I leaned back in my chair and moved my elbow over so that it was resting against hers where she was gripping the arms of the chair like she would float away if she dared let go. At the brief contact, she finally let out a long breath and turned to look at me with wide and intimidated eyes. I dipped my chin to let her know everything would be okay and she returned the small gesture and finally started to relax by fractions.
“We finally have a trial date and the jury selection done. It’s in a little under two weeks and you’re the prosecution’s first witness. I’m surprised Townsend didn’t want to sit in on this discovery session.” Larsen flashed an artificially polite and whitened smile at us and I didn’t miss the dig that I was here instead of the D.A.’s office.
“I’m the attorney of record on this case. I’ll pass along anything I think Townsend needs to know before the trial.” I narrowed my eyes at the other attorney as his shark-like smile widened.
“So, is it professional interest in your client’s participation in the upcoming trial that brought you here today?” I stared at the other man without answering him. I wasn’t representing Avett in court any longer so there was no conflict of interest now that our professional relationship had turned personal, but Larsen was making it no secret that he planned on twisting those facts to however they best suited him. The guy was as slippery and shady as the people he represented.
“I’m interested in my client’s interests—period. Get on with it, Tyrell. All this flash and showmanship might impress the prosecution and the jury, but frankly, I’m bored, and both Ms. Walker and I have better things we could be doing with our time.”
The man’s eyebrows arched up as he laced his fingers together and gave me a smile that made my skin crawl. “I bet you do. I also have a full day and a court appearance, so I’ll get right to the point. Ms. Walker, were you upset your father sold the bar that he owned to someone that wasn’t you, the bar he had been grooming you to take over since you were old enough to work legally?”
I felt her body tighten next to me and as much as I wanted to comfort her I knew if I reacted in any way that Larsen would use it against her when he had her on the stand.
“I was upset, but not with my father. I was upset that I was such a mess, that I had never given him a good enough reason to hold on to the bar for me. He never told me that his plan was to turn the bar over to me when the time was right. I think it was an assumption that a lot of people, myself included, jumped to as I got older.”
Her body was stiff and tight but her voice was light and clear. She wasn’t hiding from the truth and I could see that Larsen knew, as well as I did, that her honesty and earnestness would come across clear as day to any kind of jury that was selected.
Larsen scribbled down some notes and then looked back up at us with that creepy smile that I really wanted to rearrange with my fist. “Were you upset when the new owner of the bar, Rome Archer, fired you for stealing from the cash register?”
She shifted a little in her seat and out of the corner of my eye I saw her full mouth pull into a hard line. “Again, I was upset, but only at myself. I knew there were cameras. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway because Jared insisted we needed the money. When you convince yourself that you’re in love, you can justify doing a lot of rash things.” I wanted to look at her to see if she was talking about the incident at the bar or something a little closer to home, but I wouldn’t give the observant man at the other end of the table that kind of leverage.
“So you are telling me you knew you would get caught?”
She nodded and we exchanged a look. “I did.”
He jotted down some more notes, and I could practically see the wheels in his head turning.
“Do you often do things that are illegal knowing you’ll get caught?”
“I’ve made some mistakes in the past. I’m sure you have most of them in that file in front of you. Everything I’ve done is public record.”
He was trying to rile her up, but she wasn’t giving in to the bait and I couldn’t be any prouder of her and how she was handling herself.
Larsen made a noise and moved forward in his chair. “The security cameras at the bar show that my client got physical with you before going inside the establishment. Was that an isolated incident?”
She lifted her fingers to her face and touched the smooth skin below her eye as she shook her head. “No. Jared got rough with me a couple times previously. Normally, when he was coming down off a high or freaking out about how he was going to get his next fix. He hit me once because I was supposed to bring beer to a party and I didn’t and my mom and some co-workers noticed the black eye. One of the guys that works at the bar told Jared if I ever showed up with anything other than a smile on my face, he would make sure that I was the last woman he ever raised his hand to. He left me alone after that.”
“So you knew Mr. Dalton had a substance abuse problem and a history of violence and yet you went with him that night. Why?”
I felt her balk a little and couldn’t resist the urge to look at her. Her eyes were wide in her face and she was very pale. It was obvious she was trying to think of a way to answer that question that explained her convoluted reasoning at the time without giving too much of her story away.
“Because I was scared and he told me he was taking me somewhere safe. I went with him because he was my boyfriend, and as I mentioned earlier, I was pretty sure I was in love with him.”
“Not so sure of those feelings anymore?” The snide question had me narrowing my eyes threateningly at the other end of the table, which made the man smirk at me knowingly.
“Spending a couple nights in jail really does wonders for clarity. I could never love a man that threatened someone I care about with a weapon. Jared was desperate and dangerous that night.”
“And why is that, Ms. Walker?”
She shrugged a little. “Because he stole drugs and money from bad people and they were looking for him.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because before they found him, they found me.” Her tone was cutting and it was obvious that Larsen was starting to get to her.
“Is that so? There are no police reports from you or from anyone else that indicates you had a run-in with these supposed bad people that were after my client.”