Presumption of Guilt - Chapter 5
Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Jayne Cobb is imprisoned in the Silverton jail, awaiting arraignment for the rape and murder of a promionent businessman's wife. Is he guilty or has someone framed him? Mal and his crew come together over dinner to share what they’ve been able to learn on the merc’s behalf.


Title: Presumption of Guilt - 5 Author: hisgoodgirl Disclaimer: All belongs to Joss. I got nada but my imagination. Characters: Crew, omc, ofc. Warning: PG for graphic violence, profanity and other grownup things. Setting: In the town of Silverton, on Santo, immediately prior to “The Train Job”. Words: 2,410

A/N: As a kid, my two favorite TV genres were westerns and detective shows. I finally decided to tackle both in a mix I’ve thought of as “Firefly CSI”. This is a new story genre for me and I’d really appreciate hearing what you think. It’s all helpful, dear readers.

X - posted from my LiveJournal.


Title: Presumption of Guilt - Chapter 5 Author: hisgoodgirl

Kaylee lifted the lid from the rice cooker and fragrant steam billowed out to envelop her. At the sound of footsteps, she glanced over her shoulder to see Simon entering the galley from the aft stairs, River skipping close behind him.

“Hey, Doctor!” Kaylee smiled brightly and waved. “You have any luck talkin’ with that Coroner fella this afternoon? I was… just wonderin’ how things went.” She began to scrape the rice into a large ceramic bowl. “Your sister was real good – “

“Kicked her gluteus maximus at hoopball,” the younger girl interjected.

“Well, that’s for sure. Ain't nobody got any business bein’ that fast.” Kaylee shook her finger at River. Turning to Simon, she batted her eyelashes flirtatiously and suggested, “Maybe next time you can be on my team. I think we’d be real good together.”

“What?” Simon had been lost in consideration of the conclusions he and Doc Bailey had shared and only realized that Kaylee had been talking to him because his sister had poked him.

“Rude to ignore, Simon. Kaylee just wants a playmate. A big brain isn’t everything. Needs a different vantage point.” She grinned at Kaylee as if she had just done something extraordinarily helpful.

“River! Shush!” Kaylee blurted, now thoroughly embarrassed. She placed the bowl of rice on the table and looked across to Simon, her hands braced on her hips. “Ain't it enough she whomped me? Now she’s gotta go talking foolishness.” She stepped around the head of the big table and closer to the doctor, her face dimpling with her grin. “I was just wantin’ to know if you might be interested in playin’ some hoopball. It’s a lotta fun.”

“Ah – I, uh, appreciate the invitation, Kaylee, but, ah,” Simon fidgeted uncomfortably, “sports have never been my thing. Besides, from what I’ve seen so far, I’m more likely to be needed to patch up the injured.” He sat down, tugging at his sister’s arm and drawing her into the chair beside him. The girl mechanic was cute but he still didn’t know what to make of her. Kaylee’s unselfconscious sexuality interfered with his concentration and besides, he’d never been terribly good with women.

“Oh.” Kaylee’s tone sharpened, her feelings hurt. “Okay.”

Sensing Kaylee’s disappointment, River elbowed her brother in the ribs and canted her dark head towards his. “Dummy.” Wanting to smooth over whatever had just happened, Simon offered, “Still, I appreciate your willingness to watch River so that I could do my research. My meeting with Doctor Bailey was very productive.”

Simon was real shiny, Kaylee decided, but he sure didn’t know how to relate to womenfolk. Still feeling a bit rebuffed, she turned abruptly. “Ain't no problem,” she snipped and headed back into the kitchen area, where she opened the door to the ship’s tiny oven and pulled out a “meatloaf” made of protein powder, powdered eggs, canned tomato paste and seasonings.

Hand in hand Wash and Zoe wandered down from the bridge and took their seats, to be joined by Mal a few minutes later. “Smells right good, Mèi-mei,” he remarked.

“Thanks, Cap’n. Havin’ the use of them herbs Shepherd Book brought with him helps a lot.” She put a basket of rolls on the table, then placed a pitcher of water beside it before sitting down across from River. “When’s ‘Nara gettin’ back?”

Mal rolled his eyes, his voice thick with sarcasm. “Once she’s milked some fat old rancher for a fine chunk of his coin, I would assume.”

“I don’t see why you gotta keep on being so mean about Inara’s work.” Kaylee glared at Mal. “After all, as I recall it, part of what she was after was more information to help us save Jayne. Anyways, she said she’d be back after supper.” She filled her glass sullenly. “Just ain't no call to be hurtful,” she chided him.

“Well, Mèi-mei, I’ll do my best to keep that in mind. I wonder if Inara knows she’s got a wrench-wieldin’ mechanic comin’ to her defense. Might cheer her up considerable.” He grinned rakishly at Zoe, turning in surprise when a roll struck him on the side of his head.

