Chapter 7: An Ally After All
Another nightmare, another ray of sunshine.
This nightmare was more jarring than the other ones. It was the one she dreaded the most. She knew the moment she found it difficult to open her eyes because of how swollen they were that this was going to be the one dream where she would relive the absolute worst part of her traumatic experience.
All the other elements were there. The sun was setting. The scent of cigarettes filled the air. The shadowed figure stood in front of the window waiting for her to wake up after she had been tormented into oblivion.
It was her second day in that same cursed room in that same secluded house. Nothing had changed except for the fact that there was an unwanted guest with her at the moment. He was the reason her eyes were so bruised she could barely open them. He was the reason her bones ached whenever she tried to move. He was the reason her white clean gown was now torn and bloodied.
“You’re finally awake,” He spoke to her without turning his back. She could still see the trails of smoke coming out of his cigarette.
She did not say anything. She did not know how to respond. Part of her wanted to stand up for herself. The other part was terrified that she might have to endure another episode of his unpredictable violent outbursts.
“You surprise me. I thought you would pass out sooner, but you held on,” he commented when she did not respond.
It had been hellish. She had been choked, beaten and violated over and again. Her entire body carried the marks of his barbarous assault. A gash covered one side of her forehead. It was bleeding heavily before, but right now, the blood seemed to have dried up. Her wrists hurt bad from having been pinned and twisted. The chain that was wrapped around her ankle dug into her skin to a point where it became painful to move. Her side ached with every breath she took after the severe thrashing she received.
Throughout the entire time he carried his assault, she refused to scream, cry or show any sign of weakness. Her throat hurt from having to suppress all those expressions of pain and anguish, but she held on and even mustered the courage to laugh in his face a couple of times. It infuriated him, made him more violent.
She would have stopped smiling to save herself. She could have caved and asked for mercy like he instructed, but she did not know why her self-destructive tendencies took over and completely overpowered her survival instinct.
He turned around now. His face was barely visible to her. It was always like that. Every time she saw this nightmare, his face would look completely blurred. The only thing that was clearly visible to her was the faintly lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth. He held it in his right hand and blew a thick puff of smoke as he stared intently at her.
“Shall we carry on?”
She watched in terror as he walked slowly towards her. She wanted to move, run, defend herself, but she froze. She could not move at all. He got closer, yanked her violently towards him when she feebly attempted to move away, and pinned her down. He wrapped his fingers around her throat and tightened his hold to a point where she found it difficult to breath.
Her vision started to blur. Darkness began to eat away at her spinning surroundings. Every singly sound was magnified by a disturbingly loud echo, the sound of his breathing, her frantic heartbeats, the ominous ticking of the clock. They all rose to a deafening intensity, but there was one sound that she had never encountered in this nightmare before.
It was new, yet familiar, and it was calling her name faintly amidst all the chaos. It begged her to wake up, but the man with the blurry face would not release her. He held on, kept her from escaping her hellish nightmare.
She struggled to communicate her despair to the voice, but it was impossible to speak until a violent jolt brought her back to the real world.
Lesly woke up with a gasp and started coughing fiercely as her lungs sought air. She tried to take deep steady breaths, but her lungs refused to accommodate her. She sat up in an effort to allow herself to breath better, and tried once more to get her frantic breathing under control.
Michaela immediately sat next to her friend and started stroking Lesly’s back in an effort to calm her.
“You okay?” Michaela asked softly.
Lesly ’s breathing slowed a little, but she still found it difficult to respond to her friend, so she nodded instead.
“Yes,” Lesly whispered.
Michaela continued to stroke Lesly’s back. She then wrapped an arm around her friend’s shoulders and brought her shaking form closer to her.
Lesly was thankful that Michaela woke her up that instant before she had to endure the absolute worst part of that nightmare. She buried her head in her hands and struggled to explain why she was sleeping on Michaela’s couch.
“I’m sorry. I used the key you gave me and got in. I just wanted to rest here for a bit then head back to my office. Your apartment is closer than mine.”
“That’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” Michaela answered.
Michaela had just come back from another shift at the hospital when she noticed her friend laying on her couch. She kept the lights turned off just like Lesly left them and was about to prepare a quick meal for herself in the kitchen when she noticed Lesly murmur in her sleep.
Michaela ignored her at first, but when she noticed the extreme distress her friend was experiencing, she decided to wake her up. Ever since the incident, nightmares became a common occurrence to Lesly. Some were more horrible than others.
The two women sat in silence. The living room was dark. The only thing that helped illuminate it a little was the light coming from the kitchen. Michaela took one look at Lesly and found that she was still shaking, so she reached out for the throw that was laying on the couch and wrapped it around her friend.
