So the journey ends. Actually, it is just beginning. There is going to be a trial. For all you legal eagles out there, you are just going to have to accept what happens in this universe. Jo has her say in an unexpected situation, and unveils her surprise. The babies arrive on time. Then there is the trip to Hollywood.
Chapter 43: The Final Chapter
As the plane was leveling off, Jo was gazing out the window at the ground below. It would take a little more than an hour to traverse the area it had taken them nearly two weeks to cover by boat and train. The wedding had been great. She enjoyed standing up there with Mike and being in a secondary role. After the ceremony, they'd headed back to the boat for the reception. There was great food and drink; however, the three pregnant ladies were avoiding the alcoholic beverages. Jo and Mike had even joined in some of the traditional Jewish dances. MJ had cornered her parents and father and mother-in-law and could be seen talking rather rapidly like she did when she was excited. Everyone was smiling and MJ was nodding her head assentingly. There was no doubt what the conversation had been about. All in all, it had been a spectacular two plus weeks.
She looked down and saw the Frankfurt Airport and the Rhein Valley go by. In no time they were over the North Sea and approaching London. They transferred in London, Heathrow and headed out over the North Atlantic. It was a long flight, yet when they arrived in San Francisco, it was still daylight and only 2:00 PM. Nearly 15 hours had elapsed and yet it was only seven by the clock. George and Mindy’s children were getting a bit cranky, but in light of the ordeal of traveling as far as they did, they had done well. They had come down in Mike’s SUV and somehow had accumulated a bit more luggage on the way back. Part of it was the fine liquor that Mike and George had purchased in the duty free shop in London. Two suitcases had to be strapped to the luggage rack.
They said goodbye to the Stephens and DeMosses at the airport and headed for the Bay Bridge. It was about 7:00 PM when they pulled up to the Essegian’s home. There was a great sense of relief that they were home. Thirty minutes later Jo and Mike pulled up at their house. They had picked up some takeout at Sang’s Inn, as they were not in the mood to fix a meal. The neighbors had been taking care of the cats; however, Mo and Lazarus acted as if they had been severely insulted by their guardians’ absence. It took them all of 15 minutes to forgive Jo and Mike. They were almost full grown now.
After dinner and a shower, they headed for bed, snuggled up and were dead to the world in minutes. They didn’t even think about running and yet they were both wide awake before 5:00 AM. Knowing that getting back into the routine was important, they were out on the trail at their usual time. They weren’t particularly peppy, and Jo experienced a little nausea. Still, it was great to be home.
There had been some official appearing mail amid all the ads and catalogs. They hadn’t wanted to look at it the previous night, as they knew it would be there in the morning. What they had received was a notification that the trial date had been set for early in October. The trial would be held in Riverside and they would be notified, probably by subpoena, if and when they would be needed.
Mike was never subpoenaed; however, Jo and Ed Stephens were, as were Sgt. George and Mindy Essegian, Sgt. Raymond Braun and Chief Krewzewski. There always was the chance that Mike might be called on, so the police force considered his accompanying Jo official business.
The prosecution put together an extremely well planned case. The charges were numerous. The first was the murder of Isaac Pfeifer. The testimony of Al Conklin and Earl Scroggins was damning, and the prosecution was able to convince the jury that Richard O’Donnell and his campaign manager were the minds behind the murder.
Jo spent about as much time as anyone on the witness stand. She had to go through her early childhood and the torments she had received. The defense objected, saying that those events had nothing to do with the case at hand. The prosecution countered that they were laying the foundation for the future attempts on Jo. The objection was overruled. Once again the defense objected, saying there was no connection between Billy and Freddy’s attempts on Jo, and Richard. That was quickly shot down when the prosecution established the money trail.
Mindy had to testify and immediately, the defense tried to discredit her. Mindy held up very well. She related the facts with little emotion and the bank was able to show the path of the 100-dollar bills from the bank to Mindy to Richard, and finally, to Billy and Freddy. Once Ed Stephens took the stand, the prosecution’s case really firmed up. The phone taps, recorded conversations and videos cemented the case.
Richard had his occasional outbursts but, for the most part, refused to look at Jo. The defense made an attempt at stating the evidence was circumstantial and that the real conspiracy was Jo and Mike’s plotting revenge on Richard. It was a weak attempt, and didn’t influence the court at all. Richard did not testify, and the defense was unable to find even one credible witness to testify in Richard’s behalf.
