Happy weekend. I’ve decided to post little tidbits on the weekends. Excerpts from my works in progress or even from some of my published works. Hopefully, they’ll give you a glimpse into my style of storytelling and provide you with a feel if were a match as to readers and writers. Today’s offering comes from a work-in-progress. It’s the opening scene from what I hope is a new series for me. So far the book isn’t even titled, yet.
I hope you’ll enjoy.
I was on my way to visit a client that night when I heard the crash. The sound came rattling down the hall. The noise set my teeth on edge and propelled the jailer onto the balls of his feet.
Ed Bracken, glanced around the hallway, wild-eyed. He looked like he was about to take off in a sprint. His interest obviously focused on the jail and his duties.
My thoughts remained firmly fixed on mine. I was here to visit a client, Gary Gravers. He was charged with assault. I’d represented him in court before. And now it appeared I would be doing so again.
The cops had told me Gravers had gotten himself into a bar fight and had threatened his opponent with a broken beer bottle. The state was unlikely to take kindly to such an act. I refuse to tell you the rest of his story. For one thing there’s the confidentiality part of our relationship. Plus, he, and others like him, help me pay my rent. A fact I don’t take lightly.
I’m Mickey Carter, a spot on criminal defense attorney here in Beaver County, a nondescript bit of land located near Illinois’ western border, somewhere close to where the state bulges out into Iowa and Missouri.
So it wasn’t until I returned from Gravers’ jail cell that I learned the story behind the incredible crash.
“Have I got a customer for you,” Bracken said with a chuckle when I reached his post. “This woman, she drove her car straight into the front of the jail. Can you imagine?”
“Not a bright move,” I said with a shake of my head.
“Yeah,” Bracken said. “Not to mention she probably totaled her car.”
“The ambulance hauled one woman away.”
“I suppose the driver was drunk, then?” Drunk drivers always seem to come out of collisions unscathed.
“Not according to the breathalyzer test.”
“Heart attack? Drug overdose?” Something had to explain the bizarre behavior.
“None of the above. She’s down in the holding cell. You should go take a look.”
What can I say? I’d had a slow month, and a client was a client. Drunk, drugged, or insane. Since the woman had driven her car into the front of the county jail, it seemed likely one of those three choices had to have triggered her incredible act.
So my first glimpse of Angela Clark came as she was sitting in the holding cell of the county jail. She was huddled up in the far corner. Arms wrapped about herself. Glazed eyes focused on the far wall. Face tear-stained and grim.
“I understand you’ve gotten yourself into a little trouble?”
Her gaze shifted. She stared at me without speaking. It was as though she’d heard my words but had failed to grasp their meaning.
“You rammed your car into the building?” I said, making a rounding motion with my right hand. My attempt to engage her mind.
“Oh, that,” she replied, dismissively. “Yes. I was the one..”
“You totaled your car?”
She shrugged. “The front of it. Probably. Do you know anything about Gayle Maiter?” Her eyes registered the first hint of concern I’d seen from the woman. “Is she going to be okay?”
“Sorry. I don’t know. I’m an attorney. I’m here to see if you want legal help.”
“Are the police going to charge me?”
“I would think so. You drove a car into the front of their building. Police tend to take a dim view of people who do engage in such behavior.”
“So I need a lawyer?”
“Yes. I’d say so. Do you know one? If you do, you should give him or her a ring.”
“No,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest. “Well, I know one, but he does wills and such. I’m not sure he’d want me to call him under these circumstances. Or at this time of night, either.”
“Well, I just happen to be on hand,” I offered, “and I specialize in criminal law.”
“My lucky day, then?”
I shook my head. “I wouldn’t go there, no.”
She took a minute to look around the place, as though she were evaluating her options. Then she pulled her gaze back to mine. “I guess as long as you’re here, you’ll do.”
I’d had better offers, but given the circumstances, I decided to cut her some slack. “You’re hiring me to represent you. Right?”
Then I wondered what kind of a deal I’d made. I spent a moment assessing this new client of mine. Allowing for the circumstances, she didn’t look too far out of whack. In fact, at that moment, she looked rather fetching. Probably middle twenties. Large brown eyes. Tear-stained cheeks. Disheveled blonde hair. Rather like a stray and helpless puppy in need of a good home.
I sighed. Have I mentioned I’m a sucker for puppies?
“Look,” I said, “maybe we should start by you telling me what happened?”
“It’s a long story.”
“Ed,” I yelled.
The jail keeper popped his head into the doorway at the far end of the hall.
“We need a room. Someplace we can be alone.”
“Sure thing. Follow me.”
“The lady, Ed. She needs to come, too.”
“Oh, right.” He waddled down the hall and unlocked the cell door. The woman rose from the cot and took a few tentative steps toward me.
“It’s okay,” I said, encouraging her.
She nodded, straightened, and stepped through the doorway. Together we followed Ed to a small interview room.
“You got twenty minutes,” he said, swinging the door wide.
I thanked him and waved the woman inside.
The place was your traditional, small, county-jail space. Cinder block walls, a table, a couple of chairs, a stained poster on the far wall advertising sobriety. Dusty, and grimy, but serviceable.
“So,” I said, as she sat, “what is this long story of yours?”
I took the seat opposite her.
She lifted her chin.
Defensive right off, I thought. Never a good sign in a client.
“My name,” she said, “is Angela Clark. Maybe you know of me? I’ve been in the news recently.”
“The wife of Jeffery Clark?” I asked. “The guy who was stabbed to death in the park?”
“So how did you go from being a grieving widow to becoming a crazy lady who drives her car headfirst into a building? And not just any building, either, but the county jail, no less?”
“Yes, when you’re speaking with me. As far as other people go, we’ll chew that one over later.”
She pulled a shuddering breath. “I was trying to save my life.”
“Okay,” I said sitting back in my chair. A nutter, I thought. No doubt about it. “What made you believe your life was in danger?”
“I didn’t imagine the threat,” she said, leaning toward me. “Gayle Maiter told me she was going to kill me. She had a knife in her hand.”
“While she was in the car with you?”
Angela nodded. “I’m probably in a lot of trouble, huh?”
“Minimum, I’d guess you’re looking at a felony charge of criminal damage to property.”
“Is the charge serious?” She studied her hands in her lap.
“It can be, yes.”
“That’s not fair,” she said with a flash of hot anger. “I was only trying to defend myself.”
I opened my brief case and pulled out a legal pad. Slipping a pen from the pocket of my suit coat, I said, “How about you tell me this long story of yours?”
She gave me an undecipherable look, then did as instructed, with me transcribing her statement as fast as I could.