It's about a young lawyer who gets put on a murder case. I tried to set in America at the time so the actual facts and that are probs all wrong, but it was enjoyable to write.
Blood. It gathered about the pallid body of a prima ballerina. Her pink dress, finely detailed with lace and sequins was dashed with red droplets. Her cream, suede boots were sprawled out across the floor and her arms were flung out at her side. Manicured fingers held loosely to a blood-stained, long and spindly scarf.
Her handsome head was ashen, her thick, long and golden curls were thrown back all about her face like a lion’s mane; but none of this could take my eyes away from the dark, bloody ring that had bruised her throat.
Head spinning, I took a few steps back and tried to think of something other than the scene that was playing out in front of me; but it was impossible. The sixteen year old girl had been an extraordinary beauty, and, by the sobs and utter devastation upon the faces of those who observed that afternoon in the high school, an incredible friend and academic.
My lips were trembling, my hands shaking, and no amount of swallowing could push aside the lump that had formed in the back of my throat. I must have looked an absolute mess; not the look I was going for on what was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
Sad faces penetrated into my own from all sides of the scene, people were gasping, crying – a couple of people even passed out. It had been a long time actually before anyone even asked what I was doing there, with my Gucci briefcase tucked uncomfortably under one arm, and my head bobbing nervously up and down whilst I counted the ceiling tiles in order to distract myself; there were four hundred and thirty nine and a half, as one of them was cracked.
Eventually, everyone looked up from the scene where photographs were being taken and red tape was being erected. They had looked up because somebody who looked very important had turned up at the scene.
She was a wisp of a lady, a tall, willowy creature with pointed features about her pale, bird-like face. Her eyes were sharp and full of fire; they were such a dark shade of grey that they almost looked a glittering black. She wore all black: a long black skirt, black blouse, the longest black cardigan I have ever seen, and high, black shoes with heels like needles.
The important-looking lady glanced momentarily over the scene, and then approached a pair of people who looked perhaps the most upset out of anyone in the room. I felt almost guilty for being so consumed by my own situation to have not noticed this couple. The woman was tall, blonde and beautiful and had evidently exhausted her clinic’s supply of Botox; black tear-stained streaks hung down her cheeks like curtains. She was mopping her face with a handkerchief, as the man – (who I assumed was her husband) held her tightly about the shoulders; the poor guy looked as helpless as she did.
“Mr and Mrs Rosehagen, my poor dears,” said the important lady to the couple. She leant forward for what would evidently be a very bony embrace, and held the other lady tightly for a short moment. I couldn’t help but notice that the important lady seemed to be completely void of emotion as she did this; in fact, for a moment I identified boredom, in her long, pigeon face.
“Please, please, let me get you away from this dreadful scene,” the important lady practically dragged the Rosehagens away from the crime scene and stopped directly opposite to where I had positioned myself in the corridor. I watched them in what I presume was a very tactful way, whilst trying to look inconspicuous at the same time.
“Believe me,” she continued, “we will find whoever is responsible for this devastation and your daughter will be avenged!”
Mrs Rosehagen let out a particularly loud shriek and Mr Rosehagen sobbed that everything would be okay.
“Please my dears, this is a terrible tragedy and one which has America’s finest on its case. There is nothing that you can do here at the moment except become even more anxious. Rachel!” And she snapped her fingers when she barked this name.
A sophomore with dark brown hair neatly tucked behind a flowered headband and black, rectangular glasses appeared as if by magic before the bird lady.
“Yes headmistress?” she enquired loudly, almost as if she were in the army and the headmistress was her lieutenant.
“Please arrange for some transportation for Mr and Mrs Rosehagen-”
“But-” the couple tried to protest.
The headmistress raised her hand to silence them.
“My dears, we have talked about this, we will be in touch the very moment we have any news.”
Rachel nodded to the headmistress and then whisked Mr and Mrs Rosehagan away before they had another second to protest. I observed a look of huge frustration pass over the headmistresses’ pointy face, as she waved at the tortured couple.
She stared for a moment, her black eyes glittering angrily, before looking about for any eavesdroppers. She scanned the room once and then came to an abrupt halt owing to the realisation that I was standing there at almost an arm’s reach away.
She stared at me so decisively that it was if she had cut me to the bone. She took in the dark curls upon my head, the Gucci briefcase that quivered under my arm, my crisp white shirt and black, leather shoes. She took in all that she could, and then at length decided to speak to me.
“What are you doing? Why are you lurking about here? Who are you? Why are you quivering?”
Now I knew why she had stared so long, perhaps she had been thinking of the questions she would ask. Unsurprisingly, I felt a little uncomfortable.
“Well? Well? Can’t you see that we have a murder investigation going on here?”
“Well...yes – obviously...”
