Melodies of a Tattered Shadow

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Chapter10 PAUL and the PROSTITUTE

Back in L.A., D’ Kickers were preparing to start production of their new album. Peter had noticed that Paul was still out of sync with everything, especially with things that has to do with the band. So he pulled him aside and tried to level with him.

“Kid, I know what’s troubling you. Do you want to talk about it?”

Paul shook his head and just kept staring at the ground. “I don’t know if I can still do this. I can’t stop thinking of Chelsea… the possibilities… Argh!” Paul was anxious and just kept shaking his head out of sheer despair.

“We’ll talk to the lawyers ourselves. Maybe then we can explore more options... get more insights,” Peter suggested.

“Yes, maybe it would be better that way. Should we go to Ashville?” Paul asked.

“No, kid, I don’t think we can do that. We have deadlines for this album, remember? Let’s just invite them to go here instead. What do you think?”

“Can we do that?”

“Why not? We are the clients, anyway. And I heard from your mom that the lawyer is a reasonable man. I guess we just have to pay for their plane tickets and stuff.”

“Yeah, yeah. That’s great. Let’s invite them over with my mom. I want her with me now more than ever.”

Peter understood Paul, but he was worried about their album too. Paul had not written a single song since they came back from Ashville. He wanted to talk to Paul about it, but he was still trying to test the grounds with him. He is emotionally unstable now, and he doesn’t want to rock the boat even more. He didn’t want to come out as insensitive. He felt for Chelsea, too, and he wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to her. He’s bent on helping Chelsea, especially Paul; but the band cannot suffer. They could not dwell too much on the case and sacrifice productivity.

D’ Kickers had gone a long way. Each of them was able to get his own place now in downtown L.A. Paul and Peter lived on the same street in Malibu. Both their properties were fronting the beach. Peter loved the ocean and he has gotten into the habit of swimming every time his schedule permits. Paul, on the other hand, for some unknown reason, never swims. He’d be seen walking along the shore, especially before dark.

When Mrs. Andrews and the lawyers arrived, the boys were both on the beach. Mrs. Andrews led the lawyers into Paul’s house. She knows her way, as there was not a single month that she ever failed to visit Paul. He loved having his mom around. If it were not for his father’s work, Paul would’ve wanted both his parents to stay with him.

Chelsea’s case has affected Mrs. Andrews’ schedule and life in general. She spends less time with Paul and her husband, and Chelsea herself. She never complained, and she always told Mr. Andrews that she wouldn’t choose to do otherwise. She would give everything for them.

From the foyer facing the beach, Mrs. Andrews called for Peter and Paul.

Mrs. Andrews introduced the two lawyers to the boys.

“Meet Mr. James Lavraza and Miss Naomi Smiths. They’re both helping Chelsea’s and the Payne’s’ case. Miss Smiths are quite famous in the legal community, as she specializes in domestic violence and abuse.

They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.

“Mr. Andrews, we are glad to hear that you are equally supportive as Mr. Cook in helping in the case,” Miss Smiths said.

“Just call me Paul, please.”

“Oh, okay Paul. Call me Naomi then.”

“Well, as you know, there are two different cases that we are looking at now in order to protect Chelsea. One is ensuring Robbins’ conviction for murder in the first degree, and the possibility of filing another case, for sexual abuse and statutory rape,” Mr. Lavraza began. “I will be the one to handle the conviction for first degree murder, while Naomi will handle the sexual abuse and rape cases.”

“So how are we going to proceed?” Peter inquired.

“I’m already working on this for quite some time. I closely coordinate with the County Attorney’s Office to ensure Robbins’ conviction for now. But again, we have to find Sarah.”

Once again, Paul felt a huge boulder dropped on him. It’s this dead end again!

Paul asked, “Is there any other option other than to find the body?”

“Without the body our position is weak.”

“But with or without the body, I will continue to work with the County Attorney’s Office and try my best to keep Robbins behind bars, if not executed for his crimes,” Mr. Lavraza said reassured them. “Miss Smiths will also ensure he will never go near Chelsea again.”

“Naomi, is it true that if we pursue the sexual abuse case, Chelsea will have to be subjected to scrutiny? Will it be possible for her not to appear in court for this?” Paul asked.

“Mr. Andrews,” she was careful with her words, “Paul…our best bet is if Chelsea can testify, if she can give a concrete recollection of the events….”

Paul interrupted her. “Are you saying that we have to subject Chelsea to…that? That would be…too painful for her.”

“All I’m saying is, that is our best bet. For the jury to hear a wounded victim, from her own account, that would serve the case well,” Naomi tried to carefully spell it out for an emotional Paul.

“I’m sure you’ve handled a lot of things like this before, and I understand this is the way to win the case, but do you really think you’ve ‘won’ the case by doing it that way? What happens to the young victim? What kind of victory is that after all? Wouldn’t it be better to leave an innocent child off this?”

