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By R. Barri Flowers
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2004 Dorchester Publishing
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJudge Carole Cranston sat on the bench and banged her gavel. The courtroom immediately came to order on this late July afternoon. She was a no-nonsense judge who only wanted to expedite things as quickly as possible from trial to trial, preferring to be in the comfort of her condo overlooking the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon. It was especially nice at this time of year, she thought, when the summer breeze came in and the sun bounced off the water as if too hot to remain in one place. She was reminded of trips to the Bahamas where she had fallen in love with Grand Bahama Island in particular. She could imagine herself maybe one day retiring to the Bahamas, Jamaica, or even Hawaii, and drink in its beauty and perennial sunshine each day for the rest of her life.
Carole returned to the present, realizing that at thirty-five years of age and three months, she was hardly able to begin thinking about retirement just yet. I wish, she mused. Not when she had a job to do-no matter how maddening and disillusioning at times-and people that depended on her to dispense justice to the best of her ability.
She turned her espresso eyes on the prosecutor. His name was Julian Frommer. He was in his early thirties, but looked about twenty-one with dirty blonde hair a bit too long, and a small goatee that looked almost taped under his chin. His wool navy suit was ill fitted on a tall, lanky frame.
"Are you ready?" she asked him routinely.
"Always, Your Honor." He pasted a flirtatious smile on his lips.
But Carole had not even noticed as she turned her attention to the defense. George McArdle, fortyish, African-American, and built like a house, was already on his feet and showing off a three-piece tailored gray suit. His closely cropped dark hair had a slightly crooked part off to the side. He acknowledged her with a twinkle in his eyes.
"The defense is ready to present its case, Your Honor."
She nodded and looked at the defendant. Roberto Martinez-a thirty-six-year-old, muscular, Hispanic construction worker-had been charged with beating his live-in lover half to death. The medical report said that she had sustained multiple fractures, including a shattered nose, broken jaw, broken arm, and broken leg. But she would live. And so would the memories.
Martinez flashed her a crooked grin, as if to say: "It would have been more fun had you been on the other end of my fists, Your Honor."
Carole glared at him. She could feel the tiny hairs stand on the nape of her neck. But this was invisible to those before her who saw only the cool, calm, and collected attractive judge. Her russet colored individual pixies curved under her chin and onto slender shoulders, contrasting a beautiful butterscotch complexion. Beneath the oversized black robe was a tall, shapely body with long, runner's legs.
She faced Julian Frommer again. "You may call your first witness, Counselor-"
* * *
It turned out that his first witness, the victim, was a no-show. She was going to be wheeled in from the hospital where she was still recovering from her injuries. She had apparently had a change of heart and now refused to testify against Martinez. The State's case further began to unravel when it turned out that the only other witness was a known drug dealer whose testimony came as a result of a plea bargain that would keep him from doing hard time.
Meanwhile the defense had produced witnesses who would testify that the defendant was seen at work at the alleged time of the assault. It was a shaky alibi at best that left a window of opportunity for Roberto Martinez to have committed the offense and returned to the job. But given that the victim was unwilling to refute this, the prosecution had little choice but to go along with George McArdle's request that the charges be dropped.
And neither did Carole, though this pained her more than she was willing to admit. The thought that a scumbag batterer like Martinez should get off so easily was disturbing. But then, that was the system for you. Justice often needed help to be dispensed properly.
Looking Roberto Martinez straight in the eye, Carole announced unaffectedly: "The charges have been dropped. You're free to leave, Mr. Martinez-"
He favored her a lascivious grin, gave his attorney a hearty bear hug, and headed for the door without so much as a slap on the wrist.
Growling at Julian Frommer, Carole snapped: "I would strongly suggest, Counselor, that in the future you not waste the court's time-or mine-with a case you were clearly unprepared to make!"
On that note and without giving him a chance for a lame response, she headed for her chambers, disappointed that another woman beater, who was obviously guilty, had found a way to beat the system. Much in the same way he had his lover.
* * *
At Portland General Hospital, Lucie Garcia winced from the pain that wracked her entire body like it was being assaulted all at once. This in spite of the painkillers she had been given. They told her she was lucky to be alive. She didn't feel so lucky.
The Hispanic twenty-three-year-old rolled her large ink-black eyes, as if to ward off danger. Her brunette hair splayed across the pillow soaked with perspiration. An irregular line of blood had seeped across it from her mouth, which had been cut and was swollen to twice its normal size. A tube was helping her to breathe. Her fractured bones were held together with pins and casts. The rest of her was held together through sheer willpower.
She thought about Roberto. She'd been told he had been released from custody. Without her testimony, the case had gone out the window. Like a parakeet freed from its cage.
When it came right down to it, Lucie knew she couldn't testify against Roberto. Though she was afraid of him, and the beatings had become more frequent and more violent in recent months as his alcohol abuse grew worse, she loved him. She couldn't help it anymore than a mother could help loving her son, no matter what he did to hurt her.
Roberto was the only man she had ever loved. The only one who didn't run away at the first opportunity another piece of ass came into view. For that she was grateful. The rest just came with the territory as far as she was concerned.
Still, Lucie wondered what awaited her when she got home. Would Roberto take it out on her that he had been in police custody? Would he want her back now that she was badly bruised and broken? And not looking anything at all like the pretty Latina that had captured his attention in the beginning?
Lucie winced again before the sedative began to take effect and she drifted off into a restless sleep. Her last thought was that maybe she would awaken and find it had all been an awful dream.
Deep down inside she knew otherwise.
Excerpted from Justice Served by R. Barri Flowers Copyright © 2004 by Dorchester Publishing. Excerpted by permission.
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