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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
When Silverton’s sheriff and his men kick in Jayne Cobb’s hotel door, the mercenary is arrested for rape and murder. Is he guilty or has someone framed him? It’s up to an unlikely team to determine the truth.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 971 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Title: Presumption of Guilt - 1
Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss. I got nada but my imagination.
Characters: Crew, omc, ofc.
Warning: PG for graphic violence, profanity and other grownup things.
Setting: In the town of Silverton, on Santo, immediately prior to “The Train Job”.
A/N: As a kid, my two favorite TV genres were westerns and detective shows. I finally decided to tackle both in a mix I’ve thought of as “Firefly CSI”. Remember, feedback is what writers and their muses live for, dear readers.
X - posted from my LiveJournal.
Presumption of Guilt
As he rose from deep sleep, Jayne Cobb’s first awareness was pain. His tongue felt like an old sock stuck to the roof of his mouth, and his head felt like some god-forsaken hundan was pounding on it with a gun butt. He coughed and his sharp in-breath brought with it the sweet, heavy smell of liquor and sex and a familiar metallic scent he couldn’t quite place.
How much had he drunk last night? He had no idea, but the world-class hangover he was sporting testified to plenty. Had there been a woman? He vaguely remembered a pretty brunette with china blue eyes, a classy gal he’d hooked up with once before on Santo. Wasn’t often he picked up a woman that elegant, but he figured there was no accounting for women’s tastes. He could hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on the street and the muffled hum of hovercraft and small freight vehicles. Beneath that was the low rumble of feet on the boardwalk that ran along the fronts of the stores, bars and hotels of Silverton.
Bam! Bam! Bam! The racket was deafening. Why in the di yu would some fool be hammering away at this hour of the morning?
He eased one swollen eye open just enough to see the room was in total disarray, with an overturned chair and several empty bottles. Musta had me quite a bender, he concluded, then groaned and rolled over, dragging the pillow on top of his head in a vain effort to stifle the noise.
More hammering, followed by a muffled voice. “Hey in there, open the goddamn door or we’re kickin’ it in!”
Now that sounded like somebody meant business. Unsure of what he had been up to the night before or who might have issues with him as a result, Jayne sat up and grabbed for his pants and gun. He glanced around to get his bearings, his head throbbing, and lurched back in horror. His companion in the blood-soaked bed was a beautiful, naked woman lying face up and wide-eyed, his Bowie knife buried to the hilt between her breasts.
“Jesu!” he blurted hoarsely, staring wide-eyed at his gore-encrusted hands as he scrabbled backwards, away from the corpse. “What the fu—“
With a crash of splintering wood, the door burst open and several armed men quickly filled the room.
“Ruttin’ hell,” Jayne muttered as he clutched his clothing over his nakedness.
* * *
“So you say there’s some kind of problem with the main drive?” Mal scowled at the battered yellow mule. They needed the ugly little ATV for almost every job they did. He’d been counting on a quick turn-around this run, just load up and bust atmo again.
From her place on her back on the cargo bay deck, Kaylee looked up at him, her rosy face smeared as usual. The girl mechanic waggled a wrench at him. “I told ya the main pump for the cooling jacket was failing back when we was on Athena. I done rebuilt it once already, Cap’n, and this time it needs replacin’ outright, unless you wanna break down completely some time when you’re least expectin’ it.”
Kaylee was amazingly adept at maintaining the old Firefly and with most anything of a mechanical nature. Mal considered himself most fortunate to have such a talented mechanic on his crew, but the girl wasn’t always realistic about the limited resources he had for maintaining his operation. “Is it the whole pump going bad, Mèi-mei, or just part of it?”
Kaylee nibbled her lip uncertainly. “Well, the rocker arm’s broke. Looks like metal fatigue. And she needs new gaskets…”
Mal crouched down to see where Kaylee was pointing. “Can you weld it for now?”
Her brown eyes met his. “Well, I guess so. Oughtta have Jayne do it. He welds way better’n I do.”
“Well, do that, then. We ain't got the cashy money for a new pump right now. Maybe after this run, ‘though.” He stood and turned, unwilling to witness the disappointment on the girl’s face. Behind him, Zoe’s fast, light steps echoed through the cargo bay.
“Cap’n?” His second in command tucked a stray lock of her dark, curling hair back out of her face, urgency clearly evident in her stance. “We’ve got trouble, sir. It’s Jayne.”
“Ain't it always Jayne?” Mal snapped back. “There’s times I question my reasonin’ as to hiring the man. What’s that sha gua gone and done now?”
“He was just arrested for the rape and murder of the wife of some local bigwig, a fella by the name of Ambrose Murchison. Owns the local bank and land trust. Word is Jayne’s to be arraigned before the local judge and bound for trial within forty-eight hours. That is,” Zoe looked at Mal pointedly, “if they don’t lynch him first.”
