Same Day, Early Evening
The Harper Home, Living Room
“Yes?” Ben Harper said into the telephone as he cradled it next to his ear. “Oh, yes, Lt. Alphonso. News?” He paused and listened intently. “W-what? But… that doesn’t make any sense. Why would…?” He paused again as his brow began to furrow at the information he was being given. “No, I… I suppose there isn’t any other explanation. I… Thank you, Lieutenant, for keeping me informed.”
As he hung up the phone, the full impact of the news he’d just received began to hit him and he felt his anger begin to rise.
“Damn him!” he shouted angrily, slamming his fist down onto the side table, sending a framed picture of him and his wife Betsy crashing to the floor. “Damn him!”
“Ben! Ben, what is it?” Betsy Harper called out as she rushed into the room, alerted by his shouting and by the sound of breaking glass. “Ben, what’s wrong?”
“I can’t believe that sonofabitch did it!” He shouted.
“Who?” She grabbed him by the arms in an attempt to calm him and to force him to explain what he was talking about.
“They just arrested that damn brother of yours for murdering my mother!”
Tom’s Apartment, Living Room
“Thank God you got me out of there as quickly as you did,” Dr. Tom Crawford sighed wearily as he came through the door, followed closely by Amy Marriott. “I don’t know if I could’ve lasted an entire night in that place.”
“It pays to have a judge or two owe you a favor.” Amy headed straight for Tom’s bar and poured her self a Scotch on the rocks – a double. “Having a few years as district attorney on your resume comes in handy from time to time.”
“Well, however you managed it – thanks. I owe you one.”
“Don’t worry. I won’t forget.” She paused and took another sip of her drink. “But what the hell were you thinking talking to the police without an attorney present, anyway?”
“I didn’t have a reason not to talk to them!” He couldn’t help but pace around the room. The latest turn of events – being arrested for Meg’s murder – had naturally thrown him for a loop. “I didn’t do anything.” Tom was quick to see Amy’s eyes firmly fixed on him. “Honestly! I did not kill Meg!”
“I know! I know!” She threw her hands up in the air in an attempt to calm him. After all, she most definitely did know. “I never thought you did do it, but I had to hear it from you. I’ve got to know where I need to start so I can get you out of this mess.”
“Amy, it’s obvious that whoever broke into my safe and took that lock box used my gun to kill Meg and then left it at Meg’s house to frame me for it.” He ran his hand down his face, pausing to cover his mouth, as he began to think deeply.
“Do you have any idea who’d want to frame you?” She paused and listened closely. Did he have an idea? Could he possibly know?
Tom stood in silence for several long minutes. Yes, he did have an idea. He could think of only one person those documents in his locked box would matter to – only one person who would have even the slightest reason to want to exact that kind of revenge on him.
And it had not a single thing to do with Meg Marriott.
“Tom?” Amy asked, growing impatient with the amount of time it was taking for him to answer. “Do you know?”
“No,” he finally answered. “I don’t have any idea.” He couldn’t tell her the truth. Not without being 100% certain and not without talking to someone else first about his suspicions.
“Then where were you when Meg was murdered? If we can place you somewhere else at that exact time, then it’s impossible for the police to continue to think you did it.”
“I was with you that night. Remember?”
“Damn.” She threw back the last of her drink in one gulp. “I’m sure Andy will love to hear that one.” Pausing for a moment, her mind began to work overtime. “Look, Tom, I’ve got to go check on something. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” She turned and began to head towards the door. “Whatever you do, do not leave this apartment and do not talk to anyone. Be very careful because the police and the news media are going to be watching every single move you make. You do one thing wrong, and I’m not going to be able to do a damn thing for you.”
As the door closed behind Amy, Tom sunk down onto the sofa and buried his head in his hands. This was not the day he’d planned for when he crawled out of bed that morning and if his suspicions and fears were true, then his being framed could very easily become the least of his worries.
Meanwhile, in the hallway outside Tom’s apartment Amy wrung her hands nervously. She knew what she had to do and she had to do it immediately. However, she had no idea that someone was watching her and following her very closely…
The Harper Home, Living Room
“W-what?” Betsy’s eyes grew wide with shock and confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“That was Lt. Alphonso on the phone,” Ben began to explain, his range and anger hovering right at their boiling point. “They traced that gun they found at Maggie’s to your brother and they’ve proven that it was the gun that killed my mother.”
“That’s…that’s impossible! Tom would never…”
“The police are convinced that he killed Maggie. They arrested him and charged him with her murder. The cops just don’t go around arresting people for no good reason!” Ben broke away from his wife and began to pace anxiously around the room.
“They’re… they’re wrong!” she cried out. “Honey, you know Tom! You know he couldn’t do something like this!”
“Bets, I didn’t want to believe it, either.” Ben paused and looked up at framed photograph of his mother that sat on the mantle of their fireplace. “But the more I think about it…”
“Honey, didn’t you think it was odd how he got himself included in her will?” He spun around to face Betsy, the gears of his mind reflected in his eyes as he quickly began to string together seemingly unconnected events. “The only other people included in that will were family – Tom’s not family!”
“He’s my brother!” Betsy couldn’t believe her ears – Ben honestly thought that Tom did murder Meg. “He is family!”
“Not my mother’s family, he isn’t!” he snapped angrily. “Sure, they were married a long time ago – an utter disaster if I remember correctly – but even then it was only because of what he could get out of her!”
