Orville drove home feeling just about as downcast as he had in a long time. He had just come from the first day of arguments and debate in Sarah’s trial. Alberto was indeed as skillful and masterful in his milieu as Janice had indicated, but from his perspective and the faces of the jurors, Orville was not seeing a good outcome for her. The physical evidence and where it had been discovered was just as damning as Orville had anticipated and Detective Baxter’s testimony as to Sarah’s surprise at its discovery added another nail. Orville had even seen a couple jurors roll their eyes when the detective told Redding that Sarah had told him she had no idea why the knife had been found in the wall at Joe’s apartment…that the last time she had seen it was when she and Joe had been making a dinner at his place weeks before.
The fingerprint evidence likewise was no surprise, but even Winter’s cross-examination of Baxter on the point that her prints should be no shock since she often used the knife when cooking at Joe’s did not seem to resonate with the jury. At least from what Orville could see and based on his very limited experience in such things. He pulled up to his house and dragged himself inside feeling worn out and spent after watching one point after another get checked off in the prosecutor’s favor. Winter had been right about Redding. He came off as smug and arrogant and full of himself, but he sure knew how to make a case for the state.
If Orville had not known better, he would easily have been convinced of Sarah’s guilt. And they had not eve gotten to these so-called reliable witnesses that Redding had found to attest to Sarah’s motive for the crime. He knew he would keep going to the proceedings each day, if for nothing more than to support Sarah when she needed it the most, but it looked as if Redding would wrap up his arguments after tomorrow once Richard Finley and Thomas Robertson took the stand. Even Winter’s investigator, Harry Doyle, despite an exhaustive campaign, had been unable to unearth anything about either man that seemed useful in discrediting their character or revealing any ulterior motive for offering their testimony. Each did have some minor scrapes with the police in their pasts, but in Winter’s estimation nothing that would be worth bringing up at trial.
Orville dumped his coat on the sofa in the living room and dropped his keys with a clatter on the table just inside the front door and plodded along toward the kitchen. He opened the refrigerator and surveyed his options for dinner, but it all looked gray and bland. He knew that was just his mood, but all the same he finally gave up and grabbed a cold beer realizing he was not really hungry after all. The day in court had killed any appetite he night have otherwise had. Orville sat heavily in his reading chair watching the sun filter through the limbs of the thick trees behind his house while several icy droplets of condensation from the bottle dribbled over his fingers. He took a long swig from the beer, swallowed and sighed with depression.
He supposed some in Laconia might be looking on him sideways when the news got out that he had paid for Sarah’s defense, but he could not have cared less. Other than a few close friends in town and a couple colleagues at RMD, Orville had no interest in what others thought of him or might have to say. And it certainly was not about the fees paid to Alberto Winter. To Orville it was just money and more would come once that was gone. His real concern and what was nagging him like a dagger in his chest was that despite all their best efforts and knowing that Sarah was innocent, it looked as if it might be in vain. For a long time after finishing his beer, Orville just sat and stared out at the dark woods beyond his cottage. As bad as he felt, he could not imagine the inner hell that Sarah was going through.
With no energy or motivation to read or watch TV, Orville doused the lights and went to bed knowing the next day in court was going to be brutal. In an aberration for Orville, he tossed and turned for hours despite being completely beaten down physically and emotionally from the day. As hard as he tried he just could not get the image of Sarah being taken away to prison once all the arguments and rancor between Redding and Alberto had concluded. However, in the wee hours he finally dozed off as his mind eventually calmed down and his body followed suit. Then just as Orville found himself in the midst of a dream about his time in a small village just north of Lake Como in Italy up near the Swiss border, he was shaken rudely from his blessed slumber by a light but definite clunk that had come from the living room.
He sat up still groggy from his dream and listened again. But whatever it was had stopped. Orville carefully lifted back the covers on his bed and crept to the doorway hoping he had not been unfortunate enough to have had some sort of break in. Laconia was gratefully free of such things in general, but times were changing and the town was now no more immune to petty theft from opportunists as anywhere else. A very bright but incredibly brief flash of light emanated from down the hall bathing the short passage in a weak yellow burst. It was so quick and unexpected that Orville figured if he had not been up and looking right at his open bedroom door that he might have missed it. It was like the laser pulsing tests they used to use at RMD but not nearly as focused and intense.