“What? What? Are you lurking about because you want to confess or something?”
“NO!” I bellowed this, which I don’t think won me any favours with the psycho headmistress. You can imagine that her stare was even more frightening now, and so I made my recovery.
“What I mean to say is this: my name is Joseph Bates and I’m a defence lawyer. I believe you were the one who called me here?” I held out my hand – it wasn’t taken.
She scowled; evidently she preferred asking the questions to answering them.
“You’re the lawyer?”
“But you’re so young” she looked extremely unconvinced, “- are you the young man from Powell and Co? Because I told them that I wanted someone experienced; someone who would actually win.”
Trying not to feel insulted, I typed the four digit code into my briefcase and after a moment of flustered searching through a ton of papers, I managed to retrieve the fax I had received earlier that day and hand it to the headmistress, who snatched it away and read aggressively.
Lowering my hand, I observed the look of disbelief which passed over the headmistresses’ face as she read the letter, and it wasn’t until I had shown her my attorney badge, my passport and drivers licence that she finally seemed to behave more professionally towards me.
She clasped my shoulder very hard with her long, spindly nails and pulled me further down the corridor; completely out of earshot from anyone else.
“Okay attorney,” she dug her nails further into my shoulder (they were like knives – it really hurt.) She actually terrified me, I could see clearly why the victim’s parents hadn’t been able to put up much of a fight; who knew how she’d behave if someone didn’t do as she’d wished. Her eyes were piercing, loathing and unyielding. Something told me that this case was going to be pretty awful, and I instantly regretted accepting it.
“Listen up and listen well,” she said; she sounded like a cop. “My son is innocent, you hear me? INNOCENT! It is rotten, bad luck that has made him the prime suspect of this murder, all because he dated that little tramp.”
I tried to pull away; it was difficult, and I caved. “So it’s your son who is the suspect?”
She loosened her grip, sighing, “Yes. It is so unfortunate.”
“Err -and is he a student at this school?”
“Does he have an alibi?”
Oooh bad question - The headmistress looked as if she were to commit a crime herself – on me. The nails dug deeper into my shoulder.
“Alibi? He doesn’t need one, he didn’t do it!”
My eyes must have given away some concern when she had said this because, at this moment, the head advanced on me and her tall frame towered threateningly over me. I shuffled backwards but this only caused her to lean further over me.
“Now let me tell you something about this school,” she said, I could feel her breath on my face, “this school is full of the brattiest, snobbiest, self-obsessed and vulgar children one could ever be so unfortunate to meet. It is a cock-fighting pit for America’s finest, and all the time parents and their children are breaking the law through fraud, drug-trafficking, armed robbery-“
“Murder?” I muttered from beneath her frightening frame.
“Of course, even murder,” she relaxed her hand on my shoulder and shrunk back down to a less threatening stance. I sighed a little in relief. “And therefore, I could not possibly stand for it if my son, my wonderful boy, was to be sent down for a crime that he has not done. A crime which many have committed before this instance but who have gotten away with, understand?”
I didn’t. I was in over my head here.
“Okay,” I said, backing away and rubbing my shoulder, “well that is helpful I guess. Well is your son here? I think it’s important that I speak to him.”
“He has been detained.”
“I thought you were supposed to be a lawyer? Like I said, ‘he is the prime suspect’, they took him away.”
At that very awkward moment my mobile started to ring, it was a Panic at the Disco song, and it was quite embarrassing and certainly didn’t confirm to the Head that I was old enough to be taking on this case.
“I’m sorry Ms?”
“Freighter,” the head drawled.
“Ms Freighter, I’m sorry, I really need to answer this.”
Mrs Freighter stormed away to look once more at the crime scene and no doubt find out what the forensics had uncovered. Hmm, probably what I should have been doing.
I answered my mobile, feeling possibly more frightened than I had felt when seeing the murder victim for the first time. It was my girlfriend Natasha, and she would undoubtedly be pissed.
“Hi baby,” I was very soft, but as I said this I was already wincing, preparing myself for an ear-bashing.
“Where are you?”
“Uh, well I told you that I’d got my first case right?”
“Ah! Well it turns out that it’s taking me a little longer at the crime scene than I had suspected.” I wouldn’t tell her that I had basically just stood about the place for hours before anyone had actually spoken to me. She already complained often that I wasn’t assertive enough.
She sighed heavily down the phone. I bit my bottom lip.
“So what, now that you’re finally done studying day and night for your bar exam you’re now going to be out investigating day and night too? What about our meal? I’m already dressed!”
The pitch of her voice made my heart race, “Baby please, I’ll see what I can do, but I’ve literally got nothing done...”
She groaned, “This isn’t working, I don’t believe you’re still working a fifteen hour day. I can’t believe you’d do this after all we’ve been through, after I have waited so patiently.”
