Book: Outside The Ropes

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Next: 25: Debt

THE CONSTANT ACHE OF ANGER, TENSING ALL my muscles and making my teeth hurt from grinding, was my version of numb for the day.

I sat outside the small courtroom, Gage at my side, while the judge called in different people one at a time. Silas and Dexter were there too, to testify as witness’s. We were made to wait, knowing nothing of what was happening beyond those doors. Numb.

My attackers were held in another room while the proceedings took place, until it was their time to be called in. It wasn’t even a real court hearing; they were being tried as a juvenile so what was happening was more of a conference with a judge.

Numb.

But that all broke when I was called in. Not at first. At first I stayed numb while the prosecutor questioned me. I relayed the events evenly, just as I had practiced with Detective Andres. But the defense lawyer changed that.

“So, Ms. Sommers.” The short man in a suite flipped open a leather file and read some notes. “You state that these young men attacked you, but all reports, including your statement, say that you hit one of the young men with your keys and then punched him in the face.” He looked up from his file, eyebrows raised. “Is that correct?”

His question sparked the first flames of anger. “They were coming at me, I-”

He raised his hand, “Please stick to yes or no while I establish the facts.”

I looked around the room. The Judge sat beside me in her high chair, staring down at me through her glasses. The two prosecutors were at a rectangle table just in front of me, whispering to each other, not giving me guidance. Behind them sat Anthony and Detective Andres, and both only stared at me.

I thought my teeth might crack with the pressure put on them as I grounded out, “Yes.”

“May I present to your honor medical records from my clients that show one young man suffered a broken nose as a result, and the other had a mild concussion.”

A match thrown into my anger.

“Do you have my medical records?” I demanded, turning to the judge as the beady-eyed lawyer approached her.

The judge flicked her eyes from me, to the papers presented to her, and then back to the lawyer. “Mr. Richter, do you have any further questions for Ms. Sommers?”

He pressed his jacket to him as he sat down behind his table. “No, your Honor.”

Does the prosecution have any further questions?”

One man rose up slightly. “Not at this time, but we would like to request the right to call her back in later, if necessary.”

“Of course.” Judge Goddard turned back to me with a curt smile. “Ms. Sommers, thank you for your time. You may step down now, but please stay nearby in case of further questioning.”

Flames of anger burned as I marched out of the room.

Gage was up and by my side the minute the door closed, concern clear in his eyes. “What happened?”

“Those fucking assholes.” My hand shook as I pointed to the door. “They tried to say I started it. That I injured them.” I balled my fist and practically grunted with anger. I knew I had to calm down, but it was all too much.

“Who said that?” Dexter asked. “Nobody really believes that. I was just in there, they know you're the victim.”

“It was those boy’s lawyer. Why the hell do they even get a lawyer? Why the hell are they in juvenile court? This is all fucking pointless.” I grabbed my head, the reality of it crashing around me. Fiery tears burned my eyes, evaporating before they could fall. “Even if they get the maximum sentence, it’s crap. Six month in a juvenile detention center, crap.”

Gage tried to pull me into his arms, but I pushed away, not wanting to be touched.

I should have known when Detective Andres told me they found the other two, but because they were not visibly involved on the video they were ordered to perform community service and write letters of apology. Which I hadn’t received yet and didn’t want.

The door to the courtroom opened and closed, a clerk coming out. “Mr. Gage Lawson?”

“That’s me,” he said, still hovering by my side.

“The judge will see you now.” The clerk gestured into the room.

His hand brushed my elbow as he walked by. My anger had already begun to recede back to my original numb state. It didn’t matter what any of us said or did. None of this mattered. It was all a waste of time.

I slumped onto the bench beside Dexter. The wide hallway had several benches lining the wall outside of the courtrooms. People scattered the hallway, all absorbed in their own business.

“You’re right, Rea. This is crap and I’m sorry.” He slid his arm around me and I let him. “Just think when this is over we can go to the gym and take it all out on the bags there. Hell, I’ll even let you spar with me, just don’t touch the face alright?” His large smile showed his white teeth, but it wasn’t contagious this time.

Thinking about the gym did keep me from grinding my teeth to nothing though, and I nodded. “The gym is what I need.”

The door opened and I looked up surprised, Gage hadn’t been gone long. But it was Anthony that walked out of the room, hesitant as he looked towards me.

He walked over, hands in the pockets of his black police uniform. “Regan, are you doing okay?” his voice was soft, his brow furrowed with concern

Dexter’s arm tightened on my shoulder as he looked up at the man. “She’s fine.”

I stood up, stepping in front of Dexter in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Dex had always been nice to Anthony, but since he found out Gage and I are whatever we are, he had stepped up the big brother act.

“I’m good. Just frustrated by all of this.” I gestured to the courtroom.

