“Your honor,” said the hapless public defender they had assigned to Cynthia’s case, whose name Cynthia couldn’t remember half the time, “in light of the absence of the dash-cam footage…”
“Counselor,” Judge Black retorted. “I’m going to find you in contempt if you try to raise that issue again. Please proceed, Officer Feld.” He turned to the heroic-looking police officer in the witness stand, who still sported a cast that Cynthia thought he almost certainly didn’t need anymore.
Cynthia Beaman had been drinking and smoking pot when she’d slammed her little subcompact into the side of the police cruiser at the intersection of Fourth and Main, at two twenty-four a.m. on the night of March thirtieth. By November, she herself had almost come to believe that that was all anyone needed to know: the fact that the accident was completely the fault of the injured Officer Feld, who had run a red light in his haste to get to a deal in which he intended to make a lot of cash selling drugs from the court impound, had nearly vanished from her mind.
The part about the drugs of course, despite Rebecca Reynolds, reporter and do-gooder, telling Cynthia about it in detail, remained hypothetical for everyone: ‘strong circumstantial evidence’ didn’t substitute for surveillance photos or eyewitness statements about Feld’s corruption. The part about Feld running the red light, because the dashboard-camera footage had disappeared, was hypothetical for everyone but Cynthia, because Feld claimed to have no memory of the crash.
Jerry Riley, the DA, said from the lectern, “Officer, you were telling us that you thought you must have been chasing someone.”
The public defender—Peter Smith, that was his name—rose, but his voice sounded weary now. “Objection.”
“On what grounds?” the judge asked. Cynthia looked up from her seat at the defendant’s table to see that her lawyer was taken aback to even be asked the question.
“Your honor, the question calls for speculation.”
“I’ll allow it,” said Judge Black angrily. “You’ve just about run out my patience, Mr. Smith.”
Peter sat down heavily next to Cynthia. “There’s something going on here. Rebecca Reynolds is right.”
Two weeks later, as Cynthia awaited sentencing, having been found guilty by the jury in half an hour, Rebecca uncovered the fact that the police had deleted the footage from the dashboard camera, and that Judge Black had known about it. Rebecca published the first of a series of stories exposing the corruption that had led to Cynthia’s conviction.
In her jail cell, though, even while poor overworked Peter Smith had filed the motion for a new trial, Cynthia had felt not hope but a dull sort of annoyed resignation. She had been in the county jail for the past eight months because the judge, based on Cynthia’s previous record of misdemeanors, refused to grant her bail; she knew in her bones that she would be moving to the state penitentiary at some point and she kind of just wanted to get it over with.
But then, after Peter’s motion, here came the heroic journalist again, and there went the asshole judge, and here apparently would come another one who Rebecca thought would probably grant bail.
Hooray. Cynthia knew she didn’t have anyone left who might even have remembered her after eight months—let alone post bail. She had arrived in Phoenix only two weeks before she had had the accident, and though those two weeks had been hopeful—the way the beginning of one of Cynthia’s tries at a new town always was—not a single one of the people she had met, all of whom had been so sure they could help her get on her feet since they found her ‘so sweet!’, had come to visit her.
Understandable, of course: from the very beginning, up until Rebecca Reynolds had gotten interested in the story a month into Cynthia’s saga with the Phoenix DA, the news coverage had gone right along with Officer Feld’s version. Despite claiming to have no memory of the crash when he woke up from his three days in a coma, he had managed to say things like, “I must have been chasing a car that ran a red,” and despite the fact that Cynthia had smashed into his passenger door, everyone seemed to think the red-light runner must have been her.
It didn’t help that she had in fact run red lights and been cited for it, back in New Jersey. Or that she had been picked up for drug possession in Chicago, and spent the night in jail ‘for her own protection,’ but really because a handsy cop was hoping for something on the side. She would have given him a blowjob if he had been just a little bit less of an asshole, but after eight months in jail, now, she felt like she didn’t need to hand out sexual favors.
Bring on the state pen. Okay? Just bring it on. That was what she’d thought when she’d heard about the possibility of a new trial. She hated the way that no matter how firmly she papered over the part of her that wanted to cry, wanted to hope she could still turn things around somehow, it remained there underneath the paper like a lump. Like the lump in her throat that wouldn’t go away.
Rebecca had come to visit her, now—Thursday, Cynthia thought it must be. So, three days after Peter Smith had filed the motion. She could see in the reporter’s face that she had what she considered good news. Cynthia tried to look grateful, because the one thing she didn’t want to let go of was her sweetness. She didn’t know if sweet and tough was something they might call you in prison, but if it was, that was what she wanted. She had tried to portray it to Rebecca all the way through, but it presented serious difficulties when the nice, misguided reporter wanted you to be happy and you just weren’t.
“I understand,” Rebecca was saying, through the glass. “I understand that you don’t want to hope.”
Damn it. Cynthia hated it when this woman seemed to read her mind. She hated it that Rebecca clearly wanted to be the mother Cynthia had never had. She hated it that the lumpy, hopeful part of her always responded. A girl who had gone through five foster homes in five years, eight in ten years, twelve in eighteen—that kind of girl knew that this maternal bullshit was bullshit.
