Retribution, p.41Jilliane Hoffman
‘I’ll just put them flowers here. Right next to the forty zillion roses someone sent you. I wonder who that could be?’ He laughed and shot Dominick a knowing look. ‘You look like shit, too, Dommy Boy. But you don’t have no excuse.’ Then he turned to C.J. again, and his face grew soft. She could see the worry hidden deep in his otherwise-tough-looking face. ‘I’m glad you’ll be okay. I’d miss you, Counselor. You had us worried there.’
‘What did you find –’ She swallowed, trying to finish her sentence.
‘Don’t talk. It’s painful hearing you,’ said Manny, his gruff demeanor making a welcome comeback. ‘There’s not much to find, tell you the truth. Dr Friendly’s death chamber had the makings of an ER operating room in tools and bodily fluids, but so far, that’s it. We can’t find the heart you think you saw. The crystal ice bucket is clean. No dead body in the office or at his house, which we’re ripping apart right now. Everything is spotless. No prints, no blood, except, of course, the evil doctor’s, which is everywhere and on everything. He was drained when we found him. If there was anyone else’s blood in that room, we’re sure as hell not going to find it now. Fort Lauderdale P.D. is going over the club on Las Olas where that college student disappeared, but at this time of year, it’s mainly tourists and so far, no one’s recognized him.’
‘I don’t think we’re gonna find anything, C.J.,’ Dominick said softly.
‘What? You think I imagined what I saw?’
It all made sense now. Too much sense. Chambers had the police connection. The police credentials as a consultant. The inside scoop. You just had to know where to look. Of course, every action has a reaction. And if one theory was pushed too far, exposed too much, then the reaction could prove just as deadly. He was careful not to push this one. Some things were better left alone.
‘No. I think maybe he wanted you to think that’s what you saw. I think he was obsessed with you. Maybe he was going to try a copycat. That’s the theory we’re progressing on.’
Manny nodded. ‘We got the right nut behind bars. This one was just a work in progress. Hey, I gotta head out and keep Bowman awake at Chambers’s house. He was at a bachelor party when we got the call. I yanked him out of there right before it was his turn for a lap dance. Now he’s crying exhaustion. So I’ll call you later to tell you what we’ve found.’ He turned at the door and said again, ‘Glad you’re with us, Counselor. Real glad.’
The door closed, and they were alone. Dominick’s hand found hers on the bed. ‘You’ll be fine. Just fine.’ She could hear the relief in his voice. The fear, too.
‘Did he?’ Her voice cut off with a choked sob. She couldn’t look at him at that moment. She just stared up at the ceiling.
‘There’s no evidence of that.’ He knew what she was thinking. The rape kit had come back clean.
She nodded, feeling the tears stream down her cheeks. She gripped his hand even tighter.
He had been in that house, and she had been right there, right above him, in the web of a monster, but he had missed her. He had walked out, and the unthinkable had almost happened. Again.
‘It’s going to be okay this time, C.J. It will. I promise.’ He raised her hand in his and kissed it hard. His other hand stroked her cheek softly. His voice was choked, his words shaking with conviction. ‘And I never break a promise.’
The door to Courtroom 5–3 opened on to the crowded hallway, packed with weary and confused family members of both victims and defendants alike, waiting for their cases to be called up on calendar. Judge Katz, in a particularly foul mood at being forced to actually work the day before a holiday, commanded court inside, buzzing through the morning’s First Appearance Hearings, dispensing justice and setting and denying bonds at a blinding pace.
C.J. stepped out of the courtroom, letting the door close on yet another Judge Katz tirade in progress. ‘No bond! Not now, not ever!’ the judge yelled. ‘If you love him that much, go visit him in jail. And get your eyes checked by an optometrist before you walk into any more baseball bats!’ was the last thing C.J. heard before the door closed completely. Just another day in paradise.
Paul Meyers, the Division Chief of the SAO Legal Unit, was waiting for her in the hallway, leaned back against a wall, legal books in hand. His expression was serious, reserved.
‘C.J.,’ he said, pushing himself off the wall and making his way toward her in the crowd, ‘I knew you had a bond hearing this morning. I need to talk to you. Before this gets out and the phone starts ringing.’
A knot tightened in her stomach. So much for a quick escape to a four-day weekend. A personal visit in the courthouse from the Chief of Legal was not usually a good thing. ‘Sure, Paul. What’s up?’
‘It’s the Bantling appeal. It just came back this morning. We got it faxed from the Attorney General’s Office, who just had it faxed from the clerk at the Third DCA. I wanted to be the first one to go over it with you. I’m sure the press will be calling.’
Oh, shit. Here it comes. Pick a new exciting destination for your life because he’s a free man.
The nightmare that she had put in the past for almost a year was about to start up again. The knot in her stomach tightened, and her mouth went dry. She nodded her head slowly. ‘And?’ was all she could say.