Naomi fell silent. She knew very well what he meant. She knew a girl who had gone through this. The girl grew up struggling with the pain of her past. She won the case and prosecuted the culprit. But her pain remained. It had defined her, and so she promised herself to defend the innocent. That girl became a lawyer, a successful one. It has become her life’s mission to prosecute evil men who prey on innocent children.

Naomi walked over to the open foyer door facing the beach. Did it do her justice? Every day, she is reminded of her tragic past. Her life now revolves around the victims’ lives and their pains of the innocence. Had all these made her numb?

“Paul, I understand your apprehension. I promise you I will try my best to look further into the case and see what I can do to protect Chelsea. We will try to get Chelsea away from the court as much as we could. For now, we will concentrate on using her medical records,” Naomi reassured them.

“Robbins’ defense tactic is possibly to raise reasonable doubts. So we have to be clear with our case ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. It’s a tall order for us, but we’ll fight this to the end,” Mr. Lavraza added.

“So, what’s our next step?” Peter was eager to get things started.

“We will start questioning relatives, people who visit the Payne-Robbins house regularly, neighbors… If they find one person in the area with a history or record for sexual offense, it will be enough for them to raise reasonable doubt.” Hearing this, Paul cringed. He understood that it would be hard for them to convict Robbins if this happens. Naomi added, “That is the reason why at first, I want Chelsea to testify, to specifically name and point Mr. Robbins as her abuser; to eliminate reasonable doubt.”

“There are two people who can testify to all this: the first one, Elizabeth, was allegedly killed by Robbins; the other is Sarah,” Lavraza heaved a sigh, “but she is also believed to have been killed by Robbins as well. If she were still alive, she would have been the best witness. It may have been the very reason she was killed in the first place—because she knew too much.”

“What if….I mean, if we can make Sarah come back, she can be the key witness?” Paul asked. Mrs. Andrews squinted and stared at Paul, trying to figure out what he was leading to.

“Yes, yes. She can narrate her own ordeal to reinforce the accusation. But this could affect the mother’s murder case altogether,” Naomi explained.

“That’s true, it will weaken the case. The motive will be questioned. Remember, he thrives on self-defense,” Mr. Lavraza reiterated.

Everyone was quiet and dared not to utter any more words.

The lawyers left before dark, leaving Paul, his Mom and Peter in deep thought. They exhausted every possibility, every question, every option, until they were left with what they started out with. Although they knew from the start of the impossibility of recovering Sarah’s body, they still acceded to support the search. They let them consider the possibility that Sarah might have run away to flee from her step dad’s sexual abuse. If that’s the case, Sarah would need to testify. Without medical reports to support her claim, it will be her words against Robbins. But even her mother had already given up hope that Sarah is alive. Lavraza believes it is dangerous to float that idea at the moment, lest the defense will use it to prove Robbins’ self-defense argument.

While in L.A., Peter struggled to urge Paul to start writing new songs for their album; but every day he spends most of his time thinking about Chelsea and the case.

“Paul, we should leave the lawyers do their jobs.”

Angry and frustrated, he almost yelled at Peter, “Can’t you understand what is happening?”

“I do, but Paul, everything is in the hands of the law now. There’s nothing more that you can do.”

“Is that what you believe: There’s nothing more that we can do? Do you understand what the lawyers have told us? None of the cases we have against that evil man can be won, with certainty. Aren’t you afraid of what might happen to Chelsea?”

“I care for Chelsea as much as you do, even though I have no history with her or her family. I understand that you are doing this for Sarah, because you weren’t able to help her back then, but now you are helping the best you could. I’m sure Sarah will be relieved that you are here now to look after her sister.”

He sniffed and wiped off his tears with his arm. “Is that what you think? That’s my reason, because I wasn’t able to help Sarah? Do you think Sarah will be happy that I’m handing over Chelsea’s future to a bunch of lawyers?”

“We are already doing our best, and I don’t think there is any more that we can do.”

“Is this our best? We cannot even assure the safety of a kid! Not even the lawyers can make that assurance. I don’t believe this is all we’ve got! There is always a way for evil to win, but not for us. Is that logical?! No!” He paused and rested his hands against the table, his head bowed down. “I will find a way. I will make sure that he can no longer touch Chelsea—ever. And I will give my life for that mission.”

Peter was quiet. He knew how hard this must be for his friend; but he was afraid of what he might do to save Chelsea. More than anytime, Paul needs diversion so that he would not be consumed by the case and Chelsea’s situation.

“Kid, just chill first. Relax and step back for a moment. I believe that once you relax your mind, you will find the answers you’re looking for.”

It’s true, Paul thought. No matter how many times he thinks about Chelsea and the case; it just made him even more frustrated. He looked at Peter, and realized how patient he had been through all this.

“I’m sorry Peter.”

“Don’t be. I understand how you feel, but I think just like before, you owe it to yourself to start writing again. Not because I want to finish the album, but for you. To protect your sanity.”

Paul looked at Peter, and understood right away what he meant.

“I think you’re right. I ought to start writing again. But I think you should do it, too.”