The trial lasted only four days. The jury panel was given its instructions on the morning of the fifth day and deliberation started after lunch. A juror later related that while they had agreed on a verdict after only about five minutes, they felt that they at least needed to give the impression of some deliberation, and it took the foreman awhile to write up the necessary paperwork. At 3:30 PM the jury reported they had a verdict and court was back in session. They found Richard guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of Isaac Pfeifer, William Conklin and Frederic Smith. They found him guilty on three accounts of attempted murder for the two attempts on Jo, and the attempt on Ed Stephens. Although it really had no bearing on the final sentencing, he was found guilty on numerous lesser charges.
As his co-conspirators had already pled guilty, the only thing left to do was to decide whether or not Richard would get the death penalty. The defense attorneys knew they at least had to plead for a life sentence, although they did not have much hope. Then they were surprised when Jo came up to them saying she would be willing to testify on Richard’s behalf for a life sentence.
When the court was back in session, the judge explained to the jurors that only two possible sentences they could give were either the death penalty, or life in prison without parole.
The prosecution tried to convince the jury that Richard’s crimes were particularly heinous. The fact he was responsible for three deaths and an attempted murder on someone who was particularly guiltless of any evil demanded the death penalty. Isaac Pfeifer had no near relatives, and no one could be found to speak on his behalf for the death penalty. Still the prosecution established a very compelling argument for the death penalty.
When it came to the defense to speak in Richard’s behalf, they knew it would be difficult to sway the jury on their own. “Your Honor, the defense calls Dr. Josephine O’Donnell to the stand.”
There was an amazed murmur throughout the court. Why would the victim testify for the defense?
Jo took her place in the witness chair. She took several breaths and tried to compose herself. She knew the odds were against it; however, she wanted to make an honest effort to save Richards life while still conveying to him that he’d made horrible mistakes in his life, and that he would have to live with their consequences for the rest of his natural life.
“Your Honor, members of the Jury, I am Dr. Josephine Andrea O’Donnell. You may wonder why I am speaking in behalf of the man who has been convicted of attempting to kill me twice, and almost killing my husband. As strange as it may seem, I have never wished him harm. The only thing that I have ever wanted was his friendship, and the friendship of his family. I have been fortunate enough to have gained the latter.
“As you are aware, it was brought out in the trial, I was born with a rather rare birth defect. It confused the doctors who helped birth me, my family, friends, family doctor and, of course, me. Although I resembled a boy in some ways, I was actually a young girl, and I acted in many ways like a girl. Because of that, some people, including Richard O’Donnell, thought that I was gay and should be punished for something I couldn’t help. One of them, William Conklin, actually tried to kill me several times, and ironically, in one of the attempts ended up aiding in identifying my true gender. It would be many years later that Richard O’Donnell would hire William Conklin to kill me, one of the crimes he has been convicted of in this court. Because of Richard O’Donnell’s irrational hatred of me, I ended up killing William Conklin as he was preparing to kill my then future husband. I regret very much having to take a life, and I will never forgive Richard O’Donnell for bringing about the circumstances that required me to do that.
“Why do I refer to the convicted as Richard O’Donnell, rather than Mr. O’Donnell? I want there to be no doubt that I bear the same last name with great affection, as his son is my husband. I want there to be no doubt to which person I am referring. I have loved Michael O’Donnell since we were small children. Richard O’Donnell tried to destroy that friendship on numerous occasions and almost succeeded. He also destroyed one of the most precious relationships there is and that is the relationship between a father and his son. Fortunately, the love of friends and our two families was able to bring us together. Still, Richard O’Donnell tried to destroy that love by attempting again to have me killed.
“I don’t want Richard O’Donnell to be executed as the provisions of law in this state allow. Richard O’Donnell, as well as his fellow conspirators, should be punished, and I feel strongly that the death penalty is the easy way out. Death is not a punishment. Only the anticipation of a premature death is. Richard O’Donnell, in my estimation, is a healthy individual who has maybe 30 or more years left in his life, barring someone’s intervention in prison. He should live out his life being reminded of how his bigotry and hatred of innocent people has caused so much trouble in this world.
“I also feel very strongly that putting Richard O’Donnell to death will place an unnecessary burden on his family. They have been punished enough for many years by his cruelty, and to have to live with the fact of his unnatural demise would have long term traumatic effects that they don’t deserve to have to live with. I also want him to be reminded that he has missed out on something very special.
