A TRIAL OF TRUTH

By K. Stoley

 

Comments and criticism addressed to stoley8@bellsouth.net

 

 

CHAPTER 1

Rita walked into the precinct and signed in with the desk Sargent. He made some crack about low lifeís and their attorneys but, she ignored him as usual. ĎWhy were all the doughnut eating simpletonís the same?í she pondered. ĎIf they were every brought to justice for half their indiscretions, they would find themselves in the same predicament as most of my clients.í Rita smiled and endured the stares she received from the other officers. At 5í11 with dark hair and blue eyes some considered her a beauty. Unfortunately, Rita didnít think of herself in that manner. When she looked in the mirror, she still saw an awkward, uncoordinated adult who dressed smartly in an attempt to hide her imperfections. She settled into the conference room and waited for her newest client to be brought up. She had gotten this case at the last minute and took that time to look at the file for the first time.

ĎLetís see Hailey Richards, good background, first arrest. Charge solicitation. Great another spoiled brat looking for excitementí she groused to herself. But what surprised her as she read, was whose brat she was. Haileyís father was none other than Reverend Richards, one of the top religious figures in the State. Heíd even been invited to the Whitehouse a number of times. This was one of those times Rita felt strongly about separation of Church and State. ĎSo why didnít daddy get his own legal counsel?í She didnít have time to delve any deeper into these thoughts as the door opened and her client was pushed through. Her client was of average height with reddish blonde hair that Rita was sure if combed would have been beautiful but, her most striking feature was her fiery green eyes which were currently directed angrily at Rita. The officer nodded to Rita and closed the door.

Hailey stood uncertain of what she should do but, determine not to let the woman in front of her know how scared she really was. ĎSheís probably another of her fatherís paid crooksí she thought bitterly. Defiantly, Hailey crossed her arms and stared back at her attorney.

 

 

CHAPTER 2

"My name is Rita Anthos. Why donít you take a seat and we can get started" she offered. Hailey pulled out a chair and sat glaring at Rita.

"You might as well drop the attitude too. Either we do this now or you spend another night in this palace and we try again tomorrow" Rita commented as she pulled a pad out of her briefcase. Hailey sat up and gave Rita her full attention. ĎNo way she wanted another repeat of last night.í

"What do I have to do to get out of here?" Hailey asked quickly. "Well, first of all I need you to tell me what happed. But, Iím curious, are you sure you want a public defender. Wouldnít your father prefer to retain counsel of his own?" Rita asked. He had the ears of influential people in high places and used this leverage to push his unpopular beliefs down everyoneís throats. ĎPower is a terrible thing in the wrong handsí. She thought, which brought her back to her new client.

Hailey looked up and asked surprised, "You mean my father didnít send you?"

"No, Iím appointed by the court. Would you prefer your father retain another attorney for you?" Rita asked somehow disappointed but not sure why. With her caseload she really didnít need another client.

"Ha!" Hailey snorted, "Itís his doing that Iím in here in the first place! Iíd rather sit in hell then call him."

"What do you mean?" Rita asked beginning to understand why she had been given this case. She tended to get all the problem cases lately. ĎMaybe there trying to tell me somethingí she mused. Rita was one of only two women in the public defenders office who refused to sleep with the boss. The other woman was 68 years old and the wife of an influential corporate VP in the city. It wasnít because Rita found the DA unattractive, she just did find him anything at all. ĎIím just too busy with my career to get involved with anyone right nowí she thought and turned her attention back to her client.

"My father and I donít get along. I moved out recently and heíd do anything to get me back under his control" she explained. Rita knew there was more to the story but, let it go for now.

"So, tell me about the solicitation charge."

"I told you thatís my fatherís piece of work alright! The Honorable Reverent Richards upstanding family man and religious leader of our time!" Hailey answered bitterly. Ritaís eyebrows raised in warning when she looked up from her writing. The look wasnít lost on Hailey and she settled down.

"Listen all I know is that I was on my way home from work when a car pulled over to the curb. The driver asked if I know where St. Maryís was and since I just came from there, I gave him directions. The next thing I know a police car pulls up and two officers get out. The two men in the car tell the officers that I was soliciting for sex. Yeah right! As if I would let them touch me!" she concluded sarcastically.

"You said your father was behind this. Did you recognize the men?" Rita asked not liking the smell of this case.

"No my father has all kinds of creeps working for him" the young woman stated.

"Your father is a very influential man but, I canít see him going to such lengths just to get you to move home again" Rita observed. "Yeah, well you donít know him" Hailey answered abruptly and got up to go look out the window. "Listen, I canít help you if your not honest with me" Rita counseled.

Hailey thought for a moment before answering, "Letís just say my father would rather have me where he can keep an eye on me". Rita smiled, "Well, I think all fathers are a little protective of their daughters but, they donít have them arrested to prove it". Hailey just glared at her and didnít offer any more information.

Rita had just about had enough of her attitude. ĎMaybe another night in here will change your attitude princess!í and began to pack up her things.

"I suggest you call your father and have him get you another lawyer." Rising from her chair she added, "Iíll be in touch" and turned to leave. Hailey ran over grabbing her arm, "Wait! You canít leave me in here. Please!" she pleaded. Rita saw the fear in the young womanís eyes and she knew from experience that it wasnít just about jail itself.

"Then be honest with me and tell me whatís going on" she ordered. Hailey looked around nervously even though they were the only two in the room. "I canít" she finally cried.

"Then I canít help you" Rita flatly stated turning to leave. "Wait!" Hailey begged pulling on the attorneyís arm. She looked into deep blue eyes and decided that she had no choice but to trust this woman.

"I left home because I hate him and his business associates. If he knew for sure that I heard what I have heídÖ." Hailey paused and finished by saying, "When I was under his roof and his control he didnít have to worry about what I may or may not know but, now that I am on my own, Iím a loose end. He doesnít like loose ends." Hailey could see that the lawyer didnít quite believe her and added, "Listen, Iím being honest with you. I am afraid of him but, Iím more afraid of what will happen to me if I have to spend another night here. He has very long arms."

Rita watched the young womanís face and she saw no hint that her client was being anything but honest and terrified. "I donít suppose you have money for bail?" Rita inquired setting her briefcase back on the table. Hailey shook her head no and answered, "Iíd just started my job last week and all of my first pay went towards my hotel. I was hoping to get an apartment soon".

"O.K. let me see what I can do. Iíll be in touch this afternoon. In the meantime, be careful. Try not to go anywhere alone. Stick to larger crowds if possible. Iíll work as fast as I can to get you released" she promised the young woman. Rita left the precinct and headed to the nearest payphone. She was going against all her principles of not getting involved but, she had the feeling she had to get Hailey out of their and soon.

"I need you to do a favor for me Sal" she said into the receiver. She asked him to post bail for one Hailey Richards and drop her by the office. "Yeah I know, I owe you again" she said. A frown creased her forehead as she listened and finally responded, "No, Iím not sure what Iím doing but, I donít have much choice". Hanging up she headed to her car and drove back to the office unaware that she was being followed.

 

CHAPTER 3

Rita was only back in her office for about half an hour when the secretary buzzed to announce that Reverend Richards was there to see her. "Tell him he needs an appointment" Rita said and then decided, "Never mind, just give me a minute and show him in." ĎMaybe it is better I find out all I can about both sidesí she thought curiously and rose to greet Richards. Reverend Richards was a tall, self-assured man who was use to charming his way through life. When his attempt at flattery failed he got right to the point. "Youíve been assigned to represent my daughter in this recent fiasco. Frankly, Iíve been inclined not to help her at this time" he stated firmly. "This time?" Rita inquired.

"Oh yes, there have been incidences in the past that Iíve been able to pull some weight and clear up. Not that I am proud of that fact but, she is my only child and I donít want to see her hurt" he answered trying to look sincere. Rita wasnít buying the song and dance he was playing.

"To tell you the truth Ms. Anthos, I feel Haileyís best interests would be if she would return home where I can make sure she is properly supervised" he stated. "But, Reverend Richards, she is an adult and unless she agreed, youíd have no legal right" she informed him. "Well, in light of my recent discovery of her drugs, I think you should advise my daughter to take my offer" he replied easily. "If forced to go to trial, I would be compelled to inform the judge, and I would just as soon not be put in that position."

"Do you have proof of this allegation?" Rita asked appalled at the nerve of this man.

"Letís just say I have all the evidence a court would need Ms. Andros. My daughter has had momentary lapses of judgement which could be detrimental to her physical and spiritual welfare" he replied. ĎHer welfare or yours?í Rita thought angrily.

"If you could see your way clear to get her to agree to getting help. I think I could pull some strings to get the charges dropped and the judge would never have to know about the drugs either" he offered without a hint of concern for what he was actually saying. Rita stood up to conclude the meeting and coldly said, "Reverend, I have a duty to my client first. I will tell her of your offer but, I must warn you, that whatever Ďsheí decides is what I will pursue".

The Reverend smiled tightly and said, "Fair enough" and shook her hand. Rita felt the skin on her neck crawl from that brief contact. This was no "man of the cloth" as far as she could tell. He stood, still holding her hand, and said, "Iíve been curious, your name plaque, what does the X stand for?" Rita pulled her hand away and said, "Xena, itís an old family name".

"Xena, the warrior princess?" he inquired. Rita was slightly surprised but didnít show it and calmly replied, "I see your up on your Greek history". "Oh yes, Iím well aware of Xenaís history. Are you a warrior like your ancestor?" he asked.

"If I believe in the cause".

"I see" he responded and turned to leave the office. At the door he turned and darkly said, "Trust me Ms. Anthos, this isnít one of those causes". As the door closed Rita mumbled, "Well see".

She sat down and pulled open Haileyís file again and began to read it more closely. She was well acquainted with clients who used drugs but, her gut told her this wasnít the case here. By 4 p.m. she was ready to call it a day. She closed the file as Sal breezed into the office unannounced.

"How did it go?" she asked Sal, very much aware that he would tell her regardless if she asked or not. He was just that kind of person.

"Easier than I expected. Do you know who she is?" he asked excitedly.

"Calm down Sal. I know exactly who she is. I even had a visit from Daddy this afternoon" Rita replied knowing that tidbit would only get his blood pressure to rise faster.

"What!" he exclaimed. "The man actually came to see you?"

"Yep" Rita replied absently as she put files in her briefcase. "Well?" he demanded as his face turned red. Rita looked up and laughed she loved baiting he little man. "You know your going to give yourself a stroke one of these days if you donít relax" she replied chuckling.

Sal gave up and dropped into the nearest chair and muttered, "Yeah, Yeah what ever. So, what did the man say?"

"In a nutshell, get her to agree to go home or he will see that he knew home is a cell" she concluded.

"She sure donít look like no hooker. Iíve never seen one cry before" he told Rita. Rita looked up concerned, "What do you mean? What happened?" Sal shrugged his shoulders and answered, "Dunno, she wouldnít talk but, I get the feeling her little visit behind bars wasnít a pleasant experience."

"Where is she now?" Rita asked moving towards the door. "I dropped her off in front of the vending machine in the lunch room" he replied not moving. "I also took her by her hotel. The old man must have gone there after he left here because he checked her out and took all her things."

 

 

 

CHAPER 4

Rita walked down the hall to the lunchroom and found Hailey sitting alone playing with a coke can. She didnít hear Rita approach until the lawyer spoke causing Hailey to jump and send the can across the table.

"Hey, itís only me" Rita responded and walked hesitantly towards the shaking woman. Hailey looked up embarrassed, "Sorry, you startled me" she replied bending to retrieve the can.

"Good thing it was empty," Rita said trying to lighten the mood. She looked at the young woman closely, If she was using by know the signs would be plain to see. Rita saw a woman who was tightly strung but, not from drugs, from fear. Hailey looked like a woman who was down to her last nerve and Rita wondered, "Now, I have to decide what to do with her until the hearing. She doesnít look in any shape to be alone right nowí she concluded and decided to take her home with her. Rita could have easily gotten her into a womenís shelter or another hotel but, something about the young woman touched a chord deep inside. She also knew deep down that she didnít want Hailey anywhere her father could get to her.

Rita was amazed at how much food Hailey could pack into her tiny frame. ĎIf I did that, I wouldnít be to moveí she thought wistfully. Rita gave her a pair of sweats to wear and they didnít look to bad when you rolled up the sleeves. Hailey was amazed at the size of Ritaís loft. She was also curious about a woman who had plants but didnít know how to take care of them. Hailey couldnít stand to see the state they were in and asked if she could take care of them for her. Rita was more than happy to turn them over to someone with a green thumb. She had to admit to Hailey that she didnít have any aptitude for gardening.

After Hailey was settled in, Rita stood in the doorway to the guest bedroom and said, "We need to talk". Hailey nodded and sat on the bed. "Do you use drugs?" the attorney asked quietly. Hailey looked at her stunned and emphatically replied, "No way!" Rita nodded believing the young woman and explained, "I didnít think so but, I had to ask". The attorney sat beside Hailey and proceeded to tell her about her fatherís visit to her office. Hailey was very quiet when Rita finished talking. She had expected anger and accusations but, didnít know how to deal with the defeat she was seeing. Hailey seemed to be giving up and Rita knew that something had to have happened today to push it along. Rita needed to find out what.