It was more diffuse but still brilliant for what Orville estimated had to have been for less than just a second or two. He looked outside suspecting lightning as an advent to a rainstorm and some as of yet to arrive thunder, but the large window in the bedroom showed a black sky with no clouds and a half-moon high in the sky. This made him furrow his brow in wonder and he continued his slow and careful progress into the hall and toward the living room. Orville had no idea what his plan was if he should happen upon an intruder, but that did not stop him from walking on. He came to the end of the corridor and looked out into the den and kitchen which branched off to the right, but as far as he could tell all looked just as it had when he had called it a night.
A closer inspection of both rooms indeed confirmed this, making him reverse directions and head to the living room and the small entryway at the front door. The door looked tightly closed and intact as he peered over and a double-check of the lock let him know it was still engaged and had not been tampered with. There was no evidence of damage to any windows either as he crept sideways to the living room. But as he put one foot onto the area rug that covered the polished wood floors there, Orville froze as his breath caught in his throat and his blood ran cold. Looking straight ahead he caught the quickest of glimpses of a golden/green light slipping through the space between the window sash and the frame of the double windows of the living room. It seemed impossible but the closest comparison he could make would have been to a liquid running down through a crack or crevice had the fluid been on a horizontal surface and running away due to gravity.
But what he had seen was definitely not a liquid and it had seeped away horizontally as if being pulled or pushed from inside his house to the exterior. Purely on instinct Orville dashed to the front door and threw it open as he ran out and to the double window around the right side of the house. But when he arrived there, there was nothing to see. Whatever he had seen—if he had actually seen anything real—was gone. He looked around in all directions but saw nothing but the normal trees and shrubs that enveloped his little bungalow. Likewise there was no sound save the beating of his pulse in his ears and some nocturnal insects that chirped and clicked as was there way. There was no wind and the moon reflected lazily off the metal of his car as a lone thin, gauzy-looking cloud drifted by over it.
Orville now wondered if maybe this had all been part of that dream he had been roused from. What had it been about? Oh, yeah…Brunate, just on the shore of Lake Como in Italy…but all that had just happened here seemed totally disconnected from that place. Besides, even if it had been part of his dream, he had actually seen that light…or whatever it was…well after he was up and about. Or was he sleepwalking and it was one of those dreams that just melded totally unrelated things together to confuse and puzzle you when you recalled it upon waking? As far as he knew he had never walked in his sleep, but he sure had had his share of those jumbled dream fragments in his lifetime. Orville closed his eyes, took some deep breaths and then reopened his eyes before returning inside and closing the door behind him.
He scratched his head as he made his way back through the living room and had all intentions of just going back to bed to try and salvage a few hours of sleep before he had to up and back at Sarah’s trial. But as he passed the fireplace he looked over and saw that the urn had fallen onto its side and the cap was lying just to the side. Orville still had no idea what that light had been all about, but the thunk that had woken him had apparently been the urn falling to its side and popping off its lid. He sighed in disappointment as he was sure the piece would be damaged after such a toppling, though how it had fallen in the first place was a mystery. He flipped on the overhead light and went to see if the urn might be repairable.
However when he arrived at the hearth nothing could have prepared Orville for what he found. He righted the piece amazed that it had not been cracked or shattered or even chipped in its fall. But when he did return it to its former position, Orville could not believe his eyes. He had to be seeing things. But the longer he looked, the more he knew he was not. The urn…this simple, decorative adornment that he had picked up at the community garage sale just a few weeks ago was not empty. He tilted it at an angle to get a better look. Sure enough, there inside the urn were ashes.
“Holy shit!” he said out loud, as he carefully replaced the lid and stepped back as if the thing might come to life and attack him. “I bought an urn with someone else’s ashes already in it…”