A Time for Justice Preview

                                                                                        A Spencer Adams Legal Thriller

About the book

A terrible crime was committed in a facility for troubled youth. When a lawyer decides to unveil it twenty years later, she must fight against her family and city to find the truth…

As a stubborn and quick-witted lawyer, Zoe Caine has been trying to catch her big case for far too long. And the chance presents itself, the moment a traumatized woman begs her to uncover a horrifying injustice committed by the town’s beloved people. An unspoken crime Zoe knows firsthand.

Contemplating whether she should risk her career, Zoe soon learns that nothing remains secret. When the woman is found injured and near-dead, she decides to investigate. Only to find a truth that should have remained hidden away. They were raised in the same abusive facility. Twenty years ago.

The case has turned personal and Zoe knows she only has one chance to make this right. And when people threaten her life, the court is her only hope. Until the corruption that follows…

Chapter One

Back to Reality


“Hey, you look like you saw a ghost,” said Morven.

“I don’t feel good,” I said. There is a pain in my stomach from something that I ate. I tried to remember what I had for breakfast that morning or what they gave me after that, but my mind won’t work that way.

“Come here, silly,” said Morven. She reached out and took my hand, pulling me over to the sofa. When she wrapped her arms around me, it was the only thing that stopped me from running from this place. I don’t know why, but I felt safe with her.

“When are we getting out of here?” I asked.

“Never,” she replied with a straight face. There is a pause, and we both burst out laughing. I had no idea what is so funny, but I can’t help the laughter from exploding from me, and the more Morven laughed, the more I laughed.

I don’t know what I would have done without her in here with me. My mind didn’t have to work as long as I had her by my side. I looked around the room, trying to make it out, but everything is blurred. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a window, but it changed to a wall when I look directly at it. There was a person to my left, but when I look there—an empty chair. I looked back at Morven. She was real. I could see and feel her, smell her scent. I clung to her more tightly, my arm wrapped in hers and my head on her shoulder.

I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t for some reason. And I fall. Not a fall like in a dream where you are falling from a great height to the ground below that never comes up to meet you. I fall from where I am sitting onto the soft cushion of the couch, but the dread from the fall is the same as the one that comes in nightmares.

“No!” I screamed. Morven is gone. I scanned the room, but she is not there. I don’t see anyone out of the corner of my eye anymore, and the fear plunged into my heart like a dagger. I closed my eyes and tried and make it all go away.

A hand took mine—Morven had returned. When I opened my eyes, I gasped. Morven is not there. Two men stood before me, one holding my hand and one with something else. Is it a syringe? I can’t see. Behind them is a third man with beady eyes.

I opened my mouth to scream, but a hand clamped over it as if from nowhere. There is a nip in my arm, and, for a moment, everything is bright and clear, but that soon faded, and the light dimmed. Not enough for me to be blind, but dim enough that I can only see shapes.

The sound of the drill cut through me, and my body started to shudder. The whirring sound intensified, and I could feel the air pushed from the circular saw as it came close to my head. There was pressure in my skull, but no pain anymore. Only numbness and a sense of resignation. They got me again.

I sit up in bed, the sweat beading on my forehead. The notebook and paper sit next to my bed, and I scramble for them, trying to recollect the details of the dream before they slip from my mind. I open the book and scribble ‘Morven’ on the page. It joins the same scribblings of her name, and I struggle to retain any of the dream. I can’t see her face anymore, where we were, or what was happening.

There is pressure behind my eyes, and I bring my hand up to rub my temples. I have a migraine coming on, and my first stop is the bathroom to grab a couple of painkillers. While waiting for them to kick in, I jump in the shower and start my day.

When I emerge, the migraine is gone, but so is any memory of the dream, except for the name. The name comes back and back, over and over again—a name that I will never forget, even if they tried to make me.

The day is young, and the sun is only just poking out above the horizon, but it is warm and bright, and I find some joy in the early morning as I make my way to work. The bus is busy as usual, but the ride is not long, and I soon escape into the fresh air again.

