Sunlight stretched like fingers through the wooden window blinds. Between the snips of pruning shears, I heard my neighbor, Mrs. McCullough, talking to a ball of fur and teeth she calls "Fifi"; apparently, one of the neighborhood children trampled through the petunia bed again.
I stepped into my slippers and stumbled toward the kitchen. For the last eight months, I'd hardly slept. Prosecutors often say "such-and-such crime was particularly heinous", but that description didn't begin to cover what was done to Delilah Shaw. I poured a cup of coffee and turned the radio on. Mrs. McCullough was explaining why it must have been the Van Sant boy who destroyed her prized petunias, a point which Fifi choose not to dispute.
Tomorrow morning Jason Bartelli was going to trial for Delilah Shaw's murder, and thanks to his estranged wife, Mary Ellen, I had to decide what, if anything, I could do about it. Additionally indicted on multiple counts of rape, Jason Bartelli was innocent of the murder charge, at least.
I knew Jason was innocent because of a chance encounter with his wife eight months ago. I first saw Mary Ellen Bartelli in a photograph taken at the hospital. A pretty little thing with a sagging ponytail, and long, black bruises under her eyes. It's an injury I've seen before, caused by a blow to the head violent enough to send the brain slamming forward in the skull. Eight months ago I was sure there wasn't anything this little five foot nothing of a girl could possibly have done, to deserve what was done to her.
In five years of working Domestic Assault, I saw women who'd been beaten, shot, stabbed; it isn't always what the abusers do that makes this work difficult. Sometimes it's watching the abused return for more. I thought I could do more good working in Sexual Assault and just before my transfer was approved, Mary Ellen turned up in the ER.
Her husband, Jason, was a "person of interest" in a string of sexual assaults. The victims all described a slightly built man who seemed to appear out of nowhere, attacking them from behind. The details of the attacks were similar enough that Homicide considered Jason the most likely suspect in Delilah Shaw's murder.
The medical examiner reported that, "because no semen is present...in my opinion, Ms. Shaw was repeatedly and forcefully penetrated with a foreign object, smooth and most likely steel."
No DNA in our rape victims. None in Delilah Shaw.
The powers that be thought Mary Ellen could be helpful to our investigation, and now as the only woman in Sexual Assault, the task of interviewing Mary Ellen Bartelli fell to me.
they can see no reasons
'cause there are no reasons
what reasons do you need
tell me why
I don't like Mondays...
When I turned the radio on, I was expecting "Surfin' Bird", or something by the Troggs. I forgot, this is "Sunday Bloody Sunday" now, on KWAG. All 80's. All damn day.
"I Don't Like Mondays" is a good song, though. I remembered the story from when it was on the news.
Home from school that day, sixteen year-old Brenda Ann Spencer took a .22 caliber rifle from the closet and aimed it out the window. She fired thirty rounds; with two men dead and nine children bleeding on a playground, they asked her why and Brenda Spencer said:
"I don't like Mondays...”
Standing in my not-so-tidy kitchen, I watched the coffee sloshing on the countertop as I stirred it with the wrong end of a spoon. In the morning, Jason Bartelli was going to trial for a murder he didn't commit. A murder I couldn't prove he didn't commit. To even try would be career suicide.
The radio said it was going to rain tonight and through tomorrow. I could still hear Mrs. McCullough laying out the crime scene at the petunia bed for Fifi. Lately, every time I heard my neighbor's voice, I wondered how it was that just next door everything was simple enough to explain to a puppy dog.
At work, whenever I heard the name "Bartelli", I eavesdropped on any conversation within earshot, I pored through every document I could find. I barely ate and barely slept; eight months went by, and still it all seemed futile. This was Homicide's case, anyway. I worked sex assaults, I was still new and the only woman there. By sticking my nose into it, I could end up spending the rest of my career making coffee and reminding so-and-so about the call on line three.
Besides, Jason had the best defense attorney around here, Stephen Ballard. I even thought of going to Ballard myself, several times, and then thought better of it. The jaundiced eye through which that would be viewed was enough of a deterrent. I could just imagine the reception I was likely to receive from Stephen Ballard: Let me understand this, Detective. According to your little "theory"...
I could lose everything I worked so hard for, for what. To be a crusader, to make a point...to help a man I never even met...besides, I wasn't exactly sure what Jason Bartelli did.
Still, I knew what Jason Bartelli didn't do.
Delilah Shaw was a pretty, pretty girl. Green-eyed and raven-haired. Delilah's father had earrings custom made for her and he was absolutely certain the last time he saw her she was wearing them.
When her body was discovered, her hair had been butchered. Her face was purpleblack.
There was no jewelry found on or around Delilah Shaw.
