Tell All, Tests Testimony
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"Tell All Tests Testimony",the headline ran across the Crockett Independent Daily in bold black letters. Two pictures of Bradley Barns blazed beneath it. A good looking young man with a strong chin and high cheek bones, his blond hair was parted in the middle and feathered back a style from the early 1980’s. The second picture of Brad Barnes showed a tired and worn man the hair was receding and gray a couple of days worth of stubble covered the strong chin and cheek bones, but the eyes were still piercing blue. The older Brad Barnes was wearing the familiar prison orange jumpsuit a stark comparison to the clean suit and dress shirt the younger Brad Barnes had worn.
I was shocked to see my father on the front page of the newspaper. I had not seen him since he was arrested when I was just 4 years old. My name is Daphne Alexandra Barnes. I was raised by my maternal grandmother after my mother died and Brad Barnes was convicted in 1982 of murder. I have done everything in my power to remove myself from the shadow of my fathers’ murder spree and my mothers’ suicide.
The front page of the newspaper is the realization of my worst nightmare. I buy the newspaper and hurry off towards the BART station. I tuck my head hoping to hide within my coat away from prying eyes. I don’t want to be recognized and I am afraid of the conversation and questions the memory of my fathers transgression against society will draw out. .
The BART system was working flawlessly this morning. I stepped inside the rail car and settled back in my seat. I pull the collar of my overcoat up although it is not really cold and duck behind my newspaper to read the story. Bradley Barnes the notorious Bay Area Killer may be released. Elizabeth Carvers’ expose book about the San Francisco Police Department and its long time chief of police Alan Mc Curdy alleges criminal negligence on the part of the police department in regards to mishandled evidence and paying for false testimony from witnesses.
Elizabeth Carver had investigated many cases and convictions of the department and the San Francisco District Attorney Roy Malford. She had uncovered more than one witness who had claimed to either receiving a bribe from the District Attorney or being threatened by the police department. The witness in Bradley Barns case had reliable proof of misconduct by the police department. Bradley Barns had been contacted by the infamous defense attorney J. G. Wilson and a retrial seemed likely. J. G. Wilson had filed a motion to have the case reopened and was expect to request a new trial for Barnes.
Daphne shuttered the article brought memories, nerves, fears and illness to her stomach. “I feel like a fish being yanked from the pond and thrown in a glass fish bowl.” Daphne said into her cell phone her Grandma Luigi on the other end. “I have never met Elizabeth Carver but at the moment I despise her. I have worked so hard to remove myself for the Barnes curse. Now it is all opening up again.” Grandma Luigi responded “My dear Daphne. Your mother loved Brad, he is your father. Have you even thought that he may be innocent?” Daphne answered, “Grandma, Yes I have and if he is innocent then I am guilty of convicting him also. It is time for me to get to work, Grandma, I love you. Do you understand how I am so mixed with emotion over all of this?” Grandma answered her with “Yes I do, but Dear you did not convict him. It is not your fault you were to young and I made the decision to limit your contact with him. Put the blame if you must on me and open your mind to the possibilities. Good-bye, Dear. Have a great day.”
Daphne had the piercing blue eyes and blond hair of her father and her mothers olive skin and Italian features. She now wished she had changed her name to her maternal Grandmothers. Luigi was a good Italian name and had less connection with Barnes. She knew one nosey reporter would sooner or later track her down, especially if common opinion turned her father into a wrongfully convicted man, a victim of the San Francisco Police Department.
The rail car stopped again and Daphne had been so wrapped in her thoughts and feelings she almost did not realize it was her stop. She did not remember going through the Bay tunnel. Quickly she put the paper away and exited the car for the stairs up to the busy San Francisco streets. Her office was not far from the stop and she quickly made the journey. She did not make eye contact with anyone and she entered the building and rode the elevator to the 10th floor offices of the law firm.