Peter laughed. “What? Me, write a song?”

“Why not? You should at least try. Remember, you wanted to do it with Fox back then?”

Peter chuckled. “Back then, it was proven that I can’t. Luckily, we met you.”

“Back then, you can’t. But now, now that we’ve been through a lot, and our musical experience has gone beyond what we knew back when we were teenagers. I’m sure you can pen some for this album. Remember, it will not just be for you or your ego, it’s also to help me out.”

Peter was actually excited about the idea. Especially because he will be helping Paul. “Okay, I’ll try to write some songs. But promise me not to laugh at them!”

“Why? I’m sure you’ll do great. Besides, you never laughed at my songs.”

“Actually, I’ve been attempting to write for quite some time, and I’ve started so many. I’m trying to remember at least a few. Let me get a pen and paper first,” Peter rushed to the drawers, almost tripping over as he went inside the house excitedly.

“It’s on top of the piano, blank music sheets and pencil,” Paul called out.

Peter started scribbling some words, and after a while, Paul insisted to look at what he has written.

“Let me see it!” Seeing the cheerful hint in Paul’s eyes again after a long time, Peter was glad. He thought showing his work to Paul, even if it’s embarrassing, was worth that smile.

“Okay, here it is—” he pulled it back and said, “you promised you won’t laugh, okay?” and handed it over to his friend.

Crying For You

From afar, I watch you hurting inside

Can’t seem to understand it

But I felt the same, crushed inside

I wish your pain will go away, let me have it instead

Paul looked at it, and then at Peter, who was waiting for Paul to laugh. But he didn’t. Instead, he looked at Peter and smiled and scribbled something on it. He then handed it over to Peter again.

Bleeding For You

From afar, I watch you hurting inside

Can’t seem to understand it

But I felt the same, crushed inside

Let me take your pain away, let me bleed instead

When Peter saw this, he felt elated. More than anything, he’s glad Paul knows now how much he felt for him. Paul saw his reaction and teased him, “Hey, don’t be too cocky. You haven’t finished the song and you look like you already won the lottery. Finish it first.”

They both laughed. That whole day, they collaborated on writing a few songs. Finally, Peter thought.

That started the ball rolling again for the band. Vincent Baker arranged whatever the writers came up with and they proceed to recording. After each recording session, Paul and Peter would take time writing songs together. But alone at night, Paul would go back to thinking about Chelsea. He calls her every day and sends her gifts every now and then, but he wants more. He wants Chelsea to be with him, or at the very least to be with his mom, where she can be safe and taken care of. At night, he’d write songs about her to ease his mind. This has become his nightly therapy.

Eyes that cast a spell

I saw your eyes, on a photograph

They look like mine

I stare in disbelief

We share the same blue eyes

Such lovely eyes, able to disguise

Your incredible fright

It must have been a dream

Cause we share even the grim

Refrain:

Such lovely eyes

From our mother’s cry

Eyes that cast a spell

Even cursed, doomed and in demise

Now I found that stare gazing in mine

Such an Incredible sight

Dream comes true

Glad I can share a moment in time

Now I long for that stare that casts a spell

An incredible feeling

A dream that will never end

I want forever to be with you

Refrain II:

Such lovely eyes

Our mother’s pride

Eyes that cast a spell

Erase the curse, doom and demise

After writing Eyes that Cast a Spell, Paul felt stronger about being with Chelsea. But he knew he needed to finish the album. And so on the days that followed, Paul was hell-bent on finishing the album with the band. He wrote songs at an incredible pace, the group can barely keep up with him. The boys had gotten frustrated because Paul’s demand on their time was taking a toll on their personal lives.

It came to a point where the boys no longer enjoy rehearsals and recording. It has become a job, and it’s a very exhausting one. The worst part is, Paul does not realize this; he actually doesn’t seem to care. All he cared about was to finish the album so he could go back to Chelsea.

“Kid, we can take it easy. We are ahead of schedule,” Scott told Paul off.

“What do you mean we’re ahead of schedule? Are we done yet? We’re only ‘ahead’ if we’re done with it.”

“Paul, we’re just saying there should be no rush,” Peter interjected.

“You all used to force me to do this and get this over with. Now that I’m doing it, you’re complaining?”

“We want to do it the way we do it, the way we enjoy it… Not because we have to finish it,” Peter explained.

Paul paused and thought for a moment. He tried to figure out a way to convince them, and make them see it would serve them well if they finish the album soon. Instead, he asked them: “Do you really think that we are way ahead of our schedule?”

They didn’t really know how to reply to this question. They were not sure what Paul was trying to imply. Andy tried to struggle with a reply, “Actually… actually if we… base it on…”

Paul interrupted him, “If that’s the case, I guess you would not oppose if I ask for a whole week break?”

The group was not expecting this.

“So it’s official? We’ll take a whole week break then. I’ll inform Vincent.”

Paul grabbed his belongings and left the studio hastily. He was long gone before the rest of the group got a second wind. That was clever, they thought.

