Anguished wails of distress and loud cursing erupted from the audience that had crowded into the standing room only courtroom. The long awaited verdict was not what they wanted to hear. For five long, grueling months, the murder trial had been a media circus. Now, right or wrong, the decision had been made and the proceedings were over.
Weak kneed, defense attorney Melanie Fischer wanted to sink into her chair in relief, but her steely disposition wouldn’t allow it. She didn’t reveal a trace of emotion, neither a glimmer of elation as one would expect at her victory, nor the horror she actually felt deep inside. No. She was the Ice Queen and any reaction would have been out of character. She was exhausted, but she tried not to let that show either. She’d worked her ass off for months before the case ever came to trial. Almost a full year of her adult life had been consumed by it. There was the sentencing phase and the inevitable appeal yet to come, but for the most part, she was done with her disturbing client.
As she glanced over at Morton Deevers, she struggled to suppress a shudder while her skin crawled. She watched as the familiar smirk of confidence spread across his thin lips and as always, a chill raced up her spine. Deevers celebrated with his elderly mother and equally creepy friend; his only support in the room that day. What would it take to forget his squinty-eyed gaze, or the greasy strands of hair that he swept from just above his right ear, up and over his sparsely haired head, and swirled around his crown in a ridiculously pathetic attempt at a comb-over? Would she forever see the buttons of his shirt straining to contain the girth of his huge potbelly? And the disgusting popping sound his knuckles made as he repeatedly cracked them, would that forever haunt her dreams? As bad as he looked, his personality was worse—snide, condescending, nasty—and he had a skin crawling snicker. He tried to hide this from the jury, being quiet and respectful. He saved his nastiness for when the cameras and court weren’t watching. How such a disgusting human who had nothing whatsoever to be smug about got such an overinflated air of confidence was beyond her.
“How can you sleep at night, bitch? You lawyers have no souls.”
Ignoring the vicious insult from a faceless voice in the crowd, she gathered up her notes and tucked them into her briefcase. She’d heard it before. The slurs and hurled invectives stung, but she didn’t let it show. Never in public would she let her mask of detachment slip. If she gave in to the emotion, she’d be done.
Huh! That was a new one.
“Your blood money won’t help when you’re rotting in hell!”
Okay, that one she’d heard, a few too many time.
Looking around for the security detail assigned to her, she spotted the sheriff’s deputies heading her way. As the uniformed men moved slowly through the crowd, she wondered if they could have found two less intimidating officers. At five foot six inches, her four-inch heels made her taller than either one of them and her one hundred and fifty pounds would probably tip the scales over them both as well. Still, they were better than nothing. As they moved slowly toward her, other insults and curses, as well as some epithets on her ancestors spewed forth from the angry onlookers.
“If he does it again, you’re as guilty as he is, lawyer cunt.”
Lanie tried hard and succeeded in hiding her involuntary reaction. The ‘c’ word always got to her. The message hit a nerve too. Did they think she hadn’t thought about that every day of the trial?
Nausea roiled in her stomach as the reality of what she’d done struck her. She had a hand in releasing this psychopath back into society and God help them if he acted again. Thankfully, he had charges pending out of state and there was another chance to put him away for good. He’d been accused of abducting and torturing another young woman to death, and the marshals were waiting to take him into custody as soon as he walked out of the courtroom. She’d heard the evidence was damning and with any luck, Dallas law enforcement was more skilled than the ones who investigated this case. Deevers’s new attorney had contacted her for case notes and told her he didn’t have a prayer for an acquittal. Thank God! Barring another prosecutorial fuck up, he would be found guilty and face the death penalty, because as luck would have it, he was being extradited to Texas.
Finally, the deputies arrived. Flanking her, they escorted her out the rear doors of the courtroom, bypassing the judge’s chambers through a long maze of corridors and more security to the back of the courthouse. Dodging a barrage of questions from the few reporters who had managed to find their way to the restricted rear entrance and parking lot, she rushed to the handsome man who waited beside a silver BMW sedan. On her approach, he opened the door.
“Lanie?” he inquired as she brushed past him, entered the vehicle and pulled in her feet.
“Please, Ethan. Get me the hell out of here before the vultures descend.”
He shut the door without another word and in the quiet that encompassed her, she sucked in a deep gulp of air and sank into the plush seat of his BMW. Closing her eyes, she counted to ten and collected herself. When she opened them again, she stared out the window at the vultures that were the tireless press and greedy paparazzi. Mercifully, Ethan had tinted glass.
The driver side door opened and her beleaguered husband folded his six foot three inch frame into his seat. Ignoring the persistent parasites with their clicking cameras and ridiculous questions, he slammed the door hard and locked it. “Damn leeches!” he growled.
“Please, Ethan. Don’t talk. Drive.”
“You got it, baby.” He’d left the key in the ignition and in seconds, the engine turned over. He revved it twice and honked the horn—a warning to any idiots who might be foolish enough to get in his way—and pulled out. A few minutes later, they hit the streets of Boston.
“What was the verdict?”
“Not guilty.” Her voice cracked faintly with emotion. If Ethan didn’t know her so well, she doubted he would have noticed. His eyes shifted to her and his hand reached across the center console and grabbed her icy one. He squeezed her cold fingers, clinging to him like a survivor cast adrift in a storm swept sea and he, her only lifeline.