Carrie sat in the front row taking meticulous notes on the murder trial unfolding before her. During the
state prosecutor’s thirty minute opening comments, she intensely stared at the empty faces of the jury
members searching for any expression of shock or sympathy. Carrie gnawed at the inside of her cheek
to keep from crying out that the crazy bitch of a defendant had murdered her brother and she deserved
As the prosecution continued its case, she winced but refused to look away at the crime scene photos.
Paul’s body had burn marks on this chest from the stun gun used to paralyze him. Her eyes watered as
she took in the circles of dried blood that marked the entrance wounds of the five gun shots that took
During the crime scene investigator’s testimony, she learned why Paul had called her during his attack. It
turns out he hadn’t called her at all. As he had begun to regain some movement after being stunned,
Paul had grabbed his cell phone. As he began dialing 911, Natasha had grabbed the phone, inadvertently
pressing the redial button. She had unknowingly made Carrie an auditory witness to her brother’s
murder. On the fourth day of the state’s case, Carrie was called as a witness to testify about the events
of that night and what she heard on the phone the night Paul was killed.
“Please state your name for the record.”
“Dr. Caroline Ellen Barnes.”
“Dr. Barnes, you were due to fly out from Chicago to Dallas the morning of February 20th. Is that
“Yes, my brother had been going through a very distressing time and I was going to visit him.”
“Can you tell us the cause of his emotional distress?”
“I’d be happy to. The defendant was stalking my brother. She called him twenty to thirty times a day,
broke into his house, and constantly showed up at his job. She was making his life miserable.”
“Dr. Barnes, can you tell the court exactly what you heard on the night of February 19th, 2007?”
Carrie hesitated and shakily wiped away the tears that were already beginning to flow. She recounted
every gruesome, painful detail. She never addressed the court, the jury, or any of the attorneys. Her
watery eyes were riveted on one person and one person only. Carrie took in her dark gray suit, the black
silk blouse, the perfectly styled blond hair, the French manicured nails, and the murdering blue eyes.
Every once in awhile, Natasha would meet Carrie’s glare and would give her a smug smile.
When Carrie finished her testimony, she walked toward her seat, giving Natasha one final look as she
passed. Natasha was so disturbed by the hate in Carrie’s eyes, she had to turn away, the apparent
disinterest of four days vanishing in an instant.
Two weeks later, the Dallas Morning News headline read, “Stalker Acquitted of Murder Due to Lack of
Evidence.” In the upper right- hand corner of the column was a courtroom drawing of Carrie on the
witness stand. The ringing of the phone startled Carrie. She hadn’t told anyone that she was back in
Chicago. She set down the Dallas newspaper she had received in the mail and picked up the phone.
“Dr. Barnes? This is Lieutenant Munson from Dallas PD. I’ve got some, um, news.”
“Other than my brother being murdered and his killer being set free?”
“Dr. Barnes, we all hate the way things turned out. Sometimes things…”
“I highly doubt it.” Carrie interrupted.
“We were reworking your brother’s case to help with the appeal the district attorney had filed. Well, up
until last night we were.”
“Why until last night?”
“Natasha Sastre committed suicide last night. We’re still conducting an investigation and autopsy, but it
appears to have been a self inflicted gunshot wound.”
Lieutenant Munson was thrown off balance by the comment. He wasn’t sure what he expected from
Carrie, but that wasn’t it. Her tone had been expressionless. Not that he thought she would be jumping
for joy, but her tone left him unsettled.
He was about to speak when he heard, “Thank you, Lieutenant Munson. I appreciate the information.”
Carrie hung up the phone.
Returning to work, Carrie noticed that the sign on her office door had been re-painted to reflect her new
job title. She had been promoted several weeks prior to Paul’s death; but hadn’t seen the change since
she had taken a leave of absence to follow up on the investigation and attend the trial in Dallas. The sign
read: Dr. Caroline Barnes, Head of Forensic Science. Carrie opened the door adjoining the lab and saw
one of her assistants, Chloe, scrutinizing both the papers on her clipboard and a Styrofoam box in her
By the expression on Chloe’s face, Carrie knew she wasn’t pleased.
“Good Morning, Chloe.” The sound of her boss’s voice startled Chloe and she nearly dropped the box.
“You scared me! When did you get back from the trial, Dr. Barnes? I was disappointed to hear the
Carrie ignored the question and condolence and stared at her ambitious young assistant.
“What are you working on?”
“I’m doing the year-end inventory and one of the vials of cardio neurotoxins is missing.”
“From the safe? I’m afraid that’s my fault. I broke one at the beginning of the year while I was analyzing
it. Did you check the loss sheet? I documented the broken vial.” Chloe looked at her, puzzled, and for a
moment Carrie saw doubt in Chloe’s eyes.
“Remember- it was Valentine’s Day, you walked in after your lunch date and I was sweeping up some
Chloe signed a breath of relief and said, “Yes, I remember now. Thank goodness, can you imagine what
would happen if something like that got out into the public? “
Recalling Natasha’s frozen look of terror, Carrie smiled and answered, “Why, yes I can, Chloe. I definitely
by Susan Bradley