"Well, what do you want to do?" Rita asked. "Iím on your side whatever you decide we will do, o.k.?" she offered. Hailey looked up sadly and said, "It doesnít matter anymore, Iíll never get away from him."

"Would you like to tell me what happened today?" Rita asked softly hoping Missy would confide in her. Hailey lowered her head and shook it no. Rita watched the young woman as a tear slipped down her cheek. "Tell me everything Hailey. Itís the only way I can help and I Ďdoí want to help you". Rita tried to get her to understand that she was a friend.

Haileyís shoulders started to tremble as the tears steadily began to run down her face. ĎHow do I tell her, sheíll think I wanted it to happení she told herself. Rita was really getting worried now and took the woman by the shoulders and turned her to face her.

"Did something happen in jail?" she asked afraid of the response. Hailey sobbed and said, "you wonít believe me, if I tell you anyway".

"Tell me what Hailey. Come on talk to me" Rita asked gently. "My fatherÖin jail" she sobbed. "Your father visited you in jail?" Rita asked confused.

"No, he didnít have to. I told you he had long arms: she said wiping her face with the back of her hand. Rita reached over and grabbed a box of Kleenex from the nightstand and handed it to Hailey.

After drying her face Hailey continued, "I did what you told me and tried not to go anywhere by myself but, I really had to go to the bathroom. I couldnít very well ask someone to go with me now could I!" she said as the anger in her rose. "I came out of the stall and she was standing in the doorway. I tried to walk around her but before I could reach her two other women grabbed me from behind. The woman just said that it was a gift from my father" Hailey finished quietly and looked away.

Rita took a deep breath and let it out slowly before asking, "Did theyÖ?"

"Donítí worry" Hailey interrupted angry, "Iím not new to the concept just the circumstances!"

Rita got up and stood by the window and heard Hailey ask sarcastically, "Whatís the matter the idea make you sick?" Rita ignored her remark and made her decision, and turning said, "I want to fight your father on this one but, I canít do it unless you want me to. I donít even know if we can win but, Iíd sure like to try and nail the bastard!"

Hailey sat back and couldnít help but grin. She liked the spunk of this woman. She cared even thought she doesnít know me and, Ďshe wasnít even phased at what I said Ď. ĎMaybe she could pull this offí she thought before standing and saying, "Itís worth a try even if only to see him in a courtroom having to do a dance. He canít afford publicity" she grinned maliciously causing Rita to suppress a smile.

 

CHAPTER 5

Rita sat on the balcony for a very long time after Hailey had gone to sleep. To say she was surprised at their recent conversation was an understatement. ĎI wonder what Haileyís father will do when he finds out that his little punishment to his daughter had the opposite effect he had intended. She definitely isnít ready to go running back to Daddy!í she thought. Now that Hailey had agreed to fight, Rita was beginning to wonder if sheís started something she shouldnít have. "Guess thereís no turning back now" she mumbled and headed off to bed.

The next morning, after getting Sal started on some discrete background searches, Rita placed a call to an old friend at St. Maryís Medical Center. After a brief conversation Rita found that periodic drug screens for employees were mandatory and Hailey had passed all of herís with flying colors. Soon after Rita concluded her conversation, Hailey got a call from her supervisor to report back to work as a physical therapist the next day. Rita had time before her afternoon deposition to take Hailey shopping for some new clothes. They both knew the chance of Hailey getting her things from her father was extremely remote. They found Hailey a couple of outfits for work and some casual clothes. On the drive home Hailey informed Rita, "Iíll pay you back as soon as I get my first paycheck".

"Donít worry" Rita answered knowing she was going to need all her money to get back on her feet. "Iím sure we can make some mutual arrangements. Hailey stiffened perceptibly and didnít say a word. ĎI should have seen this one comingí Hailey berated herself, ĎNo one is nice for freeí. Rita noticed her change right away and asked, "Something wrong?"

"Letís just take it out in trade huh?" Hailey asked through clenched teeth.

"What!" Rita shouted.

"I guess you figure since I already swing that way what they hell you might as well get your piece too!" Hailey answered hotly. Hailey had her hand on the door know and Rita was afraid she was ready to jump out of the moving car. Instinctually, Rita slowed the car and tried to calm the young woman and reason with her.

"Youíve definitely got the wrong idea Hailey" Rita answered calmly. "I was thinking more in line of you staying in the apartment and taking care of the plants until you can get on your feet. As you can tell I donít really have much of a green thumb". Rita offered a smile hoping Hailey would see that she was being sincere.

Hailey lowered her head in embarrassment. She could feel the tips of her ears turning red. "Iím sorry" she mumbled. "Iím just not use to their not being strings attached to kindness".

"I really misjudged her as a spoiled brat. She may have come from influence but, she didnít have an easy ride along the wayí Rita thought as they drove the rest of the way in silence. "No strings o.k.?" Rita promised.

"O.K." Hailey conceded. "Weíll see what happens. Itís not like I have anywhere else to go." Thinking about what she had said she blushed all over again. ĎJeez, I canít believe I assumed someone as gorgeous as her would want me, or that she was even gay!í

Rita dropped Hailey off at the apartment and headed to the office. Her secretary was relieved to see her and so was Sal who was annoyingly pacing in front of the young womanís desk. "What do you have for me?" she asked him.

"Boy, about time you got here! Youíve opened a huge can of worms when you took in Reverend Richards daughter" he answered, nervously adjusting the things on her desk. "Why donít you relax and take a seat before you hyperventilate!" Rita said wryly.

"Laugh now, but the powers that be have been looking for you all morning" Sal responded pointing to the messages she was holding. Rita flipped through them putting each in order of priority. The top three were from the District Attorney, her boss. The rest could wait. "O.K. tell me what you know" Rita said as she began to riffle though the papers on her desk.

"Well, it seems the good Reverend placed a call this morning when he found out where his precious daughter was staying. He complained that it was unethical for an attorney to Ďget involvedí with a client" Sal related. "Now itís no longer simple solicitation. Her Daddyís lawyer has told the judge that there were drugs found in her hotel room." Sal handed her the papers that were delivered from the court.

"What have you got on the background check?" Rita asked ignoring the innuendo as she flipped through the legal brief. She knew what the boss would think about it. ĎScrew-em! Let him think whatever he likes!í she thought angrily.

"Back before Richards became a church leader, he served as assistant to his father-in-law. Well, being an only child left him an open door to move right in and take over when her father died. A year later Hailey was born and then six years later Mrs. Richards commits suicide. There was talk that the Reverend had a temper and she had enough but, nothing was ever proven. After that Hailey was left pretty much to a series of housekeepers while Richards sought higher powers" Sal finished.

"What about Hailey?" Rita prompted. Sal flipped the page of his notebook and continued, "Hailey pretty much was kept out of the picture. There was an incident when she was 15. Supposedly her and a friend ran away from home together. All I could find out about that was that the Reverend thought the girls needed to be separated and shipped Hailey off to some religious boarding school. After that she went on to some private Christian College back east. When Hailey graduated, she tried to start out on her own but, Daddy quickly convinced her to come back home. Things were quiet for awhile until she moved out again a month ago. Seems she did it in the middle of the night and he reported her missing to the cops. They found where she was staying and there was a huge scene between the two. Two weeks later sheís arrested for solicitation. Thatís about all Iíve found out except, you should know thereís been talk about an investigation into the church finances recently. They are keeping it pretty hush-hush but, I have my sources" he said grinning. Rita didnít doubt for a moment anything Sal had told her. She had learned a long time ago never to underestimated this man.

Rita nodded and asked, "Sal, see if you can find out any details about what exactly they want to investigate. I have a hunch it has something to do with Haileyís current problem. Iíve got to get her to open up to me but, right now, Iíd better go face the music" she finished waving the messages in the air.

"Good luck!" Sal called out as he headed out the door.

Rita sat for a few moments to mentally plan her defense before going to see her boss. District Attorney Steve Larson was an arrogant self-absorbed man with an impeccable win ratio in court. He was considered a ladies man, which was another term for trying to get his hand up everyoneís skirt. Ritaís was one skirt he hadnít been successful with and he resented her. He passed on all the low profile or impossible cases as punishment. Rita was sure that this case was no exception. Taking a deep breath she got up and went out to face the lions.

Rita was immediately allowed to go into the DAís office. ĎNot a good signí she thought. "I see you got my messages" he stated without any attempt at civility.

"Yes, I was in conference all morning" she lied kicking herself. ĎGod, how I hate stooping to his level. Choose your battles!í she mentally reminded herself.

"Whatís this I hear you have a client staying at your place? This doesnít look good for our offices" he remarked. "Did you also post her bail?" he asked.

"No, not personally" Rita answered truthfully. "As for her staying in my home, the situation warranted it. I couldnít very well leave her on the street as it seems someone took all her things from where she was staying" she added.

"I understand she has a home to go to" the DA stated. "The nature of the case would make it impossible for her to remain in that environment" Rita replied firmly.

"Rita, you are not in a courtroom now! I expect you to fully divulge exactly what sort of case you think you might have. I donít have all day to cross-examine you! As far as I know she was simply hooking to support a drug habit" he remarked slightly flushed.

Rita leaned forward and answered in a clipped tone, "I donít know exactly what your stake is in this case. I hope it is as a DA looking for justice because this case is anything but simple".

The DA exploded, "Just what exactly are you getting at Ms. Anthos! Are you insinuating that I have anything other than the integrity of this office first and foremost on my agenda?" he demanded.

"I would hope not" Rita commented, "Iíve found there is more to this case than the surface charges and I believe it has a lot to do with Reverend Richards. If Iím right the last place his daughter needs to be is in his house".

The DA angrily leaned forward and pointed his finger at Rita and fumed, "You are dangerously close to being fired. In the past Iíve let your insubordination slide because I thought youíd grow up and become a good attorney but now, Iím having my doubts about your abilities".

"When did you start having this doubts, before or after I refused to sleep with you!" Rita angrily replied.

The DA sputtered and shouted, "You just listen to me here and now, one more screw up and your history. If your intent on doing any mudslinging, Iíd thing twice or, you wonít be able to practice spiting let alone law. You stick to the two counts and keep your nose where it belongs. Do I make myself clear?"

"Am I to take this as a threat?" she shouted back. "You take it anyway you want! Now go and do your job!" he finished coldly. Rita got up walked out of his office and in passing the reception area she heard, "You go girl!" She didnít need to turn around to know who was speaking and just replied, "Count on it!"

 

CHAPTER 6

On the way pack to her office Rita was fuming. ĎHow dare he threaten me and expect me to roll over and do his bidding. If he wants a war, heís got one!í she vowed, her ancestral warrior blood soaring as a faint voice said, ĎIt looks like this family will be fighting for good once again.í Shaking her head of such notions, Rita locked up her office and left for the day.

When Rita arrived home she found Hailey looking through the refrigerator frowning. "You ever hear the concept of food?" she asked sarcastically. "Sorry" Rita admitted, "I guess I donít cook much and didnít think about company". "Iíll bet your starving" she asked.

"Well, I did find a jar of olives but, I ate them for lunch. So, I guess you could say Iím hungry" Hailey replied laughing.

"How are we go out to get something to eat and on the way home stop by the market?" Rita offered. "Sounds great!" Hailey replied enthusiastically, "Letís go!"

"Hang on and let me change!" Rita laughed. Ten minutes later she was dressed in jeans and a sweater as they headed out the door.

They ate at one of Ritaís favorite Italian restaurants and then drove to the market on the corner. "Just get whatever you normally eat" Rita told the young woman. Hailey took her at her word and began to pile the cart full of food. Rita had already had a glimpse of Haileyís healthy appetite at dinner and just watched amused as the bagger tried to keep up with it all as it came down the conveyor at him. Walking to the car, Rita pushed the cart and Hailey walked along side talking about her job. She was happy to be getting back to her patients. She liked physically working with people to help them get themselves well. Plus, she admitted, the exercise didnít hurt her any either. Rita nonchalantly looked over at Haileyís body and could definitely attest to the positive results.

Abruptly, her thought were cut short when a car quickly stopped next to them. Instinctively, Rita placed the cart between the car and Hailey. The front window of the car rolled down and a man leaned out and addressed Hailey.

"Your father thinks itís time you come home. He sent us to pick you up" he said as he started to open the door.

"No!" Hailey answered and pushed the cart into the door of the car. The man pulled his leg quickly back into the car as metal slammed into metal. "Listen, donít give us any trouble and get into the car!" he threatened, "Now!"

"Sheís not going any where with you!" Rita replied and kept the car against the car door. "Stay out of this lady, itís a family problem" he ordered. Rita looked and noticed that people were starting to watch them and raised her voice saying, "She doesnít want to go with you. If you donít leave, Iím calling the police!" The man looked at the crowd rapidly gathering and growled, "This isnít over lady, not by a long shot!" as the car pulled away.

Rita turned around and bumped straight into Hailey. Somehow, during the altercation, she had moved very closer to Rita. "Are you o.k.?" she asked. Hailey nodded yes and tried to shrug it off but, Rita could she her hands were trembling. Rita had to admit she was feeling a little shaky herself right about then. They quickly loaded the car and drove towards home. Rita made a few round about turns and kept a watchful eye in her mirror. When she didnít see anyone following she turned towards home.

