“Lila,” I said, kissing her forehead. I’d showered and dressed, letting her sleep as long as I could. She needed it, after the night we’d had. I’d pushed her in dangerous directions. I’d known what would probably happen, but I needed to break through. She would never trust me completely if she couldn’t be honest with me and know that I wouldn’t walk out on her over it. She’d suffered some serious childhood trauma, the kind you don’t get over without working through it, laying it out and dealing with it in a way that made sense. We could look at therapy down the line if she thought it would help but the first step was admitting that something had gone wrong and that it wasn’t her fault. I knew only too well how victims could carry that shit around with them for lifetime: thinking they’d fucked up when it wasn’t them at all. When they’d only been a little kid who needed love and instead got hell.
I wouldn’t have minded staying in bed a little longer, but the meeting with the lawyers that would decide Jake’s sentence started at nine o’clock, and I wanted to get there early. It was just the prosecuting lawyers sitting down with our team to talk things through. The negotiations had come to a standstill earlier this week and it was optimistic to think we could get them to budge any further. But we’d try. “I have to go soon. Stay in bed as long as you want. I can let Ashley know you’ll be in a little later, if you want.”
“Can I come with you? To Jake’s hearing? Do you think Ashley would mind?”
“Ashley wouldn’t mind if I told her not to mind. You can come if you want.”
“I’d like to be there. I think Jake might like to have us both there.”
“I think you’re right. I think he’ll take all the support he can get.”
“Can I take a shower? I’ll be quick.”
“Sure you can. It’s not even seven yet. As long as we’re there by eight.”
While Lila was in the shower, I called Jake.
“Hey,” he said.
“Are you wearing your best suit? No earring. Tats covered. No sneakers?”
“Fuck off,” he muttered. “Of course I am. I’m not a complete fucking imbecile.”
“Could’ve fooled me.”
He didn’t bite and it wasn’t hard to sense his mood. Gone was the carefree player who thought rules didn’t apply – to him and only him. He was staring down the barrel of anywhere between three months to five years behind bars, and the reality of his situation was finally starting to sink in. Whether or not they put him in a minimum-security prison would be entirely up to the residing judge that would sit in on the hearing. There would be no jury.
“Jake,” I said. “You’re going to be okay. No matter what happens. Okay? We’ll get you through this. Let’s not doom and gloom over it until we hear what the judge decides.” I tried once more to attempt to lift his spirits. “Maybe the judge will be young and hot and you can charm her into letting you run free.”
He was unflappably morose. “Sure, that’s a realistic possibility.”
I could have said, You got yourself into this mess, now you have to deal with the consequences of your actions, like some asshole. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d attempted to lecture Jake into behaving on the straight and narrow. But it wouldn’t make any difference. I knew from experience that giving him a command or a reprimand would pretty much guarantee he went in the opposite direction. It was just his way. So instead I just said, “I’ll meet you there at eight.”
“Is Lila coming?”
“Yeah.” There was something sort of endearing about the way he had begun to rely on her, just a little. Jake, like me, had had plenty of women in his life. But also like me, there had never been anyone that stuck. He’d yet to find the kind of relationship that gave more than it took. He’d become attached to the way Lila genuinely cared about him. Not his money or his car or his image. Just him. And since I’d already laid my jealousy to rest over the subject of the two of them, I didn’t mind this. I liked that the only two people I really cared about actually got along with each other. “She wants to come.”
“Cool. I’ll see you both there at eight, then.” He hung up.
When we arrived at the hearing, Jake was already there and the proceedings got underway promptly at nine o’clock.
Apparently, the prosecution had done some thinking over the past two days because the vibe had changed from one of blood to one of money. Maybe it was their tactic. All week they’d issued threats to nail us so firmly to the wall that Jake wouldn’t see the light of day for years to come. Maybe they’d wanted to scare us, to get us thinking about how much we’d actually prefer to pay than to put Jake through incarceration and all the nightmarish side-effects.
The lead prosecutor was a swish dickhead named Travis Owens who had a reputation for annihilating rich businessmen who took liberties with their inside trading information. People exactly like Jake. Travis was in full-on attack mode. “Our clients have decided that they will consider taking a monetary settlement rather than pushing for jail time for the defendant. They’re out of pocket costs are roughly equivalent to one point six million dollars. After costs and damages they ask for a settlement of two million dollars.”
It was a huge amount of money. Jake exhaled a low curse only I could hear.
He’d pulled off the clean-cut look fairly impressively. He looked both rich and wholesome, a feat that’s not always easy to achieve. You’d never know by looking at him that he was both a criminal and a renegade. Then again, we wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t at least one of the two. The judge was an older woman – probably in her early sixties – who was clearly at least twenty years beyond being either charmed or impressed by anything besides pure and unequivocal justice.
I had noticed that she’d watched Jake when we’d greeted him. Lila had hugged him and given him the kind of solace that was real and somehow riveting. They were both stunning-looking people with a bruised vulnerability that sort of clung to them. I had no idea if my assumption was right, but I got the feeling the judge saw it: the decency in them, the innocence lost through no fault of their own.
We would soon find out one way or the other. The depositions were in, the pleas had been given.
The room was entirely silent. The judge contemplated Jake. She took off her reading glasses and set them aside. “Mr. Wolfe,” she said to him. “Do you regret what you’ve done?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jake said earnestly. “I’ve caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people.” Jake looked at me, then back at the judge. “People I care about. I’m going to do my best to make it up to them.” He spoke again, and I don’t think I’d ever heard my brother sound more miserable, or more sincere. “Once I get out.”
The judge continued. “In light of the prosecution’s statement, I would be willing to forego a prison sentence, on two conditions. The defence will pay Mr. Owens’ clients reparations in the amount of two million dollars. And Mr. Wolfe will be placed under house arrests for a period of three months. He will be fitted with an electronic device to track his movements and his communications. He will be permitted to go to home and to go to his place of employment. According to the information you’ve given, Mr. Wolfe’s home is directly around the corner from his workplace. He may walk, he may drive, he may stop for the occasional cup of coffee or meal en route, but he may not travel off course from the direct route between the allocated locations defined in his sentence. If he violates the terms of his house arrest, he will be immediately be sentenced to a three-year prison sentence with no possibility of parole.” She gave Jake a soulful but steely look. “I am letting you off the hook this time, Mr. Wolfe, assuming you can meet the cost of reparations. But I will not be so generous again. Next time you will be prosected to the full extent of the law. If you are not able to pay Mr. Owens’ clients two million dollars in full by November 10, you will receive a prison sentence of two years, effective immediately, without eligibility for parole until you have served at least one year of your prison term. Do you understand these terms?”
“Yes.” Jake’s voice came out as a doomed croak. Two million dollars was more money than he thought he was worth. I, however, had a very different opinion. This is why I’d worked my fucking guts out my entire goddamn life to be able to do: to save him, when he needed to be saved.
“I will now give you a few minutes to consult with your legal team about how you would like to respond,” the judge continued.
I stood up. “That won’t be necessary,” I said. “We’ll pay the two million dollars. I’ll have it wired to wherever it needs to go first thing tomorrow morning. And Jake will be more than willing to respect the terms of his house arrest. We accept the terms.”
Jake stared at me. “Alexander, you don’t -- ”
I looked at the judge, cutting Jake off mid-protest. “So, are we done here?”
The judge glowered at me, but I thought I detected a note of what might have been a subdued relief, as though she were silently rooting for Jake’s happy ever after. “You are. Once you sign the agreement, and your brother has met with the supervising authority to be fitted with his tracking device, you are free to go.”