Authors: Sloane Kennedy
“Grandpa says we can make a snowman once we finish shoveling,” announced Ryan as he eagerly attacked the pile of snow at his feet.
“Dad, I pay someone to do that.”
“Nonsense. Waste of good money.” He turned to Ryan. “Come on boy, snow’s waitin.”
“Dad?” Sean turned back to his son. “Dad, this is Casey Wilkes. Miss Wilkes, my father, Sean Prescott.”
“It’s a pleasure Mr. Prescott,” she said as he firmly grasped hers and gave her quick shake.
“Good to meet you.”
“Dad, Miss Wilkes and I have to go see my attorney. Can you and Mom stay a while?”
Sean nodded his head and dismissed them with a wave, clearly eager to return to his work. As Devlin led her back into the house, Casey said, “I thought we weren’t going to see your lawyer until Monday.”
“Things change,” was all he said, the earlier anger back in his voice.
The part-time, weekend receptionist at the very prestigious law firm of Corrigan & Grey was typing on her computer when the elevator door opened to reveal Devlin Prescott. As he strode towards her desk with a young woman at his heels and a dark look on his face, the receptionist knew she was in trouble. “Mr. Prescott, how can I-” When he walked right past her, she got up and hurried after him. “Mr. Prescott, he’s on a conference call. If you’ll give me just a moment, I’ll let him know you’re here. Mr. Prescott?” As the door to the office slammed closed behind him and the young woman, the receptionist made her way back to her desk and wondered if she would still have a job at the end of the day.
Inside the expansive office, Mason Corrigan, a distinguished looking black man in his mid-thirties watched as Devlin slammed the door closed and made his way to the desk. “I’ll have to call you back,” he said into the phone as Devlin slammed a file folder down on his desk. Ever the controlled professional, Mason hung up the phone and reached for the file folder.
“It’s over Mason.” Devlin stood in front of Mason’s desk for a moment before he started pacing back and forth. Mason had known Devlin for a long time and recognized that whenever Devlin paced, it was a bad sign. He opened the file folder and looked through it.
“Is she all right?” he asked.
“Good.” Mason scanned the notes. “It’s weak Dev.”
“She was bleeding Mason.”
“No witnesses. Abrasions on her hands to indicate that she did fall.”
Devlin swung around. “She fell because that bitch hit her hard enough to knock her down. They won’t get her again!”
Mason took a deep breath. His eyes fell on the young woman standing near the door. “You found her.”
Devlin glanced over at Casey as if he had forgotten her presence. “Um, yeah. Casey Wilkes, this is Mason Corrigan.” She slowly made her way to the desk and took the man’s outstretched hand.
“Please have a seat Miss Wilkes.” He indicated one of the high backed leather chairs across from him. Devlin sat next to her, his anger temporarily under control.
“What’s next?” he asked Mason.
“I’ll file the request for an injunction on Monday. With Casey’s affidavit, the court will hopefully suspend visitation while they’re investigating her allegations.” He looked at the nervous young woman across from him. Despite the comfort of the chair she was sitting on, her back was ramrod straight, her hands folded carefully in her lap. “Miss Wilkes, I need to ask you some questions.” At her stiff nod, he reached for a pad of paper. “I understand you left home when you were quite young.”
“Um, yes, I was sixteen.”
“And Amanda was?”
“But she didn’t go with you?”
She glanced briefly at Devlin and then said, “No, she was too afraid we’d be caught.”
“Why did you leave?”
“I just couldn’t take the beatings anymore.”
“Was your sister abused as well?” She nodded. “Okay, where did you go?”
“What did you do there?”
“I worked mostly odd jobs until I met a woman who had an animal shelter in northern Wisconsin. When she died, she left the property and shelter to me and my friend Jonas.”
“Did you have any contact with your family at any time?”
Mason wrote a few more notes and then brought his eyes to meet hers. “Okay, tell me about the abuse.” When she didn’t seem to understand, he explained, “Some of the specific things your parents did to you and Amanda.”
“Um, mostly they just hit us. Sometimes they locked us in the closet or garage. My stepfather burned me a couple of times with cigars and sometimes my mother would hold our hands under scalding water if we touched something we weren’t supposed to. My mother pushed Amanda down a flight of stairs once.” As she continued to rattle things off as casually as if she were reading off a grocery list, Mason and Devlin stared at her in stunned silence. She didn’t seem to notice their shock because she had somehow detached herself from the memories. Mason finally put his hand up.
“Okay, that’s enough for now. How about proof?”
“Proof?” she asked.
“Photos of your injuries, hospital records, that sort of thing.”
She didn’t react right away. Indecision flashed across her features as she looked from one man to the other. Finally, she stood and reached for the top button on her blouse. Both men shifted uncomfortably in their chairs, unsure of what she was doing. She finished undoing the buttons and then turned her back to both men. As she lowered the blouse to reveal the length of her back, Mason dropped his pen and Devlin closed his eyes.
Her back was a mural of scars with very few patches of unmarked skin. The raised, puckered scars indicated that the wounds had been severe and untreated.
“Who did that?” Mason managed to choke out. At the sound of open revulsion in his voice, Casey bit back tears of humiliation. She forced her eyes to remain on the wall in front of her rather than on the floor where she wanted them to be. There was a pretty black and white picture of a tree so she focused on that. It reminded her of the tree back home just outside of Jack’s paddock.
“With what?” asked Devlin, disgust in his voice making her face burn with shame.
“A belt buckle.”
