“Oh no you won’t!” I shouted. My mother looked at me with the strangest of expressions.
“What do you mean by such an ugly outburst?” she inquired.
“Did anyone ask how he came to be here?” I asked, pointing a finger at the notable police sergeant.
“But he has a right to be here, plus he is your relative. My mother seemed very annoyed with me. In addition, she was trying to cover her embarrassment, a direct result of my question.
Uncle Sam would not allow it to drop there. He walked over to me, rested his hand on my shoulder and in a soothing voice he asked, “What are you trying to tell us sonny?”
I blurted out, “It is he who tried to strangle me! It is he!”
I began to sob. What I had just done had taken quite an effort. Uncle Sam’s voice helped to calm me. “It is he who?” he coaxed.
“Uncle Seifert!” I mumbled almost inaudibly.
Uncle Seifert started to laugh. “He’s hysterical. He doesn’t know what he is saying,” he commented amidst his laughter. Uncle Sam ignored his remark.
“But why would he want to kill you?” He asked.
“Because I know who killed my father,” I responded.
“Who killed your father?” he asked.
With a burst of courage I pointed straight at Uncle Seifert and said, “He did!” Everyone looked at me unbelievingly. My mother expressed that maybe my nerves had become overwrought and I should be left alone to rest.
I looked at each one of them. They all thought that I had gone crazy. That was, all of them except Uncle Sam. He knew that I was telling the truth. I turned to Uncle Sam who was still by my side. He, I believed was my last ray of hope. My mother had condemned him unjustly. If anyone would be interested in my story, it would be he. I looked at him imploringly. I said, “Uncle, if it is proof you also want, I’ll supply the proof.”
I related to them all that happened that night. I told them where I was and my reason for being there. They all listened intently. Uncle Seifert listened as intently as the others, only interrupting toward the end to emphasize what a good imagination I had possessed. At the end of the account I realised I had completely won Uncle Sam’s support. I knew then that beyond the shadow of a doubt he had believed every word. He actually told me so. My mother gave him a look of scorn and disgust all mixed up in one. I believed at that time she was wishing for something horrible to happen to him.
Uncle ignored her look of hate and indicated to me that whereas he believed my story, it was just my word against Uncle Seifert’s. He continued, “He’ll deny it any way.”
The time had come for me to play my final card in this battle of wits. I had started at a great disadvantage but I knew that it was not over by a long shot. Uncle Seifert had long resumed his usual air of composure and was enjoying my apparent difficult time in convincing the others that he was the real culprit. However, he did not openly show his amusement. Instead, he came over to me, placed his hand on my shoulder and attempted to assure me that he understood what I was going through.
I begged for an excuse and went to my room. I returned soon after with a small parcel that was taped all around. I handed it to Uncle Sam with the instruction to open it. He opened the parcel to reveal a broken bottle top. That’s right. I had kept it all these years. On close examination one could still see the deposit of dried blood. Yes, that was my father’s blood and his assassin was right here in our house masquerading as Mr. Nice Cop. Well, this would be the end of his little charade.
The police standing at the door, and who up to this point was merely a passive listener, stepped forward. He said, “With all respects to you Sir, I would like to ask a few questions of my own concerning this matter. Are you familiar with this?” he asked, holding up the murder weapon. Uncle Seifert refused to answer. “And another thing, Sergeant Seifert, how is it that you were among the first persons to get here this morning? You weren’t at the station when the report was made yet you walked through the door just minutes after P.C. Forde and I did. How did you know of the incident so soon?”
Uncle Seifert went dumb. He refused to answer any questions. His only response was that the only one to whom he intended talking was his lawyer.
With the broken bottle top it was not difficult to corroborate my story. The culprit’s fingerprints were lifted from the bottle and he eventually pleaded guilty, claiming that he acted under provocation.
My mother finally swallowed her fierce pride and apologised to Uncle Sam for her unjust behaviour. Uncle Seifert was arrested, charged with murder and sentenced to life in prison. My stepfather and my mother committed themselves to each other again and Uncle Sam became my companion and fishing instructor one more.
When I think about those seven years, I never once thought that a broken piece of bottle would have saved the day for me and erase my fear of the dark. It turned out to be a very wise undertaking when I decided to keep that broken bottle top under lock and key. It had taken my father’s life but it had saved mine.
Stewart Russell © 1979