Presumption of Guilt – Chapter 7
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

As Jayne Cobb awaits trial for rape and murder, Ambrose Murchison uses his power to stir up trouble. Zoe and Kaylee visit the merc in jail and things in Silverton heat up.


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: 2,460

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”.

Click my name to access the previous chapters. If you’re following this tale, I’d really appreciate hearing what you think, and if you’re enjoying this, please pimp it to your friends. Thanks!

X - posted from my LiveJournal.


Presumption of Guilt Chapter Seven

As soon as Shepherd Book completed the necessary paperwork to request reassignment of Jayne’s case to the jurisdiction of the Territorial Court, he left the Clerk of Court’s office and headed back to Serenity. Within minutes the Cortex link in the home of Ambrose Murchison chimed and his butler took the call. What he learned did not please Mr. Murchison.

Murchison sat in deep concentration at the desk in his study. Behind him, a tall stained glass window sent pools of multicolored light spilling across the room. He’d been examining a group of mining claims, some of them assets of Nellie’s trust, some collateral for the numerous loans made to his brother-in-law, Dwight. While Nellie’s death was a terrible tragedy, it appeared that he would soon enjoy a very substantial legacy.

The butler discretely cleared his throat and Murchison looked up. “Yes, Smith?”

“I thought you’d want to know, sir. The defense attorney in Mrs. Murchison’s murder case has filed for a change of venue.”

“I beg your pardon?” Murchison scowled at his servant. His hands reached up to grasp the lapels of his mourning suit of black merino wool. A substantial diamond stud fastened his crisp white shirt collar and equally large stones glittered in the heavy gold cufflinks that sparkled at his wrists.

“Federal Territorial Justice Marcus Albert Howery is now scheduled to hear the arraignment on Thursday.” Howery was known for his impartiality and scrupulous respect for the law.

“Why, that’s three full days from now!” Murchison exploded, slamming his fist on the desk.

“Yes, sir. I know, sir.” The butler nodded respectfully.

“Those pirates are entirely too clever for my liking…” the banker muttered to himself. “They’ll probably come up with some technicality to get the charges dropped on their man.” He looked sharply up at his servant. “Fetch me Kenny Thorn and be discrete about it, Smith.”

“Yes, sir.” The butler bowed and went in search of Sheriff Max Garvey’s second in command.

* * *

Some twenty minutes later, Thorn stood in the doorway of Ambrose Murchison’s study, his hat in his hands. “I understand you wanted to speak with me, Mr. Murchison?”

Studying the lanky young man across from him, Murchison gestured to a chair across the desk from his. “Have a seat, Kenny. I’m going to need your help with something. Be assured that I will make it worth your while.”

The young deputy sat down in the deeply upholstered armchair and watched cagily as the banker opened a humidor on his desk and drew out an expensive cigar.

“Care for one?” Murchison offered.

“Perhaps for later, if you don’t mind, sir?”

Murchison smiled and nodded. As Thorn tucked the cigar away in the breast pocket of his waistcoat, he decided the banker’s smile resembled that of a crocodile he’d once seen in a picture show. Not a pleasant man, but one who rewarded those who served him well.

In Thorn’s case, this meant that Murchison had often called on him to serve foreclosure papers on local ranchers and miners unable to keep up their payments on the mortgages and loans made so readily available to them just a few brief years before. It had also involved keeping tabs on the banker’s unfortunate late wife when she began to stray. That task had been a pleasure. Nellie Murchison was a beautiful woman and Thorn had enjoyed the occasions when he’d been able to secretly watch the little slut cavorting with some off-worlder, never aware she’d had a secret audience.

The banker used his penknife to cut the tip from the cigar and then lit it with a golden lighter, sucking at it until the tip was aglow. “Those goddamned spacers have gone and filed for a delay on their man’s trial.”

“They obviously don’t know who they are dealing with, sir.”

“I just got a call from the Register of Deeds office less than half an hour ago and I assure you, it’s true.”

“Where’d they come up with a lawyer willing to work with ‘em? I thought you’d – “

“Seems that they have a minister on the crew who knows the Law.” Murchison shook his head in disbelief, then leaned back into his chair, crossing his hands over his ample belly.

“You know, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if a bunch of the local folk were to be rather outraged about this. They loved my late wife and might just decide that it’s time to take matters into their own hands, if you get my drift.” He gave Thorn a pointed look before taking another drag from the cigar and exhaling the smoke in an elegant circle. “You’ll know the people to talk to, I imagine.”

Thorn nodded. “Oh, yes sir. I just need to put the word out. How soon would you be wanting action, sir?”

Murchison glanced from a painting of his late wife to the deeds resting on his desk and smiled with evil intent.

“I should think the sooner, the better.”

* * *

The deputy looked up at Zoe’s impassive face. The woman made him nervous. “What’s yer business?”

“We’re shipmates of the man you’re holding and we brought him some food and a change of clothes.”

Kaylee held up the basket and knapsack as evidence of their intentions.

