Since the day had grown so gloomy, Orville was in no mood to go back home so soon and he headed over to Maniglio’s for pizza. He was not by nature bothered by such things as death and all that came with it, but for some reason after having met with Phil Gleason, Orville was longing for bright lights and some people around him while he pondered how to handle the urn…or at least the urn contents. He covered the urn, still in its satchel with a small blanket he used to protect his back seat and went in to eat and think. Maniglio’s was busy that evening, but gratefully for Orville there was no one he knew more than just to wave hello at on the street.
Instead of pizza, he ordered a calzone—Sal’s specialty—plus one of the new microbrew selections that had just made its way into the area that Orville had yet to give a try. His calzone was spicy and overflowing with cheese and the ale was crisp and left him with an aftertaste of citrus. Orville gazed out the window as the sun was dipping behind the heavy bank of clouds that had hung over town all day, making a quick appearance after being absent all day. The long lines of light that pierced through the gaps in the clouds made Orville squint and he looked away as he finally began to really consider what it was he was going to do about this urn situation.
He thought over all that Phil Gleason had said to him as he was leaving and though the thought of having an urn full of unknown remains—possibly human—was not the most appetizing thing that had ever crossed his mind, it was not like it was freaking him out. For now, Orville decided, he would just go with the status quo and see what happened and how he felt as time went on. The only curiosities remaining in his brain were how it had tipped over in the middle of the night and what that light had been, assuming he had really seen it. And then another disturbing thought came to him. Orville thought back to several night previously when he had found the urn a bit away from where he had thought he had left it when he had first gotten the thing.
At the time he had written this off to vibrations from the thunderstorm that night, but with these new oddities, Orville began to wonder if that was too simple an explanation. Sure, that storm had been really loud and violent, but would that really have been enough to get the urn to skitter across the mantle? Especially now that he knew it was filled with ashes. It seemed to Orville that it would have taken much more than a cannonade of thunder to account for that. And if he had actually seen that flash of light and then that receding mass of illumination bleeding through the space between the window frame and the sash…were those phenomena related to the urn and how it had gotten moved?
He shivered slightly as the experiences he had had with La Mala Hora came back to him for some reason. Orville stopped in mid-sip wondering where that had come from suddenly. Was he actually entertaining the thought that there might be something supernatural connected to this urn? Despite the faith that his Guatemalan friends had in the legend of La Mala Hora, Orville was still on the fence on that one, but certainly someone with even a borderline belief in the supernatural or the paranormal might be tempted to see at least a weak correlation. But that was not Orville. For him, La Mala Hora could either be fanciful legend or a hallucination, but he was not about to adhere to a belief in some spirit or ghost as causation…for either La Mala Hora or the urn. But he did know someone who might: Kathryn. He had yet to share the La Mala Hora experience with her…or anyone else in Laconia for that matter. Maybe it was time. Tell her this story from his time in El Zapote and what he had seen just before he collapsed at RMD that day…see how she took that first. If that went well, then maybe broach the idea that there could be something more to this urn than just the urn itself. She had been begging him for stories of his travels after all…
He called Kathryn from his car after he paid his bill at Maniglio’s to see if she might be interested in dropping by for dinner after tomorrow’s day in court.
“Sure…what’s the occasion?”
“Oh, no real occasion, I guess. Just think we might need some company after Alberto’s second day of Sarah’s defense. Plus you’ve been pestering me about my trip.”
“Oh, God…you’re not doing a slide show are you?”
“No, Kathryn,” Orville replied laughing. “I am well aware of your feelings on that subject after Danny Fitzgerald’s mind-numbingly boring travelogue of his trip through New England last year. I would never subject any of my friends to such torture.”
“OK…sure. You promise no slides, no movies, no scrapbooks?”
“Scout’s honor, Kathryn. But I do have a story from Guatemala I think you might be interested in. Old local legend I was made privy to when down there before I retired.”
“From your friend, Francisco?”
“Yep. You still game?”
“Sure. Want me to come with you right from the courthouse?”
