“We also have a witness that will happily testify that Ms. Walker was fired, from the very bar she is accused of helping rob, for stealing. The same witness will testify that Ms. Walker was angry her father sold the bar, the bar she felt belonged to her and should stay in the family, so she concocted the plan for the robbery out of revenge.”
Quaid stood up and put his hands on the table in front of him. “Seriously, Townsend? Are you going to disclose to the court that your witness is a known drug user? Do you plan to clue the court in to the fact that you are in the midst of pressing charges against said witness for armed robbery and endangering the welfare of a police officer? What kind of deal did you offer this witness to testify against my client, Counselor?” I finally pulled my gaze away from the impossible-to-read judge and looked at my attorney.
There was a hard line of tension in his arms and along the line of his back. He was angry on my behalf. The little crush I was working on building towards him bloomed into full-blown infatuation. My dad had been the only man in my life to fight for me, so to have this man, this polished, seemingly perfect man, take my back, regardless of the fact he was doing it for a paycheck, still warmed me to my toes.
“Mr. Jackson, you will get your turn to argue against the State’s case soon. Please refrain from those kinds of outbursts in my courtroom. You know better.”
Chastised and clearly annoyed by it, Quaid sat back down next to me and shot me a look. It was full of heat and turmoil, so it was my turn to tilt my head in reassurance, and even though I’m sure he thought it was an accident, I let my elbow brush against his like he had done at the arraignment. We were in this together, after all.
After the prosecutor was done talking, the judge took his time looking at the paperwork scattered in front of him and then turned back to the other attorney.
“I’m assuming there’s a deal on the table since I’ve seen the tape from the parking lot, and it makes it very clear Ms. Walker was not at the establishment of her own free will.”
The prosecutor visibly stiffened and cleared his throat. “The district attorney did offer a deal, Your Honor. Ms. Walker turned it down. We feel like we have a solid enough case to take this to trial.”
The judge didn’t say anything and looked at Quaid, who climbed to his feet. “Your client is aware of what happens if she turns down the deal and takes her chances with a jury, Mr. Jackson?”
“She is, Your Honor. The fact of the matter is she didn’t know Jared Dalton was going to rob the bar that night. She didn’t know he had a gun, and when he told her his plan, she tried to exit the car, and we all know what happened.” He looked at me. “Ms. Walker was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and is paying a remarkably high price for hooking her wagon to the wrong guy. You put me in front of a jury with her and you know as well as I do that they’re going to see a pretty, young woman who’s made some mistakes but none as bad as sticking around in an abusive relationship with an addict. That video is damning, but so is the witness testimony I’ll bring forth. It will attest to the fact she showed up to work with black eyes, and will also state that everyone that witnessed the two of them together knew Jared was bad news. Not to mention the fact, the State’s witness is being investigated on trafficking charges, on top of the armed robbery charges. When he was shot during the commission of the crime, it seems he got real chatty while he was in the hospital recovering. Offered the cops a lot of info in search of a deal. Avett Walker is a victim, not a perpetrator.”
I wasn’t a victim; I was a glutton for punishment and I had my reasons to be that way, but the judge didn’t know that. He shifted his attention to me and I swallowed hard.
“Ms. Walker.” I got shakily to my feet as Quaid put a hand on my arm and pulled me upwards.
“Yes, Your Honor?”
“What exactly happened that night?”
I felt my knees start to quiver and my heart thudded heavily in my ears. “I, uh …” I started to stutter and had to clear my throat. I curled my hands into my fists and told myself to be honest. All the ugly was already out, so it couldn’t make it any prettier or any messier with the truth. “Jared had left town for a while. He owed his supplier a bunch of money, which was why I was stealing from the bar. It was stupid. It was desperate, but I did it because I thought I was helping someone that cared about me.” My voice cracked a little and I realized Quaid hadn’t let go of my arm because he gave it a gentle squeeze.
“While he was gone, some guys showed up looking for him. They, uh …” My voice drifted off again and I had to close my eyes and brace myself to get through the rest. “They broke into the place we were staying and roughed me up.” It had almost been so much worse, but thank goodness Jared’s landlady was a nosy old bat that had heard the ruckus and showed up in the nick of time. “When Jared came back to town and found me all messed up, he told me he was going to make it right, that he had a safe place we could go. He hustled me into the car, told me he had to make one quick stop, and the next thing I knew we were at the bar.”
I felt a sharp pressure in my chest and lifted my hand to hold on to the spot where my heart was kicking against the inside of me like a horse. “I should have known better. He was high—he was always high—and he was angry.” I moved my fingers from my chest to the spot on my forehead where the knot had lived for weeks. “I told him to stop it. I told him I was going to call the police. That was when he grabbed the back of my head and shoved me into the dashboard. I was already messed up from the thugs that were looking for him and he nailed me right between the eyes. I think I blacked out a little bit.”
I gulped. “I wanted to call the police.” I laughed a dry broken sound. “I really wanted to call my dad.” I looked over my shoulder at the man that was my own personal rock to lean on and wanted to wither away at the expression on his hard face. I was breaking his heart again, and again. “I didn’t do anything though. I sat there with my ears ringing, wondering how in the hell I had ended up in such a terrible spot. I didn’t know he had a gun. I never saw it and didn’t know until we got to the bar what his plans were. I should have done something, anything, but I didn’t, including help him plan the robbery.”
It was eerily silent after I said my piece; the only sound I could hear was the rhythmic in and out of Quaid’s breathing. He gave no indication if I had been convincing or not. I hoped so, since it was the ugly, unvarnished truth of exactly how broken and imperfect I was.