The next day, Rita insisted on driving Hailey to work and made arrangements to have Sal pick her up at the end of her shift. Rita arrived at her office to find a message from Larson basically demanding she send her client home. Rita decided that tonight was the night she needed to talk with Hailey and find out just what was going on. She then arranged her schedule to be out of the office as much as possible during the coming week before the preliminary hearing. She looked over at the stack of new cases and sighed. Her caseload was being increased unreasonably and, she was sure she knew why. Rita decided she would take personal time, if necessary, to help Hailey.

 

CHAPTER 7

Rita arrived home to find Sal sitting on the couch watching television. She could smell something good coming from the kitchen. Rita lifted her eyebrow in question when Sal finally noticed her arrival.

"Sheís in the kitchen but, before you go in there you should know the other guy looks worse" he said grinning. "I just thought I should hang around until you return" he finished. Rita dropped her brief case on the chair and headed quickly to the kitchen. ĎWhy did she feel this driving need to protect this woman? Ď she queried. With this thought in mind, she went into the kitchen to find out.

"Hailey, what happened?" she asked concerned and turned the blond to face her. "Oh, God! When did this happen?" she asked.

"Itís not as bad as it looks" Hailey tried to explain.

"It never does huh!" Rita answered sarcastically as she grasped the womanís chin to get a better look. "Stand still and let me see" she ordered.

Hailey let Rita survey the damage without complaint. The attorney was close enough that Hailey could smell her perfume. It was a clean, pleasant scent, not the usual floral or musk that most women favored. Hailey looked into blue eyes noticing there sparked and how deep the color really was. Her eyes drifted down to Ritaís lips now pursed in concentration. ĎIíll bet their softí she thought before catching herself and snapping her head up.

Rita could feel the young woman staring at her. She also couldnít deny the warmth that flowed through her at the thought of how easy it would be to just kiss her right now. Rita jerked out of her revere when she felt Hailey jump as if she had read her thoughts. "Does it hurt?" Rita asked to try to cover up her embarrassment. "Only when I smile" Hailey replied dryly.

"So, what happened?" Rita asked again. Hailey shoulders did her usual shrug when she was faced with a situation she didnít want to deal with. But, Rita pulled the woman to face her again and raised her eyebrow in question.

"I was waiting outside for Sal to pick me up when my fatherís friends showed up again. I told them to leave me alone and turned to go back inside to wait. The one got out of the car and grabbed me and tired to push me into the back seat of the car. I hit him. I guess he got made and backhanded me and pulled my hair back. Thatís when I got really mad and kicked him" she replied grinning. Rita saw the grin and realized just where Hailey had kicked him. "He went down fast and thatís when Sal pulled up and he got back in the car and they drove away" she concluded simply. Ritaís mind raced, ĎDamn, itís getting worse than I thought it would. She knows something and theyíll do anything to make sure she doesnít tell.í Surprised at the depth of her concern Hailey saw in Ritaís face she said defensively, "No big deal. See, Iím alright. I can take care of myself."

"We need to talk!" Rita announced abruptly and grasped Haileyís hand to pull her out of the kitchen. "Wait! The cooking!" Hailey argued pulling back. "Donítí worry about it. This is more important!" Rita answered firmly and pulled the woman down the hall. As they passed the living room, she shouted in, "Sal, watch the cooking and try not to burn the house down!" Rita continued to pull Hailey until she reached her own bedroom and shut the door. ĎThe less Sal knew the better it would be for his own sakeí she reasoned.

Rita sat Hailey down on the bed next to her and angled her body to face the young woman. She frowned when she saw the bruised eye again but, put her concern on the back burner to tackle the business at hand. "Hailey youíve got to tell me everything you know or think you know. Iíve got to find where we stand if Iím going to fight this" she said firmly. Hailey looked away and responded, "Iíve told you everything I know. They just showed up and demanded I get into the car".

"No, thatís not what I mean and you know it!" Rita replied. "I canít" Hailey whispered and lowered her head. "You have to!" Rita demanded. "I canít help you if you arenít honest with me. How can I represent you in court if I donít have all the facts" she asked exasperated. "Why wonít you talk to me?" Rita asked. Hailey was silent and Rita realized she was losing her and a dull ache settled into her chest.

Finally, calming down Rita slowly said, "Iím sorry. Iíve no right to take my frustration out on you. I canít expect you to just trust me because I tell you to." Hailey looked up as a tear slipped down her cheek. Rita groaned and pulled the woman into her arms, hating that she was the cause of her pain. She heard a muffled voice and froze at what the young woman was saying.

"He killed my mother. He told me about it one day when he was angry at me. It was about a year after she died. He also said he could get away with anything he wanted, heís been proving it ever since" Hailey sobbed into Ritaís shoulder. Rita held her tight unsure of how to respond to such an admission and deep down she knew that Hailey wasnít lying.

"Sh-h, your safe now" Rita soothed and rocked the woman in her arms. She could only imagine the type of fear she had lived with since her motherís death. When Hailey had quieted down Rita pulled away brushing her lips across the young womanís brow. She froze at the realization of what she had just done but, Hailey didnít seem to take any notice, green eyes looked up and said, "Thereís more".

ĎOh, boy!" Rita thought, ĎIím almost afraid to find outí. Rita pushed her fears away and prompted, "Go on".

"About a month ago I came home earlier than expected and I when I passed my fatherís bedroom I heard a womanís voice. My father was boasting about how heís gotten a lucrative contract awarded for her boss. He even said that he had gotten the contract to pay more and had pocketed the difference. After that I quickly went to my room. It must have been about a half-hour later when I heard shouting and went to the end of the hall. I saw my father hitting this woman. He threw money at her and pushed her down the stairs calling her a whore. When he came back up the stairs he saw me and just went back into his room with a word. I didnít wait for him to come back out. I grabbed some things and left. I guess thatís where he got the idea of the prostitution charge" Hailey finished bitterly.

"Do you think he knows you heard him?" Rita asked softly. "I donít know". "Heís always been a controlling type of person. If he ever had the slightest suspicion then heíd do anything in his power to see that I was kept close to him. I canít live that way!" she sobbed.

Rita once again pulled her into her arms and whispered, "You wonít have to. I promise you. I wonít let him near you again!" Hailey finally cried herself out and the attorney insisted she lay down on her bed and rest. Before Rita left her bedroom, Hailey was asleep.

Rita walked back into the kitchen to check on the condition of dinner and found Sal had already eaten. "Whatís up?" he asked indicating the bedroom.

"Letís just say I now have an angle for you to pursue" she answered.

"O.k. shoot!" he replied.

"I need you to check out any women connected to the Reverend, especially those who are in high profile escort business. Also, check into any recent contracts that the Church has ongoing. I need to find a tie between the two. There is a certain lady out there who has kept company with our dear Reverend in the past, and I need to find her" she replied thoughtfully.

"You got it!" Sal replied and headed for the door. "You two going to be alright here?" he hesitated.

"Yeah, I think weíll be o.k. for now, thanks" she answered and locked up after he left.

 

CHAPTER 8

Hailey awoke suddenly to strange surroundings, her body instantly tensing as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She turned her head to the side and made out the blue illumination of a digital clock. It was 2:19 am and she was lying on top of the bed with the covers pulled from the other side and draped over her. The house was silent as she remembered where she was and wondered where her attorney was sleeping now that she was in her bed. Feeling safe she decided to stay where she was and crawl completely under the covers. The sheets smelled comfortably familiar and Hailey fell asleep clutching the other pillow to her.

Rita had given up anymore thought of coherent work around 1:00 am and went in to check on Hailey. She had decided to let her sleep through dinner, she needed sleep more than food right now. Rita found the young redhead curled up on her side in a tight ball, as if trying to protect herself from the world. Her heart went out the young woman who couldnít even find peace in sleep. Instead of waking her, she pulled the comforter from the other side and placed it over the curled figure whispering a silent prayer to whomever was listening.

 

The preliminaries went as expected with both sides presenting their cases. Haileyís bail remained in effect and she was expected to show for trial in two weeks. The prosecution fought to have her bail revoked sighting Haileyís drug problem. Rita argued that there was no substantive proof of her drug use, and that she posed no risk or means for flight. Rita took responsibility for Haileyís appearance in court. The judge had ruled in the defendantís favor. It was a small victory but, it was a start. That night was a somber affair in Ritaís apartment, both women retired early without much conversation on either part?

The next morning Hailey insisted on going in to work. "Itís Friday and then I have the whole weekend off to rest" she reasoned with Rita. "I wonít let him scare me into hiding. I have to prove that I can take care of myself, donít I?"

The attorney couldnít argue against the young womanís stand and finally relenting, drove her to work after getting her to agree to remaining inside near the desk until she picked her up later that evening. Under no circumstances was she to venture away from people or step outside.

"Iíll come in and get you, alright!" she reminded Hailey as she got out of the car. Hailey smiled and called back, "Donít worry. Iíll wait inside, Iíll be fine".

"Call me!" she hollered after the retreating figure and watched until she was sure Hailey was safely inside. Before pulling away she looked around for any suspicious cars in the area. Satisfied, she pulled away and headed towards the courthouse.

The morning went fairly quickly and she had worked through lunch in order to clear up some cases before her 2 PM hearing. It was a simple motion hearing that she hadnít expected to take too long. Around 1:45 PM her phone rang and she flipped it open. "Hello?"

"Hi, itís me, you wanted me to check in, so Iím checking in!" Hailey replied feeling stupid.

"Everything O.k. over there, any problems?

"No, not unless you call being stepped on, fallen on, or punched by a 5 year old trouble" she replied dryly.

Rita laughed, "a f5 year old sounds like trouble to me!"

"Yeah, poor kidís been through a lot since the accident but, all in all, heís making great progress. I think he wants to walk just so he can run away from me.

"Somehow, I about that!" Rita replied as the doors to the courtroom opened and people began to file in.

"Hey, Iíve got to run. I have a hearing in 10 minutes and need to confer with the defense attorney beforehand" she explained.

"O.k. Iíll see you later. Good Luck!"

"Thanks, Iíll be by around 3pm to pick you up" Rita replied standing and collecting her things.

"O.k., see you then".

"Bye!" Rita rang off and proceeded over to where the defense attorney waited. They had wanted to cut a deal and Rita was in favor of it in this case. In her estimation, it shouldnít have gone as far as it had.

The judge was a little harder to pursuade and it was almost 3 PM before she left the courtroom. She quickly retrieved her car and headed towards the clinic, she was going to be late. She picked up her phone and called the rehab. Floor where Hailey worked. No answer, she stepped on the accelerator hoping it only meant that they were busy.

Rita rushed up the clinic steps and headed towards the elevator, getting off on the third floor she found the nurses station empty. She looked in the small office behind the desk and finding no one, proceeded down the hall on a door-to-door search.

"Where the hell is everyone!" she muttered, her long legs taking her quickly down the hall. "I know itís a small clinic but, there has to be at least one patient around!"

She reached the end of the hall and heard noise coming from the solarium, entering she found everyone. The patientís, mostly children, were crowded around the front of the room with their attention focused on a certain redhead. Rita felt her legs go weak with relief and leaned her tall frame against the door.

Hailey got tired of waiting and strolled into the solarium, before she knew it she had amassed a small group of children and a few adults around her. The nurses like to tease her about her stories but, she knew they were secretly glad for the diversion of the children. Hailey enjoyed making them up during therapy sessions with the kids. It helped take their mind off the pain of their therapy, in turn, making her job easier. She was just about to wrap up her current tale when she felt something different in the room and looked up into twinkling blue eyes.

ĎOh no, how long has see been standing there?í she groaned feeling her face get hot. Quickly finishing her story, she made her way through the group towards the attorney without looking up at her.

"You late!" she said more gruffly than she had intended.

"I got tied up in court" Rita replied raising an eyebrow at the tone in the redheadís voice.

Hailey felt stupid for her outburst and mumbled, "I got bored waiting and I was fooling around with the kids".

"I heard. How do you do it?" Rita marveled outloud.

"Overactive imagination!"

Rita smiled and followed the redhead down the hall remarking, "Well, itís a gift because I canít put two sentences together without writing them down first!"

"What about in court?"

"Court is easy, I just lay out the facts and interpret the laws surrounding them, no imagination needed" Rita replied pushing the first floor button in the elevator.

Hailey hoped that wasnít true because she knew that they were going to need all the imagination they both could muster to go up against her father.

 

CHAPTER 9

Hailey heated up the left over pasta and made a salad while Rita checked her messages. The first one was from her secretary warning her about the next one. As the angry voice of her boss came over the recorder she knew it meant trouble. He basically told her that either Hailey was returned to her father by tomorrow noon or she could look for another job.

"Bite me!" she told the recording in response. The next message brought a chill up her spine and left the hairs standing on the back of her neck. She looked around the study as the caller laid out, in detail, the floor plan of her loft, not leaving out any details, even down to the name of the books currently on her desk. It didnít take a genius to figure out what was coming next as the voice called her a pervert and a few other unsavory names. He also wanted to know if she had shared her bed with the young woman last night and described her bed even down to the print on the sheets. Return Hailey to her loving, Christian family or they would be back, this time not just to look around either.