“Okay,” Mason said. She pulled the shirt back up over her back and took her time buttoning it. She used the extra seconds to pull herself back together and when she turned to face the men, only a trace of humiliation remained. When Devlin got up and moved towards the window, she forced her eyes to remain on Mason.
“Were you ever treated for those?” he asked.
She shook her head and said, “Amanda tried to cover then with bandages but as soon as they started to heal, he’d find a reason to open them back up.”
“And where was your mother during these beatings?”
“And your sister?”
“She watched too. We both had to watch when the other...” her voice trailed off.
“He did this to her too?”
“We’ll have to get some photographs of your back for the hearing.” Mason gave her an embarrassed glance and then looked at Devlin. “Devlin, Amanda was cremated, right?”
“Yes. Her parents claimed the body and had it done before anyone could question if that was what she wanted.”
“Since it’s an open murder case, there should be an autopsy report. The Medical Examiner should have taken notes and pictures.” He looked back at Casey who had visibly paled at the mention of her sister. “Miss Wilkes,” he said gently to get her attention. When she looked at him, he said, “Let’s also make a time to sit down and discuss your testimony.”
“I have to testify?”
“Do they get to question me?”
“Their lawyer will and the judge might have some questions for you as well.” She nodded stiffly in understanding.
“Is there anything else you can think of that might be beneficial to this case?” Mason asked. Since his head was down when he asked the question and Devlin was still staring out the window, both men missed the flash of hesitation in her eyes. It was gone within a moment and when Mason looked up, she simply shook her head. “Okay, well, I’ll get all this filed and call you Monday to set up the next steps.”
“Thanks Mason,” Devlin said as he shook Mason’s hand.
Mason watched the pair leave more quietly than they had come. He tried to focus his attention on the notes in front of him but couldn’t. If he didn’t win this case…no, he couldn’t think like that. Now, more than ever, losing wasn’t an option.
Hampered by traffic, the short trip home from the lawyer’s office turned into thirty minutes, then forty-five. While Devlin sat in silence plotting his revenge, Casey was lost in a mass of turbulent emotions. The picture of a screaming Isabel kept flashing through her mind and she kept repeating the scene over and over. Not knowing what to do, she’d simply held the child in her arms as tight as she could and whispered the promise that it would never happen again over and over in the little girl’s ear as she stroked her hair. That was when she had felt the stickiness against her fingertips. She’d known almost immediately what it was and it took everything in her power not to break down right there and then. It had been nearly eleven years since her mother had marked her.
“She won’t touch her again.”
At her voice, Devlin shifted in his seat to look at her. She was staring out the window. “What?”
“My mother won’t touch Isabel again – at least not till after the hearing.”
“How do you know?”
“I think she was sending me a message…a reminder.”
He didn’t understand what she meant but he didn’t push her. Whatever was going on here was something she wanted to get off her chest.
“I was older than Isabel when it happened. Ten actually. I was still relatively brave back then because I believed my real father would ride in on his white horse and take me away from it all. My mother didn’t know I had found out about Peter after I overhead a fight she was having with my father.” An uneven chuckle rose up from her throat.
“Anyway, my mother had just smacked me for not getting the floor clean enough and I told her that I was going to run away to some place where she’d never be able to find me. This look came into her eyes – I think she must have believed me or something because she went crazy and just started hitting me over and over and screaming at me that I would never get away.” Casey was silent for a moment. It was almost as if she was reliving the moment in her mind and she was waiting for the beating to end.
“Her ring cut my cheek at some point and she must have finally noticed the blood because she just suddenly stopped and smiled at me. She left me laying there on the floor while she cleaned the blood off the ring and then she told me that even if I managed to leave her someday that she would always be with me – that I would be reminded of her every time I looked in the mirror.” She ran her finger over the scar.
“The irony is that she didn’t need to do this. Eleven years later and she
still always with me, mirror or no mirror.”
Worn out by the day’s events, Casey excused herself the moment she entered the townhouse and escaped to her room. She’d been tempted to check on Isabel but she could hear the laughing and carrying on coming from the room. Whatever Devlin’s parents and Ryan were doing to entertain the child was working. Sinking down on the bed, Casey stared at the canopy above her head. She’d told Devlin too much. While she’d had no choice in the matter during the interview with Mason, she should have at least had the sense to keep her mouth shut in the car. After all, Devlin was already completely disgusted by her. She wasn’t sure why she’d told him. It had started as just trying to offer him some measure of comfort that Isabel would be physically safe for the time being. But somehow it had become about her and the longing to tell him had overshadowed the consequences of her admission. She wished she could draw from his strength. She wished she could be different around him…worthy of him.
Casey knew she had to get a grip on her runaway emotions. She had come here for one reason only but within twenty-four hours, all the promises she had made to herself to remain strong and in control had flown out the window. Devlin had seen her at her weakest on more than one occasion already and Isabel and Ryan touched a place in her heart that she had long thought dead. Even Devlin’s parents made her long for something she couldn’t identify. She missed Jonas and Jack. Jonas never pressed her to give more of herself than she was capable of and Jack just liked having her around. She also missed her father. She closed her eyes at the stupidity of the thought. Devlin was right. She had no relationship with Peter Caulfield and she never would. He was just a symbol of the past she’d never had - of a rescue that would never come.
Her thoughts drifted back to the meeting with Mason Corrigan. Keeping the entire truth from him had been difficult but she couldn’t risk telling him everything. Devlin would insist on using whatever means necessary to assure victory and there were just too many other innocent lives at stake. No, she’d find another way to keep Isabel safe. She repeated that promise to herself over and over as she drifted off to sleep.