“What was that all about?” Scott and Joey chorused, but no one knew the answer.

At home, Paul quickly packed his luggage, including the dress he wears as a disguise.

Peter came into his room, bewildered and very worried. “What are you doing, Paul?”

But Paul chose to just keep quiet and continued with what he’s doing.

“You can’t be serious! You’re leaving in the middle of our recording sessions?” Peter asked.

“What do you want Peter? When I’m doing it, I’m doing it too fast. Now that I gave all of you a break, you’re saying I can’t leave because we’re working? Are you kidding me?”

“Is it us, you are giving a break, or this is just for you?”

“It doesn’t matter! I don’t care about the album! I don’t care about D’ Kickers! I don’t care…” Paul collapsed on a chair and covered his face with his hands.

“You don’t care? What about me? Do you care about me?”

Paul didn’t answer. He didn’t even look at Peter. The truth was, he didn’t care about anything anymore, other than Chelsea.

“So you really don’t care, eh? Okay then. See you after a week!” Peter walked away, slamming the door behind him.

On the way out, Paul stopped and unpacked one item from his bag. He puts on makeup and wore ‘Cindy’s dress.’ He had gone shopping the day before, collecting new clothes for his disguise. At the airport, he passed by the gift shop and bought something for Chelsea and for her roommates.

By the time he arrived at Ashville, he could no longer control his excitement. He went straight to the shelter to see Chelsea. The three girls jumped up excitedly at the sight of their visitor.

“Cindy!” they chorused.

Paul never forgets the other two girls, sending them gifts and letters, too, whenever he gets a chance. He spent the whole afternoon with them, chatting, singing along and playing.

He promised the three girls he will be there that whole week. And that he did. He was allowed to bring them out, to the park and the carnival. They also went shopping and went to see a movie at the theater. It was one of the happiest moments in his life.

At the end of that week, he noticed that Josie was not herself. She had been quiet and desolate.

“What’s wrong Josie?”

She said nothing, and just stared at him with her sad eyes.

He was genuinely concerned because in the past few days that he was with them, he had seen them at their happiest. There must be something really wrong, and he wanted to find out. So he went to Mrs. Sanchez and asked her.

“Sometimes, they just can’t help but feel sad. It’s normal, you know. I think, maybe the more they see people like you, the more they miss their family. Remember, Chelsea refers to you as her sister. So maybe Josie simply misses her own family. Especially her dad.”

“Her dad? I thought her dad’s in prison?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Didn’t I tell you the whole story? Mr. Brown is a loving and devoted father. Although they were poor, he worked diligently on a farm. He was a single father. One day while he was on the farm, he noticed that Josie was no longer under the tree where she usually stays while he works. He searched for her for hours until he reached a barn and heard noises inside. When he looked inside, he saw Josie….” She choked, and tried to compose herself before she continued. “She suffered in the hands of three young men. Evil men. He lashed out at them in fury and attacked them. They shot him, but he was still able to kill all of them with a sickle knife that he used on the farm. Hence, he’s in prison.”

His heart broke after what he’s heard. His mind lingered on what her father had done to the men who hurt Josie. “Where is he now? Was he convicted?”

“He’s in Buncombe County Detention Center. His case is still under litigation. Unfortunately, it is not looking good for him.”

“What do you mean? Why? He clearly defended his child.”

“I wish it was that simple. You see, before Josie was born, Joseph Brown was a different man. He was involved with a couple of shady people, and he was convicted of murder before and was incarcerated for six years. He became a changed man when he met and fell in love with Josie’s mom. But she died giving birth to her. Anyway, he was judged by his past. I mean, they haven’t sentenced him or anything, but his past crimes did not help his defense at all. That and the fact that he is black and his three young victims were white kids. That gravely affected the case.”

“Had he seen Josie since the arrest?”

“Actually, only a few times. I’m ashamed to admit this because I know Mr. Brown loves his daughter so much, and as you can see, he will give his life for her. But as much as I would want Josie to see her father, I just can’t. There are few people that assist me here, so even if I want to bring Josie to her dad, I can’t do it because there are always other pressing matters that I have to attend to,” Mrs. Sanchez explained.

Paul paused for a while, looking at Josie from afar.

“Is it possible for me to bring her instead? To her dad?”

“You’ll do it? Are you sure? Remember…he’s in prison. I mean…”

He wasn’t sure, really. But he’d do anything for Josie, just as he’d do anything for Chelsea.

“Yes, I want Josie to see her dad, and for him to see her, too. I think they deserve to see each other, as often as possible.” At the back of his mind, he remembered how happy Sarah was with her dad.

“Thank you! I’m glad that you can bring Josie to him. Let me take care of the paper work. Uh, your name is Cindy--? I need to put it on the letter.”

Paul paused and said “Cindy… Cindy Cummings.”

