Tuesday 9 August 2011
It only takes one person to believe you.
Colin Elliot sat uncomfortably across from both Sheriff Smith and Duncan Tudor. He’d been in enough trouble as a youngster to know that it was never a good thing to be sitting with a sheriff, regardless of your involvement or lack of it. He absentmindedly scratched at the stubble on his chin, a nervous habit he’d had since he was sixteen.
‘Why didn’t you come forward with this information before the case went to trial? Why now?’ Duncan was not happy that Elliot had sat on this information for so long.
‘I did.’ His two words brought Duncan to a stop.
‘What do you mean, you did?’ Duncan asked.
‘I mean, I did tell the cops before the trial. When they canvassed the marina where Mr. Thomas had his yacht moored, I told them what I’d seen. They said I had to go in and give a statement the next day. So, I turned up to give my statement and they told me they didn’t need me. They’d arrested his wife for his murder, and they said I wasn’t an important witness.’
Sheriff Smith couldn’t believe his ears. If Colin Elliot was telling the truth, there was a chance that Hannah Thomas was innocent of the crime she’d been convicted of, and the police who investigated the case would likely have brought a civil suite down on the department. He didn’t like where this was headed.
‘Damn, and Jesus H. Christ. Tell me again, Elliot. Tell me what you saw.’ The Sheriff needed to get things straight in his mind.
Colin sighed. He’d been through this three times today already. ‘Bernie Thomas was at the marina by himself. His wife wasn’t at the marina at all that day. Whoever said that she was standing at the yacht’s mooring at three p.m. lied. I was standing two moorings away, his yacht wasn’t there at three, and neither was his wife.’
‘And where was his yacht?’ Sheriff Smith asked for the fourth time that day.
‘Bernie’s yacht was being sailed out of the marina, by Bernie. He waved to me. That’s how I know it was him.’
‘And the police, the attorneys, no one wanted to hear anything you had to say after they arrested Hannah Thomas for her husband’s murder?’
‘That’s correct, Sheriff Smith.’
Duncan, happy with what Elliot had said, tapped his fingers on the table. The sheriff said nothing, and Colin Elliot sighed again.
‘Okay, okay, Elliot, need you to stick around for a while. Gonna have a deputy type up your statement, want you to sign it, then you can go. Need to be able to get in touch with you real easy too. No goin’ outta the area for a bit. Understood?’
Colin nodded, and Sheriff Smith signalled for his most reliable deputy, Laurie Hills, to join them. She arrived promptly and he explained what he wanted her to do.
Tudor and Smith left Elliot and the deputy alone as she took his witness statement. The sheriff was clearly bothered by what he’d just learned.
‘Can’t believe this. Seems an innocent woman’s been wrongly convicted of murder. Been on death row for the last twelve years, no appeals left, now she’s escaped, and I gotta find her before some other moron shoots her.’ He looked sternly at the attorney in his presence. ‘Tudor, why in God’s name wasn’t Elliot’s statement taken? How could this happen here?’
Duncan Tudor was as baffled as the sheriff. ‘I don’t know, Sheriff. But you’re right, we have to find Hannah Thomas before one of those state guys does. They’ve got shoot to kill orders if she resists arrest. What bothers me though, Sheriff,’ Tudor paused as he thought carefully about the right words to say, ‘what bothers me is where is Bernie Thomas now, if he’s not dead?’
. . . To be continued . . .