“Richard O’Donnell has reminded this court on several occasions with his outbursts that I am a freak, an abomination. He has stated that I lured his son into, and I quote, “A world of homosexual depravity”. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, he has maintained that I am a male in female clothing. Well, Richard O’Donnell, I have a little surprise for you. Although this courtroom is a bit chilly, I haven’t been wearing this coat because I have been cold. I want you to have life in prison because I don’t want to have to tell your grandchildren that you were executed because you tried to kill me and almost killed their father, your son. I can live with telling them later on that you made some serious mistakes and are being punished for it. Fortunately, their step-grandfather to be is a wonderful man and he will do very well in your stead. I have been wearing this coat because I have been hiding something from you, something that it’s now time for you to see.”
Jo stepped down from the chair and turned her back to the convicted man’s table. She took her coat off and placed it on the chair and turned slowly around so that there could be no doubt in Richard’s mind what he saw. She was impeccably dressed and the maternity dress accentuated the definite swell of her abdomen. She didn’t want to hide a thing. She was proud of her state of pregnancy, and many of the people in the room had not been aware of her condition.
“Take a good look. I want you to think about everything you have said about and have done to me. I’m five and one-half months pregnant, and I’m carrying two of the three grandchildren you will have in about four months. I have permission to tell you that your daughter, Mary Katherine, my sister-in-law, is carrying your other grandchild. We have two wonderful families, and a host of wonderful friends, and most of them could care less whether you live or die. Regardless of the outcome of this process, I wanted you to know that you are going to be a grandfather. If you get life, I might send you pictures. I don’t intend to see you ever again, and it will be up to your grandchildren when they reach adulthood whether they want to see you or not. I won’t try to prevent them from doing so.
“You are an evil and despicable person, and there is nothing you can do and there is nothing anyone else can do that will ever correct the evil things you have done and have been responsible for. Still, I owe you an eternal debt of gratitude. You have been the father of two of the finest people I will ever know. Your son and daughter prove that love and reason can overcome hatred and bigotry in spite of an oppressive leadership. They stood up to you and somehow managed to avoid your misguided influence.
“Your grandchildren will have it so much better. They will be brought up in a loving atmosphere that doesn’t try to twist reality to justify an evil agenda. I hope as the years go by, and I hope you have a long life, that you will come to some understanding of what has made you the way you are. I hope that some good will come from all this, and when you do finally reach the end of your life that you can go in peace, knowing you made a positive difference in someone’s life.
“Your Honor, that concludes my statement.”
There was a sound of sobbing from the defense table. No one was sure it was contrived or not, but Richard O’Donnell was sobbing into his hands. It was the first time he ever indicated remorse,… or maybe … it was relief. He did not make a statement.
The jury came back deadlocked, six for death and six for life without parole. All six who voted for life said afterwards that it was Jo’s testimony that had convinced them to vote for life. When the day had started, the entire jury would have voted for the death penalty. There was no appeal other than the automatic review.
Dennis Alexander, ex-husband of Mindy got 40 years for his part in the conspiracy, and the attempted murder of Ed Stephens sealed his fate. Richard’s campaign manager also received 40 years for conspiracy to commit murder. He also had concurrent sentences for campaign fund violations.
Mindy Essegian (Rudolph), although obviously complicit, had in the government’s opinion been a dupe. She probably could have been prosecuted as an accessory, but they didn’t see any point in it, so she hadn’t been charged. The prosecution was aware of the trauma she’d suffered at the hands of her ex-stepfather and ex husband. They were also aware of the recent changes in her life and had depositions from two psychiatrists supporting her situation.
Donna Rudolph was also not prosecuted, and the government didn’t really look very hard for anything. She had known even less than Mindy about what had been going on.
There would be a long and involved investigation into the backers of Richard O’Donnell, and there would be future indictments. The probes would eventually reach almost all the way back to the White house – but, not quite.
Jo went into labor one week after her sister-in-law. She hadn’t suffered from anything unusual other than the fact that she was carrying two babies, and she was carrying them to full term. To put it bluntly, she was enormous.
She ran well into the fourth month, although her distance and speed diminished greatly. She graduated to walking and managed to do three miles a day right up to the time she went into labor. She didn’t characterize it as walking but rather as a fast waddle. Because of her good physical condition, she hadn’t suffered from some of the vascular related problems many women suffer in the latter stages of pregnancy. Her ankles and legs remained relatively slim.
It was a chilly morning on January 27th when they headed out for what was to be their last joint exercising session for a few weeks. Mike was doing his usual eight miles and was about three miles into it when his cell phone rang. It was Jo.
“Mike, I’m heading back. My water just broke and my contractions have started. I’ve been talking to the hospital and they don’t see any reason for an ambulance. I’m almost at the gate and will be ready for you when you get back.”