The day of the visit to the Buncombe County Detention Center was arranged, and Paul went with Josie, bearing a letter of authorization to show to the warden. Everything was in order; their bags were inspected and Paul, to his surprise, was frisked by a female guard. They were then escorted to the visiting room, where prisoners sat behind a bullet proof glass. The door on the other side opened and a big burly man who looked too intimidating and angry was led inside. As soon as he saw Josie, his mood changed and his anger seemed to have dissipated. There were tears in his eyes, because he could not believe she is actually there. He grabbed the handset and quickly signaled to her daughter to do the same.

“Hi princess! How are you?”

“I’m fine, Daddy. How are you? This is my new friend Cindy. She is Chelsea’s sister. Chelsea is my roommate. She brought me here to see you. I miss you Daddy!”

“Good morning, Mr. Brown,” Paul said politely, and left the father and daughter to spend the rest of the hour catching up.

“Thank you Miss Cindy. Thank you for bringing her here. I owe you big time. I will never forget this. Thank you.” His sincerity was pure and heartfelt. He simply cannot say anything more, but thank you.

“I’d do anything for Josie, sir. I didn’t want to see her stay sad the whole time,” he said, looking at the little girl. She smiled timidly, and hugged him. “My sister’s friend is my friend, too. She’s like family to me now. I’m glad I was able to do this for her.”

“Y—your sister is Josie’s roommate?” Mr. Brown paused. “I’m sorry to hear that. I only wish this, this thing never happens again to anyone.”

Paul fell silent. He didn’t know if it was appropriate to discuss both their pains at this time. So instead he said, “Sir, is there anything else I can do for you?”

“You’ve done a lot for me already, Miss. I will never forget your kind heart.” He was about to say goodbye, when he remembered something.

“I—I hope you don’t mind. I’m rather desperate, as you may know,” he chuckled a little, seeing as they both can see where he is now.” If it’s not too much to ask, I wish you could bring my daughter again, here, if—if your schedule permits?” Mr. Brown pleaded.

Paul readily said yes. He promised the man he’d do his best to bring Josie as often as he could. Father and daughter said their tearful goodbyes and Paul brought her back to the center.

That night while he was packing his suitcase, he could not take the Browns off his mind. He was both sad and envious. Envious because they still have each other despite of everything; sad because it would end someday if the man gets convicted and jailed for life or worse sentence to death ‘death?’. After thinking things through, Paul called his travel agent and postponed his trip back to L.A.

He spent the next morning at the supermarket buying items to bring to Mr. Brown: soap, food and snacks, several packs of cigarette, and many other things. He planned to pick up Josie from the center again and bring her to her dad, but Mrs. Sanchez did not allow him.

“I hope you understand. It would not be good for Josie to do this often, now, especially if we know that you won’t be here regularly to do this for her. We can’t let her get used to it, and then watch you falter at the end. It is best that the visit with her dad should be far and distant, and not this often.”

Paul kept quiet. He couldn’t disagree more. “Maybe it will be best if you can still give the goods you’ve bought, though. Mr. Brown will surely be needing those.” She smiled and patted him on the back. “He’s going through a very difficult time. A visit from any friendly figure is always welcomed.” Paul nodded and gave her a sheepish smile.

“Let me prepare an authorization letter for you to visit him. I will say you are bringing the gifts on behalf of his daughter?” She said, and then winked at him.

Mr. Brown was rather surprised to see Cindy again. Nevertheless, he was glad. He explained that Josie was not given the permission to go with him, at this time because it was too soon.

“I understand. Thank you for the gifts. The guard had already shown me the bags. You are truly an angel, Miss Cindy,” Mr. Brown told Paul.

“Don’t mention it, sir,” Paul replied.

“I understand your compassion. We are all victims, Cindy. I understand your pain, and although it doesn’t sound right, I’m happy that I was able to do what I did to those animals. I will do it again if I have to even if they put me in jail a hundred times over.” He stopped himself from talking for a minute, looked at Cindy, and went on.

“I will not let anyone hurt my child like that. No child deserves that—that evil deed!” He sniffed and wiped his tears angrily. With clenched fists, he turned to Cindy once more and asked: “The man who did it to your sister, is he…still alive? I will kill him too, if he crossed my path,” he said, grinding his teeth in fury.

Paul thought for a moment before giving an answer. “Actually, I believe he’s here with you?”

“Really? What’s his name? Sex offenders are not housed on my cell block, though. But, who knows, we might have crossed paths by now.”

“Actually… he might be in your cell block. He’s here for murder.”

“W—what’s his name? Tell me. I’m gonna give that….”

“Sir, calm down. I don’t think it’s going to be fair with Josie if you continue to…to be like this. She still deserves to see her dad, out there, free.”

Mr. Brown fell silent. “I’m sorry Cindy. Sometimes the best of me, it’s…I get carried away, that’s all. I have no mercy for those animals that prey on children. I’m not a saint, but those people…they are pure evil. People like me, I become like this because I grew up in a wrong neighborhood and I was taught that it’s the way to survive. But we never hurt innocent kids.” He kept a brave face, but his tears were uncontrollable.

