Sugar Free Page 43


“Miss Halstead, if you want me to believe this story, which started out with you telling me Mr. Townsend raped you, why didn’t the DNA in your case match up to Mr. Townsend when we put it in the system?”

I look at her sadly and decide to answer in a self-loathing whisper. “I don’t know. I think I may have been wrong about all of that.”

Shit, fuck, shit, fuck.

Pace to one side of the police reception lobby, turn and pace to the other side.

The young cop sitting duty watches me warily, and I’m sure I’m making quite the spectacle. Mumbling obscenities to myself, constantly pulling my phone out to check the time, even though there’s a plain wall clock just behind the reception desk.

I’d woken up and saw Sela wasn’t in bed. Didn’t even need to call out her name or search the apartment. I could tell by the stillness in the air and the dread pushing down on my chest she’d made a run for the police station to confess. I immediately called her cell but she didn’t answer. I then called Doug and told him to meet me at the Sausalito Police Department. I was sure that’s where she was.

I’m so angry at her right now I should just leave her here to rot. I should after she refused to speak to me. But I suppose the damage is done and now I have to figure out how to not only get myself out of this mess but get Sela out as well.

Shit, fuck, motherfucker, fuck.

The door to the station opens and I see Doug walking in, looking very different in a pair of dark jeans, a UCLA sweatshirt, and hiking boots. His hair is flattened on one side, and that tells me he rushed out of his home as soon as I called him without even bothering to use a comb.

I jerk my chin to the outside and give him a pointed look. He gets the message, that we need to talk in privacy, and heads back out. Before I follow him, I look back to the cop. “I’m going to be standing just outside. I need to talk to Detective Denning when she’s done.”

He nods at me, looking completely mystified by the events that occurred this morning. I’m sure he’s never encountered someone walking in before to confess to murder.

Doug is waiting for me a few paces from the door, leaning back against the pale red brick exterior of the building. It’s not quite seven A.M. and the early morning rush-hour traffic is starting to pick up, but for now we’re alone on the sidewalk.

“You said on the phone that Sela came here to confess to killing JT,” Doug says to start the conversation.

I nod, and I’m sure Doug knows the look of irritation on my face is not for him. “Yeah…She’s in there right now spilling her guts. I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t see me.”

“Did she do it?” he asks, and I can tell by the tone of his voice he doesn’t expect me to admit anything, but I can’t hold anything back now.

“Yes,” I tell him bluntly, and he physically jerks in surprise, pushing off the building.

“She killed JT?” he asks. “And you didn’t think to tell me this as a defense to the charges against you?”

I give him an exasperated look, wondering if this man has ever felt the power of love or the need to protect the way I have.

“I was sort of banking on the fact that I didn’t actually do it would save me,” I tell him dryly. “Handing Sela over was not an option.”

“Tell me what happened, and I need the full truth so I can figure out options at this point,” he says, and there’s no missing the chastisement in his voice.

Taking a deep breath, I give him the short version of the story. “He called Sela to come over to his house. Wanted to get her help in convincing me to let him remain in The Sugar Bowl. He got angry when she wouldn’t and came after her. Was choking her. She got the letter opener and stabbed him in self-defense.”

Doug’s lips flatten out in a look that says, That’s the most ludicrous, unbelievable story that I’ve ever heard.

“Just do something to help her,” I snap at him.

“Beck, I can’t represent Sela,” he says, and this surprises me. “My duty is to you, and that’s a conflict to represent her. But tell me everything from the beginning so I can figure out if this helps you in any way.”

“Doug,” I snarl at him in frustration. “I don’t need help. Sela does. I need you to do something.”

And yeah…that last little bit was begging on my part.

He nods at me, holds a finger up, and digs into his pocket. Pulling his phone out, he flips through the contacts and dials someone. When the call is connected he says, “Kerry, Doug Shriver. I’ve got someone down at Sausalito PD confessing to murder with a self-defense element and is going to need a sharp attorney.”

He listens for a moment and then turns to me to ask, “Assume money is not an object?”

I shake my head. “I’ll pay whatever the fees are, as well as bail.”

Putting his mouth to the phone, he says, “You hear that? Good. See you soon.”

When he disconnects, he shoves the phone back into his pocket and says, “You know that story didn’t sound plausible. That’s going to be hard for her attorney to work with…JT getting that angry with her in his own home and trying to kill her just because she refused to help him out.”

I blow out a heavy breath, scratch at the back of my neck, and look at him intently. “Yeah, well, there’s more to it.”

“Such as?”

“JT raped her ten years ago,” I tell him. “She had been drugged and only recently realized who he was when she saw him on TV. She was going to go to the police because DNA was taken in her case, but we wanted him out of The Sugar Bowl first. We had a plan we were trying to follow.”

“Wait a minute,” Doug says holding up a hand. “JT raped both Sela and Caroline?”

“He was a sick fuck, what can I say?”

“But his DNA didn’t hit with her rape,” he points out.

“Yeah, well that sort of threw us for a loop in court yesterday,” I grumble. “I haven’t really had a chance to talk to Sela about that, but the most logical explanation is that the DNA taken off her was from one of her other attackers. Her memory is spotty from being drugged.”

“Attackers?” Doug asks with disgust.

“Three of them. She thought JT was the one who left the sample behind, but clearly she’s wrong. It had to be one of the others.”

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