He was slick, all right. Hayley Casella watched her nemesis walk across the over-sized courtroom with a confident stride. He turned a big, smarmy smile on the female witness. Well, not smarmy exactly. Secure. Scintillating. Maybe sexy. If she didn’t despise him so much, she might…
Best not to think about that.
“Mrs. Thomas, you comfortable? Need anything?” He was delaying the point, which he always did to build up tension. After arguing several cases with him, she knew his tactics.
The elderly woman put her hand on her heart. “Why, I don’t think so, Mr. Covington.”
“Good, good.” Covington pivoted slightly and glanced at Hayley, his expression one of amusement. He didn’t take her seriously, which maddened her. Her brother Finn said he was psyching her out, which was worse. Every time she argued with him, she vowed not to fall into that trap.
“Now, for the day in question, June 12th, did you see the fight in the cafeteria?”
“I was supervising the second lunch period. There’s a group of boys who act up.”
“Act up how?”
“They make rude noises. They say things to girls. They try to leave early. I alerted the principals to this, but nothing was done.”
“What did these boys do on June 12th?”
“They picked on a younger student. They always do. His name is Bobby Hanson, right there in the audience.”
“How do they pick on him?”
“They topple his tray. Once they tripped him.”
“Did he get hurt with their mischief?”
Amy Branson, the judge, was a fair, respected woman in her fifties. She was also tough on decorum. “What’s your objection, ADA Casella?”
“Mischief is not what we’re prosecuting in this courtroom. Mr. Covington’s use of the term is not only erroneous, but insensitive.” She extended her arm with a flourish. “As you can see in the third row, Jamie Callahan assaulted Bobby Hanson.”
Callahan was rich kid who’d gotten into Grayson Academy only because his parents donated money. Bobby, on the other hand, had won a scholarship to go there. His mother said she thought he’d be safe from the public-school bullying. Little did she know the likes of Jamie Callahan populated the school.
Since Bobby was sitting where she pointed, the jury would witness the casts on both his arms.
“You have not proved the assault was perpetrated by my client!”
“Hmm, I wonder why.” She turned back to the judge and smiled sweetly. “We located several eyewitnesses to the incident, that for some unknown reason are getting picked off, one by one.”
“Now, I object.” Whirling around, Paul Covington’s face flushed. Angular, rough-hewn features, eyes as blue as the Caribbean Sea, and full lips were all accented by his anger. “The implication of Ms. Casella’s histrionics is that perhaps my client had something to do with witnesses recanting.”
“I retract the question.” Under her breath she said, “Histrionics, my ass.”
“Your honor, could you please muzzle her asides?”
She pivoted quickly. “Muzzle? How dare you refer to women with animal imagery?”
A hard gavel silenced them. It echoed in the large room, wood-paneled, with a row of windows and sky-high ceilings. “I declare a fifteen-minute recess. Counselors, in my chambers.” Judge Branson glared at them. “Now.”
They followed her into her large office, with wood paneling interrupted by shelves filled with books, a television, several framed awards and degrees. Leather couches and a chair faced wide windows. A bathroom completed the suite. She removed her robe, hung it up on a hanger and sat behind her desk. Like school children, Hayley and Paul stood before her.
“I have had it with you two. Every time you show up in my courtroom, I cringe knowing what’s coming. And I’m not the only judge in the circuit who dreads dealing with you.”
“Do not speak. This is a warning. One more clash like what I just endured and I’ll put both of you in jail for contempt. Do you two even understand the concept?”
They both nodded.
“Then tell me. You begin, ADA.”
“Contempt is being disobedient to or disrespectful toward a court of law and its officers.”
“Mr. Covington, what behavior happens in contempt?”
“Behavior that opposes or defies the authority, justice and dignity of the court.”
“Now that we’ve established the definition, I hope you can see that name calling and asides are disrespectful and disruptive. If this happens again, you will be hauled away and jailed.”
Contempt charges issued to lawyers rarely, if ever, happened. Hayley couldn’t think of any lawyer being accused of it.
“Now leave me alone for five minutes to recover from you.”
They turned and walked out the door. Hell, all Paul Covington did was get her in trouble.
* * *
They both marched into the corridor. “You’re the only one I get in trouble with,” he called out to the woman ahead of him, after he let the door to the judge’s chambers shut softly. He hated when he behaved this way.
Stopping, Casella turned. “Are you talking to me?”
“Of course I am.” He asked, “When are you going to learn to behave?”
She shook her head, dislodging a few tendrils from the knot at her neck. She always scraped it back like some elderly matron and the style was unattractive. For as prim as she looked, she was hell on wheels.
But now, those usually snapping green eyes clouded. “You sound like my father.”
“Who didn’t do a very good job raising you.”
