When you invite trouble, it's usually quick to accept.
Enos' eyes cut away from Daisy's and back to Gary who was staring at him expectantly, worry etched in the lines of the young lawyer's face. He realized he'd missed the question.
"Uh...I'm sorry, sir, could you repeat th' question?"
"Sure, Mr. Strate," he said, easily. "Why don't you just tell me, in your own words, what happened the night of March 25, 1983."
Enos closed his eyes briefly and took a deep breath before beginning. Over the next several minutes he told his story, leaving nothing out, interrupted only by Gary occasionally asking him to clarify something. He was honest and brutal at the expense of his own pride, knowing that anything he glossed over or lied about would come back to haunt him in cross-examination. Like a drowning man grasping at passing driftwood, he knew this would be the only chance he would be given.
At times he looked into the eyes of the jurors as he spoke, his voice taking on a note of urgency as though he sensed subconsciously that they did not believe him and that he must plead with them to understand. By the end, he was exhausted- mentally, spiritually, and even physically, though he had done nothing more strenuous than sit and talk and remember. Then Gary gave him an encouraging smile and nod and gave him up to Mr. Blair's cross-examination.
Norman Blair walked slowly towards him, and Enos noticed that his eyes were not blue as he had originally thought from across the room, but gray like cold steel, the same color as his finely tailored suit.
"Mr. Strate," he began, "I'm going to be asking you some rather technical questions today. If at any time you don't understand, just let me know and I will be glad to rephrase it for you."
"Let's talk about when you were younger. Your father died very violently, isn't that true?"
"...It...it was an explosion, sir."
"And what was he doing at the time of his death?"
"Objection, your Honor," said Gary, "I don't see what bearing his father's death has on this."
"I'm going to allow it, Mr. Hunsaker. Over-ruled."
"Wasn't it true that your father was making moonshine when his still exploded, killing him?" asked Mr. Blair.
"I don't know what he was doin'," said Enos, quietly, "I wasn't there."
"What was it that exploded, do you know that?"
"... It was his still, sir.."
"After your father died. your mother left the state, did she not?"
"Yes, sir, she did."
"Why didn't you go with her?"
"I couldn't, sir. I couldn't go off an' leave everything behind I cared for. 'Sides, I was plannin' on goin' to th' Police Academy."
"So, you were all alone at the age of fifteen. How did you manage to pay the mortgage on your mother's home after she left?"
"I raced, sir."
"Raced cars, is that correct?"
"Yes, sir. I raced on th' State Circuit for eight years while I's in th' Academy an' then th' first couple of years after I's a deputy, t' help with th' mortgage an' such.."
"You must have been pretty good to pay your bills with your winnings."
Enos shrugged and looked down at his hands. "I reckon I wasn't the worst."
"As a matter of fact, you won your division in 1970, 1972, and 1973, and won the state title in 1972, isn't that correct?"
"Would you say that racing is an aggressive sport?"
"Well, I...I reckon it can be."
"So, to be successful, you'd have to be pretty aggressive, isn't that right?"
"Objection, your Honor."
"I'll rephrase the question," said Mr. Blair. "Mr. Strate, in your opinion, would you need to be an aggressive person to do well at racing?"
"Bein' aggressive in a race ain't th' same as being aggressive to other people, Mr. Blair...sir."
"See, now, I guess that's where I find a problem, Mr. Strate. It seems to me that to compare those two forms of aggression, you'd have to be familiar with both of them, wouldn't you agree?"
"I...uh...I don't know that one has much t' do with the other."
"Mr. Strate, what time did your shift begin the night of March 25, 1983? The night you met Darcy out at Hickory Ridge?"
"Well, it would've been about five o'clock, sir, but if we was short handed durin' th' day, I'd work a double shift from eight in th' morning 'till midnight."
"So you regularly work sixteen hour days?"
"Not everyday, but it happens pretty often."
"How many of these double shifts do you work in a typical week?"
"Whenever th' Sheriff needs me to...maybe a couple times a week."
Mr. Blair took a sheet of paper out of the folder he carried. "This is State's exhibit 7. Mr. Strate, is this your time sheet for the week of March 20th through March 26th of 1983?"
Enos took the paper and scanned it. His brain registered the familiar form, Rosco's neat writing, and his name with the hours worked each day crammed into squares too small for the numbers.
"Yes sir, it sure looks like it."
"If you would read the total number of hours worked...in the bottom right-hand corner, please."
He stared at the number before answering. "...Seventy-nine," he said, somewhat incredulous. He never paid much attention to how many hours he worked, though sometimes it did feel like he lived more at the station or in his patrol car than his apartment.
