As expected, Graham told her that there was a high possibility that Brenan would weasel out of the situation unscathed yet again. The phone call she received from his lawyer earlier today proved it. He told her that she had no proof to support the charges brought against his client whatsoever. It was basically his word against Samantha’s, and as such, no judge would allow the matter to proceeded to court. He even went as far as to claim that Samantha was a neglected teenager seeking attention in any way possible. When Brenan did not give in to her advances, she threatened to use his past mistakes against him and accuse him of the very same crime he swore to the court years ago that he would leave behind. It did not matter that Sam happened to match his past pedophilic preferences. It did not matter that Brenan was implicated in trafficking cases that the organization managed to sabotage time and again.
Lesly knew that if she did not take every precaution measure necessary, Brenan could escape the charges she was planning on filing against him. This was highly possible, especially if another corrupt judge was requested to preside over the case. As such, she had to dig up those old cases and examine each and every one of them with the utmost scrutiny until she managed to implicate Brenan. Getting the media involved was an option. Still, it was not one she was willing to explore so soon for Sam’s sake. Any media exposure could damage her just as much as it would damage him, and as long as he did whatever it took to keep the media out of the case, it would be wise of her to do the same for Sam’s sake.
Lesly leaned back in her seat and examined the serene emptiness of the office space around her. Everyone had gone back home already, even Stacey. How long had she been sitting in front of her computer screen examining one document after another? Possibly four hours since she had told Stacey to go back home. She was far from done. She knew that, yet her eyes could not cooperate any further. They burned with an intensity she was quite familiar with, and they demanded that she abandon the task and allow them a little bit of reprieve. Unable to subject them to another hour of staring at the torturing brightness of her computer screen, Lesly decided to turn her computer off, gather her things and head back home. She could come early to her office the next day and see if she could make up for the lack of progress she was making at the moment.
When Lesly was done with locking the door, she walked through the dark office space to the elevator and took it down before exiting the building and marching to the parking lot. Once she got there, she located her old car and tried to search for the keys inside her purse. Unfortunately, her hands were loaded with so many folders and documents that she was unable to find them right away. For a moment, she was ready to head back to the office and see if she had left them there. However, before she managed to act on that thought, she remembered that she had stashed them in her pocket and fished them out. It was at that moment that she heard wobbly footsteps echoing behind her through the empty parking space.
Almost on instinct, Lesly looked back and found a man dressed in tattered clothes walking towards her. She did not make much of it and opened the backseat door to place her folders. Then she looked back at him and asked, “Can I help you, sir?”
“Are you the woman they call Collins?”
Lesly felt somewhat anxious, so she stealthily tried to reach for the pepper spray she was carrying in her purse.
“And who’s asking?” She inquired calmly.
“It is you, isn’t it?” The man tried to confirm.
“What if I am?”
“Where are my girls?”
The question the stranger asked immediately gave her a clue to whom she was talking to. Her eyes swept over him quickly and had it confirmed. His clothes were worn-out. His hair was dark with some obvious strands of grey in it. His eyes looked sunken and sorrowful, and most importantly, he was drunk, so drunk that he could barely stand without resting his hand on a car he was standing next to.
“Mr. Cox your daughters came to me for help as you were in no position to keep them safe or even look after them properly.”
At hearing her answer, the man became mad quite quick, “Where are they?”
“They’re safe. How about we meet tomorrow in my office and discuss what we can do about the situation? You can go back home and get some rest.”
“You’ll give me my daughters back…right now,” the drunk father demanded angrily.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. They don’t want to go back, not when you’re too drunk to take care of them or even feed them.”
Enraged by what she was saying to him, the man struggled to take a couple of steps towards her. His feet barely allowed him to do so. “You’re the one who called child services on me?”
“I had to,” Lesly responded with a face devoid of emotion.
“I’d never hurt my girls,” the man spoke loudly with a voice that shook with despair.
“You neglected them,” Lesly tried to reason. “You weren’t even aware that Brenan was preying on Sam and trying to lure her into the sex trafficking trade.”
