He worked hard to provide his wife and daughter with a decent home, and to send Allison to the best schools in the district. He'd given both of them everything they asked for - money, cars, expensive clothes - and yet their lives were a mess. Dysfunctional was the term used in the media to describe families like theirs and he had to admit that it fitted them perfectly. He was a workaholic, working late in the evenings, rarely home for the weekends, and Allison's mother, Joanna, was a mess. He'd been forced to make a stupid compromise with her as part of the marriage counsel agreement set up by their therapist to help market Joanna's art even though it really was terrible. No one with any taste was ever going to buy any of the hideous pictures she painted, or the other stuff that he couldn't even describe.
He figured he paid more in therapy bills than most people earned, and what had it gained them as a family? The only reason why he hadn't asked for a divorce was because the alimony payments would cripple him financially, and what would he have actually gained by a divorce anyway? His freedom? Not really, because he'd still be tied to Joanna emotionally as well as financially through their only daughter, and he loved Allison dearly even if she did consider him an absent father.
He sighed heavily as the Police detective asked his questions, knowing he had to shoulder some of the blame for what had happened. Sitting across the table from the detective, he listened as Allison told the truth about Emily and the false rape charge, how she had explained it all to Emily's parents. It was hard to hear the truth about his little girl, that they'd gone in with their eyes wide open, aware of what was happening or going to happen, perhaps even instigating it. Despite the circumstances he was glad the men in question had stopped when she and Emily had changed their minds.
It wasn't rape.
It was two stupid, bored kids looking for a little excitement on the other side of the tracks, and getting in way over their heads.
Although he was still angry he had to at least cut Allison some slack over stopping a miscarriage of justice and for trying to stop the kids who'd gone out looking for unwarranted revenge. A kid - Toby - was dead because two bored teenage girls had decided to take a walk on the wild side. Two other boys from the same school would be going to prison for gang related crimes and attempted murder unless the lawyers of their rich parents could get the District Attorney's Office to drop or reduce the charges.
Whatever happened it was still more young lives ruined.
"I'd like you to read through the statement and if you agree, I need you to sign here," the detective requested.
Stuart let his lawyer pick up the statement, watching and waiting until Thurndon gave his nod of agreement. With all the paperwork signed, Stuart handed the sheets back to the detective, waiting to hear what would happen next.
"Mr. Lang, we won't be bringing any charges against Allison."
He closed his eyes in relief. It was still one hell of a mess, but Stuart could at least be grateful his daughter wouldn't be facing a criminal prosecution. He knew that would be no comfort to the family of the boy who was killed, or for the families of the two who might still end up in prison, but the Police had a transcript of the call Allison had made to Toby, which proved she was telling them the whole truth. Plus Emily had recanted her statement.
"What about Emily?" Allison asked.
"We've decided not to prosecute Emily Rubins either, for the false rape charge."
A court assigned psychiatrist had confirmed her trauma had been genuine rather than her acting out of malice, though Stuart had a feeling her family would be facing some heavy therapist bills of their own in the near future.
They walked out of the police station in silence, and once he reached his car Stuart shook Thurndon's hands, murmuring his thanks before they parted ways. Allison climbed into the passenger seat without any fuss, and they drove towards home without a word passing between them until they reached the gated community where they lived.
"I am so angry with you. But you did the right thing by telling the truth. For both you and Emily. I'm just not sure where we go from here, Allison."
"Dad, I'm..." She paused, chewing her lip thoughtfully. "Dad, I'm sorry."
He glanced across at her and knew she wasn't putting on an act this time. No false contrition.
"You're grounded until further notice," he replied quietly, repeating words he had spoken in anger just a few days earlier after Allison had been arrested alongside a group of drug traffickers. Luckily she'd not had any drugs on her so they couldn't charge her with anything other than being in the wrong place and the wrong time. She yelled back at him then but this time she was quiet.
Stuart nodded, parking the car on the drive and getting out. He felt old and tired, dragged down by recent events, but some of that eased when Allison hugged him, and he held her tight in return. She was his little girl, and he loved her so much.
"I am sorry, Dad," she repeated, her voice cracking.
"I know, honey."
They walked into the house together, and Stuart closed the door behind them in the hope of shutting out the rest of the world, if just for a little while.