Rebecca had kind gray eyes and soft, mousy brown hair. Rebecca wasn’t pretty, but Cynthia couldn’t help feeling happier when she sat across from her. Cynthia knew that her own blond, blue-eyed prettiness made up a sizable percentage of her ‘sweetness,’ but when Rebecca Reynolds came to visit, Cynthia forgot to tilt her head at the angle that made her look the sweetest. Somehow she felt nevertheless that Rebecca found her… well, not sweet, but maybe good.
But Cynthia knew she wasn’t good.
“Okay,” she said dully, looking back into the kind gray eyes. “I don’t want to hope.”
Rebecca smiled sadly. “I’m going to hope for you, then, because I have a surprise. There’s a lawyer—a really good, fairly famous lawyer—who’s interested in your case. He’s coming to meet with you later today. He thinks he can get the case dismissed.”
She reached down and took something from her briefcase, which turned out to be a national legal magazine. A handsome, dark-haired man in a dark suit smiled confidently from the cover. Daniel Garcia, chopper pilot with a JD: from the Middle East to the American courtroom.
Daniel Garcia: Marine pilot. Defender of whistle-blowers and honest people persecuted by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. Or so the article Rebecca had brought Cynthia said, a profile in a national legal magazine.
Daniel Garcia, Esq.: just as tall, handsome, and intelligent-looking in person as he was in the full-page picture in the magazine.
Daniel Garcia, Esq., potential savior of Cynthia Beaman, to whom Cynthia Beaman, worthless nobody in the eyes of the world, clearly should feel eternally grateful, at least from the look on Rebecca’s face as she introduced him to her.
“Cynthia, this is Daniel Garcia.”
Cynthia tried to give a sweet smile, but though the guy really did seem as impressive sitting at the crappy jail table as he had in the book-lined office where they had taken his picture for the magazine, she wasn’t feeling it.
Daniel nodded. “Nice to meet you, Cynthia.”
“Hi,” Cynthia said, deciding to play a waiting game, given that she had all the time in the world as far as she could tell and sensing that Daniel Garcia, Esq. considered his time of the greatest value.
Daniel glanced at Rebecca, as if to say, She’s a lot less charming than you make her sound in your articles. Not that Rebecca had sugar-coated Cynthia anyway—“Ms. Beaman, who has moved from place to place after aging out of the foster system…”
He turned to Cynthia again. “Judge Towers has ordered a new trial and granted bail.”
Cynthia raised her eyebrows. Tell me something I don’t know.
A muscle in his almost freakishly chiseled jaw moved. Daniel Garcia, Esq. doesn’t appreciate being trifled with, and anything less than full, grateful compliance is clearly filed under ‘trifling.’
“I’m going to post your bail, and I’m going to give you a place to stay. I’m going to defend you for free. I think I can get this wrapped up in two weeks, but if necessary you can stay with me for as long as it takes.”
Cynthia felt her face do a kind of a disgusted frown, and she saw the muscle in the attorney’s jaw jump again.
“Did I say I’m hiring you? Let alone accepting your handouts?”
Rebecca glanced at Daniel, and Cynthia could see the hope in the reporter’s face that he would still take on this difficult young woman. Then she turned to Cynthia. “Cynthia, please just listen?”
“There’s more?” Cynthia asked, realizing that her voice seemed to indicate a scorn she didn’t actually feel—it seemed like something in the situation had caused her somehow to start playing a part.
“Yes,” Daniel said, taking control of the conversation back. Cynthia heard in the single syllable a well-controlled anger that did actually make her feel a little respect for the man in the charcoal suit—was it the same one he had worn for the magazine photoshoot, or did he have an identical suit for every day of the week?
She waited for him to continue, but she could see that he, now, had decided to wait for her. Aren’t you wasting your time, now, Mr. Garcia? Sorry—Captain Garcia, Esq., JD, of Harvard Law.
She should be immune to that stuff, shouldn’t she? But she caved anyway. Because of Rebecca, she thought. Because Rebecca’s been nice to me. Not because of you, Captain Garcia, sir.
“What’s in it for you?” she asked. She didn’t have to say she would hire him, did she, to please Rebecca? She could just make it look like she had considered it.
What the hell is wrong with you? the rational part of her demanded. Pretend you want to go to prison as much as you want, but don’t start believing it.
“Besides doing good, you mean?” he said. To Cynthia’s surprise he said it calmly, and the muscle in his jaw had quieted down. To her annoyance she realized that he liked explaining things, liked persuading other people to do what he thought best. She had given him an opportunity to show her how good he was at it. The strange thought occurred to her that maybe that was what real lawyers did—she had just never met a real lawyer before.
“Yes,” she said, because she couldn’t think of anything that might interrupt the flow of his persuasive words.
“I’m an honest guy, Cynthia. I won’t deny that I’m ambitious. I’m a minor legal rock star now and I want to be a superstar, so I can run for office. Your case has attracted a lot of attention. If I get the case dismissed, or I get you acquitted, as I will because with Ms. Reynolds’ help you now have a strong case whatever Jerry Riley says, I take another step in my own climb to the top. I won’t pretend that part of me isn’t interested in taking down Jerry Riley, who’s a corrupt son of a bitch—but that should make you happy, because whatever I do to him gets you closer to going free.”