When We Were Married Ch. 02AbyDanielQSteele1©
My name is Bill Maitland. I'm one of three top State Attorney Assistants in Jacksonville, Florida. As I noted in a previous entry, I've been through a rough three weeks. Three weeks ago I was, at least in my own mind, happily married to a big tittied blonde goddess who I thought loved me. Little did I know.
For 17 years the former Debbie Bascomb had been my wife, lover, and best friend. We had two children, both navigating through the treacherous teen years and had been working our way up the career paths of our own choosing, myself in the law and Debbie in academia as an Assistant Professor at the University of North Florida.
I thought we'd had a good, solid, relatively boring middle class marriage. Of course I had the best of it. Debbie is a 5 foot 9 blonde wet dream, big titties, long gorgeous legs and an ass to die for. I, on the other hand, am a 5-foot-8, balding, pudgy 41-year-old lawyer, and as exciting as I sound.
We'd had a good marriage until I discovered we didn't. Four words ended it all, when in the middle of informing me she was planning on working teaching during the summer she happened to let it slip that we had had some good times "when we were married."
Of course, she had compounded the weirdness by acting in a loving manner that was nothing like the woman I'd been married to for the past few years and showed off a shaved pussy that I knew nothing about. I made the mistake of getting so royally pissed by the stranger she'd turned into that I asked her if she was fucking anybody, which was probably not the best way to try to get to the bottom of what was going on.
Things went into a death spiral from that point. We stopped talking, she started kissing a good looking young assistant professor (Doug/email name Lance) she worked with, she spent the weekend away from me and after I found a bunch of incriminating emails on her computer that made it brutally clear that if she wasn't fucking the young professor, she was on track to do so,......so I moved out of our house and left my wedding ring behind.
I made one last quixotic gesture to try to win her back, involving overpowering her in the shower and using a very big vibrator and the sex was the best we'd had in years. But when it was over, she had lain on her side of the bed and silently wept. That pretty much told me it was all over
Which led to me surprising her at a UNF event when she was acting very un-wifely, I got my face smashed in and got a few good licks in on her would-be boyfriend, and I wound up with a restraining order keeping me out of my house.
Then twenty minutes ago, while I was waiting to make final arguments in the case of a young sailor who'd shaken his eight eight-month-old daughter to death in a fit of rage against his ex-wife, Debbie had taken the opportunity to call me to tell me she didn't love me anymore and was filing for a divorce.
Which is why I found myself walking – make that striding forcefully – into Circuit Judge Herman Herring's courtroom as an almost free, and very, very angry man. Chris Van Horn, the young sailor who had killed his daughter in a moment of rage, was about to pay for my wife's treachery.
Everything was set to go. Herring was sitting at the bench. He was a buzz-cut, beak-nosed former Marine who feared nothing, loved tough cases and headlines mentioning his name in the Times-Union, and loved even more being God in his courtroom. Standing at his side was the man-mountain former ex-con now bodyguard and Bailiff Charlie Case who kept order during some pretty wild proceedings.
Billy Parker, the young Assistant SA who had prosecuted the case and gave the main closing, sat alone at the prosecution table. Arnold Becker, the New York defense hot shot, sat beside Van Horn who was dressed in a neat and conservative suit, but not too dressy.
As I walked into the courtroom I saw Van Horn's parents seated on the right behind their son in the public section and on the right I saw Van Horn's now ex-wife and her parents. Melody Van Horn's mother was crying. Becker saw me and gave me a smart-ass grin. I wondered if he'd be grinning in a few minutes.
"Mr. Maitland, this is an unexpected pleasure," Herring said. "To what do we owe this honor?"
"Just trying to keep my hand in," I said. 'Are we set to go, your honor?"
I looked over at the jury box. There was an elderly black man, two women in their 30s that I would have bet my life were Lesbians, a youngish guy with long hair who was about to fall asleep, a business type in his early 50s, and one soccer mom type; long blonde hair, tastefully dressed, just enough lipstick and enough boobs so the young guy kept sneaking glances at them, but all in all demure.
