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“Any chance she’s wrong in her ID of him?” he asks hesitantly, but it’s something I’ve asked myself already and I know damn well Sela’s wondering the same thing.

I shake my head and tell him adamantly, “No. She clearly remembers his tattoo from that night and it’s distinctive. But more than that, he recognized her. As he was choking her, admitted he remembered her from that night. Up until then, we thought JT just didn’t recognize her. She had darker hair when they first met a few months ago, but apparently we were wrong.”

“So he came after her because of that,” he posits. “He couldn’t take the chance of what she’d do.”

“I’m sure he even figured out we were trying to get him out of the business to clear the way to go to the police,” I tell him. “He knew it was all crumbling down. The gambling debt, me offering a buyout he could barely refuse, and Sela coming into his life again were no coincidence. Honestly, I could even make the argument JT lured her there with the intent to kill her.”

“Now that is something I can finally wrap my head around,” he agrees.

“So it’s a good defense, right?” I ask, coming around full circle to the reason I called him here. I get he can’t represent her and he has what I’m guessing is a very good attorney on the way. But I need to know.

“It’s her word against his,” Doug says. “What evidence does she have to prove what she’s saying?”

“She doesn’t,” I admit heavily. “The letter opener and clothes she was wearing are gone.”

He holds a hand up. “I don’t want to know any more about that. That makes me a potential witness against Sela.”

Shit, fuck, shit.

This has gotten so goddamned complicated, I’m terrified that there’s no way out for either of us.

“Beck,” Doug says softly to get my attention. “Sela confessing is not going to make the charges against you go away. You know that, right?”

I nod my acceptance. “I didn’t figure it would. It’s why I told her not to do it.”

“Well, Kerry Suttenson is a fantastic lawyer. One of the best. She’ll do all she can to help Sela. Now I’ll certainly make a motion to have the charges against you dismissed, but it’s a one-in-a-million shot.”

Before I can respond, the station door opens and Detective Denning sticks her head out and looks at us. “Mr. North, Mr. Shriver, let’s talk and I’ll fill you in on what’s going on.”

We follow her in, where she leads us to a small office that has her name in brass on the outside of the door. We walk in and I’m surprised to see ADA Hammond there, looking polished and like the cat who just ate the canary.

We shuffle into the small space when Denning motions us inside. She doesn’t follow us in but rather pulls the door shut so we are left alone with the district attorney.

“I just wanted to let you both know that Miss Halstead is being booked right now on first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder,” she says brusquely. “I’ll be amending the charges against Mr. North to also include conspiracy.”

“What does that mean?” I ask, turning to Doug, who doesn’t look surprised by this news.

But before he can answer me, Hammond says, “Your girlfriend’s cute, Mr. North…thinking that by confessing we’d drop the charges against you. All that tells me is that you were both in on it together, but even if you weren’t, we’ll let a jury figure it all out.”

I open my mouth to tell that bitch to bite me, but Doug lays a restraining hand on my forearm, which silently tells me to shut the fuck up.

“Miss Hammond, I’m going to enter a temporary appearance as Miss Halstead’s attorney, just until her attorney can get here. I’d like to see her immediately and I’ll stay with her until Kerry Suttenson can arrive.”

She looks at Doug with amusement but nods. “Sure, Detective Denning will take you to her and I suppose I’ll be seeing all of your bright, shining faces tomorrow morning at the arraignment. This should be fun, gentlemen.”

Hammond turns her back on us and I have to restrain myself from leaping onto it, knocking her to the ground, and strangling the breath out of her. I want to pin her down, wrap my hands around that scrawny neck, and choke her until she turns first red, then blue. I want her to fear imminent death and see the look in my eyes that I won’t save her, and then I want to bend down and whisper to her, “You see, bitch. This is what it feels like to be dying. Now tell me that if you had a letter opener in your hand you wouldn’t swing it at me right now, just to get one drop of precious oxygen?”

Instead, I merely fantasize about that and watch as she pulls the door shut behind her, giving Doug and me a few moments of privacy.

“So we’ll be tried together?” I take a guess.

“Looks that way,” he says. “It’s a win-win for them. They get two bites at the apple so to speak, and while they’d be ecstatic to have the jury believe you two were in on it together, they’ll be completely satisfied if just one of you is resoundingly convicted.”

“Well isn’t that a fucking junk punch,” I say, and then immediately regret the words. Too crass for a refined gentleman like Doug who is working hard to help me.

“I know what you’ll probably say, but I do have to throw this out there, Beck. If you took the stand and testified against Sela, the chances would be much better for you.”

“Not going to happen,” I grit out.

“Didn’t think so, but I have to give you the advice regardless,” he says kindly. “And I’m sure that won’t be the last time I bring it up to you.”

“Duly noted,” I say.

“All right,” he says, laying a hand on my shoulder. “You might as well go home. Sela’s not getting out today, but I don’t see any reason why Judge Reyes won’t grant her the same bail conditions he gave you. So go home, get some money transferred and ready to put down on her, and oh…she’ll need something nice to wear tomorrow in court.”

I nod, feeling utterly exhausted and helpless at this moment. Doug opens the door and I follow him out. Denning is waiting and she jerks her head down an opposite hallway for Doug to follow her. I head back to the reception area, out of the police station, and cross the street where I’m parked half a block down.

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