Chapter 24

The trial is finally recessed until tomorrow. Amelia gives me a quick, distracted hug and I’m escorted back to the police car by the same cops. They must have stayed the whole time.

There are a bunch of people protesting right in front of the steps. I catch a glimpse of a sign and the end of a chant and realize they’re protesting for my release. I try to smile at them as I pass, but they’re too busy to notice. Still, people were willing to come out in the rain and shout for me. That’s nice to know.

When we get back, all the other kids are gone again. There’s a dog person visiting and they’re all doing therapy exercises with the dogs or something. I don’t want to go…it’ll remind me too much of Tanya.

Instead, I sit on my bed.

Doing nothing.

At all.

In a way, it feels good though. I’m not even letting myself think, so I’m not worrying about the trial or anything…just being able to relax without anyone watching me feels good. I never thought I’d prefer this place to anywhere, but I guess it’s better than the courthouse.

I peel off my suit, hoping it doesn’t smell too sweaty and change back into the t-shirt and sweatpants. It’s only like five or six, but I get into bed’s been a long day.

I start shivering as soon as I’m under the covers…being overheated all day makes everything else seem cold. Maybe I’ll get hypothermia. I smile bitterly. Those reporters would love it if I died in the middle of the trial…makes for a better story.

It’s the first time I’ve thought about death in a long time, but now that it’s there, my mind won’t let it go. I freak out about my death, Melissa’s death, my parents’ death, Tanya’s death, Wood’s death...I’m shaking and on the verge of tears when I hear a low moaning sound.

I open my eyes (I didn’t realize they were closed) and huge eyes blink at me.

“Are you a ghost?” I’m not sure why I say it. It’s not like it’s going to answer me. But it looks so scary and I’m so focused on death that it comes out of my mouth before I can help myself.

It just looks at me.

I sigh. “I know. I’m crazy.”

It shakes its head.

“Well, thanks.”

It makes the noise and fades from view.

I close my eyes again and pull the blanket up to my chin. “Good night.”

It isn’t until I’m just about to fall asleep that I remember that they didn’t handcuff me this time.

It’s rough getting up the next morning.

When I wake up, I think for a minute that I’m home – which makes it all the worse when I open my eyes and realize where I really am. I get dressed in the suit (which is all wrinkled from yesterday) and try to stand without leaning on a wall.

I’m escorted to the patrol car, again without handcuffs, and almost fall back asleep by the time we get to the courthouse. I walk out, too tired this time to smile at the protesters and kind of stagger over to Amelia.

“Look at you!” She checks her watch and drags me into a bathroom, dabbing at my face with a wet paper towel. “How late were you up?”

“Not that late actually,” I rub my eyes and yawn. The cold water is waking me up a little bit. “But I haven’t really been sleeping much for the last couple of weeks.”

She lets out a short, frustrated sigh and starts combing my hair with a comb out of her purse. “Well, look a little more alive, okay? This is most likely the last day.” She wets my hair, gives it a few more strokes and then turns me towards a mirror. “That okay?”

It’s parted differently than it usually is, but it doesn’t look bad. “Yeah. Thanks.”

She smiles at my reflection.

It suddenly occurs to me how much I owe this woman. Not only has she defended me for nothing and made Wood incredibly happy, she’s also the closest thing to a mother I’ve ever had.

I turn and hug her. “Thank you...”

She hugs me back and there’s a moment of pressure on top of my head, which I think is a kiss. “Of course,” Then she lets go of me. “Now come on. We’ll be late.”

I follow her out and back to the table from yesterday, looking around. There are more people today, even though it’s Monday. A lot of them seem to be on my side, judging from the whispers I can make out and that encourages me a little. Then again, Owen and Cheryl are still here and glaring at me murderously. I wink and grin at them before turning back to Amelia.

“So it’s your turn to present your case, right?”

“Right,” She rifles through her briefcase. “You’re really good with all this legal stuff. Definitely better than me.”

“Hey, you’re doing a great job!” I hope that doesn’t come out as fake as I think it does. “And once we win this, you’ll have a great reputation from defending the Chamall kid and everyone will want to hire you!”

She raises an eyebrow. “You’re jynxing us.”

