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Chapter no 45 – Red Cap

Where the Crawdads Sing

1970

On Monday morning, after Tate’s visit, when Kya was led into the courtroom by the bailiff, she kept her eyes away from the

spectators, as she had before, and looked deep into the shadowy trees outside. But she heard a familiar sound, maybe a soft cough, and turned her head. There in the first row of seats, sitting with Tate, were Jumpin’ and Mabel, who wore her church bonnet decked out with silk roses. Folks had made a stir when they walked in with Tate and sat downstairs in the “white area.” But when the bailiff reported this to Judge Sims, still in his chambers, the judge told him to announce that anybody of any color or creed could sit anywhere they wanted in his courtroom, and if somebody didn’t like it, they were free to leave. In fact, he’d make sure they did.

On seeing Jumpin’ and Mabel, Kya felt a smidge of strength, and her back straightened slightly.

The next witness for the prosecution, Dr. Steward Cone, the coroner, had graying hair cut very short and wore glasses that sat too far down his nose, a habit that forced him to tilt his head back to see through the lenses. As he answered Eric’s questions, Kya’s mind wandered to the gulls. These long months in jail, she had pined for them, yet all along, Tate had been feeding them. They had not been abandoned. She thought of Big Red, how he always walked across her toes when she threw crumbs to them.

The coroner tossed his head back to adjust his glasses, the gesture bringing Kya back to the courtroom.

 

 

“So to recap, you’ve testified that Chase Andrews died between midnight and two o’clock on the night of October 29 or the morning of the thirtieth, 1969. The cause of death was extensive injuries to the brain and spinal cord due to a fall through an open grate of the fire tower, sixty-three feet to the ground. As he fell, he hit the back of his head on a support beam, a fact confirmed by blood and hair samples taken from the beam. Is all that correct according to your expert opinion?”

“Yes.”

“Now, Dr. Cone, why would an intelligent and fit young man like Chase Andrews step through an open grate and fall to his death? To rule out one possibility, was there alcohol or any other substance in his blood that could have impaired his judgment?”

“No, there was not.”

“Evidence presented previously demonstrates that Chase Andrews hit the back of his head on that support beam, not his forehead.” Eric stood in front of the jury and took a large step. “But when I step forward, my head ends up slightly ahead of my body. Were I to step into a hole here in front of me, the momentum and the weight of my head would pitch me forward. Correct? Chase Andrews would have hit his forehead on the beam, not the back of his skull, if he was stepping forward. So isn’t it true, Dr. Cone, that the evidence suggests that Chase was going backward when he fell?”

“Yes, the evidence would support that conclusion.”

“So we can also conclude that if Chase Andrews was standing with his back to the opened grate and was pushed by someone, he would have fallen backward, not forward?” Before Tom could object, Eric said very quickly, “I’m not asking you to state that this is conclusive evidence that Chase was pushed backward to his death. I am simply making it clear that if someone pushed Chase backward through the hole, the wounds to his head from the beam would have coincided with those actually found. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

 

 

“All right. Dr. Cone, when you examined Chase Andrews in the clinic, the morning of October 30, was he wearing a shell necklace?”

“No.”

To suppress the rising nausea, Kya focused on Sunday Justice grooming himself on a windowsill. Pretzeled into an impossible position, one leg straight in the air, he licked the inside tip of his tail. His own bath seemed to absorb and entertain him entirely.

A few minutes later, the prosecutor was asking, “Is it correct that Chase Andrews wore a denim jacket the night he died?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“And according to your official report, Dr. Cone, did you not find red wool fibers on his jacket? Fibers that were not from any piece of clothing he was wearing?”

“Yes.”

Eric held up a clear plastic bag containing bits of red wool. “Are these the red fibers that were found on Chase Andrews’s jacket?”

“Yes.”

Eric lifted a larger bag from his desk. “And isn’t it true that the red wool fibers found on Chase’s jacket matched those on this red cap?” He handed it to the witness.

“Yes. These are my labeled samples, and the fibers from the cap and jacket matched exactly.”

“Where was this cap found?”

 

 

“The sheriff found the cap in Miss Clark’s residence.” This was not generally known, and murmurs rippled through the crowd.

“Was there any evidence that she had ever worn the cap?” “Yes. Strands of Miss Clark’s hair were found in the cap.”

Watching Sunday Justice in court got Kya thinking about how her family had never had a pet. Not one dog or cat. The only thing close was the female skunk—a silky, slinky, and sassy creature— who lived under the shack. Ma called her Chanel.