The man rested his hand on another car after he walked closer to where she was standing. His frustration at not being able to walk properly or talk some sense into the woman he believed to be responsible for taking his only family away grew more intense. Unable to deal with it, he began to cry, “You don’t understand. Brenan is a good guy. He was just trying to help. Sam misread the whole situation.”
It was pointless to continue talking to him when he was this drunk. She knew that. Still, the way he cried over his daughters made her feel a bit sorry for him, so she tried once more to communicate the severity of the problem, “Mr. Cox, Brenan is a registered sex offender! He’s a prime suspect in many of the trafficking cases we handled. What more do you need to know to see that your daughter was telling the truth?”
The man continued to cry. His hand covered his eyes as the tears streamed down his face. Lesly stood there to make sure he was okay before she went back home. However, she soon realized that it was a bad decision. He suddenly took a couple of more steps towards her while screaming in anger, “Brenan told me all about you. You’re using my daughter to settle your old score with him.”
Lesly sighed and adjusted her purse’s strap over her shoulder in preparation to leave, “Listen, it’s better if you go back home, get some rest and come see me in my office tomorrow the moment you sober up. There’s no point in having this discussion now if you’re too drunk to listen to reason.”
She knew even as she delivered this piece of advice that it was pointless. The guy was not going to listen no matter what in his current state. As such, she turned towards her car and tried to get in. Before she managed to accomplish the task, though, Cox held her back, pushed her against the car and started screaming hysterically at her. She could have pushed him away. She could have easily pried his hands off the lapels of her trench coat and shoved him back, but she froze. Her mind went blank as he continued to tighten his hold on her clothes and yell threats at her.
Motivated by an unconscious instinct, her hand shakily reached for the knife she had been carrying in her pocket since the initial assault that occurred month ago. It blindly felt its outlines and tried to locate its handle. However, the moment her consciousness registered the cold merciless edges of the weapon, she became paralyzed with fear. As terrified as she was, as much as she feared for her life, something far more terrifying kept her from using the weapon to defend herself. She tried to urge herself to pull it out of her pocket, to make false threats to use it at the very least, yet the possibility of taking another life completely debilitated her. All she could do was stare in terror as the drunk man tightened his hold on her.
Suddenly, the man was yanked away from her, causing her to fall to the ground as another panic attack took complete hold of her consciousness. Her breathing grew louder and quicker as her spinning world grew darker and darker. She tried to get up, to stand on her own two feet, to walk away, but everything around her spined with an intensity that robbed her of the capacity to even take enough oxygen into her lungs. Ringing filled her ears along with the sounds of her futile attempt to breath and the rapid beating of her heart. They grew to a deafening intensity that drowned all other sounds in her surroundings. She could barely hear anything else. Someone seemed to be calling her name, but she was so paralyzed with fear that she could not answer.
“Collins! Answer me damn it!”
She looked up and found a man restraining the frantic drunk father and trying to keep him away from her. In her state of dazed panic, she could not recognize who he was, but he kept on talking to her. His mouth shouted in anger at her, but she could not make out the words.
“Collins, for God’s sake, say something!”
With a gasp, she was jolted out of her state of paralysis and stared at Michael as he pushed the drunk man against the hood of another car to handcuff him.
“Are you okay?” Michael asked urgently.
“Yes,” she answered in a small voice.
Michael looked at her to make sure that she was indeed fine after he had subdued Cox who was now crying over losing his daughters.
“Go,” Michael demanded. “I’ll take it from here.”
She simply stared at him and then at the distressed man in his hold, but neither her mind nor her body could cooperate.
“Collins!” Michael demanded her attention once more. When she looked back at him, he spoke slowly but sternly, “Go home! Now!”
She barely managed to comply. Her shaking hands gathered the items that spelled out of her purse before she picked her car keys off the ground. It took a couple of tries to start the engine of her car and to drive of. In the rearview mirror, she could see Michael clonking the drunk man on the head with the butt of his gun before he dragged him. What he did with him afterwards, she did not know.