Needless to say, Mike suddenly found that he was capable of a much faster speed than he had been using to date. He ran the three miles back in just a little under 15 minutes. When he arrived, he found Jo had already cleaned up and was waiting for him in the car with her suitcase and the motor running. It was early and traffic was light. They arrived at the hospital in just a few minutes. Jo had to keep reassuring Mike that there was really no reason to hurry, and if it weren’t for the fact her water had broken, they probably wouldn’t even need to be going to the hospital for several hours. Still, her contractions were coming more frequently and she had a feeling that she would not be lingering in early labor very long.
She and Mike had been practicing for a natural delivery, and due to her good instructors and the help of Allison Cooper she felt she was ready. Still, she was filled with the normal anxiety experienced by first time mothers to be. Kate showed up only a few minutes after Jo’s arrival, even though it was her day off. She stayed with Jo throughout the delivery. Gary was already there and was reassuring Jo everything was going just fine. Dr. Arneson checked in on her throughout the day and offered words of encouragement. Allison had her normal duties, but managed to keep close tabs. It was about noon when things got serious, and Allison showed up to stay for a while.
Jo was quite stoic throughout the delivery and refused to yell and swear at anyone, not to say she wasn’t vocal. She felt that since this was something that she so dearly wanted she had to accept the pain and exertion as part of the very natural process of labor and delivery. Sean crowned first, and quickly made his entry into the world followed by Katherine only a few minutes later. Considering the fact that they were twins, their accumulated weight of nearly 13 pounds was substantial. Sean was only two ounces heavier than Katherine. Neither was very happy about being forced out of their warm, comfortable environment and let everyone know it. Mike was at Jo’s side throughout the delivery and afterward said there was only one point where he thought he might pass out, and that was through most of the previous hour. Both Sean and Katherine were obvious redheads.
Kate came back after Jo had a chance to rest for a few hours. “Well, do you think you’re up to the next step of motherhood? These two are going to be looking for their first meal very soon.”
Things progressed very normally and Jo’s milk came in on schedule. Due to her size, weight gain (she had gained quite a bit, but kept it where Allison felt it was acceptable) and good genetics she was able to successfully nurse both of the babies to weaning. Jo felt it was just one more confirmation of her womanhood, although it was difficult to argue against it, considering the events up to that point.
MK and Pat had a boy, Andrew Michael. He was a monster at nine pounds ten ounces.
MJ’s pregnancy was proceeding very well, and she had visited Jo just a month before the delivery of Sean and Katherine. Peter Andrew arrived in Vienna without any complications.
Mindy scared everyone with some spotting; however, it turned out to be a false alarm and Josephine Ingrid was born healthy and loud. Surprisingly, she was very fair. George and Mindy’s second daughter born two and a half years later was named after George’s mother.
The O’Donnells had received a major surprise the previous December when Jo received a phone call from KCHO in Chico. Their CD had received a Grammy Nomination as Best Classical Recording for 2005. Not only that, Jo had received nominations for Best Instrumental Performance by a Soloist With Orchestral Accompaniment and Best New Artist. The latter award was a general award, which meant it covered all genre of music. Jo felt it was an honor to be nominated, but with two newborn babies not yet two weeks old, she didn’t think she should go to the presentation, especially since she was nursing.
Friends and family finally convinced her to go, and they decided to fly to Burbank. Linda and Marcia met them and drove them back to Loma Sierra where Mike and Jo moved into Jo’s old bedroom and had some time to relax before dinner. There were beds for Sean and Katherine, and after their late afternoon meal they went sound asleep. Mike and Jo snuggled together on the queen-sized bed and dozed off as well for a well-earned nap.
Dinner was a wonderful get together. The Beebes and DeBeers were able to see their three grandchildren together for the first time, and it was the first time that Jo and MK saw the other’s children, other than the pictures sent by email. Matt, Roger, Elise and Doris Hill (Elise’s life partner) were all there and were officially welcomed as aunts and uncles, something that they would always be for all of the children for all of their lives.
The awards presentation was on Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Mike had been able to get a tuxedo, and that was not a problem; however, Jo was not even close to getting her figure back. She was finally able to find a nice gown, and her major concern was that she was showing too much skin on top. The fact she was nursing only served to emphasize her figure. As it turned out, she would make the cover of People Magazine for the third time. One of the remarks made on television by the fashion gurus at the event was that she had one-upped Susan Sarandon. The other commentator’s response was that, “Well, she is 25 years younger.”