Not wanting to alarm Hailey, she walked down the hall to the master bedroom. The door was partially closed and she tentatively pushed it open all the way before entering. Nothing seemed disturbed until she looked at the bed and noticed and uncharacteristic lump under the comforter. Rita grabbed the edge of the comforter and flipped it off the bed, whatever it was, was under the blanket or sheet. She peeled back each layer getting angrier and angrier, finally coming to the object making her drop the blanket in disgust. A dead mouse lay nestled on the sheet, first it looked to be asleep but, Rita knew it wasnít and when she moved the sheet the head rolled away from the body. She threw the top sheet back over her grisly discovery and carefully bunched up the sheets, careful not to touch the dead rodent. She debated how she would get it out of the house without Hailey seeing it and finally set in all in an empty laundry basket in the closet and closed the door. Grabbing the blanket and comforter she closed the door to the bedroom, she knew no one would be sleeping in their tonight. In the laundry room she started the washer, adding soap, stuffed everything into it. She leaned against the machine debating what to do next and finally headed towards the kitchen.

Rita entered the kitchen to find Hailey just finishing setting the table. "Sorry, I should have done that".

Hailey looked up and noted the paleness in the attorneyís face and inquired, "Everything o.k.?"

"I need a new job!"

Hailey didnít say anything but went back to the stove to retrieve the food. ĎShe doesnít want the case anyone and I guess I canít blame her!í

Rita lifted her head wearily at the sound of her name. "Yeah?"

"I just wanted to say that if you donít want to handle my case anymore itís o.k. Iíd understand, itís going to be basically impossible to beat him anyway".

Rita once again heard the defeat in the redheadís voice and kicked herself when she realized how she had taken her last statement.

"No, thatís not what I meant. Itís not the work; itís who I work for. Right now Iíd rather work for you if thatís alright with you?" ĎCome on, donít give up on me now Hailey!í

Hailey shook her head yes, the relief written on her face as she set the plate of pasta down and sat in the chair opposite her attorney.

Helping themselves to food the conversation dulled until Rita asked, "Do you have anything you have to do tomorrow?"

"No, I figured youíd want me to stay in since Iím not working".

"Right" Rita nodded already formulating a plan in her head.

After dinner Rita went into her study and called Sal to fill him in on her plan and what had transpired to cause it. He agreed to come over and get rid of their unexpected guest in the closet. Next, she placed a call to the District Attorneyís office, she knew Larson would still be there and he picked up on the second ring.

"Yes!" he answered in a clipped tone.

ĎAlways the bastardí. She thought before responding. "I got your message".

"I hope you took me seriously" he answered already knowing who the caller was.

"Thatís the problem, I do take this seriously which is why Iím giving you my notice, effective immediately".

There was a slight pause before the eruption began giving Rita ample time to pull the phone away from her ear.

"You what! You canít just quit like this. What about your case load?" he fumed.

Rita calmly replaced the phone to her ear and replied, "Iíve cleared half of my calendar already and the new cases you gave me yesterday youíll have to reassign Iím afraid".

"I donít think you really want to do this Rita" he cautioned.

"Oh but I really do!"

"Youíre doing all this over one case, one spoilt brat?" He asked unable to comprehend why she would throw away her career for a troublemaker. He didnít care who the father way; the kid needed to be taught a good lesson.

"Steve, take a better look at the case and whose involved for real and you might just get a rude awakening" she replied before notifying him that Sal would be around tomorrow to collect her things, signing off she hung up the phone. Methodically, she went down her list and placed one last call before going in search of Hailey.

Hailey was curled upon the sofa watching TV when Rita came in and sat on the end, leaning her head back and closed her eyes for a moment.

"Whatís going on?"

Rita cracked an eye and found Hailey looking over at her waiting for an answer. She thought about lying and saying nothing but decided instead to give a condensed version of what happened, omitting the visitors and their little present.

Hailey couldnít believe that Rita would quit her job over this case and felt guilty until the lawyer reassured her it was a decision that had been coming for a long time.

"What are you going to do now?"

"Well, the first thing is I think we need to go away until the trial starts. I need time to prepare and I donít think I can do it here" Rita replied shaking off her thoughts of what was in the other room. "This means leaving your job for now but, it canít be helped. Iím sorry".

Hailey shook her head in understanding, "Itís o.k. Really, I understand. I love my job but, I also know how big this whole thing is and Iím willing to do whatever it takes to be rid of my father".

"Heíll always be your father" Rita replied gently.

"Iíll always have to live with that but, that doesnít mean I have to live with him or give him any power over me!"

"Just so you understand this could get messy," Rita warned. "I want you to know fully what youíre getting into".

Hailey sat forward putting her feet on the floor before she looked straight into her attorney eyes and replied, "Let me give you a little understanding of what itís like to be the daughter of that monster, then you can decide if I know what Iím getting into".

Rita sat back and listened to what the young woman had to tell her, a story of a child raised in fear, abuse and hypocrisy. The attorney hadnít known the depthís of the scars this woman carried until now.

"By the time I was 15, I knew what I was and so did my father. He used every piece of scripture he could to show me the error of my ways and when that didnít work he used his fists, and then sent me away to be reformed in a Christian prison-boarding school. All the while he played his Ďholier than thouí act he had a revolving door for his hookers. On top of it all, he knew that I knew he had killed my mother and gotten away with it. When I was six I thought he was a God because he could do anything he wanted without condemnation and he never let me forget that he could do that".

Rita reached up and placed a hand on Haileyís knee and said, "He is a sick man, donít confuse him with God".

"Donít get me wrong, I donít blame God for anything, I blame my father!"

Rita squeezed the knee beneath her hand, "Then I think itís time he paid for his sins".

"Exactly!"

"O.k. for now, letís get some sleep, we leave early in the morning. I want to be on the road before the traffic picks up" Rita announced standing.

"Where are we going?" Hailey asked following the tall woman down the hall.

"To a place I know up north" Rita replied pulling a pillow and blanket out of the closet.

Hailey poked her head out of her bedroom and asked, "Will you wake me early so I can shower before we leave?"

"An hour enough time?"

"Plenty" Hailey smiled, "Good night".

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER 10

"Hailey! Wake up! Come on weíve got to get going" Rita called softly not wanting to startle the sleeping woman, when she got no response she gently nudged the still form.

Arms flew up to ward off an imaginary attack as Hailey scrambled backward on the bed towards the wall. With her heart pounding in her ears, her eyes adjusted to the bright room, finding herself looking directly into the startled face of her attorney.

Rita quickly stepped back as the sleeping woman came alive with a flurry, reaching the wall she hit the light switch to illuminate the room. Hailey was crouched against the wall breathing hard with her shirt stuck to her body from sweat that Rita knew wasnít the result of her clientís sudden awakening.

"Hey, Hey itís just me. I didnít mean to scare you but you didnít hear me. You o.k." Rita slowly approached the bed trying to calm the woman down.

Hailey nodded taking a deep breath hoping to slow her body back to normal.

"Does this happen often?"

"Only when Iím stressed" she shrugged apologetically and climbed down from her crouched position to sit on the edge of the bed.

"Anything I can do to help?"

"Make my father go away?" The comment was part sarcasm and part wishful thinking but it made the attorney stop frowning and smile. "Sorry, I jumped like that, scared you as much as myself!"

Rita laughed lightly and then seriously replied, "I wish I could make it all go away for you" and then slipped out of the room so Hailey could get ready and heard the young woman whisper, "me too"!

Hailey showered quickly, packed the few belongings that she had, and went in search of her protector. She found the woman in question in the kitchen pouring a cup of coffee. "Cream and sugar?"

"Just cream, thank you" she replied leaning against the counter thoughtfully.

"Are you sure you want do all this?"

"Yep!" Rita simply replied filling a thermos with the rest of the coffee.

"Why?"

Rita turned and leaned against the counter and looked directly into green eyes before answering, "For two reasons. One, I care and, two, no one should be allowed to get away with the things he has all these years".

"Thank you" Hailey replied for a lack of being able to say anything more. Somewhere along the line they had become friends and Rita had just let her know it.

Sal showed up as they were loading the car. Rita pulled him aside and gave him the telephone number to her cottage.

"Iíll take care of everything" he assured her. "Iím also going to replace your locks so call me when youíre coming back and Iíll meet you to give you the new keys".

"Thanks Sal. Our little friend is in the closet in the laundry basket, throw out the sheets and all, I donít think I could sleep on them again" Rita shivered.

Sal nodded grimly, "Does she know?"

"No, I gave her the light version, sheís got enough on her plate right now. She doesnít need to know that her fatherís a bigger asshole then she already thinks". Rita watched as Hailey walked down the steps and got into the car.

"If you need me you call me, any time, you got that?" Sal gruffly offered as they walked down to the car.

Rita slid behind the wheel and replied, "I will, see you in about a week, probably on Sunday. Trial begins a week from Tuesday and I want to be back to take care of any last minute things on Monday."

"Have a safe trip". Sal watched as Rita drove away before going back upstairs and getting to work. He had known the lawyer for a long time, he knew this case went beyond just defending a client, and if Rita was committed so was he Ė no questions asked. His tall friend was a good woman and an even better attorney. ĎToo bad the DA wasnít smart enough to realize ití he pondered as he set about his tasks.

 

 

CHAPTER 11

Hailey napped for the first two hours of the trip, yawning and stretching she sat up and decided she should keep Rita company while they drove.

"So, where exactly are we headed?"

Rita looked over and smiled. "To my cottage in Lake Tawas, itís roughly a three hour drive, were almost there".

"You own it?" Hailey asked wondering how anyone as young as her could afford it, especially on a public defenderís salary.

"It was left to me by a friend" she explained.

"Wow! Some friend!"

"Yes, she was" Rita replied quietly.

Hailey got the feeling she was treading on a sensitive area and didnít ask any more questions instead, quietly watched the passing scenery. The landscape had changed from urban to county and she wondered what it would be like to live in one of the many farmhouses they had passed along the way. Just a normal quiet life watching the corn grow. Fall was probably her favorite time of year, the colors were at their height and the air had just enough of a nip to require a sweatshirt or light jacket. Ritaís voice brought her back from her daydreaming.

"Do you want to tell me what your nightmare was about?"

"I really donít remember it", more like she would never forget it as it was imprinted on her memory. It was always the same dream that had haunted her since she could remember.

Rita wasnít convinced but let it go, there was time later to push the issue, and decided to change the topic.

"Letís talk about exactly what you saw and heard that day with your father and the woman".

"You mean daddy and his whores?" the redhead bit off.

"You mean there were others?" Rita shouldnít really be surprised, most hypocrites talked a good talk but, it ended there.

"Pious Reverend Richardís has had women coming through the back door since I was a kid" she said mockingly.

"Tell me about that one day, was she a regular?"

Hailey thought for a moment, "No, I donít think so. I mean she wasnít like the others. I donít really think she was there for the money, you know?"

"So you think this was something other than a business transaction?" Rita inquired turning off the highway, the last leg of the journey would be on secondary roads.

"Yeah, she seemed truly surprised when he threw the money at her. Iíll never forget the look on her face when he pushed her down the steps, like it finally dawned on her that she had been used and betrayed. I never saw her again after that, she definitely wasnít one of the regulars. I wonder if my mother looked like that too?" A question to which there really wasnít an answer and one that Hailey hadnít expected to ask.

Rita sensed her friends emotional state was tenuous at best and tried to get her to focus on other things. "I know this is hard for you but, anything like this that you remember is good and you need to tell me. Maybe if we can find this woman, we can get her to testify against your father." Hailey continued to tell Rita everything she could remember of the conversation she had heard.

Rita listed and filed away everything the woman could remember. "Good, thatís very good. Now, we need to work decide how we are going to handle your trial. The drug charge we can get set aside easily but, we need to show that the solicitation charge was a set up".

"Would it help if someone knew his plan ahead of time and testified that?" Hailey asked hopeful that maybe she could actually beat him.

"Do you know anyone?" Rita was encouraged at the idea thinking it would be too easy.

"My father likes to talk and he wouldnít be able to resist bragging alot about his dirty dealings, especially if he knew he was safe. What if he told one of these women about what he was going to do and we could get them to testify to that in court?" Hailey asked and her eyes lit up when she hit upon a possible angle.

"What!" demanded Rita when she saw the slow smile spread across the young womanís face.

"Remember that woman you asked me about yesterday?" Rita nodded and waited for her to continue. "She was classier than most of them and he had even taken her to some minor functions with him. She came every Tuesday and Friday until that last Friday when he threw her out" she explained.

"Trouble in paradise?" Rita mused.

"I sure hope so!" came an unexpectedly cold reply, so much for the smiling green eyes.

Rita looked over at the woman and caught her staring at nothing, her jaw clenched tightly. ĎOne day I hope you wonít have to be so full of anger and can be truly free.í

The rest of the trip was made in silence, each woman lost in their own thoughts and misery. Eventually, they entered Tawas City and Rita pulled to a stop in front of a small grocery store and cut the engine.

"We need to get some food for the cottage. I havenít been up since early summer when I opened everything up" she explained.

"If I had a place up here Iíd come up every weekend" Hailey announced getting out of the car and following the tall woman into the store.

"I use to" Rita replied and let it go at that. "Why donít we get all the staples and stuff now, we can always come back into town for other things during the week".