“That will work. You still have this thing about brussel sprouts?”
“Gah!! Please…no miniature cabbages from hell!! They say God never makes mistakes? Probably so, but when I think of brussel sprouts, then my agnostic genes engage. Must have been an off day for Him when He decided those were a good idea.”
Orville laughed out loud.
“Never. I am just kidding. See you at the trial tomorrow.”
Orville hung up and headed or home, his curiosity piqued at how Kathryn might react to the legend of La Mala Hora considering her open mind when it came to these types of things. The roads were wet and fog was hovering low making visibility tricky and Orville was relieved when he pulled into his drive at last. He replaced the urn in its home base—that was how he saw it anyway—curious to see if it would still be where he had left it when he got up the next morning.
Orville awoke early just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. He had slept well and there had been no new instances of anything odd in the house overnight that he was aware of. He glanced into the living room and the urn was sitting exactly where he had left it, the sun reflecting vividly off its polished surface and metal bands. He went to the kitchen and started the coffee maker and then just stood at the hearth and stared at the urn. Orville had no idea why, exactly. It was not like he thought it might magically go clattering across the ledge. It had just become a curiosity in the back of his mind now as to what this thing was exactly…possibly something more than just a decorative urn.
After coffee and a quick bagel, Orville showered and drove into town to see what Alberto Winter had up his sleeve today to try and save Sarah from prison. Kathryn was already there when he arrived and he sat down beside her quietly while everyone waited on Judge Mallory to arrive and put court into session.
“Sleep well?” Kathryn asked.
“I did…thanks. First time since this whole trial nightmare began actually. Even had enough energy to get over to the Shop and Save and pick up a bag of bruss…”
“Do not say it, Orville. Not even in jest. Those horrid stink balls should not even be spoken of. Like some demon that appears if you say his name out loud.”
“Sorry…I could not help myself.”
Just then Judge Mallory breezed to his place at the head of the room and they all rose as instructed by the bailiff. Mallory had them seated and then had Alberto continue his defense from the point where he had left off prior to the one-day reprieve. All the jokes seemed highly inappropriate to Orville now as Alberto stood and called the last of his character witnesses on Sarah’s behalf. After a break for lunch, he moved onto making points to the jury regarding how it should be no surprise that Sarah’s prints were on the murder weapon. Then he began what Orville knew was to be his biggest obstacle to overcome: the testimony of Richard Finley and Thomas Robertson.
He recalled both to the stand one after the other, and Orville thought his strategy to show a highly suspect relationship between the two men and James Holding was about all he had to work with. He emphasized how they had seemingly been pulled up at a very convenient time for the prosecution and seemed to be oddly tied to Holding. It began well, but his heart sank as Judge Mallory sustained Redding’s objections to such questions as irrelevant to the case at hand. He knew Alberto was worried about this possibility going in, but when Harry Doyle had come up empty there had simply been no other strategy to pursue. Judge Mallory had clipped Alberto’s wings, so to speak, and as the final day of the defense’s case came to a close, things looked bleak for Sarah.
“We will adjourn for the today and have closing arguments tomorrow morning, gentlemen. Then the case will be in the jury’s hands. Court is adjourned!” Judge Mallory said with a crisp rap of his gavel before whisking away to his chambers.
Alberto sat and spoke quietly with Sarah for just a few moments before she left and then just sat, his fingers tented as he stared at the empty seat where Judge Mallory had been just minutes before. He looked up suddenly as Redding was standing at his table grinning.
“You should have taken the deal, Albert,” he said smugly.
“Was not my decision, Arnie. My client declined,” he replied smiling inwardly knowing how Arnold Redding detested the informal version of his first name.
Redding’s grin fell away immediately.
“Too bad, counselor. Life without is a long, long time…or worse if I can get the death penalty.”
Alberto grimaced as Redding stalked away his hard heels clicking and echoing across the floor of the empty courtroom.
“Asshole…” Alberto grumbled under his breath. “God help us if this tool gets elected mayor or Governor or worse…”