That took the starch out of her. Her already light complexion paled making freckles stand out. Finally, she said, “Since he died when I was nine, and I missed so much time with him, that’s a shitty thing to say, even for you.”
Some starch left him, too. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” He’d lost his father, too, but in a different way.
“I don’t want your condolences.”
“What do you want from me, Casella?”
“Your behavior in court is atrocious. I’d like you to show some manners.”
“The pot’s calling the kettle black there, don’t you think?”
“I comport myself well.”
“Not according to Judge Branson.” He frowned. “Could she have really meant she’d throw us in jail?” He winked at her to piss her off. “I have a hot date tonight.”
“Give the woman my condolences.” She walked away. He watched her hips sway in the dark green suit she wore with a sage blouse. Then he cursed himself for noticing.
* * *
During the lunch break, a very interesting visitor came to Hayley’s office. Now, she stood at the prosecution table. “I call Harry Jenkins to the stand.”
Covington shot out of his chair. “He wasn’t on the witness list.”
That was true but she delighted in needling him. She widened her eyes in sham innocence. She and her brother Ronan were in all the plays in high school, and though he was a lot better than she was, she remembered how to act. “This witness came forth during lunch.” And shocked her with his story. “He followed the reports on the trial online.”
“Approach,” the judge said wearily. There had been no fireworks in this afternoon session—so far.
“Who is this guy?” Covington asked, his tone belligerent. Maybe she could finagle it so only he was accused of contempt.
“The former principal of the last school Jamie Callahan got kicked out of.”
“Once again, Ms. Casella is quoting facts not in evidence.” He arched a brow. “What’s the relevance of Mr. Jenkins?”
She looked at him like he was a cockroach. “You’ll see if you let me question him.” She made the statement in a sugary voice to upset him more.
“ADA Casella!” Again, Judge Branson was angry. “I’m going to allow the witness but no more surprises from you.”
“Yes, Judge,” she said demurely.
A tall, thin man with the bearing of a Dean of Students he used to be came to the front, was seated and sworn in. “Thank you for coming forward, Mr. Jenkins.”
He nodded. “I felt it was my duty.”
“Tell us how you know Jamie Callahan.”
“I was a teacher at Havisham Prep, then became Dean of Students.” Another of the most prestigious private schools in New York. The name came right out of a Dickens novel.
“And did you know the Callahans? Jamie?”
“Yes to both.”
“What kind of student was he?”
“He was a C student.” The man cleared his throat. “And young Mr. Callahan was a bully.”
“How did that manifest itself?”
Hayley barked, “On what grounds?”
She suffered a stern look from the judge. “Mr. Covington, what do you object to?”
“I can see this witness is going to be important. I need time to prepare my cross examination.”
“I object to that. You said all you wanted was relevance. You accuse us of having no corroboration or pattern in Mr. Callahan’s behavior.”
“You ambushed me.”
“Your honor, as I said, Mr. Jenkins came forward at lunch time.” She turned to Paul. “I’m sorry if Mr. Covington can’t keep up. Perhaps your second chair, Ms. Parker over there, can help you.”
A lovely woman, Marcy Parker was a good second chair. At least she was well-behaved.
Judge Branson banged her gavel. Her face red, she announced, “I’m going to allow this witness then adjourn for the weekend.” She glared at first Hayley, then Covington. “And I’m charging you both with direct contempt of court for misconduct. Bailiff, you can take them away as soon as we finish with Mr. Jenkins.”
“The next one of you to speak will get two nights.”
“Overnight?” Hayley asked.
“Yes. Proceed, Ms. Casella.”
Upset at the prospect of jail time, Hayley was off-kilter now. “W-what did Callahan do to make you label him a bully?”
“He picked on weak classmates. Backed them into corners, stuffed them in lockers. I tried to punish him so nothing worse would happen. But his parents…had sway with the board.”
“Ah. Did he ever hurt anybody?”
“Yes, a young student fell flat on the floor when he tripped the boy. Broke several of his teeth.”
“And how was Jamie punished?”
Mr. Jenkins pressed the glasses at the bridge of his nose. “He wasn’t. Again, his parents intervened.” Turning his head, his gaze narrowed on Mr. and Mrs. Callahan. “I quit the school at that point because I couldn’t tolerate the politics.”
“Do you have another job?”
“I’m afraid I was blackballed in all private schools.”
“Hmm.” She turned to the jury and said, “Another victim on Jamie Callahan.”
“I object,” Covington said.
“Of course, you do.”
* * *
Paul took it as long as he could, but he finally spoke. “I can’t stand this silence,” he admitted to the woman beside him. They’d been sitting in here in this dank, dreary and odorous cell for two hours and the only word spoken was supper when the guard brought them food. Which neither of them touched.
