A Pawn for Malice

By: Cynthia Roberts

Chapter One

The swollen corner pockets of the striped, vinyl canopy overhead were near to bursting despite the protection it provided from the torrential downpour. Mindlessly, Jessica stared at the quarter-sized holes the pelting rain was carving into the ground surrounding her and the other members of her dead husband’s family. She noticed how other’s in attendance were failing miserably at maintaining control of their umbrellas, as the forceful winds wrestled to pull them from their grasps.

Streaks of lightning illuminated the sky above distracting her attention. Her petite frame shivered, as she looked up at the menacing sky. The chilly autumn winds penetrated her thin raincoat and whipped at the veil covering her heart-shaped face. The dark mahogany casket in front of her was beautifully draped with a blanket of white gardenias and yellow roses. Despite that her husband’s lifeless body occupied its confines, she felt void of all emotion.

She wanted nothing more than to see this day come to an end. Her husband’s parents, Hal and Lorraine Wilton, were playing their grieving role for the media and those in attendance impressively. It sickened her to have to stand there beside them.

What a charade, she thought, as she gazed to her right at Father Mulcahy, pastor of St. Augustine’s church.

He was doing his very best to offer some semblance of closure. Jessica knew Father Mulcahy viewed her in-laws ‘pretend show of grief’ a complete sham as well. If it wasn’t for her pastor’s support and refuge at times, Jessica knew she would be the one lying there in the casket instead of Richard.

Her eyes slowly scanned the faces of the mourners standing before her. Most were merchants from town, who she knew were there more out of fear, than respect for the Wilton name. The entire front row of onlookers shuffled forward closer to the casket, as Father Mulcahy cleared his throat to conduct the final prayer.

Another gust of wind caught the pastor’s wide-sleeved surplice and puffed him up like a balloon and threatened to lift him skyward. Jessica could not help but smile, as she watched him wrestle to maintain some sense of reserve and control. He was such a witty man, who could stir someone to laughter faster than the winds that lashed about him. His soft Irish brogue could calm the most unsettling soul like a mother’s lullaby.

Jessica sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly, as he raised his arms heavenward and began the blessing.

“Dearly beloved. We gath’r here befar ya t’day to bid farewell to Richard Michael Wilton, a lad loved and …”

Jessica rolled her eyes in disgust. It was going to take every ounce of strength she could muster to get through this ceremony.

Dear God, she silently prayed, give me strength … pa …leez.

Absently, she reached beneath the dark veil she wore, and rubbed her bruised and swollen cheekbone. It was throbbing like a bad toothache.

Would she ever forget, she wondered, as the ache began to remind her of that terrible evening?

Her husband’s rage was the worse it had ever been the night he died, driven by the alcohol he had consumed and his heinous reaction toward her evening out in the company of her Aunt without him. She had been raised to be a strong, compassionate, and independent woman. The apple did not fall far from the tree, where he was concerned though. Like his father, Richard was dominating, controlling, abusive, and a womanizer.

Their one-year marriage was a mockery of what true love was supposed to be. Richard did not prove the man he had projected during their courtship. He had only pursued her, because his father had ordained it. She was, after all, heir to the Newcombe Dynasty. It wasn’t long, before abuse became a part of her every day existence.

Their argument that night, had turned terribly heated, when she announced her plans to divorce him. He had caught her off guard with a sucker-punch that had sent her reeling backward. He wasted no time climbing atop her, his hands circling her throat, squeezing until she was on the edge of greeting death.

She remembered the sneer upon his face, as he slowly reduced the pressure around her throat and then rolled off her. He had watched her crawl on her hands and knees to escape him, her eyes blinded by stinging tears, as she tried desperately to suck air back into her lungs.

When he had attempted to rise, he weaved, then stumbled, losing his balance and falling onto their glass coffee table. As it imploded, it afforded her the opportunity to seek refuge in their bedroom. She had managed to lock him out, as she retrieved the small snub-nosed revolver she knew Richard kept in his Gentleman’s Chest.

She had dialed 911, and told the dispatcher Richard attempted to choke her and she feared for her life. The dispatcher knew she was in possession of her husband’s gun and promised to stay on the line with her, until a police unit arrived. The dispatcher heard Richard’s threats to kill her, when he broke the door down. They had recorded her terrifying pleas for them to hurry and her blood-curdling screams, when the door’s panel splintered apart and the shot that went off, killing her husband instantly.