“The truth is I may not get out of here. The only thing that’s keeping me from taking my anger out on others, is the hope of seeing Josie…and to be with her again. Every time I see her, I am always afraid it might be the last time. But I still hope to see her again. I’m thankful to the Lord that even with all the things I’ve done, he still keeps on sending me angels. Angels like you and my daughter.”

“Mr. Brown… No, I’m no angel, sir. I am just trying to help the best I can.”

They let a few moments go by without speaking. Paul broke the silence, and said, “There’s still hope, you know? I think you can still win your case if you have a good lawyer.”

“I can only win some, but I’m a black man accused of murdering three white kids. What’s the chance of freedom there? In their eyes, I’m worse than those animals because I killed white kids. It doesn’t matter now what they did to my child. Even if I win that case, the other cases they filed against me are now piled up. They dug everything from my past. It’s too late now.” He sunk in his seat and cried. “I cannot do anything about it now, can’t you see. But I will give my life just to make her happy…”

“There is always hope, even if it all seems doomed now.”

Paul spent a few more quiet minutes with Mr. Brown, before saying goodbye. As he was about to leave, he asked: “Who is he again? The man who is here for your sister? I promise I will not do anything to him… unless the opportunity presents itself…”

“Gilbert Robbins, that’s who he is…”

Mr. Brown nodded at him and waved goodbye.

Paul went back to the center to say his goodbyes to Chelsea. But Mrs. Sanchez refused to see her this time. Paul fully understood now what Mrs. Sanchez was telling him about getting used to somebody, who will eventually leave.

On the plane back to Los Angeles, Paul was still longing for Chelsea. He thought about Joseph and Josie, and that one moment of happiness they spent when they finally saw each other again. And then, his thoughts wandered on to Sarah and her father. The memory of them happy together and playing the piano. All these pushed him to begin writing a song.

It took him only a few minutes to finish, and he dozed off in deep slumber. That’s when he dreamed of Josie and her Dad.

At first, the mood was pleasant. He was carrying Josie on his shoulders, and a crowd cheered on watching them. It was as if they won a battle or something. Suddenly the same crowd pulled Joseph by his arms, tossing Josie onto the ground. Joseph fell and the crowd pushed him and kicked him even more. He was left there, wounded and covered in blood. But he was brave and didn’t show any pain. He tried to squint so hard just to keep his eyes focused on Josie, who was on the ground, too, on the other side. Josie was shouting for him, but he just stayed there, looking at her not moving an inch. It was as if he knew this was the last time he’s going to see her.

The crowd carried Joseph and brought him to the edge of a mountain. They were all laughing at him, who’s bleeding profusely now. They brought Josie in front of him so he’ll see her and she’ll see him. They laughed and kicked Joseph over the cliff, and Josie ran to the cliff to try to save her Dad. But when she looked down, she couldn’t see him anymore so she panicked. The cliff was too high. She paused and looked back at the crowd: they were all laughing and jeering. Just then everyone paused and looked at Josie, as she smiled and waved goodbye. She turned her back and jumped off the cliff.

*****

“Sir, we’re here. We’ve arrived in L.A.,” the stewardess tried to rouse Paul from slumber. Paul gasped for air as he woke up, still in shock, remembering the vivid dream. “Sir, are you all right? Is there something wrong?”

Realizing it was just a dream; he rubbed his face and eyes, and smiled awkwardly at the stewardess. “I’m okay, I’m fine.”

He looked around and saw that he was the only passenger left in the plane. He grabbed his bag and quickly walked out of the plane.

The much-needed break did them all well. The band was eager to start again; everyone except for Paul. His thoughts were drifting too far that no one could catch up with him. He was distant and disturbed by thoughts of Chelsea, and now Josie and Joseph because of his dream. He understood the dream well enough, and this disturbed him to no end.

Again, he grabbed a pen and paper and began scribbling at the hallway right outside the recording studio.

Love can Kill

He was a wandering man

Knowing only fun and good times

No care for the world

Just getting high and hoping to be mighty

He dared seek a treasure

From another man’s chest

He didn’t care if that could hurt

Because violence was part of him

One day in his wondering

He met a girl, to pass the time

But surprised by the lovely girl

She cures all his unknown pain

Refrain:

He vows for undying love

Pledged to protect her until the end

No one can harm her

Love can kill, if that will come

He thought of his past

Never thought a country girl

Could love him that much

Do I deserve her, he asked

His country girl was bliss

She even bears an angel

Her eyes twinkle like stars

And her smile was heaven’s gift

He swears to treasure her angel

But animals haunted her innocent smile

His country girl left mangled

He killed them all, he killed them all

Refrain II:

His vow for undying love

Pledged to protect her until the end

Harm had come to hurt her

Love can kill, the day has come.

He showed the song lyrics to the group, including Vincent. They weren’t surprised anymore at his genius. They also know that whenever Paul writes something like this, he is going through a painful episode in his life. And so they knew, somehow, that all this attitude and disinterest with the group is because of something deeper.