For a minute Mal stood rooted in place; then the tirade of curses began to roll. “Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze fuh ur-tze! I always knew that chùsheng xai-jiao de xiang huo would drag us under one day! What the gorram hell was that ben de hun dan thinkin’?”
Kaylee scooted free of the mule and stood up, her expression one of shock and disbelief. “Jayne may be a little rough around the edges, Cap’n,” she protested, “but he ain't the sorta fella’d go rape and murder some woman.” For a moment, she and Zoe locked eyes. Both knew that as crude and crass as the big mercenary might be, he had his own, if somewhat convoluted, code of honor.
Mal’s loud cursing had drawn the other crewmembers from all over the boat and they clustered together as Zoe restated the situation for everyone, chattering to one another and speculating as to whether or not Jayne had indeed acted as charged.
Wash leaned close to Zoe. “And why is Mal pitching a fit this time?”
“On account of Jayne’s gone and gotten himself arrested,” she replied.
“And there’s something especially unusual about that?” the ginger-haired pilot asked.
“There is when the charge is rape and murder.” Zoe’s arched eyebrow said it all.
“Jayne ain't a murderer!” Kaylee’s voice was shrill as she rose to the merc’s defense. Her shipmates looked at her skeptically.
“He’s a thug, Kaylee,” Simon told her. “The man gets paid to kill people. Of course he did it,” Simon declared, drawing his sister closer to his side. “A brute like that? I’ve been expecting him to kill us in our sleep ever since we came on board. It’s a good thing the Law’s finally taking care of him.”
“Not his job,” River mumbled, studying the long steel I-beams that supported the vast open space of Serenity’s hold. “Innocent.”
“I’d hardly refer to Jayne Cobb as innocent.” Inara rolled her eyes.
Wash interjected, “Have you ever played cards with the man? He’s brutal!”
“That hardly makes him a rapist and murderer,” cautioned Shepherd Book. “Shouldn’t we be trying to find out the specifics of the situation, Captain?” he asked earnestly. “No one deserves lynching.”
“Bì zuî!” Mal snapped, and the group fell silent. “We ain't likely to suss out the truth of the thing standing here jabberin’. The Shepherd’s got a good point. Don’t matter if Jayne did like they say or no, the man deserves an honest trial and not a short trip to a necktie party.” He pointed at his pilot. “Wash, you got the boat. Zoe, you’re with me. And I figure a man o’ the cloth might come in handy, so if you’re willin’, Shepherd, I’d like you to come along, too. The rest of you, just sit tight."
The town of Silverton on the world of Santo had grown up around the small moon’s rich local silver deposits and like many border world boom towns, everything had the thrown-together look of hasty growth. Dusty streets and dusty buildings teamed with dusty people. It was the sort of place where many worked hard and few prospered.
As Mal, Zoe and Book turned down the street leading to the town’s sheriff’s office and jail, they could see the crowd of hostile people milling about outside, their massed angry voices blending into a dull rumble.
“Doesn’t look good, sir,” Zoe observed, her dark hand reaching to unfasten the peace strap on her ‘mare’s leg’.
Mal craned his neck to get a better look at the crowd. “I’d agree with that assessment. Keep your safety on for now – I’d just as soon have no unnecessary gunplay.” Mal nudged Book. “Here’s your chance to look all holy and clerical, Preacher. See if you can get us through that mob.”
“I’ll do my best, son.” Book’s face was grim and his mouth tight as he turned and plunged into the crowd.
All about them furious local citizens crowded and shifted. Many held whatever weapon had come to hand - shovels, pitchforks, and firearms. Their sense of furor and outrage was palpable and raised the hackles on the back of Mal’s neck. It wouldn’t take much to tip the balance and the crowd would turn into a full-fledged mob, hell-bent on sending his gunhand straight to the hot place.
One heavyset farmwife, her forearms and apron still dusted with flour, brandished a rolling pin and called out, “We want that monster as killed Mrs. Murchison and we want him now!”
A man behind her shouted, “Give him up, Sheriff Garvey. Ain't no homicidal yaoguai like him deservin’ of a trial.”
“Yeah, give ‘im up!” the crowd echoed.
Shepherd Book glanced anxiously back at Mal just as a tall middle-aged man with sloping shoulders and a slight limp stepped out of the jailhouse, a shotgun over his arm. A battered tin star gleamed dully on his coat lapel and two armed deputies framed him, grim and twitchy. “Seth McCaulley, quit yer troublemakin’. The man’s fate’ll be determined in a fair trial.”
“But Max, they found him red-handed! ‘Twas his knife buried in poor Mrs. Murchison’s body, her blood all over the reavin’ bastard!”
“Might be so, Seth, but I ain't having nobody strung up in my town, so you good folks best git yerselves back home and tend to yer own business.” The crowd reluctantly began to break up, still murmuring angrily, and wandered off in groups of three or four. Garvey held his ground until the tension level had dropped appreciably.