"Works for me!" Hailey replied and with glee began to help her friend fill the card with food. Rita made sure she bought a little extra given the redheads voracious appetite.

As they loaded their packages into the trunk Hailey laughed and asked, "How long did you say we were staying?"

"I guess I went a little overboard on the supplies".

"Iíll say but, right now, I think I could put a good dent in this stuff" the redhead replied as her stomach rumbled in agreement.

"Oops, time to eat I think" Rita laughed, "letís get home and get some food in you! How about we grill tonight?"

 

 

CHAPTER 12

"Itís hard for you to be here isnít it?" a knowing voice asked from behind.

"Why do you ask that?" Rita responded without taking her eyes from the horizon.

"Because even with all this beauty around you, deep down you are still sad, and no matter how you try to make excuses and shut it out, the feeling is still there" Hailey explained. The knowledge coming from someone born of the same pain, no one else could have that insight.

Rita closed her eyes and welcomed the silent comfort that passed through her and she tried to explain, "Yes, Itís still here but, itís not so much a sadness as a feeling of comfort. For a long time I hurt but, it passed and now when I think about it, itís a good thing."

Hailey decided to step out and take a chance on her intuition, when she had first felt it she was surprised and then it just right.

"Was she the one that left you this place?"

Rita turned slightly and raised an eyebrow. "How do you know so much?"

"Familiarity".

"How so?" Rita questioned absently poking at the meat.

Hailey reached over to stop the mutilation of their dinner and removed the fork from Ritaís hand, grasping the empty hand she pulled the woman to face her.

"Donít let all this fool you, Iím no child when it comes to relationships or pain. Just because my fatherís tried to rule my life doesnít mean I havenít walked down a few roads before."

Rita looked at her skeptically and Hailey shook her head sadly before dropping her hand and going to stand at the other side of the deck with her back to the attorney. Crossing her arms over her body in a feeble attempt to ward off an inner chill, Hailey contemplated the truth of her words. Up until know, her father had forced her to give up everything she had wanted for herself because it had been easier all around. But, know she knew she had been wrong, she had become dead inside just as her father has wanted.

When she was six she had given up the idea of loving anyone or anything, at fifteen she had tried to love again but gave Jenny up for fear of her fatherís retribution, and now, she was faced with her final chance at freedom, would she give up again? ĎNO! There were no second chances after this, this time was forever!í she concluded.

Rita watched the redhead battle inner struggles and knew that there were depths to her new friend that even she hadnít considered until now. Lowering the flame on the grill she walked over to Hailey and put her hand on her shoulder and kept it there.

"Iím sorry, I just let myself get caught up in being in charge of everything, I forget to remember youíre a capable adult" she apologized.

Hailey allowed herself to relax and reached up to lightly squeeze the attorneyís hand. "Iím sorry if I pushed too hard, I shouldnít have pried".

"No, itís o.k. Weíre friends right?" Rita waited for a response and when the woman nodded her agreement she slowly continued, "If we canít talk to each other, who can we talk to? I could really use a friend is that o.k."

Hailey turned to face Rita, glistening eyes sparkling in the dusk, "Yes Iíd like that! Itís been a long time since Iíve had a real friend".

Rita felt an inexplicable desire to touch the woman before her; nervous at this revelation she stepped away, going back to her cooking. "What do you say we eat before I burn everything and weíll talk then". Hailey nodded and went into the house to get a platter for the food.

Closing the gas to the grill with shaky hands she thought, ĎO.k., letís get a handle here. What just happened?í "You opened yourself up for a fall girl, you let your heart overrule your head" she muttered slightly scared at the turn of events. ĎHow am I going to maintain control and function on this case if I keep this up?í she thought angrily before calming to the realization, ĎThatís the problem, Your not in controlÖthis is a 50-50 venture. Hailey doesnít need another parent and you donít need to be one. You need a friend and so does she!í

Dinner was a silent affair, Hailey picked at her food as she waited for Rita to continue their earlier conversation but, glancing over at the raven-haired woman she saw that she was a million miles away. ĎSheís probably sorry she said what she did, I shouldnít have pushed her into it. Sheís my attorney, nothing else. I shouldnít expect more. Why should she get herself involved with your baggage when she obviously has enough of her owní she finally concluded. The silence had become unbearable and finally Hailey excused herself.

 

Rita mulled over what she should tell Hailey. She didnít want to lie but, she also wasnít sure how much of herself she wanted to bare either. Things were just happening too fast here and she didnít want to lose focus. The most important thing right now was this case, or was it? Why was this woman and her plight so important? Certainly she has had tougher cases but, none had affected her so deeply, why? ĎBecause I care for her more than just as her lawyer, is that so wrong?í The thought both frightened her and made her feel things she hadnít in a long time. It had nothing to do with sex, although she had to admit her friend was certainly desirable if circumstances were different. But, this was something much deeper she admitted. "So why are you sitting here talking to yourself, when you should be talking to your friend!" she admonished herself outloud.

She found the young woman sprawled across her bed staring at the wall, she looked over silently when Rita called her name. "Can I come in?"

"Sure, itís your house" Hailey responded flatly.

Rita flinched at the jab and sad on the edge of the bed. "I deserve that, Iím sorry for dinner. We always seem to be miscommunicating and mostly itís been my fault. Iím so use to working out all the details of my cases in my head that I forget about everything else."

"Is that what this is, a case?" The redhead asked trying to keep emotion out of her voice. ĎWhat was all that out on the deck huh?í

Rita heard the catch her in friends voice and softly answered, "No, itís not and I think we need to talk about it".

"O.k. Iím listening" Hailey answered and waited for the speech about professionalism and attorney-client relationship bullshit! She rolled over to look up at the ceiling so she wouldnít have to look into blue eyes as they told her what a fool she has been.

Rita could sense the withdrawal of her friend and knew that she needed her full attention. Scooting over she placed a hand on either side of her friend to keep her from rolling away and looked down into deep green eyes. "I need to know you are listening to me, please donít pull away."

Hailey blinked up at Rita, feeling the womanís warm breath lightly feather her face, and tried to concentrate on what those lips were saying.

"First you need to know that you are more than a case to me. If I thought anything other than that, we wouldnít be having the rest of this conversation." Rita took a breath, her brow slightly creased and asked, "Do you understand that?"

Hailey nodded her head in understanding as her mind went in a million different directions at once.

ĎO.k. now for the hard partí Rita sighed. "Youíve become to mean more to me than just a client. I know we havenít known each other long but, I consider you my friend andÖ" she paused swallowing "andÖ"

ĎAnd what?í Haileyís mind screamed as she watched her normally confident attorney flounder for words.

"And much more" she blurted out lamely. "You are probably my best friend and if there are times that I feel uncaring and distant it is only because I am not use to having anyone mean that much to me anymore." Rita looked away from the green eyes and plucked absently at the button on her friendís shirt.

Hailey let the words sink in and began to have a better understanding of what her friend was trying to tell her but, was getting distracted, ĎGod, I wish she would stop that, itís getting hard to concentrateí she moaned and then realized what was causing it. Smiling she whispered, "You keep doing that and the buttonís going to fall off".

Rita looked down mortified at what her hand had been doing, as thought the appendage wasnít hers. Hailey chuckled grasping the hand before it could be pulled away and held it until she got Rita to look up. "Just so you know the feelings are mutual".

Rita smiled down at Hailey, the tension draining out of her body. "I guess Iím sort of slow huh? How long have you felt this way?"

Hailey thought for a moment before responding with a slight grin, "Umm, probably when you told me to drop the attitude".

Ritaís eyebrow went up, "But, that was the first time we talked!"

"Yeah, thatís about right".

Rita leaned down and lightly kissed the womanís check and whispered, "Thank you" before standing up.

"Hey!" Hailey called out disappointed at the brief contact. "Is that ALL I get?"

Rita shook her head before soberly replying, "Thatís all it can be until this case is over. Can you understand that?"

Hailey retorted micheviously, "Oh, so what you saying is our relationship is purely platonic?"

Rita laughed as she walked to the door, "Our friendship has been anything but platonic!"

 

 

CHAPTER 13

The rest of the week went fairly smoothly, frustrations were kept under check as they mapped out Haileyís defense. Sal was able to locate a number of women who were more than willing to testify against Reverend Richards but, still there was no news on who the mystery woman was. She would have been the case clincher but, by Saturday, they had accepted what they had and planned accordingly. They decided to take the rest of the day off and enjoy themselves canoeing on the river. By early afternoon they were paddling up river, as the sun was bright and warm. The paddling was easy and they fell into a comfortable rhythm and Rita began to tell Hailey about the owner of the cabin.

"I first met Amy in law school and we spent out sophomore year together, It was the first time for both of us. We were as different as night and day in personality but we developed a certain bond. I donít know if it was because of law school or being first timers but, things seemed good until she told me she had been accepted into Harvard for her last two years. I knew how much that meant to her but, I also didnít want what we had to end so we made a promise to practice law together when we graduated". Rita paused as she sorted through her emotions.

"Then what happened?" Hailey called over her shoulder.

Rita looked warmly to her friend; it was easier to talk when you didnít have to do it face-to-face. "We drifted apart slowly over the next year and our visits became less frequent. We rationalized that it was because of our workloads but, when Amy called during senior year to tell me she had met someone, I wasnít totally unprepared for the possibility. We parted friends and each followed our own paths, mine kept me here and she went to California to work as counsel for an activist group her partner was involve in".

Hailey waited for Rita to continue and when she didnít she stopped paddling and turned to face her friend. "How did you get the cottage?"

Rita turned the canoe back down river and looked up blankly from the water. "Go ahead, finish the story" the redhead prodded gently.

"It must have been about eight years later when she showed up at my office, right out of the blue. She had left Amy three years prior when she found out about her infidelities but, it was too late by then, she was already HIV positive by then."

"Iím sorry" Hailey answered as a brief flash of fear clouded her mind before she pushed it away angry with herself.

Rita sensed the hesitation and understood, "We never had anything physical after she left school and we just picked up our friendship and I helped her get settled. She was pretty sick by the time she got back here and she only had a year left. Since she had no family outside of me, I took a leave of absence from my work for the last month to take care of her. The cabin was all that was left by the time she died and she willed it to me. I was going to sell it but, I just never did." Rita finished quietly and looked out over the water in silent reflection.

"It must have been hard to watch someone you love suffer and not be able to do anything to stop it" Hailey replied as they coasted back down the river with the current. She wished they were closer so that she could put her arms around her friend but, she let her eyes tell the story instead and Rita understood.

"Yeah, she went through the usual stages denial, anger and then acceptance. I think the hardest part for me was the acceptance. It was as though she had given up and I wasnít ready to, It was a strain on our friendship. I donít think we would have survived that time had our friendship been based on our earlier physical relationship. We had both matured and become good friends." Just another bump in the road" she added trying to lighten the mood.

"One huge bump!" Hailey commented and stretched her legs out towards the middle of the canoe. "Yeah, my first and my last" Rita admitted.

"You mean you never, after Amy?"

"No, I dated here and there but, I was never into sleeping around. After Amy, I wanted something more, something long-term before I got involved. I guess I never really looked too hard to find it" Rita admitted. "So what about you? When was your first time?" Rita asked, changing the focus off of herself.

Hailey thought for a moment before responding. "I was 15 and she was my best friend. The physical part just sort of happened between us as we grew closer. We thought we were in love and it was great, we did everything together until my father caught us. He came into my room unannounced and found us lying on the bed kissing. He went ballistic, screaming ĎJezebelí and throwing things at me. I told Jenny to run so he wouldnít hurt her." Haileyís voice trembled and she paused taking a deep breath before continuing, "When he finally got tired of beating me he locked me in my room. Later that evening I climbed out the bedroom window and ran to Jennyís house. When she saw what he had done to me she came up with the plan for us to run away together. We were going to head to California."

Ritaís concern became stronger as Hailey withdrew into herself as the story continued, she finally tried making her way to the front of the canoe. Rita got to her knees and crawled the length of the canoe to her friend.

Hailey was unaware of Ritaís approach and continued to tell her story, for that is all it was, Ďa storyí. It couldnít hurt her anymore she repeated to herself as a mantra for her heart.

"We got as far as Indiana before my father caught up with us. He had one of his associates take me immediately to St. Michaelís Academy and he took Jenny home to her parents personally. I donít know what he said or did to Jenny but, I never heard from her again and when I finally got out of St. Michaelís, I found that her family had moved away. I never saw her again". Haileyís head was bowed but Rita could see the tears as they coursed down the womanís cheeks. She crawled closer and sat in the bottom of the boat facing Hailey.

Gently, she pulled the crying woman into her lap. As the boat floated with the current, Rita held Hailey tightly as she cried. Rita held them both up until her back cramped and leaned against the side only to cause the boat to rock violently. Finally she cradled Hailey to her and lay back on the bottom of the boat. Hailey adjusted by burrowing deeper into Rita as she lay against her.

The two remained floating down the river until Rita heard her name hoarsely called.

"Yes?"

"You know whatís funny?"

"What?" Rita asked puzzled at this line of thought.

"When I think about it all now, I donít even know if it was love or infatuation. Iím not even sure I know what love is!" The head popped up and Rita looked into sad green eyes.