“What?” he blurted, glancing back to Kaylee, who threatened him with a second, amidst much laughter.

Zoe glanced at Wash, her face expressionless but her feelings obvious to her pilot husband. Mal just didn’t seem to be able to drop his issues with the Companion. She opened her napkin and laid it across her lap before tucking Wash’s into the front of his flight suit. “There you go, Sweetcakes. No meatloaf down the coveralls tonight,” she assured him.

“Aw, and I figured I’d save it for a bedtime snack,” he teased.

In a minute, Book’s firm tread echoed up the fore stairs and everyone turned as he came down the corridor and into the galley area. “Looks like my timing is perfect.” He smiled at Kaylee. “You used some of that sage, didn’t you? I could smell it the minute I came into the hold.”

“Yep, an’ thanks for suggestin’ I try it.”

Pulling out the chair between Kaylee and Mal, the preacher sat down. His strong, dark face was clearly troubled. “Captain, if you wouldn’t object too much, I’d like to offer a prayer in Jayne’s behalf, because after what I learned this afternoon, I’m afraid we’re going to need some Divine intervention to save that boy.”

Mal winced. “You know what a big fan I am of religiosity, Shepherd, but after my conversation with the Sheriff, I’m inclined to agree with your assessment of Jayne’s odds.”

Everyone unconsciously glanced at the merc’s empty chair. “Sure is awful quiet with him gone,” Kaylee said in a very small voice.

* * *

As Simon was carrying the last of the dirty dishes to the galley, Inara arrived, her normally opulent clothing exchanged for something simpler and somehow more somber. She gracefully slid into the chair across from Zoe, who greeted her with a slight nod. “I will be glad,” she said quietly, “when we leave this dreadful little moon.”

Mal started to make one of his predictable wisecracks, then stopped. Something in Inara’s posture hinted that all the wealth and prestige associated with her status as a Registered Companion failed to compensate for the more difficult aspects of her work, and he was unexpectedly flooded with compassion for her. Unsettled by an uncharacteristic urge to comfort her, he quickly shifted topics.

“Seems this is as good a time as any for us to lay out whatever we’ve been able to suss out about these crimes Jayne’s accused of. Doctor? Care to share what you learned at the Coroner’s office?”

Simon returned to his chair, sitting up a little straighter as he glanced at the others. “Jayne couldn’t possibly have murdered that woman. His knife was the murder weapon, but it was wielded by a left-handed individual.” He looked hesitantly at his sister and then across to Kaylee. “I’m not sure some of this information is appropriate to share in present company, Captain. Perhaps…”

“Already know,” River blurted. “She wasn’t raped. He cared about her and wouldn’t have hurt her.” River’s large brown eyes tracked from her brother to Mal. “All adults here,” she stated firmly. “We can talk about sex.” Her eyes twinkled above an impish grin.

“River!” Simon sputtered and clasped her arm. “We will not talk about sex and certainly not at the dining table.”

Zoë and Wash stifled grins and Kaylee giggled.

In exasperation, Mal slammed his hand on the tabletop. “Somebody wanna tell me how come every conversation referencin’ Jayne Cobb seems to come ‘round to sexin’? Now, what else, Doctor?”

“Well, I learned that Ambrose Murchison had been systematically battering his wife, and that people in the community were aware of it. I also found out that she had asked him for a divorce very shortly before her murder. The autopsy and Coroner’s report support what River just said: Nellie Murchison was not raped.”

Book spoke up, his strong dark fingers interlaced prayerfully. “I took the liberty of paying a visit to the Clerk of Court’s office and was able to learn some very interesting things about the deceased’s circumstances and estate.” The Shepherd proceeded to relate the story of the Powers-Murchison Trust.

He glanced around the table. “Now what makes this all the more interesting, and certainly goes to motive is that just a week ago an extremely rich silver deposit was discovered on several of the mining claims included in the trust assets. We’re talking potentially millions of credits here.”

Kaylee’s eyes grew huge as Wash remarked, “Now that sure sounds like a motive for murder to me.”

Book nodded knowingly. “There’s more. With Mrs. Murchison dead, her brother and husband stand to share equally, with the entirety of the trust passing to the survivor in the event of the other’s death. If I was either of the gentlemen in question – “ he looked pointedly at Mal, “— I’d be giving some serious consideration to my personal security.”

Mal scratched at his ear as he was prone to do when pondering something. “What you gentlemen just shared fits exactly with what I was able to learn from the Sheriff. He’s as firmly convinced as we are that Jayne’s been framed and that somehow Murchison is behind it. That man’s had his boot on the necks of these folk entirely too long, and that don’t sit well by me.”

