Til Death Do Us Part: A Promise Kept Novel - CHAPTER 2
Instead of the mercilessly primped hair, perfect make-up and a snooty pout, I glared at a wash-out woman with swollen red eyes. Without the benefit of make-up, her skin looked dry, the color uneven and patchy. She’d been forced to trade in her designer duds for Hayden County’s orange jumpsuit.
Glenda didn’t look at me. Haughty as ever, she sat rod straight and stared at some distant spot on the wall. Her stance didn’t change even when I cleared my throat. I told Jack that I would give her five minutes. Checking my watch, I was one minus my goal. I was angry when I walked in, now Glenda was wasting my time as she sat mute was. Did she expect me to speak first? Such arrogance was predictable. The deaths of two people were hanging over her head, yet she showed no humility.
Screw it, I decided.
Glenda could waste someone else’s time but just as I started to shift out of my chair, she spoke, “Aren’t you going to ask me if I did it?”
“I don’t really care,” I snapped. “Why did you tell Jack to contact me?”
She gave me a smirk, “You’re a famous defense attorney. I need someone like you on my side.”
I once had my own firm with offices in Annapolis, MD and North Carolina. There was a time when I was half-crazed trying to navigate between two cities, two teams of lawyers and two caseloads but I loved every moment of it. Two of my cases had generated national attention. I’d even been interviewed by CNN, Headline News and Fox but calling me famous was an overgenerous description.
Leaning toward her, “You hate me,” I said.
“Really, Quinn, shouldn’t we be past that by now? We were children when all those things happened.”
Her minimization of all that had occurred between us was startling. “You called me a white trash- honky-bitch less than a year ago.” While helping Jack investigate a murder, I’d caught her having an affair with her Tennis Instructor. She was playing with his balls – not the ones you throw in the air. I’d called her out in front of Jack, threatening to tell her husband if she didn’t cooperate. “Really, why did you ask for me?” I said, again.
“Since you’re not going to ask, I’ll tell you. I did not kill George.” She was calm. Her words were precise with a subtle southern lilt. Her hands were folded delicately as she gazed at me with a half-cocked smile.
I gave her a second to add the other victim. When she didn’t, “And?”
“I didn’t kill Maria, either.”
“Careful there, Glenda, you may be accused of being sympathetic.”
Like most folks, I enjoyed a dose of scandal with my morning coffee. There’s something salacious about people acting badly, especially when those people are rich, contemptuous and self-absorbed like Glenda.
I felt the edge of my eye twitch, a tick of sorts that occurred when I was near nuclear reactor angry. Even in a jail house jumpsuit, staring at a prison term of life or possibly worse, Glenda held onto her superior air. She spoke of her husband and Maria’s deaths like they were no more significant than selection of a new mascot for the high school marching band.
Despite my anger, I found myself chuckling. “Here’s a piece of free advice. You should try to show some emotion when you speak about your husband, even if you’re not sincere. The jury will be expecting it.” I jabbed a thumb over my shoulder toward the door. “The cops will ding you for it.”
Glenda disgusted me. That was saying a lot considering some of the people who’d come through my path over the years. I’d worked with people accused of some of the most heinous crimes. It was rare to see someone so cold. So emotionally detached. Hell would freeze over before I defended her.
I made a show of checking my watch. I didn’t want her to think she’d run me off, but I wanted out of the crazy box. There might still be time to meet with Naomi.
“Listen,” I started, “I can give you the names of several competent attorneys in Kentucky. They’re expensive, but then what do you care about cost. Good luck,” I said.
“Quinn, please,” her hands shot forward. The hard shell melted away. Glenda’s eyes widened. Her breath surged out of her. “I should have been nicer to you. I … I called you names,” she confessed. “I wasn’t nice. Do you want me to apologize? Okay, I’m sorry. See? I’m sorry. You can call me names if that makes you feel better. Call me anything. Whatever you need to move out of the past, but I need your help.”
Exploding from my seat. “That’s not how it works!” I screamed. I didn’t step in the room with an expectation of an apology. But to be patronized with one was intolerable.
There was a knock on the door. Jack’s voice barreled through. “Hey, everything okay in there?” he called.
“You don’t get to treat people like crap then come running for help when you’re in trouble.” I’d been upset before. Now I was furious. Jack was going to get an ear full. It had been a long time since we’d argued. This one was going to be one for the books.
Jack knocked at the door again. “Everything okay?”
“Quinn!” called Glenda.
“Go to hell,” I shouted over my shoulder as I stormed toward the door.
“I didn’t hate you. I NEVER hated you!” she implored.
I spun to glare at her.
“I envied you,” said softly.
“Kissing my ass won’t make things better,” I said.
She sucked in a long shaking breath. “You never let your social condition limit you. You were smart without even trying. I struggled just to get a B. Everyone laughed at your jokes, whether they liked you or not.” She tried to blink away a tear. Defiantly, it slipped down her cheek anyway. Her voice cracked when she explained, “I’d spend hours getting ready for Jack. You’d walk in the room in dungarees and sneakers. Your hair would be a mess, not a stitch of make-up on. Even if he was angry with you, his eyes would light up.” She batted away a second tear. “No one ever looked at me that way. My friends never defended me the way he does you.” When I started to protest she cut me off. “I have always been just a commodity, Quinn. My parents used me as a pawn during their divorce. Whoever got the kid got more money. My mother lived through me, staying relevant with every pageant I won. Guys only like me because I’m pretty. My friends,” she snorted, “A bunch of shallow bitches who you are probably already talking about me. You are more than just a pretty face. People are impressed by your achievements. They consult you for advice. If you do something great, they don’t assume it’s just dumb luck. No one gives a damn about what I think. What I want. Who I am. Not even George. So yeah, I envied you.” She was shaking. More tears streamed down her cheeks.