"You will, I promise you that" she answered at a loss of what to say to someone who has seen the worst side of human nature. The attorney silently cursed a parent who could cause such suffering to his child, and gently wiped the remainder of tears away.

"Iím beginning to believe you" Green eyes lightened from their darkness as they looked down into the face of her friend. "I know because I feel different about you and thatís a wonderful thing".

"It is huh?"

"Yeah, very wonderful!" The redhead replied and lay back down snuggling her face under Ritaís chin. Rita could feel the tickle of the womanís breath on her neck and shivered as her long dormant senses responded.

 

CHAPTER 14

As much as she hated to move from her comfy perch, Hailey poked her head up to see how far they had drifted. "I think we are pretty close" she called down to her warm pillow.

ĎAny closer and weíd be in serious trouble!í Rita mused as Hailey shifted against her. "Think you can get up without tipping us over?" she smiled upwards.

"Sure!" Hailey carefully crawled over the reclining woman to her seat. Rita took a ragged breath when the redheadís hand lightly grazed her already sensitive breast.

"Did I hurt you?" a somewhat concerned voice called down. Rita was unable to see the mischievous smile that accompanied it.

"No, no. Just stiff I think" Rita replied biting her lip as she begged her hormones to take a break.

Rita gingerly got to her knees in the middle of the canoe and paddled them the rest of the way onto the shore. They stowed the canoe and gear and walked back up to the cabin. Rita saw the car in the drive before their guest announced himself. "Oh-oh!
She muttered lowly.

"Whatís wrong?" Hailey tensed when she heard Rita whisper and looked to where the woman was pointing.

"Trouble?"

"Could be" Rita replied evasively and slid open the patio door to find Sal stretched out on the sofa.

"Where you two been?" he asked groggily.

"Out on the river, whatís up?" Rita replied. She knew he hadnít driven all the way out there to take a nap on her couch.

Sal stood looking at the two women carefully without responding, Ďsomethingís definitely differentí he thought pleased but, the feeling was short-lived when he handed Rita the newspaper he had brought with him.

"I thought youíd like to see this before you can back tomorrow".

Rita took the paper and saw a picture of her that had been taken last year at a fundraiser. Her eyes drifted to the article and as her knees weakened she sat down to finish reading the story. Someone, she was sure she knew who, had leaked to the press that Rita had been fired for having an affair with a female client. It didnít name the client but, it hadnít mattered, the damage was already done.

Hailey leaned over the chair and read along in horror. Sal became alarmed when the young womanís face turned pale and he grabbed her elbow to lead her to the couch, halfway there she pulled away sharply and turned back to Rita. "How could he? The lies and deceit I expected but, putting it in the newspaper is different. Donít they have to check out these stories before they print them?" she fumed.

Rita dropped her head into her hands. ĎWhat a mess!í She felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up to Hailey standing next to her chair. "Iím sorry I got you into this mess".

"You didnít cause this he did!" Rita replied locking eyes with Hailey to make she understood she didnít blame her.

"What are you going to do about it?" Sal interrupted their silent conversation. Rita had almost forgotten he was there and answered, "Iím not sure just yet. He knew a lot of things would come out in court so he just made his position look better and tainted out. I guess we had better head back tonight. We have our work cut out for us now". Rita acknowledged.

When Hailey had gone to her room to pack, Sal took the opportunity to approach Rita and pull her aside. "What does this do to your career?"

"Not good. If I canít win this case, itís basically over. Iíll have to go before the judge as it is to refute these charges" she replied.

"Can you refute them?" he asked casually.

Rita looked at him angrily, "I thought, after all this time, you wouldnít have to ask."

"I normally wouldnít but, I see the way you two are together. I have nothing against it. Hell, Iím all for it!" he explained.

"The answer is No!" she replied levelly. "I have not nor will I have any type of relationship with a client. Hailey has become my friend but, she is also my client and nothing will happen between us while I am her attorney. We are both clear on this issue, are you?"

"I am now. You just tell me what you want me to do. Iím no both your sides counselor."

"Thank you Sal" Rita replied sincerely and went to pack her bag.

 

CHAPTER 15

The ride home was a somber affair as Sal tailed Ritaís car back to the city. Hailey looked out the window moodily, giving up on any kind of conversation after receiving only vague monosyllable responses from Rita.

Ritaís mind was a whirl of activity. She had to somehow put a solid case together in two days and win in order to pull her life back together. ĎThe odds are not good my friend!í

They arrived back around 1 a.m. Sal left after unloading Ritaís car with a promise to call as soon as he followed up on one more lead. Hailey went to room without comment; a mixture of anger and guilt flooded her body. She was mad at Rita for withdrawing again but, the woman also knew that she was the cause of all her friendís troubles. ĎShe may have her license pulled because of me. Iíve caused nothing but trouble for herí she thought sadly. ĎI canít let my father destroy another person in my life, not one that means this much to meí she decided and planned her next move.

Rita knew Hailey was mad at her but, she didnít have the strength to confront the redhead right now, locking up she went into her study to think. She worked for about two hours sketching out a rough plan of action before shutting the lamp and leaning back to rest in the dark. She wasnít sure how long she sat there, the house was quiet and Hailey was asleep, she thought. Down the hall a door opened and Rita saw the young woman creep past the office door. ĎWhatís she up to?í Rita remained where she was and waited until she heard the locks on the front door rattle. Jumping up she hurried down the hall and caught the woman as she started to go out the front door.

"Itís 3 a.m., where the hell are you going!" a stern voice demanded from behind. Hailey whirled around to see Rita fully dressed, standing very close and very mad. She had thought the attorney had gone to bed and had left a note explaining why she was leaving. ĎI just canít lose again.í

"I left you a note" Hailey mumbled indicating a white envelope on the hall table. Rita grabbed the woman by the sleeve, pulling her back into the apartment and closing the outer door before reaching for the note. The redhead stood looking at the floor while Rita read what she had written. She hadnít expected to have to face her friend and the noteís contents.

Rita felt the angry tension turn to fear as she read the note. ĎIím going back so that my father wonít have a chance to hurt anyone else. You would never be in this position if it werenít for me and I canít let you suffer for it. I cannot lose another friend. Thank you for trying but I canít let you sacrifice your career for me. I know what love is now and itís because of you that I do. Iíd sooner die than let him touch you.í

Rita looked up to find green eyes looking back sadly. "I have to go" Hailey whispered hoarsely and turned to open the door. She had to leave before she lost whatever courage she had left.

"If you really love me you wonít do this!" came a strained voice from behind. Hailey rested her head against the door. "I do, thatís why I have to go."

"No! Thatís why you have to stay" Rita croaked, her throat burning as she held back the tears that threatened to flow.

"Donít you understand?" Hailey turned, her cheeks glistening with tears. "I canít let my father take you away. There are only two people who have ever loved me in my live. One was my mother and he took her away. The other is you and I wonít let him take you too! My heart couldnít take that again" she sobbed.

"He canít!"

"He has!"

"No! Iím not going to let him win anymore! If you walk out that door, he will have

won again. I donít give a shit about practicing law if I have to lose you to do it!" Rita cried and couldnít stop the tears from slowly roll down her face. "I donít know how or when it happened but, I realize all of this means nothing without you here" she added holding her fist to her heart.

Hailey stood shaking her head no, too afraid that she would open herself and allow her father to hurt her one last time. "Iím not strong enough to fight him anymore, heís taken so much already".

Rita stepped forward and stopped within arms reach of the young woman without touching her. Eye to eye she quietly pleaded, "Iím tired of being afraid to feel, Iím tired of living my life alone, and Iím tired of feeling numb. I need you here and if I have to fight for the both of us I will".

Hailey dropped her head to Ritaís shoulder and sobbed as she was quickly drawn into strong arms. Rita clung to the smaller woman as the reality of what she had almost let walk out the door, reaching over she closed the door and locked it firmly. Something had passed between them this night, something that bound them closer than friends.

"We have to try" Rita whispered as she rocked the woman in her arms. "We see this through together." Hailey nodded her voice muffled in the taller womanís shoulder, "till the end then!" Relief washed over the tall woman and she pulled Hailey over to the recliner and into her lab as she sat down. The smaller woman curled up on Ritaís lap and they remained so until the light of dawn began to creep into the living room windows. The phone rang startling them out of the safe harbor they had created. Rita reached over and answered it as Hailey listed to the comforting vibration from the womanís chest as she spoke.

"Thatís fantastic!" the attorney shouted almost knocking Hailey off her lap. Haileyís head popped up and her eyes grew wide waiting to hear what was going on. Rita smiled from ear to ear and kissed the young woman solidly on the lips before going back to her conversation. Hailey felt warmth spread through her as her heart raced from the contact of lips on lips. She waited looking up shamelessly into blue eyes in hopes of a repeat performance.

Rita concluded her call and beamed from ear to ear and looked down to find green eyes looking back lustily. "I take it that was good news" Hailey replied teasingly.

"Yes, Sal found our missing woman and she is willing to meet with me this afternoon" Rita announced without breaking eye contact.

"So, do you have any other good news youíd like to share with me?" the redhead asked seductively.

"I think weíd better get to work" Rita responded awkwardly. "Technically, you are still my client and we have a case to win." Hailey groaned and got down from her comfortable perch.

"Hungry?" Hailey asked as she headed towards the kitchen. ĎYou could say that!í Rita thought hotly before catching herself, responded "Coffee sounds good".

After breakfast and much arguing, mostly on Haileyís part, Rita left alone to meet with their mystery woman. Hailey paced the apartment until she was ready to scream and headed into the kitchen to cook and blow off some steam.

 

CHAPTER 16

The raven-haired attorney was a few minutes late arriving at the restaurant but, she had not trouble finding Sal and the woman. Marie Jacobs was a blond striking woman in her early 50ís. She found her to be an intelligent and assured woman and wondered how she had ever gotten mixed up with someone was sick as the Reverend. During the course of the next hour she told her story. Now divorced, she had been married to a successful but, very busy, VP of one of the largest contractor in the State. The Reverend was dealing with her husband on a large contract for the Church and when he started coming to the house for dinner, he paid particular attention to Marie. He flattered her and paid attention to what she had to say, something her husband didnít seem to have time for anymore. She had known her husband had been having an affair on the side and when one thing led to another, she found herself meeting the Reverend once a week on the side. At first it was as punishment to her husband but, then it turned into something more and three months had passed before she knew it. That was around the time that the deal was finalized and the Reverend told her he had no use for her anymore.

ĎThat must be the scene that Hailey was describingí Rita contemplated before asking, "Did the Reverend ever talk about his work or anything to you?" Rita asked trying to draw the conversation around to what she needed to know.

"The good Reverend loved to hear himself talk. He bragged nonstop about all his schemes and dirty deals. He didnít think I was in any position to use it against him, maybe not then but, Iím a different woman with a different live now!" she smiled at Rita.

"Can you give me any specifics?" Rita asked trying to remain calm.

"I have to admit Ms. Andros, that when I first saw the article in the newspaper and then Sal approached me, I didnít want to get involved. I finally agreed to meet with you and talk to you" Mrs. Jacobs replied. Rita felt her heart drop instantly and almost didnít hear the rest of what the blond woman had to say.

"But, Iím glad I did, from what Iíve learned from Sal and now talking with you, I take it the young woman the papers refer to is Jonathanís daughter?" Mrs. Jacobs asked. Rita nodded trying to read the other womanís eyes to see where she was headed with this information.

"I expected as much from that man. He is just a pure evil person and the way he treated his daughter is criminal. He use to laugh when heíd tell me how he was able to keep his kid in line, actually proud of his parenting skills. Parenting skills my foot! It was nothing but plain intimidation and abuse. He manipulated and terrorized the girl her entire life!" the woman finished irate.

Rita began to breathe again and actually began to have hope once again. Sal, a normally gruff and outspoken individual, reached over and squeezed the Mrs. Jacobís hand in support. The attorney opened her eyes to see the woman smiled back at him, Ďmaybe there was hope for all of them

"She was there that day you know?" Mrs. Jacobs inquired looking at the attorney. Rita nodded and her heart went out to the woman as she painfully walked through her story.

"It was the day he got what he wanted and had no use for strings, he let me know as much. When he pushed me down the stairs, the girl had come running out into the hall and looked at me with such compassion and, I donít know, kindred sympathy I guess. Iíll never forget that look on her face and I still wonder how such a monster could produce a gentle soul like her." Mrs. Jacobs looked up at Rita who fought back the tears that burned her eyes.

"She is very special" Rita agreed quietly and reached for her water in a nervous attempt to maintain control.

"Yes" the older woman responded and sat back. The silence extended as each womanís thoughts gravitated to the young redhead in question.

"So now what?" Sal asked the attorney, breaking the silence.

Mrs. Jacobís raised her hand to forestall a response from the attorney and answered, "If I can help by testifying about what I know, I will! Neither of you deserve to have that man anywhere near you!" Rita felt a tear escape and roll slowly down her cheek, she made no attempt to brush it away, and looking directly at the older woman she whispered, "Thank you for helping".

The trio sat for another two hours mapping out the older womanís testimony for the following day. They parted with plans to meet at the courthouse early to go over it one more time. Rita instructed Sal to be at the courthouse as soon as it opened to list Mrs. Jacobs as a defense witness.

