Going in for the Kill
Swan,” Rosalie said. “Call your next witness.”
“Your Honor, I’d like to call Dr. Cullen back to the stand.”
Edward came to his feet. “Objection.”
“What is your problem now?” Bella cried then caught herself. “I apologize, Your Honor.”
Rosalie seemed almost pleased by Bella's reaction. “I echo her question, Mr. Masen. On what grounds do you object?”
“You declared witnesses may only be called once per side.”
“She also said she would not tolerate outbursts,” Bella snapped. “And if she were following the letter of that law, you would have been banned from the courtroom two witnesses ago!”
“Order in the court!” Rosalie tapped her gavel on the wooden block with a smile. “I’ve always wanted to say that.”
Mock-frowning at Alice’s snicker, Rosalie cleared her throat. “Uh, Mr. Masen, Ms. Swan has a point. I have allowed you latitude in the outburst regard, so I see no reason why she should not be allowed to re-call Dr. Cullen.
“But be warned, Ms. Swan,” Rosalie continued. “You may only introduce new evidence and must avoid any questions already asked and answered. Is that clear?”
Bella grinned though she was anything but happy. “Crystal.”
“Very well. Mr. Masen, your objection is overruled, but this time, you may cross-examine the witness.” Rosalie turned to Bella. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“No worries, Your Honor.” Her steely eyes drifted toward the defendant. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
“If you say so. Dr. Cullen, please return to the stand, remembering you are still under oath.”
Bella flipped through her notebook as Carlisle resumed the stand but only to keep from glaring at Edward. She knew the Cullens heard her colorful outburst in the bathroom, and as she’d kept her thoughts to herself, she also knew none of them—save Alice—knew why.
And if Alice knew what was good for her, she’d keep her chirpy trap shut.
“Dr. Cullen.” Bella stepped around her desk. “I’d like to ask you about vampire living, if I could.”
“Certainly.” Carlisle tried to hide his wariness, but Bella didn’t miss his anxious glances in Edward’s direction.
“And I apologize if these questions make you uncomfortable. I mean no harm or disrespect.”
“We earlier discussed how vampires are ‘born,’ so to speak. How do they die?”
“Uh, well, vampires die when their bodies are dismembered and all the pieces are burned.”
“So no crosses, garlic necklaces, or holy water, huh?”
Carlisle chuckled. “I’m afraid not.”
“What about flaming stakes through their stubborn hearts?”
Edward huffed but did not object as Carlisle answered. “No.”
“So vampires are born one way and can die only one way?”
Edward did come to his feet then. “Objection. Asked and answered.”
“I’ll rephrase,” Bella said. “Vampires are inhumanly strong, so how difficult is it to dismember one?”
“Very. A vampire would have to be outnumbered, surprised, or overpowered.”
“As in Phoenix when Emmett and Jasper killed James?”
“Yes. Exactly like that.”
“I see.” Bella paced in front of the witness stand. “How many ways can a human die?”
Carlisle leaned forward. “I’m sorry?”
“You said vampires can only die one way. I want to know, based on your experience as a medical doctor, how many ways humans can die.”
“Objection!” Edward cried. “Dr. Cullen was not accepted as a medical expert.”
“He’s been a doctor for 300 years!” Bella huffed. “Does he need to be vetted?”
“I agree with Ms. Swan,” Rosalie said. “Overruled.”
Edward remained on his feet, and Emmett took a step forward, folding his thick arms across his chest. “Have a seat, man.”
Reluctantly, Edward sat down, trying in vain to catch Bella’s eye. This time, she inspected her American manicure, wishing she’d thought to wear red nail polish. Alice clamped a hand over her mouth to rein in her glee, and Rosalie gave her a curt look before instructing Dr. Cullen to answer Bella’s question.
“Well.” Carlisle rubbed his chin. “There are innumerable ways for a human to die.”
“Broadly speaking, old age, disease, accident, natural disaster, spontaneous heart failure…”
“What about suicide?”
Edward crushed the pen in his hand, cursing when black ink ran over his arm and notebook.
“Mr. Masen, do you need a minute?” Judge Hale asked.
“No, Your Honor. My apologies.”
“Proceed, Ms. Swan.”
Bella gave Edward a scathing look before returning to her witness. “Suicide is another way humans could die, correct?”
“Yes.” Carlisle’s voice inched up an octave. “Though that way is a bit different.”
“Suicidal humans usually exhibit warning signs, symptoms of an underlying problem that might lead them down such a permanent path.”
“But if a human were abruptly forced into a traumatic situation without warning or recourse, one from which she could never escape, and especially one where that human was abandoned by her support system and reason for living, would it not be possible for that human to decide to end her life just as abruptly?”
Edward slammed both hands on his desk, splitting it down the center. “Don’t you dare!”
Bella whirled around so fast she could have been immortal. “Do you have a problem with my line of questioning, Mr. Masen?”
“You’re gotdamn right I do!”
“Well, it sucks to be you,” she hissed, turning back to Rosalie who was pinching the bridge of her nose. “Sorry, Your Honor.”
