Cowboy Boots and Combat Boots

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Chapter Thirty One

His offices are very impressive. I find out that Damien is actually a partner in this firm and I look at him curiously as I see his name on the signage around the offices. He shrugs.

“It’s really more of a pain in the ass than an honor.” He tells me as he leads me into a boardroom. “Take a seat, we’re a few minutes early. I’ll just go check in with my secretary.” I nod as I take a seat looking out over the Nashville city skyline behind me. When Damien returns I see his classic emotionless look set on his face. His game face. I stand as he enters with two men following behind him in expensive suits. He introduces the D.A and his assistant before asking them to take a seat.

Damien takes a seat next to me. I remain silent as he had instructed me to do unless asked a direct question.

“Let’s get down to it shall we.” The D.A says to the room opening his brief case. He explains as a personal favor to Damien he has dropped his charge down from murder.

“I’ll accept a plea to manslaughter two.” He announces evenly.

“I know as lawyers our sense of humor can be skewed but you’re kidding right?” Damien asks him with a cold look. The DA looks less than amused.

“A guilty plea. Fifteen years, he’s out in ten on good behavior.” The D.A continues. Now Damien actually laughs at him. I remain silent feeling my racing heart as they negotiate back and forward.

“Assault. Four years suspended sentence for a first offence.” Damien counters. The DA looks angry. While Damien’s face retains its cold emotionlessness.

“At bare minimum he’d go down for assault with a deadly weapon councilor.” The DA spits.

“What weapon, he was unarmed. In fact he was the one assaulted with a deadly weapon.” Damien seethes losing a touch of his composure.

“Other charges have been filed against the attackers from that night. Your client himself is a deadly weapon, trained by the US army to kill.” The DA announces boldly. He’s not wrong.

“You’ll never make that stick in court.” Damien challenges.

“No you won’t be able to make that stick. If you chose not to plea I will be seeking a manslaughter one charge against your client. After showing the surveillance tape of him joining the fight willingly and clearly demonstrating the danger he poses to society. I don’t think a jury will have any problem convicting him of the maximum twenty-five year sentence.” The DA informs us. My heart sinks in my chest. Damien glares at him.

“A jury will never convict a man for defending the life of his brother from becoming just another victim of a vicious hate crime. Those men waited for us to attack. I want them up on attempted murder at the very least. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.” Damien spits icily. The DA exhales.

“I am sorry for the heinous crimes committed against you and your partner councilor, and I assure you I am seeking the maximum penalty for all of them. A case I would be happy to accept your help with, you have a reputation for a shrewd legal mind.” The DA informs Damien who has put his mask of coldness back on.

“Your best offer?” Damien asks him coldly. He shakes his head.

“I’ll take manslaughter two, with extenuating circumstances. Ten years eligible for parole in five.” The DA says finally. I close my eyes knowing that is the final offer from him.

“We need time to consider your offer.” Damien informs him.

“Of course. As a curtesy to you councilor I’ll give you twenty-four hours. After which I’ll assume you wish to go to trial.” The DA informs Damien as he stands to leave. “Oh and councilor.” He calls back to Damien. “As I mentioned I know of your reputation. As I’m sure you know of mine and exactly the lengths I will go to, to win a case.” Damien’s eye flicker with fear for a moment before he gives him a curt nod. The two men leave the room and I turn to face Damien. His composure falls and his face fills with regret.

“Link I’m sorry.” Damien says looking at me. I smile a weak half smile at him.

“I sensed a thinly veiled threat at the prospect of a trial with him.” I tell him and his face turns dark.

“He did us a service really, tipping his hat about how graphic that surveillance tape is. I know how he operates Link.” Damien spits angrily. “He’ll call witnesses to testify about your mental state claiming you suffer from PTSD or claiming you inability to reintegrate into society after living in a war. He’ll tear your life apart and paint you as a monster. The fear he will inspire in the jury will be all he needs to put you away.” Damien explains regretfully.

“I’m good Link, and I will fight for you until I have nothing left. But the thought of failing you after you saved my life…” He trails off and I reach out my arm and pat his shoulder.

“I trust you Damien, I know you wouldn’t back down from a fight without good reason.” I assure him with a forced smile. His face is swimming with regret.

“It gets worse.” He confesses darkly.

“How can it get worse?” I ask incredulously. He looks dark as his eyes dart towards the doorway.

“There is a Colonel Mathews here to see you. My secretary only just told me before I came in here.” He informs me.

“Colonel Mathews? What the hell is he doing here?” I ask Damien.

“I don’t know I didn’t have time to ask him. I’ll go get him and we can find out.” Damien says rising to his feet. My mind is reeling from the all that’s going on around me. Damien reenters the boardroom trailed by Colonel Mathews in his full bird Colonel dress uniform. I instantly stand and snap to attention at the sight of my superior.

“Sir.” I greet him with a salute.

“As you were Captain.” His gruff voice instructs and I take seat as he sits down opposite me. Damien is looking at me confused by my greeting of the Colonel. Despite not being in the army anymore there are just some things that are second nature, like standing to attention to greet a superior officer.

“I’m sure you’re wondering what I’m doing here son, so I’ll cut straight to the point.” The colonel informs me, he was never one to mince words. I nod. “It seems you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a pickle down here. Well I come to make an offer of my own.” He informs us and I look at Damien who seems as confused as I do. We look back to the colonel as he continues.

