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Always faithful. Semper Fi. Captain Phillip Stuart shook his head at the term. Faithful didn't include forcing yourself on young girls, or stealing cash out of your platoon buddies' lockers when they were out at sea on a training mission.
What had the Marine Corps come to? Thieves, murderers, and rapists. The lot of them should be taken out and shot.
Of course, doing so would put military lawyers out of a job. Heaven forbid the little slime balls didn't get a fair trial. Phillip was eternally grateful he no longer dealt with defense cases.
Shifting slightly on the hard courtroom chair, he straightened his papers and listened to the continuing drone of the defense attorney's voice as she pled her client's case. He didn't know why she bothered. The look on the jurors' faces indicated they had already found him guilty. It didn't matter what extenuating or mitigating matters she threw out, her client would go to jail for a very long time. He shifted again and let the squeaking wooden chair show his annoyance.
Laura Cushing shot him a glare from where she stood before the members. Good…he'd broken her concentration. Not easy to do. She was a tough opponent. But this long, drawn out trial stretched all their nerves to the breaking point.
After a few closing words, Laura sat down, looking satisfied with herself. She was good. He was better.
Phillip stretched to his full six-four and flexed his shoulders. With all the stealth of a jaguar stalking its prey, he approached the center of the courtroom.
Intimidate the witness. Impress the members. That was half the battle. A deep breath, a casualglance toward his opponent's table, and then…
He attacked, going straight to the heart of the case. He dissected Laura's defense point by point, pulling apart the pieces with the precision of a surgeon. He let his words drift into the minds of those military members seated as jury. Then with the same lack of speed, he resumed his seat. The chair groaned under his weight.
Phillip sliced a glance at the defense table. The accused sat there, a fresh-faced young man all of nineteen. His big hands were clasped on the table before him as if in prayer. It set Phillip's teeth on edge. What right did he have to pray? Those young girls begged and prayed before he forced himself on them. Had he listened?
Laura snapped to her feet and marched forward to take his place. It was no use. All the golden words she summoned could not save her client. Phillip knew it, and she knew it. And, after thirty minutes of deliberation, the members of the jury and the rest of the courtroom realized it, too.
Phillip listened to the sentence with smug satisfaction. Twenty-five years at Leavenworth. That's what he called justice, although castration might not be a bad idea either.
In the back of the courtroom, one set of parents cried, while the others, those of the victims, sighed with relief. The accused…the guilty let his head drop. It was the only display of emotion he showed. No tears. No regrets. He didn't flinch. Phillip fought the urge to demand if the man felt any remorse for anyone but himself.
Once the judge left the courtroom, the prisoner escort came in. Then the young Marine started bawling. Yeah, he had regrets–that he'd been caught. His father refused to look his way while his mother rushed to his side. She wrapped her arms around him in a hug he refused to return.
Rather than watch the guy be hauled away in shackles, Phillip celebrated his victory with a cigar on the back steps of the military justice building. How many times had he reflected on past and future glories in such a way? Lately, though, the battles more often than not left his stomach sour.
There wasn't much he hadn't heard over his career. Most of it sickened rather than shocked him. Now, prosecuting the rabble of the Marine Corps tired him. Time to climb the next rung on the ladder.
After graduating law school, he'd thought the way shone clear, focused, his career path set. He shook his head. Of course, his goals had been regimented at the time. They were all he had. A means to forget.
Unfortunately, they were still all he had. And Phillip wasn't sure he wanted those same goals anymore.
The door opened behind him. A rush of cool air brushed over his shoulders and back then stopped when the door closed. Phillip knew without looking that it was Laura. He could smell her perfume–that elusive scent which evoked memories of a long-ago time and someone else he wished he could forget.
She dusted off the step and eased down beside him, careful not to snag her hose on the concrete steps. Resting forearms on knees, she stared ahead.
"Congratulations. Another victory for the great and powerful Phillip Stuart."
Copyright © 2002 by Catherine Snodgrass and Bryndis Rubin
Posted January 11, 2014
Emotionally filled with ups and downs of a past relationship and ins and outs of finding a secret.
Intrigue in the ups and downs of a high profile JAG case of getting the goods on the true culprit on a case of a falsely accused.