“You know I gotta search you and everything, right?” He studied the two women, grateful it was him and not Kenny working this shift. Both were lookers, but the little one was especially hot.

“We know,” Zoe said grimly, noticing how he was eyeing Kaylee. Her glare dared him to indulge in any liberties.

He snickered. “You can gimme your sidearm, to start with.”

Reluctantly, Zoe unfastened the peace strap on her ‘mare’s leg’ and passed it over the desk to the young man. Unarmed, she felt naked and vulnerable, vigilance now her primary weapon.

Kaylee placed the knapsack and basket on the desk and the deputy began to rifle through each in turn, opening or unfolding everything. “All clear,” he finally announced, looking up with a sly grin, hands outstretched. “Now, ladies, who’s gonna be first?”

* * *

“You got an hour. Want out before that, just bang on the door and I’ll unlock it.” With that, the deputy withdrew and locked the heavy door behind them.

“Right free with his mitts, wasn’t he?” Kaylee whispered.

Zoe clenched and unclenched her jaw. “Did you really expect otherwise?”

At the sound of the door closing, Jayne rose from the bunk in his cell and made his way to the bars. He’d slept little the previous night and looked like hell, his face bruised and puffy, two days growth of beard darkening his jaw. “Damn it’s good to see you two,” he said. “I guess you come to bail me out.”

“’Fraid not, Jayne,” Zoe replied. “Given the nature of the charges against you, they refuse to release you on bail. We wanted to fill you in on what we’ve learned and Kaylee’s brought you some clean clothes and some food.”

The flicker of excitement on the merc’s face disappeared, to be replaced by sullen disappointment.

Kaylee slid the contents of the basket in through the slot and Jayne set them on the concrete floor beside him. “It’s mostly leftovers from last night’s supper since you weren’t there to eat your share,” the girl interjected, smiling up at him. “I did stick in some extra biscuits, ‘though. I knew you like ‘em.” She studied the big man’s bloodshot eyes. “They treatin’ you okay?”

“Well enough, I suppose.” Jayne’s fists tightened around the bars that separated them. “I heard they pushed my trial up to just after lunch today…” His anxiety was clearly evident. “Kaylee, Zo – look. There’s somethin’ I need to git straight with the both of ya. Y’all know I didn’t rape nor kill that woman, don’tcha? I wouldn’t never…” Jayne’s voice broke and Kaylee didn’t think she’d ever seen the big mercenary so agitated.

“We know, Jayne.” Kaylee glanced to Zoe, then stepped closer and rested her grubby little hand on his, surprised to find it trembling.

“Got some good news for ya. Shepherd Book’s gonna serve as your lawyer and he’s filing for some kind of stay so he can bring in a judge like to be more fair. Also means the trial will be delayed a little.”

Jayne looked dumbfounded. “The Preacher can do that? Huh. That man just keeps on with the surprises, don’t he?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Well, you tell him I’m grateful, hear? Even if I ain't thrilled with bein’ stuck in here.”

Kaylee unpacked the clean clothes and passed them through into Jayne’s waiting hands. “I brought ya a couple of shirts, clean pants, unders and socks, oh, and here’s yer jacket. Thought maybe you might get chilly in here at night.”

With a sudden suspicious look, Jayne asked her, "How’d you git into my bunk, girl, ‘cause I been lockin’ it ever since Crazy come on board.”

Kaylee shrugged. “Got all the access codes. Ain't no big deal.”

He scowled. “You didn’t mess with my guns or nothin’ when you was down there?” There were all sorts of things cached away in Jayne’s cabin he’d just as soon nobody, especially l’il Kaylee, knew about. “Locked it back once you was done?”

“O’course I did, silly.” She smiled hesitantly up at him, surprised at the naked fear she saw in his eyes. “I ain't never seen you so jumpy.”

“You ain't never seen me fixin’ to get hung, neither,” he snapped.

Zoe crossed her arms over her chest. “Just try to calm down, Jayne. For what it’s worth, the Captain, Book and the Doctor have all been doing a bunch of detective work and all the evidence supports your innocence, even if it was your knife that was used.”

“No, gorramnit, Zo, you gotta understand. Once before I got charged by mistake for something similar to this, years ago out on Whitefall, and I come damn close to swingin’, ‘cept a buddy a mine busted me out the night before. There’s a lot I’ve done through the years, but rapin’ a woman, much less murderin’ one…” He looked stricken. “My hand to God,” he pleaded urgently, “ain't no way I’d ever do such a thing.”

During the war and in the years afterwards, Zoe had known a lot of men like Jayne Cobb. Hard men. Desperate men. Some were self-serving cowards; others had retained some shred of honor buried deep within, and somehow, she felt that Jayne was one of the latter. Her voice softened as she looked him in the eye. “I believe you, Jayne.”

Sounds of loud talking and shouting began to be audible from the street outside and the three looked at one another. “Something’s up,” Zoe said, immediately wary. “Lemme see if the deputy can tell me what all that racket’s about. Kaylee, you stay right here,” she instructed.

