This story was a finalist in the 2013 Michigan Bar Journal Short Story Contest, and was published in the Autumn, 2013 Legends: A Literary Journal from Grey Wolfe Publishing.
Trevor Aldabra sat in the court room at the defendant’s table, speculating about the chaos occurring behind its walls. His client was on trial for murder this morning; a killing spree that topped the news headlines. Two camera men were setting up in the back of the court room, inconspicuous as laughter at a funeral.
That did not concern Trevor.
Months ago, Trevor had warned Madeline Grigsby, the Assistant Prosecutor assigned to the case, not to turn his client’s surrender into a media circus because she’d have a tough time explaining events that would occur later. But Madeline didn’t follow his advice. She held a press conference acknowledging that the Double Lobotomy Murderer had been captured. Kudos for her. Later had now arrived and Trevor was certain that there she and the judge had an issue to deal with as he sat in a court room filling with people.
That did not concern Trevor.
He brought his briefcase. Within it held a sketchy outline of questions he would ask the prosecutor’s witnesses, in the event a trial did take place. He had no exhibits, and really had no case, should the trial commence.
That did not concern Trevor.
Within his briefcase he also had the findings of his secretary Ginger Desjardins. He instructed her to dig into the annals of Michigan history in search of what he would need to prove his case; not to a jury, but to the judge and Madeline. The research was unconventional, but it would reveal the unusual circumstances and character of his client. Such research and findings frightened five former secretaries to flee from their job. He hired Ginger three weeks ago. Would he have to recruit a seventh to replace her?
That concerned Trevor.
Madeline emerged from behind the door which led back to the offices and chambers of Judge Whyler. She wore a black jacket with slacks and a light pink blouse which matched her lipstick. Her almond eyes glared at Trevor through a pair of stylish glasses.
“Mr. Aldabra. We need to talk to the judge in chambers. Now.” She reminded him of a seasoned elementary school teacher ordering a misbehaving student to the principal’s office.
Trevor picked up his briefcase and followed her through the door, down the hallway to the back office. Katie, Judge Whyler’s secretary, focused her attention on the docket printed before her, avoiding eye contact with them.
Judge Whyler paced before his desk. He wore a navy suit. His dark robe hung on a wooden hanger on a silver metal coat rack in the corner of the office.
“Mr. Aldabra, can you explain to me what is going on?” the judge barked his order, a voice he developed as a police sergeant before going to law school. His dark hair was smoothly combed, his brow wrinkled and his cheeks reddened as he looked at Trevor.
“We have a jury trial scheduled for today, Your Honor,” Trevor replied.
“And where is your client?”
“In the county jail, Sir.”
“No she is not!” his voice raised. “She has escaped. And Ms. Grigsby indicated to me that you know something about this.”
“I do, Your Honor.” Trevor lowered himself into one of the chairs before the desk. “I’ll explain it to you, but I don’t know how you and Ms. Grigsby are going to explain it to the press.” Trevor motioned to the chair next to him and behind the desk. “Have a seat. This is going to take a little time.”
It was two days after the most recent body was found in a series of murders that Trevor sat in his office, reviewing the will he drafted for his client, Lloyd Baker. Estate planning was not his specialty. Criminal defense was his first love, and he’d take any client charged with a crime. But if a client crossed his threshold with a legal matter he felt competent to handle, Trevor would not turn him or her away.
The gentle tap of knuckle against door drew Trevor’s attention.
“There’s a woman here to see you,” Ginger said.
“How long before Mr. Baker is supposed to be here?”
“Twenty minutes,” she said. She pushed her dark framed glasses higher on her nose, blinking her olive eyes.
“What do you think?” he asked.
She turned her head toward the lobby then back, her tied-back auburn hair whipped. “I think you should see her. I can delay Mr. Baker.”
“Send her in,” Trevor said, and his secretary departed.
Trevor stood as the woman entered the office. She was a petite young lady, younger than Ginger; college-aged he guessed. Her hair was dirty blonde. That is, she was a natural blonde, however her hair was tangled and dark, as if shampoo had not been applied to it for a few days. Her turquoise eyes sparkled in contrast to her fair complexion.
“Mr. Aldabra?” she said with a lyrical voice. “I’m Katelyn Rose.”
“Please, Ms. Rose, have a seat.” She did and he closed his office door behind her. As he took his seat, he asked her how he could help her.
“I would like you to represent me, Mr. Aldabra, when I turn myself in to the police.”
“What kind of crime will you be confessing to?”
“Seven murders,” she said.
