Sugar Free Page 52

“No,” I say at the same time Beck does. While we didn’t mind Dennis helping us set up a bribery for VanZant or getting us out of the country, this is asking him to stick his neck out publicly for us.

“It could totally work,” Kerry says with excitement.

“It’s at least worth a try,” Doug says.

Dennis turns his gaze on me and Beck. “Let’s go for it, okay?”

Back in present time…

The video finishes but I’m not watching it. I’m on the same side of the table as Roger and he’s got the screen pointed toward ADA Hammond, which is even better, because I get to observe her reactions. In fact, not a single person at this table other than Hammond is paying attention to the video. We’re all watching her.

First confusion as she leans forward to get a better look, narrowing her eyes.

When JT walks into the picture, followed by me, still confusion.

Then I see awareness filter in when JT offers me the drink. Her brow furrows and then presses into disbelief as she watches him float his idea by me to convince Beck to keep him in The Sugar Bowl and my refusal.

She locks her jaw tight when he comes after me, and her eyes narrow further when I pull the gun out.

All exactly like I told the police it happened.

It’s then with bitterness as she watches the rest of the video, her chest rising and falling more deeply than her smug state of egotistical confidence had her breathing before.

Roger plays it all the way to the aftermath of JT’s death as I look down at him, then as I walk like a zombie to pick up my gun. My sobs of anguish are loud and I bet are piercing her ears as she watches. I then grab the letter opener and leave the room from bottom left before the screen goes black.

“Who do you represent?” Hammond grits out as she nods down at the computer then back to Roger.

“I’m not authorized to say,” Roger says smoothly. “But it’s the owner of this video.”

“Why isn’t he here?” she asks.

“Not relevant,” Roger deflects. “But what is relevant is that you are now in possession of evidence that exonerates these two from the charges. We’d respectfully request that you dismiss them.”

“I can’t just accept a video from someone I don’t know,” she scoffs. “This is out of left field. It’s shenanigans, and I’m thinking because your client isn’t here, it’s because this video was obtained illegally. In fact, I’m guessing you’ve got no way to truly authenticate this and that means it’s not coming into evidence.”

Doug gives a cough to clear his throat, and tries not to sound like a disappointed dad, but fails miserably. “Is your ego so precious to you, Miss Hammond, that you’d let two innocent people go to jail so you don’t have to admit you made a mistake?”

Before she can answer, and I can see she was going to defend her position, Roger says, “Miss Hammond, I’m only offering this once. If you don’t accept this video as authentic evidence right now, my client has authorized me to turn this over to the press.”

Hammond’s eyes go wide.

“Along with the video, I’m also going to hand over your financial records, which include campaign contributions for your bid for district attorney. I believe the primary is in less than two months, and it looks like Colin and Candace Townsend contributed the maximum amount to you not three days ago. Clearly you have a very serious conflict here.”

Hammond makes a choking sound in her throat and her face flames red. “That contribution has nothing to do with my oath as an officer of the court, so—”

“Save it, Miss Hammond. I’ve got a red-eye flight to catch back to the East Coast. I’m only going to cancel that flight if you don’t dismiss the charges, and in that case, I’m going to stay overnight and hit all the major news media outlets tomorrow. Your weight in this county won’t equate to a feather pillow when I’m done with you.”

“That’s blackmail,” she practically screeches.

Roger just looks back at her silently, letting her know the ball’s in her court. He doesn’t negotiate.

My heart pounds terribly and Beck and I squeeze each other’s hands brutally.

“But what about obstruction of justice?” she throws out. “Miss Halstead didn’t report the crime; she took the murder evidence…someone needs to pay for something here.”

“She’s already paid,” Beck says quietly beside me, and I jump in surprise that he’s spoken. We were specifically advised to keep our mouths shut. “She paid with her innocence when that monster raped her and then got his buddies to rape her again and again. She’s paid in blood and tears and semen and sweat. You are not taking anything else from her.”

Hammond’s eyes lock with Beck’s, and I know this is the final showdown.

“Be quiet everyone,” William yells above the chattering around my living room and dining room. “It’s on.”

He’s well on his way to being drunk, and fortunately, his girlfriend, Maria, is here to drive him home, although we’ll try to insist they stay the night.

William grabs the remote from the coffee table and aims it at the flat-screen TV mounted above the fireplace where he increases the volume. It shows a picture of the Marin County Courthouse with a banner across the bottom that says BREAKING NEWS and below that TOWNSEND MURDER CHARGES.

Everyone falls silent and I move to stand beside Sela, who is talking to Kerry as they both sip on whiskey. All eyes focus on the TV and mine fall to Sela for just a minute. I haven’t seen her look this carefree and easy in weeks. It transforms her into an angel beyond trite words of description.

The courthouse picture fades and is replaced by video with the word LIVE in the upper right-hand corner and a male reporter standing in front of the courthouse. His hair is perfectly coiffed and his tan expensive. He looks soberly at the camera and says, “There’s breaking news out of Marin County this evening as Assistant District Attorney Suzette Hammond announced in a press conference that all charges are being dropped against Beck North and Sela Halstead. As you know, North and Halstead were charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder…”

William gives out a drunken whoop as the reporter drones on but none of us cheer. This isn’t surprising news to us, as before we left that conference room a few hours ago, we had Hammond’s agreement to drop the charges in exchange for us turning over the video so she could show it to Colin and Candace. I didn’t like the bitch one bit, but I did have a certain grudging respect for the fact that she wanted to make sure they got some closure.

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