Jarred Into Being

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Chapter 42

Eva suggested she move out of Albert Sr.’s house as soon as practical. Albert Sr. pleaded with her to stay. He apologized profusely for being so “pigheaded.” He wanted them to “start over.” He wanted, he said, a “second chance” to gain Eva’s love and affection again. He demanded a second chance; he deserved it, he said. He would learn to “fully” understand her. He insisted that he could “change” and adapt to Eva if that was what it took to win her back. Albert Sr. argued like the seasoned lawyer he was: convincing, resolute, persuasive.

Eva was skeptical, but they reached a compromise. She would continue living in the house, at least until Denny’s baby was born, and the wedding would be quietly postponed and no date would be set.

Junior found Eva sitting alone on the patio the next day, a book in her hand and a cup of coffee on the sturdy, wrought-iron lawn table in front of her.

“What are your reading?” He pulled up a chair.

“Shakespeare,” she said, glancing briefly in his direction. “Hamlet. It’s an assignment, but I like it.”

“Ah,” he said, raising one hand while placing the other over his heart, “‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend.’”

“How stirring,” Eva joked. “I’m impressed.”

“Don’t be,” he said. “My college roommate must have said that to me a thousand times. I was always trying to mooch a sawbuck off him. Dad kept me on a pretty strict budget in college.”

“How do you enjoy working for him?” she asked, lowering the book.

Junior shrugged. “He’s Dad. What can I say? Dad is always right, and Junior is never right. It doesn’t change.”

“Maybe it will get better,” Eva offered optimistically.

“It won’t, but that’s okay. I’ll live with it. I always have.”

Eva smiled and returned her attention to the play.

“You’re not going to marry him now, are you?” he asked after a few moments had passed.

Eva sat silently staring at the pages in front of her. “I don’t know,” she said finally.

“You should marry me, Eva,” he said, gazing at her. “You’re the most beautiful, fascinating woman I’ve ever known. I think being married to you would be nothing short of an absolutely intoxicating adventure. I still adore you, Eva.”

Eva studied the face beseeching her. It was streaked with longing and insecurity.

“Junior,” she said, “I’m very confused right now. I’m not sure I should marry anyone. I need time to think about everything’s that happened. I need time to figure out what I want, what I need. Does that make sense? Can you understand that?”

He nodded. “I understand it. I just want to be sure that you understand how much I love you, Eva. You’ve touched me more than any other girl I’ve ever met. I’d do anything to make you my wife,” he said. “In fact, I can’t imagine my life without you now that I know you.” Junior stared intently at her, his face grave. “I’d even stand up to Dad for you, Eva.” An awkward smile belied his courage.

Eva smiled softly at him. “Thank you,” she said.

Three weeks later the Blanco’s and their attorney, Russell Rexler, appeared before Judge Lindsay Davis for their pretrial hearing. At issue: whether or not sufficient evidence existed to bind the Blanco’s’ over for a trial on charges of kidnapping, aggravated assault, and unlawful detention.

The Blanco’s pleaded “not guilty” on all charges, and Mr. Rexler angrily accused the state of persecuting his clients because they were Hispanic and, even more egregiously, violating their constitutional rights by conducting an unlawful search of their property without benefit of a lawfully signed and executed search warrant.

The prosecution was represented by Assistant State’s Attorney Carol Pascual who was the newest prosecutor in the office, having just been hired two weeks earlier and assigned to the Blanco matter five days earlier. This pretrial hearing was Ms. Pascual’s first court appearance as an attorney. She assured Judge Lindsay that at trial the state would present a properly executed search warrant as well as ample evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the Blanco’s had, indeed, resorted to kidnapping, aggravated assault, and unlawful detention for nefarious motives related to protecting their drug distribution business. Attorney Rexler jumped to his feet and strenuously objected. The state’s “wild” accusation that his clients had any connection to illegal drug smuggling was “preposterous.” Judge Lindsay upheld his objection and directed Assistant State’s Attorney Pascual to make no further such references.

Eventually, Judge Lindsay announced that he would take the matter under advisement and issue his ruling within seven days. Meanwhile, the defendants were free to leave under the existing conditions of their bail.

Carmella stood tall and arrogantly marched out of the courtroom, followed closely by Juan and Russell Rexler. The courthouse hallway was bustling with the characteristic amount of hectic activity. At the top of the courthouse steps Carmella spotted their limousine about a half block away and she barked at Juan to signal the car closer.

At the precise moment that Juan began waving his arm, three gun shots in rapid succession rang out. Juan immediately crumbled onto the steps; Carmella screamed; and Rexler spun around and dashed back into the courthouse. Two more gun shots exploded and one of the bullets hit Carmella in the neck. She immediately tumbled backwards and fell.

Pandemonium reigned. Some people screamed and pointed at the shooter; others gaped in complete shock unable to move; and many ran in the opposite direction of the gunfire in fear for their own lives.

Eight security guards teemed out of the entrances like soldier ants out of an anthill. Spotting the shooter, they immediately swarmed and tackled him. Two of the guards ended up rolling all the way down the steps to the sidewalk with him in their clutches. By the time they had stood him on his feet and cuffed his hands behind his back, five police squad cars with blaring sirens and flashing mars lights had pulled to within inches of the security guards and their captive.

Within minutes two ambulances arrived and paramedics grabbed their stretchers and raced to the top of the steps where security guards stood motioning for them to hurry.

Juan was dead. The first bullet had creased the top of his head; the second bullet had entered directly into his left eye and exited the back of his skull; the third bullet had missed its target. Carmella was breathing, but unconscious. The bullet had entered the right side of her neck and exited through the back where the neck bone and the spinal column meet. Paramedics immediately placed an oxygen mask over Carmella’s nose and mouth and lifted her onto the stretcher.

Two policemen from the first squad car on the scene roughly pushed the young Hispanic man into the back seat of their car and drove off toward the station. Police from the other squads fanned out to take statements from the security guards and witnesses. Another ambulance had to be called for two elderly women, twin sisters, who had both fainted and were being ministered to by a nurse who had just happened to be walking past the courthouse when all the shooting started. Reporters were arriving in their cars, spilling out into the street with their notebooks at the ready, looking to accost some unsuspecting witness. Some reporters opted to stay and interview people at the scene while other more industrious types jumped back into their vehicles and headed toward police headquarters.

Word spread quickly throughout Corpus Christi and by 6:00 p.m. Eva, Albert Sr., Junior, and Denny were poised in front of the television in the living room waiting for the news report to begin. A handsome male announcer said: “At approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning on the steps of the county court house a lone gunman shot and killed prominent businessman Juan Blanco and shot and severely wounded his wife, Carmella Blanco who, at this moment, is listed in critical condition. An immediate motive for the shooting was not available. Witnesses report that the shooter was a Hispanic male in his mid to late twenties who opened fire on the Blanco’s without warning. He was immediately tackled by court-house security guards and placed in custody by police. The man was identified by police as Rafael Mena, a transient with no known address or prior criminal record.”

Rafael’s mug shot appeared on the screen staring straight at Eva. “Oh … my … God,” she said, placing her hand over her mouth. “Oh … my … God,” she repeated. Eva sobbed uncontrollably.

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