Sunday, June 10, 2007

#1 In a Progressive Reading of Chapter one of A Trial of One by Mary E. Martin

As a subscriber to Writers in the Sky blog, you are entitled to participate in a contest. Enter to win an autographed copy of A Trial of One, the third in THE OSGOODE TRILOGY by Mary E. Martin

There are three books in THE OSGOODE TRILOGY:
  • Conduct in Question
  • Final Paradox
  • A Trial of One
They’re all about murder, fraud and love—a new angle in the mystery/suspense genre. Harry Jenkins is a most unlikely hero. The protagonist of all three novels is a middle-aged lawyer, who feels with dead certainty that life is passing him by. Trapped under his senior partner’s thumb and stuck in a dead marriage, he is desperate for change—almost any change.

To get you started, here is Email #1 in a progressive reading of chapter one of A TRIAL OF ONE BY MARY E. MARTIN

Officially, Harry Jenkins’ elderly client, Norma Dinnick, had committed no crime. While she embroidered tales of murderous revenge in a singsong voice, her doctors rubbed their jaws to hide their smirks. Such a sweetly smiling woman could not have committed the cruel and devious acts she so vividly described. Their diagnosis was psychotic dementia with a touch of Alzheimer’s thrown in. Court documents, stamped with a gold seal, declared her mentally incompetent. After all, psychiatrists were not so easily fooled.

Once appointed as her legal guardian, Harry found her accommodations in the most luxurious mental hospital possible. Their deal was unspoken—a nice, permanent home with refined residents, not a jail. For him, Norma remained a fascinating conundrum, and after all, lawyers only wanted to know so much.

His next task? Locate the missing shares in Elixicorp Enterprises hidden by her deceased husband, Arthur. Their value? Thirty million dollars or so. Only she, Norma insisted, had any right to them, but Harry knew that some had died trying to wrest them from her. He envisioned a line of brutal successors lurking in the shadows, waiting for him to falter. Those shares had to be somewhere and, as he drove off to see her today, he determined to find out as much as he could.

In declaring Norma incompetent, the court, in its wisdom, required Harry to consult with her on decisions, if possible. But fortunately, he was not bound by her instructions. Today, he might jog her memory for clues to the missing shares, although her recollections ran from the unreliable to the fantastical.

Gravel crunched beneath his tires as the road to the Mercer Mental Hospital narrowed and mounted steeply between jagged rocks. A small green sign, with white lettering, marked the entrance. Getting out of the car, Harry took off his jacket. The sun bore down, and the heat hit hard. The breeze sang softly through the grasses and caressed his face. In the field below, a group of patients gazed skyward, while an attendant pointed at black ravens circling against the brilliant sky. A nature outing, Harry supposed, but Norma would not be among them. Unless she could command a group, she would have no part of it.

Suddenly, one bird broke from the military precision of the flock and swooped down upon a patient who, clutching his head, ran in circles. As the attendant warded off the attacker, the inmate cringed beneath a tree. Harry turned away and collected his briefcase.

He had heard many versions of Norma’s story of the Elixicorp shares. Some hung together— for the most part. Others were so absurdly confused that they strained the credulity of the most gullible soul. As best as Harry could determine, her husband Arthur, had been part of a consortium to raise money in the nineteen sixties for the development of a wonder drug to forestall memory loss. Ironic that everyone seemed to have forgotten just where those shares might be! Now, all the partners— George Pappas with his underworld connections, Arthur, Archie Brinks, and David Parrish were dead. So, who was entitled to the money?

Walking up the path, lined with tall maples, he saw the white clapboard buildings with their green awnings and wide verandas. Norma sat near the screen door of the main entrance. She wore a pretty, floral dress, neatly cinched in at the waist, giving her a decidedly girlish appearance. Easy to spot her in the midst of all the hospital gowns. A piano rendition of My Blue Heaven floated out on the summer air. Only her foot tapped to the music. Harry had a vision of a single flower sprouting in a dry, stubbly field.

Bending awkwardly to kiss her cheek, he saw the glint in her eye, which said, This is a huge joke. We both know I don’t belong in this nuthouse.

“Have you found the missing shares yet, Harry?” Norma demanded.

“Not yet. I need more information.”

“I’ve told you everything I know. And you still haven’t found the bank accounts?”

“I need the bank transit numbers.”

She peered at him sternly. “Arthur would have dealt with only the most reputable financial institutions.”

“Even so, that narrows the field only slightly, to dozens of banks with innumerable branches.”

To enter the contest to win an autographed copy of A Trial of One, the third in THE OSGOODE TRILOGY by Mary E. Martin, go to to read this month's question. Then email me your answer. There will be a random drawing of those who submit the correct answer.

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