Come night, come day
Come whatever may
I’ll forever be haunted
By words I’ll never say
Paul Mason screamed as I was questioning his client. It was his third objection in twenty seconds, a new record in the city. The previous record was also held by him, twenty four seconds. I waved at him with a cheerful smile, which he received with a murderous glare. His eyes were bright, his breathing heavy, and he stood in a posture that made him look as if he was still deciding whether to sit or stand. For the twelve years I have been a lawyer, I had never seen a funnier sight.
“Overruled!” Judge Morgan yelled in an exasperated tone. “Really Mr Mason, I see no point in your objections! You’re simply wasting the court’s time. If I hear you objecting one more time, I’ll hold you in contempt!” Then he turned to me, “You may continue Mr Booth, and try not to give Mr Mason a reason to object the roof off.”
“With pleasure, your honour,” I replied smoothly enough while slightly bowing my head. I then focused on Matthew Ross, Mason’s client, a fifty year-old charged with sexually abusing Tabitha Johnson, a twenty-three year-old. The first time I saw him I knew he was guilty, the only problem was proving it. Until now.
“Okay I’ll do everyone a favour here and not waste any time. Mr Ross, where were you the night Miss Johnson was assaulted?”
“The Blood lust Club”
“Same club where the victim was?”
“I suppose so, yeah”
“Did you have any form of contact with her?”
“Not that I can remember, no”
“That’s funny, because I have a video recording here that shows you leaving the club, at around midnight with your arm wrapped around Miss Johnson’s waist,” I stated calmly as I played the video which confirmed my statement.
“That doesn’t prove anything,” he retorted with a nasty smirk that I was itching to smack off his face.
“You’re right it doesn’t, but this does,” I said while pulling out a tape recorder that I set in front of him, played it, and watched the whole court gasp in shock as the voice of Matthew Ross emanated from the tape, bragging about how he did what he did to Tabitha. He looked at the tape dumbstruck, disbelief etched all over his face.
“How did you get this?” He spluttered.
“‘Hell hath no fury than a woman’s scorn’. If you’re going to rape a woman, you dog, make sure you’re wife doesn’t know.”
It barely took ten minutes for the jury to unanimously reach a guilty verdict. Ross was taken away while yelling about how he’ll have my head on a platter as soon as he gets out. Get in line, I thought. Everyone I met on the way congratulated me on my win. I smiled at them with a smile I perfected in the mirror. I won, I contemplated, but it’ll always feel like I’ve lost. Always.
I spent the rest of the day in my office reading another case and preparing for a deposition that was due the following day. It was well after sunset when I finished up and realised I was the only one left in our firm. Taking this opportunity. I pulled out a black leather-bound journal from the bottom drawer of my desk and began writing:
The walls have started to crack and crumble. I can feel the darkness that I have kept at bay for so long slowly begin to consume my soul. For ten years now I have fought a good fight, but I can fight no longer. I fear that I shall snap and do something terrible. I need help, but who do I go to? Where can I find someone who’ll save me from myself?
A knock was heard on the door. I shouted for the visitor to come in, and a very beautiful lady stepped in. She had a South American look about her and her eyes reminded me of fresh leaves that burst forth during the first light of spring. She was wearing a black business suit with a white shirt and black heels. I stood up in reception, fumbling for words as she walked towards me, a slight smile playing on her lips. I finally regained my composure and asked her who she was.
“It doesn’t matter who I am,” she replied in perfectly good English.
“Then how can I help you?” I asked as calm as I could.
“You can help by telling me what you’ve kept to yourself for such a long time,” she answered in the most captivating of voices.
Needless to say I was shocked to speechlessness. I was looking for words to say when she gestured at me to sit, which I did. For the next minute or so we were staring at each other, waiting for one of us to speak. Questions raced through my tired mind, none of which I could lend a voice. The woman looked at me with a calm expression, that slight smile of hers ever present. It continued like this until she said, “Mr Booth, for so long you have lived in a state of loneliness and anxiety. Right now as I look at you, I can sense that you’re on the verge of imploding. Let me help you, tell me your story.”
I didn’t know who she was or where she came from. All I know was that I could trust her, my gut was right on this one. This is it, I thought, this is what I’ve been asking for. I cleared my throat, “They say sometimes it takes one decision to completely turn your life around. Well, my decision, or in this case indecision, advanced my career, but ended my life,” I began as I took out from the back pages of my journal, a photo of a teenage girl I murdered ten years ago…
“We hereby find the defendant, Donald Russell, not guilty.”