“You know why Tom married your mother! You know she didn’t give him much of a choice! If he hadn’t married her, she would’ve ruined Liane’s career! Meg pretty much blackmailed him into it!”
“I never really understood that twisted little friendship they had going all these years.” Ben continued to ramble on, barely even acknowledging his wife’s comments. “She’d dangle those little grants in front of his eyes like carrots and he’d jump and snap like a little trained dog.”
“Ben, you know that’s not how it was!” Betsy went to him and grabbed him by the arm in an attempt to force him to listen to her. “Tom would never have done anything to hurt Meg.”
“And when she yanked that last grant out from under him, I bet that was the last straw.” He turned away from Betsy and grabbed the fireplace mantle with both hands to steady himself, his breathing heavy and labored. “I bet that pushed him right over the edge. I don’t know how he knew it, but I bet he found out that my mother had put him in her will and he just had to have that money for his damned project!”
“You’re crazy if you can seriously think that my brother had anything to do with…”
“Then call me crazy!” He spun around to face her with a blazing fire in his eyes. “That bastard murdered my mother in cold blood!”
“I’m not listening to this.” Betsy quickly turned away from him, unable to bear Ben’s wild accusations any longer. “You’re not making a damn bit of sense.”
“Where the hell are you going?”
“I’ve got to get out of here,” she explained, struggling to remain calm. “I can’t listen to any more of this. I’m going to go see Tom and let him know that I’m on his side.”
“The hell you are!”
“Ben Harper, don’t you even think about stopping me!” Her eyes locked with his. “And I can assure you that you don’t want me around right now. I’m not going to stay here and listen to your half-crazed notions about my brother based on some flimsy evidence the police have managed to string together because they can’t find a decent lead!”
“Betsy, don’t you dare walk out on me right now!” He chased after her, but she refused to stop, storming out the front door and slamming it behind herself so loudly that it nearly shook the entire house.
Rosehill Hospital, Research Lab
Dr. Alex Marriott struggled to keep his mind on his work as he eyed a specimen through his microscope, but he simply couldn’t focus. It hadn’t even been 30 minutes since he’d gotten the word about Tom’s arrest and Alex was still numb with shock. The respect Dr. Tom Crawford – a murderer? It just didn’t make any sense.
“Alex?” his grandfather, chief of staff Dr. Andrew Marriott said as he poked his head into the lab. “I… suppose you’ve heard the news?”
“I just found out, Granddad,” Alex sighed, pushing himself away from the table. “I don’t even know what to think right now.”
“I’m right there with you.” Andrew stepped into the lab. The atmosphere was understandably solemn and dour. “Of course, the board isn’t too thrilled about Tom’s arrest, either. I just came from a meeting with them.”
“Oh, god.” Alex hung his head, full of foreboding. “What happened?”
“They’ve put Tom on an involuntary suspension pending the outcome of the investigation and trial.”
“Granddad, they can’t do that!” Alex jumped up out of his chair, angry from the news. “He’s in charge of this entire project! I’m barely out of my residency. There’s no way I can do this on my own. Without Tom, we’ll have to shut everything down!”
“I know, Alex. I know.” Andrew hung his head, pained by his grandson’s disappointment. “I tried everything I could with the board. I explained to them how important his work is to this project, but they’re concerned about how having him affiliated with the hospital in any way is going to look to the public. Truthfully, I can see their point. There’s nothing I can do.”
“But we’re so close.” Alex slumped back down into his chair, slamming his pencil down on the table. “Damn it.”
“I… I hope I haven’t come at a bad time,” Vanessa Harper spoke up as she stood in the doorway. She instantly sensed the tension in the room as well as Andrew and Alex’s long faces. “I could come back…”
“No, no, it’s all right,” Alex muttered, rising to greet her. “Just a little bad news, but it’ll… be all right.”
“I’ve really got to get back to my office for a meeting.” Andrew headed for the door, but not before pausing to kiss Vanessa on the cheek. “It’s always good to see you.”
“You, too, Dr. Marriott.” Once Andrew had left the lab, Vanessa turned her full attention on Alex. “What happened? What bad news.”
“Just some work stuff,” Alex muttered, deciding it would be best for him not to break the news about her uncle’s arrest to her. She’d find out soon enough. “Nothing for you to worry about. So, what brings you by so late? I was getting ready to wrap things up here and head home.”
“I called your apartment and you weren’t there,” she explained. “I had a hunch where you’d be.”
“So, you came all the way down here just to see me?” He struggled to resist his urge to grin broadly. Suddenly, his day seemed so much brighter.
“Well, I did try to call first.” Vanessa laughed nervously and lowered her head slightly, a little embarrassed. They both stood in silence for several moments – which really seemed like a small eternity – before she mustered up the nerve to again speak. “You mentioned going out to dinner the other day and…”
“I’m sorry,” Alex spoke up, now his turn to be embarrassed. “I’ve been so busy with this project, I haven’t had the time. You probably think…”
“I think you’ve been busy,” she smiled. “Which is why I thought that, since you’re wrapping things up for the night, you might have a little free time to grab a bite down at the diner on the corner. You know, nothing fancy, just… a bite.”
“I think that’s a great idea.” Despite his best efforts, Alex felt himself grin broadly. “In fact, I can’t think of a better way to finish off the evening.”
As he began to hurry around the lab, finishing up the last bit of work he had to do before he’d be free for the rest of the evening, Vanessa stood, silently watching him, and smiled, thankful that she’d mustered up the nerve to remind him about his earlier invitation.