“Duly noted, Ms. Swan. Bailiff, please replace the defendant’s table.”
“Got it!” In the commotion, Emmett slipped through the side door of the courtroom and reentered with a duplicate of Edward’s table hoisted onto his shoulder. He set it down as if a feather, clearing away the original’s debris.
He patted Edward’s shoulder, applying a bit of pressure. “Try not to destroy this one, eh?”
“Mr. Masen, please reset yourself as quietly as possible and do not interrupt Ms. Swan again,” Rosalie sighed. “Ms. Swan, kindly do not respond to Mr. Masen’s outbursts, no matter how tempted you might be.”
“Of course, Your Honor,” Bella said politely.
Edward continued to glare at Bella, though his eyes were more grieved than angry.
“I’m sorry, Dr. Cullen,” Bella said. “Where were we?”
“You were…” He cleared his throat. “…you were asking if a woman under certain, sudden circumstances might kill herself without warning.”
“Ah, yes. Well?”
Carlisle looked past her to Edward, but his first son was fixated on Bella. “Yes, she might.”
“And though venom can cure anything, it cannot restart a dead heart, can it?”
Carlisle swallowed hard. “No, it cannot.”
“So that poor human girl with her poor broken heart would be irrevocably dead forever?”
Carlisle winced as Esme smothered moans with her hand. “Yes, she would.”
It was then Bella faced Edward, a terrible smirk on her lips. “Wouldn’t that be a waste?”
“Yes, it would,” Dr. Cullen said softly. “But there is hope in a case like that.”
Bella turned to him in surprise. “I’m sorry?”
“In a case like that,” Dr. Cullen continued. “It would be possible for that human girl to choose differently, to decide against suicide and create a different life.”
Bella’s eyes narrowed to slits. “A different life?”
“Well, yes.” Carlisle shifted in his seat. “That girl, the one with the broken heart, could decide to honor the life she lost by living well in her new, uh, life.”
“That is certainly a possibility, isn’t it?” Bella said with surprising lightness. “Thank you for sharing that, Dr. Cullen.”
“You’re welcome, Ms. Swan,” he replied warily.
“Let’s talk about the Volturi.” She gave the room whiplash as she changed directions. “There are three of them, correct?”
“Yes. Aro, Caius, and Marcus.”
“Yes. Though Marcus’ wife Didyme is deceased.”
“She was killed? My goodness! When?”
“Oh, about 3,000 years ago.”
“Wow.” Bella folded her arms beneath her chest. “When he did get over it?”
“Well, you’re saying his wife died 3,000 years ago, right?”
“I would assume after all that time he was able to get over it.” She glanced at Edward. “Find himself a suitable distraction, perhaps?”
“No, he did not get over it.” Carlisle’s tone brooked no argument. “And he never will.”
“I thought vampires were creatures who are easily distracted?”
“Easily distrac—” Carlisle closed his eyes, blowing a harsh breath through his nose. “That’s poppycock. A mated vampire could never distract himself from the loss of his mate once the bond is formed.”
Bella came closer to the stand. “What do you mean by that last part?”
“When I fell in love with Esme as a human, I did not know she reciprocated my feelings, so we were not yet bonded as mates. Once she awakened to this life and confessed her love for me, our bond was sealed in eternity. And nothing can break it.” Carlisle leaned forward in his chair. “Not time, not distance, not even death. And anyone who thinks otherwise is a damned fool. Pardon my language.”
“So it is impossible for separate mates to thrive apart?”
“Ms. Swan.” Carlisle’s voice was ragged. “Esme is a mere twenty paces from where I sit. And though I can see and smell her, I feel her absence in my heart. Were one of us to die…” He shook his head. “I cannot imagine what would become of the other.”
“But Marcus is alive and well in Volterra, is he not?” Bella asked, surprised Edward had not yet objected.
“Alive, yes. But the only reason he has not yet tossed himself into a volcano is because Aro uses Chelsea’s gift to force Marcus’ perpetual loyalty to the Volturi.”
“What if the separation wasn’t rooted in death?” Bella paced a bit. “What if one half of the mated pair willingly severed ties with the other half?”
“Objection!” Edward barely made it to his feet. “Inaccurate.”
“What?” Rosalie asked.
“I object to ‘willingly’ as a part of her phrasing.”
“I was speaking of a hypothetical case, Your Honor,” Bella replied tightly. “Surely the defendant can allow that much latitude.”
“I maintain my objection.” Edward fixed his darkened gaze on Bella. “We both know that hypothetical slant is a crock of crap.”
“No bigger than that crock of crap you fed me the other day.”
Rosalie banged the gavel on the desk so hard she cracked the judge’s bench.
“Now look what you made me do!” She threw up her hands in despair. “My pretty bench is ruined!”
“I’m on it, babe!” Emmett cried, fleeing the room again.
“This is getting out of hand,” Esme said loudly enough for both Edward and Bella to hear.
