nOTHING IN THE DARK
"How many times do I have to say it?" Josh yelled at the suit across the table. "I don't remember!"
Tom Hopson didn’t even blink. “Okay, let me get this straight.” He scanned his notes again. His reading glasses flashed beneath the sharp light in the interrogation room. “You arrived. Chatted briefly outside. She invited you in. You took a seat on the sofa … and that’s it. Everything else is a blur.”
“You think I’m lying?”
“I didn’t say that. I’m just trying to get an accurate picture.”
Yeah, right. He hadn’t believed a word of it.
Josh glowered at the fifty-something attorney. Jaded as they come, Hopson wore his seen-it-all demeanor like a badge of honor. He had cop’s eyes, a black rug of hair and a gray suit that was as finely tailored as his fingernails were manicured.
“You admit you were there,” Hopson pressed on. “But you don’t remember how you got back to the Carlyle.” He dragged his wire-rims down his nose, cut a glance at the wall clock. “I’ll be frank with you. I’m at a loss.”
“That makes two of us.”
“Tell me this.” Hopson folded his glasses with care. “If you didn’t attack her, who did?”
The words slammed into Josh like the first time he’d heard them. Seven hours ago he’d stood on Elise’s porch. Four hours later, he was in handcuffs.
He’d lost time again, but the scratches on his face and arms told him all he needed to know. He’d tried to hurt his brother’s widow. Somehow that seemed worse than the dozens of men he’d pumped full of lead.
But no worse than what you did to Hatch.
Josh stared back at his lawyer, bleary-eyed. He tried to think, but damn it, his head felt like a machine gun on steroids. The pounding. The ache. And this stuffy room wasn’t helping. It stank of armpits, burnt coffee and last week’s lunch. His stomach bubbled with something foul.
“Mr. Bright?” Hopson’s cool gaze made a brisk slide to his fancy wristwatch. “Are you okay? Would you like some water?”
Josh filled his lungs, tried to think, to focus. “Can you do me a favor?” he asked, hating the desperation in his voice. “Can you find out if Lissa’s all right? If they’ve discharged her? It’s ... it’s been hours and nobody’ll tell me anything.”
Hopson’s expression was as cynical as his reply. “You’re worried about her.”
“Why is that so hard to believe?” Josh snapped. A tense silence fell between them while their gazes did battle. Ten seconds into it, Josh threw up his hands. “Forget it. I don’t need this shit.”
Hopson still hadn’t blinked. “What you need is an attitude adjustment.”
“This isn’t about me. This is about your weekend. Can’t wait to get to happy hour, can you?”
“Stop being paranoid. I’m just trying to get to the truth.”
Josh gripped the table’s edge. “I am telling the truth. But you don’t want to hear it. Why? ‘Cause stuff isn’t wrapped up in a neat little bow. Your paint-by-the-numbers approach is the problem here. Not me.”
He’d dealt with bureaucratic tools like Hopson before. The military was full of them. Old stone-face didn’t want the facts. He wanted a quick and easy solution, something that took minimal effort. Like a clear-cut guilty plea chockfull of details Josh couldn’t give.
“News flash,” Josh said. “Mine isn’t your garden variety case, Mr. Public Defender. You’ll have to work this time. Admit it. You couldn’t care less about helping me.”
Hopson’s calm facade finally cracked. He pushed the stack of papers in front of him aside. Cherry-red ears framed his cheap toupee like flaming bookends. “I’m a professional and I’ll do my job—will always do my job—to the best of my ability. Any suggestion to the contrary is ... fallacious.”
Yeah, he’d struck a nerve.
“Who are you kidding?” Josh tossed back. “You’ve had one eye on the clock since you walked in here.”
“And you’ve been hostile and belligerent. Time is running out, Mr. Bright.” Hopson drew himself up, narrowed his eyes. “You’re scared. Confused. So you’re lashing out at a convenient target. Me. But while we sit here sniping, the police are typing up paperwork, setting things into motion. And I’m still in the dark.”
“You wouldn’t be if you believed me.”
“Who says I have to?”
“See? I was right!”
Josh shoved from the table and paced the floor. He scrubbed a hand over his face, smelling Elise’s perfume on his fingers. Her sweet, heady scent pounded his senses like a judge’s gavel.
“I did it,” he said, stomach churning. “I attacked my sister-in-law.” The admission made him want to throw up, yet truth was truth. He couldn’t deny it. “But I don’t remember, man. I swear to God, I don’t.”
Sighing, Hopson flashed two smooth as satin palms. “Okay, look, let’s start over again. I’m your advocate, all right? You can trust me. Everything I do will be in your best interests, but we’re running out of time. Any minute now they’ll be in here with a warrant to cart you off—”
Josh swung around. “Warrant? What warrant?”
“Search warrant. For a forensic exam.” He gave Josh a frank look. “They’ll get fingernail scrapings. Blood and hair samples ....”
Josh gave his head an exaggerated shake. “Oh, fuck no.”
“It’s not up to you. As soon as they get the warrant they’re running you straight to the hospital.”
“Then what?” Josh asked, pacing in a frenzy again.
“You’ll come back here. They’ll write up the charges and you’ll be taken down the hall to the court commissioner. She’ll review the evidence and determine if there’s probable cause. After that, she’ll set the trial date and your bond.”
This place was a regular one-stop shop. Hell, they probably had a priest and an executioner waiting in the wings. “The bond you mentioned, how much is it?”
Hopson dug a list from one of his files and looked it over. “Damn. Commissioner Jenkins.” His expression soured. “She’s a tough old bird. I’d guess two hundred and fifty thousand.”
Josh’s soul sank another mile. “Jeez.”
“I’m basing this on the direction I think the prosecution might lean. But you’ll only have to come up with ten percent—that’s twenty-five thousand. Can you raise it?”
“Oh, sure.” Josh gestured. “I’ll just pull it out my ass.” He piled his hands atop his head. “This is crazy.”
“Yes, there’s a lot to digest, Mr. Bright. I’m going to try and push for second-degree assault. It’s a misdemeanor. Unfortunately, I think the prosecution may have other ideas.”
“You want the Disney version or reality?”
“Just give it to me straight.”
Hopson studied him, silver brows furrowed. “They’ll charge you with everything under the sun, hoping something will stick.” He sighed, rubbed his eyes. “Worst case scenario? Attempted rape. That’s a felony. It carries a maximum life sentence.”