The press was howling for blood, calls flooded in day and night, Homicide, and Sex Assault, everyone, everyone was frantic; so frantic, on the day Mary Ellen came in for her interview, our squad leader, Captain Mollett, passed me on his way into a meeting with Homicide, and with a hasty,"ER doctor's report of Mrs. Bartelli's injuries almost forgot to give it you", he accidentally gave me part of the file on the Shaw case.
Under the ER photo of Mary Ellen Bartelli there was a form from something called Fidelity Trust, with a description of an unusual, custom made pair of earrings. Sitting at my desk that day, her face showed little of the beating she received, and when Mary Ellen giggled and tossed her blond hair back, the glint of her jeweled earrings struck me hard enough I’d swear it sent my brain slamming forward in my skull.
But she wasn't a suspect. Mary Ellen was there more as a courtesy to us than anything. I couldn't keep her there over a pair of earrings.
No DNA in our rape victims.
None in Delilah Shaw.
Every Saturday night for the last five years, I spoke to women at a battered women's shelter; once a week for the last five years I stood in front of bruised and beaten women, and said that violence and abuse were never—ever—justified.
It seemed so simple. I was so sure I was right.
Now I said those words and all I saw was Mary Ellen, with the long, dark bruises under her eyes. An injury I once assumed she received at her husband's hand, and now I realized that photograph was either one of two things. Either a record of what Jason Bartelli did—and if that was the case, knowing what I do about Mary Ellen, he may have been justified.
Or it was a record of what Delilah Shaw did. That she was strong, and fought hard for her life, and if that was the case, it was possibly the closest thing to justice there would be.
Mary Ellen Bartelli killed Delilah Shaw, I'm sure of that. She used her hands and a length of steel to kill, and she was able to get close enough to kill a perfect stranger because there was no reason for Delilah Shaw to fear little, five foot nothing Mary Ellen.
What reasons do you need.
I drank another cup of coffee I didn't really want.
But I had nothing. Delilah Shaw's earrings were probably at the bottom of a river bed somewhere. Even if they dropped straight from the sky into my hand, it wouldn't mean anything. To fight this uphill-both-ways battle and risk losing everything—not just my little "everything" but all the future chances to really do some good I might be throwing away to prove Jason Bartelli's innocence, a man I never even met—to do that, I needed a damn good reason.
It was raining.
The trial would start in the morning, nine a.m.
Maybe I could find the reason there.
I was late, barely in before the bailiff closed the door. It rained all morning, steady, and turned the sky a shade of gray that makes whatever's bad seem worse. I stepped on people's toes and said "excuse me" until I found a seat. It was warm inside the courtroom and after so many sleepless nights I almost nodded off a couple of times. A real jury trial is nothing like you see it in a movie or on TV. It's tedious, mostly, and in spite of all the hullabaloo over Bartelli, this was no exception.
Thankfully it wasn't long before the judge called morning recess. Everyone stretched and mumbled and started filing out slowly, and I was pretty sure the coffee machine was somewhere on this floor.
Then a giggle I'd know anywhere erased all thoughts of coffee.
If I were Mary Ellen Bartelli, god forbid, you wouldn't hear a peep much less a giggle out of me. It didn't make any sense. Here is the last place she should be. I looked around; Stephen Ballard was still at the defense table. But there were people everywhere, I was completely boxed in.
What else could I do.
I leaned across the rail and poked him with my badge.
"It's about Mrs. Bartelli", I whispered.
This is not the line of work for anyone who's easily intimidated, and Stephen Ballard is one of the reasons why that's so. I'm generally able to give as good as I get, for which I am especially glad, especially today. Because the man whose help I need and whose attention I've just wielded a sharp object in open court to attract, has more than once left grown men weeping on the stand.
Stephen Ballard also gives as good as he gets. Speaking as if I were a slow-witted child, he was at least, succinct: "Her name. Is not Bartelli, anymore. Detective."
It figured. Once again, I had underestimated her.
Ignoring the little dig at my detective skills, I pushed through a crowd of people whose toes I had already stepped on, and I saw her in the hallway just outside the courtroom. The witness for the prosecution was still blond and manicured as ever.
But now with her belly round and firm, the former Mrs. Bartelli had a special glow that wasn't there before. Mary Ellen stood talking with a small group of maternity-wear clad women, her polished, sculpted nails flashing as she spoke.
I watched the hands that would rock a cradle soon, and saw nine children bleeding on a playground.
I heard nine children scream as rifle fire exploded in their backs.
That Monday afternoon, sunlight stretched like fingers through the window blinds in Stephen Ballard's office. The rain was gone, and everything was simple enough to explain to a puppy dog.