After a few near misses, they’d all gotten to know one another, and Chanel became very polite, only flashing her armament when the kids got too rowdy. She’d come and go, sometimes within feet of whoever was coming up or down the brick ’n’ boards.

Every spring she’d escort her little kits on forays into the oak woods and along the slipstreams. Them scurrying behind, running into and over one another in black-and-white confusions.

Pa, of course, was always threatening to get rid of her, but Jodie, showing maturity far beyond his father’s, deadpanned, “Another one’ll just move in, and I always reckoned it’s better the

skunk ya know than the skunk ya don’t know.” She smiled now, thinking of Jodie. Then caught herself.

“So, Dr. Cone, on the night Chase Andrews died, the night he fell backward through an open grate—a posture consistent with being pushed by someone—fibers on his jacket came from a red cap found at Miss Clark’s residence. And there were strands of Miss Clark’s hair in the cap.”

“Yes.”

“Thank you, Dr. Cone. I have no further questions.”

Tom Milton looked briefly at Kya, who watched the sky. The room leaned physically toward the prosecution as though the floor tipped, and it didn’t help that Kya sat rigid and detached—carved from ice. He flicked his white hair from his forehead and approached the coroner for the cross-examination.

“Good morning, Dr. Cone.” “Good morning.”

 

 

“Dr. Cone, you testified that the wound on the back of Chase Andrews’s head was consistent with him going backward through the open hole. Isn’t it true that if he stepped backward on his own and fell through the hole by accident, the results of hitting the back of his head would have been exactly the same?”

“Yes.”

“Were there any bruises on his chest or arms that would coincide with him being pushed or shoved?”

“No. There was, of course, heavy bruising over his entire body from the fall. Mostly on the back of his body and legs. There were none that could be identified specifically as developing from a push or shove.”

“In fact, isn’t it true that there is no evidence whatsoever that Chase Andrews was pushed into the hole?”

“That is true. There’s no evidence that I’m aware of that Chase Andrews was pushed.”

“So, Dr. Cone, there is no evidence from your professional examination of Chase Andrews’s body that proves this was a murder and not an accident?”

“No.”

Tom took his time, letting this answer sink into the jury, then continued. “Now, let’s talk about those red wool fibers found on

Chase’s jacket. Is there any way to determine how long the fibers had been on the jacket?”

“No. We can say where they came from, but not when.”

“In other words, those fibers could have been on that jacket for a year, even four years?”

“That’s correct.”

“Even if the jacket had been washed?” “Yes.”

 

 

“So there’s no evidence that those fibers became attached to that jacket the night Chase died?”

“No.”

“There has been testimony that the defendant knew Chase Andrews for four years prior to his death. So you’re saying that anytime during those four years, when they met wearing those items of clothing, it’s possible the fibers were transferred from the cap to the jacket.”

“From what I have seen, yes.”

“So the red fibers do not prove that Miss Clark was with Chase Andrews the night he died. Was there any evidence at all that Miss Clark was in close proximity to Chase Andrews that night? For example, her skin fragments on his body, under his fingernails, or her fingerprints on the buttons or snaps of his jacket? Strands of her hair on his clothes or body?”

“No.”

“So, in fact, since the red fibers could have been on his jacket for as long as four years, there’s no evidence whatsoever that Miss Catherine Clark was near Chase Andrews the night of his death?”

“From my examination that is correct.” “Thank you. No more questions.”

Judge Sims declared an early lunch recess.

 

 

Tom touched Kya’s elbow gently and whispered that it had been a good cross-examination. She nodded slightly as people stood and stretched. Almost all stayed long enough to watch Kya being handcuffed and led from the room.

As Jacob’s steps echoed down the hall after leaving her in her cell, Kya sat hard on her bed. When she was first incarcerated, they hadn’t allowed her to bring her knapsack into the cell but let her take some of its contents with her in a brown paper bag. She

reached into the bag then and pulled out the scrap of paper with Jodie’s phone number and address. Since being there, she’d looked at it almost every day and thought of phoning her brother, asking him to come be with her. She knew he would, and Jacob had said she could use the phone to call him. But she had not.

How would she say the words: Please come; I’m in jail, charged with murder.

Carefully, she put the paper back into the bag and lifted out the World War I compass Tate had given her. She let the needle swing north and watched it settle true. She held it against her heart.

Where else would one need a compass more than in this place?

Then she whispered Emily Dickinson’s words:

The sweeping up the heart, And putting Love away

We shall not want to use again Until Eternity.

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