It’s Monday morning, which means that I’m going to need some caffeine to get me started. I head into the coffee shop on the corner and grab a coffee for myself and one for Hadijah. I’ve done my best over the years to isolate myself and lose my friends, but as long as I bring her coffee every so often, she sticks around. It could be that she is my assistant, but I like to believe that it’s the coffee.

My bag is looped around my arm, and I carry a coffee in each hand after refusing the carry tray, but, thankfully, someone holds the door open for me, and I can press the elevator button with the coffee in hand. When I get to the fourth floor, my happiness starts to drain.

I’ve been working in the same law office for over ten years. I’ve seen people come and go, most off to greener pastures or promoted. I wish that I could say the same for myself. Ten years and I’m still stuck in the same position. I wish I could blame someone else, but I’ve not done anything to drag myself up—stagnating for years. I want to turn and walk out, but I don’t. I need this job.

“Morning,” Hadijah says when I get to my office. She’s ten years older than me, but she has still retained a youthful look. It could be the hijab. There have been a couple of occasions when I’ve seen her hair, and there are streaks of grey in there, but with her hair covered, her unblemished face is highlighted, and she looks a decade more youthful.

“Good morning,” I say, trying to sound more excited about the day than I actually am. “I brought you this.” I place the coffee down on my desk, and Hadijah breaks out into a smile. That only serves to make her look even younger.

When I looked in the mirror this morning, I almost didn’t recognize the woman looking back at me. My red hair doesn’t have any streaks of gray in it, but it doesn’t have any volume. Again, that is on me. I was beautiful once—piercing green eyes, thin, pale smooth skin. If I put the effort in, I could look good, but I don’t have the motivation. I still have the piercing eyes, but my body is sharp and lithe instead of slim, and my skin is starting to wrinkle.

I had imagined at one time that I would be the type of woman who would exude confidence and be happy with my body, and that confidence would be sexy, but I never got round to the exuding confidence part.

“Hey, hun, you okay?” asks Hadijah. “The wall is interesting and all, but you’ve been staring at it for a full minute.”

“You have a family, don’t you?” I ask.

“You know I do. You’ve met my little girl. Well, not so little anymore.”

“Yeah, no, I mean extended family. Siblings, aunts, uncles, that sort of thing.”

“I have a sister back home, but I don’t get to visit her as much as I would like. My husband’s family is here, and we get on pretty well. There are always disagreements, but that’s normal, right?”

“In most families,” I say. “My sister and brother… well, I don’t know.”

“Families are hard,” she says. “You can share if you think it would help.”

“They just—” I rub my face with my free hand, thinking about the two of them. “They are beyond hope. It’s fine, I’m just stressed, is all. I need this case.”

“I know. You’d kill—” Hadijah clamped her hand over her mouth. “Sorry, that was in bad taste.”

“It’s fine,” I say. “I know what you mean, and I’ll take the compliment. I should get to work.”

“About that,” Hadijah says. “She was here when I showed up, and she wouldn’t leave without seeing you first. She said that she knew you and that you would take her case.”

“Did she say who she was?” I ask.

“No, she didn’t leave any details. She stormed into your office when she found out which one it was. I’m sorry.”

“No, no, it’s fine,” I say. “How’d she look?”

“I don’t really know. Scared and jittery. I wanted to comfort her, but I didn’t want to reach out and touch her at the same time. She was a little scary, to be honest, and I can take care of myself.”

“Let’s see the woman who has put the fear of God into Hadijah,” I say. “Stay close.” I try to make the last part sound like a joke, but I do want Hadijah with me, just in case. It wouldn’t be the first time someone has come into my office and then flipped out.

I creep slowly to the door and look inside. The woman sitting in the seat on this side of my desk is small and hunched. There is a folder on the table that she must have brought with her. Her head is angled to suggest that she is staring down at it. In front of her, her hands move constantly. She moves her fingers together and apart, intertwining them and then flexing them. She moves them to the chair’s arm, to her hair to tuck it behind her ear, and to scratch at her shoulder, leg, chest—all of this in only ten or twenty seconds.