"Seventy-nine hours," repeated Mr. Blair. "Seems like you worked more than a couple days of overtime. How many hours of sleep do you usually get a night?"
"I...I'm not rightly sure. Five or six, I reckon."
"On that Friday night, what time did you pull Darcy Kincaid over at Hickory Ridge?"
"My watch said 11:04 pm when I got outta th' car."
"Do you recall which area you were assigned to previously that day? I believe you would refer to it as a 'speed trap'?"
Enos hesitated. It was a question he had never given thought to and after two years, he had nothing better than a best guess at where he would have been. "No sir, I don't know...it was a long time ago."
"Do you recall what the weather was like that day or if it was cool or warm?"
"Were you wearing a jacket?"
"No, probably not. It's not usually that cool in March."
"You don't know for certain?"
"No sir, I wouldn't have been wearing a jacket."
"So, you're telling the court that, after nearly eighty hours of work and less than thirty hours of sleep, you were able to memorize every detail of your encounter with Darcy Kincaid, which you so thoroughly laid out for us in your testimony, down to the minute you pulled him over, and yet you cannot remember anything else about the rest of that day?"
Enos frowned, realizing Mr. Blair was suggesting he was either too tired to be sure of anything or that he'd made the whole thing up afterwards. "I 'spose I remember everything about Darcy 'cause it was unusual, th' other things weren't. I reckon if it snowed that day, I would'a remembered it."
"Did Darcy Kincaid ever cause you to lose your temper?"
"No sir, not really. I mean...I didn't care much for him, but I wouldn't say I'd lost my temper 'cause of him."
"Did you ever strike Mr. Kincaid?"
"Yes sir, but...he-"
"So, you struck the victim, but you hadn't lost your temper?"
"He was tryin' t' rough up a friend a' mine. I was protectin' her."
"You're referring to Amy McCullum? Did you see Mr. Kincaid physically assault her?"
"He was pinnin' her against th' wall, an' she was hollerin' at him t' stop. I'd call that assault, yes sir."
"But isn't it true, Deputy, that you didn't strike him in the act of stopping the assault, but afterwards because of something he said?
"... I suppose it might've looked that way."
"Now, on the night he was murdered, you claim that Darcy was engaged in sexual intercourse with a woman in his car on Hickory Ridge, is that correct?"
"I didn't see what they were engaged in."
"So, they could have been just talking."
"No sir, she wasn't fully clothed."
"So, in your opinion, it's impossible to talk to someone while partially unclothed?"
"Talkin' was low on Darcy's list of things he liked t' do with women."
Titters of quiet laugher echoed through the courtroom and died promptly when the Judge banged his gavel.
Mr. Blair paced in front of Enos for a moment, waiting until he had the jury's full attention once more. "Mr. Strate, are you a virgin?"
Enos' face flushed a bright crimson, and Gary shot up out of his seat. "You can't be serious! Objection, your Honor!"
"Your Honor, there is a point to this," assured Mr. Blair.
"Get to it then, counselor. Over-ruled."
"Do I need to repeat the question, Mr. Strate?"
Enos glared back at him. "I don't know what that's got t' do with anything."
"Just answer the question."
"Yes, I am." His voice held both embarrassment and a touch of pride.
"Isn't it true, as we heard Dewey Hogg testify to previously, that you told people you were saving your virginity for Miss Duke?"
His hands clenched in fists of anger at his sides, though it went unnoticed to everyone except Mr. Blair. "I've never seen fit to discuss th' subject with anyone, so no sir, I didn't say that."
"But, you would agree that you hold deep feelings for her, is that so?"
"Sheriff Coltrane testified that you came back to the station before your shift was over that night. Why was that?"
"Because I'd hit a deer an' needed to report it."
"So, you just happened to have hit a deer moments after leaving Hickory Ridge?"
"And did you have any stains on your uniform when you spoke with the Sheriff that night?"
"Yes sir, I'd gotten blood from th' deer on my shirt when I'd checked under th' car."
Mr. Blair handed Enos another sheet of paper from his folder. "Mr. Strate, this is the statement given by Sheriff Coltrane concerning that night. Would you please read the highlighted portion for the jury?"
Enos took it from him, already knowing what it said from Rosco's earlier testimony. The paper shook in his hand as he began to read. "Deputy Strate came in shortly before midnight to tell me he'd hit a deer out by Stillson Canyon. It must have been a monster buck because the front of his patrol car looked like he'd hit an elephant. Enos had blood on his uniform, so I told him to go shower and change before someone thought he'd killed somebody, and then write up a report for the damaged car." Enos looked back up. "It was just a joke!"
