Afterglow Pt. 02
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I’m not John Grisham, and I’m not a lawyer, but I did my best. And I’ve made some edits thanks to some wonderfully observant and knowledgeable readers. Thanks.
Chapter V: Let’s Explode
“Are you fucking kidding me right now, Steve?”
Steve—my best contact on the police force and a very good friend—shrugged and shook his head sympathetically.
“It’s a federal offense. I highly advise you to let me file the charge and get him him arrested.”
“I’ll lose the case,” I said, more like a question.
He nodded. “You’ll lose the case. If you file a restraining order, or make a formal complaint, the judge will make you hand over the case to someone else. You’ll be considered too biased and involved, and you know that, and they’ll consider it too dangerous. They’ll likely dismiss your charge against him if you give them a fight. You have no witnesses. They might think you’re drumming up drama to make the judge prejudicial.” He sighed and rubbed his face, clearly exhausted.
“Why would I make something like that up?! I could be disbarred if they found out I was lying. He threatened me! Stuck a gun in my ribs! And you’re telling me that if I make a complaint, I’ll lose the case? How the fuck can he get away with this? This should automatically put him behind bars.”
He got up from the table and glanced out of the window of his office, watching the chaos of different criminals getting booked. “He doesn’t have to get away with this. I already told you what I’d do if I were you. I’d drop the case and file a restraining order, and let me arrest him.” He glanced at me over his shoulder. “C’mon, Liz. Let someone else handle this one.”
“Oh, like someone stronger. You mean a man?” I sneered. Steve shot me a dirty look. “I can’t drop the case, Steve. That’s what the little shit wants.”
“Better to be safe than sorry. This is a nasty one and he’s not going to stop, unfortunately. Seen too many like him.”
I sighed and rested my elbows on the table, dropping my head into my hands. “If I let this case go, it’ll ruin my career. Roger will never give me a case like this ever again. I’ll spin my wheels for eternity. They’ll think I’m being dramatic, weak. They’ll never trust me with something like this again.”
Steve came over and put his hand on my shoulder. “If you let this go, you might not have a career either way.”
I slammed my hand on the table. “Fuck! I’m not letting him win. This is such bullshit. Maybe if I explain to Roger…”
But I knew I couldn’t do that. As much as I respected Roger, and as much as I suspected he respected me, his view of me would change somehow. I wouldn’t be the girl who fought tooth and nail to be viewed equal and tough. I would be the little girl crying to her father.
“Whatever you decide to do, call me day or night. You’ve got my cell. I’ll put a cop on your block, okay?”
“Okay.” I thought of Olivia, who’d been so worried and held me as I shook in the bathroom of the bar. “Can you put one on the block of my…friend?”
Steve’s smile was slow and kind. “Sure.”
It was nearly ten by the time I got down to the subway. I waited anxiously, desperate for a hot shower and my soft bed. And seeing Toronto was always a mood lifter.
I couldn’t stop looking over my shoulder, or analyzing men who got too close. Especially when I couldn’t make out their faces. Something about being stuck in this filthy, piss-stinking narrow space was putting me on edge. Was that asshole somewhere nearby? Did he know I went to the cops? I shuddered.
A train on the other side of the tracks whizzed by, deafening and fast. I took a step back and my heel wobbled. I was off kilter, and I felt incredibly vulnerable. Exposed. Violated.
I tried to focus on the intricate piece of graffiti on the cement pole next to me, but it was a swirl of expressions like “glory” “liberty” “pussies more more pussies”. I recognized a few gang references and it only served to make my goosebumps raise higher from my body, almost painfully. I rested against the pole and closed my eyes.
A guy’s elbow knocked against mine. I looked over at him and he was staring, a little creepy smile curving his lips. His teeth were yellow and he smelled heavily of cigarette smoke.
Really, this wasn’t too strange an occurrence. But tonight I took about ten large steps away and pulled out my cell, eager to do something other than panic. We were all so lulled into a strange and false security that, if we had our cell on us and pretended to be invested on whatever was on the screen, we were safe.
I had a dozen texts from Olivia, all different variations of her asking if I was okay.
And of course I had a missed call from my mother.