“Yes, it is, Mother Cullen.” Rosalie stepped back as the bailiff replaced her desk. “Yes, it most certainly is.” Once Emmett was done, finishing his work with a kiss to his wife’s cheek, Rosalie leaned over the judge’s bench, glaring at the litigants. “Bring your scrawny asses here, now!”
Bella and Edward approached the judge, giving each other a wide berth. As Rosalie’s molten gold eyes met hers, Bella felt afraid for the first time all day.
“Do you understand why I don’t want you speaking to each other?” she hissed. “Because when lovers are angry and at odds, they say things they cannot take back. Cruel, regrettable things neither will ever forget.” She glanced at Emmett, her eyes sad. “You two have enough of those between you to last a lifetime, and I am trying with all my might to keep you from adding more.
“But I am done.” She wiped her hands as if ridding them of debris. “If you want to continue your verbal assaults, adding more fuel to this destructive fire, be my guest. But don’t say I didn’t do my part to salvage what I could.”
Leaning back in her chair, she dismissed them with a wave of her hand. “Ms. Swan, continue with Dr. Cullen, please.”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Bella needed to rein herself in before her renewed vigor in battle lost her the war.
Her steps were labored as she returned to the witness stand, and as Edward passed behind her, she could have sworn she heard him whisper, “I’m sorry, love.”
But when she turned around, he was seated at his table, his face hidden from view by the hand on his brow. With a heavy sigh, Bella faced her witness again, noting the weariness in his eyes.
“Thank you for your patience, Dr. Cullen.”
“If a mated pair cannot thrive apart,” she continued, “would it be fair to say that brokenhearted girl we mentioned earlier might resort to suicide in the absence of her mate?”
“Objection. Leading,” Edward said.
“So much for being sorry,” Bella muttered.
“What was that, Ms. Swan?” Rosalie asked.
“Nothing, Your Honor. I’ll rephrase. Dr. Cullen, if the human we mentioned earlier were part of a mated pair, how might she react to losing her mate?”
“Her reactions might range from anger and resentment to sadness and depression. She might gain or lose excessive amounts of weight, withdraw from her friends and normal activities, even become a different person.”
“Any other possibilities?”
Carlisle looked at Edward with unreadable eyes. “She might choose suicide in lieu of living without her mate. It is a pain few can survive.”
“Objection,” Edward said wearily.
“Sustained. Dr. Cullen’s comment will be stricken from the record.”
“Let’s examine the mate bond from a different angle, shall we?” Bella steepled her fingers in front of her mouth. “Dr. Cullen, who is Charles Evenson?”
Carlisle straightened in his chair. “He is the deceased ex-husband of my wife.”
“Did you kill him?”
He glanced at Edward, confusing Bella, before replying, “No, but I wish I had.”
Bella shivered at his grisly tone. “And why is that?”
“He hurt my mate,” he snarled. “And the only acceptable punishment is death by my bare hands.”
“Is it fair to say, then, that if someone kills a vampire’s mate, the living vampire will seek revenge?”
Carlisle’s eyes were black as pitch. “Until one of them dies.”
“Why didn’t Marcus seek revenge?”
Carlisle calmed a bit. “He does not know who killed Didyme. And with Chelsea’s hold on him, he cannot spare the wherewithal to wonder or care.”
“I see. But barring mind-control or a psychotic break, a vampire cannot allow his mate’s death to go unavenged?”
“No. As long as that vampire lives, he will do nothing else until the person responsible for his mate’s death is dead.”
“Did James have a mate?”
Edward’s head snapped up as Carlisle replied, “Yes. Victoria.”
“We have established Emmett and Jasper killed James,” Bella said. “So Victoria will come after them?”
Carlisle seemed to pale despite his bloodlessness. “No, probably not.”
“No?” Bella seemed confused. “Why not? If they killed James, then according to the mate bond, wouldn’t Victoria kill them in retaliation?”
“They carried out his death, yes. But given the circumstances, I don’t think Victoria would hold them responsible for it.”
Bella folded her arms. “Then whom would she hold responsible?”
Carlisle sighed. “You.”
“And what chance would an abandoned human girl have against a vengeful vampire with nothing to lose?”
The courtroom went eerily still for five seconds before Carlisle replied, “None.”
Bella placed her hands behind her back and walked slowly toward her desk. Taking a seat, she folded her hands in her lap. “Thank you, Dr. Cullen. No further questions.”
Rosalie exhaled heavily. “Mr. Masen?”
Edward did not hear the judge calling as his eyes were trained on Bella. She felt him as if wrapped in his icy embrace, and it was all she could do not to crumble under his examination. But she held firm, keeping her eyes on the notebook in front of her, chanting those two words in her mind to keep from falling apart or running into his arms.
Neither impulse appropriate at the moment.
“Mr. Masen!” Rosalie called out.
“I have no questions for this witness,” he murmured.
Bella looked at him then, dejected black on intense brown. And as she searched his soul, she knew she reached him. There was no more she could suggest or prove, no other weaponry needed to blow his case apart.
So she came to her feet and addressed the court. “The plaintiff rests, Your Honor.”