A deep shudder worked through my body and it took me a second to notice that not only was my gigantic and impossible to miss father in the courtroom, but so was my much smaller, much more delicate mother. She had her hand in my dad’s, and while I was fighting back tears, she was letting hers freely flow. I knew both my parents adored me, but Darcy had a firm breaking point and I had pushed her to it more than once. I was surprised to see her and wondered if she was here to support me or to support my dad. Even though they were divorced, and often argued like cats and dogs, there was still something between my mother and father that no amount of discord and tension, or even relationships with other people, could kill.
Whoever she was here for, I was glad to see both of them and it was impossible to miss the triumphant look on Quaid’s face as I switched my attention to him. He dipped his very whiskerless, chiseled chin at me, much like my dad had done. With both of them here to silently assure me that things would be okay, or as okay as they could be for the moment, I started to breathe easier and finally unclenched my hands. It wasn’t relief that was flooding me, but it was something close.
Since my last name was Walker and W was always at the end of everything that went in alphabetical order, I didn’t get my turn in front of the judge until well after the possible murderer, who was denied bail, and the drug dealer, who was also denied bail. The longer I had to wait, the more anxious I got. I didn’t know the ins and outs of everyone else’s circumstances, but I was astute enough to put together the fact anyone going before the judge that had an extensive criminal history already on the books was mercilessly shot down and sent back to the enclosed bench looking at more time in the slammer. I was stunned that it all happened so fast. Each hearing took less than five minutes, which seemed far too quick to decide if someone was worthy of going home or sitting in jail for an undetermined amount of time. None of it seemed to bode well for me when it was my turn, but every time I met the golden-haired attorney’s gaze through the protective glass, it never wavered or betrayed any kind of worry. The expression in his light blue eyes never indicated anything but steady assurance and stone-cold confidence.
My dad, on the other hand, was getting just as antsy and just as fidgety as I was the longer time dragged on and the more accused that the judge shot down. Brite Walker was a massive human being. He took up all the available space around him and then some. When Brite was uncomfortable, it made everyone else within his vicinity uncomfortable. I saw the judge shoot my dad a couple of narrow-eyed looks throughout the different hearings, and I watched every single person seated in the same row as my father get up and move the more agitated he became. I kept waiting for Quaid to tell him to dial it down, for him to ask my dad to put a lid on his natural fatherly and protective instincts, but he never did. In fact, every time the judge looked in their direction or another person abandoned their front row seat, a small grin would tug at the man’s perfectly sculpted mouth and wry humor would dance in his eyes. My dad typically made a lasting impression on everyone that crossed his path; it appeared Quaid Jackson wasn’t immune to my dad’s legendary charisma and presence either.
Finally, the court clerk called my docket number and said, “The court will now hear the case of the State against Avett Walker,” and it was my turn to go stand at the podium and plead for my temporary freedom—well, let Quaid plead for it. It took a minute to maneuver around the remaining defendants and I almost fell over once without the use of my hands to balance myself. The bailiff shot me an annoyed look as several of the other accused snickered at my clumsiness, calling me a rookie under their breath. I almost melted into the floor in a puddle of gratitude when I was finally standing next to Quaid.
The judge looked at me and surprisingly over my head at what I could only assume was my father. His attention then shifted to the other man in the suit standing off to the left of us.
“Are we waving a formal reading, Counselor? Mr. Townsend has had a long day and I’m sure he would appreciate getting right to the arraignment.”
Quaid gave a dry chuckle and nodded his head slightly. “That’s fine and every day is a rough day for the prosecution, Your Honor.” The judge grunted and flipped open a file in front of him. I wanted to run up to his bench and snatch it away. Every single mistake I had ever made in my life was there, encouraging him to deny me a chance at freedom.
“What’s the people’s thoughts on bail in this case, Mr. Townsend?” Across from where I was doing everything in my power not to collapse into Quaid since my knees felt like Jell-O, the other attorney leafed through another folder full of my sins and shot me a frown.
“The charges are serious. The defendant is a known offender and there was an off-duty police officer involved during the commission of the crime Ms. Walker is accused of abetting in. The people can’t find a known address, work history, or any kind of solid ties to the community where this defendant is concerned. The people feel that she could be a flight risk, so we are asking bail be set at no less than $500,000.”
My knees almost buckled and I couldn’t stop the slight wheeze that escaped my lips. Half a million dollars? My dad made all-right money and had a pretty nice nest egg, but he wasn’t a millionaire by any stretch of the imagination, and even if he bonded me out that would still be more than he could comfortably afford to give up. Not to mention I would never, ever be able to pay him back. I was going back to jail; even if I knew I deserved nothing less, it still burned.
I turned to Quaid, ready to beg him to do something, to do anything to fix this, but he was looking at the prosecutor with narrowed eyes and a frown. The tip of his elbow brushed against mine. I thought it might was an accident, but then his gaze shifted back to me and the annoyance was replaced with calm assurance.
“Mr. Jackson, I’m sure you have plenty to say about the State’s recommendation for your client, so let’s hear it.”
“I think Mr. Townsend has forgotten that my client is only being charged as an accessory to this crime. There is an actual perpetrator in custody awaiting his own time before the court on actual charges, not just accessory charges relating to the commission, Your Honor. Yes, Ms. Walker has made some unfortunate choices in the past when it comes to following the law, but none of those charges are felonies and none of them resulted in time served. But because I’m realistic and know the court can’t overlook those prior indiscretions, I won’t push my luck and ask for my client to be released on her own recognizance. As for being a flight risk”—a grin pulled at his mouth, and again I wondered if he used it as a weapon because the damn thing was a killer—“Mr. Townsend was kind enough to point out that Ms. Walker isn’t working and doesn’t have a long employment history, so I’m not sure how the State assumes she would fund going on the run from the law.”