He continued to write more songs, a few were about Robbins, the nightmare that creeps into his mind and soul. Whenever he thinks of the man, he calmed himself by writing songs.

The Nightmare of Little Sunshine

Not a bird

Just a nightmare that creeps

Through my veins

Crawling like roaches

He knows his way

He’s smart as the devil

Unfortunate for you, my little sunshine

He can escape anything

Preying his game

Eating up innocence

I wish to kill him,

but poison ain’t gonna do it

Refrain:

What can we do with the monster

feasting only on innocence

always escaping the scene

Will I be able to KILL him

KILL him without being seen?

The police can’t keep him

victims can’t talk of him

such a horrible being

preying on helpless victims

He laughs at the law

he knows no ending

I wish him dead

or hanged and burned to oblivion

He must be Satan’s soldier

he does His horrific bidding

Hell must be celebrating

having someone that destroys untainted being

Two lines kept repeating in his head while writing:

Will I be able to KILL him

KILL him without being seen?

No matter how hard he tried, it has stuck in his mind.

The following day at the studio while the group was recording a song, Paul called his Mom and arranged for her to hire someone who can bring Josie to her dad at least once or twice a week. And so, while D’ Kickers were busy finishing up their album, Josie and her dad began to meet regularly every week. Paul, on the other hand, calls as Cindy as often as his schedule allows it. He has also maintained communication with Joseph, as the man tells him of meeting Robbins inside prison. He says he is now part of a white supremacist gang in jail. Joseph told him not to worry; he’s trying hard not to cross paths with the man, but if he wanted to, he could always find a way to kill him. Whenever he’s open this topic, Paul would remind him of Josie. But this only angers him more, as he is reminded of losing his daughter this way.

In one of his their phone conversations, Joseph vented his anger.

“The truth is, it’s just a matter of time for me. Those racist bastards are on to me. For them, I’m just a black man who killed white kids,” he was repeating himself to Paul, so he added, “I will bring that Robbins with me if that happens, so it’s just a matter of who goes first.”

Paul had no words. He was afraid, for Joseph. Josie will not be able to take the pain if her dad ‘leaves’ her for good.

“Joseph, please take care of yourself there, especially for Josie.”

The man stared blankly with the saddest, angriest eyes.

“Don’t worry, I won’t do anything. But I’m telling you, if he makes the first move…”

“Mr. Brown?” Paul asked.

“Unless you tell me to… I promise.”

His dead-cold voice sent chills to Paul’s spine. He could never imagine himself asking someone to kill someone. “No, Joseph. I won’t put you in that situation.”

“That evil man deserves it,” he was gritting his teeth now. “He has to feel the pain he inflicted on others.” He looked away, trying to shake the fury off. “You are a wonderful person, Cindy. I’m sure you will help and take care of my daughter if that time comes.” They were both quiet for a long time.

“Thank you for helping my daughter,” and then he hang up the phone. As he put the phone down, it rang again.

“Honey this is your mom. Something is happening in Ashville. We have to go there to talk to the lawyers. They said it’s something urgent.”

“O-okay, Mom. I’ll see you at the hotel in Ashville. I’ll leave now.” Paul assured her. He advised the group that he had to leave urgently, without telling them the whole reason why.

In Ashville, Paul was dressed as Cindy again, and was welcomed by Mrs. Andrews at the hotel lobby.

“Why are you in that dress? We are meeting the lawyers, honey.”

“I’ll go straight to Chelsea after our meeting with the lawyers,” Paul replied as if nothing else mattered.

“Honey, that’s precisely why we are here, we’re going to talk about your visit with Chelsea at the shelter. You have to change quickly.”

“Why?”

“I don’t have the complete information, but it is best that we talk to our lawyers first. They might already be here. Honey, you have to change now. They should not see you like this.” Mrs. Andrews was obviously very nervous. Paul did as he was told, wasting no time at all. He wanted to see Chelsea.

They met with lawyers at the hotel lounge.

“Welcome to Ashville Mr. Andrews. We thought we were meeting with Mr. Cook. He is the major supporter of this case, am I right?” Mr. Lavraza inquired.

“He’s attending to some important matters back in L.A., so he sent me. Don’t worry, we are equally invested in this. So what’s the urgent matter that we needed to fly in for?”

“Actually, we need Mr. Cook, too. But, well,” he sighed, “I think it’s fine. Anyway, you can relay to him everything that we are going to discuss.” Paul was quite confused. How is Peter suddenly important in the case?

“Why is Peter important here?”

“It’s not Peter, but the girl with him when he visited the shelter. Some people were saying that she is Peter’s girlfriend. And worse, they’re alleging that she is Sarah, Chelsea’s sister. That’s why we need Peter here, so he can bring her friend here to attest that she is not Sarah, and she is not Chelsea’s sister,” the lawyer explained in brief.

