This is just a draft cover that I am playing with for Zero Balance, but close the final product! I wanted to share this with everyone, as well as the Preface for Zero Balance!
“Revenge, at first though sweet, bitter ere long back on itself recoils.” – John Milton, Paradise Lost
“Jury selection for the trial of Olin Kemper, former managing partner of the Phoenix based accounting firm, Winscott & Associates, is scheduled to begin Monday at the Yarkema County Courthouse. Mr. Kemper is accused of the murder of Gina Milligan over thirty plus years ago in Summerset. His arrest last year for this local, legendary case has catapulted Summerset into the national spotlight, filling the hotels and restaurants located in and around this tiny berg to well beyond their capacity, as news crews from all over the United States have descended upon this normally quiet town like a horde of hungry locusts.
Roger Clanton and Nicolaus Rancliff, lead attorneys of Mr. Kemper’s dream team of lawyers hailing from Scottsdale, refused to answer reporter’s questions moments ago as they entered the courthouse, but inside sources told us that Mr. Clanton and Mr. Rancliff filed a change of venue request due to the notoriety of this case and their concerns about obtaining a fair and impartial jury from the pool of local citizens.
National legal analysts are divided on their opinions as to whether or not Judge Marshall Hall will grant a change of venue, as well as the odds on Mr. Kemper taking the stand in his own defense. Key prosecution witness, Mr. Robert Folton, who was originally charged as an accomplice with Mr. Kemper, already pled guilty and in exchange for his testimony against Mr. Kemper, was given five years probation for his part in the case.
The debates on these issues, along with Mr. Kemper’s guilt or innocence, are just as heated between life long residents of this close knit community, which has caused an invisible line of stark contrasts separating longtime friends and close of family members on each side.
Stay tuned for our continuing, live coverage of this trial, beginning Monday at eight o’clock a.m. This is Jan Patakee reporting for Channel Six News.”
“That’s a wrap guys. Make sure you include the video clips from Kemper’s bond hearing as well as the security footage of the courthouse from this afternoon. Oh, and don’t forget that picture of Gina!” Jan said, barking the orders to her camera crew as she tossed her microphone over to her lead assistant, Tony. She stomped quickly in her four-inch stilettos back to the relative comfort of the news van and plopped down in the front seat, slamming the door quickly in her attempt to keep the fire brick oven air from sneaking inside with her. She flipped open her compact and assessed the damage searing heat had on her makeup and cursed herself once again for taking this job in Arizona over the one offered to her in Mississippi. Then again, if she were in Mississippi right now, she would be a slimy pile of sweat, makeup and hairspray from all the humidity, so maybe Arizona wasn’t too bad after all, since all the heat was doing was making her skin feel like dried out sandpaper.
In the two years that Jan had been an on the scene reporter for Channel Six, she had begged, borrowed and occasionally broken a small law or two in her attempts to be the first to break a big story and up until eleven months ago, when the news broke about Olin Kemper’s arrest and the huge shakeup at Winscott, she had thought herself doomed to cover the boring, blasé life of Phoenix and its abundantly rich and snooty citizens. Out of all the mundane reports she covered back then, the ones that were the worst involved the overly plasticized, hoity toity society wives that perched themselves high upon their gilded thrones as they perused the lowly commoners beneath them with their botox-frozen eyes, barely able to see over their inflated tire-lips. On more than one occasion she forced herself to walk away rather than spend the night in jail for popping one of them in the face after particularly brutal comments about her ethnic heritage from a few of the nastier hags reached her burning ears. Of course, their faces were so full of injectable chemicals she doubted they would have felt a thing anyway.
All of that changed the day she was the first one to hit the airwaves with the news of Olin’s arrest since one of her drinking buddies, Tiffany Hemscott, happened to work as a minority partner at Winscott.
Jan was savvy enough to understand during those first few minutes of conversation with Tiffany that this was going to be an explosive story, and quite possibly, shove her into the national spotlight (and maybe the global one as well!) if she played her cards right and continued to stay one step ahead of the other reporters by becoming the new best friend, rather than just an occasional wine taster, with Tiffany. She knew her well enough to know that a few glasses of Pinot were enough to loosen Tiffany’s tongue and made sure that they went out at least twice a week to the bar down the street from Channel Six for the latest insider scoop on Winscott.
As she finished her touchup and snapped her compact shut, she glanced around and realized that neither Tony nor her idiotic camera crew dorks had made it back in the van, so she reached over and blared the horn several times. They needed to get moving and get this footage edited and ready for the evening news. As soon as she finished her last honk, Tony slid open the side door and everyone piled in, with Tony jumping upfront into the driver’s seat. He smiled over at her, his dark brown eyes dancing with feigned excitement and joked, “Yes ma’am! We is ready!”
Jan cocked her head and released one of her trademark evil smirks at him, her overly bleached pearly whites shining in the sun and said, “Let’s go boys! I have a national viewing audience that is just dying to see my smiling face as I report on this case!”
As Tony fired up the van and the glorious cool air blew Jan’s thick, raven hair from her face, she picked up her cell to call their producer and let him know they were on their way back, but before she touched the screen, it lit up with an incoming call from him. “Ok, so Jason has E.S.P.” Jan quipped to Tony as she answered. “Hey Jason, I was just about to call you. We are on our way back.”
“Change of plans, J.P. Just have Tony upload what you have already and send to me. You won’t have time to make it back to the station before cutoff. You need to head up to Robert Folton’s ranch off of Highway 93. Now.”
The tone of Jason’s voice made the adrenaline immediately jolt through Jan’s system as she recognized it from numerous other occasions when a breaking story was about to hit. She motioned for Tony to pull over and put her phone on speaker as she set it down on the console so she could grab her notebook. She couldn’t contain the excitement from seeping into her voice as she said, “What’s the lead, Jason?”
“We just heard through our contact in Summerset that a search is currently underway for Robert. Apparently, he left Monday on horseback to survey his herd and hasn’t returned, nor contacted his family, although he promised his wife he would return yesterday. She is frantic that he is a day late and contacted Summerset Police Department, who is now spearheading the mounted search and rescue.”
Jan could hardly write as Tony had immediately sped back up and headed down the rough road towards the outskirts of Summerset. Still trying to jostle words down as Tony drove, Jan asked “Jason, who else knows this?” hoping and praying that the answer was what she wanted to hear.
“Only us, so let’s keep it that way. Get there as fast as you can and set up for a live feed. This could be the story of the year.” Jason barked, quickly disconnecting from the call. Jan let her huge, toothy grin spread across her darkly tanned face as she looked over at Tony and said “Punch it!”