Rita headed home with the good news, the only dark spot to mar her good humor was the thought of what she would have to do to prepare Hailey for her part in the courtroom. A task that would definitely cause pain to the one person she desperately wanted to protect above all else. ĎHow do I prepare Hailey to testify against the man who has been terrifying her into submission since she was six.í Pulling into the drive she put aside her fear, concentrating on the positive she climbed the steps home.

 

CHAPTER 17

Rita let herself into the apartment to the soft strains of an alto sax and the smell of cooking. She hadnít had more than coffee up until now, she had been too nervous to eat at the meeting. It was almost 3 p.m. and she was starved for food and the company of a certain redhead.

"Oh, youíve got it bad girl!" she mumbled to herself and smiling went in search of the later. The redhead in question was stirring a pot on the stove and swaying to the seductive notes of the music. Rita stood in the doorway entranced as the hips wove a dance of desire.

"Are you going to stand there staring, or are you going to join me?"

Rita snapped out of her fantasizing with a blush at being caught. Hailey had remained stirring her creation without turning around.

"If I did, we certainly wouldnít get any work done today" the attorney replied dryly.

"You know what they say about all work and no play?" Hailey retorted, shutting off the burner and turning around to face her friend. Rita stood trying to think of a quick comeback but couldnít and the redhead chuckled lightly before asking, "So than tell me what happened".

Rita let out a breath; relieved that the subject had changed to one she was more prepared to handle. She led a slow smile spread from ear to ear and answered, "Weíve got him!"

Hailey was stunned and answered, "We do?"

"Yeah, by the short hairs! Not only do we have women to testify to his regular Ďcounseling sessionsí" she replied quirking an eyebrow for emphasis, "but, we have the woman you saw your father push down the stairs. She is willing to testify to embezzlement, fraud and possible murder, although the later would be hearsay" Rita finished wondering how she could possible get that little tidbit of information to come out in the courtroom.

Haileyís face lit up as all she was hearing finally registered and before Rita knew it she had her arms full of a very excited and very happy redhead. They danced around the kitchen for moment before contentedly holding each other tightly.

Hailey leaned up kissing the side of her attorneyís check before resting her head against the taller womanís shoulder and softly asking, "The murder, was it my mother?" Rita tightened her hold as the warm breath caressed her neck and spoke, "yes, but itís hearsay, she can only relate what your father told her. Iím afraid it wonít hold much weight in court".

"Not even with my testimony to back it up?"

Rita pulled back to face the shorter woman but, kept her within the circle of her arms. "We need to discuss your testimony".

Hailey dropped her arms and stepped back, she had been dreading this time, afraid she wouldnít be able to hold up in her fatherís presence. Rita reached over to raise the womanís chin, looking deep into tense green eyes she whispered, "I know you can do this. Iíll be there the whole time and brushed a soft kiss on the full lips beneath those worried eyes. Taking Haileyís hand she led her to the living room, depositing the young woman on the couch, went to retrieve her briefcase.

The attorney paced back and forth as she questioned the young woman before her. They had been at this for almost an hour. Rita would sense that Hailey was at her breaking point and hated what she was doing and, what she still had to do.

"Let me see if I have this straight, you turned your back on a loving home life to live on your own?" she asked coldly.

"Yes" came a tired response, Ďloving home, yeah right!í A pool of piranhas came to the womanís mind but, Hailey knew to keep the answers short and not to let the other attorney "bait her" into saying more.

"Did you start soliciting to support yourself before or after your father offered to help you?"

"What?" Hailey shouted, "I never solicited anyone and my fatherís only offer was to set-up the whole charade! Ask him! Ask him if was knew those two men who said I was hooking! Ask my attorney!"

Rita could tell she was cracking and went in for the kill. "Yes, letís talk about your attorney. Isnít it true that she has taken your relationship with her beyond the attorney-client stage? Isnít is also true that she has manipulated you into believing she is in love with you just so you would go come into court with false accusations against your father! Isnít it true you think your are also in love with Rita too!" The attorney leaned into the confused face for emphasis, it had the desired effect and the redhead began top shake.

Hailey felt trapped and could feel herself coming apart and cried out, "Yes! No! Yes, I love her!"

Hailey slapped a hand over her mouth when she realized what she had said. Tears began to stream down the young womanís face and the look of pain in her eyes was more than the attorney could bear. Throwing down her legal pad she sat on the couch and pulled the sobbing woman into her arms and said, "Itís o.k. Iíve got you. Iím so sorry I had to do this to you." ĎI love you too and Iíd gladly shout it from the rooftops. But, they will only use it against youí.

Hailey sobbed and burrowed deeper in the taller womanís arms. "I know I said the wrong thing and I messed everything up!" Rita reclined back with the young woman still head firmly in her arms and soothed, "No, each time we do this you get stronger and stronger. Weíre both just tired right now and need to get some sleep. Weíll go through it one more time in the morning." The raven-haired woman squeezed her friend one more time and stood to put some distance between them. She didnít trust herself to be closer for what she had to say next. Walking over to her briefcase she shuffled papers in an attempt to keep her back to the young woman, there was no other way she reasoned.

"Things have gotten a little out of hand here and the article in the newspaper was a strong wake up call for me" pausing to take a deep breath Rita gripped the edge of the table, ĎGod! How do I say this without hurting her? My heart is screaming one thing and my head another but; I must if she is to survive tomorrow. This canít be about me!í

Rita turned to face Hailey and continued, "I want you to listen to me and understand what I am saying o.k."

Hailey looked up confused, "Iím listening".

ĎWeíve gotten close these past few weeks. I want you to know you have become a friend, a good friend but, there canít be anything more than that. If you want to stop this case right now say so, because I donít want you to go into that courtroom tomorrow under any false understandings between us. You have to do this for you, not for us because, there isnít any us outside of friendship. Do you understand what I am saying?" she finished quietly.

Haileyís reaction went from confusion to pain to finally anger. "I understand everything" the redhead responded coldly, "youíre my attorney and nothing more. But, you listen to me now. Iím still going through this, with or without your assistance. I will not give that bastard one more victory. Heís already won too much as it is!"

Hailey stood shaking, her fists clenched at her side and Ritaís heart broke all over again, dropping her head she quietly replied, "O.k., weíll go over your testimony again in the morning".

"Fine. Good night counselor" Hailey replied and walked stiffly to her room. Rita threw her legal pad across the room and turned looking around to vent her anger. Realizing the futility of this she wearily sat down and laid her head back. "Damn!"

 

CHAPTER 18

Hailey sat on the edge of the bed in stunned silence, her mind kept telling her she should be angry but, her heart told her something wasnít right. There was more to what Rita was saying than just the words, even as painful as their initial shock had been, she kept remembering the anguish in those blue eyes. ĎBut, why would she say those things if she didnít mean them, she had nothing to lose by letting me believe it was something moreí. She held onto that thought and her anger as she prepared to bed. As hard as she tired to put it aside and go to sleep, her mind continued to go over Ritaís pronouncement and, the light of dawn found her no closer to an answer.

 

The following morning Rita spent an hour going back over Haileyís testimony. The young womanís responses were curt and decisive with a touch of anger but, overall, there was the underlying strength that she had needed for todayís ordeal. As they silently drove to the courthouse, the attorney silently pleaded of her friend, ĎI hope you will be able to forgive me when this is all over. Iím doing this because I "do" love you!"

They arrived to court in time to receive the worse blow of the day. Sal was pacing as he waited for Rita, "I tried calling you but, you had already left. When I tried to add Marie to our list of witness this morning, they told me she was already on the prosecutions list as a possible, and now they are moving her up to the number two spot, right after the two johnís".

"Shit!"

Their star witness was already scheduled to testify for the other side. Rita couldnít introduce her as part of her case and would have to lead off the case on a different approach. ĎSo much for Plan Aí Rita thought nervously, Ďon to Plan B?í

The prosecution, lead by none other than DA Steve Larson, who quickly laid out the solicitation charge and tried to muddy the water with innuendo of past unstable behavior possibly culminating from drug abuse. They painted Jonathan Richards as a desperately caring father who, in the past, has done everything he could to help his daughter, playing heavily on the death of her mother as his role as both father and mother. They also introduced the finding of drugs in the young womanís apartment and the judge allowed this evidence to be held for further consideration. The newspaper article was also used to cite one of many problems the young woman was facing.

On more than one occasion, Rita had to place a hand on her clients arm to stop her from responding to obvious lies, especially when her mother was mentioned. At that time Rita glanced over and saw the Reverend sitting in the first row and when he looked over and smiled at the defense table, Rita eyes spat, ĎBastard!í

Hailey fumed as she sat and listened to the lies being accepted as truth in the courtroom. Ritaís presence next to her was stiff and unyielding except for the one occasion when she had calmly reached over to stop her from speaking out. The touch had instantly calmed her and Hailey wondered how the attorney could still have that affect on her. Despite numerous objections from the defense table, the court had heard enough to begin to formulate a negative opinion of Hailey.

Rita took her opening statement cue from the prosecution and systematically addressed each issue with alternative possibilities and truths. By lunchtime, she had instilled doubt in the court mind as to what exactly was the womanís crime. Rita told of an adult who had finally struck out on her own, securing a good job in her field of training. She would also prove that the problems that had befallen the young woman were not due to her actions but, those of her father in his attempt to keep the young woman under his control. Rita told the court that Hailey was an adult and should be allowed to live her own life after all, she shouldnít live off the generosity of her father forever.

Rita raised an eyebrow back to the table in warning when she saw her clientís reaction to her statement. Hailey quickly recovered and looked blankly ahead. Rita skirted the issue of the article and concluded that lies and hearsay should hold no sway if truth and justice were to hold firm.

The courtroom recessed for lunch and Rita sent Hailey with Sal to get something to eat while Rita was called to the judgeís chambers. She had an idea what this was about and was prepared to face whatever accusations the prosecution would present. She entered the judgeís chambers and faced her old boss. "Hello Steve".

"Rita" he replied stiffly before turning to the judge and handing him the famous newspaper article. "Your honor, I think you should also be made aware that Ms. Anthos is no longer an employee of the prosecutors office. She tendered her resignation after discussion on the propriety of a client living with her attorney. At the time I felt, and I still do, that her client should have returned to her home until conclusion of this case. At that time, they could do whatever they like personally. The DAís office policy forbids on any inappropriate contact between employees or clients."

Rita looked over at the DA and smirked, "Was this policy instituted before or after I refused to sleep with you?"

"Be careful Ms. Andros or I will have you on slander charges faster than you think!" the DA threatened.

"Your honor Mr. Larson has repeatedly harassed me and threatened my job if I continued to pursue this case for my client. I told him then and I am telling you now that there is no relationship between my client and myself outside of friendship. I, unlike, Mr. Larson have work ethics that I adhere to and one of them is that I donít get involved personally with anyone with whom I am working on a case, be it client or employee".

The DA turned red and began to sputter, "How dare you."

"Thatís about enough children. Letís stick to the facts of this case and keep the personal attacks out of my courtroom" the judge boomed and sat forward pointing a finger at the two counselors. "Right now I see no basis for any impropriety but, since this has already been alluded to in my courtroom and the client is residing in your home counselor, I will allow questioning as this present situation, within reason. But, both of you had better be on notice. If I see this becoming a circus, Iíll have your asses in contempt faster than you can spell it. Do I make myself clear Mr. Larson? Ms. Anthos?"

A small victory for the prosecution but, what really worried Rita, was Mrs. Jacobís testimony.

 

 

CHAPTER 19

After lunch recess the prosecution paraded a host of characters to relate their first hand fabricated experiences of Haileyís unwarranted outbursts and drug use. Ritaís biggest victory thus far, was in the testimony of the two men accusing her of soliciting them for sex. She found holes in their stories and shredded them until they were questionable even to the hardest Reverend Richardís fan. The prosecution called their final witness Mrs. Marie Jacobs.

Mrs. Jacobís took the stand calmly and looked apologetically over at Rita before focusing her attention on the DA. As Steve Larson questioned the older woman, Rita found that he did so not because she had any first hand information, as most of his line of questioning was objectionable as hearsay. Instead, he proceeded to defame her as a woman who had been scorned by the Reverend after her repeated harassment of the man. She wasnít on the stand as a witness for the prosecution; she was purposely being tainted so she couldnít be a creditable one for the defense. Rita could only conclude that the Reverend was indeed worried at how much damage her testimony could actually cause him, and the attorney planned her cross-examination accordingly.

Mrs. Jacobís held her own through the DAís questions, even after repeated baiting, she refused to give in and lose her temper. She stuck calmly to the facts and repeatedly answered "no" when asked if she forced herself upon the good Reverend to get revenge on her husband for his infidelities.

"No, the Ďgood reverendí approached me and I finally gave in!" she replied after one particularly nasty verbal bashing. There were snickers in the courtroom and the judge rapped his gavel for order and replied "I think that will be about enough Mr. Larson". The DA cut his losses and sat down.

Now, it was Ritaís turn to make her final case, she had watched in fascination at the many doors Steve had left open for her to pursue with his line of questioning and, she got up and walked right through the front door. Rita began by walking through Mrs. Jacobís background regarding her dissolution of her marriage and ultimate divorce, which was already happening before the affair with Reverend Richards. Rita paused to take a deep breath and proceeded towards the heart of their defense case, and hoped the judge would not derail her line questioning.

