#Excerpt “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” by Robert Archibald

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Mystery/Thriller
Date Published: July 17, 2020
Publisher: Blue Fortune Enterprises LLC, Cactus Mystery Press
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Check your email. Help is out there…
When Sherry and Beth discover what their boyfriends have been up to, they want in on the action. Working as vigilantes and providing justice for wrongs committed is a noble thing to do, but the women decide the stakes need to change.
Once again, the conflict is personal.
This follow-up to Roundabout Revenge follows former Professor Phil Philemon as he and his friends continue to seek elusive justice for victims who may not have been able to speak for themselves. Lurking in chat rooms, the group finds a large number of women who have been sexually harassed on the job. Sexually harassed in horrible ways. Harassed until their jobs, their reputations, and their sanity is on the line. And what they find is that the story of he said-she said is not always one that ends well.
But not everything goes as planned, and soon the four friends need to come to terms with a larger reality, including a crime of arson and an FBI investigation.
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EXCERPT

FROM CHAPTER 6

When Ralph and Beth returned to their apartment after sending the email, Ralph asked, “What you said about your experience? I didn’t know you had trouble with sexual harassment.”

“It’s not the kind of thing you talk to boyfriends about, but I guess I should tell you.”

“The way you talked about it tonight told me it’s still bothering you.”

“I guess it is.”

“When Sherry explained this project to us, she explained her motivation clearly. She’d had a lot of trouble with men in her past, and she hadn’t gotten any satisfaction when she’d lodged sexual harassment complaints. The men denied any wrongdoing. It came down to he-said-she-said, and the men got off. I thought you were joining the team because of me. I had no knowledge about anything you’d gone through. Can you tell me about it?”

“Let’s grab a beer and sit on the couch. It’s a bit of a long story.”

Ralph went to the refrigerator and took out two beers. Beth liked low-calorie beer. He thought it too weak. He opened their beers and headed for the couch.

Beth seemed a little nervous. “I got my first job at a big hospital in Pittsburgh. From the very start one of the doctors, Doctor Burns, took too much interest in me. He kept asking me to go out with him after our shifts. He was married. Heck, I’d even met his wife. I turned him down flat. Actually, he was in his fifties. I found the whole thing creepy. He didn’t get the message. He wouldn’t stop. He continued to pester me for dates. When he started grabbing me inappropriately, I finally lodged a sexual harassment complaint at the hospital. It didn’t work. The hospital personnel people told me they didn’t find any evidence to back my complaint. My experience resembled Sherry’s.”

Ralph put his arm around Beth. “It must have been frustrating. I guess he only made advances when you were alone.”

“Yeah, it was always just the two of us, and as much as I tried, I couldn’t avoid those situations.”

“Sure, nurses and doctors have to work close together at times.”

“Right, but that’s not the worst of it. Things changed after the sexual harassment complaint. People started treating me differently. Doctor Burns had lots of friends on the staff, and they all turned against me. It depressed me. I found it completely unfair, yet I couldn’t do anything about it. It was so wrong. Burns had misbehaved, yet I got punished.”

Ralph hugged Beth, whose eyes were tearing. “It’s all right. It’s in the past.”

“Even now when I think about it, it still bothers me. And I guess I didn’t handle it well. I started eating too much. Food provided comfort. I broke up with my boyfriend, Billy. He didn’t show any sympathy at all. Finally, after I put on close to thirty pounds, I decided I had to make a complete life change.”

“So, you moved to Lackey?”

“I wanted to get out of the city. I applied to a bunch of small-town hospitals, and Lackey responded first. Nursing jobs are fairly easy to get. And the hospital here is a good one. After I moved, I put myself on a diet, but I had trouble sticking to it. I guess I’d still been upset about what had happened. Luckily, my work went well. The people in Lackey are nice. As I told you before, I got along with Phil’s wife Mary Jane right away. I even told her about why I left the hospital in Pittsburg, but I didn’t tell anyone else.

“Finally, I started to come out of my shell and got more serious about my diet. Meeting you gave me an impetus to change. I really liked our exercise group. Dieting together really helps.”

“I always wondered why you wound up here. I never really thought about it too hard. I figured I had good luck. Now I’m torn. Part of me is glad you had trouble at the Pittsburg hospital, but that’s not right. I shouldn’t think that way.”

Beth responded. “I never thought about it like that. So, you’re saying we’d have never met if I hadn’t had my problems?”

“Yeah.”

“I understand. Nevertheless, I’d have been happier if we’d have met some other way.”

Ralph gave Beth a kiss. “Whatever, now we have each other.”

“And it’s great,” Beth said. “Now you’ve got the full story, I guess you can understand why I’m so eager to be part of the project along with you and Phil and Sherry.”

“You bet. It makes a lot of sense.”

Beth glanced at her phone. “Look at what time it is. We’d better get to bed,” she said as she pulled Ralph off the couch.

“You don’t have to ask twice.”

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About the Author
Robert Archibald was born in New Jersey and grew up in Oklahoma and Arizona. After receiving a BA from the University of Arizona, he was drafted and served in Viet Nam. He then earned a M.S. and Ph.D in economics from Purdue University. Bob had a 41-year career at the College of William & Mary. While he had several stints as an administrator, department chair, director of the public policy program, and interim dean of the faculty, Bob was always proud to be promoted back to the faculty. He lives with his wife of 47 years, Nancy, in Williamsburg, Virginia.
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