My train noisily pulled up and I rushed on, sitting in a corner seat and balling my body up as tightly as I could. My tough exterior was blown. I felt very much like a child, lost in the sea of the faceless citizens of New York. I was nothing to them; they were nothing to me. A homeless man canlı bahis lay spread out against a few seats and a couple of asses were giving him a hard time, poking him and calling him names. I didn’t want to intervene. That was what growing up here taught me, and my experiences as a woman showed me. Don’t fucking intervene, because they’ll move on to you next and they’ll almost always be stronger than you.
But I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stand looking at this subtle but cruel torture.
“You pay to get on here, asshole?” one of them was asking.
Another was unzipping his pants. “You know, I feel like taking a piss right here.”
“Get away from him,” I said. I desperately hoped I sounded strong. In charge. “And you whip it out and you and your little friend will be behind bars for indecent exposure.
The group of guys turned around slowly, scrutinizing me top to bottom, bottom to top. The leering began. They moved over like snakes; it was a wonder they weren’t hissing.
One of them scoffed. “You a cop or something, bitch?”
The man they were antagonizing gathered up his sweaters and other junk, averted his eyes and swiftly ran off to another car. I was left alone, facing men who’d just love to fuck with me. The few other people on the subway with us stared straight ahead, or studied their iPhones and probably increased the volumes of their music or podcasts.
The train vibrated and then jerked to a stop. It wasn’t mine, but it was a good part of town and a glimpse out the window assured me the area of people waiting was crowded. It wouldn’t stop them if they were inclined to do something to me, but it might make it harder on them.
I shook as I hopped down, nearly twisting my heel in the process. I heard them laughing behind me.
They stayed on.
“Bitch,” they hissed.
Their hisses followed me all the way home.
I woke to my alarm the next morning. I couldn’t believe I had to go to court, to face this asshole who thought he had the right to infringe on my fucking personal space with a gun. That he thought he was entitled to beating the teeth out of his girlfriend because she somehow belonged to him.
The fury was probably a good thing for me to hold onto, because truth be told I was scared. I shook as I put on my suit, sent off a scattered text to Olivia and a more reassuring one to my mother. I was terrified of seeing him again, and devastated I was giving him such power over me.
So I bought my coffee down at the corner and buried my fear deep inside with every strong sip.
Rose and Felicity were milling about the hallway. Both of their faces were tired and swollen. A lot of crying and tossing and turning must have happened the night before.
I took Rose’s hand. “It’s going to be okay. Just go sit inside; I’ll be there in a minute.”
I sat on a bench and shut my eyes, letting my head rest on the wall, and called upon the strength I’d built years ago in law school. I was a tough bitch, I kept telling myself, but all I kept remembering was how powerless I’d felt in that bar. Even with Steve, in the police station where I should have felt safe, I felt like a voice not heard.
“Ms. Quilty,” someone drawled above me.
My eyes fluttered open and I fought the scowl that often twisted across my face whenever I was confronted with Landon Fontaine. What a name, I always thought, but it suited him. Ostentatious, wealthy-sounding, strong.
He was a dirty lawyer who fought hard and almost always won. Being that he was from the swampy south somewhere, his accent was thick and slow and downright soothing. He was all politeness all the time, and all gentlemanlike in court. Most of the judges ate him right up and granted him unfair leniencies. Forget the string of women he’d divorced or destroyed in his past, the men he’d ruined with a mere whisper, the predatory gleam in his eyes whenever he spoke with you, or how he collected secrets and packed them all into his back pockets, eager for a chance to blackmail someone with them. He was the star of the New York legal system, really. If a defendant had any kind of money, he or she sniffed around Fontaine’s firm.
Because court—or politics—really wasn’t about the law anymore. Wrong, right, justified, unjustified were just terms flung around for the sake of it. That wasn’t to say all criminal cases were treated this way. The high-profile ones were the groundwork that legacies were built on. Think of George Zimmerman, Casey Anthony, or even as far back as OJ Simpson. It was a show, a sensationalist way for everyone with even the teeniest bit of power to strut their feathers. Anchormen and women shared horrific details of the cases with you through the TV screen, and even you weren’t able to look away.
Landon knew this. So, his suits were from the best designers, finely tailored and pressed. He was good looking in an aristocratic sort of way. He reminded me of a younger Robert Redford. He had a face you could trust, a firm handshake and the ability to bahis siteleri fit into any crowd. His jokes were raunchy but never out of line. He even made me smile on occasion, he was that charming, and I hated him for the loathsome turd he was.