As Zoe turned and strode up the aisle to the pass-through door, Kaylee bent and fiddled with the top edge of the teddy bear patch sewed onto the knee of her coverall, then stepped closer and squeezed her hand through the bars to clasp Jayne’s. He could feel the small piece of metal she pressed against his palm. “Lock pick,” she mouthed. “In case ya need it.”

Jayne tucked the small tool into his pocket and shook his head in wonder. “Kaylee-girl, you’re an angel for sure.” He reached through the bars and gently tucked a stray lock of her hair behind her ear, his palm lingering briefly against her face. “Thanks.”

At the other end of the lockup, the door swung open and Zoe spoke briefly with the very alarmed deputy. “I need you and your friend to come out right now, ma’am. Looks like we got a batch a folks intendin’ on bypassing your fella’s trial altogether and havin’ themselves a lynchin’!”

* * *

As Mal and Book sat at the ship’s dining table going over the papers that the Shepherd had filed earlier that morning, Simon was doing his best to engage his sister in a game of checkers in the small lounge across the way. The dark, slender girl was becoming increasingly agitated and Simon began to wonder whether it was time for him to sedate her again. Just when he’d decided that she needed another injection, the radio on Mal’s hip crackled.

The captain popped the hand-held unit free from his belt and thumbed the ‘on’ switch. “What’s up, Zo?”

“I think we’re gonna need a little help down here at the jail,” Zoe said. “Got a bunch of citizens seem to think a lynchin’ might be a good idea.”

“Ai ya, women wanle!” Mal exclaimed. “I’m on my way.”

“The kettle’s coming to a boil! Best go now!” River blurted out.

Mal glanced at her, then back to Book as he quickly checked his sidearm. “How comfortable are you with a shotgun, Preacher?”

* * *

Someone was pounding on the door of the room Sheriff Max Garvey rented above the dry goods store. Garvey shook himself awake and cleared his throat before calling out hoarsely. “Just a minute! Let a man get his pants on, wouldja?” He stepped into his trousers and pulled the suspenders up over the nightshirt he’d slept in, quickly stuffing the long shirttails down his legs before fastening his fly. He grabbed his gunbelt and coat, then unlatched the door.

“What the hell’s up, Peter? You look like you seen a ghost!”

“Sheriff.” The youth nodded respectfully. “Best you get down to the jail right away. There’s a mob gatherin’ and they’re fixin’ to lynch Nellie Murchison’s killer.”

“Sweet Mother of God – If it ain't one thing it’s another. Any of the other boys down there?” Garvey grabbed his hat and a shotgun standing just behind the door jamb, then yanked the door shut behind him.

“Dennis is on duty, and I caught Carl on the way over to get you, but I can’t seem to find Kenny.” Both men headed rapidly down the stairs and out into the street.

“No tellin’. We’ll just have to make do best we can.” Garvey glanced sidelong at his young deputy. “Wonder what put the flash point to ‘em? Things seemed pretty calm last night.”

“I dunno, boss, but it’s gettin’ ugly.”

With quick, purposeful strides, the two men headed for the jail. Even from several blocks away, Garvey could hear the shouts and cries of the mob and his chest tightened. He wondered who was provoking the crowd and how he and his men were going to deal with the confrontation. Most of all, he prayed there’d be no bloodshed.


To be continued… 7 of 13


Wednesday, March 12, 2008 7:11 AM


Nice piece. And I'm glad Kaylee was able to smuggle in a lock pick for Jayne - it gives him some hope to hold onto. Murchison is a slimeball, though, although I feel he's too easy to be the real killer. Let's just hope the lynchmob get 'persuaded' to leave ...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 8:08 AM


Time for the BDh's to ride to the rescue. Damn corrupt cops ,millions of credits...jealousy and murder.this has been a damn fine yarn.

Friday, March 14, 2008 2:32 PM


Just caught up. These are fantas!Really having a good time reading them. And I think I know who did it...
Didn't want this one to finish.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011 9:02 AM


I'll be darned, forgot all about that little bear patch. Very resourceful! :D


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A late night gun cleaning session has Kaylee looking at Jayne Cobb in a new way.

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An unexpected change in circumstances on Serenity cause Mal to reconsider the concept of family. One-shot, post BDM.

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What’s to Understand?
A little one-shot snippit in which Simon learns that that love can manifest in unexpected ways.

A thoughtful Jayne Cobb reflects on how his life has turned out.

Big Fella - 1/1
Jayne Cobb makes quite an impression on a “working girl” from Albion. Thought I’d post this over the weekend 'cause it’s most definitely NOT workplace safe.

Give and Take
A little scene from “Our Mrs. Reynolds” that we don’t get to see in the episode, wherein Jayne contemplates the fine art of barter.

Handle With Care
Jayne’s up late, cleaning his gun, and can’t help appreciating a late night visitor.

Taking Up Arms – Part 3 of 3

Jayne and Kaylee set out to establish a new life together when Mal joins the Rebellion that follows the Miranda announcement. The big man must reconsider his solemn vow to Kaylee to hang up his guns when Alliance raiders hit the rim world of Ezra.