Dirty Red

Page 49

“Why are you so sure she can win this case? And why would you think she’d want to? Are you forgetting how she pretended not to know you when you lost your memory? She wants you back — she'll probably lose on purpose.”

“I know her,” he said. “She’ll fight hard … especially if I ask her to.”

That was it. Case closed. Except mine was still open and dangling like a glass Christmas ornament from my archrival’s fingertip. I had to trust him via her; there was no one else. My father was usually the one to get me out of trouble, and this time he was the one who had put me there before dying of a heart attack.

I didn’t trust her. She was snappy with me. Attorneys were supposed to make you feel good — even if they were lying about your chances at winning. Olivia made it her sole mission in life to make me believe I was going down. It was not lost on me, that whenever my husband was around, she was sour and tense. She wouldn’t look at him either, even when he directed a question at her, she’d pretend to do something else when she answered him. I hated her. I hated her every day for the year it took her to clear me of the charges. There was only one day during the entire thing when I did not hate her.

The day she put me on the stand was the worst day of my life. No one wanted her to do it — they thought it would ruin the case.

Let her plead the fifth was the consensus at the firm. Olivia had gone against every piece of advice offered as she prepped me for the stand. I saw the looks that were being exchanged at my expense. Even when Bernie, the senior attorney, had approached her, Olivia had shot her down.

“Damn it, Bernie! She can handle herself,” she’d said. “This is my case and I’m putting her on the stand.”

I was terrified. My fate was in the hands of an evil, conniving woman. I couldn’t decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Most of me was convinced that she was trying to lose the case on purpose. When I told Caleb my theory, he was sorting mail in the kitchen. He barely glanced up at me.

“Do what she says.”


“What do you mean, do what she says? You’re not even listening to me.”

He tossed the mail down and walked to the fridge.

“I heard you, Leah.”

“I don’t trust her.”

He had a beer in his hand when he turned toward me, but he was looking at the floor.

“I do.”

And that was it. My only ally was the woman who would gain the most from my imprisonment. She prepped me for the stand by drilling me with questions that the Prosecution would ask, drilled me with her own, yelled at me when I wasn’t sedate enough, swore at me when I faltered in my answers. She was hard and she was tough, and a part of me appreciated that. A very, very small — I hate this bitch and I want her to die — part. But, I trusted Caleb. Caleb trusted Olivia. I was either going to go down in flames or walk out of the courtroom a free woman.

The day I took the stand, I was threadbare. I wore what Olivia brought for me: a dress with soft peaches and lilacs, my hair in a low ponytail, pearl stud earrings. As I secured them in my ears, I wondered if they belonged to her. They were fake pearls, so probably. My hands were shaking as I smoothed out my dress and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked vulnerable. I felt vulnerable. Maybe that was her plan. Caleb said to trust her.

I searched for her eyes as I took my seat on the bench, my knees weak beneath my folded hands. In the weeks of prepping, I’d learned to read her eyes. I’d learned that if she held them wide, her eyebrows slightly raised — I was doing well. If she stared right through me, she was mentally cussing me out, and I needed to change course, quickly. I hated that I knew her so well. I hated it, and I was grateful for it. I often found myself wondering if Caleb knew how to read her eyes like I did. Probably. I didn’t know what was worse — being able to read Olivia so well, or actually feeling proud that I could do it.

She stood in front of me, instead of pacing back and forth like they did in the movies. She looked relaxed in her tan suit. She was wearing a striking, cobalt blue necklace that made her eyes glow.

I took a breath and answered her first question.

“I worked at OPI Gem for three years.”

“And what was your active job title?”

I looked at the necklace, then her eyes, the necklace, then her eyes…

It wasn’t really cobalt. What was that shade?

“I was Vice President of Internal Affairs…”

It carried on like that for forty minutes. Toward the end, she started asking me questions that made every sweat gland on my body weep. Questions about my father. My mother was sitting next to Caleb, watching me intently, her hands pressed beneath her chin in what looked like a silent prayer. I knew it to be a silent warning.

Don’t humiliate your family, Leah. Don’t tell them where you come from. She was begging the gods of misbehaving, illegitimate, f**ked up daughters.

Olivia hadn’t wanted her there for fear of her intimidating me into not telling the truth. But, she had insisted on coming.

“What was your relationship like with your father, outside of work, Ms. Smith?”

My mother’s chin dropped to her chest. My sister swiped her hair behind her ears and gave my mother a sideways glance. Caleb pressed his lips together and looked at the ground. The gods of illegitimate, f**ked-up daughters rumbled in the clouds.

I straightened up, pressing back the tears — those hateful tears that exposed my weakness.

I recalled what Olivia had said to me when we were arguing about some of her questions just a week ago. I told her that I wasn’t going to blacken my father’s name from the witness stand. She’d gotten grey in the face and her dime-sized hands had balled into fists.

“Where is he, Leah? He f**king threw blood at you and died! You tell the truth or you go to prison.”

Then she’d sidled up close to me so no one else could hear and said, “Use your anger. Remember how it felt to destroy my things when I was trying to steal something from you? If you lose this case, I might take him from you again.”

That had done the trick. I had been so angry I’d answered all of her questions — even the hard ones. She’d had a smug look on her face for the rest of the day.

Now, I had to channel some of the anger back. I pictured her with Caleb. That was all I needed.

She repeated her question. “What was your relationship like with your father, Leah, outside of work?”

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