‘And? And, we won. On all the issues.’ He finally broke out in a smile. ‘The court unanimously upheld his conviction. I have the opinion right here.’ He flashed a stack of papers in her direction. ‘I’ll have to get you a copy. But basically, they said that there was no conflict with your prosecuting him. They said his argument that he had been the one who, well, had assaulted you was “opportunistic and inflammatory and was not corroborated by independent evidence.” They said that if they found merit in his argument, it would, and I quote, “open the floodgates to other defendants to dig up dirt on the prosecutor or judge handling their cases in the hope of diverting justice off its course. To simply allow a mere allegation to support a conflict or recusal argument, conveniently made in this case after the statute of limitations had expired, would thus permit a defendant to not only forum-shop, but also now to prosecutor-shop, without any substantiation required of his prejudicial claims.”’ He pointed out the highlighted portion of the opinion and let her read it.
‘They also didn’t buy into his conspiracy theory or his ineffective assistance of counsel. They said Rubio was more than adequate, and his decision to testify or not testify was clearly reflected on the record as his own.
‘And finally, on the most important issue, they didn’t go for his newly discovered evidence argument either. I highlighted that for you, too. They said Judge Chaskel heard that argument on Bantling’s Motion for New Trial last spring, and that they, too, found no merit in it. Chambers’s assault on you, in and of itself, with nothing more, does not constitute newly discovered evidence. They also noted that the jury in his trial last summer also didn’t buy that argument and convicted him of murder ten times over. Period. End of sentence. That’s all she wrote. You can breathe again, C.J.’
‘What’s next?’ Her heart was beating a mile a minute.
‘The Florida Supremes, but I wouldn’t worry. I think the Third DCA wrote a really strong opinion. After that, well, he can then start making his way through the federal system until he hits the U.S. Supreme Court.’
She nodded thoughtfully, absorbing everything he said and all that it implied. She was surprised that she felt no guilt, no remorse. Just a sense of calm.
‘It’ll still be about eight or ten years before they execute him, with the way justice works in Florida. Maybe longer. We probably won’t even be around to see it happen.’
‘I will,’ she said, her voice flat.
‘Well good luck to you. I’ll be enjoying my measly state retirement out on my boat off the Keys. Six years and counting. Just me and the fish. I’m not even inviting my wife. I’ve got to run, C.J. I’ll drop a copy off on your desk later on today.
‘Yes, actually. My flight leaves late this afternoon. I’m going to visit my parents in California for a few days.’ That was a relationship she hoped could be repaired. That she thought she wanted back.
Well, this news should make your vacation even better. Have a nice trip.’ He took off down the hall, making his way through the restless crowd toward the elevator, happy thoughts of retirement and turkey probably dancing in his head at that very moment.
Oh, I’ll be there, Paul. If and when it ever comes to pass. Just as I promised. I’ll be there to watch it happen. To make sure justice gets done.
She watched him get on the elevator and waved as the doors closed. Then she glanced at her watch. It was almost noon, and she still had to go home and pack. She took the elevators down to the first floor, and walked past the Pickle Barrel. Because of the holiday it was not as full as usual, as most of the defense attorneys and prosecutors and judges had jump-started their weekend right after morning calendar.
C.J. pushed open the glass doors and walked down the cement steps. The back doors of the courthouse led out to Thirteenth Street and DCJ. For security reasons, it was blocked to all traffic except police vehicles. She recognized the state car right away.
Dominick sat in his Grand Prix, right in front of the steps, just waiting for her. He lowered the passenger-side window as she approached. ‘Hey, pretty lady,’ he called out, ‘want a ride?’
‘My mom taught me not to talk to strange men in cars,’ she replied, smiling. What are you doing here? I thought you were going to meet me at my house.’
‘I was. But I wanted to rescue you early from this place. Get a head start on those canned airline Bloody Marys, maybe.’
She opened the door and climbed in next to him. He reached across the seat, his hand on the back of her neck, gently pulling her toward him, his warm lips meeting hers.
‘Well,’ she said, when their kiss had finally ended, What a welcome. I’m glad you did. I could go for something cold and tropical right about now. A “we’re on vacation” drink. Are you packed?’
‘Yup. It’s all in the back. Are you?’
‘Of course not,’ she replied, ‘but maybe you can help me. It shouldn’t take too long.’
‘Let’s get going then. Drop off those nasty files. I’ll follow you back home. And then it’s just you and me, baby.’
‘And my parents. Don’t forget, you get to meet them.’
‘I can’t wait,’ he said, meaning it.
She smiled, kissed him softly again, and hopped out of the car to drop off those nasty files and jump-start her own vacation. Their flight to San Francisco left at 5:30, and she didn’t want to miss it.
A necessary thank you is due the following individuals for their assistance on this project, all of whom provided their invaluable knowledge without reservation or hesitation, and for that I am especially grateful: Dr Reinhard Motte and Dr Lee Hearn of the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office; Special Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, particularly Special Agent Eddie Royal; Domestic Violence Division Chief Esther Jacobo of the State Attorney’s Office, Miami-Dade County; Assistant Statewide Prosecutors Julie Hogan and Marie Perikles of the Office of Statewide Prosecution; pharmacist Liz Chasko; and, finally, Mr Dean Mynks.
A special thank you is also due Marie Ryan, Esq., Leslie Thomas, Penny Weber, Thea Sieban, and John Pellman, Sr., for their precious time, as well as their insight, and to my friends and family for their support, and my mother for her gift.
Jilliane Hoffman, Retribution
Retribution by Jilliane Hoffman / History & Fiction have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes