Ditch

Bill walked up the stairs, preoccupied, talking to his Dad who he thought was alone with a Ditch.

Billy asked for a Ditch, before he walked into the room. His head down, focused on cattle count, up at the pens. He looked up as he entered realizing he’d interrupted a meeting. “Oh, I’m sorry, Pa, I’ll come back,” he retreated, but a small voice stopped him.

“Don’t go, Billy, I need you,” Jenny pleaded.

“Oh, I didn’t see you, Jenny.” He stopped.

Bill took off his hat and walked into the office. He made himself a ditch.

“Read this, Bill,” his Dad handed him a document.

Bill nodded and began to read. His face, red, by page five, he could not read past page seven and put it down. He finished his drink and walked across the room to Jennifer. He held her, and they cried.

Fear of abuse in her eyesBill took off her jacket and hung it on the back of a chair. He removed her blouse and hung it on the chair. He took her slip off her shoulders, he removed her bra. He pulled her dress down, her slip came with it. He looked, they all looked, she was black and blue, and she had fist bruises, cuts, belt marks, belt buckle sharp cuts and bruises. Her two broken knees had healed badly and her left elbow had been broken and healed poorly. He gave her a sheet from the shelf, and she wrapped it loosely around herself.

Dr. Emerson walked into the room followed by Mr. Fred Gardiner, County Attorney for Buchanan County, Missouri. The gentlemen nodded, nobody spoke, Dr. Emerson walked over to Jennifer, he tenderly touched her face and told Gardiner to write. The doctor began dictating as he reviewed Jennifer’s naked body, Fred wrote: “Beginning with the victim’s (Mrs. Patricia Jennifer Burns, a live resident of Buchanan County, Missouri,) left jaw and throat, I see extreme stress indicating an effort to strangle Mrs. Burns to suffer oxygen deprivation along with a jaw bone fracture, in a botched attempt to take her life. Mrs. Burns suffered this injury.”

“Just before Christmas, Doctor,” she supplied an approximate date. “Wally, Mike, and Ronald Black, Sir, all three of them.”

“Moving down Mrs. Burns’ left arm, one can easily view an injured clavicle and a hyperextended left elbow, causing extreme discomfort. Her phalanges are all present, but broken digits on her ring finger along with missing skin indicate forcible removal of a ring. Done by … ?”

“Wally and Michael before Thanksgiving,” she replied. “Ronald and Mike stole my wedding ring, last summer. They said they needed money.” Jenny cried.

“Continuing I notice under Mrs. Burns’ left breast three or four broken ribs, caused by a traumatic blow from a hammer, probably?” The Doctor acknowledged.

“Doctor, it was a hammer, used by Mike after his drunk friends tied me to a tree in a blizzard. I was crying, Mike said I’ll give you something to cry about. Oh, it hurt so bad, There were seven men on me, tied to a tree. I passed out when he hit me with the hammer.”

“When, Jenny?” Big John asked. Gardiner continued writing.

Big Storm“That big storm we had just before Thanksgiving?” She smiled through the tears.

The Doctor handed her a handkerchief. She nodded her acknowledgement, and said, “Thanks.”

Doctor Emerson continued, at every injury that he could see, he asked the date and the name of the perpetrator. Jenny revealed dates, names and circumstances. She remembered details, and who said what, reliving the moments as if they’d just happened. He finished his exam at ten thirty in the evening.

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