“I was about to say that.” She gave a small smile. In the light from the hallway—there were no windows in this tiny cave—he could see she’d bitten off her lipstick and more hair had come out of her bun. “Probably isolation is the worst thing about being in jail.”
“Not the worst, Hayley.”
She raised her auburn brows, the same color as her hair. “You’ve never called me that before.”
“It’s a nice name. Mine’s Paul, by the way.”
“I’ve known that for a year, Paul.” Since he’d joined the high-powered law firm of Cook, Cramer and Cromwell in New York after he left California and started arguing cases against her. “I heard through the legal grapevine that you want to add another C to the partner collective.”
He chuckled. “How long have you been an ADA?”
“I joined right after I passed the bar. So, five years.”
“Hmm. That makes you, thirty?”
“Not quite yet. Soon.”
“What made you leave California?”
“I was born in New York. I got homesick for the glitz and glitter of the streets of New York.” He shrugged a shoulder. “It was time, I guess.”
“I’ve lived here all my life.”
“First on Long Island, then in lower Manhattan.” She didn’t want to tell him she’d grown up in the Hamptons, on the tip of Long Island. “You?”
“I live in Brooklyn.”
He broke it. “What are we going to do about us?”
“You mean why we were put in here?”
“Among other things.”
“I don’t know. We shoot sparks off each other.”
That made him wonder what other kind of sparks they could shoot off. “You know, I read a study where suppressed attraction makes people fight with each other.”
Her fake shock was comical. “Why, Mr. Covington, are you saying you lust for me?”
“Maybe when you wear that little pinkish suit with a tank top.” He let out a wolf whistle. “It makes all the men in the room sweat.”
“That is so sexist.”
Now he threw up his hands and slapped them on his thighs. “I don’t get it. When a man compliments a woman on her appearance, she calls him names for noticing her when she’s probably spent an hour that morning trying to look good.”
“An hour? Give me a break.” She had to know that, so she was pretending again. Or…
“You don’t do that?”
“I spend the half hour after I get up on my elliptical or if the weather permits, I go out for a brusque walk, then eat a nourishing breakfast. Whatever time’s left, like maybe ten minutes, I shower, get dressed and put on lipstick. Some rouge.”
“Yeah, I like you better without a lot of goop on your face.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t know how to take that. But in any case, Counselor, it’s your turn. What’s your morning routine?”
“I get up a couple of hours before work starts.”
“Your workday begins a lot later than mine does.”
Ignoring what she meant to be a criticism of the life he’d chosen, he continued, “I go for a run or do my treadmill, catch the news, check my email. I eat, of course, then spend about the same time you do getting ready for work.”
“Do you like your job, Paul?” She wasn’t letting that go.
“Yes, it’s exactly what I want to be doing.”
“Defending rich kids? Guilty adults?”
“Everybody deserves a defense, Hayley.”
“I agree with that. But I don’t think I could do your job.”
That pissed him off. “Lucky you don’t have to.”
“Tell me about your family. Married? Divorced? Brothers and sisters?”
“Married early on and divorced six months later. In my extended family, I have brothers and sisters.”
“Where are they?”
“In New York.”
“Why didn’t you say they were the reason you came back here?”
“Because they weren’t.”
“I don’t understand that. I adore my brothers.”
He changed the very dangerous subject. And the night wore on. He told her about living in California, what he did in his spare time, and she told him about her semester in France when she was at Radcliff. They talked about food—she loved seafood and sushi, and he was a steak man. They both liked champagne.
Hours later, she yawned.
His early training surfaced, even with her. “Why don’t you get some sleep?”
A slimy cot with stains from God-knew-what sat across from them. “On that? Yuck.”
“No, here on the bench, which is at least half-clean.” He stood, removed his very expensive suitcoat and spread it on the bench.
“Hmm, maybe. I’m having trouble keeping my eyes open.” She took off her jacket, too, then folded it up and laid down with it as a pillow. “Thanks. Wake me in a couple of hours so you can catch some zees in here, too.”
She fell asleep right away. He always envied people who could do that. He had bad insomnia sometimes. Staring down at the woman with him, still visible in the hall light, he noticed her delicate bone structure. She was tall and thin. He wished she’d taken that mane of auburn hair down. And why the hell was he going down this road? Still, he watched her for a long time until he fell asleep sitting up.
* * *
Hayley bolted up into the darkness. “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.”
He reached out and touched her arm. “Hey, calm down.”
She swiveled her legs to the floor and once she was acclimated from the hall light, she glanced next to her. “Hell. I didn’t know where I was.”
“That happens to me sometimes. No way you expected to be in jail.”
“What time is it?”
Something lit up. “Nearly four.” The guards hadn’t taken his watch.
She went to rake back her hair, and found it tied up in a bun. She secured it as much as she could with the escaping pins, then said, “You let me sleep. Thank you.” She stood up and stretched. “Your turn. Lie down.”