I look around at Hadijah and nod my head. She goes back to her desk, and I enter the room. I give the woman in the chair a wide berth, scared that she will reach out and grab me as I pass. She does not move, except for the small jittery movements of her hands.

She doesn’t look at me or say anything when I round my desk. I sit down in my chair and stare at her. “Hello,” I say. “I’m Zoe Caine.”

“Yes, I know who you are. We go way back.” She still does not look at me, but her eyes seem to take in everything in the room, looking wildly around in every direction but unable to look directly at me. She stares out of the window as if she is being watched.

“I’m afraid that I don’t believe we have met,” I say.

“That doesn’t matter,” she replies. She looks down at the folder in front of the two of us, but she does not volunteer any more information.

“Do you need legal representation?” I ask.

“Yes,” she whispers. This is when she finally looks up at me, and she leans forward as if she is going to tell me a secret. I can’t help but lean forward to hear what she has to say. She does not say anything for a few seconds, and I begin to think that she’s not got anything to say. “It’s all in here.” She taps the folder on the table.

“Can you give me a little more information on what you need from me?” I ask.

“They abused me,” she says. “They, they, were supposed to be taking care of me, but they abused me. Not just me, hundreds more. Thousands more. I don’t know… how deep this goes, but everyone is involved. The police! The mayor! Oh, he’s involved for sure.”

“The mayor?” I ask, lifting my eyebrows.

“What am I doing here?” she asks. Her eyes swim for a second before she can focus again. “You don’t believe me, do you? They’re trying to silence me. I know that they are. They’re going to kill me!”

“I don’t doubt anything you are saying,” I say, doubting everything she is saying.

“You do. You do, you do, you do,” she says. “L… l… look, I know I sound crazy, but I’m not.” Her tone changes, like a new person sitting in front of me. Her eyes focus on me, and she looks more… human. There is clarity there that was not there before. “Please, I know that you understand what it is like. I don’t care about myself anymore. I just want to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

“All right,” I say, pulling the folder toward me. “Look, I’ll be honest with you, I already have a big case that I’m working on.” That’s not entirely the truth, but if things go my way, it will be. “If I can fit this in, I’ll take a look. Even if I can’t dedicate enough time to it, I can pass it on to someone else.”

There is silence again, and she stares at me this time. “Don’t pass it on,” she finally says. “You are the only one who can help with this case.”

“I’ll do my best,” I say.

“I have to get out of here before—” The woman rises from the chair, and it is evident that she does not believe me. The shaking and jittering of her hands have stopped. She walks to the door but turns to face me before she leaves.

“Don’t take too long with this,” she says. “I’ll be dead soon.”

Chapter Two

No Future


I don’t have time to go through the folder straight away, but I add it to the pile of files on my desk that need my attention. That pile seems to grow constantly, no matter how much work I do. Morning stretches into afternoon, and it starts to feel as if I have done nothing with my day so far—only some clerical tasks, but nothing of substance. I’ve been keeping my schedule light for a reason.

As the longest-serving team member, I deserve to get this case. There haven’t been many big cases in this town, but a serial killer? Hadijah was right that it was a case that I would kill for. I need something after the last few years. Parking fines, wills, contracts—not exactly exciting stuff. This could get me back to where I once was.

The sunlight coming in through the window hurts my eyes, and I stand up, rubbing them. I have a lack of motivation running through my body, and I need another coffee. I don’t have time to go down to the coffee shop, and I don’t want to send Hadijah out, but there is a coffee machine in the office. It uses those little pods, and the coffee is half-decent.

I make my way to the small kitchen, and I can hear some chatter coming from there as I approach. I could do with some small talk to take my mind from, well, everything. The woman who was in my office this morning, the dream from last night, the fact that I’ve been passed over for promotion after promotion and don’t seem to land the high-profile cases anymore, or any cases above low profile.

“She’s going to be replaced sooner or later,” comes the voice from the kitchen area. I hang back, standing just around the corner. There are a lot of gossips in the office, and while I don’t like it, it can give some insight into office politics. I know I shouldn’t stand and eavesdrop, but I can’t help myself.

