This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
- Dear Ellie - Part 10
Scott Branson is on a path to self-destruction, and Ellie will pay the price
From Part 10
The morning found Ellie at police headquarters tracking down Stella. As Ellie entered the facility she caught a glimpse of Stella turning down the hall.
"Stella! Stella! Wait! "She ran to catch up with her.
"Good morning, Child. Wha's on your mind?"
"Scott found this note in the woods last night. He wants you to check out the old Brownsville Nursing Home."
Stella took time to read the note. She shook her head in disbelief. "Honey, that place has been closed for years. Ain't nothiin' goin' on over there now, but it is evidence. Le's take this down to Officer Alexander. I can't believe this wasn't found during our search Saturday morning."
The two hurried down the hall. This was the first piece of real evidence the case had brought in. Alexander was sitting at his desk, chin high in paperwork. Not wanting to be bothered, he ignored Stella's first knock on his door. Stella didn't wait. She opened the door and invited herself in. Officer Alexander was hard at work
"Alex, we got somethin' here. Look at this."
He read the note twice, maybe three times, before turning to Ellie. "Mrs. Branson, does this writing look familiar to you? Have you seen it before?"
Ellie studied the paper closely. "No, Officer. No, I haven't:"
"Alex continued. "Stella, we'll need a writing sample from Mr. Branson and Mr. Martin."
"You have Mr. Branson's writing sample when he filled out the report on his missing daughter. I'll go see Martin." Looking at Ellie, she said, "Come on, Honey. You come with me."
Ellie stiffened as the doubts began to form in her mind again.
She looked to Officer Alexander. "You mean, you think Scott wrote this?"
"It's a strong possibility. I have to ask myself, why didn't the search team find this? Your husband claims to have found this at night. You said he didn't even have a flashlight, but yet 100 people missed this in the daylight. Doesn't that seem a little strange to you? I'll have it analyzed. Then we'll know for sure. Now if you'll excuse me, ladies. I need to get back to this pile of papers."
Stella obtained a handwriting sample from David Martin while Ellie waited in the cruiser. Stella was surprised. Martin actually cooperated. Something was different about this meeting between Stella and Martin - something she would file in the back of her mind until she got back to the office.
Ellie headed for home and Stella beelined it for Alexander's cubicle with the handwriting sample. Alex was standing behind his desk, looking out the window, trying to decide where he had met David Martin before. Stella broke in.
"Alex, I have the handwriting sample . . ."
She was cut off. "Stell, I've been thinking. We should hold a press conference. So many times the criminal hides in plain sight, and very often they appear at a press conference to keep up with the case. I'm curious if our David Martin is seen.
"I think we'll learn something about Branson, too. Give him the opportunity to speak. You know body language speaks about eighty percent of the message. We'll watch Branson as much as we'll listen to him. And who knows? We may even see something else. Get it set up."
Stella was right on it. She contacted the usual news outlets, the Post Gazette, WTAE TV, and a score of radio stations. The time was set for 10:00 a.m. the next morning. The place - the Branson house.
Ellie and Scott spent a restless night, partially because of the morning press conference and largely because of Ellie's distrust in Scott. As the morning light began to creep through the window, Ellie nudged Scott to life. By 9:00 o'clock, a gathering had already formed on the Branson's front yard. The news media began to arrive one by one, setting up their equipment. By 8:30, Stella was at the home instructing Scott and Ellie on the importance and method of the public announcement.
The podium was set up and microphones stood at all angles. Before taking questions, Stella read a prepared statement explaining what had happened and the follow-up investigation. Then it was Scott's turn to speak. He looked nervously over the crowd. He recognized many of his neighbors. Toward the back and to the right of the podium stood David Martin. Scott's eyes locked on his. The encounter was not overlooked by Alexander and Stella.
Martin seemed to be saying, "Go ahead, I dare you. Prove I did it."
Scott returned his gaze with an "I will" attitude. Scott continued his plea but never took his eyes off Martin. Serious words were spoken silently. Next Ellie came to the podium and gave her plea as only a mother could. Then Stella returned to field questions.
A journalist from The Post Gazette wasted no time. "I've heard that Scott Branson is the main suspect in this case. What can you tell us about that?"
The can of worms was opened. Martin stood tall with his arms defiantly crossed. His eyes never moved from Scott's. Scott remembered his threat to have him jailed or dead - one or the other. His rage drove him off the makeshift platform and through the crowd. He charged Martin head-on and found himself once again in the back of a police cruiser. Martin laughed as he walked away from the Branson's yard.
Time to Analyze the Video
Stella and Officer Alexander sat back to watch the video of the press conference. Both noticed the constant eye contact between Scott and David Martin. Especially Martin. His eyes never moved but were locked on Scott, except for an occasional blink. Scott attempted to look away several times but was always drawn back to Martin's stare. Then, they tuned in to Scott's rage.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stell, take it back in slow motion." Stella brought up the clip again, this time frame by frame. "Stell, look at those eyes. Enlarge them. Let's get a good look."
Stella focused on Scott's eyes. Even though he was continually staring at Martin, there was a nervous twitch in his eyes as the question was asked.
"Stella Washington, what do you think? Is Branson our man? If he's innocent, he had no reason to get angry, right? He became defensive when he felt he was found out. We have him now! Don't you think, Stell?"
"I'm not sure we should move so fas', Alex."
"Oh, come on, Stel. You know he's the one. We have him right here on assault charges. We might as well go ahead and book him on the abduction charges, too."
"No matter what it looks like on the video, you know that doesn't prove he's our man. Besides, I hate to see an innocent man pay the price. My gut still says he's not the one."
"Le's jus' keep looking through the crowd. Maybe we're focusin' on the wrong people."
"Okay, Stel. You win this time, but next time, we do it my way - deal?"
Stella turned back to the video without saying a word.
In another room, the questions were being fired at Scott. Detective Kevin Larson was ready to play hardball with Scott. Larson threw his chair against the wall and screamed in Scott's face. "We know you arranged the kidnapping of your own daughter! Here, sign this, and let's get it over with."
Scott didn't care for the garlic smell on Larson's breath and told him so.
"Look, Detective. I thought I was brought in because of the fray I caused at the press conference. I'm not answering any more questions about my daughter's abduction. If you'd spend less time harassing me and more time following up real leads, you might have found your man by now."
Larson's tough act didn't work so well. He mellowed out and took the time to offer Scott a cup of coffee. "Okay, let's try this again, Mr. Branson. Shall we? Without waiting for an answer Larson continued.
"Why did you attack David Martin?"
"He had been eyeing me up since the beginning of the press conference. Your Officer Alexander reminded me that Martin threatened to see me dead. He was mocking me the whole time. He was pushing me to do what I did."
Larson started the video from the beginning. After a few moments, he turned quickly to Scott. In surprise, Scott pushed his chair back.
"Mr. Branson, why did you move so quickly? Did you feel threatened? Why didn't you charge me like you did Mr. Martin? I'll tell you why, because you didn't really feel threatened by Mr. Martin. You panicked, and you were afraid he'd expose the truth - the truth that both of you were in on the kidnapping. Isn't that the way it really was?"
"So - are you going to arrest me?"
- Dear Ellie - Part 12
Scott Branson is on a path to self-destruction, and Ellie will pay the price.
© 2017 William Kovacic