The sheriff looked down from the boardwalk that lined the buildings next to the street to where Mal, Zoe and Book had pushed through to the front of the crowd. “I don’t know you folk,” Garvey gestured with his shotgun, “but you best move along with the rest. Ain't nobody lynchin’ nobody today.”
Mal opened his hands to show he was no threat. “I ain't interested in lynchin’, Sheriff. I’m Malcolm Reynolds, captain of a transport ship called Serenity. The man you’re holdin’ is a member of my crew and I’ve come to find out what happened and what he’s charged with. Zoe here’s my second – “ he nodded toward Zoe, “and this is Shepherd Book. If you’re amenable, we’d like to step inside where we can talk a little more privately.”
The sheriff studied the trio of spacers before him for a moment, then turned to one of the deputies. “Kenny, you stay here an’ keep an eye out for trouble.”
“Yessir.” The man stepped aside as the other deputy headed back into the jail.
Sheriff Garvey waved Mal and the others up the steps and through the doorway, casting one last wary glance backward toward the street.
As Garvey passed Mal, the captain noticed a strong odor of alcohol about him and a quick glance to Zoe showed that she’d noticed it, too. Just great, Mal thought. On top of all else, we got us a drunk for a sheriff.
Garvey sat down in a creaky old chair behind his desk and rested the shotgun in front of himself. “This man I’m holdin’ – you say he’s a member of your crew. You wanna tell me his name, maybe describe him for me?”
“He’s called Jayne Cobb. Great big fella, blue eyes an’ brown hair, got a goatee trimmed short. He helps with the freight we haul and sometimes with security.” Mal flatly returned Garvey’s frank stare.
“Yeah – I bet he does.” The Sheriff opened a drawer and took out a small flask, pouring a shot into a half-full cup of coffee next to him with a quavering hand. before returned the remaining liquor to the drawer.
“I’d like to know what happened.” Mal’s voice was low and all business.
“You and me, both, Captain.” Garvey took a sip from his mug. “About four o’ clock this morning, I got a call from Mr. Ambrose Murchison saying his wife Nellie had gone out for the evening after supper and never came back. He was quite distraught. Mr. Murchison is a gentleman of significant standing in our little community, so you can imagine that when he says ‘Jump!’ I ask, ‘How high?’.
“I did a little asking around and learned that Nellie Murchison was last seen leaving a local bar in the company of your man about ten o’clock last night.” Seeing the quizzical look on Mal’s face, Garvey continued. “The Murchison’s were known to have a ‘difficult’ marriage. This wasn’t the first time Nellie had taken up company with someone besides her husband.”
Mal looked to Zoe, who shrugged subtly. Social customs on the Rim varied substantially from world to world and it didn’t sound as if Jayne was unique in his encounter with the woman.
Garvey continued, “Now, Nellie Murchison was a good woman, and frankly, none of us blamed her for her little indiscretions. Ambrose is a volatile man under the best of circumstances and there’s only so much a person can be expected to take. The truth is, Captain, she was a beauty, and kind, too. People here loved her about as much as they dislike her husband. To her credit, Nellie was reasonably discrete and never went with any local men, just occasional visitors like your man. Folks just looked the other way.
“My boys and I would have let the whole thing go, if Murchison hadn’t been up my tail like a hornet on a hot day. Said he’d had enough of her ‘whorin’ around’ and wanted us to find her and the man and put an end to it. I learned they’d taken a room at the Golden Palace, so I went over with Kenny out there and a couple of Murchison’s men. When no one would come to the door, we kicked it in and found poor Nellie Murchison stone cold dead with your man’s knife in her chest and him with her blood all over ‘im.”
The memory was clearly disturbing to Garvey and he quickly took another swallow from his mug. “They’d obviously done quite a bit of drinking and the room’s a wreck – right now I’ve got it boarded off.” The sheriff shook his head as if to clear the graphic scene from his memory. “I’ve seen my share of killings and ain't none of ‘em pretty, Captain, but what I saw this morning weren’t nothing short of horrific.”
Mal glanced at Zoe and Book. Maybe Jayne really had gone off in a drunken rage and slipped his chain this time. He’d always had his reservations about the hulking mercenary. Jayne was a crack shot and a skilled tracker but unpredictable and overly fond of his drink. While he’d proved useful, Mal wondered whether the big gunhand had finally become a liability.
“Can I see him?”
“You’ll have to leave your side-arm out here and I’ll need to pat you down before you go back into lockup, but yeah, you can see him. And just so’s you know, he ain't had a chance to clean himself up any, so be forewarned.”
To be continued…
Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:58 AM
Wednesday, February 20, 2008 2:01 AM
Sunday, June 22, 2008 4:46 AM
Monday, August 22, 2011 7:20 AM
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