“You think so?” comes the other voice. That voice I recognize straight away. Melissa is relatively new at the firm, but she came with a track record of cases, and it’s almost certain that she’s going to be a partner in the future. She’s going to be a partner and not me.

“Yeah, she’s just not doing the work anymore.” The other person sounds like Joan, one of the partners. She arrived after I did, and she was promoted two years ago. I try not to be bitter, but it’s hard.

“I know what you mean. She walks around here like a ghost sometimes.”

A feeling lodges itself in the pit of my stomach, and I want to run from the building, but I can’t pull myself away. I know exactly who they are talking about.

“She’s been through some things. When she was younger— Well, it’s not my place to say, but I do have some sympathy for her. Saying that, she needs to get her act together, not that it will do any good.”

“She’s one of the reasons that I came to the firm in the first place. I read up on some of her old cases in school. The shipping magnate, the statewide school fiasco, and so many more. I expected her to be tough and all that, but I didn’t expect this. She’s taught me so much, but… they say not to meet your heroes, right?”

“Yeah, she was a legend around here at one point, but she let family and her personal life get in the way. It’s sad.”

I let family get in the way? What was I supposed to do, leave them to fend for themselves? Oh, to be free of any ties to anyone and focus only on your job. Maybe if I had cut ties with my loved ones, it would have been different. No, I would still have been damaged goods—fated to end up burned out and bitter.

I don’t listen to any more of the conversation, making a beeline for Hadijah.

“I have to go out,” I say when I get to her.

“Everything okay?” she asks.

“Yeah, I just have some family stuff to deal with.” That’s not strictly untrue. David did message me over the weekend with the same vagueness that he always does, and I’ve not replied yet. I take out my phone and tap out a quick message to him, pretty much saying that I got his message and asking if he needs anything, and then I leave the office.

I am still in need of a coffee, and I head straight for the coffee shop. As I stand in line, the conversation between Melissa and Joan runs through my head. From the way they were talking, this is not the first time they have talked about me, which means more people in the office are talking about me.

Worst of all, it means that I have no chance now of getting the serial killer case. They’ll give it to Melissa, or maybe they’ll hire someone fresh out of school and give it to them. Anything to avoid giving it to me, the burnout, the failure. All because of what? Because I want to take care of what’s left of my family.

As if on cue, my phone vibrates—a message from my brother. He needs my help, and apparently, it’s a matter of life and death. When he sends something like that, it’s mildly important and certainly not a matter of life and death. I take the coffee when it is placed on the counter, and I decide to go and see David anyway.

I should get back to the office, but I guess if I’m on my way out, it doesn’t really matter. I know thinking like that got me here in the first place, but I also know that I don’t care anymore. I send a quick text to Hadijah to let her know that I won’t be back for a couple of hours. I could say that I am working, but she would know that I’m not, and she’ll cover for me anyway if needed.

Annoyed at the world, I head off to see my big brother—the person who is supposed to be looking out for me and helping me through life, not the other way around.

***

“Hey,” David says with a big smile when he answers the door. The smile quickly disappears, and he tries to cover it with a more serious expression before going back to the smile, unsure of what comes across better. The smile doesn’t matter, though—I can see the look in his eyes. The look that has become all too familiar over the years.

“Can I come in?” I ask.

“Yeah, yeah, sure,” he says. “I haven’t cleaned up. So excuse the mess.”

If he had known I was coming, would he have cleaned up? I doubt it. I want to love this man, I really do, but he makes it so hard.

When I get inside, I can see that cleaning up is not going to do anything. Food containers and empty beverage cans are spread across the living room, and I have to search for a place to sit. David follows me in and swipes the garbage from one of the chairs so that he can sit down too.

“You want some coffee? Tea? I can whip you up some food?”

“No, thank you,” I say, not wanting to risk it. “How are you doing, David?”

