Chapter no 51 – Waning Moon

Where the Crawdads Sing


The language of the court was, of course, not as poetic as the language of the marsh. Yet Kya saw similarities in their

natures. The judge, obviously the alpha male, was secure in his position, so his posture was imposing, but relaxed and unthreatened as the territorial boar. Tom Milton, too, exuded confidence and rank with easy movements and stance. A powerful buck, acknowledged as such. The prosecutor, on the other hand, relied on wide, bright ties and broad-shouldered suit jackets to enhance his status. He threw his weight by flinging his arms or raising his voice. A lesser male needs to shout to be noticed. The bailiff represented the lowest-ranking male and depended on his belt hung with glistening pistol, clanging wad of keys, and clunky radio to bolster his position. Dominance hierarchies enhance stability in natural populations, and some less natural, Kya thought.

The prosecutor, wearing a scarlet tie, stepped boldly to the front



and called his next witness, Hal Miller, a rake-thin twenty-eight-year-old with moppy brown hair.

“Mr. Miller, please tell us where you were and what you saw the night of October 29 to 30, 1969, at about 1:45 A.M.

“Me and Allen Hunt were crewing for Tim O’Neal on his shrimp boat, and we were headed back to Barkley Cove Harbor late, and we seen her, Miz Clark, in her boat, about a mile out, east of the bay, headed north-northwest.”

“And where would that course take her?” “Right smack to that cove near the fire tower.”

Judge Sims banged his gavel at the outburst, which rumbled for a full minute.

“Could she not have been going somewhere else?”

“Well, I reckon, but there’s nothing up that way but miles of swamped-out woods. No other destination I know of ’cept the fire tower.”

Ladies’ funeral fans pumped against the warming, unsettled room. Sunday Justice, sleeping on the windowsill, flowed to the floor and walked to Kya. For the first time in the courtroom, he rubbed against her leg, then jumped onto her lap and settled. Eric stopped talking and looked at the judge, perhaps considering an objection for such an open display of partiality, but there seemed no legal precedent.

“How can you be sure it was Miss Clark?”



“Oh, we all know her boat. She’s been boatin’ around on her own fer years.”

“Were there lights on her boat?”

“No, no lights. Might’ve run her over if we hadn’t seen her.” “But isn’t it illegal to operate a boat after dark without lights?” “Yeah, she was s’posed to have lights. But she didn’t.”

“So on the night that Chase Andrews died at the fire tower, Miss Clark was boating in exactly that direction, just minutes before the time of his death. Is that correct?”

“Yeah, that’s what we seen.” Eric sat down.

Tom walked toward the witness. “Good morning, Mr. Miller.” “Good mornin’.”

“Mr. Miller, how long have you been serving as a crew member on Tim O’Neal’s shrimp boat?”

“Going on three years now.”

“And tell me, please, what time did the moon rise the night of October 29 to the 30?”

“It was waning, and didn’t rise till after we docked in Barkley.

Sometime after two A.M. I reckon.”

“I see. So when you saw the small boat motoring near Barkley Cove that night, there was no moon. It must have been very dark.” “Yeah. It was dark. There was some starlight but, yeah, pretty




“Would you please tell the court what Miss Clark was wearing as she motored past you in her boat that night.”

“Well, we weren’t near close enough to see what she was wearing.”

“Oh? You weren’t near enough to see her clothes.” Tom looked at the jury as he said this. “Well, how far away were you?”

“I reckon we was a good sixty yards away at least.”

“Sixty yards.” Tom looked at the jury again. “That’s quite a distance to identify a small boat in the dark. Tell me, Mr. Miller, what characteristics, what features of this person in this boat made you so sure it was Miss Clark?”

“Well, like I said, ’bout everybody in this town knows her boat, how it looks from close and far. We know the shape of the boat and the figure she cuts sittin’ in the stern, tall, thin like that. A very particular shape.”

“A particular shape. So anybody with this same shape, any person who was tall and thin in this type of boat would have looked like Miss Clark. Correct?”

“I guess somebody else coulda looked like her, but we get to know boats and their owners real good, you know, being out there all the time.”



“But, Mr. Miller, may I remind you, this is a murder trial. It cannot get more serious than this, and in these cases we have to be certain. We can’t go by shapes or forms that are seen from sixty yards away in the dark. So, please can you tell the court you are certain the person you saw on the night of October 29 to October 30, 1969, was Miss Clark?”

“Well, no, I can’t be completely sure. Never said I could be completely sure it was her. But I’m pretty—”

“That will be all, Mr. Miller. Thank you.” Judge Sims asked, “Redirect, Eric?”

From his seat, Eric asked, “Hal, you testified that you’ve been seeing and recognizing Miss Clark in her boat for at least three years. Tell me, have you ever thought you saw Miss Clark in her boat from a distance and then once you got closer, you discovered that it wasn’t Miss Clark after all? Has that ever happened?”

“No, not once.”

“Not once in three years?”

“Not once in three years.” “Your Honor, the State rests.”

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