Prologues are definitely out of style. A few years ago, when Jenny Cruise attended the Romance Writers’ of Australia Conference, she railed against them vociferously, stating she’d never seen a prologue that couldn’t be cut.
I sat at the back of the conference room bowing to her greater wisdom (and writing success!) but secretly quite liking prologues, particularly in crime and mysteries. I don’t mind a mysterious set up that the book has to resolve, or where a clue might be planted.
I wasn’t too concerned, there was nothing in it that wasn’t in the book, so I could see it was superfluous. But I did like it. So, here it is for you to read. Do you like prologues? Hate them? Make a comment and go into the draw for a giveaway copy of COLD DECEPTION.
10 years ago …
Julia couldn’t look at him. Instead, she stared down at her hands and picked at her cuticles.
“The offender, Julia Margaret Taylor, has pleaded guilty to the murder of Father Patrick O’Donnell. The offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. There is a standard non-parole period of twenty years.”
Hearing those words, so casually uttered, forced her head up. She thought the court room would be like American television: full of Armani-dressed lawyers and a youthful, fifty-something judge with black robes who ruled his court with an iron fist.
Instead he was old. Justice William Reynolds. Not a judge, not in an Australian courtroom. Justice. The relics of Britain still reigned in this domain. He wore a horsehair wig, like the barristers for the defence and prosecution, and he spoke in a dried out, thin voice that was hard to hear.
The brilliant scarlet of his robes mesmerised her, letting her drift away, far away, back to all the red on the floor, splashes up the table. . .
“The offender made admissions to the investigating police when traces of blood, which was subsequently determined to be that of the deceased, was discovered in a car belonging to the offender’s mother. This discovery was made the day after the body of the deceased was found in his home.”
She continued to tear and pick at her cuticle. Blood oozed from the corner of her nail. She watched it turn into a drop and tried to focus on the words.
“The offender stated she went to the deceased’s home in a state of some agitation after a young friend, here after referred to as AC, confided to the offender that she had been sexually molested by the deceased, who at the time of the offence was the Roman Catholic priest in the Blue Mountains diocese.
“Julia Taylor stated she wanted to confront the deceased as she was concerned about the welfare of AC. She was unable to explain the purpose of this confrontation or why, if she believed the deceased to have committed such a dreadful crime, she did not contact the police.”
“Because she had more courage than me!” Sally’s outraged fury filled the courtroom. “I should’ve killed him after what that bastard did to me and all the others—”
The gavel slammed amid the chaos of court officials running and shouting. Julia looked back down to her hands and picked harder at her cuticle.
“Remove that woman immediately. I will not have this behaviour in my court.”
His voice was loud now. She had no trouble hearing his words but shut her ears to Sally’s sobs and pleas.
She wouldn’t look. If she looked she’d remember and she didn’t want to remember.
The court settled like a bird with ruffled feathers. Justice Reynolds shuffled his papers and continued.
“The offender claimed that the subsequent confrontation between herself and the deceased was heated and became violent. She states that at first the deceased denied involvement in any criminal activities against AC, but eventually admitted his actions.
“She states she became enraged with his admission, as he laughed at her and told her no one would believe her since AC was known to be a liar and a thief.
“The offender states that, in her words, ‘when he sneered at me as if I were scum,’ she grabbed a knife from the kitchen bench and stabbed the deceased in the stomach three times. This is consistent with evidence submitted by the forensic pathologist. In addition, DNA from the offender was found on the knife and in blood splatters around the deceased, probably as the result of a cut the offender sustained to her hand in the commission of this offence.”
He paused. She looked up to see him peering at her over his glasses. Frowning, he returned to his papers. She dropped her head again. The white scar across her palm still throbbed.
“The offender then returned to her home in her mother’s car, removed her blood-splattered clothing and showered. She states at this stage she did not really realize what she had done and seemed to be behaving, again in her words, ‘on automatic pilot.’
“Evidence from both her mother, the well-known artist Eleanor Taylor, and from her mother’s partner, Deirdre Castro, indicate later that night at the dinner table, the offender was withdrawn and silent. Her mother questioned her but the offender was not forthcoming. Ms Taylor and Ms Castro stated they were preoccupied with their other daughter, an eight year old who was suffering from a serious case of influenza and subsequently was hospitalised.
“However, the following day, the police attended the house the offender lived in with her mother, sister, and Ms Castro, with the intention of questioning Eleanor Taylor. Information provided to the investigating police officers revealed she was heard to have had a loud and acrimonious argument with the deceased a week before the offence.”
More sobs. Probably Ma.
“The police questioned Eleanor Taylor and asked to examine her car. Upon the discovery of the blood and other matter, the offender, Julia Taylor, admitted she was responsible for the offence.
“At this time it is appropriate to confirm that the deceased was indeed, a sexual predator of the most heinous type. Police evidence indicates that he had been sexually offending against a large number of children and young people for many years in parishes throughout NSW.”
The drop of blood was larger now. Even a small amount seemed to make a terrible mess.
“While this fact does provide some mitigation in relation to this offence, there is no excuse for vigilantism of any kind in this society.
“My finding, that the offence falls below the middle range of objective seriousness, is the reason for not imposing the standard non-parole period of twenty years. My findings as to the various subjective matters in the offender’s favour, including the discount for the plea of guilty, and her good prospects for rehabilitation, are further reasons for not doing so.”
She let out the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“Julia Margaret Taylor, you are convicted of the offence of murder. I impose a total sentence of fifteen years with a non-parole period of ten years. Take her below.”
She looked up. Eyes the colour of blue ice. A frown as if he couldn’t quite work out a puzzle. Through the explosion of noise in the courtroom, she watched him watching her. With a shrug, he scooped up his papers and stood. Bowing, scraping, moans, and hand on her arm.
“Come on,” the screw said. “Time to go. Shit! What have you done to yourself?”
She looked down. Her hands were covered in blood. She held them up and watched the light glint on a thread, slowly sliding down her wrist.
Don’t forget to comment to go into the draw for a free copy of COLD DECEPTION. You have until Tuesday 31 March 2015.