“We want you back son. Your expertise and experience are sorely missed and your unit lacks guidance.”

“I’m sorry sir but I.” He cuts me off.

“I can make all this disappear. No formal charges to blemish your record. You’ll re-enlist for another five year tour of duty then your service will be up.” He announces and my jaw hits the table.

“Sir I can’t do that.” I tell him certainly. He exhales in frustration.

“How can you make the charges disappear?” Damien ask doubtfully.

“We’ve had situations arise like this before. Just because our soldiers leave the army, doesn’t mean we leave them. We keep track, occasionally some have difficulty returning to mainstream society. The government pulls sway to convince the judges that they’re better placed returning to defend our country. It is a symbiotic order between the justice system and the US government.” The colonel explains to Damien, he seethes.

“So you pray on them waiting for them to fuck up then race in pretending to be their savior.” He spits and the colonel squares his shoulders at him. “That’s not the case here Link was doing his duty to protect his brother.” Damien fires at him. I put my hand on his shoulder to calm him down.

“Despite the offer Colonel, I left the army for good reason. I could never return for another five years, but I appreciate your offer.” I tell him calmly trying to influence a calm over the room. The colonel fixes his eyes on me and takes a deep breath. He looks frustrated, I’ve always respected this man and I know he is not used to being thwarted.

“Two years then.” He counters and my heart seizes. “Two years in a deep cover mission. You understand what that means, no leave, no contact with civilians. Two years, you take your team and you do what you do best soldier. Then your honorable discharge is yours at the end if you want it.” The colonel explains. I let out a deep breath as the weight of everything crushes me.

I lean back in the chair and exhale. “So my choice is prison or hell?” I ask out loud to no one in particular.

“At least you know your way around Hell, and the demons there. Also you will have your brothers at your back.” The colonel announces. He stands to his feet and I jump up and salute him again.

“We’ll want this agreement in writing.” Damien informs the colonel standing beside me. He nods.

“I’ll give you the same time to consider my offer as the DA. I expect your call tomorrow, my details are with your secretary councilor.” The colonel instructs us. “At ease soldier.” He says and I drop my salute and watch him leave.

“Colonel.” I call and he stops in the doorway turning back to face me. “How long until I would be deployed?” I ask him seriously.

“Ninety-six hours. You’ll fly out on Tuesday morning.” He informs me curtly with a nod before he leaves. I look at the empty doorway for a moment before I collapse back in my chair.

Damien exhales and sits back down next to me.

“Do you trust him? Is his deal on the level?” Damien asks ruefully. I nod.

“He’s a man of his word.” I say simply then I turn to look at Damien. “Fuck.” I curse as I drop my head into my hands.

“You don’t have to do this.” Damien’s regret filled voice fills the room. “Tell him to fuck off, we’ll tell the D.A to fuck off as well. We’ll go to trial. We can fight this together brother.” He spits angrily. I stand up to shake off the feeling in my body. I feel Damien grasp my shoulder and I turn and I hug him fiercely. The desperation in my body is leaking out through my pores. Damien’s claps my back and takes a step back from me keeping his hands on my shoulder.

“You’ve got time to think about this Link. I’ll be at your back no matter what.” Damien says confidently. I shake my head.

“I can’t go to prison Damien.” I say the words I know he’s already considered. His eyes betray him as he accepts this information. “The dregs of human society in there. I’d end up killing someone else and be locked up for longer.” I explain sadly. His eyes moisten as he shakes his head.

“A trial?” He asks uncertainly. I shake my head sadly.

“That could wind up as an even longer sentence. I won’t let that D.A tear my family apart as a way to get to me.” I tell him certainly.

“Link.” Damien says bringing my forehead to his. “How am I supposed to tell your brother I’ve failed you?” He asks desperately. I laugh a choked laugh.

“You never failed me Damien. You never could. You love my brother, and that pretty much secures you as a hero in my heart forever.” I tell him honestly. His entire composure is gone as tears fall from his eyes.

“I just can’t believe how horribly wrong everything has gone. I feel helpless again, like when I couldn’t do anything to help Lexi when she tried to fight against her injustice in college. How can this be happening?” He demands desperately. “Jesus.” He breathes out. “Lexi, she’s never going to forgive me.” His plea is desperate. I take his face forcefully between my hands.

“No. It’s me she’s never going to forgive. You will be there for her as you always have been.” I tell him seriously and he nods.

“You know what you’re going to do don’t you?” He asks me and his voice is pure anguish.

“I don’t see any other way, do you?” I ask him hopefully.

“God I want to say yes.” He declares sorrowfully. I nod understandingly at him.

“Will you do me a favor?” I ask him desperately.

“Anything.” He declares fiercely. I smile at him.

“I can only handle breaking one heart today. I need to go to see Lexi. But he needs to know.” I say trying to fight the tears building in my eyes. Damien fixes me with a determined glare.

“I’ll tell him.” He affirms. “He’s going to need to hear it from you as well.” I nod.

“I’ll come by tomorrow before we come back to your office to give my answers to the offers.” I tell him certainly. He nods.

“There will be paperwork with whatever decision you make, I’ll make sure everything is in order.” He confirms. “Come on I’ll drive you back.” I nod then follow him out of his offices.

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