Chapter TWENTY NINE
. . t w o w e e k s l a t e r . .
Two weeks scouring the streets, checking all of Charlie's old haunts, following up every possible lead and nothing.. Now, it's the day of the hearing, and you're no closer to having any answers.. All you know is that time is up and you feel as though you've failed..
As you push your way into the DC courtroom, with Kirby at your side.. You have this sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that something terrible is about to happen..
Elijah is dirty.. That's one thing you're certain of.. And he's going to do whatever it takes to keep that little revelation from coming to light..
You take your seat as you glance around the room, assessing.. You see Mikki, her face pale and her eyes red.. When she spots you, she looks as though she might break into tears.. You smile at her, hoping to convey the empathy aching in your chest..
You wonder what has happened to her?..
What Elijah has been doing or saying to keep her pliable?..
Frustration eats away at you, that you weren't able to save her from this.. From anything..
Turning around you look out across the viewers seating, seeing two familiar faces you haven't seen in weeks, and hadn't expected to see here at all..
Ford and Paxton..
They sit in the second row, looking neat in their dark suits..
Paxton is whispering something to Ford while he nods..
You feel the faintest pulse of relief, comforted by their presence..
They both turn to look at you.. Paxton winks with a grin.. But Ford's expression remains inscrutable.. Passive.. Your eyes lock with Jackson's and the last words he said to you, ring in your head.. 'I love you'.. Words you long to hear from his lips again.. Even if you had acted like a completely crazy bitch that night..
You haven't stopped thinking about how much you wish you had said it back.. Because you do..
You just hadn't been ready to hear what Jackson had been saying.. Even though he was completely right about you..
You always worked twice as hard, trained twice as hard, studied twice as hard because you had to prove to everyone you were capable.. You're not sure where that comes from?..
Maybe the fact that your parents had never been particularly interested or supportive of anything you ever did..
Or maybe it just came from you?..
Some deep dark part of yourself that has always been too afraid to let anybody see the vulnerability beneath..
Kirby snaps you from your trance, you turn to look at her, her perfectly made up features are stern set.. "I don't like this, Ellerie.. Your friend over there doesn't look too good.."
Your eyes go back to Mikki, who is now fixing her appearance in a small silver compact mirror.. She swipes beneath her eyes and with a shaking hand applies a layer of peachy pink lipstick.. When you speak your voice comes out quiet it almost doesn't even sound like you.. "No.. She doesn't.."
The judge enters the chambers and the proceedings begin..
Details of the Everett case, as well as several other cases investigated by Charlie and yourself are read aloud before witnesses are called..
When it's finally your turn on the stand, you feel as though you are reciting a story you have told a million times over.. Except now, you know it isn't true..
You had made an error in judgement..
And Charles Everett isn't dead..
You're all kinds of turned around by the time you're answering the barristers final question... "Was there any collusion between the FBI and the De'lucca Crime Family that you were aware of, Miss Devereux?" She asks..
"It was my understanding at the time that Charles Everett was-- Discovered to be on the payroll of the De'lucca family.. I witnessed him receive a package from an active criminal, Angelo De'lucca's son, Bobbi De'lucca.." As you speak you trail off.. The more you think about it, the more it seems that none of what you believed to have happened is true.. Anything could have been in that Package..
"Uh.. According to the final FBI report.. That package contained a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar payment.."
The sharp featured barrister follows up on your careful wording.. "According to the report? Meaning you didn't see the contents of the package.. Weren't you the agent who signed off on that report?"
You shake your head.. "No, I wasn't.. Elijah Pierce was.." Your eyes go to Peirce who sits, an easy half smile upon his lips, behind Mikki.. His causal composure is deeply troubling..
He's way too relaxed..
The barrister dismisses you and you return to your place beside Kirby..
She nods to you.. "Good job.."
The next and final witness is called.. Mikki De'lucca reluctantly climbs into the stand.. She avoids looking at you, or at anybody really as the barrister approaches her..
The barrister leans against her desk as she addresses Mikki.. "Ms Mikkalia De'lucca.. Formerly Mrs Everett.. Were you aware that your husband was taking payments from your family?"
She gives a tiny nod.. Her glossy brunette hair shining beneath the bright courtroom lights.. "Yes, I knew all about it.."
Your mind screams at you to make some kind of objection, but you know that's not how this works..
"And we're you compliant in his dealings or did you make an attempt to inform the authorities?"
Mikki hesitates, her eyes flicking nervously to Elijah.. "I attempted to inform the authorities.."
She looks back to the barrister.. "Who did you inform, Ms De'lucca?"
Mikki squeezes her eyes shut, her face pained.. To everyone in the room, she would simply appear to be a bereft widow, grieving her husband.. But you know the truth, and that this lie must be killing her.. "I told Charlie's partner.. Agent Ellerie Devereux.. That's when I discovered she and Charlie had both been corrupted by my family.."
It is a lie laced with truth..
Yes Mikki had become suspicious of Charles..
Yes she had told you about it..
But neither of you had any evidence..
It's like a bomb went off in your brain.. Chaotic thoughts bombard you.. Everything blurs and sounds seem like they're far off, or underwater as the proceedings close and you are reprimanded into FBI custody, pending further investigation..
A burly court guard cuffs your hands behind your back as Kirby tries to relay as much information to you as possible, before they take you away.. "Stay calm Ellerie.. We can appeal this, give me 24 hours ,I'll have you out.."
Your eyes go to Ford and Paxton, both now standing, watching on with concern, looking as though they might shoot up the courtroom to get to you.. You catch their eye and mouth two words to them, 'Follow Mikki..'
It's the one thing that matters to you in all of this..
Because now that they've gotten what they need from her, they will most likely want to tie up that loose end..
The guard tugs your arms, turning you around, pushing you out through a heavy wooden door into the courthouse holding room..