“Maybe I should make you some herbal tea,” Michaela announced.
“I’m okay, Michaela,” Lesly whispered, her head still buried in her hands.
“Nonsense. You’re shaking,” Michaela responded as she readjusted the throw around her friend’s shoulders. She patted her friend gently on her back a couple of times before she stood up and marched towards the kitchen.
“I read the news today. When were you going to tell me about that little situation of yours?” Michaela asked from the kitchen.
“I didn’t want you to worry.”
“I worry more when you keep things from me.”
“I’ve got it under control.”
At hearing Lesly’s response, Michaela walked out of the kitchen again and stared at her friend who was now hugging her knees and keeping her head bent down. Nothing about her indicated control at all. The woman was in shambles.
Those nightmares of hers would usually haunt her whenever she was under a great deal of stress, and once they were over, they would leave her more distressed and agitated than ever.
Michaela went back into the kitchen feeling guilt-stricken and helpless. She tried to convince herself that there was absolutely nothing that can be done about Lesly’s situation. However, there was a tiny part of her that firmly believed that she had a hand to play in that tragedy.
If only she could tell Lesly what she knew, what she had been hiding for months, but there were so many complex factors in place that it was impossible to predict whether such a maneuver would be helpful at all.
For the moment, the only thing that could be done was to lend her support to her friend whenever she needed it. That was all, and right now, her friend was in need of a warm drink, a friendly face and a good talk.
Michaela poured the steaming hot drink into two mugs and brought them over to her distressed friend. She placed them on the coffee table and drew the ottoman closer to where Lesly was sitting so she could face her dark haired friend while she spoke to her.
She nudged the occupied Lesly gently to get her attention and handed her the mug of herbal tea she just prepared.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Michaela asked after a moment of silence.
“I don’t have anything to say.”
Lesly’s answer was clear. She did not wish to speak about the issue, but the guilt Michaela felt pushed her to inquire.
“What did Graham say?”
“He said Stevenson is not gonna stop there. Reid pretty much said the same thing.”
“You contacted Reid?”
“Stacey did, behind my back,” Lesly answered before she took another sip of tea.
She placed the warm mug on the coffee table and continued with a pained expression on her face, “It infuriated me to no end, so…” Lesly sighed deeply in search of better words to explain the lousy way she treated the possibly well-meaning prosecutor, “I crossed a line…Then I called Stacey to my office. We got into an argument, and let’s just say I’m glad it stopped there.”
Calling what happened with Stacey an argument would probably be an understatement. The young woman never spoke back. It was Lesly who sharply went on and on about how disrespectful and unprofessional Stacey’s behavior was.
In that current state of anger, if Stacey had spoken back, she would have been fired on the spot. Instead, the only thing she did was wring her hand in nervousness and not utter a single word.
“Was it that bad?” Michaela asked.
Lesly nodded in response.
Michaela did not prod the matter any further and allowed her friend to drink her tea in peace. However, it was not long before Lesly’s phone started vibrating and lighting up the dimly illuminated living room. She reached out for it and saw that she had received a message from Stacey.
The message simply instructed that Lesly checks a link that was included in the body of the text. Lesly clicked on the link, fearing all the while the page was loading that the link might have something to do with Stevenson and how he might have decided to throw another hurdle their way. However, what she saw on that page filled her with a mixture of dread, disgust and relief all at once.
“What is it?” Michaela asked when she noticed the look on Lesly’s face.
When the only response she received from her dark haired friend was the same dazed look, she moved closer to her friend on the couch and tried to examine the content of the message with her.
It was a news article that included a video of the corrupt judge engaging in his lucrative side project. The video showed him sitting with two other men, some of whom were known so-called philanthropists in Redlyn, in what looked like a well-furnished apartment while being entertained by four women.
One of the women was clearly underage and was constantly reprimanded for not being able to follow the disgusting instructions one of the philanthropists gave her. The others whose faces were blurred exhibited timid body language and were clearly not willing participants in the situation that was happening.
The footage that was shown for the next minuet and a half was sickening in every sense of the word. It was so revolting that Michaela was tempted to take the phone out of Lesly’s hands so she would not be reminded of her traumatic incident. When the clip had ended, both women found themselves sick to their stomach.
They sat in silence staring at Lesly’s phone and wondered how that one short clip was going to change the entire course of the case.
Michaela looked over at Lesly and asked, “Was it you? Did you leak this video?”
Lesly bit her lower lip as she tried to process the implications of what she just saw. There was one answer and one answer only to Michaela’s question.
“No, Alec did.”