"Mrs. Jacobís, you stated that you were a frequent visitor to the Reverendís home, is that correct?"

"Yes".

"You also testified that the Reverend confided his affairs to you in private? Is that also correct?" Rita asked.

"Yes, on many occasions".

"Did the Reverend ever tell you anything about his daughterís behavior?"

"Objection! Hearsay your honor!" the DA bellowed.

"Sustained. Rephrase your question counselor" the judge ordered.

"Yes, your honor" Rita replied and paused for a moment.

"Mrs. Jacobs, were you ever witness to any of the defendants behavior that has been related in the courtroom today?"

 

"No. I saw the young woman on three occasions and each time she was polite and very quiet".

"Mrs. Jacobs, at any time did the Reverend display any unusual violent outbursts?" Rita asked casually as her heart rate leaped in response to the courts possibly reaction.

"Objection your honor, the Reverend isnít the one on trial here!" Mr. Larson stood leaning dangerously over the desk in front of him in his exuberance to stop this line of questioning.

"Overruled Mr. Larson, tit-for-tat. If you can ask so can the defense" the judge pronounced. "But, get to your point Ms. Andros".

Rita nodded and turned to the woman on the stand asking, "Would you like to have the question read back to you?"

"No, itís not necessary, the answer is yes! I was a first-hand observer to his anger. The last time we met he pushed me down the stairs!" she replied looking directly at the Reverend who was whispering frantically to the DA.

ĎWeíre off and running now!í Rita suppressed a grin and waited for the courtroom to settle down.

"Objection your honor, what is the relevance?" the DA asked trying to quiet the Reverend and get him to sit back behind the rail.

"Overruled, I am going to allow this line of questioning provided the defense can tie this up quickly". The judge looked at Rita to proceed.

"Your honor, Iím just trying to provide a basis for what violent and usual behavior is termed in the Reverendís household" Rita simply replied.

"Continue!" The judge shifted to hide his satisfaction, Ďthe golden haired boy sure got himself in deep this time and the beauty is tearing him up!í Still a firm believer that children should obey their parents and that young girl in question was no different but, he liked to see the DA taken back to school on basic fundamentals. ĎYou donít just waltz into a courtroom spouting accusations without being able to support them!í

Rita continued questioning Mrs. Jacobs about the events of that evening and was able to get the court to hear what she wanted them to, including possible embezzlement of church funds on the Reverendís part. Mrs. Jacobís was finally dismissed and the prosecution had no further witnesses. It now came down to the defense and ultimately to Hailey.

If there were any way Rita could avoid putting her companion up there she would have done it. Not because of and testimony regarding their relationship but, just to keep her friend from having to relive her nightmare all over again, especially in her fatherís presence. Rita leaned over and lightly squeezed Haileyís leg. "O.k., here we go, just remain calm and answer truthfully" she whispered and looked eyes with the woman in a silent show of strength and support. Hailey looked back into bright blue eyes and blinked without comment.

Rita stood and called Hailey to the stand and watched as her friend made her way to the front of the courtroom. As the young woman passed her she wanted to reach out and shelter her from what was coming but instead, silently watched as the young woman stepped up to the stand and sat down.

"Ms. Richardís how old are you?" Rita asked right off.

"Iím twenty-five years old".

"And are you employed?"

"Yes, I work as a physical therapist at St. Maryís Medical Center" Hailey replied clearly.

"How long have you worked at St. Maryís?"

"A little over a month" Hailey responded keeping her eyes focused on deep blue orbs they radiated calmness of a gentle sea.

"And is everything secure at your job?"

"I must be doing well because they want me back when this is all over" she responded confidently.

"Is it your employerís policy to do random drug screening of its employees?" Rita asked.

Hailey nodded her head and replied, "Yes, there is a screening at pre-employment and then they randomly do them throughout the year. I had a random one about two weeks after I started".

"When would that have been?" the attorney asked.

"Last week."

"You honor, I would like to submit Ms. Richards employment record into evidence to support these tests".

"So noted counselor" the judge indicated to the bailiff to accept the papers.

Rita then walked Hailey through the responsibility involved in her job and her desire for independence at this stage in her life. After setting this tone Rita got down to the meat of the issue.

"Could you please tell this court about the night in question, the night you moved out of your fatherís house?" Rita asked clearly letting her eyes say what her mouth could not.

The Reverend leaned over and furiously spoke to the DA who attempted to calm him down once again. ĎThey had to wait their turn and there was nothing he could object about yet.í

Hailey retold of the conversation she heard between her father and Mrs. Jacobís up until she saw him push her down the stairs. "I thought she was different from fatherís usual ladies and was surprised to see him treat her so badly" Hailey commented innocently.

Rita jumped right in at the opening and continued, "Other women?"

"Oh yes, my father had numerous women over to the house but, most of them took their money and left without incident".

"Objection your honor! This has nothing whatsoever to do with this case!" the DA cried.

"Sustained! Ms. AndrosÖ." The judge warned quietly.

The raven-haired attorney winked over so slightly at Hailey and, if she hadnít been watching the blue eyes so intently, she would have missed it all together.

"No further questions, your honor!" Rita called out and took her seat keeping her eyes on green ones that were drawing strength for the next phase of questioning.

 

 

CHAPTER 20

"Ms. Richards we all know that parents can be over protective of their children but, thatís just because they love them right?" The DA asked smiling like an old friend.

"Some" Hailey replied steadily refusing to look over at her father.

"You donít think your father loves you?" the DA asked astonished.

"I donít know heís never told me" the young woman answered truthfully.

"But isnít it true that heís sent you to all the finest schoolís and has been both mother and father to you since your motherís suicide?" he baited.

"Yes, he sent me away to school" Hailey admitted.

"Even after all the trouble you got into, he still loved you enough to make sure you were safe" the DA badgered.

"Objection! Juvenile records are inadmissible!" Rita cringed knowing that the court would still take this evidence into consideration.

"Iíll allow the question. Mr. Larson be careful how far you tread with this line of questioning" the judge warned and turned to Hailey, "Please answer the question".

"My father sent me to St. Michaelís, hardly a world class institution" Hailey replied hotly. ĎDonít lose it now Honey, hang in there!í the attorney prayed.

"Isnít it true it was the only school that would take you under the given circumstances?" the DA countered.

"Objection!" Rita stood shouting.

"Where are you going with this counselor?" the judge peered down at the DA not in the happiest of moods.

"Your Honor, the court must take her past history of relationships into consideration in order to understand the present dangers involved" the DA explained.

"Proceed but, if I find you stepping outside of the line, y our through do we have an understanding?" the judge admonished.

"Thank you your Honor". Larson turned back to Hailey and smiled like the predator that he was. "Please answer the question".

Haileyís response brought a tightening to Ritaís chest and she silently moaned, ĎOh, no!í

"Do you mean my being gay? I didnít know that qualified as a disease to be locked away!"

"It is if you were constantly getting into trouble at school because of it! Isnít it true you were expelled from a prestigious all-girls academy because of your indulgences?" the DA peppered.

"No, my father removed me when he felt I wasnít getting the education he thought suitable for me" Hailey answered right back unfazed at the look on Ritaís face.

"So now it seems your sexual escapades have landed you in this courtroom, isnít that so?" the DA accused.

"No! My fatherís warped idea of love did this! He planned and executed this farce to get me to return home!"

"Are you trying to tell the court that your father planned all this just so you would move back home? He asked with feigned interest.

"Thatís exactly what I am saying. He has tried to manipulated me my entire life!" Hailey retorted angrily. Rita sat back and closed her eyes unable to stop the young woman and unable to defend her either but, at the next question, her eyes popped open and she unbreathing, watched the scene play out before her.

"Isnít it true you are currently in a relationship with your attorney?" the DA asked smugly.

"Iím not sure what your sick mind considers a Ďrelationshipí Sir but, we are friends and nothing more!" Hailey seethed as her face clenched angrily. She didnít want to have to explain herself or her feelings to anyone, much less a courtroom.

"Are you saying that youíve never slept together, after all you living in the same household and you, yourself admitted to being gay!" he threw at her.

Hailey caught herself before responding, Ďunlike men, women are able to sleep in under the same roof without being in the same bed!í Taking a deep breath she looked over into blue eyes and calmly answered.

"It is true I am staying in her guestroom but, we are not lovers. Just because I am gay doesnít mean I sleep with all women. Rita is not in love with me, why would we sleep together? Unlike some people, Iím not into casual sex! She finished sarcastically.

"Not even for services rendered today?" the DA sniped. Hailey responded before Rita could object. "No thatís more my fatherís style than mine!"

The courtroom burst out into laughter and the judge restored order as the DAís face deepened.

"You seem to love to take shots at your fatherís generosity and all heís tried to do for you" the DA recovered trying to swing the sympathy back to his side.

"Done for me?" Hailey snorted too amazed to say more.

"You are an ungrateful, spoilt child. After all your father has been through trying to be a father and, then a mother to since she cowardly took her own life".

Hailey saw red at that remark and had to focus on tiny blue glowing orbs in an effort to retain herself. The blue quickly deepened and Hailey felt a sense of peace for the first time in her life and calmly looked over and replied.

"She wasnít a coward, she didnít commit suicide".

"How do you know?" the DA asked laughingly.

"Because my father told me so" came the quiet, steady reply.

Larson sat in his chair in stunned silence as the courtroom broke out into chaos and he knew this case was lost and so was his future as the DA.

The Reverend, silent until now, leaped to his feet and through the gate to stand before his daughter pointing. "Jezebel, you are an abomination unto the father, just as your mother was before she was sent home to be forgiven!" Before anyone could stop him he leaped at the young woman, grabbing her around the throat shouting, "Ask for forgiveness of the father when you see him. I send you likewise to be judged!"

The Reverendís fingers on Hailey were like a steel vise as she tried to pry the fingers away from her throat. Slowly she felt blackness overtake her and she whispered for Rita.

Rita was the first to come to her senses and leaped around the defense table to grab the insane man from behind. She dug her fingers in his arms to release his hold on Hailey. The womanís face was quickly draining of color and when she slumped down, the man lost his grip and Rita wrenched him free. Pulling him backwards she kneed him in the groin before slamming her fist into the side of his face.

 

 

CHAPTER 21

Hailey awoke to a soothing voice in her ear and the feeling of strong arms protecting her. Green eyes flashed open in fear, but soon calmed down when they met a shining blue oasis. Rita leaned down and kissed the lips of the one person in the world she truly loved. The redhead tried to sit up and look around and realized she was lying across the attorneyís lap on a black leather couch. Rita smiled down and soothed, "Shh- were in the judges chambers, alone".

"What happened?" Hailey rasped and touched her throat where it burned and lightly fingered the sensitive skin as she looked up for answers.

"They took your father away a little while ago and the bailiff carried you in here. Weíre waiting for the doctor to check you out" Rita explained without going into any details. There was time enough for that later, time to tell her how she had panicked and tried to resuscitate her friend until Sal had whispered in her ear, ĎEnough Rita, sheís been breathing on her own all along!í Rita still flushed thinking about it.

"I think Iím going to want to hear it" Hailey whispered when she saw the flush of her friends face. Rita smiled and leaned over to lightly kiss the bruised areas on her neck.

"Iím sorry" the raven-haired woman whispered when she pulled away and looked down into Green eyes intently.

"I just want you to know thatÖ.I love you very, very much and if you want me to shout it down the halls I will. I donít give a fig for my career. I almost lost you!" she closed her eyes as she felt a tear escape from the corner. Opening her eyes she looked down uncaring who saw the tears that rolled down her cheeks.

"I realized nothing, nothing is more important in my life anymore but you. Can you forgive me?" Rita questioned searchingly.

"There is nothing to forgive and I understand now that you said those things to protect me. If anyone should apologize it should be me for getting you into all this. But then if I hadnít, I never would have fallen in love with you" Hailey whispered painfully though her sore throat.

"No more talking!" Rita ordered when she saw the younger woman wince trying to swallow. Hailey nodded and sat up pulling the womanís face to herís and kissing her in response. The broke their connection when they heard a knock at the door followed by the judge and another man, presumably the doctor.

The judge pulled Rita aside as the doctor began his examination. He told the attorney that all charges were being dropped and that the Reverend had confessed to everything, including the murder of his wife. He was currently under psychiatric observation but, the prognosis for his ever-facing trail was slim, he would probably be remanded to lock down in a psychiatric facility for a long time.

"Have you ever thought of heading the DA office?" The judge asked Rita. Rita looked up shocked and confused and shook her head no. "You might want to consider it. I have a feeling there will be a vacancy soon and youíd definitely have my vote" he replied and shook her hand before going back into his courtroom to hear his next case.

Rita smiled broadly at the compliment and turned to where the doctor was finishing up with Hailey. She listed as the doctor told Hailey to use her voice as little as possible over the next few days and to get plenty of rest and quiet.

Rita lifted an eyebrow in response when the redhead looked over her way grinning micheviously. The doctor left the office and they were alone again. Rita stood looking over at Hailey smiling.

"I knowÖ. Iím fired!" she replied dryly.

The redhead seductively nodded her head in silent affirmation.

 

 The End.

K. Stoley

 

††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† HOME