"Looks like the joke was on Darcy Kincaid, wasn't it Mr. Strate?" Mr. Blair took back the paper, then turned and retrieved an item from the table behind him. He walked back to Enos and held out the object to him. "Mr. Strate, can you tell me whose flashlight this is?"
Enos took it, the black metal cold and unyielding in his hands. He felt the weight of it – a weight that he remembered had once felt comforting which now seemed to betray him with its mute solidity. "It's mine. I left it on th' trunk of Darcy's car when I left Hick'ry Ridge."
"How did it come to have the victim's blood inside of it?"
"I honestly don't know that, sir, but it wasn't 'cause of anything I did."
"It's a mighty big coincidence, don't you think?"
"It's th' truth, sir, no matter how it seems. I ain't lyin' about it!" He thought he saw Gary wince in the background.
"Let's talk about the letter that Ms. Duke received on the 10th of April, 1983. Your Honor, I would like to refer to people's exhibit nine."
"So noted, counsel."
Mr. Blair held up the letter, encased in a clear plastic sleeve. "Mr. Strate, do you recognize this letter?"
"Who wrote it?" He waited for Enos who only stared, transfixed, at the object. "Mr. Strate, answer the question."
"I wrote it," he said, softly.
"So, after you murdered Mr. Kincaid and disposed of his body, you wrote a letter to his girlfriend explaining why she wouldn't be seeing him again?
"After your encounter with Mr. Kincaid at Hickory Ridge, you wrote this letter to Daisy Duke explaining why Darcy wouldn't be around anymore?"
"And in this letter, you attempted to forge his handwriting and signature?"
"How did you feel about Darcy, someone who you've admitted you didn't like or approve of, dating Daisy?"
"I wasn't crazy about it."
"Enough to lure him up to Hickory Ridge, bludgeon him with your flashlight, and run him over with your car?"
"NO!" he shouted.
"Sustained," the Judge barked, angrily. "Don't pull a stunt like that again, counselor. Strike that from the record."
"I apologize, your Honor. I have no further questions."
The Judge looked over at Gary. "Counselor, does the defense have any further witnesses?"
"No, your Honor. The defense would like to rest at this time."
"Very well, we'll take a half-hour break and then begin closing arguments. Do either of you have any objections?"
Both Gary and Mr. Blair indicated that they did not.
The judge banged his gavel. "Court dismissed."
"You may begin your argument at will, Mr. Hunsaker."
"Thank you, your Honor." Gary stood and walked slowly over to the jury box, taking a moment to scan their faces before he began.
"Ladies and Gentlemen...we have all made mistakes. I have, you have, friends of yours that you know have. On the night of March 25, 1983, Deputy Enos Strate made a mistake. It was the mistake of not arresting someone for a crime that they had committed. He found Darcy Kincaid in the act of soliciting prostitution and, instead of dragging him into jail and ruining his reputation, he gave him a chance to leave quietly and avoid prosecution. Was this the right thing to do? No, it was not. Deputy Strate had a responsibility to bring this man to justice for his crime.
"But, Ladies and Gentlemen, the mistake that Deputy Strate made is not what is being argued here today. What is on trial here is whether or not he, beyond a shadow of a doubt, killed Darcy Kincaid.
"What Mr. Blair is hoping that we will forget is the fact that the remains they found on Hickory Ridge cannot even be proven to be those of the victim. The burden is on the State to prove to you beyond any doubt that Darcy Kincaid was murdered by my client, and yet, they cannot even prove to you who exactly it was that was murdered in the first place. Ask yourself – does that make any sense at all?
"Another question the State has not answered is how they knew that the defendant had been at Hickory Ridge at all that night. The District Attorney's office received an anonymous phone call from a woman claiming to have witnessed this supposed murder take place. If all this was true, wouldn't you have expected to hear testimony from this informant? Just who is this mystery person who knew so much about the crime? Could this have been the real murderer?
"You are not here to solve this mystery. You are here only to determine if the State has shown enough evidence to remove every trace of doubt from your minds that Enos Strate is a murderer. I submit to you today that the State has not done that.
"Now, we've all heard of the term reasonable doubt, but what exactly does that mean? According to the laws of this country, a person cannot be convicted of a crime if any doubt remains as to guilt. That means, ladies and gentlemen, that if there is even one tiny shred of doubt in your minds that Deputy Strate committed murder, you must find him not-guilty."
