A few weeks went by and Orville began to settle more comfortably into his retirement in Laconia. He had not yet found a dog to adopt, but RMD had referred him to a colleague who they had a noncompetitive association with for some consulting work. Orville agreed right away as it was a nice way to keep his hand in his old field without being overcome with the stress that had flattened him at RMD. With his pension from RMD plus the royalty payments he still received from the last couple projects he had been involved with as part of his departure agreement at the firm he hardly needed the money.
At this point Orville was just interested in the intellectual challenge the opportunity presented and the chance to see what was new in the field and to keep himself current just for his own curiosity. The original gig was short and interesting but it soon led to other offers as word spread about him being available on a freelance basis. Orville did not take every request that came across his bow, as he was now able to pick and choose those of greatest interest knowing he did not have to take on every one that appeared. Also, he did not take on anything that he felt might be in direct competition with RMD. It was nothing that he was held to by his old firm, but rather just a personal bias he had not to work on anything that might impinge on the company that had been so good to him.
He took a few other very short excursions around the country to see sites that had always intrigued him, but nothing on the scale of his extended tour following his resignation from RMD. In retrospect Orville was glad the right dog had not come along as that would have changed everything he was pursuing now. If he had found the right one, he would have committed himself to the dog completely, but when it did not happen and these other things came along he realized it would not have been fair to the dog to try and do both. Orville was finding his retirement completely to his liking. He could still work on projects that really spoke to him without the crushing stress that came along with being totally responsible for the success of it. And if he so desired, he could just wake up one day and pack the car and take off on a trip anywhere he desired.
However, as often happens in life, just when you think all is going your way and that nothing could possibly intervene, a curveball from the Universe is frequently just around the corner…usually because there is yet another lesson in this life for you to learn. And so it was with Orville as May was about to turn over into June. The investigation into Joe Garrity’s murder was still ongoing from all that Orville had heard, but the progress that the detectives had been riding on in the early days seemed to have bogged down. Their focus on Sarah had certainly waned, but there also did not seem to have been anyone else to replace her on their radar.
But when Orville’s phone rang on Thursday morning as he was refinishing an old chest of drawers that had been long overdue for a makeover, that all changed. He set aside his sandpaper and goggles and other equipment and picked up the receiver.
“Orville? You got a minute?”
“Sure, Kathryn…what’s up?”
“Are you sitting down?”
“No. Should I be?”
He would have chuckled at this banter, but he could tell in her voice that she was upset.
“I would think so. Do you know of a good criminal defense attorney here in Laconia or nearby?”
“A crim…what the hell is going on, Kathryn? You in trouble?”
“Not me, Orville. It’s Sarah.”
When he heard that he wished he had taken Kathryn’s advice as his legs went weak and he had to grab onto the table nearby to stay up.
“Yes…they just arrested her for real this time and have charged her with first degree murder.”
“But I thought they had let her go. That she had been cleared of all that?”
“So did I. From my friend at the paper, I understand they found the murder weapon. The knife used to kill Joe. It was in Joe’s place with her prints all over it.”
Orville felt like all the oxygen in the room had suddenly been removed as he slid down to his rear and leaned on the wall.
“You still there, Orville?”
“Yeah, I’m here,” he replied weakly.
“The police give a motive yet?”
“Not that I have heard, but I guess with having a solid means and opportunity as well as the murder weapon in their hands they will come up with something the DA will use. Lover’s spat got out of hand, she caught him cheating on her…something like that.”
“But wouldn’t them spending so much time together explain her prints on a knife in his house?”
“I suppose. But the knife was hers, Orville. It was found hidden away at Joe’s.”
“What is she saying?”
“I have no idea. They took her away and she called me to see if I could recommend a lawyer.”
“What led them back to her place anyway…the cops I mean?”
“My reporter friend says an anonymous tip. But I have a feeling I know where that anonymous tip came from.”
“That was my thought. The divorce was still in the works when Joe got killed and from what Sarah told me he was still very angry and full of rage about the whole thing. Even with the restraining order, she felt like she had to be constantly looking over her shoulder for him.”
“She get threats?”
“She says so, but there is no proof. Just her word for it.”
“Well, Kathryn, I am no legal scholar here but it seems like the logical conclusion here is that James Holding has set her up.”
“Agreed, but again where is the proof?”
“He has an alibi?”
“Apparently so or I would think he would be a suspect as well.”
“So you know anyone?”
“Not right off the top of my head but let me call my old bosses at RMD. Frederick and Janice know everyone around here and beyond. I’ll get someone to help her as soon as possible.”
“Thanks, Orville. We will talk soon.”
Orville hung up but just stared at the wall as if in a trance. This could not be. It just couldn’t. But it was so it seemed. The evidence against Sarah, from his perspective, sure looked damning despite their not being a solid motive. He could not imagine how the DA would be able to prove the why for Sarah wanting to kill Joe. But having the murder weapon and her prints was sure a good start to convincing a jury he figured. And it certainly would not be the first time some cops looking to close a difficult case made some creative moves to wrap it up, regardless of the truth. In his heart he knew Sarah Holding was innocent, but as Kathryn had mentioned about other issues here, where was the proof.
Orville did not know James Holding all that well, having become aware of him only after he became a danger to Sarah. Orville had stepped in with Kathryn and a few others to protect her. His impression of James Holding was a man with a hair trigger temper and a lack of self-control when he got cornered, but was that enough to push him to frame Sarah for Joe’s murder? Would he be so irate and furious and jealous of her and her new lover that he would set this up for mere revenge? Or as payback for the divorce? To Orville it felt like some bad TV movie…
He finally snapped out of his trance and called up Frederick over at RMD. He briefly explained the situation and the need for action as fast as possible. Frederick said Janice knew of a guy just outside Memphis that could help and that he would have him call Orville right away.
“You think he’s available right now?” Orville asked.
“No idea, but I am sure his firm could take this on if they feel it is solidly defensible after talking to your friend, Sarah.”
“OK. Great, Frederick, and thanks. It’s like a nightmare come to life, you know?”
“I can imagine.”
“If this guy will take her case, have him bill me.”
“Yeah. Sarah is a simple woman. Just works in the bookstore here in town. There is no way she could afford this guy I am afraid, and a public defender would be a disaster, you know?”
“You close to her, Orville?”
“Just good friends. There is something here that stinks. Right now I have no idea what that is, but I cannot have Sarah take the fall for something I know she did not do.”
“It will not be cheap, Orville.”
“I am sure it will not be. Does not matter. If he’s her guy, have him bill me directly. I’ll work out all of Sarah’s refusals and arguments later. OK?”
“Sure thing, Orville. Take care and I will talk to you soon.”