At sundown, he wasn’t so gaunt or blood-stained that they couldn’t pretend it was all a daydream; a strange and overwhelmingly vivid shared delusion.
They could nearly pretend that labored breaths hadn’t raggedly escaped chapped lips. They could nearly pretend that the smell, that familiar iron, the scent of corroded pennies and bar fights, was all overworked hallucinations. Nearly.
Could they wash the memories down the drain with the grime they were frantically scrubbing off? No… If the clots had a hard enough time going down, their violent memories would never squeeze into the steal pipes.
If only it was still sundown, then they could pretend it was all a daydream.
“Your Honor, I would like to call for a ten-minute recess in order to retrieve the knife, marked as people's exhibit number eight, to bring before the jury as irrefutable evidence that Mr. Brent Bennett is guilty of second-degree murder.” The prosecutor, Zack Evans, smirked.
“Sustained.” The judge decided,
“My apologies, Your Honor, I would like to call for a ten-minute recess to retrieve exhibit number eight, to bring before the jury.”
“Permission granted, ten-minute recess,” The judge let his gavel fall ceremoniously, and soft muffled whispers filled the room.
Brent sighed, holding his head in his hands, “It doesn’t sound good, so far.”
“Bennett, we’re going to make this work! Bergara and I have been defending guys like you for years with a 98% success rate. That isn’t changing today.”
The phrase “guys like you” seemed harmless. Innocent to those passing by. “Guys like you” criminals, thugs, surely? No. “Guys like you” mobsters, mafia members, those who were in deep, deep shit. The kinds of guys people write three-hour trilogies about. The kinds of guys people hope and pray their children never become. The kinds of guys who manipulate, intimidate, rob, steal, and torture to ensure things go their way. The kinds of guys that can only escape lifelong imprisonment with the help of silver-tongued DAs who have a flair for the theatrics and a disregard for ethicality.
The defense attorney checked his watch, “Great timing, I’m going to step out to take this call. Sit tight.”
The lawyer paused, throwing a glance over his shoulder, “Yes?”
Madej nodded curtly and lifted the bar to leave the litigation area. He slid his phone from his pocket, and, as if a genetic instinct, he found himself typing out his associate’s number.
He waited. It rang once, twice, three times… “Shit,” Shane muttered softly to himself.
The loud clacking of dress shoes echoing through the hall mixed with indiscernible conversation did nothing to soothe Shane’s cluttered mind.
He checked his watch again. Four minutes until the recess would end. “Come on, Ryan.” He tried again, and still, he was greeted with the familiar voicemail, “Hello, this is defense attorney Ryan Bergara, I am unable to–”
Shane rolled his eyes and stuffed his hands into his pockets. If this wasn’t done– Shit. If this wasn’t done, they’d be screwed.
One minute until court would be back in session. Shane ran a hand through his hair, adjusting his clear-framed glasses that had, through the course of everything, slipped to the bridge of his nose. He ran a hand down the front of his blazer and, as confidently as he could feign, walked back to the accused’s table.
Brent eyed him, wearily, he could see the unusual paleness of Shane’s face, “Fuck.” He muttered to himself.
Shane’s tongue suddenly felt too big for his mouth as if every gulp of air or swallow of saliva in order to moisten his parched palette was a death wish. A close call to choking on himself. He shakily grasped the water glass before him and chugged as much as possible.
Oh, Jesus Christ, they were closing the doors.
“Excuse me.” The soft echo of a voice graced his ears. A familiar voice.
Shane straightened his posture and shot a glance back to the doors.
It was Ryan. Oh, thank fuck!
Ryan smiled, it was subtle, delicate, almost, but only out of propriety.
Shane exhaled thankfully and flaunted a nonchalant look towards the judge.
His dark eyes skimmed the room, brows furrowed in confusion. His hand rested calmly on the gavel.
“Madej, have you seen Attorney Evans?”
“No, Your Honor. I’m sure he’ll be back promptly–”
The courtroom doors were thrown open to reveal a disheveled Zack Evans.
“Ah, speak of the devil.” Shane smirked.
Evans rubbed his neck anxiously–a tell of his that Shane and Ryan had always thought was far too apparent for a lawyer–and hastily entered the litigation pen.
“Permission to approach the bench, Your Honor?”
Evans shot another glance around the room before stepping nearer.
Shane offered Ryan a glance, the shorter man was seated in the front row of the gallery. An expression that would seem neutral to anyone other than Shane, rested contently across his face.
“Return to your table, Evans.” The judge inhaled deeply, and let the gavel fall heavily, decisively, “Court is back in session. Prosecution if you would please inform the jury of what you just told me.”
Evans stood, hesitantly, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, it is with great displeasur–”
“If you would be so kind as to cut the dramatics.”
“Uh, of course, Your Honor.” Evans wrung his hands anxiously–another tell that Shane found too apparent; however, Ryan countered that even in his most confident cases, he too would often clutch his own hands in order to refrain from mindless fidgeting. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number eight, the knife called into question and all substantial evidence linking it to the second-degree murder of Lawrence Peters has gone missing.”
Hushed whispers fell upon the room like cicada buzzes in summer.
Brent flashed a stunned look at Shane, who moved his hand to hide the smirk breaking out.
“Does the prosecution have any other conclusive evidence?”
“I’m afraid not, Your Honor.”
“Then I am going to have to declare this a mistrial. The jury is thanked and excused. Court is adjourned.”
“Oh my god!” Brent exclaimed. “Thank you both so much!”
Ryan stood approaching the gate and extending his hand, “It was a pleasure really.”
Brent gratefully shook both men’s hands, “Really, I can’t thank you enough.”
Shane shrugged, “No need to thank us, we’re only doing our jobs.” Shane propped open the bar for himself, “I’d say ‘stay out of trouble’ but I find that unlikely, and we like getting paid.”
Ryan chuckled, the pair turning away from their former client. “Good work, Shane.”
“Couldn’t have done it without you,”
Ryan shrugged bashfully.
“No, really. I mean it.” Shane nudged Ryan’s arm playfully as the pair stepped outside.
The light was so warm, so inviting after a successful trial. Shane paused on the steps, taking a deep breath of the crisp autumn air.
“So, where are we goin' to celebrate? I was thinking something nice!” Ryan grinned, “We deserve it after that shit show!”
Shane chuckled, “There’s a great–”
The pair froze, turning their attention to the black, sleek car that had rolled to the courthouse’s front steps. The windows were tinted, and the only thing that the pair could make out was the silhouette of the man in the passenger’s seat, he held a thick cigar in his meaty fingers. Smoke billowed from the open window. His voice was gruff, and when he pulled the cigar back for another drag the smallest glimpse of a Rolex watch could be spotted from beneath his sleeve.
They didn’t move, the tail’s of their coats rustling in the wind.
“Uh,” Ryan cleared his throat, “Yes?”
“Get in.” The man ordered.
“You know… In this line of work climbing into cars with shady strangers isn’t really our proclivity.” Shane muttered dryly.
Ryan bit his tongue in a feeble attempt to stop himself from yelling at his friend’s utter stupidity. Instead, optioning for a subtle, yet harsh elbowing.
The man raised his left hand, and if it weren’t for all the smoke, the sight of a sleek black 9mm lugger would be clear as day. “I’m not asking.” The man spit, his finger on the trigger.
“Fuck.” Ryan swallowed.
“Get in the car, boys.”
And, so, even though every instinct, every logical, rational train of though begged for them to do anything else, the pair stepped into the car.