She and the old black guy were the only ones on the jury who had kids. He had four grown children, eight grandchildren and six great-grands. Of course, he wasn't crazy about any of his grown kids and had gotten tired of being dragged into babysitting. Not your ideal grandpa. That had been Becker's strategy and he had worked it pretty well.
I glanced over at Van Horn. He met my eyes for a moment and dropped them. He was fighting for his life, but for the life of me I couldn't understand how he could live another day with the memory of that small limp body in his hands.
I walked over to Parker and got the only prop I'd need. Herring addressed the jury, saying, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Assistant State Attorney Maitland will deliver the closing arguments for the state. Once again I remind you that you can only consider the facts and testimony placed in evidence. The closing is simply an opportunity for the state to sum up what it considers the facts in this case that you should consider. Mr. Maitland."
I walked slowly toward the jury, finally stopping in front of the foreman, the businessman. I held the prop where they could not see it.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is William Maitland. I am an Assistant State Attorney. I have worked for the State Attorney' office for the past ten years. Before I joined this office I worked as a defense attorney for a few years I stand before you now to make a few final comments before you retire to deliberate."
I let their gazes wash over me, mostly curious, some already tired of this duty and ready to shuck it to return to their real lives.
"I won't go over our case again. I know that Mr. Becker did his best to muddy the waters by bringing in testimony that implied that Mrs. Van Horn, after their divorce, had brought another man in to live with her and that it was this other man that injured little Amber Van Horn.
"I trust that you listened to the testimony of witnesses, police, medical experts and others and can weigh their credibility against that of Mr. Van Horn. As good an attorney as Mr. Becker is, I don't really think he managed to crack the case we've built against his client.
"No, I won't rehash the case. I will keep my remarks short and I hope to the point."
I held up my prop, an eight by 12 photograph of a smiling seven-month old Amber Van Horn in her mother's arms.
Becker was bouncing out of his seat, shouting, "Your honor," but before he could finish I said, "This is simply a photo of the victim, your honor. Nothing inflammatory."
Herring shot a glance at Becker and even Becker was smart enough to shut up, as Herring said, "Sit down."
I walked down the jury box showing the picture slowly to the jurors.
I stopped in front of the young guy. He was trying not to stare at it, but he couldn't help himself. They hadn't seen a picture of the little girl since early in the trial. It had been all testimony and words and diagrams. Not a real person.
"I apologize for what I'm doing, ladies and gentlemen. Because what I am doing is haunting each of you. I'm doing it to remind you of what this trial is all about. Amber Van Horn was a living, breathing eight-month not too long ago. Now she is a decaying corpse in a graveyard in Jacksonville."
There was a gasp and then murmurs from the spectators. I could sense Becker shooting to his feet and dropping again with a glance from Herring.
"I apologize for using that language, but it's the truth. She is dead, and she has been buried. She was just a little girl. Plenty of little girls die even in this city every year from illness, accidents, murder. Only one little girl. But-"
I walked the line, staring each in the eye until they lowered their gazes.
"She's the reason we're here. She's the reason why the state and defense have spent probably a hundred thousand dollars when you take into consideration the man-hours, salaries, facilities and everything else devoted to this little girl's death. As I said, she was only one little girl. Why do we do this, why do we spend so much on one person?"
I held the photo up in front of them again.
"Because in our culture, every life is sacred. Amber Van Horn had written no novels, raised any children, did anything to make the world a better place...except exist. She was raw, unfinished and of no monetary value to anyone at all. But we hold this trial to confirm that her life had value, and the State is asking you to send her father, Chris Van Horn to the death chamber to confirm that life is sacred."
I turned my back on the jury and walked closer to Van Horn's table. I did not look back at the jury as I said, "I apologized earlier for haunting you and I'm sure most of you didn't understand what I was saying. Let me explain.
"I started working as a prosecutor 10 years ago. I thought it would just be a job.
"What I didn't understand at the time, is that it is much more than a job. I have prosecuted or helped prosecute hundreds of cases. I have seen pictures of, and got to know, the families of hundreds of murder or manslaughter victims. I thought when I finished a case, I'd be done with it."
I turned and walked back to the jury box.
