Justice Delayed(8)

By: Patricia Bradley


“Yell, and your friend dies along with you.”

The raspy whisper raked her senses. Andi’s mind whirled, seeking an escape. As if he read her thoughts, he tightened his grip around her neck, cutting off her air.

“Where are they?”

Black dots swam in her vision. She tried to answer him. “What—”

His arm relaxed slightly, but the gun barrel pressed harder against her head. “I won’t hesitate to kill you,” he said. “Now where are they?”

“What? I don’t know . . .” Her lungs cried for air.

“The diamonds. You have them. They belong to me.”

“I . . . can’t . . . breathe . . .”





2

ALL DAY THE COLD APRIL RAIN had fallen from clouds that belonged more to winter than spring. The dampness seeped through the window into Jimmy’s bones, but he couldn’t pry himself away from the window where halos ringed the overhead lights. Night 5,935 here at Riverbend. His birthday. And it would be his last. Tennessee’s ban on executions had been lifted.

“Shelton, you got mail.”

Reluctantly, Jimmy turned and nodded at the corrections officer who had been here almost as long as he had. Except Walter Simmons went home every morning. “Is it from my lawyer?”

That was meant as a joke—he hadn’t heard from his public defender in years.

Walter grinned. “Looks like a woman’s handwriting, and not your mama’s.”

Jimmy blinked. His mama was dying a slow death from heartache, but she wrote him every week. He’d gotten her birthday card yesterday—one of the few times he’d actually received mail early.

What other woman would be writing to him at Riverbend? Curiosity moved him from the window to the small opening in the door to accept the letter.

“Don’t know why you’re just now getting it. It was sent weeks ago,” the officer said.

He stared at the envelope. Like Walter said, the writing on the envelope bearing his name did indeed appear to be a woman’s handwriting, and the flowery script was nothing like his mother’s.

He slid his finger under the flap and removed the single linen sheet with the name Lacey Wilson embossed at the top. Below it, a March 17th date. Nineteen days ago.

Dear Jimmy,

You may not remember me. I was one of the flight attendants who roomed with Stephanie Hollister.

He remembered Lacey. Petite blonde with brown eyes. She’d been kind to him at a time when he wasn’t the nicest person to be around because of alcohol. He continued reading.

First, I want to apologize for not coming forward sooner. I have no excuse except I was afraid to. Even after I became a Christian three months ago, I couldn’t make myself take responsibility for what I did, really for what I didn’t do. But I want you to know there hasn’t been a night that I haven’t thought about you and your circumstances. When I saw in the paper your date had been set, I knew I had to do something.

I have decided to leave Memphis and go where no one can find me. That’s why I’m writing to ask if I can visit you before I leave. I’ll explain everything when I come, if you’ll allow it. Most of all, I need your forgiveness for not telling you sooner that I have proof you didn’t kill Stephanie.

The rest of the words blurred as his knees buckled, and he stumbled to his bed.

He didn’t kill Stephanie?

Suddenly the dreams that had returned flashed through his mind. Steph on the floor, him with a gun in his hand, blood everywhere, and something else . . . or someone hovering in the shadows. No matter how hard he’d tried, he’d never been able to decipher what was in the shadows.

He stared at the letter, pain ripping him apart. The court-appointed lawyer had entered a plea of not guilty for him even though Jimmy had confessed, stating the unsigned confession was coerced. He’d then fought the conviction, but Jimmy’s heart hadn’t been in it. He had accepted the death sentence because he believed what the police said—that he’d killed the only woman he ever loved.

And now Lacey was saying he hadn’t killed her?





3


WILL KINCADE STEPPED AROUND a fingerprint tech in Lacey Wilson’s living room and noted the suitcase by the back door and absence of clutter in the room, except an empty bottle of wine. Why would someone who was obviously leaving town suddenly decide to drink enough wine to get totally drunk and then sit in her running car with the garage door closed until carbon monoxide killed her?