I detected tears in her voice, which caused me to bite my bottom lip harder.
“I’ll – I’ll make it up to you, I swear.”
“You will never put me first,” she said, her voice was lifeless, hurt and decided. “You will never commit to me, your career will always come first, you will always come first.”
I sunk my hand lankly in my trouser pockets and tightened my fingers about the small, velvet box that held the engagement ring I was supposed to be giving Natasha that very evening. I felt sick to the stomach.
“I’ll see if I can leave....”
The phone went dead.
Perhaps I should tell you something about myself. My name is Joseph Arnold Bates and I was the youngest to graduate in my year, as my birthday isn’t until the twenty ninth of August. Since I was a little boy I had always dreamed of being a lawyer and I would practice my approach often by forcing my friends to play the role of the other characters in the court room in my back yard. I would prosecute my friends for extremely serious crimes such as: ‘walking on the grass’ or ‘leaving vegetables at dinner’, and I would always win my case (possibly due to the fact that my six year old friends had no idea what I was talking about).
The motive behind all my enthusiasm for law was my dad. My dad was possibly the most successful prosecutor who had ever graduated from Harvard, and I had always respected him dearly. I guess that it had always been assumed from an early age that I would follow in my father’s footsteps and become a prosecutor of criminal law, and so that’s almost what happened.
I worked hard, my friends thought a little too hard, and I acquired my place in Harvard with little trouble (It certainly helped my chances with a father as influential as mine). At first I had clowned about a bit, taking in the freedom that university offered to me, but eventually became one of the top students in my class and graduated at a first for my Bachelors of law at the age of twenty-two.
It was round about the time when I had started my masters in criminal law that I had met Natasha. She had been introduced to me by one of my richest friends, who boasted that she would be the next J.K. Rowling, a new writer who was tipped for much success.
I remember that she was glowing when I had met her, she had been so enthusiastic about life and this enthusiasm had been extremely catching. And she was so beautiful, with porcelain skin, rosy cheeks, long, flowing dark curls arranged neatly into a bun. She was slender and reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn with her cute, white pearls and fitted, short black dress. I found myself instantly drawn in by her beauty, and I knew then that I would never be able to give up this drug that was Natasha Georgewell.
And so we dated and things became serious very quickly; we moved into a flat in the city together. She would often be away on book tours and I found myself working alongside other professionals on cases in criminal law, but that didn’t matter, we knew we had the rest of our lives to be together. However, lately things had started to become much tenser. My final year and my eighth year of study had not been that easy, and each case I had agreed to help out on seemed to be tougher and darker than the last. Natasha’s sister had gotten married and I could feel that she was getting more and more anxious about the future each day. I had started to make promises I couldn’t keep, I had found myself in a battle: should I cut my hours and think about being a husband and possibly a father? Or should I live out my dream to become a top attorney and try and do both?
During this final year, my relationship with my dad had also become extremely strained, and I soon found myself taking a completely different route in the Law profession. Instead of prosecuting, I decided to focus on acting in defence of others. And so, this is what led me here to this situation in the high school, looking at the corpse of a beautiful, young girl and finding myself in the razor-sharp grasp of the frightening Ms Freighter.
In all honesty I had known that my plans with Natasha that evening weren’t going to be on the cards. I had tried calling her again and again but I don’t think she was up to hearing my apologies, and so instead I decided to check out the murder scene again.
The body was gone now, but the outline of where the corpse had fallen had been chalked in thick white upon the wooden floor of the hallway. There were less people here now, just a couple of officers talking at a classroom doorway close to where the murder had occurred.
A young lady with golden hair tied up into a messy ponytail and wearing a white scientists’ coat was knelt upon the floor, looking at something close to where the victim had fallen. The scientist was muttering to herself as she inspected the floor, and I drew closer, hoping to hear what she was saying.
Suddenly, her arm flung out and grabbed my tie and I went hurtling forwards. She hadn’t looked up from her scrutinising, and therefore I wasn’t surprised that she thought that I was somebody else.
“Micheal! Micheal, please get me a bag and some tweezers, I’ve found something!”
“Uggh!” I squirmed.
“Huh?” she looked up at me, still holding me by the throat, “you’re not Micheal...”
“Yes!” I cried, “Now please let go of me or they’ll be two people who have been strangled here today.”
She released my tie and looked at me thoughtfully, “You shouldn’t assume that was how she was murdered,” she said. She had large, green eyes and a rather different but very pretty face, which wore a thoughtful and feisty gaze.
I smiled knowingly, “I’m pretty sure that is going to be the findings of the forensics.”
“Hmm,” the scientist smiled contemplatively, “but things are not always what they seem right? You should never judge someone or something before getting your facts straight. If you do that, then you’re letting your own opinion get in the way of exploring each and every possibility.”
