I am working on Wrongful Confession, the second book in the Out to Lunch Investigations series.
Inga begs Darla and Maureen to help prove her cousin Maarta, a confessed and convicted murderer, is innocent of all charges.
OUT TO LUNCH INVESTIGATIONS
G. D. Gaetz
When Maarta van Pelt was fourteen years old she punched David Thomas square on the nose. Why? Because David was a bully who picked on Maarta’s best friend, Linda. For the rest of her life during the dark, lonely hours when she couldn’t sleep, the memory of that day still haunted Maarta in all its gory detail.
Junior High School. Lunch hour. Maarta and Linda standing on a sun-drenched field watching their house teams play field hockey. Both girls dreaded field hockey with a passion. Linda because she was small and delicate and had an embarrassing habit of tripping over her own feet whenever she moved faster than a walk. Maarta lived in fear of being hit by a rock-hard ball she could never see coming. Wearing her glasses may have helped but Maarta dreaded being laughed at even more than being hit. “Four-eyes” was not her idea of a compliment.
Soccer was more Maarta's style, the ball was softer and so big she could always see it coming. Maarta played soccer on weekends with her brothers, but girls weren’t allowed to play it at school. Soccer was for boys. Field hockey was for girls. No one knew why.
So Maarta was standing on the sidelines beside her best friend watching a cluster of girls and hockey sticks chase after a ball she couldn’t see when Linda’s fingers slid around her upper arm and dug into the soft flesh, hurting.
Maarta turned to her.
Linda's face was as pale as that hard white ball on the field, but Linda wasn’t watching the game. Eyes wide and frightened, she was looking at something behind Maarta. Maarta turned to see David Thomas lumbering toward them, big like a football player, shoulders tense, fists clenched at his sides, face set and furious. Eyes only for Linda.
Maarta pushed Linda behind her.
“Get out of my way,” David growled, “I want to talk to my girlfriend.”
Maarta tossed her head back, looking defiant, quaking inside. She glared up at sixteen-year-old David’s six-foot, broad-shouldered height, his eyes wild with rage.
“She’s not your girlfriend, David, she doesn’t want anything to do with you. Why don’t you just leave her alone?”
“Why don’t you just leave her alone?” David repeated in a high-pitched sing-song voice meant to mimic Maarta’s. He reached out, grabbed Maarta’s arm, and shoved her aside as if she were nothing more than a fly buzzing in his face. Maarta was stunned by the strength of him, for the first time in her life she felt helpless in the face of male power.
Linda made a little noise in her throat, somewhere between a moan and a whine. Maarta recognized it as fear. Linda was so tiny, so vulnerable, not half the size of David. And that’s when she lost it. Maarta’s fist shot out, fingers curled, thumb on the outside as her father had taught her. "Put every ounce of your weight into the punch. Take your opponent by surprise."
She did. Her knuckles connected with David’s nose in a bone-crunching thud Maarta knew, even then, she would never forget. The sound of it turned her stomach. She reeled from the unexpected pain that shot from her fist through her hand to her wrist and radiated up her arm. The pain was excruciating, but Maarta refused to let it show.
David’s round, freckled face twisted in agony. His blue eyes watered with the shock of it. The hurt. Blood spouted from his nose. At five foot two inches, one hundred ten pounds, Maarta had no idea she packed such a punch. Even so she felt it was David’s pride that hurt far more than his face. Maybe she had broken his nose, she didn’t know, but for certain she had broken the rules. Girls were not supposed to fight back.
“You’ll pay for this, Bitch,” he growled. “Wait till I catch you alone.” But he was not looking at Maarta, he was looking at Linda. The girl who could not fight back.
Maarta held her fist tight against her stomach, watching David walk away.
It hurt me more than it hurt you.
If she weren’t in so much pain Maarta would have laughed out loud, if only to show David how much they didn’t care. But then another phrase replaced the first—Maarta’s mind worked that way, little scraps of things she had heard appeared at random. This one made her feel ill. Something her mother had drilled into her for as long as she could recall.
Violence breeds violence.
At that moment, standing beside her friend on the playing field, Maarta vowed never to resort to violence again. Not ever. Not in her entire lifetime. And she kept that vow for forty-five years. Until one rainy November night when she picked up a butcher knife and stabbed her son-in-law in the chest.
Which explained why, at the age of sixty-four, Maarta found herself seated on a cold, hard bench staring at four grey walls and a solid locked door. A small square opening high in the steel door was her one connection with the outside world, or would be if she were tall enough to see through it.
There was no way out of this mess. Of course not. How could there be? The prosecutor claimed she murdered an innocent man in cold blood. Which was not true.
Her son-in-law's blood had been anything but cold. It spilled from his body warm and thick and appalling. Bright red blood coated the knife blade, it spattered her blue silk blouse, it dribbled onto the hotel carpet.
And Chris Carlyle was never an innocent man.