Because I had seen what he could do in the courtroom. He could make a rape victim shatter and regret the day he or she was born. He could confuse a man perhaps not as smart as he. Women were sluts. Men were jealous. His opinions changed as frequently as he changed his suit.
Landon could hardly contain his glee when children were witnesses. When he cross-examined them in the courtroom, even his most loyal supporters shifted uncomfortably. Landon didn’t shout when he spoke to the children. He spoke perhaps softer than he did to anyone else. And he was very careful about his movements. If someone put you on the spot, you couldn’t say he appeared to be intimidating. But you knew it in your bones, because it was in his eyes. It was in the words he used. It was written all over the way he walked around, or the smirks he tossed to the jury whenever the kids made a mistake.
You knew in that instant he was a slime.
But some people had shorter memories than others, and when the case was all said and done and he had more money in the pockets of his new suits, his friends congratulated him and forgot all about how he sent those children off into crying jags that lasted weeks.
So I looked up at him now, brewing with the familiar hatred I knew well. I clutched at that hatred desperately, refusing to be intimidated or scared anymore—for at least the rest of the day. I didn’t bother standing, pretending we were on equal footing, because we wouldn’t be.
“Nice to see you, Mr. Fontaine.”
He scoffed and looked away from me, watching people milling about down the hallway. “You never think it’s nice to see me. Lying so early in the morning, sweetheart?”
I sighed and picked up my briefcase. “Are you approaching me with some kind of plea?”
Landon threw his head back and laughed. “You’re a corker, Liz.” His smiling face moved closer to me and he slapped a hand on my shoulder. “A corker.”
“You know the evidence. Filthy panties. Nasty letters. Threatening voicemails.”
One side of his mouth turned up as he opened the door to the courtroom. His other hand gestured for me to go first. I went inside, inhaling the familiar scent of leather and dust.
“Lovers’ spats. That’s what all that boils down to.”
I glared at him. “You’re kidding me right now, Landon.”
He threw his briefcase on his table and straightened the tie around his neck that probably cost more than 6 months’ worth of my rent. “No, this isn’t a laughing matter, Elizabeth.” When I continued staring at him, he shook his head. “Probably a bad time to ask this, but do you ever loosen up?”
“Bad time to ask this, but do you ever take a good look at yourself in the mirror? Or are you too busy kissing your reflection?”
“Liz?” someone called.
I looked over my shoulder and spotted Rose and Felicity waiting for me anxiously.
“What you are is a hater of men, Ms. Quilty.”
Landon said it as though he were joking, but we both knew he wasn’t. And what kind of joke would that be, anyway? It was out of line, however you phrased it.
“Why? Because I go after shits like your client?”
He laughed. “I’m just kidding you, of course. I know you are an unbiased, faithful representative of the law. Truly a beacon of what young lawyers should be today. But, I merely heard you have the same proclivities of those women over there. Well, at least one of those women. I still stand by my client’s belief that Rose is merely experimenting, trying to get back at him.”
“Where the hell did you hear that?” I swallowed hard. This was out of my league, undoubtedly, but I couldn’t back away. They knew. That would explain my nasty experience with his client.
At that moment exactly, Dan Tierney appeared beside Landon in an almost identical suit. He was handsome, no doubt of that, and he had the same ability to pretend he was a kind, feeling, sympathetic human being that Landon did. I just happened to have the ability to see through the both of them.
“Ms. Quilty,” Dan greeted, bowing his head. He was mostly expressionless, but I caught the perverse amusement in his eyes. I couldn’t wait to hammer his skull into the ground.
I turned away from both men, the sight of them making me ill, and went over to Rose.
“Everything is going to be okay. Remember, this is just the indictment part. The judge goes over some of the evidence and decides if we go on to trial. Of course we will, with the stuff we have here, okay? It’s just protocol.”
Rose sat next to Felicity. When I turned I noticed Dan staring at her. His eyes swept to me and when he saw I caught him, a small smile curved his lips.
The judge entered and everyone stood. We went through the usual and everything was going according to plan before Landon’s evidence exploded the bahis şirketleri courtroom.
The judge—Samuel Frank—read over the contents Landon handed him and tutted.
Then his fiery eyes met mine. “Why are you wasting my time with this, Mr. Fontaine?”