As usual, the awards presentation dragged on and on. Jo wanted to leave and get back to the babies, and her breasts were leaking. She only hoped that the pads in her bra would do what they were supposed to. She hadn’t been paying much attention to what had been going on when Mike nudged her. They were starting the rundown for Best Instrumental Performance by a Soloist With Orchestral Accompaniment. Jo felt a flash of panic when they announced her name for the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto Number 1. The cameras were on her when she turned to Mike whispering something about a snowball’s chance in hell. Mike nudged her back, saying, “You won, Jo, you won! Get up there.”
Jo was in a fog. She hadn’t even thought about an acceptance speech and now she was walking up on a stage in front of millions of people, and she was supposed to say something. ‘Okay,’ she thought, ‘this is no different than improvising on the piano.’ She walked up on the stage and across to the dais where this funny looking award was put into her hands. She turned and the only person she could see was Mike.
“I have so many people to thank for this award. We are a mixed group of professional, semi professional and amateur musicians who certainly never had a thought that anything like this could happen. Our performance was a performance dedicated to love and hope. It was to benefit some unfortunate people, and we never imagined that it would have the impact has. I have too many people to thank for this to name them all. I have to thank the people of Redding, California. You are wonderful and you know we will never leave. I have to thank the people at my hospital, and especially Dr. Arneson and Kate DeMoss. Chief Krewzewski, you were wonderful. My thanks must go to my family and my husband’s family and Matt and Roger for getting us back together: because if they hadn’t, this concert would never have been given, and this recording would never have been made. Finally, I have to thank my husband for having the perseverance and faith that we would be together someday. This certainly has to be one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve ever had. Thank you so much.”
There was thunderous applause as Jo made her way back to her seat. “Well that was certainly a surprise. I can’t imagine why they would have voted for me.”
“Probably because you are extremely talented and exceptionally beautiful and I love you.”
What Jo didn’t realize was that because of her first award she was almost automatic for the second one. Suddenly, she found herself being pushed back on stage for the Best New Artist award. She couldn’t really think of anything to say other than “Thank you.” Then she added the addendum heard around the world, “I’ve got to get to my babies. They’re only two weeks old, and my boobs are starting to leak.” The Hollywood crowd loved it, and she would never be forgotten.
There would be more Grammy’s and other awards over the years, and she would be better prepared for them. The CD did not win Best Classical Recording (Mike wrongly blamed his performance) even though it would eventually go platinum. The real reason was probably that the award had to go to a more commercial production for the sake of the industry. The after-ceremony interviews were lengthy, and Jo and Mike begged off early. She needed to get home to Sean and Katherine. The awards would be properly displayed, but Jo never thought much of them. There were many more important things in her life to be thankful for.
So, that’s it for now. This was a labor of love for me. Someone asked who I identified with. Unfortunately, there’s a part of me in all the characters and their actions. At least now I realize that. There are future stories about Jo, Mike and their friends and family and they may not be entirely suitable for this site in that the transgender/intersex theme is not the primary one. I had written two shorter novels, the first picking up about eight months after this one ends. Other than reference to Jo’s intersex condition (as mild as it may have been), there were no transgender or intersex issues. A dear friend asked about what happened to the primary character as I left her at about 12 years of age. In response to the question I wrote a sequel that filled in some background information and then picked up the story from there.
The sequel does introduce a transgendered person under some trying circumstances, and she plays an important but small role in the resolution of some problems.
Now here’s the problem for me. I wrote an autobiography of this transgendered girl for my fourth story; however, unless you read the previous two or three stories, references at times are sketchy. I can’t go back and repeat detailed incidents from the previous two books, and to remain true to the purpose of this site, i.e. a TG theme, I shouldn’t post the first story and the second (second and third if you count The Heart of the Beholder) doesn’t make as much sense without the first. What to do?
What I have done is to get out the figurative scissors, paste and mounting board and spliced together the two stories. Things have been rearranged a bit, and it has reduced some of the suspense a bit. What I have come up with is a murder mystery, missing person and kidnapping story. It is also a story of a girl with a strange beginning being brought into the O’Donnell household and it is a story of the trials and tribulations of growing up. The transgendered girl does not have a huge part, but she plays an important role in healing a character from the first story (the one you just read). Her story is the following book.
Your responses to my first effort have been most gratifying and I am at a crossroads trying to decide what to do. I am not a writer, (my background is in the biological and natural resources sciences), although I see ‘best sellers’ out there that aren’t very literary. I wonder about the real merit of my effort(s). I might hold off committing one way or the other for a while. I do have an idea for a SRU story that I might put the pen to. (It is now posted).
Thank you everyone for sticking this out.
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