Cheers and applause of victory were heard all over the courtroom. I looked at Donald and saw him beam at me with pride. All around, people were cheering at me for winning my first big case since I started practicing law, which was two years ago. I was beyond ecstatic.
“Come here you bastard!” Donald exclaimed as he threw himself at me and locked me in an embrace. He couldn’t believe his ears, he said.
“What? You didn’t think I’d win?” I asked mockingly.
“You got balls kid, you got balls I’ll give you that. Nah, I knew you’d win. You reminded me of your father back in his heyday when he was a lawyer too. He’d be proud of you if he were around to see this. His son finally becomes a man!”
These words of praise were good enough to move me to tears, which I wiped off quickly before too many people took notice. I sincerely thanked him for the trust and faith he had placed in me, for giving me a chance to prove myself as a good a lawyer and told him that I’d never let him, or anyone else I cared about, down from now on.
“No need to thank me son, it was the least I could do for your old man, God bless his soul. He always looked out for me back in the day and I’m not ashamed to admit that if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” then he yelled above the noise in the courtroom, “Hey everybody! Three cheers for this badass here!”
Three cheers soon resonated throughout. I was hoisted on people’s shoulders and carried outside while news people and cameramen rushed towards me to ask some questions and take some pictures. I was happy enough to answer them. I didn’t know it would take an hour for them to finish up, after which they left me alone on the stone steps of the courthouse. It was then that I noticed two women hatefully staring at me.
They were puffy-eyed and tear tracks stained their cheeks. It was a mother and her daughter, Lily and Tracy Sullivan. Lily was the one who filed a lawsuit against Donald, claiming that he sexually abused her sixteen year-old daughter. I ripped them to shreds on the stand, mercilessly rebuking their claims and making them look like frauds who were simply trying to extort Donald. He was a very rich man, so this wasn’t the first time he had received claims of this nature, claims that were proven to be unsubstantial due to inconclusive evidence.
Mrs Sullivan slowly approached me with her daughter, holding her in her arm while clutching her hands to hers. She was clearly struggling to find some words, until Tracy burst to tears again.
“I hope you are happy, Mr Booth,” she said, slowly pronouncing every word through gritted teeth. “I hope you are happy, for ruining our reputation, our lives. Everywhere we go now, people will think we’re liars, extortionists-”
“Mrs Sullivan-” I started.
“Don’t you interrupt me you heartless piece of trash!” She cut me off with venomous fire in her eyes. Then she took something out from her pocket and threw it at my feet. It was a picture of Tracy. “One day you’ll know the truth, and I pray to God it comes soon. Because when you realise you set a monster free, this picture will serve as a reminder for what you’ve done, for the piece of scum you really are. And don’t bother coming to me for forgiveness, because I will never forgive you. Good day.”
When they went away, I picked up the photo. What a pretty girl, I mused. She was your typical blonde-haired, blue-eyed American teenage sweetheart. Her freckled nose made her look prettier. I got in my car and sat there for what felt like an eternity, staring at the picture. I soon started having second thoughts about what I did. What if I was wrong about Donald? I’ve known the man my entire life, there was no way he really was what he was accused of being. But what if he was? What if…?
My buzzing cell phone interrupted my speculations. It was Donald.
“Michael, my boy! Listen, I forgot to tell you, I’m hosting a party this Friday night and I’d like you to be there. I’ll introduce you to my friends who’ll introduce you to theirs. What d’ya say?”
“That’s great, I’ll be delighted to come.”
“Very good! I’m telling you kid, your career has taken off and you’re reaching for the stars! Okay I’ll see you on Friday, take care.”
“Yeah. You too.”
I looked at Tracy’s picture again. I don’t have time for this, I thought as I stowed it in my dashboard and drove away.
“Ladies and gentlemen I’ll make this short,” Donald began after delicately tapping his champagne glass with a fork. “Tonight we eat, drink and make merry in the name of Michael Booth. So raise your glasses and let’s make a toast to his health and future. Cheers!”
Everyone replied in unison and the band resumed playing. Jazz, my favourite. He then showed me around his huge mansion and introduced me to his colleagues and friends. After two hours of talking and smiling until my cheeks hurt, I excused myself to the bathroom.
“Sure, help yourself to any of the rooms upstairs. Don’t be too long or I’ll come looking for you!” He replied with a bark of laughter.
I took the stairs two at a time and randomly chose a room, which happened to be Donald’s study. I got in and finished my business. As I was about to leave I noticed something odd. One of the bookshelves was slightly out of place and a soft red light could be seen emanating from behind it. What would Donald need a secret room for? I pondered curiously.