He nodded and ran his hand along the back of his head. “The system doesn’t always work the way we want it to.”

I knew this, had a lifetime of experiences that should have been enough evidence, but still felt let down.

“I hope they’ll at least let me know what the end result is. This not knowing, not being in there, is crazy.”

His lip pulled up and he took my hand in his, squeezing. “I’ll let you know, don’t worry.”

He dropped my hand as the door opened and Gage came out. Gage paused, staring for a moment and strolled over, taking his place next to me. It didn’t escape me the way he raised himself up and lifted his head, making Anthony have to look up at him.

But Anthony didn’t look towards him. He nodded at me. “Find me after? I’ll be sure to tell you.” Then he turned and walked back into the courtroom.

Gage looked to me with a raised brow, and I flopped back onto the bench.

“He’s going to let me know what happens, since I’m not allowed in the room.” I looked up at him. “How did it go in there?”

He shook his head as he sat next to me. “Like you said, this is crap, but hopefully it will be over soon.” He moved his hand to my lower back and rubbed small circles.

***

“The primary offender, the one that you identified, he was given house arrest for six months, has to pay a portion of your medical bills, and attend counseling. The other three have to pay the remainder of your medical expenses, attend counseling, and continue to check in with their probation officer for six months,” Anthony explained with disappointment clear on his face. “I’m sorry Regan.”

He looked past me to where Gage, Dexter, and Silas waited by the exit to the courthouse, and his eyes landed on mine, a small smile on his face. “I’m sorry for the things I said before too. If you need me, anytime, call okay?”

I returned his wisp of a smile and took a step back. “I’m sorry too, and thank you.” And as always, I meant it.

***

“I’m going to stay with you. Silas can deal with it on his own.” Gage slipped his arm around me and I jumped back, shrugging him away.

“Go.” I was frustrated, too many emotions in me to deal with his too. I wanted to get lost in my workout, pound it all away, and he would only be a distraction. “Really. I’m going to stay here and work out. You might as well go and get work done. I need some time alone.”

Lines in his face deepened, proving my point. I couldn’t handle this right now.

“Go. Please. I’ll see you later, once I’m feeling better.”

He nodded, jaw tight, and looked beyond me to where Dexter and Leona were playfully boxing in the ring. “Dex, can you close up if I go with Silas? And give Rea a ride back to our place tonight.”

I rolled my eyes at his last direction. He hadn’t even asked me. “I might go back to my place. Really I’m not good company right now.”

Gage dropped his eyes back to me with a heavy sigh. “Fine. I’ll give you some space. But call if you need me. I’ll call when were done to check on you.”

I bit back my reply. He would be gone sooner if I stayed silent, and I knew I was being mean, I just couldn’t help it.

“Have a good workout.” He leaned forward, giving me a peck on the lips. His intent had been more, but I hadn’t responded.

“Have a good meeting.” I walked away and put on my headphones, ready to drown out reality.

 

By closing time I was drained. I could barely lift my arms to blow dry my hair after my shower, so I skipped it. It had started to rain anyways, and I just wanted to be in my own bed. Exhaustion was better than anger though, and sleep was my next best form of therapy.

“Leona did you get your phone from the office? Don’t want to leave it again.” Dex asked, spinning her around as we made our way to the door.

“Oh shoot. Let me go get it.” She jogged back to Silas’s office.

“Were the lights off in the girl’s locker room?” He asked me.

“Yup and I switched the towels into the dryer too, so they won’t get moldy.”

His smile brightened and he raised his hand for a high five, “Good looking out.”

Leona ran back out to us waving her phone, “All ready.”

“Come here girl.” Dexter extended his hand to her, tucking her under his arm as he walked out the front door. “I swear, I don’t know-“

My heart crashed as four men with hoods pulled low closed in on us. Their guns were drawn as they hearded us back into the gym.

Leona’s shrill scream pierced through the sound of blood rushing in me.

One of the men grabbed me, pinning my arms to my side as he wrapped his around me. The cold steel of a gun was pressed into my head, just behind my ear.

“Shut that bitch up,” The tallest of the men shouted, the one with his arm extended, gun pointing at Dexter’s forehead.

The guy holding Leona backed up, releasing her as the fourth man stepped forward and backhanded her, silencing her screams and sprawling her on the ground.

That man flicked his hand, shaking away the sting of the hit. “Damn hoe has a hard fucking head.”

I had thought I was at the height of fear, until I heard his voice.

Damien turned towards me, still gripping his hand. His face cracked into an evil smile and his light brown eyes lit up as he pulled a gun from his pants, extending it towards me.

He took the few steps between us and jammed his gun to my cheek.

I tried to keep stiff, even with the gun burning my skin as it pressed and pulled into me, and I met his gaze.

“Time to make good on some debts.” Damien smirked, pure evil rage in his eyes.

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Next: 25: Debt