Sunday, September 25, 2011

If These Floors Had Talked

9/28/11 Update: The results are finally online, and my story remained in the Top Ten.  It was still a huge confidence boost, as this is the first time I've made the final cut in a writing competition.  Congratulations to the winner and runners-up; their stories can be read here.

As mentioned in this post, I wrote an entry for the Golden Donut Short Story Contest sponsored by the Writers' Police Academy that ended up on their list of top 10 finalists.  Last night the winner was announced at the academy banquet, but as of now I haven't seen or received any notification of the winner.  I'll update this when they make the announcement, but for now here's the story as promised.

(Note: The rules were 200 words max (including a title, which was required) and this image had to be the main topic of the story.)
If These Floors Had Talked

“We got a warrant to search your house, Mr. Eisley.”  Smug bastard, just itching to perp walk me out of my own home.

I thought I was screwed then, but the house protected me, refused to give anything up, no matter how much they crawled around, poking and prodding, pawing through my life and belongings.  The loose, creaky floorboard stayed still under the carpet, remained silent on my behalf.

I think my jurors watch a lot of CSI.  They wanted hard evidence, or at least a body, and they didn’t get either.  All hearsay and no smoking gun makes Mr. E. a free man!  Thanks, jury!

This house saved my ass.  I wish I hadn’t had to sell it during the trial, but lawyers are expensive.  I really wish I’d had the chance to pack it up myself.  To get every last part of that heartbreaking bitch out of my home.

I’ll miss this place.  I hope the new owners love it as much as I did.  I also hope they don’t redo the floors any time soon. 

It wasn’t like I could leave her ring in my safe deposit box. They always look there.
The story was inspired by the real life case of Mel Ignatow, who was acquitted of the 1988 murder of his ex-girlfriend Brenda Schaefer, not so much because the jury thought he was innocent, but more because they didn't feel the prosecution had met its obligation to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  Kind of like in the Casey Anthony case, the verdict of which was announced around the same time I wrote this.  The Ignatow case had come to my attention several years ago when I saw it featured on a true crime show on television.  It's also the topic of a book, Double Jeopardy.

Ignatow's "not guilty" verdict was mainly the result of a lack of physical evidence, specifically photographs of the torture/murder in progress and Brenda's jewelry, which a woman who claimed to be a witness to Schaefer's death had testified about but which was never found by investigators.  Six months after being freed Ignatow was proven guilty beyond all doubt when jewelry and canisters of undeveloped film were found at his former home (which he'd had to sell while in custody to fund his expensive legal team) when its new owner decided to do some remodeling and pulled up the carpet.  Ignatow couldn't be re-tried for Brenda's murder due to double jeopardy laws, but he was convicted of perjury because he had testified in his own defense.

As a fan of crime drama I've always found the question of whether or not it's possible to get away with murder (only fictionally, of course) to be utterly fascinating.  Did Mel Ignatow get away with murder?  Not by my definition.  Although he was never formally convicted he was eventually revealed to be a killer, so in a way he did, but in a way he didn't.  Even after being acquitted he eventually had to publicly admit his guilt.  Still, his paltry time served for perjury probably didn't give Schaefer's loved ones much satisfaction.

Ignatow died in 2008, a sickly but free man, twenty years after killing Brenda Schaefer.

The story's title is, of course, a play on if these walls could talk.
Big thanks to the Writers' Police Academy for an interesting, original and fun premise for a writing contest.  I hope they make it an annual event.

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