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From Chapter One
"Mr. Cornbleau, you interviewed the three girls by yourself on Tuesday, November 3rd?"
"The alleged initial victim, Barbara Stanley, told you about them?" Kevin nodded to confirm the answer before he received it.
"That's correct. So I invited them into my office."
"Can you tell us how you began once they arrived?"
"Pardon?" Cornbleau frowned as if the question were ridiculous.
"What was the first question you asked the girls?" Kevin stepped toward the jury. "Did you ask if Miss Wilson had touched them on their buttocks? Did you ask if she had put her hands under their skirts?"
"Of course not."
"Well, what did you ask?"
"I asked them if it were true they were having the same sort of trouble Barbara Stanley had had with Miss Wilson."
"The same sort of trouble?" He grimaced at the word trouble.
"So Barbara Stanley told her girlfriends what allegedly happened to her and the three young girls related similar experiences to her, but none of the three had ever told anyone else before. Is that what you're saying?"
"Yes. That was my understanding."
"Quite a charismatic ten-year-old girl," Kevin quipped, acting as if he had merely spoken a private thought aloud. Some members of the jury raised their eyebrows. A bald-headed man in the front right corner tilted his head thoughtfully and stared intently at the principal.
When Kevin turned and looked at the audience, he saw that the dignified-looking man in the rear had widened his smile and was nodding encouragingly. Kevin half wondered if he might not be a relative of Lois Wilson, maybe an older brother.
"Now, Mr. Cornbleau, can you tell the court what kind of grades Barbara Stanley was getting in Lois Wilson's class."
"She was doing low C."
"Low C. And had she had any problems with Miss Wilson previously?"
"Yes," the principal muttered.
"Yes. On two occasions, she had been sent to my office for refusing to do her work and using bad language in class, but..."
"So you can safely say Barbara was not fond of Miss Wilson?"
"Objection, your honor." The district attorney stood up. "Counsel is asking the witness to make a conclusion."
"Sorry, your honor." Kevin turned back to Cornbleau. "Let's get back to the three girls, Mr. Cornbleau. Did you ask each of them to relate her experiences to you in your office that day?"
"I thought it was best to get right to it, yes."
"You're not telling us that while one told her story, the other two listened?" he asked, twisting his face to indicate his shock and incredulity.
"Wasn't that inappropriate? I mean, exposing the girls to these stories . . . alleged experiences."
"Well, it was an investigation."
"Oh, I see. You've had experience with this sort of thing before?"
"No, never. That's why it was so shocking."
"Did you advise the girls that if they were making things up, they could be in serious trouble?"
"But you tended to believe them, correct?"
"Because they were all saying the same thing and describing it the same way." Cornbleau looked satisfied with himself and his answer, but Kevin stepped closer, his questions coming in a staccato manner. "Then couldn't they have rehearsed it?" "What?"
"Couldn't they have gotten together and memorized their stories?"
"I don't see . . ."
"Isn't it possible?"
"Haven't you ever experienced children this age Iying?"
"And more than one Iying at the same time?"
"Then isn't it possible?"
"Did you call Miss Wilson in and confront her with these stories immediately after speaking with the girls?"
"Yes, of course."
"And what was her reaction?"
"She wouldn't deny it."
"You mean she refused to be interrogated about such matters without benefit of counsel, don't you?" Cornbleau shifted his seat. "Isn't that so?" Kevin demanded.
"That's what she said."
"So you went ahead and informed the superintendent and then called the district attorney?"
"Yes. We followed school board policy for such matters."
"You didn't investigate further, call in other students?"
"And before Miss Wilson was indicted on this matter, you and the superintendent suspended her, correct?"
"As I said..."
"Please, just answer the question."
"Yes," Kevin repeated, as if that were an admission of guilt. He paused, a slight smile on his face as he turned from Cornbleau to the jury and then back to Cornbleau.
"Mr. Cornbleau, did you on more than one previous occasion have words with Miss Wilson about her bulletin boards?"
"They were too small and not up to standards."
"So you were critical of her as a teacher?"
"Room decor is an integral part of a teacher's effectiveness," Cornbleau said pedantically.
"Uh-huh, but Miss Wilson didn't have...let us say...the same sense of high regard for bulletin boards."
"She was, in fact, according to what you wrote on her chart, 'disdainful.'"
"Unfortunately, most of the newer teachers are not given the same good background in college." Cornbleau smirked.
Kevin nodded. "Yes, why can't everyone be like us?" he asked rhetorically, and some people in the audience snickered. The judge rapped his gavel.
"You also have been critical of Miss Wilson's clothing, have you not?" Kevin continued more directly.
"I think she should dress more conservatively, yes."
"Yet Miss Wilson's department head has continually given her high marks for her teaching abilities," Kevin interrupted, raising his voice. "On her last report she said"?Kevin looked at his document? "'Lois Wilson has an intrinsic understanding of children. No matter what the obstacle, she seems to be able to reach them and get them stimulated.'" He put the document down. "That's quite a nice review, isn't it?"
"Yes, but as I said . . ."
"No further questions, your honor."
Copyright © 1990 by Andrew Neiderman
Posted July 2, 2001
I truly enjoyed this new perspective on Satan-about-to-take-over idea. The writing is tight and the characters believable; and there's no attempt to press any given religion; it just makes you think. Seductive and thrilling, one of the best reads I've had in the past few years.
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Posted June 2, 2012
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