They were shocked beyond belief. For the first time, Paul’s mind was wiped blank. Mrs. Andrews grew pale in horror. What have they done? She remembered introducing Cindy as her niece one time, but she could not recall to whom.

“Here are her photos. Paul, you might know her. You and Peter are best friends, yeah?” Mr. Lavraza handed him the pictures taken by the media people that day at the center.

Paul’s hand was trembling when he reached for the photographs.

“Are you alright?” Naomi noticed his trepidation. Paul’s hands were shaking.

“I’m okay.” He browsed the photos and was relieved when he saw the girl. She was unrecognizable as every shot was focused on Peter. Still ‘she’ was introduced as Peter’s girlfriend, and people at the center know her as Chelsea’s sister.

“I cannot make out the face. Maybe she’s one of Peter’s girls. I dunno” he denied blatantly.

“Well, she cannot be just any other girl. They all say she was a decent young lady, poised, classy. If we can’t find her, we’re gonna have some problems.”

Paul was numb at this point; his Mom sat still, afraid to move.

“We already talked to Chelsea and she said that the girl was not her sister, that her name was Cindy. She was just pretending to be Sarah because she cares for her. Although we might know the truth now, the defense will definitely insist on calling this Cindy to prove that she is definitely not Sarah. If not, Chelsea would have to testify, which to my understanding, is something you don’t want.”

“How did they learn about Peter’s friend?” Mrs. Andrews asked.

“Well, one of the workers named Dixie Bush happened to overhear Chelsea talking about her sister Sarah, and all the gifts she was receiving from her. And to make a long story short, this woman knows someone who knows someone in the county jail, who knows Robbins. So he put one and one together and probably worked out details with his lawyer. Let’s just hope that they’re not going to find anything there that will raise doubts on Sarah’s death, which will gravely affect our case against Robbins.”

The mother and son are now restless. They both knew of the things Paul sent to Chelsea: the letter which Paul signed as Sarah, and—the locket. There is no way they can let anyone know about Paul’s disguise.

Paul cannot breathe now. He wanted to end the meeting and didn’t want to hear anything more from the lawyers. There is nothing anyone else can do now.

“Paul, Mrs. Andrews, will you be able to convince Peter to send her friend here to testify and refute the claim of the defense?”

“I… I don’t know… I don’t know if Peter would even remember the girl. I’ll try to talk to him tonight and ask him.”

“Okay then, we’ll wait for Peter’s response. We’ll call you tomorrow.” They stood up and shook hands. “Good night and have a nice evening.”

*****

“Mom, maybe we should go to Chelsea and collect the things...”

“Honey, we can’t just go there now, especially with all the buzz that’s going around. You can’t be Cindy… honey, it will raise a lot of suspicion.”

“Mom, what have I done? Am I going to lose Chelsea?”

She hugged him, holding him tight. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. I’m sure there are still ways for us to protect Chelsea.”

“It’s all my fault,” he began to cry quietly. “I should have listened to you… I cannot forgive myself if something bad happens to Chelsea.”

That whole night, Mrs. Andrews cried in frustration, too. She tried as much to console her child, but she simply cannot cast her own fears away.

In his agony, Paul was reminded of two lines from his song again: Will I be able to KILL him, KILL him without being seen? This thought exhausted him, putting him to sleep that night.

Paul was already up when Mrs. Andrews roused in the morning. Paul gave her a letter addressed to Mr. Joseph Brown, and instructed her to make sure this was sent to him at the county jail. He told her he’s on his way to L.A.

“I cannot stand being here, and not be allowed to go see Chelsea. I can’t be Cindy, definitely I cannot go there as Paul. It’s frustrating, so I’ll just go back home. Hopefully by the time I get there, we can think of better ways to protect Chelsea.”

Paul left for L.A. that afternoon and Mrs. Andrews proceeded to the Buncombe County Detention Center. She was already familiar with the place, having been there several times to visit Mr. Brown.

When Mr. Brown saw Mrs. Andrews, he was elated. He could not stop thanking Mrs. Andrews for arranging Josie’s visits.

“I owe a lot to you. Is there anything I can help you with? What brought you here?”

“Paul…” and she hastily stopped, “I mean Cindy, has a letter for you. She said she’s sorry she won’t able to tell it to you herself, but she told me that she’s going to call you, if there’s anything you need.”

Mr. Brown quickly opened the letter and he was surprised to see what it was about.

Dear Sir,

You said you know I will take care of her just in case. Now I’m agreeing with you. I will take care of her, I promise.

And I know, as you promised, you’ll take care of him, if I asked you to. Please take care of him.

Your other angel

Joseph put the letter down and smiled at Mrs. Andrews.

“I didn’t expect her to be as courageous as this, but I’m happy because I can now repay her kindness.”

Mrs. Andrews didn’t even ask what it was all about. She smiled back and politely said goodbye.

That afternoon, Paul called Mr. Brown in jail.

“Cindy, don’t worry about a thing. I’ll take care of everything…”

That was all that was said in that call.

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