Bill Finley was eating chips and watching football when a voice on the television said, “And now let’s pause for a molestation sentencing.”

Bill stopped chewing. Had he heard that right? Molestation? He’d seen programming interrupted for all types of crime, everything from petty larceny to murder, but this was something new.

“Did you hear that?” he asked Kathy. When his wife didn’t answer, he looked at the couch where she lay and realized her eyes were closed. She’d been so withdrawn lately. Bill tried to remember the last time they were intimate. Ever since Taylor was born, their relationship had gone quickly down hill. Now only his daughter gave him any attention. She lay curled up on his lap, face nestled in his chest, a miniature version of her mother.

Bill turned his attention back to the television. The screen turned bright yellow, then super-novad to white. Bill put up his hand to shield his eyes. The light dimmed. When he took his hand down, a man wearing a blue Party uniform and black sunglasses was staring at him. “This is Child Protective Services, responding to allegations of child molestation. How do you plead?”

Bill squinted his eyes, used his free hand to point to his own chest. “Me?”

“Yes you.”

Bill didn’t want to look guilty, but he was having a hard time breathing normally. A charge like this was serious, and often dealt with very harshly.

“I don’t understand what’s going on,” Bill said, shifting nervously in the metal viewing chair. “There must be a mistake.”

“We don’t make mistakes,” the man said firmly.


“Look at your left hand.”

Bill looked down and found his left hand resting on Taylor’s backside. He felt a flash of guilt, and moved his hand onto the arm of the chair. He looked back at the television, at the man on the screen. Although the glasses obscured his eyes, Bill knew there was evil in them. Could feel their stare boring a hole right through him.

“He touches her like that all the time,” Kathy said.

Bill turned to see her sitting up, and realized her sleeping had been an act.

Bill snapped his attention back to the Party member. “She’s lying! She’s just jealous because Taylor loves me more!”

“Taylor!” he said, shaking the child awake.

The girl looked up at him drowsily. “What?”

He pointed to the TV and said, “Tell the man I’ve never hurt you!”

The girl rubbed her eye with her little fist, looked at the man on the TV, then back to her father, confused.

“Hurry!” Bill pleaded. “There isn’t much time!”

“Let go of the girl, Mr. Finley,” the man said.

Instinctively, Bill pulled Taylor closer.

Kathy appeared beside him. She took hold of Taylor’s arm. “You heard him,” she said. “Let her go.”

He relinquished his hold, and looked into his wife’s eyes pleadingly. “Why, Kathy?”

“You’ve neglected me since she was born,” she whispered. Then to Taylor: “Come with Mommy.”

Bill watched as Kathy led their daughter out of the room. He looked back at the television.

“William Adam Finley,” the man said, “I charge you with first degree criminal sexual conduct, a crime punishable by death.”

Before Bill could blink, a surge of electricity shot from the television to the chair. Bill’s muscles tensed. His eyes bulged. His clothes began to smoke.

“You have the right to remain silent,” the main on the television said, as Bill’s hair burst into flame. “Anything you say can and will be used to defame your character after your death.”

The man paused, listening for something to document, but Bill’s charred lips produced no sound. His head was now just a black cinder, his body a smoldering shell of ash.

“The accused has declined to speak,” the man said.

The seat of the chair dropped open, and Bill’s remains tumbled down a long shaft, and disappeared into the darkness. The seat swung back on its hinges and clicked back into place.

Kathy led Taylor back into the room, brushed the residue of ash off the seat, and propped her up on the chair. “How about some cartoons?” she said.

“Where’s Daddy?”

Kathy ignored the question, and changed the channel to 100. A large, brown bear, with big blue eyes, dressed in pajamas and a nightcap was sitting on a bed. A window behind him revealed a black, star-filled sky. “Hi, Taylor,” he said.

“Hi,” the girl said shyly.

“Do you know what time it is, Taylor?”

Taylor shook her head.

“It’s sleeeeeepy time,” the bear said. He put the flat of his hand to his mouth and feigned a yawn. “And do you know what we do when it’s sleepy time?”

“Go to sleep?”

“That’s right. So close your little eyes and think about nice things.”

Taylor closed her eyes. The bear continued: “Things like ice cream… and cookies… and presents… and Mommy…”

“And Daddy,” Taylor said.

“No,” the bear said softly. “Not Daddy. There is no Daddy.”

Taylor’s eyes popped open. “But—”

“There never was any Daddy. There’s only Mommy, do you understand, Taylor? Only Mommy.”

Taylor was confused, but the bear’s soothing voice soon lulled her eyes shut again.

“Say it with me, Taylor: Only Mommy… only Mommy…”

“Only Mommy,” Taylor said, her voice barely audible.

“That’s right,” the bear said. “Only Mommy.”

Her lips parted to repeat the mantra, but she soon fell asleep as Mommy stroked her hair.

"The Accused"
Copyright: © 2010 Chris Reed
Chris Reed is the author of more than 60 stories. He lives in Davison, MI, where he enjoys browsing thrift stores, eating pizza, and waiting for hockey fights to break out, sometimes simultaneously. Visit his official web site:

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