Trevor took a deep breath and opened a drawer at his side. He noticed that his sudden movement startled her, so he quickly placed the yellow legal pad he retrieved from the desk drawer on the desk. He clicked a pen and set it on the pad. He turned to his computer and typed the website address for the Detroit Free Press and clicked on the link to the most recent article about the Double Lobotomy Murders. “We’re talking about the seven white males who had all been murdered by having their skulls crushed, their brains removed, and castrated, in Harper Woods, Eastpointe, Warren, Hazel Park, Ferndale, Highland Park, and near the Greektown Casino in Detroit?” She nodded. “The Double Lobotomy Murders that occurred one per day from September 10th through the 16th?”
She scowled at him. “You don’t believe me.”
“Ms. Rose it is difficult to imagine how such a tiny young lady like yourself could have terminated the lives of these healthy and strong men in such a physically brutal way. But it is my policy to believe my client until the evidence proves otherwise.”
The blue diamonds of her eyes bore through his. “That is why I came to you. As I told your secretary, you were highly recommended.” He was about to ask the name of the person who referred him, but she continued. “Your computer is on? Look up how I died on August 27th. You will find the story in the Toronto Globe and Mail.”
Judge Whyler and Madeline Grigsby reluctantly followed Trevor’s suggestion and sat in the remaining chairs in the judge’s chambers.
“Madeline, I told you that all you had to do was let the matter go. You could have avoided this embarrassment,” Trevor said. He set his elbows on the arms of the chair and interlinked his fingers, resting his chin on extended thumbs.
“Drop all charges and let the Double Lobotomy Murderer go? You know I couldn’t do that.”
“All she wanted to do was provide the victims with closure and save you and the police from expending any more manpower or tax dollars on these cases.”
“What are you two talking about?” the judge interrupted, reminding them that he was still in the room.
“The defendant, Katelyn Rose, came to me to confess to the murders,” Trevor said to the judge.
“I know that. It was all over the news weeks ago.”
“And it didn’t have to be,” Trevor said then looked at Madeline. “This has become more complicated than necessary.”
“How so?” Judge Whyler asked.
Trevor picked up his briefcase and laid it across his lap.
“Your Honor, Katelyn Rose wasn’t really Katelyn Rose. The ‘real’ Katelyn Rose committed suicide in late August.” He pulled out a copy of the news report from the Toronto Globe and Mail’s website and handed it to the judge. “This is why I told Madeline that prosecuting Ms. Rose would be more problematic than just closing the cases.”
Judge Whyler looked at the photo and story. Trevor watched as the judge’s facial expression changed from recognition to confusion. “This is the defendant?”
“Yes,” Trevor said. “The defendant has been deceased for over two months.”
Trevor opened another window and brought up the website. He typed her name in its internal search engine, and the top hit was dated August 27th. He read the story of Katelyn Rose, 24, who had been found in her car at the bottom of Sparrow Lake near Gravenhurst, Ontario. The police found no evidence of foul play, and deemed it a successful suicide. There was an image of the girl, wearing a summer dress leaning in to the right, as if the arm of another person was around her; the identity of the other person protected having been cut out of the photo. Trevor looked at the image, then back at the girl in her office.
“The eyes definitely match,” Trevor said.
“Don’t mock me, Mr. Aldabra.”
“I’m not. But I have many questions, the first of which is whose body is residing in this girl’s grave?”
“The grave is empty. This is the body of Katelyn Rose.”
“But your consciousness or spirit is not that of the former Ms. Rose.”
“That is correct. I am Kachina. My tribe used to own these lands.”
“I see,” he said writing the name on the yellow pad. “Why are you occupying Katelyn’s former body?”
“I am cursed, Mr. Aldabra. I am forced to return every day to feed the Goddess for my treason.”
“A day in the spirit realm is equal to forty human years.”
“And how many days have you been cursed?”
“This is my eighth day.”
Trevor did the math. “So you’ve been feeding the Goddess since 1733?”
“That is correct,” she said. “I was cursed and murdered in August, 1693.”
“Wait one minute,” Judge Whyler said. “You’re trying to tell me that some female Iroquois ghost inhabited a woman’s dead body and killed these men?”
“And that Katelyn devoured their brains in order to feed the Goddess pursuant to her curse,” Trevor said. “The Goddess finds the brains of white males a delicacy, it seems.”
Madeline sighed. She had been with the Prosecutor’s Office for better than two decades, and had probably heard every story imaginable. Trevor wondered if this case would give her reason to seriously consider retirement.
“And the testicles?” the Judge asked.
“A part of the meal, as well,” Trevor said. “One correction, Your Honor. She’s from the Tionontati tribe. According to Katelyn, whose name back then was Kachina, she fell in love with a white man in 1693. Maurice St. Laurent was his name. He didn’t love her, but used her to lead a band of French men to take over a parcel of her tribe’s land, which now lies along the City of Detroit and the Macomb and Oakland County borders. Viewed as treason, a woman who was a healer and elder in her tribe confronted her, cursed her, and killed her. Since then, Kachina has been a servant of the Goddess, an evil spirit that slays men. According to their legend, men would not die were it not for the Goddess. The Goddess requires the dual “heads” of the male. Every forty years, over the span of seven days, Kachina inhabits a freshly dead woman’s body and kills seven men to appease the Goddess’ appetite.”