He continued, “Be that as it may, we got another issue that’s like to make things even more complicated. Murchison’s sent a shuttle to pick up the judge and bring him back. He’ll be here tomorrow morning and that means they’ll move up Jayne’s arraignment by 24 hours. Murchison’s planning on railroadin’ Jayne and pushing for a hangin’. We’re runnin’ out of time.” Mal looked wearily at Book. “So, Preacher, you got any miracles, legal or otherwise, you can call on? ’Cause it’s lookin’ like we just might need ‘em.”

As the other crew members watched him raptly, Book responded. “From all I’ve been able to gather, you’re correct, Mal. Any local trial is very likely to be open and shut, manipulated by Murchison’s power around town. I’d suggest that we consider calling in the Federal Territorial Justice, who might be unswayed by Murchison, thus giving Jayne a slightly better chance at a fair trial.”

No longer able to contain his frustration and agitation, Mal shoved back his chair and began to pace back and forth at the head of the table. “I ain't so sure about bringin’ in the Feds, Preacher, especially with the Doc and an’ his sis on board. It’s been my experience that them boys ain't nothin’ but trouble and we got considerable more reason than usual to be layin’ low.”

Surprisingly, it was Kaylee who spoke up first, actually leaping to her feet. “Cap’n, this is Jayne we’re talkin’ about, an’ we don’t do somethin’, these heartless sonsabitches are gonna hang him!”

“Kaylee’s got a point, Mal,” Wash interjected, taking his wife’s hand in his. “We need to pursue all legal recourse. Surely we can keep Simon and River safe?”

“Gotta say I agree with my man and Kaylee, Sir.” Zoe added, then looked across to Book. “Have we got time to file the necessary papers, Shepherd?

He nodded. “I’ll be at the courthouse when it opens, first thing tomorrow morning and will file the petition to have the arraignment shifted to the purview of the Federal Territorial Judge. That ought to give Jayne a better chance at a fair trial and us a little more time to continue trying to sort out who the real killer might be.”

Simon was tense and pale, his fear for his sister flooding him as he considered the possibilities. “Captain?” he asked anxiously, looking up at Mal.

“Don’t fret, son,” Mal reassured him. “You and your sis’ll be fine, I promise.” In the quiet moment that followed, Mal studied Inara. “How about you, ‘Nara? Bring us back any recon from your day on the ranch?”

The others turned to face the Companion.

She clasped her hands in her lap and spoke, her voice firm and measured. “What you’ve all said about Murchison is true. He’s that bad and then some: crooked, mean and manipulative. But I think we need to be looking more closely at Dwight Powers, the woman’s brother. He stands to benefit from this trust as much as the husband, and from what I learned this afternoon, he’s about as questionable.”

“Left hand path leads to unhappy consequences,” River stated. “Bloody brothers in deep together.”

Mal raised an eyebrow quizzically. “Well, Li’l Bit, I’m sure we all appreciate your insight into this mess.” He turned to Simon and half-whispered, “What the hell’s she talkin’ about this time?” The doctor could only shrug.

“Alrighty then,” Mal said. “Shepherd’s gonna file for a stay of arraignment first thing tomorrow, and we’re gonna start prying into the affairs of one Mr. Dwight Powers. Good work, people.”

As her shipmates rose to go about the remainder of their evening, Kaylee spoke to Mal. “Cap, I was wonderin’ if they’d let me take Jayne some things, you know, clean clothes, maybe some snacks. It’s give me a chance to fill him in on our plan so he don’t sit there figurin’ we don’t care and waiting to get hung.”

Mal slid his arm around the young woman’s shoulder and pulled her against him. “You got a good heart, Mèi-mei. Just make sure to take Zoe along with you, so you’re safe. Jail ain't no place for a pretty girl.”

Kaylee rose on her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek. “Thanks, Cap’n.”

As Mal turned his attention from Kaylee, he saw that Inara had started toward the fore corridor to head back to her shuttle. “’Nara?” he called and she turned.

“Yes, Mal?” I’m in no mood for your crass remarks tonight, in case you haven’t noticed, she thought.

He closed the gap between then in just a few long strides. “Rough day?”

She was startled. “Actually, yes. They aren’t all beds of roses, you know.”

He stood close, studying her, aware of her pallor and the faint shadows beneath her eyes. “I was thinkin’… how ‘bout I make us a pot of tea. I figured we might both could use it.”

Disarmed by his gentleness, she smiled. “That would be nice.”


To be continued… 5/13


Tuesday, March 4, 2008 8:40 AM


Nice and now the plot thickens as the Feds get involved. This is going great.

Monday, August 22, 2011 8:49 AM


on the edge of my seat here. Great story you got there!


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