Here it is, folks. There sits Missy. Her footprint exactly matched one beside Zorg’s corpse. Her hair matches the ones found in his hand. Missy’s right-handed, matching Zorg’s injury. Missy had enough unaccounted for time that matched Zorg’s death. And Missy was both taught, and has actually kicked others in their stones, just as Zorg had been kicked.” Ohmie nervously struggled to deliver the most damning revelation. Looking at May with sorrow in his eyes, he delivered it. “And Missy had Zorg’s talisman, his jasper stone with a hole in it.”

The people gathered to hear the evidence muttered and mumbled among themselves, finally quieted by Ohmie, the unofficial authority figure of the community.

Missy never actually admitted to have bonked Zorg over the head with a rock, but considering her demeanor at trial, she might as well have. Of course, an impartial outsider determined to cast the most positive light on her deportment might easily suggest embarrassment, shame, nerves, or even simple fright. Anyone so charged might display the same, guilty or innocent.

“Yessir,” the fowler said in response to Ohmie’s questioning. “One time some months back I reached to take aholta Missy by her hair. That kick a’ her’s had me hobblin’ around for a week. Some might remember.” Several nodded their heads, mumbling to one another.

The fowler, having heard the scuttlebutt passing through the hollow, approached Ohmie with his story. Ohmie felt compelled to bring it out at trial, knowing that should he not, it would be out after the trial.

Ohmie again looked to May, hating that he was compelled to disclose everything he had discovered. Ohmie did not compel Missy’s mother to testify to having taught her daughter how to kick a man.

Ohmie managed to counsel the jurors that Missy’s reluctance to speak on her own behalf should not reflect either guilt or innocence. He repeated that the facts, alone, should determine the case against the child.

May wished Ohmie had stopped talking after allowing that Missy did not have to testify, leaving off his emphasis on the facts, which clearly convicted the child.

Missy wasn’t a child, though. She’d been of child-bearing age for well over a year. Very much longer and she would rival May’s own record of holding out. And the people gathered knew that Missy was adult enough.

“Now folks,” Ohmie had to shout three times in order to quiet the crowd. Though he declared the case presented over, the time now was for the verdict. “People!” Ohmie cried out as he tossed a handful of pebbles into the air, the stones raining down on the assembly.

“We wanna see!” shouted the member’s of Zorg’s hollow. “Show us how Zorg was killed!”

Ohmie was momentarily flustered, but recovered quickly, asking May to come up and to bring a rock with her.

“You be Missy,” Ohmie quietly said to May. “Pretend to kick me, and then hit me with the rock when I bend over.” May shook her head no, but did as requested when Ohmie grabbed her hair. As May struggled to leverage a kick, Missy nearly shouted a whisper, “Lift your knee and snap your foot.”

Those at the front of the assembly heard Missy’s instruction, carried out by May a little too perfectly. Ohmie immediately released May’s hair, cupping himself after May’s unintentional contact, light though it was. May’s rock-wielding right hand met Ohmie’s head exactly where Zorg had been bonked.

Shouts of “guilty’ rang from the crowd.

"Wait a minute!" May hopped onto a rock to be recognized. "Missy deserves a defense." The people quieted, wanting to hear what Missy had to say. Missy continued, "Missy doesn't have to speak. You all know that. I just want you to remember that no one saw who killed Zorg. All we have is conjecture and speculation."

The people looked to one another with confused faces of bewilderment.

After two heartbeats they cried "Guilty" to a person. May hopped off the rock grimacing sadly.

“Hold up. Hold up!” Ohmie shouted, gingerly raising his arms. “First, are there any who find Missy innocent. The silence was profound. Not one person voiced dissent to Missy’s conviction. Not even May. Even squirrels and mockerbirds silenced themselves.

“Folks,” Ohmie began, “we’re gonna do something that’s, to my knowledge, never been done before.”

“There’s just too many of you to hope to come to an agreement without starting a war!” Gradually, the council, loosely called since it was a gathering of nearly all the adults of two hollows – Missy’s, and Zorg’s, settled.

“Now we have to be reasonable here. We need this sentencing to be right, and to be accepted by both communities, right?” He waited for general consensus. “Now Blado is going to pass around a clay pot of small stones. A bunch of them are black. The rest are white. When Blado shows you the pot, you look inside and see for yourselves. Then Blado will hold it where you can’t see inside. You reach in and take one. Everyone with a black stone will be a judge.”

Despite the grumbling, the affair proceeded as Ohmie decreed. Seeing black stones unpicked, Blado returned to where he’d begun and allowed white stone wielders a second opportunity to draw a black one. Eventually, all twelve of Ohmie’s black stones were drawn, but not until Blado was into his third pass among white stone holders. On May’s third try, she withdrew a black stone.


I wish FanStory allowed longer titles and descriptions.
I broke this into two parts, 3000 words being a bit much for my meager reward.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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