People had started thinking out loud about Joseph & his self imposed solitude. What did he have to hide? In their minds his weasle little attitued sudjested something evil & downright sinister. Judgement was being passed in whispers. Accusations without facts that maybe this mystery man knew something he wasn't willing to tell.
The only so-called evidence was a report that during the time of one of the murders a witness had seem a dark outline of a small man. Not very conclusive, but enough to start the rumours spreading. People began looking at Joseph with distrust in their eyes. A suspect in the making. A verdict given without trial. Was he the faceless man hell-bent on torture & death?
Preasure on the local authorities called for action even if it only accomplished that at least someone had been arrested. They needed something, anything to give them peace of mind. It is called by different names but somehow Joseph knew they were coming for him. Were would he go? What would he do? He would be a fugitive from justice. He was a mousy little man who through himself imposed withdrawal from society was quickly labeling him as a possible murderer. Humans can be too quick to judge without knowing all the facts. The knock on the door signaled that the worse of his fears were about to come true. The time had come for Joseph X to face society on their terms. He was given no choice in the matter, only a command for complete surrender to the law or the masses.
Witness' told how Joseph refused to associate with other members of the town. How he was suspected by them of anything & everything. How his past was a secret, his present a mystery & his future in their hands. Rantings, ravings & unsubstantiated accusations were hurled around every corner. He was their man. Their scape-goat. He was their killer.
The facts remained that not once had anyone seen Joseph at the crime scenes nor had his finger prints ever been found in the area of the crimes. This was his only defence. He couldn't prove where he had been, for he had been nowhere. Just locked away by himself. There was no one to help him. A reasonable doubt to be sure, but would it be enough to free him from his nightmare? Justice is blind, so they say, & maybe so are most people. One thing was certain, if Joseph was the murderer, his victims all had one thing in common. They had met him at least once. It would be their one & only time.
" We, the jury find Joseph X in the case of mass murder to be.... not guilty by reason of lack of evidence." You could have heard a pin drop. Joseph slumped down into his seat like a man who had been drained of all his emotions & strength. Quietly, the guard escorted him out of the courtroom & down the long hall to the exit. He was a free man, but would remain marked in the eyes of the town's people forever. Joseph was indeed a free man. Innocent of all charges, but he walked with his head bowed low & his shoulders drooped. He was a defeated man.
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