As Gary sat down, Mr. Blair got up, passing him silently as he made his way over to the jury to deliver the State's closing argument.
"Mr. Hunsaker would have you believe that all of the evidence against Mr. Strate is just a bizarre coincidence," he began, " – but Ladies and Gentlemen, the facts speak for themselves loud and clear. We are counting on your good judgement to examine the facts and exhibits that we have shown you to see the true picture of a man who was driven to murder by jealousy and hatred.
"You have heard witnesses testify to Mr. Strate's violent temper and his obsession with the victim's girlfriend, Daisy Duke. This obsession was the catalyst for the murder of Darcy Kincaid.
"Two years ago, on the night of March 25th, Enos Strate followed Darcy Kincaid's car up to Hickory Ridge where he pulled the victim over. Now, Enos knew Darcy well, after all, Darcy was dating Daisy at this time. Although no one except the defendant and the victim could tell you what words were spoken between the two of them that night, the remains and evidence show us what happened in the end.
"Darcy Kincaid's body was not found in one piece. In fact, his skull was broken into so many fragments that it was shown to you in a zip-lock bag. Evidence of severe blunt force trauma was evident by the remains, and Deputy Strate's flashlight was found at the scene with traces of the victim's blood inside. The Sheriff confirmed that Mr. Strate had blood on his uniform when he came back to the station, and that there was blood on his police cruiser. Both of these facts paint a picture of what happened that night; Enos Strate bludgeoned Darcy Kincaid with his flashlight and then ran over him with his car...he ran over him until the man's body was broken beyond recognition. Afterwards, he pushed Mr. Kincaid's Dodge Dart over the ridge and into the pond at the bottom of the canyon where detectives found it. Later that night, the Sheriff witnessed him at the station wearing blood-soaked clothing.
"If the physical evidence of the crime wasn't convincing enough, let's take a look at what Mr. Strate did afterwards. He wrote a letter to Daisy Duke in Darcy's name, informing her that he would not be coming back. Ladies and Gentlemen, only a guilty man tries to cover up his crime by forgery and mail fraud.
"The law says that he must be held accountable for his actions. Your duty as jurors is to uphold the law and find Enos Strate guilty of the crime which he committed."
With Mr. Blair's last words, the trial of Benjamin Enos Strate adjourned. The judge delivered his instructions to the jury on the meaning of reasonable doubt and of the charge of murder - the State had dropped the option of voluntary manslaughter.
The Dukes and other townsfolk filtered slowly out of the courtroom, and the officers from Fulton County escorted Enos back through the building to the jail where he would wait for the jury's decision.
Daisy followed behind Bo, Luke, and Uncle Jesse until they reached the outside steps leading down to the street.
"Fellas," she said, snagging the shirtsleeve of Bo to stop him, "I've gotta go talk t' Rosco for a second." They looked at her, their eyes registering concern and hesitation. She continued, "I just want t' ask him about visitation t'morrow. I'll come straight home afterwards, I promise."
"Uh, well, alright baby," said Uncle Jesse, uncertainly, "We'll be waitin' for ya'."
She nodded solemnly and turned, running back up the steps and disappearing into the courthouse, leaving them alone.
Rosco was nowhere in sight. Daisy had seen him slip out after the closing arguments, and had almost followed him. In the end, she'd stayed with her family, but had forgotten that Rosco might have run off on patrol to get away from everyone instead of sticking around. His patrol car still sat in front of the station, though, so she slipped in through the door to that led from the hallway outside the courtroom and into the Sheriff's Office.
Rosco looked up at her from the desk behind the booking table as she entered.
"Huh uh...," he warned her, standing up quickly and coming down to where she stood. "This ain't a free for all, Daisy, an' I don't feel like puttin' up with you Dukes t'day." He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I got enough problems with Bluto over there," he said, thumbing towards a Fulton County Deputy who stood at the top of the stairs down to the basement cells. "I'm gonna be doin' their pea-pickin' paperwork 'till th' cows come home."
"I'm not here t' 'cause trouble, Rosco," she said, somewhat indignantly. "I just wanna know what time visitation is t'morrow. You said Saturday, remember?"
"I know what I said," he argued. "It's one t' four."
"What d' you think...about th' trial?"
He looked away from her. "I ain't got time t' think about that stuff. They won't have a verdict 'till after th' weekend anyway."
She nodded, hearing the words for what they were: He didn't want to talk about it. Her eyes traveled back to the stairway, and her thoughts to the man below them. Tomorrow. She would keep thinking the best, if not for herself, then for him. There was nothing left to do.