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How to Host a Murder Without Even Trying---Chapter 4
The day of the trial came. It was a lovely day in July. The trial would begin about 5 P.M. Practically everyone I knew would be there rooting for me. But when I actually arrived, I was in for a big surprise.
"Sorry, but Officer Bentley and the judge think it best for you to not be present," the guard told me. "Think you might stir up a riot or something."
"In other words, they think the press will go bananas if they hear that they're trying a minor in a court not specifically for juveniles," I apprehended coolly.
"You'd better not say that inside, or else you'll be held in contempt of court!" the guard warned.
"But I'm not going inside," I reminded him. "If I'm needed, Bentley has my cell phone number."
As I started slowly towards my parents' car, who else should turn up but Jake.
"Oh...hi," I greeted. "What-what are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here? What are YOU doing leaving?"
"Apparently, they think I'll stir up a riot." I laughed dryly to cover for my demented smile, turning it into a grimace. "Ridiculous. But you still haven't answered my question."
"I came to support you; what else?" he said. "So...now what are you going to do?"
"Well, I was planning on going back to the car, pray, cry, listen to the radio, grab a donut from across the street, pray a little more."
"On your own?"
"Do you see anyone else with me?"
"Marissa, do you know how dangerous it is for a girl, alone, at night, in New York City?"
"I have a vague idea." If I was ever going to flirt, it would be now. Unfortunately, I can't flirt for my life. "I can take care of myself though. Thanks."
"I'm sure you can. Mind if I sit with you?"
"Sure, I'd be glad to keep you company. Thanks for asking." With that, he opened the driver's side door and got in.
I rolled my eyes. "Men. Fine, but I keep the keys."
I got into the Focus and locked the doors. "If you're so concerned about my safety," I quipped. I was kind of uneasy, though. I had never been alone in a car with a guy before, and my parents had told me more than a couple of times that it wasn't usually the best move.
Jake could tell I was nervous. "Marissa," he addressed me, "I know this is a little awkward, but I'm telling you right now as a friend, I would never in a million years do anything to compromise you."
I nodded. "I know," I whispered, tears springing to my sea blue eyes.
He took my hand. "Let's pray about the outcome of tonight." We both bowed our heads, and he started. "Father, we come before You in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, on behalf of my sister Marissa. God, we pray that You work this situation for good, like You promised. Lord, bring the true murderer to justice. Show the judge and jury that Marissa is innocent. In Your holy Name I pray, amen."
We continued praying for an hour. I had already cried my eyes out, and was feeling a lot better.
"Thanks," I sniffed. "You have no idea how much that meant to me."
"You're welcome." Jake smiled compassionately. "Kleenex?"
I giggled, and accepted the small token of kindness. "So now what?"
Jake shrugged. "How about a short walk? To clear our heads."
I agreed. A couple of blocks down was a beautiful apartment building. It looked like it had been picked up from Venice and carted to the New York borough. It was all tan stone, with a stairway wrapping around the whole building. Hanging flowers, vines, ivy, and other plants were carefully arranged to look almost strewn around the stone stairs, making it look like an Italian garden. We decided that this was the perfect calming setting we both needed. It was at sunset, and with the rainbow sherbert-colored sky, it would have been romantic if we let it.
Side-by-side we walked up the stairs to the roof, talking, laughing, almost forgetting that the younger of us might go to jail in a few hours.
When we got to the top, we paused for breath, taking in the magnificent city skyline. I am deadly afraid of heights, but with almost morbid curiosity, I always have to look down. I leaned my hands on the cast-iron railing, dreading the plunge I might take if I leaned over too far. Jake was by my side, making sure I wouldn't take the drop.
"You know," he began, "if the future was more certain, there's something I would want to ask you."
But I wasn't listening. Something 5 floors down caught my attention. "Jake!" I cried. "That guy down there! He's the one who put the gun to Elgitha's head!"
"What?" Jake leaned over. "Are you sure?"
"Positive! I would swear to it in court!--And he's coming this way! What are we gonna do?"