He glances around the room quickly. “Fine, fine.” The movement of his hands reminds me of the woman who was in my office this morning, but the shakes are for completely different reasons.

“Why did you call me over here?” I ask.

“I need your help.”

“What do you need this time?” I ask.

“I have an interview for a job, and I am freaking out here.”

“You have an interview for a job? How did you even… doesn’t matter. That’s great news, it really is, but you can’t interview for a job like this or even hold down a job, for that matter.”

“Yeah, but this time will be different,” he says.

“That’s what you said the last time and the time before that, and the time before that.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know—”

“If you had gone into rehab when I had suggested it, you could have gotten the help you needed. I would have paid for it, David.”

“I’m the one who is supposed to be looking after you, Zoe.”

“Well, you can’t, can you? I don’t say that to hurt you; it’s just the truth. When you started drinking, I gave you a pass, but you’re slowly ruining your life with the other substances. If I wasn’t around to check in on you, I don’t know if you’d still be here. Does Jessica even come around anymore?”

“Not for a while,” he says.

“I don’t blame her,” I say. Our sister has her own problems, but that’s a different story.

“Look, David, it’s been a long time. You need to let go. You didn’t even date her for that long.”

“Oh, fu—I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear that. I loved her, and you know it. Yeah, so I turned to something to numb the pain for a while. Do you want to know the truth? Sometimes, when this stuff kicks in, I can forget about her for a second, and I don’t have the ache in my heart that is constantly there.”

“Maybe you need to face it and not keep hiding from it.”

“Like you faced everything?”

“What’s that supposed to mean.”

“I mean, I’m not the only one messed up.”

“I have a steady job, a place to live, friends. I don’t want to be looking after my big brother too. Just… what help do you need? I want you to succeed, David, I really do, but you have to meet me halfway here.”

“I know,” he says, and his features soften some. For a moment, he has the same cheeky look that he used to have when he was younger. I miss the person that he used to be.

“Do you need money?” I ask.

“No,” he says. There is a pause. “Maybe. I can pay you back when I get this job. I don’t have anything to wear to the interview.”

“I’ll take you shopping,” I say, staring at him.

“What, you don’t trust me to do it myself?”

I take a quick look around the apartment before glaring at him.

“All right, shopping sounds good. And you’re probably right. I would likely spend it on that stuff. I mess up anything that comes my way; it’s a wonder that you’re still around.”

“Oh, don’t start with the self-pity,” I say. “I used to feel sorry for you, David, but I don’t anymore. I love you. So much. But I can’t keep going around in circles like this.”

“I know,” he says, his head hanging like a naughty puppy.

“Jessica needs you. I need you. You have a family here, David, and we love you; please don’t ruin that.”

“Like I ruin everything?”

“What did I say about the self-pity?” I ask.

David nods his head, and we sit in silence for a while. “I have to go,” I say, finally.

“I was a good older brother once,” he says. His eyes are glazed over as if his mind is somewhere else. “When Mom died, he flipped out. He would have done a lot worse to you if I hadn’t been there. He beat me black and blue so many times that I wished I was dead. Just like Mom. I thought it would happen eventually. They always said it was an accident, but I don’t believe that. He killed her because he hated her, and he kept me alive because he hated me. I tried to do right by you, Zoe. I did try. I’m just scared that if I give in to what’s inside, I might end up like him.”

Chapter Three

The Past Comes Back to Haunt


When I leave my brother’s house, I take the bus, but I get off a few stops early to walk and clear my head. I can’t be in enclosed spaces right now, not after talking with my brother. Sometimes, I feel that he is beyond help, but I can’t let him go—I have to do my best to help him. I don’t know if he can survive this world by himself, not yet.

The fresh air helps to clear my mind, but as I approach the office, the conversation from earlier comes back to haunt me. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. It doesn’t matter where I go, problems are waiting for me. I can’t wait to get home tonight and have a glass of wine, maybe a hot bath, and sink into my bed. There’s a golden moment where I drift off to sleep where my mind forgets about the trials of the day, but the nightmares have not yet come.

