Mystery and Crime Fiction posted April 7, 2021 Chapters:  ...16 17 -18- 19... 

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Getting down to it

A chapter in the book Murder at Sleepy Hill Lane

Murder at Sleepy Hill Lane #18

by Sally Law

The author has placed a warning on this post for violence.

Milton Cummings had a splitting headache, unable to lift his head off the pillow. Constant worry seemed to only worsen it. The jailhouse walls closed in as the room spun around and around.

The door creaked open, which sent him into a screaming fit. "WD-40!! It costs a few bucks...!"

"Here's the aspirin you called for, Mr. Cummings, and a glass of water." The doctor dropped the pills into a small cup; then slid the aspirin bottle back into his lab coat. "

"Anything else?"

"My throat burns. Could you give it a quick look?"

"Sure." The doctor moved closer and leaned in. "Hum... it's a little bit red. I'll call in a prescription for you."


"I'll be back in six hours to check on you. By the way, a letter came from the Louisiana Grand Jury. I'll set it right here," said the doctor.

"Try to be more quiet on the way out, doc."

The door slammed shut, as the sound of footsteps faded away.

"You imbecile!" Milton fell back on the pillow, clutching the bottle he'd stolen from the doctor. He paused for a moment with one fleeting thought of her.

Rapidly, he downed the bottle of aspirin, choking and sputtering.


The wonderful thing about a Grand Jury is their ability to keep their courts private and away from the press.

Our force had done everything in our power to keep this case out of the limelight. As far as we knew, Josephine Waltham had no idea we had found Penny's remains, and that we had gathered a mountain of incriminating evidence against her, Grant Tooley, and Milton Cummings.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the city house across the street...


The Grand Jury was in session by ten o'clock; and seated before them was the accused, Josephine Bell Waltham.

She was made comfortable by the moderator, and was advised of the proceedings of the informal hearing. A court reporter sat left of the body; State's Attorney Roy Fitzgerald Owens sat to Josephine's right.

She sounded off right away. "How is this legal without an attorney present?"

The head juror spoke. "This isn't a trial. It's to see if we have enough evidence to continue on with a jury trial. However, do take it seriously, and answer the questions truthfully, Ms. Waltham."

She snapped back. "Do we have a body? Witnesses? This is a sham as far as I can tell."

"Prosecutor Owens, I will hand that question over to you, to answer at your discretion," said the moderator.

Prosecutor Owens nodded. "Yes, Ms. Waltham, we have found the body of Penny, and she has been autopsied by Dr. Marie MacLavish."

There was no emotional response from Josephine Waltham, noted the jurors in agreement.

The moderator adjusted her microphone. "Ms. Waltham, did you hear Mr. Owens? Do you need a moment?"

"Like I said, this is hard to believe. Are they sure it's her?" Josephine questioned in a hostile tone.

Prosecutor Owens was granted more leeway with a nod. "Penny's DNA was matched to yours, ma'am, and her father, Grant Avery Tooley. There's no argument here."

Josephine swore as she slapped the table.

"We will take a little break and resume in ten minutes," said the moderator, her eyes widening. "Ms. Waltham... a private word, please."


My day was spent going over the evidence that had been brought in by Lieutenant Jean-Baptiste from the caboose. It was blood-a-plenty, and backed up what we had suspected.

There had been a tussle on the train, and Penny Waltham was killed by a ricocheted bullet. The gun used was a .45 Colt, and we had that in our possession.

Ballistics confirmed the bullet in Penny Waltham's brain stem was from the same .45 that fired on Detective Mike Lembowsky and King.

We weren't sure if the eighty-year-old Milton Cummings could have been the shooter of Mike and King. This scenario seemed to be a leap.

But we had enough to add to Mr. Cummings' charges, and that was enough for me at present.


The Grand Jury had a private word with Josephine, giving her one last chance.

"Ms. Waltham, you are making this more difficult than it has to be. I will ask you a simpler question: Do you want to change your original statement made to the Sheriff in 1961, or do you want to help us gain more clarity?"

Josephine began to squirm, and that was a good thing.

To the Finale...


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