“I have no idea what he just handed you, Your Honor, but—”
“He handed me something in direct rebuttal of what you just presented. Approach the bench, please.”
Landon strode up, cocky and as pleased as a pig rolled in shit. I followed, feeling in the pit of my stomach something horrible was about to happen.
And I was right. The judge handed me letters—at least a dozen—sent by Rose. Definitely her handwriting, I noticed right away. And they were written as passionately and violently as Dan’s. Perhaps slightly worse. She didn’t threaten his death, or imagine his body in pieces. No. She wrote about him doing all that to her.
“There are no dates on these. Perhaps—”
“And there’s more, Your Honor,” Landon interrupted. “More than what we have here. I think it’s clear here what happened. These two have a volatile relationship and Ms. Sherman is using half of the truth to manipulate and injure my client. His reputation, his—”
“What about his intrusion into her apartment? The threatening voicemails? The panties filled with his semen!” I’d gotten a bit hysterical and Samuel Frank gave me a quelling look.
“Well, they always had an interesting relationship!” Landon exclaimed, gesticulating wildly as if he were on stage. “I have pictures and videos and letters in my possession that will lay claim to their unique tastes in the bedroom. My client’s seminal fluid in Ms. Sherman’s underwear is not the most unusual thing the couple has done.” He whistled. “No, sir. Not by a long shot.” He got closer to the judge. “Not to mention Rose Sherman’s… lover has left some interesting messages for my client, as well. Quite threatening. Most involving castration of some kind. Shall we have a listen?”
“We’re not on trial yet, Mr. Fontaine. I suggest you collect yourself, though your passion is duly noted.”
Judge Frank stared at me long and hard. He was one of the few judges who rarely put up with Landon’s crap. He knew what he had in front of him, but he knew what my case also lacked. I didn’t have the appropriate rebuttals, disproving or disputing the concrete evidence in the slime ball’s possession.
“Ms. Quilty, do you have anything in your files right now that can discredit what Mr. Fontaine has described? In other words, if I were to ask Ms. Sherman questions about the information Mr. Fontaine provided me, under oath, would she be able to refute some of these claims?”
I felt like I could faint. For the first time in my life, I thought I might. Blood was rushing in my ears, louder than the sound of the subway speeding past, and coldness engulfed my chest and stomach.
“No,” I whispered.
Judge Frank shook his head at me. “I’m surprised you’ve come into my courtroom today with such a lack of evidence and a disregard for research. I’m left with no other choice but to dismiss the charges at this time. I can’t indict the defendant with this mess.” He shuffled some papers but then looked back up at me, pointing his finger. “Come back to me when you have all your business in order.” Then he glanced over at Landon, who was already grinning and backing up to his client. “And Mr. Fontaine?”
He stopped and his grin turned into a respectful smile. “Yes, Your Honor?”
“I think it reprehensible you didn’t provide the prosecution with your evidence before we got here today. Clearly she wouldn’t have proceeded, but then I guess you wouldn’t have had your chance to shine and lord your expertise over us. Next time why don’t you lead with professionalism rather than vanity?” He stood and nodded at Landon. “Also, the restraining order still stands. And your client will return to jail for a month for the first violation of Ms. Sherman’s protective order. Get your client in order, Counselor, or I will see fit that the law will.”
Rose and Felicity followed me out of the courtroom, asking me thousands of questions. I hardly heard them. I headed for the closest bar I could find, sat on a stool and ordered straight vodka. Felicity shook my arm.
“Hello?! Don’t you think we deserve an explanation?”
“We’ll try again,” I muttered, thanking God the bartender had already returned with my drink. “And at least he’s off the streets for a month.”
Rose also shook me. “How can you sit there so fucking calm? He’s going to kill me!”
I swung around and looked at them both. “You didn’t provide me with the entire picture.”
Both women looked utterly confused.
“Were you engaged in some S&M relationship with Dan?”
Rose jolted back as if I slapped her. “W-what?”
“He has pictures from your time together. Letters you wrote yourself, asking to be choked and cut and raped. Voicemails Felicity left. I don’t know the contents, or if Landon was bluffing, but all that shit alone was enough for the judge to dismiss my request to indict. We can try again, and we will, but don’t ever fucking withhold shit like that again. Because courts find out, and shitballs like Fontaine hunts shit like this down.”
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