Horace Greely slowly rose from his seat at the defense table and shuffled his way to the witness stand located just off to the side of Judge Hovrel. Once the frail elderly ghost was settled in, defense attorney Ravat began the proceedings. “Please state your name and living profession for the court,” he requested.
“My name is Horace Greely. In life, I was a boatswain,” Greely answered.
“Ah, a boatswain,” Ravat cooed with a smile, then turned and swept his hand at the ghostly audience seated in the back of the room. “Mr. Greely, please tell the court what a boatswain is and what he does.”
Greely nervously pushed his wire-rimmed glasses a little further up his nose, before answering, “A boatswain is a petty officer responsible for the ship and its equipment, like rigging and anchors and such.”
“So, it’s safe to say you’re an experienced seaman, then?” Ravat asked. Greely nodded.
Hovrel leaned over to address the defendant. “You need to use your words, Mr. Greely.”
Greely fidgeted with his glasses again. “Yes. I am an experienced seaman,” he said.
“An experienced seaman,” Ravat repeated for emphasis, his smile widening to a broad grin. “Now, please share with us your version of the events of November 18th–the day of your ferry ride to the UnderWorld.”
Greely glanced at Charon and pulled his thick sweater tighter against his ghostly body, as if sensing a sudden chill. “The ferryman had a few things right in his recollection. It was a cold blustery morning the day he came sailing up to take me to the UnderWorld gate and, yes, I only had one silver coin for passage and a squall did rise up half-way to the gate and I did wrest the pole from his hands.” A murmur rippled across the spectral spectators. Hovrel banged his gavel twice to restore order and they quickly quieted down.
“Please continue,” Hovrel said to the defendant.
Greely glanced at Charon again and played with the top button of his sweater apprehensively. “I agree I wrestled the pole from the ferryman’s hands and took control of the boat. But I only did it because the he was driving the boat beam to the waves and wouldn’t listen to my warning that the boat was going to capsize if he didn’t turn the bow.”
“Been sailing the Styx for over a millennium and this ghost thinks he knows more than me?” Charon grumbled. Hovrel immediately banged his gavel. “Jeziale, keep your client quiet during testimony or I’ll call for a postponement,” he warned the assistant prosecutor with a dark scowl. The Skeletal nodded curtly and leaned over to whisper into the ferryman’s ear.
Ravat turned back to his client. “How did the ferryman fall out of the boat?” he asked.
Greely shrugged. “He slipped on the water in the bottom of the boat, I suppose. From what I could tell, his sea legs weren’t all that good.”
Charon jumped up from his chair, pushing it back with a loud screech. “That’s a lie! That ghost pushed me!” Before Jeziale could stop him, Charon leapt over the prosecution desk and lunged toward Greely, who cringed and quickly ducked behind the podium. Ravat darted in front of Charon and threw up his hands to intercede, only to be shoved roughly aside by the furious ferryman.
“Bailiff!” Hovrel cried out in alarm, banging his gavel desperately. Startled into action, the bailiff rushed for the front of the courtroom, tugging out the nightstick at his belt while Charon dove into the witness stand to attack the cowering ghost.
Just as the hearing looked to be turning into complete chaos, Jeziale suddenly erupted with an ear-piercing shriek, freezing everyone in place. Shaking his head and moaning softly to himself, the Skeletal floated to the witness stand, grabbed the ferryman’s shirt with his boney hand and yanked him off Greely. Every spirit in the courtroom watched in stunned silence as Jeziale hauled his client back to his seat by his collar like he was a disobedient schoolboy. There Jeziale rose one finger in front of the shocked ferryman’s face and waggled it back and forth in warning, his eyes narrowed to tiny slits of orange light inside the depths of his hood. Cowed, Charon immediately plopped down into his chair and folded his hands on the table in front of him. The Skeletal crossed over and took his seat next to Charon, waving a skeletal arm at Ravat to continue.
“No further questions, your honor. Your witness, Jeziale,” Ravat managed to squeeze out in a strained voice.
Jeziale shook his head. “No questions for this witness,” he said with a low moan.
Coming up: The Verdict…