Daphne’s desk was mixed in with the rest of the paralegal staff. The room was nicely decorated but the piles of files covering the eight desks sitting two together nose to nose gave it a stuffy rushed feeling. The young woman sitting across from her was twenty-five year old Raquel Johnson. Raquel was tall and thin, she looked more like a model than a paralegal. Daphne liked Raquel but she had no respect for the girls who became temporary paralegals until they landed the lawyer in matrimony. Raquel professed not to be that girl, but Daphne had her doubts.
Daphne went to work on the cases that were imminent and tried to forget who she was and what was probable to happen to her peaceful world. The days passed and Daphne kept a keen eye on the news of the investigation, such things took time. The weekend was coming and Saturday morning she had plans with her Grandma Luigi. She knew she would have to discuss the situation and she was not sure she was ready to give the case her oral expression.
Daphne arrived at her Grandma Luigis’ home by 10:00 AM. There was a strange dark blue Lexus parked in front. The car was empty. She admired the car and went on up to her Grandma’s door. The three porch steps creaked from the pressure of her foot and as she crossed the porch of the pink and gray house the porch did the same. The clap board home was old but well kept. Real Estate prices had sky rocketed in the last 10 years and plunged to record lows over the past 12 months. This was home to Daphne no matter what the home values did and she felt at peace. She turned the knob on the door and it opened with grace.
The white linen curtains were lazily covering the windows and light filtered through to increase the feeling of home and peace. An upright piano was immediately to Daphne’s left resting beside the center wall of the modest home. A love seat and arm chair set against the other a picture window framed by the white linen curtains behind them. A door on the left led to the master bedroom and straight back thru the small living room a dinning room sporting a round oak table with 4 matching oak chairs. At the table set her Grandma Luigi and Elizabeth Carver set to her left, her back to the kitchen. Daphne did not like surprises and she felt a little betrayed and ambushed by this unwelcome visitor. Thirty years had passed and Grandma Luigi’s address and phone number were the same as they had been then. It was not tricky to find her and therefore not at all hard to find Daphne.
Grandma Luigi began, “Hello dear, this is Elizabeth Carver.” I am gracious and betray my own thoughts “GO AWAY, LEAVE ME ALONE.” I extend my hand and shake it a little rougher than I really intended to again betraying myself as the anger and fear is transferred from my hand to hers. “Nice to meet you.” Purrs for my lips sounding fake to me but oh well. It was fake. Grandma continues “Elizabeth has some things to ask you and tell you about your fathers case.” I don’t care about my fathers case. I don’t want to have this conversation. Why is my Grandma betraying me? This whole mess had cost us her daughter my mother and my father. I don’t want to discuss it, I don’t like being put in this position. I keep my thoughts to myself and allow them to lead me into the field a steer out for a stroll with my master, when suddenly tied to a post and a bullet enters my skull. A calf led to slaughter.
Elizabeth as my Grandma called her wanted me to meet with my father. She was certain of his innocence. She brought forth the information she had gathered, the witness that was bribed and whom she thought the killer was. Elizabeth had evidence to support every question every circumstance I brought up. I had to concede that it did look as though my father was innocent.
How could I expect anyone to understand my position in all of this? I was feeling angry. The trial, the death, the elementary school pranks and name calling I had endured. “There is Daffy Daphne, her mother lost her mind and blew her brains out and her dad is a murderer.” The other children would chant at me. The work I have done to withdraw myself from the stigma of being Daphne Barnes. I hated both of them, my mother and father, how dare they do this to me. Doesn’t my father understand, I don’t want to know who he is or what type of father he might have been. He had been gone all this time, why should I travel to the prison to see him?
I listened to all of it. Controlling my emotions, agreeing with Elizabeth and my Grandma when I needed to, I did not argue. I just wanted Elizabeth to leave. Go back under the rock she had appeared from, finally my wish was granted. I was able to get out of the conversation without agreeing to seeing him. She left me with his picture and a letter from him. My eyes were looking at the picture of him and my hands shook as I looked at the unopened letter. I finally placed the picture and letter in my purse careful not to crease either one.