“I slept sitting up. I don’t need much, anyway.”
She sat back down and sighed. “I’d kill for a cup of coffee.”
“Me, too. What kind?”
“Double latte. All fat milk, or cream.”
“No. How do you like yours?”
“Black, of course.”
“That fits you.”
They both quieted.
After a while, she woke up completely. “Paul, are you going to get in trouble for this contempt of court charge?”
“Deep, deep trouble.”
Hayley expelled a heavy breath. “Me, too. I don’t know of any cases where a lawyer was jailed for contempt.”
“I know of a few out in California. But they were released in hours. We can’t let this happen again, Hayley.”
“That’s for sure.”
His dark brows formed a vee. She’d admitted during their tenure in jail that he was an attractive man and an interesting conversationalist.
“Well, we’ve gotten to know each other some.” He chuckled. “And we did sleep together. Maybe we can be more civil in the courtroom.”
“Maybe. I’ll try.”
“I will too, Hayley.”
* * *
When she got to her apartment, Hayley dragged herself inside. She was tired now and bordering on depressed. Getting sued for contempt with Covington had been awful. The Chief Assistant of the DA’s office had already left a message she wanted to see Hayley Monday morning. Paul told her he would get in trouble over this, too.
Just as she started toward the bedroom, the doorbell rang. She and Finn, along with Ronan, inherited this place after their father’s death. Finn was out of town at a book conference in London for a week, and Ronan had disappeared completely twenty years ago. He’d never even called her or Finn in all that time. But every time the doorbell rang in their luxurious apartment in New York, she got a quick flash of hope that it was the brother she loved so dearly. On that sad note, she hauled herself to the foyer and pulled open the door.
Hell. This was all she needed.
The woman standing there had dressed in haute couture on a Saturday morning. “So, the jailbird’s out.”
“Hello, Mother. How did you get up here?”
“Robert knows me.” Bridget Sullivan’s face was pinched. Then again, whenever she laid eyes on her daughter, her features crunched up and got ugly. “Let me inside, please.”
“I was about to take a bath. I’d like to be alone.”
Bridget, as Hayley thought of her, brushed past her daughter, entered the apartment, went down the short hallway and into the living room to the right. “Come in here, Hayley.”
Best to deal with this now. Hayley went inside and sat on one of the leather couches. To say she felt scuzzy was an understatement.
Bridget surveyed the huge apartment in lower Manhattan, consisting of an oversize living space in the front with a view of the city and a kitchen behind it. Off that were two complete suites, on either side, one for her and one for Finn. Then she turned her attention to Hayley, who’d finally learned not to shrink under her icy gaze. “Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call last night from Marian Jackson asking if I knew my daughter was in jail.”
“I didn’t get even one phone call, so I couldn’t call you.” As if that would ever have entered her mind.
“Don’t be impudent.” She adjusted the skirt of her Armani suit, a peach one which complemented her severely cut blond hair. Young looking, she’d had a couple of face lifts. Her mother would fight growing old forever. Hayley vowed to go through the aging process gracefully.
But right now, she had to hold her own with the woman who was her mother, after all. She did soften her tone. “I’m sure that was a shock, that you worried about me, and that I disappointed you. Again. So, I’m sorry for all those things.”
“Did you really spend the night with Paul Covington?” There was an odd tone to her voice.
“I did. The judge isolated us thinking we might be forced to call a truce.”
“It doesn’t matter. My boss probably won’t assign me his cases anyway.”
“I hope this isn’t a black mark on your name.” Bridget sighed. “I met him, you know?”
Hayley’s jaw dropped. “When?”
“At a gala two months ago. He’s very charming.”
She would have snorted if her mother wouldn’t have had a fit. “To others maybe. Though he did give me his jacket to stretch out on so I could sleep.”
“You look horrendous.”
“Hence the bath I was going to take.”
Again, Bridget raised her chin and watched her with an expression of distain. Hayley vowed never to do that to her kids. “Go clean up now, and I’ll answer some email on my phone. Then we can have lunch together.”
“No, we can’t. I’m drained. I need time to regroup.” She couldn’t face a lunch with her mother, which was always tense. “I’ll take a rain check.”
“That wasn’t a request.”
Hayley stood. “Neither was mine. Now, I insist you leave.”
“You are so much like your father it frightens me sometimes.”
The hell with being nice. “I’m glad to hear that.” Hayley walked to the foyer and opened the door. Her mother made her wait, then finally appeared.
“Goodbye, Hayley. I won’t contact you again. When you want to see me, call.”
Don’t hold your breath, Mommy Dearest.
Though she’d put up a good front, Hayley closed the door and slid down the wood, unable to bear her mother’s wrath. Ronan used to intervene between them, but he was gone now. She put her head in her hands.