"Quick, give me your cell phone. I'm gonna call the cops. I'll run down through the building and wait for them downstairs."
"While I...?" I asked as I fished around for my phone.
"You'll have to keep his attention. You're the only one who can," Jake ordered seriously.
"WHAT?!? Are you nuts? The guy wants to kill me!" I loudly protested. Wasn't Jake supposed to protect me?
"Just get his attention. If he starts shooting or chasing you, run back up here and get into the building through the door." He gave me an awkward side hug. "It'll all be fine." With that, he went into the apartment building, dialing the police who were less than 5 blocks away.
"God, help me!" I prayed. I then did the only thing I could think of: I ran down the stairs as fast as I could. I didn't even look where I was going. If I bowled the guy over, great. We'd both be conked out. I was running so fast that I didn't even notice Joe until I had literally run into him.
"Oh my gosh, Joe!" I panted. "Thank goodness it's only you. You have to help me!"
"What's wrong?" he asked, concern on his face.
"He's here. Elgitha's murderer. Down 2 flights."
"Really?" Joe looked down below him. "Oh, that's Hector."
"Hector??? You know that guy?"
"Well, I should." Joe smiled sarcastically. "He's my number 1 killer."
"YOUR number 1...oh crud." It all hit me in an instant. "You mean, YOU'RE the leader of the ring?"
"Who else could it be?" he asked, a cruel look coming into his eyes. "It had to be someone who knows where you live, where you would be Friday night, who actually had the perfect alibi."
"But why, Joe, WHY?" I wailed.
"Revenge. Elgitha spurned me several years ago, and I never got over her. I had the perfect opportunity to get back at her AND her fiance. We picked her up around the library near your house when no one was there; just like there's no one here now."
It was true. The staircase was deserted, save for me and Joe. Suddenly, I was terrified of this close "friend."
"You know my secret now. you have to be disposed of."
"What are you going to do?"
"Of course," Joe went on, "it was an accident. You were running down too fast, or leaned over too far. Everyone saw me at the trial, and the guard knows I just went to the bathroom. And again, I pull off another perfect crime, with another perfect alibi."
"Not on my watch, you don't!" My adrenaline had kicked in. The short speech he gave had given me enough time to come up with a plan. I turned around and ran back up the stairs, Joe close behind me. I rushed through the door leading to the inside stairs. They were probably the safest place for me. If an armed rapist accosted me, Joe would be coming down seconds later, and I would be spared. Besides, for once, the bad guy would be a witness.
As it turned out, no one was there. Joe following close behind, I counted the floors. 7...6...5...4...Only three more, and Jake would be there with the police to protect me. 2...Joe was almost on top of me. I started to scream bloody murder--literally!-- but low enough for it to carry. 1...main floor! I burst out of the shaft, door slamming behind me. Surprisingly, no one was in the lobby. I saw three armed officers talking with Jake outside. But was it too late? Less than 4 inches away from me, Joe extended his long arms to grab me. I dodged. The glass doors slid open. I was free! The cops grabbed Joe--it took all three of them to hold him down--and I was flung sobbing into Jake's arms.
Joe pleaded guilty on all charges: murder, framed murder, and attempted murder. You'd think the guy was a sadist! He was brought to the paddy wagon, calling me names, swearing revenge, everything but cursing.
Meanwhile, Jake and I were left on the roof of "our apartment."
"See? I told you it would be fine," Jake teased me.
"It didn't seem like it for a little while, though," I sighed, laying my head on his shoulder.
"God always provides." Jake chuckled. "You know, they have it right in the movies. People with memorable adventures like that should get married."
"I agree. They definitely should." I grinned. "Too bad I'm still a minor, and my parents would flip if I got engaged now!" I couldn't help teasing him.
Jake laughed. "Yeah, too bad. But in all seriousness, though: when we're both older, wiser, more experienced, have a job...would you consider it?"
I looked him dead in the eye, and said the most heart-felt words I have ever spoken in my life. "Yes," I declared. "I will."
We both grinned. And in that moment, we knew that we were made to be with each other. Forever.