Getting in, I discovered it to be a red room of photography. As I observed the photos closely, my eyes widened in shock and I staggered backwards, not believing what I had seen. Photos of young children dressed in sexually provocative attire were hung in lines. Others had nothing on but a leash around their necks. It was horrible. I gaped my mouth in terror as each image became more extreme than the last. “My God,” I said.
“Your God, not mine.”
I quickly turned around to see Donald standing at the entrance, bathed in red, fittingly revealing his true colours for the first time.
“What the Hell is this Donald?” I screamed. I was trembling from head to toe, more out of fear than rage.
“This is exactly what it looks like. I was hoping you wouldn’t use my study to answer your call of nature, but it’s too late now,” he spoke with a coldness that sent a shiver down my spine. His face was empty, except for a slight sneer, as if he was daring me to make a move.
“I will report you,” I said, though not convincingly. This made Donald double up in laughter.
As soon as he was done laughing, he continued talking, “Report me? You think people will believe you? What proof do you have? You think I’ll let you get away with those pictures? You’re not smart, are you?”
I began feeling dizzy and saw the room spinning until I got down on all fours and retched everything I had consumed in the party. “You sick Fuck!” I yelled as soon as I spit out the remainder of my dinner.
“Look around you kid! This world is run by sick Fucks like me! Half of the people in this party do what I do, some even worse. And you know why nothing has been done about it? Because there is nothing that can be done, we’re friggin’ untouchable boy!” He spat as his face contorted in pure disgust. He fell silent for a moment, then he continued, “Go ahead, report me. I’ll have you disbarred and on the streets before you can say ‘Mommy’.”
I pushed him out of the way and quickly walked out of the mansion. Bringing my car to life, I drove home, all the while thinking I must report him, I must report him, I must report him…
“But you didn’t report him, did you?” The stranger asked me with a tinge of grief in her voice.
I wasn’t looking at her, but I could sense her eyes on me. I was busy staring at a clock on the wall, listening to its tick-tock sound as my finger tapped the desk in rhythm. Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.
“No,” I replied after a long pause. “I didn’t. I spent a month deliberating on what to do, whether to report Donald or not. I was barely thirty at that time, my career was finally heading in the right direction. Ending it before it even truly began was something I couldn’t bring myself to do. However, my conscience got the better of me and I decided to go with it, but I was too late. I received a call informing me that Tracy Sullivan had killed herself. Her mother found her hanged from the ceiling of her bedroom. She used her bed sheets. It turns out after losing the case, she blamed herself and sank in depress…” my voice trailed off. I had a hard time continuing. My throat was constricted, my eyes were misty. Oh, if only tears could bring back the dead! I lamented.
I cleared my throat and resumed, “She sunk in depression, according to her mother. I wanted to attend her funeral, but I didn’t have the courage. How could I, when I was the one responsible for her death? Her blood is on my hands and that is something I can never get past. Lily Sullivan was right, I am scum. And this picture of Tracy I have is a stern reminder of how cruel the world truly is, and how sometimes we lack enough power to change it. For ten years I have been living in misery, deliberately depriving myself of anything that would make me happy. Because there is no way I can afford to live a good life when I had destroyed someone else’s.
“But all of this stems from the fact that I hesitated to do the right thing. If I had said something sooner, I’m sure Tracy would still be alive, and I wouldn’t be an emotional screw up.”
Another pause followed. “You’ll forever be haunted by words you never said, and never will,” the stranger said, more to herself than to me, I observed. Then she continued, “But you don’t have to be. Anyway, I must leave now Mr Booth, I’m needed somewhere else.”
I didn’t have the energy to talk anymore, so I just nodded. I went to the door and opened it for her. Before she left she came as close to me as she could and planted her soft lips on my cheek. Then and there I could feel all the pain and anguish I had kept inside me leave in an instant. The tension that gave me sleepless nights vanished and I could breathe freely for the first time in a decade. When I looked into her eyes again, I noticed that they were a pair of coals now. I could sense a lot of pain in those eyes, pain that belonged to a thousand other people before me. Clearly I was not the first to be kissed by this lovely lady. I am jealous, I thought.
“When will I see you again?” I asked, because I knew I’d see her again.
“In good time.”
“And when is that?”
“Soon enough,” she replied with a smile and a wink. She then looked beyond my shoulder as if there was something behind me. I turned to follow her line of vision, only to find nothing. I frowned in puzzlement and turned to ask her what she’d seen, but she was no longer there.
Damn she’s good.