"I was wrong. I can still see the face of the first victim in the first case I ever prosecuted. She was a clerk in a 7-11 who was shot in the face by a bandit who got away with $211...and 37 cents. She was married and the mother of two young boys. Her name was Lilly Mae Longstreet. I don't see her often, but sometimes when I'm falling to sleep or in my dreams, I see her.
"I lost that case. We couldn't build a strong enough case and so the accused walked. But I did the best I could and when I see Lilly Mae's face in my dreams, I can face her without regret.
"Now, I've planted Amber's face in your minds. And trust me, one day, somewhere, somehow, you will see her face again. For myself personally, it doesn't really matter what verdict you come back with. Murder one, manslaughter, whatever. I know that I – and my office – have given this case all we had. Even if Mr. Van Horn is acquitted, I can still face Amber in my dreams and not be ashamed of what I've done.
"It is you, the six of you, who will have to decide what you owe this little girl. When you see her again, and trust me you will, will you be able to say to yourself that you did what was right for her? I hope you can, because the alternative will be a lot of sleepless nights.
"Thank you for your time and consideration. Amber, and those who loved her, thank you as well."
Becker gave me a sickly half smile, as if he couldn't believe I'd tried to feed a modern jury that kind of pap. I just smiled back at him.
I smiled at him again at 6 pm. After they'd called us back to Herring's courtroom. The jury had been out a little more than four hours. The foreman stood and facing Van Horn told him they had found him guilty of murder in the second degree. That meant he was facing a sentence of 10 to 25 years. For a first offense, it would probably be ten years.
Becker was trying to smile for the parents. Undoubtedly he'd make the point that he'd saved their son from the death chamber. But I wondered what kind of person the kid would be when he left Raiford after ten years. He wouldn't be the same man.
Amber's mother, and then Amber's maternal grandmother came up and hugged me. I'm not much for touchie-feelie, but I hugged them back. They hadn't gotten everything they wanted, but I thought they could live with what they had gotten. They could go on with their lives now.
I was walking out when Becker approached me and tapped me on the shoulder. He had perfect hair, perfect teeth, was slim and trim and had a great smile. He reminded me of Debbie's boyfriend – Doug/Lance Baker. I wanted to slug him but I just gave him a shit-eating grin.
"Congratulations," he said. If he wasn't sincere, he could certainly fake it. "I never thought that bullshit would work, but I really was expecting manslaughter tops and maybe less. You got a minute to go out for coffee, a drink somewhere?"
I almost said no, but then realized I had nowhere to go and nothing to do tonight. So we wound up at Pelicans, a downtown bar that draws most of the night action unless you're going out toward the Beaches or one of the suburbs. He was buying and since he probably made ten times the amount of money I did, I let him.
I worked on a Bloody Mary, heavy on the Tabasco and pepper, while he drank some girly drink.
"You wondering why I invited you out for a drink?"
"Not really. I think you're after my body."
He smiled and said, "In a way..."
I shook my head.
"You're going to be sooooo disappointed."
He laughed and took a sip, then sat it down and stared at me. I wondered if I'd been right and he was going to hit on me.
"I do want you, but not physically, Bill. My law firm is always looking for new talent. We have branches in a dozen major cities across the U.S., close to a fifty partners and maybe 500 attorneys altogether. Would you ever consider crossing the aisle? I hear you were defense once."
"I'm flattered, but why?"
"I can't put my finger on it. I really can't, no BS. It's just...something I sensed or felt in there. I think you're a hell of a lot better than this place deserves. Jacksonville? Jesus Christ, you could be practicing in New York, or San Fran, or Chicago. Big cases, bigger money, much bigger paydays. And the ass...my God, man, you wouldn't believe the pussy that wanders through our offices. You don't even have to work hard for it. Our throw aways would knock the eyes out of guys around here."
He looked at my left hand and saw the ring on it.
"Looks like you're married, so we could arrange for employment for the spouse. And the great thing is that even the married guys get all the ass on the side they can handle. Does any of that sound interesting?"
I took a sip of my drink and thought about it.
"No, not really."
He looked genuinely puzzled.
"I like what I do. I think I need what I do. Representing rich SOBs or working divorces or corporate does nothing for me. I'm tempted, because it would be a challenge, but I guess I'm set in my ways. And I couldn't walk away because I've already paid too high a price to be here."