I knock on the table. “There.”

“It’s probably not even wood.” She looks back to her briefcase. “There’s a lot of fake wood stuff now.”

“Pseudo wood?”


“All rise!”

We stand and Gianni takes his place, looking even less sympathetic than yesterday.

Seeing him erases any confidence I might have had and my mouth goes dry. Even though he’s not looking at me, it still feels like he’s glaring at me more menacingly than Owen and Cheryl. How can they let someone so obviously biased run this trial? And how come nobody else has noticed it?

He shoots a glance at me and I look away quickly, hoping he didn’t catch me staring. With him, that would probably amount to contempt of court.

It’s Amelia’s turn to present her case today and she looks almost as nervous as I am. I think she’d feel worse than I would if we lost, even though I’m the one being punished.

She calls a couple of witnesses – the owner of the gym, the cop who arrested me – and I tune out a little bit. Her questions are all pretty standard anyway. I look out the window and shift in my seat, trying to figure out a way to keep my butt from going numb.

It doesn’t get really interesting until she calls up one of my old teachers. She’s asking him about how I behaved and if he thinks I’m really capable of committing a crime for no reason. And then, of course –

“Objection, Your Honor!” This is the S.A’s third objection in five minutes.

Amelia whirls around. “Mr. Prosecutor, this is my witness and the questions I ask him have a direct bearing on this trial, may I please continue without constant interruption!”

The S.A looks genuinely stunned this time.

Gianni bangs his gavel (for no apparent reason, nobody’s talking) and gives Amelia a stern warning about court proceedings, but she looks relieved and extremely self-satisfied and I notice that her hands don’t shake anymore when she talks.

The S.A doesn’t object for the rest of her questioning.

There are a couple more witnesses, including a local vet and Owen and Cheryl again. Amelia asks them basically the same questions as before, with a slightly more accusatory tone, and gets basically the same answers. I see them talking and snickering in the audience once she’s done talking to them and it occurs to me that they’re missing school for this. This is probably fun for them, seeing me get in trouble.

Once she’s run out of other people, she calls me. I get up, more nervously than yesterday – somehow it makes it worse that Amelia’s questioning me. Maybe because I didn’t like the prosecutor…but this time I don’t want to answer questions badly and make Amelia look bad.

My voice cracks and I have to clear my throat a few times when I’m taking the oath and stating my name for the record. I force myself to look away from the T.V cameras in the back of the room and make eye contact with Amelia. She smiles encouragingly and starts.

“So you’ve already established that you found this animal outside of the Chartreuse gym, near where you lived.”

I blink. That was quick. “Um…yes.”

“And that this animal, while in your possession, did not cause harm to anyone or anything.”

“Yes.” Well, besides me. But I deserved it.

“And until Owen Chessy reported you to the police, nobody else knew of this animal’s existence.”

“No,” I say it too quickly, but it’s better than hesitating. “Nobody knew. I kept her safe.”

She raises her eyebrows and smiles, impressed by my choice of words. “So how would Chessy know that you had a Nonextant?”

I don’t look at Owen, but I can still see his expression out of the corner of my eye and I have to stop myself from smirking. “He saw it once. But only for a moment, and only her face, which doesn’t look any different than a dog.”

“So how could he know it was a Nonextant?”

“He has one himself.”

The S.A practically knocks over his chair. “Objection! We are here for Mr. Chamall, not to condemn Mr. Chessy!” The judge bangs his gavel and sustains it.

Amelia nods. “I just wanted to establish that not all of the witnesses are completely trustworthy. If Owen never saw it, how could he have known it was a Nonextant? How could he even know Dash – Daniel was keeping it?”

I open my mouth to answer, but she whispers “Rhetorical.”

She turns away from me. “Furthermore, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to point out that the very law that my client was convicted for is, as we speak, being overturned in the state legislature. And that this law states, in layman’s terms, that no Nonextant may be employed to hurt any human or any other Nonextant and that keeping a Nonextant is a danger to the keeper and those around him.” She takes a deep breath. “The Nonextant in question never harmed a living soul and the only reason it was kept was to prevent its own slaughter. Is that a crime, ladies and gentlemen?” She flops into her chair, face red. “The defense rests.”
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