After my Grandma had said her good byes to Elizabeth, she turned to me. For a moment I thought just how frail the old woman had become. She was ninety-four, in her youth she had stood 5’8”tall, now she stooped to 5’5”. Her gray hair was pulled up into a bun, her black dress accented by a white apron thin and weak was her body. I felt guilty for the anger I had been feeling. Her loss had been felt with an adult heart. A woman loosing her adult daughter unable to stop such a final decision the pain must have been horrific.
I am exhausted all the feelings, the emotional upheaval all this news brought. I listened as my Grandma Luigi began to speak to me. “My dear, I am old. I do not have much time left in this world. I have been lucky to see you raised and self-reliant. When I am gone you will have no one. You have bottled your heart up and you won’t let anyone but me in. If I caused that, if I encouraged that in you, I am truly sorry. I have had a lot of resentment, anger and poison towards your father. I have encouraged you not to have contact with him, now I must retract my selfishness and encourage you to read the letter and entertain the thought of meeting your father. I want you to open the bottle that contains your heart and live life.” With that she stopped.
I am spent, emotionally. The whole ordeal had been so tiring. I had helped my Grandma Luigi with lunch and we had walked to the park and grocery store. I helped her with her groceries and I was now walking away from the clapboard house. The sidewalk looked like it was a million miles to the bus stop. I got there soon enough and stared out the window to the rail station. I was back in Crockett sooner than I imagined and as I opened my purse to take out my own keys and enter my apartment my fingers grazed the picture and envelope.
I take the envelope and picture out of my purse. I place the envelope against the flower vase on my kitchen table. My apartment is small but comfortable for me. A gas stove, yellow walls with white cabinets and windows with panes to bring in the light. I had added red checked curtains in my kitchen windows and the table was an old style with steel curving legs and a red and black patterned top. I open the fridge and cut some cheese and French bread and pour a glass of cabernet. This picture of my father is different than the ones in the paper. He was clean shaven and wearing a dress shirt with a white t-shirt peaking out underneath. His eyes looked right into mine a smile graces his face. It felt like he was looking right at me.
I looked at the letter. He had only put my name upon it. Daphne Barnes spelled out in neat, clear penmanship. How many times had he written this letter? How many times had he thought about what he would say? If he was innocent how was he going to adapt to being free after 30 years? Would he ask her to stay here? If I open the letter and go to see him am I opening myself up to loose my privacy?
The wine felt good and tasted good with the cheese and bread. My head was buzzing a little after the glass was finished. I don’t drink often and I get buzzed easy. I know the bread and cheese will soak up the wine soon. I take the letter and the picture and go to my overstuffed couch. Taking off my shoes I wrap the quilt that graces the couches back and wrap my legs up. The fireplace is void of fire but I still sit and look at it as if a warm glow radiates from it. I look at the picture again the eyes looking right into mine. I feel the envelope between my fingers. The letter is not long only a single page. I can tell by the weight of the envelope. I close my eyes and lean my head against the back of the couch.
I wake to a dark house. I am disoriented and I have the feeling I am not alone. The pit of my stomach aches with a touch of fear. I lay still listening to the sounds of my apartment. It must have been a dream that left me with that feeling. There is no sound except for the gentle chime of the wind chimes outside my kitchen window. I am cold. The picture is on the floor where it has fallen with the envelope as I slept. I pick them up place them on the old coffee table and wrap the blanket around my shoulders. I move slowly through my apartment for my bedroom.
I am thinking about my grandma’s words. How I will be alone soon, the thought makes me shudder. I can not imagine my world without my Grandma Luigi. Time has escaped me I am 34 years old and it seems to me I graduated college yesterday and I have all the time in the world. My Grandma had brought my reality to an unpleasant focus. Not wanting to be alone, I reach for the only person I will have left soon. I go to the coffee table and reach for the letter. I look at the picture yet again and I open the letter.