Sugar Free Page 45

As soon as I’m in my car and pulling into traffic, I call Dennis.

It’s more than time.

By my rough calculations, he should be in Panama and is probably on a boat right now pulling in some marlin or other sport fish, so I’m not surprised when I get his voice mail. I’m sure it will be sitting behind some calls from the police wanting to verify my alibi the day of JT’s death.

“Dennis, it’s Beck. I need you to call me ASAP. Sela and I are in a world of trouble. We need help.”

I disconnect, knowing that my message is going to knock the breath out of him. I’m sure he’s enjoying a nice vacation, drinking beer with his buddies and figuring JT was in the midst of transitioning out of the business and Sela would be having a long-overdue chat with the police about her rapist.

He’s in for one hell of a surprise.

I don’t head home the way Doug suggested. I make my way to Belle Haven instead because I need to have a very immediate and important talk with William Halstead, Sela’s dad. This shit with Sela will be hitting the news quickly and he does not need to be finding out this crap on TV.

He’s been kept fully in the loop on what’s been going on, and I’ve talked to him a few times over the last few days when he calls Sela to check in. I know he doesn’t owe me the benefit of the doubt, but he’s given it, throwing his full support behind me and trusting in Sela and me when we tell him that I had nothing to do with JT’s death.

That’s going to make what I’m getting ready to tell him extremely difficult.

As I navigate my way through the rush-hour traffic, I take a deep breath and dial William on his cell phone. Sela gave me his number not long ago but I’ve never called him yet, so he won’t recognize my number.

I’m grateful when he answers on the third ring.

“It’s Beck,” I tell him. “First, know that Sela is fine, but something bad has happened and I need to talk to you about it.”

“Where are you?” he asks briskly, not bothering to pump me for information.

“I can be at your house in about an hour,” I tell him. “I’m coming from Sausalito.”

“Assuming you won’t tell me over the phone, because I can hear it in your voice that it’s really bad, meet me instead at the Starbucks in Millbrae; it’s on Broadway. We can both be there in about half an hour.”

“Got it,” I say.

“And, Beck…you swear she’s okay?” he asks fearfully.

“Physically, yes,” I tell him truthfully. “But she’s in some trouble and it’s going to be on the news soon. I need to fill you in.”

“Fuck,” he curses low, and it’s the first time I’ve heard him say that. “Okay…drive fast. I’ll see you soon.”

Jail sucked. While I was given a cell to myself, the temperature was too cold, the mattress too lumpy, and my blanket too scratchy. The food was barely palatable and the strange noises around me kept me awake all night.

Guess what, Sela? Prison will be even worse.

I try not to think of that just yet, because I’ve got a million other things to worry about. While it’s probably a foregone conclusion I’m going down hard for JT’s murder, there are so many other things I need to put right in my life. Mainly I’m worried about Beck, my father, and Caroline, all three who sat stoically behind me through the entire arraignment proceeding. I haven’t been able to talk to them, although my attorney, Kerry Suttenson, brought me a navy-blue dress from Beck this morning. It had an open neckline but there was no need to hide the bruises at this point, although they were almost gone.

I had met Kerry briefly yesterday morning after I was processed. Beck’s attorney kindly stayed with me until she arrived, informing me that it was a conflict for him to represent me but that Beck had hired me an exceptional lawyer.

And Kerry certainly seemed exceptional. She was tall with dark blond hair that was thick and wavy and serious, deep-set eyes. She commanded attention and her manner was brisk and efficient. I didn’t get a single ounce of sympathy from her when we were able to meet for about ten minutes before I was to be taken to the sheriff’s department for holding, and I suspect it was because our time was limited. I told her about my history with JT and she nodded while taking notes, pausing every once in a while to clarify an issue.

When we were done, she said, “Sela, I’m not going to lie, self-defense is going to be a hard sell.”

I looked at her glumly. “I know…no evidence and all that.”

She gathered up her notepad and briefcase and stood from the table we were sitting at in a private room. “I very rarely advise a defendant to take the stand in their own defense, but it’s the only chance we have to prove it was self-defense. You’re going to have to get up there and tell the entire story from the start.”

“I can do that,” I said in quiet acknowledgment.

I can most definitely do that because I have absolutely nothing to lose. As it stands now, I have not a single thing but my name and the truth, and perhaps life in prison if the jury doesn’t buy my truth.

So she left and I went to jail for the first time in my life. I made it through last night, but felt like an utter zombie when Kerry met me at the courthouse. I silently changed into my dress while she went over the arraignment procedure. I only half listened because I’d been through it with Beck and knew what to expect. My attention was piqued a little though when she said, “Mr. North has already made arrangements for your bail so you should be able to go home today.”

And now I’m left wondering what home even means anymore as I’m being processed out of the sheriff’s department. I’m given a plastic bag that contains my jeans, T-shirt, and tennis shoes I came in with yesterday, as well as my purse. My gun had long been confiscated since I’d offered it to the police, and Kerry told me that my car had been impounded as well to check for evidence.

Kerry walks beside me out of the sheriff’s department where I find Beck and my father waiting for me, and I assume Caroline must have gone back to Healdsburg.

Yeah…no clue what home means to me right now, but my gut instinct tells me I’ll be moving back home to Belle Haven. I know that Beck has to be beyond pissed at me and my breach of his trust is not going to be forgiven easily. I know how Beck feels about honesty and transparency, and the only thing I’ve shown him in the last twenty-four hours is a woman clouded with shadow and deceit.

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