I gulped, she was staring very intently at me, but it was a stare that made me feel very different from the one which Ms Freighter had bestowed upon me earlier.
“Err – I’m...”
“Joseph Bates right?”
“Yes, that’s me,”
She laughed and held out her wrist for me to shake, as her hands wore gloves. I shook her wrist, feeling a little nervous.
“I’m Alicia Wright, I’m an assistant forensic scientist, I’m working for Mr R Humpheys; no doubt you will meet him.”
“And Micheal?” I asked.
“Oh him? He’s just on a placement from university. Haha! Poor kid, don’t think he was expecting such a bloody case for his first day on the job, bless he’s probably in the bathroom throwing up again.” She held out her wrist once again for me to hold, and I did so, pulling her to her feet.
“Well Mr Bates,” she said, “you might have arrived at the crime scene at a very important discovery,”
“Although, it probably won’t help your case much,” she pointed to a dark blue and gold eagle shaped badge, splattered in blood on the floor and right beside where the victim had fallen.
“This,” said Alicia “Is the head-boy badge. It belongs to your defendant, Ethan Freighter.”
I wasn’t surprised, “Thus, more proof to send him down,” I groaned, “great!”
“Hmm...” Alicia pondered. She held her hand and wriggled her gloved fingers in my face, which made me squint, “little help?”
I pulled the gloves from off of her hands, which she shook about, grateful to have given them some air.
“Hmm...What?” I asked.
“Well that badge could be here at the scene for a number of reasons. I mean, Master Freighter is the ideal prime suspect right?”
“And...Therefore, he’s the ideal person to frame for the murder?” I guessed glumly.
“Hmm, or he could be just totally guilty and also totally stupid for leaving such decisive evidence at the scene of the crime.” Alicia gave a shrug and then looked me up and down again, which led me to feel nervous, again.
“You look very young to be a defence attorney for a crime such as this,” she said.
I smirked, “And you look too young to be a forensic scientist.”
“Hmm, but as I told you, I’m an assistant forensic scientist, so therefore, I have a little way to go.”
To be honest, I hated it when people said that I looked young, I wasn’t! I had worked eight years to get the job where I was working now; eight long years of blood, sweat and tears and now a failing relationship.
“I’m twenty five,” I said matter-of-factly, “almost twenty six. I have every right to be here on this case.”
Alicia raised her eyebrows at me and handed me a notepad and pen from the pocket of her long, white coat.
“Write down your fax, your number, your address,” she said, “I will send you photographs of the crime scene, an autopsy report and anything else that I can get my hands on, as soon as I get my hands on it. I’ll send you the details of where they have taken your client and anything else relevant, and if I’ve forgotten anything, I’ll send you my number so that you can ask.”
I wrote my details down, feeling extremely grateful for the help, “Thank you,” I said, and handed her back the notebook.
“That’s fine. Oh! And one more thing! You will need to get in touch with the chief detective who is investigating this case, his name is Jak Riley, and you should probably call up and ask for him personally, he’d appreciate that.”
Once again I muttered my thanks and headed off to face Natasha; the engagement ring still burning a hole in my trouser pocket.
It was ten thirty when I arrived home that night; all I could think about was the long task ahead of me. I would arrange to meet my client first thing in the morning and then procure a meeting with this elusive detective that Alicia was talking about.
I jogged up the three, small flights of steps to our small, two-bedroom apartment. One of the rooms was used mostly for our junk; this room had a small, sofa-bed set out just in it in case any of our friends decided to stay over. It was usually this small bed where I would find Natasha when she was sulking about something, so, not to my surprise, as a quietly switched on a lamp, I could see her feet dangling off of this small bed. I sighed heavily and put down my briefcase.
Pulling off my tie and placing it on the coffee table, I advanced to where Natasha lay in a tormented slumber; I took my shoes off and sat close to her pillow. This young woman had been everything that I thought I wanted for almost four years now. But it had been so rushed; the dates, the sleeping with each other, the moving in with each other. Sighing, I pulled the engagement ring from my pocket and opened it up. It was a knockout. I had made a very big dent into my savings to afford this princess cut ring with its enormous, sparkling diamond. I had been told it was the best and the best was what she expected and what she deserved. I put the ring away and went to the living room.
The living room was simple creams and chocolate browns, with squashy leather couches and a sixty inch plasma TV that I had barely used. It looked at as if Natasha had thrown her own personal party that evening; a full bottle of rose had been drunk and a half-eaten bowl of popcorn sat on the coffee table, perfect for a late night snack. I grabbed a handful of the salted popcorn and poured myself a glass of whisky – my father’s drink. I drained the glass in one swig and then poured another.