When I open the door to the office building and step in, it feels like the air is sucked from my life. I’m suffocating again, but I continue on—I know that most of the problems in my life are self-inflicted, much like my brother, but I care less and less as I age. I am thirty-eight years old and have no future ahead of me—not the one that I want, anyway.

“Hey, hun, everything okay?” asks Hadijah. “You look worse than when you arrived this morning.”

“Do you ever get the feeling that life is out to take something from you?”

“Sometimes,” Hadijah says. I know from her tone that she doesn’t feel that way at all. She has a good life, and she is one of the few people that I am not bitter at. “A weird thing happened when you were out.”

“What?” I ask.

“You know the woman who came in earlier? Well, someone called claiming to be her son, but it was suspicious. They talked about her needing help and that she had wandered off, and they went on a little bit, but they were covering for something or trying to get information out of me. Anyway, they asked if she had brought anything in, and I told them that she hadn’t.”

“Weird,” I say. “Good cover.”

“Yeah, suddenly the folder she brought in seemed important, and I wasn’t going to reveal anything over the phone. They were pretty rude at the end and hung up on me.”

“Who do you think it was?” I ask.

“I have no idea, but it gets worse. About half an hour after that, two cops come in and say they have a warrant to search your office. I don’t know if they had one or not, and they didn’t say what they were searching for, but that was suspicious as heck too. And, well, I love the partners here, but they gave them access without even asking for the warrant. I would have tried to stop them, but—”

“I know,” I say. “I’m glad that you didn’t try and stop them. You don’t need to get into trouble over my mistakes. What were they looking for?”

“I think they were looking for the folder.”

I glance behind Hadijah to the pile of files on my desk.

“The folder?” I ask.

“Yeah, I don’t know why, but I’m sure they were after it, so that gets me thinking about what this really is, and I have no idea. It can’t be a coincidence, though. I get a call about a folder that was dropped off in your office, and thirty minutes later, cops come in to search your office without giving a reason. And they went straight for the pile of files. They didn’t hang around long. They weren’t looking for anything else.”

I sigh. “Something’s going on. Did the woman leave a number? Any contact information. This might be career suicide, but I think that I need to follow up on this, and with the folder gone.” I stop in my tracks as Hadijah reaches under her desk and produces the folder. She glances around the office before handing it to me.

“As I told you, the phone call was suspicious as heck, so I grabbed the folder and hid it in my desk drawer. I told the person on the phone that the woman didn’t leave anything, but they must not have believed me. Something possessed me, though, and I had to hide it.”

“You are brilliant, Hadijah!” I take the folder from her. “Have you looked inside?”

“No, I don’t think it was my place. Whatever is in there was meant for you, so you should be the one to go through it. I’m right here if you need any help with anything, so don’t hesitate to ask.”

“You really are a star,” I say. I hold the folder tight, wondering what secrets are hidden inside. I take it into my office and lay it on the desk. Suddenly, nothing is as important as the folder and its contents. I feel my hands start to shake nervously as I reach to open it.

I don’t need to worry about not giving this my full attention now. I had hoped for the serial killer case, but that’s out the window. For some strange reason, this case feels like my swan song—if there even is a case. I’m compelled to follow this, no matter where it takes me.

I open the folder and go through the meager contents inside. When I see the picture of the building, my blood runs cold. It was twenty years ago when I was committed to the facility against my will, but the vivid memories of that place have never faded. Do they make me stronger? Jaded? Something else? I don’t know.

From what I can piece together, the woman was at this facility too, but not at the same time as me. She was there a couple of years after, and she has gathered written statements from various patients detailing abuse and fraud and more at the facility. It must have taken some time to track down some of these people and get some statements, and it’s obvious that she wants to go after whoever ran the place or still runs it. I have to admit that she has done some decent work.

There are some telephone numbers of the people she spoke to, but she has managed to get her own record too. Scribbled on the bottom of the sheet of paper are a phone number and address—presumably hers.

I didn’t know what I had at the time, and she didn’t give me anything to suggest how connected we were. I wish that she had said more. I could have helped her instead of kicking her out because I was too interested in another case.