I was too stunned to speak. It was unexpected to see Glenda show humility. Revelations of inadequacy. Insecurity. Maybe she was human after all.
Condemned men found God on death row. It was easy to acknowledge sins and meekly ask for forgiveness when there seemed to be no alternatives. If Glenda were free would she make such a confession? It was doubtful. If I’d seen her walking downtown, she’d sneer at me, mumble some common curse under her breath and laugh at my back.
“I know I owe you a lifetime of apologies. I am sorry. Please, Quinn.”
“But…” I started to speak. I tried to pull together the two realities, so they made since. There was a vulnerability about Glena I hadn’t noticed before. She wasn’t tough. The hard shell she’d worn was gone. Behind it I saw a weak, helpless woman. Perhaps even, a victim herself.
“I don’t have anyone else to turn to,” she cried, raising her folded hands mid-air. “I did not kill George. I did not kill Maria. I am begging you. Help me.”
Jack’s banging got louder. “Hey, answer me or I’m coming in,” he said.
“I can’t represent you."
Her shoulders slumped. “If it takes a lifetime, I make it up to you. Just, help me.”
“It’s not that,” I said, turning back to her.
The door started to open, Jack’s massive frame covered the entrance. “We need more time,” I said, pushing against it. I could feel him hesitate then release his hold.
When the door closed again, I turned back to face Glenda. “I can’t defend you because of him.”
“Folks in this town know that you and Jack dated. Anything he does relevant to you will be scrutinized. I’m connected to both of you as well.” I pinched the bridged of my nose to ward off a headache. “A decent defense attorney will peel apart Jack’s office. He may end up on the stand. I can’t be part of that. My participation will probably hurt your case and it will create an ethical dilemma for all of us.”
“Can’t I sign something saying I’m okay with that?”
I studied her for a moment. Glenda’s case was the kind that would have gotten me excited in th e past. I had a woman in front of me accused of a double murder. She was found covered in blood and had a bag full of money taken from the safe in her husband’s office. She had dated the police sheriff, my best friend, whom I was currently living with. I’m not certain if she was aware of the latter. I’d have to reveal that piece of information if I decided to represent her. She could sign an affidavit declaring that she understands my unique relationship with Jack but decided to retain me despite that knowledge. But the decision wasn’t really for her to make. It was mine. I took on a case three years ago that had huge ethical implications. I should have recused myself – I didn’t. As a result, a lot of people including myself, got hurt.
“I’ll help you find a good attorney. I’ll send the information through Jack. Or, I can give names to your mother.”
Glenda closed her eyes and shook her head. “What can I do to get you to change your mind? I don’t know how this happened – how I got here. I feel like I’m in a bad movie.” She pressed shaking hands to her forehead. “Jack told me once that if he ever got in a bind, there was no one else on earth he’d trust to get him out of it. When your brother got in trouble, you fixed it. You made everything go away.”
“No. I’ll send some recommendations to you through your mother. That's the best I can do.”
“I don’t want to see her. She’s the reason I’m in this mess.” She looked lost. Small. Defeated. “Just … just give them to Jack. He’ll make sure I get the information.” Using the sleeve of her uniform, Glenda swiped at her runny nose. “You said you don’t care and you probably won’t believe me, but I didn’t kill George. Or, Maria. They were already dead.”
“All the more reason why you need to find an attorney,” I said.
“Nobody’s going to believe me.”
“They will if you’re telling the truth. The evidence, or lack thereof … “
She shook away my lecture. “This is Hayden, after all, where the truth is far worse than the lies used to cover them.”
“Umf,” I grunted. She had a point. Despite its bucolic appearance, it’s jade green hills and mist covered mountain peaks, its neatly trimmed boulevards with churches on every corner, the ninety-two women’s auxiliaries and charities, and a calendar full of parades and celebrations to bring communities together, the town was full of dirty little secrets and trolls who traded them like currency. Glenda's case was going to generate a lot of attention. Her life was going to be split apart and displayed, not just hers but the victims as well; all the nasty, gory details. Tvultures were sharpening their claws.
That’s when I realized that something was off about Glenda. My eyes traveled down the length of her. I locked on her waist. The jail uniforms weren’t designed to be fashionable. The faded orange cotton shift hung loose and stopped at the top of her thigh. Poorly fitted, saggy pants were held up with a drawstring. They could accommodate just about any body type. Even ample figures – even growing bellies. Glenda’s uniform hung off her thin shoulders. The fabric of the tunic swam around her narrow waist and the hem of the pants pooled around her feet.
The images of what I saw were just starting to connect with my brain as the door to the interrogation room opened. “Quinn?” Jack looked between us.
“We need more time,” I yelled. I pushed the door closed in his face then turned to Glenda and asked, “Where’s the baby?”