“Why did she turn herself in?” Madeline asked, her arms folded. “If she’s some mystical spirit, she could kill and simply disappear.”
“She had in the past, but Kachina has a conscious,” Trevor said. “She has to kill to serve the Goddess. However, she is still compassionate and out of remorse and guilt, she wanted to provide closure for the victims’ families.”
“Do you have any proof of this?” Judge Whyler asked.
“Well, she’s not in jail, is she?”
“Shouldn’t the dead girl’s body be there?” Madeline asked. The way her eyes rolled, Trevor could tell she wasn’t buying any of his story.
“Her spirit can only maintain the body connection for forty days. The energy of her spirit consumes the organic material in her final forty minutes. That is why there is nothing remaining of her in the jail cell.”
Judge Whyler held his head in his hands. Madeline scowled at him.
“I had my secretary do some research,” Trevor said, retrieving Ginger’s report from the briefcase. “She could not find any record of Maurice St. Laurent. However, she searched the journals and news reports and discovered that in September, 1973, seven white men were murdered; three in Ferndale and four in Oak Park, their brains and gonads missing. The perp was never caught.
“Then, in September, 1933, seven white males were murdered in seven days, . There was a story of an eighth victim, but he was able to fight her off. You see, Kachina doesn’t gain her super strength until consuming that first meal of grey matter, which is why our first victim this year was stabbed.”
“Is that true?” the judge asked the prosecutor. She nodded.
“In September, 1893, seven white males were killed over seven days, all of them found on the edge of Lake St. Clair in the Pointe’s; their skulls fractured and drained. There was no mention of the castration, but that may be due to the provincial attitudes of the time.
“Then, in September, 1853, seven male bodies were discovered over the span of seven days, all decapitated. When the heads were located in a barn on the border of Warren and Detroit, they were void of brains.”
Trevor took copies of the reports that Ginger had made during her research and handed a set to the judge and prosecutor. There was a long silence as they reviewed the documents. Madeline looked at Trevor then at the documentation of the defendant’s historic trail of blood.
“Katie!” Judge Whyler shouted loud enough that his voice blasted beyond the open door. His secretary entered, her eyes wide as a startled doe. “Call Sheriff Clary and patch him through to me.” She nodded and stepped briskly out of the office.
“What are we going to do?” Madeline asked the judge.
“We’re holding a press conference to tell the truth,” he said. “But I need Sheriff Clary here, first.”
Trevor sat in his office with the television turned on. Ginger stood next to the desk, her arms folded.
“So that’s the truth?” she asked. She shook her head.
“It was Kahlil Gibran who wrote in The Prophet, ‘Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’ Judge Whyler was able to find a truth to get the Prosecutor’s Office out of a jam.”
“Just a truth, not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” she asked.
“He knows the truth. That’s sufficient.”
“It doesn’t bother you that they announced that Katelyn Rose died overnight in the County Jail awaiting trial for the Double Lobotomy murders? Shouldn’t the people be told the truth?”
“I am not a journalist, Ginger. I merely represented my client to the best of my ability, even after the prosecution made a mess of the matter. There is closure for the police and for the victims, and solace for Kachina.”
“Until September, 2053,” Ginger said. She shook her head as she watched the anchor end the story and move on to the next. “Can I ask a question?”
“Of course,” Trevor said as he used the remote to change the station to another newscast.
“She – Katelyn or Kachina – said to me when she first came to see you that you had come highly recommended.” Trevor nodded. “What did she mean? If she was a dead woman from Ontario whose body was inhabited by a cursed spirit, how would she have possibly heard about you, and from whom?”
Trevor looked at her. This was going to be it, he thought. After this admission, he would have to search for a new legal secretary. But Ginger was different than her predecessors. She exhibited interest and participated in the cases. She’d been with him for almost a month, but it felt as if it were much longer. She deserved the truth, and would be difficult to replace.
“Let me ask you something first. Did Ms. Rose scare you at all?”
“No,” she said. “I knew there was something different about her, and just felt like she was someone who really needed you to represent her.”
“And what did you think after you had done the research and discovered her past and what she was?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I thought it was a bizarre request at first. When I followed the trail and the pieces came together, I thought it was fascinating. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to meet her after I learned about her.”
Trevor smiled. “As an attorney, Ginger, I take clients that I feel I am able to help. I must confess that for some time now, some of my clients have been like Ms. Rose, in that she’s beyond our normal world. I can’t turn my back on a client I can help, no matter who, or what, that client may be. And in that ‘other world,’ word gets around.”
Ginger’s eyes widened. Her fair skin became red, a few shades lighter than her hair, camouflaging her freckles.
“Awesome,” she said with a smile.