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Monologue Mania Day # 193 by Janet S. Tiger (Crime Scene Investigator part 2) Aug.24, 2014
Value - cont.
A monologue by Janet S. Tiger
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(Lights up back up on our Crime Scene lady presenter, and she is showing some of the pages she has collected.)
This is just one example of the types of records that Mrs. Bertha Johnson kept.
It's funny, on TV, our work looks so glamorous, but in real life, it is more like going through piles and piles of paper looking for that one clue, that one key that will open the door to find a criminal.
As I told you, Bertha Johnson was what many people refer to as…. a hoarder....but she was a very organized hoarder and because she had a farm, the hoarding can be hidden by, in this case, a large barn.
But let me go back a second to explain something......by the time I got to Bertha's farmhouse and her barn, it had been almost a year since her murder. And the only reason the farm was still there was because (still moved by this) the entire town refused to let go of the idea that murderer would get away with it, and they had delayed the process of the sale by the state.
In that time, they had had car washes and cake sales and had raised a surprising amount of money to hire me and pay all my expenses to come back live there to go through Bertha's things, in the hope I would find something....anything...that would help solve the case.
And those people....were the only reason I took this case after my retirement. There was something about it, something very special that called out to me. So I turned down the archeological dig I was hoping to attend in England, and flew out to Nebraska. To the middle of nowhere....but when it comes to murder, it appears there is nowhere you can find where some human being will not kill another.
For those who know us, the reality of investigation is going through stuff, and paying attention, looking for that needle in the haystack. With Bertha, this was literally true! You see, Bertha had grown up on the farm, it was her father's and his father's before, and when I first looked, it seemed as if all of them had kept every single piece of paper that had ever passed by their hands! There was a normal looking house, neat, well-taken care of, but in the back, in the barn, oh, my God!
It was actually the second barn, actually the first built on the property, back in the 1920s, so the newer barn actually housed animals. But the barn with all her stuff…..it was stunning.
Here, you can see for yourselves……
(She indicates a photo)
I estimated there were over 50,000 individual pieces of information in that barn…..accumulated over almost a century. Old bills, records of every sort. They were in perfect order, as her parents had been neat, so Bertha had been trained.
Bertha had married a young man she went to school with, and they had two children, two boys, good kids, on the football team, good in school, with a love of the town, and the farm. Both had interest in going to agricultural colleges, and from all accounts, they were as normal a family as you could find.
By the looks of it, everyone was happy. Until her sons had gone into town, and on the way home, a drunken truck driver smashed into their car, and both her children had been killed instantly.
The whole town was devastated, and then, within a year, her husband got cancer and died. From what I was told, it was not a pleasant end for him, and so, Bertha, at age 45, had no husband, and no children. She was a survivor, though, and worked hard to hold onto the farm, becoming involved in all the civic activities, making even more friends than she had before. Sad story, lots of happy connections after.
But Bertha had one bad habit - any drifter who came by looking for a job, she would hire them, for a week, a month, the summer, until they headed on their way.
Now Bertha had been raised on the farm, and she had seen her father hire people for years, so it was not new to her, but others in the town were horrified, as they figured it wasn't a very sensible or wise thing to do, being a single woman. She had been warned many times how dangerous this habit could be…..and I heard many of these warnings repeated when I was there.
She liked helping people, and she helped these drifters, who would stay anywhere from a few days to a few months, finishing out the planting season, or the harvest.
To her credit, Bertha had amazing intuition, and she made many friends amongst the men she helped......many of which stayed in touch with her for years, visiting with wives and children, some even moving to the area.
But she was getting older, and maybe her intuition was starting to fade, who knows? Two years ago, she had someone stay with her, a drifter like the rest. He was there for a few weeks, maybe a month. No one was ever sure, as now that Bertha had more arthritis, and did not go into town that often, leaving the town chores to the helpers she let stay.
Then one Sunday, a neighbor came to get Bertha for church, even though Bertha had not answered the phone the night before, the neighbor knew Bertha was getting a bit hard of hearing, and certainly never understood the answering machine, so the neighbor came.....and.....(deep breath).....found Bertha dead......stabbed.
She had been dead for several days.
The town was horrified......who could have done such a thing? And the sheriff's office did the best they could, but all the leads fizzled out...except the one about the drifter. The drifter whose name no one could remember, the drifter who was so non-descript that he was described as tall and medium and skinny and solid and with a beard....or clean shaven.
So the sheriff sent the case to us.....but it was not big enough for us to look at.....only one death, no clear leads at all.......until the town started collecting money and went to some of the men who had once stayed at Bertha's.
Many could not be found, of course, but several of them had done very well after working for her, and a few contributed.....larger sums....... to the fund ......to find her killer.
(She steps back)
And that's where I come in.......
I need to take a short break to….. get something I forgot. If you need a break, this is a good time to take it. This is a long story, and I did not rush when I was there, and I will not rush it now.
(She exits as lights dim on this for the moment)
Note - This is part of a play I'm working on called CRIME - it has several other parts, and this may not be clear without the others. Will try to pull together one location with all the scenes, so perhaps it will be clearer. Thanks for your patience!
Janet S. Tiger 858-736-6315 www.JanetSTiger.weebly.com Member Dramatists Guild since 1983 Playwright-in-Residence Swedenborg Hall 2006-8