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Eight-year-old Tony Diggory has been brutally beaten to death, and twelve-year-old Reina Machado has confessed to his murder. Reina's social worker, Aron Bernstein, now faces questions about who is truly responsible and why this tragedy had to happen. Aron battles his own guilt, as well as those who want to keep the secrets surrounding Reina and Tony in the dark. As he tries to figure out what happened leading up to Tony's death, light and dark compete, as one tries to drown the other out for good.

Mystery / Thriller
Hally Alson
Age Rating:

In Session

“Prosecution may call their first witness.” Marianne Daniels, a stern-looking woman, placed her documents down on the judge’s bench. She looked to the prosecution’s side with her beady, bird-like eyes. Her black robe made a slight ruffling noise, amplified by the cold silence of the brightly lit courtroom. All the lights were on, and the sun shone its long tentacles through the large windows. Light bounced around glimmering like little flames, while shadows lurked where the sun didn’t quite reach. The weather did not match the melancholy, disconsolate air of the court. Mrs. Lockwood stood up from her place on the right of the courtroom.

“The people call Aron Bernstein, Your Honor.” There was some muttering as the bailiff got up and went into the waiting room. He came out a few seconds later and led the man he had just grabbed to the stand. The witness was of average height, caucasion, and had plain, bristly brown hair. The bailiff helped him up, and the witness gave him a slight nod. Aron Bernstein took a seat, waiting for instruction. The clerk, a small blonde woman, spoke up.

“Please stand and raise your right hand.” The witness did as he was told, standing up and raising his hand. “Do you promise that the testimony you shall give in the case before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

“I do.” He spoke in a calm, matter-of-fact voice. The wispy, little clerk continued.

“Please state your first and last name.” She stated and in a rehearsed manner. It was easy to get the impression that she spent countless workdays repeating these statements.

“Aron Bernstein.” The clerk nodded her head.

“You may be seated.” The witness wore a well-kept, serviceable black suit with a white dress shirt and a dark purple tie. Aron sat back down. He sat straight, with his hands folded in his lap. His face was impassive, with dark glasses covering his eyes, making his expression especially hard to read. If one were to examine him closer, as the people in the court were, they would notice a collection of small, jagged scars sliced into different areas of his face. There was something peaceful about his general disposition, but he had a similar manner to a student on exam day. He sat forward slightly ready for the questions, his shoulders tense with anticipation and with some invisible burden he was carrying on them. A man sitting with a stenograph spoke up.

“Please spell your last name for the record.”

“B-E-R-N-S-T-E-I-N.” Mrs. Lockwood stood up and walked toward the witness stand. She was a tall, confident woman. She moved forward with purpose, and there was a fiery look in her eyes. She addressed Aron.

“Thank you for being here today, Mr. Bernstein. Where do you work?” Her voice rang all around the courtroom. Once it stopped echoing, silence settled once again.. People were on the edge of their seats listening, curious to this unique case.

“I work as a social worker for the Department of Children and Family Services in the County.” He spoke clearly. All his words were plain, and he remained incredibly composed.

“What type of social worker are you?”

“I’m a Child Welfare Social Worker.” He didn’t miss a beat.

“What is the job and responsibilities of a Child Welfare Social Worker ?

“We are responsible for handling a variety of situations involving youth. We assist in abuse and neglect investigations, support families, and protect vulnerable individuals, such as children from harm.”

“How long have you been a social worker?”

“A little over three years.”

“And what qualifies you?”

“I have a master’ degree in Social Work?”

“So you fully understand what social workers are required to do?”


“What specifically do you do?”

“I do psychotherapy with clients. Other social workers will also do visitation and perform home visits, but I don’t do that”

“Was Reina Machado, the twelve-year-old involved in the death of Tony Diggory, one of the children you are employed to work with?” For the first time, there was a slight hesitation before Aron spoke.

“She was, yes.”

“How long was Ms. Machado your client?”

“About six months.”

“Mr. Bernstein, do you mind telling the jury what occurred after you learned about the death of Tony Diggory?”

“Of course.”

“Let’s start the morning you learned of Tony Diggory’s death. What happened?”

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