I pack the pages back into the folder and grab an elastic from my drawer to tie around it. There’s no chance that I’m leaving this folder lying around—it’s going to go everywhere with me. Whoever came after this is connected, and they obviously don’t want any of this to get out. I have my case. I just need the evidence.

“I’m going out,” I tell Hadijah when I leave my office.

“You going to go see her?” she asks.

“Yeah, her address was in the folder. I’ll jump on a bus.”

“Don’t do that. Head downstairs, and I’ll make sure there’s a car for you as quick as I can. It doesn’t cost too much, and you can write part of it off if it’s for a case. Just get a receipt.”

“I really don’t know what I would do without you, Hadijah.”

I head downstairs, and it is not long before a gray sedan pulls up. The driver takes me to the address in the folder; I could get used to this. I have a car, but there’s not a lot of need for it in this town, but I like being driven around.

The apartment block is old needs some work, and there is an ambulance sitting outside. The overall impression is not a good one, and I wonder if this is what is in store for me in the future. I get a receipt before I get out of the car. I stand for a second, and a siren rings out. A police car pulls up soon after, but they are not in a rush to get out of the car and into the building. I don’t like the place already.

I go into the apartment building, the front door opens with a push, even though it should be locked. When I get to the floor Rosamund Verity lives on, I realize what is happening. I can hear the chatter, and the gurney passes me as I walk down the hallway. I can’t see the body under the sheets, and I still as it goes by, unsure what to do.

“What happened?” I ask the officer who is standing by the apartment door.

“Are you family?” he asks.

“No.”

“I can’t—”

“I’m her lawyer,” I say.

“I can’t release any information.”

“Is she dead?” I ask.

He turns from me and scribbles in his notebook. I can see the apartment behind and don’t see any signs of forced entry or damage. There is another officer inside, but he is taking his time looking around. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad sign.

I take out my phone and call Hadijah. “I need another car,” I say. “Pickup at the same address, and they need to take me to the hospital, I hope.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, it’s not me. It’s the woman.”

“What happened to her?”

“I don’t know. I don’t even know if she’s still alive, but she was going on about how she would be dead soon when she was in my office. There’s too much going on for this to be nothing. Whatever this case is, I’m going to take it on—I’m connected.”

“Connected?” she asks.

“I’ll explain when I come in. Just get me a car, please.”

I hang up and run down the stairs, hoping to find out whatever I can, but the gurney is already being loaded into the ambulance when I get there. The sirens go on, and they tear out of there. That’s a good sign, at least. I’ve always been told that they only put the sirens and lights on when the person inside is still alive.

The car pulls up a couple of minutes later, the same car as before, and the driver gets a kick out of that. We cannot follow the ambulance, but I am sure that it is on its way to the hospital, and we head straight there. I get another receipt and run inside.

“The woman who was just brought in, where are they taking her?” I ask.

“Excuse me,” says the receptionist. “Can you please stop shouting at me?”

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Rosamund Verity, I need to know where she is.”

“Just take a seat, and I’m sure I can help you in a moment, okay?”

“Okay,” I say, taking a deep breath. “Rosamund Verity is her name.”

“Rosamund Verity,” she repeats.

I take a seat in the waiting area, and I wait. I wait for minutes, and these minutes tick over into hours. Texts come in, phone calls too, but I can’t respond to anything until I find out what is going on here. I grab a coffee at some point, and the light starts to fade outside.

Finally, a doctor comes to see me. “You were asking about Rosamund Verity?”

“Yes, I’m her lawyer,” I say. “I don’t need to know any personal details. I just want to know what is going on with her. Is she alive?”

“It was touch and go for a while. She was in surgery, but she pulled through.”

“That’s a relief. What happened to her?”

“She tried to commit suicide,” he says.

The words shock me. “Suicide? I need to see her. When can I talk with her?”

“That’s not going to be possible,” he says. “She fell into a coma soon after arriving at the hospital. There’s a chance that she will never wake up from it.”

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