He lifted one eyebrow. I'd only seen people do that in movies.
I held my wedding band out. The skin around it was still pink, but mostly healed.
"My wife called me twenty minutes before I walked into court to tell me she didn't love me anymore and was filing for divorce. After nearly 18 years and two kids."
"Ouch. I – uh."
"It was the job, mostly. Some of the fault was just me personally, but I did what I did willingly so I can't bitch too much."
"But, doesn't' that leave you free...I mean, I don't want to be indelicate, but as wonderful as she may have been, you do know there's a whole world of women out there? You may not want to think about it now, but life goes on."
"Maybe. Look, right now I just want to hunker down and try to ride this out. Leave me your card. If I change my mind, I'll call you, but it won't be for awhile."
He looked around the bar. As usual there were dozens of younger and not so young attorneys, courthouse staff, secretaries, male and female, drinking, flirting, trying to line things up for later that night. I was younger than some of the guys and women there, but I felt like I was a hundred years old. This was going to be my world in the future? God help me.
Becker shook my hand and moved on after a tall redhead who worked in the Public Defender's Office. As I walked out he was saying something to her, standing so close they could have kissed without moving more than a millimeter in either direction and she was giggling. God, I already hated being divorced.
I made my way back to River condo and let myself in. I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, but I found a pack of cheese crackers and a lukewarm half-empty Pepsi on the desk by the bed and devoured both..
I lay back on the bed fully clothed and stared at the ceiling. I should be in our bedroom, lying next to Debbie, hearing the kids' music, watching television or talking with her about something inconsequential that had happened to one of us during the day. I shouldn't be lying in a strange bed, alone, in the quiet except for the infrequent sounds of cars in the night and faraway police sirens.
It was finally sinking in on me away from the courthouse and the cases and the people I worked with. I was alone, and I would be alone from now on.
As I lay there I felt a black anger rising inside me. I'd never denied I was at least partially responsible for what had happened between Debbie and me. I had let my care and concern for others invade my life and push her and the kids to one side. I had been stupid and foolish.
But I had never looked at another woman and seriously thought about cheating on my wife. I hadn't given the love that I had pledged to her to a stranger. And if I had had the kind of problem that Debbie had had, if it had been me that had kept in shape and her that had let herself get fat and flabby, I knew I would have gone to her and tried to make things work.
During her two pregnancies she had gotten huge and it had taken a while after each to re-gain her old body. But I can't remember ever looking at her and not seeing the woman I loved. It was her under that flab and those extra pounds. Why couldn't she have done that for me?
I sat bolt upright on the bed and wanted very badly to smash things. Fuck being the nice guy. I had made some mistakes, but I wasn't the person who had betrayed my partner; I hadn't pulled the plug on nearly 20 years together to go lust after some hard body.
I didn't have to read her emails to Lance. I could quote every word in my head. While I had been working and loving her and trying to keep a middle-aged marriage together, she had been flirting with and lusting after and finally falling in love with a guy who hadn't been with her through those pregnancies.
Lance hadn't held her during the nights when she had cried at career reverses and the time when we thought because of a hospital error that a three-day-old Bill Jr. might have Down 's syndrome. It had taken a week before we'd gotten the correct results. We had stood over his crib and I remember the tears we'd both shed trying to imagine what our life, what his life, would be like if he did have Downs.
Lance, that young son of a bitch, had come in with his hard cock and his flat abs and a ten-year-plus edge on me and she had forgotten all those nights, all those hours, the life I had devoted to her. She had thrown me and those years away.
I thought I had been angry before, but I realized what I felt then was nothing. Until she said the words, told me she didn't love me anymore, it hadn't been quite real. I'd had hope. Now that was all gone.
I had prosecuted cases where cuckolded husbands had killed their unfaithful wives while letting their lovers live. I had never understood that. Now I did. Lance was guilty of nothing but being a man guided by his dick, If I was his age and single I might have done the same thing. But Debbie had stabbed me in the back, cut off my balls, torn out my heart. I was glad that I was nowhere near her tonight. I wondered if it would be safe to even face her any time in the near future.