Orville and Kathryn were both down as they left the courthouse that afternoon, but they made the best of a lousy situation knowing there was not much else they could do at this point. Orville had gotten the best defense lawyer he could for Sarah, but the surprise witnesses had caught them all off-guard. He was thoroughly impressed with the job Alberto had done, even in the face of overwhelming odds once Finley and Robertson had come on the scene. Not even a fictional super-lawyer from a John Grisham novel would have been able to save Sarah he figured. Kathryn followed Orville into his kitchen and sat with a glass of wine as he busied himself with dinner.
“So tomorrow wraps it up in the court, huh?” Kathryn asked as Orville drained out a large bowl of pasta and gave his white clam sauce a final stir.
“I guess so…can you grab those glasses and we can head into the dining room?”
Kathryn nodded and followed him as he carried their plates with the fragrant aroma of butter and clams filling the air. He placed the pasta at each of their settings and filled his wine glass as well.
“Here’s to Alberto and fighting the good fight…” Kathryn offered as she and Orville clinked glasses.
“I guess it will all be in the hands of the jury after the closing arguments in the morning,” Orville added after sipping his wine.
“What do you think? I mean…in your gut, Orville…think she has a chance?”
He shrugged as het set his glass aside.
“I really do not know, Kathryn. It did not look promising when things wrapped up yesterday after Mallory shut down Alberto on his questioning of Finley and Robertson. I still hold out hope though, no matter what.”
“Me, too. I guess deep inside I keep hoping all twelve jurors will get split and another negotiation has to be hammered out between Redding and Alberto. But I agree that her acquittal seems unlikely in light of the prosecution’s witnesses.”
Orville sighed and nodded and they ate in silence for a few moments.
“Well…worrying about it accomplishes nothing, I guess,” Kathryn finally said, “how about this story from Guatemala you enticed me with?”
“OK. Have you ever heard of the legend of La Mala Hora?”
Kathryn thought for a few seconds then shook her head no.
“Sounds vaguely familiar to this thing I recall from somewhere out in the wilds of New Mexico I read about years ago, but I am not sure it is the same thing.”
“Actually, it is. At least that is what Francisco and the elder down in El Zapote who told me the legend say. It was an original old Hispanic folklore tale that got passed around and around and it did indeed get up the States.”
Kathryn nodded and sat back as Orville laid out the story staying as close to the version that he had gotten from Sergio Vásquez as possible. As he went through all the details and how the locals there viewed it, he saw her interest grow and grow.
“The people in El Zapote…they truly believe this to be more than a legend then?”
“They do. In fact, I even had an experience or two that have made me more of a believer in it than I would have anticipated as well.”
Orville nodded, took one quick sip of his wine and then told her of what he had seen in El Zapote just before he left during his first visit there. When she did not seem especially skeptical of this revelation, Orville then added what he thought he had seen here in Laconia just before his TIA caused him to collapse.
“You saw her? Here?”
“It was during that TIA episode I had back at RMD. I actually am still not sure if it was real or part of that episode.”
“The doctors saying it was hallucinated from a combination of your illness and your trip in Guatemala?”
“Something like that.”
Orville had a feeling that if anyone might not roll their eyes at him about this it would be Kathryn. She had a keen interest in the topics of the supernatural and the paranormal which had made her the target of some snickering and jokes among the locals in Laconia. But like Orville, Kathryn did not give much credence to what most people said or thought of her these days. With that in mind, he figured he would continue on and tell her of Francisco’s disappearance from El Zapote just recently.
She sipped at her wine while he told of his recent journey back to El Zapote to visit Francisco and his family and what he had discovered and what Alejandro had said. This time he thought he detected a slight shift in Kathryn’s eyes…maybe even with her own belief system in this types of things, that this was a bit too much to swallow.
“You saying they believe Francisco and some of his friends were taken by this La Mala Hora?”
“That is the story I got from Alejandro. He seemed pretty convinced and quite frankly there is a completely different vibe in the village now from when I was there before.”
Kathryn nodded but looked at him with a steady gaze.
“You do know how things are down there, right? Not like the terror that went on in South America during the 60’s…with the CIA’s help I might add…but there is still a lot of instability in that region.”
“I am well aware of that, Kathryn. But El Zapote is pretty small and remote. I cannot see there being anything there that some splinter rebel group or military clique or even a cartel might be interested in.”
“OK…OK…it’s just a lot to swallow I guess. You believe this Alejandro?”
“I don’t know for sure, Kathryn. I had this long conversation with Francisco when he was taking me back to the Belize border after my first visit with him. It sure gave me a lot to think about I suppose. Certainly opened my mind to possibilities that I never would have considered before that trip.”
Kathryn took another sip of wine and nothing more was said on the subject.
Oh well…” she said as she set her glass aside, “guess I had better take off. I am sure there will be no jury decision tomorrow, but I’d like to be there to support Sarah during the closing arguments all the same.”
Orville nodded and stood with her.
“Me, too. Thanks for coming by.”
“Sure. Dinner was great. Want some help cleaning up?”
“Nah…I’ve got it.”
He walked her to her car and stood aside as she opened the door and looked at him.
“It’s not like I doubt this thing, Orville. You know me better than that and there certainly are things out there that defy scientific and rational thought.”
“Just be careful I guess. It is easy to get taken for a ride with some of these legends and beliefs from around the globe. Make sure you are looking at it all as objectively as possible. Without the emotions attached to the disappearance of your friend, Francisco.”
Orville nodded and watched as she drove off into the still, clear night. He had not expected this pullback from Kathryn. He had thought it would all be right up her alley, in fact. He now wondered if he had gone too far and shared too much too soon with her. He was not concerned about her gossiping to others—that was not Kathryn at all—but more about how she might view him in their relationship moving forward now. And maybe she was right…maybe he needed to step back and really examine this experience from an overall perspective. With nothing more to ponder or do, Orville went back inside, cleaned up the few dishes and pans there had been from dinner and retired for the night with a new book he had just bought from the little store where Sarah used to work.
Orville was seated in the courtroom when Kathryn arrived and she joined him just before Judge Mallory declared the court in session. She leaned over and whispered to Orville.
“Sorry if I came off a little strong last night.”
“No problem. You gave me some food for thought.”
They both sat back as first Redding when into his usual high theatrics in his closing statement and was then followed by Alberto with an impressive impassioned plea to the jury to look into their hearts and see if they really had seen enough evidence and the correct circumstances that would cause a mild-mannered and gentle woman with not so much as an outstanding parking ticket to be guilty of murder. Judge Mallory gave the jury their final instructions and they left the courtroom to begin their deliberations.