Skyheart Ranch

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Katie reached the dining room in time to see the wide eyes and fearful expressions of Senator Crawley’s lawyers. They all stood, except the Senator, who seemed to be getting more and more disgusted with the proceedings. Ms. Talbot set her briefcase down on the table, her team pulling chairs over so they could sit around her. They all helped themselves to water and some of Ruby’s cooking, instantly endearing them in Katie’s eyes.

“Vanessa Talbot, of Talbot, Babcock, and Richardson,” Cash’s lawyer stated with confidence.

“Yes, um, yes, of course,” stammered Senator Crawley’s lawyer. “Everyone knows who you are, M-Ms. Talbot. I wasn’t aware you had a satellite office in Montana.”

“We don’t,” Ms. Talbot stated bluntly. She sat, commanding the room just by her mere presence in it. Cash motioned for Katie to join him and they sat down next to one of the associates. Another of Ms. Talbot’s colleagues handed out business cards to the other lawyers and, when he refused to take it, set one down in front of Senator Crawley.

“When Ms. Beauchamp’s vicious attack was publicized, we were immediately in contact with Mr. Buchanan,” Ms. Talbot said. “We’ve been in Billings for three days now.”

“Alleged,” Senator Crawley said, finally picking up the business card in front of him, sneering at it, and tossing it back onto the table.

“I beg your pardon?” Ms. Talbot questioned politely.

“Alleged attack. There’s no proof my son hurt her.”

Ms. Talbot turned and deliberately ran her eyes up and down Katie.

“Yes,” she said dry. “Ms. Beauchamp does seem the picture of perfect health.” Ruby, Rocky, and Hank all gave short laughs. They had abandoned their chairs for Cash’s lawyers and all three were leaning against the back wall.

“Now,” Ms. Talbot said crisply. “I’m sure you’re ready to get down to business.”

“More than ready,” Senator Crawley practically growled. Ms. Talbot didn’t acknowledge this comment, simply holding out her hand. A colleague placed a folder in it, which Ms. Talbot placed in front of herself, but didn’t open.

“Ms. Beauchamp is asking for a dissolution of marriage, nothing more. She does not want any money now or alimony in the future, she does not want any properties accrued by Damien Crawley and herself during the marriage, and she does not want any of the the possessions bought during the marriage. This is incredibly straightforward. Just a divorce.”

Senator Crawley’s lawyers huddled around him, all whispering to each other. The Senator shook his head, causing a few of his lawyers to sigh.

“I’m afraid those terms are unacceptable,” Senator Crawley’s lead attorney said, sounding frustrated. Ms. Talbot politely raised an eyebrow in seeming disbelief.

“And what else could you possibly ask for? Ms. Beauchamp is relinquishing all her rights to any future money or money made off the future sales of property or possessions.”

“Yes,” agreed the Senator’s lawyer, “and while normally that would be an incredibly generous deal, this situation is... less than normal.”

“I’m afraid I don’t see how,” Ms. Talbot stated. “Two people were married, now one wants a divorce. Simple.”

“Y-yes, however-” began Senator Crawley’s lawyer before being cut off by Ms. Talbot.

“Ms. Beauchamp is a private citizen, as is Mr. Damien Crawley. While his actions might reflect on his father, that has no bearing here.”

“Like hell it doesn’t!” Senator Crawley erupted, standing from his chair and pointing at Katie. His politician’s facade had finally fallen and now everyone could see him as he really was: angry, manipulative, and bullying.

“That little bitch is going to sign whatever I damn well want her to sign. She’s going to drop the charges against my son and they are going to publicly reconcile! That’s what’s going to fucking happen!” Ms. Talbot didn’t seem at all ruffled by Senator Crawley’s outburst. In fact, it almost seemed as if she had expected it.

“Hmm. Ms. Anderson, if you could be so kind as to read back the previous remarks?” she said.

“Of course,” replied a younger lawyer in her mid-thirties. “‘That little bitch is going to sign whatever I damn well-’”

“Now, wait just a minute!” another of the Senator’s lawyers exclaimed, cutting off Cash’s lawyer. “We never agreed to this! You can’t just record-”.

“We’re not recording,” Ms. Talbot stated. “We’re simply keeping a written log of the meeting. Frankly, I’m a little surprised you’re not doing the same.” The lawyer blushed and Senator Crawley frowned.

“What does she mean?” he asked sharply. “Should one of you being writing down what’s going on? Well?” As he practically shouted at them, there was a flurry of activity among the Senator’s lawyers, as each one grabbed a pen and legal pad.

“Senator,” Ms. Talbot said, addressing him directly. “I’m sure you’re aware the charges against your son are quite damning. Add these to the dropped charges in Chicago, and I can’t see any judge not granting a petition for divorce. However, it would be in your best interest if all of this was kept out of the courtroom.”

“And what the hell does that mean?” the Senator asked, bristling.

“That if your son contests this divorce, we will be submitting into evidence Ms. Beauchamp’s medical records, including graphic photographs, the threatening notes your son sent her, the multiple times your son broke his restraining order, and the fact that the charges in Chicago were only dropped after a sizable donation to the district attorney’s reelection campaign. A donation that came from a super PAC supporting your presidential run.” Ms. Talbot folded her hands in front of her and stared straight at Senator Crawley. “Now, will you be contesting this divorce?”

There was a long pause, then Senator Crawley’s lead attorney began to speak.

“In light of everything, it seems-”.

“Oh, shut the hell up!” Senator Crawley shouted. “The only way I’m agreeing to this is if she signs an NDA.” Ms. Talbot again lifted her eyebrow, conveying polite surprise.

“Non-disclosure agreements are not needed in divorce proceedings.”

“Well, like you said, Damien’s actions reflect on me,” Senator Crawley sneered, his resemblance to his son uncanny. “I’m not letting that little bitch he married write some tell-all or grow cry phony tears in a prime time special. She’s signing the NDA.”

“No.” Everyone paused and turned to stare at Katie, who looked uncomfortable but unmoving.

“What the hell did you just say?” Senator Crawley asked, his hands balling into fists.

“I’m not signing an NDA. I have no intention of ever publicly discussing my marriage to Damien or anything to do with your family. Well, until I have to testify. Unless you can convince Damien it’s in his best interest to accept a plea deal. But I refuse to sign something that removes my right to speak freely. I lost that right during the years I was married to Damien and I will never be put in that position again.”

“You little bitch,” whispered Senator Crawley. “I knew you were trouble the moment Damien brought you home, but at least you were useful. For awhile, anyway.” Cash growled, rising from his seat, but Katie laid her hand on his arm. He sat back down, sending the Senator a death glare.

“Well,” said Ms. Talbot, “it appears we’ve reached an impasse. We’ll see you in court. I have a feeling they won’t be able to fit the case into the schedule until late summer, right when political candidates officially become their party’s nominee for President. I’m sure an ugly, public divorce won’t hurt your chances at all.” She stood, straightening the folders and handing them to one of her associates. “Good afternoon ladies, gentlemen.”

Cash’s lawyers began walking to the door as a whispered, frantic conversation took place between Senator Crawley and his lawyers. As Ms. Talbot reached for the doorknob, a shout rang out.

“Wait!” yelled the Senator’s lead attorney. “Wait! We’ll, we’ll, take the deal. No money or property and everything stays out of the courts.”

“And the NDA?” prompted Ms. Talbot.

Senator Crawley ground his teeth, then bit out: “Not necessary.” Ms. Talbot turned back around and was handed another set of papers. She placed these on the table.

“Ms. Beauchamp will read through this agreement and if it’s satisfactory, we will send you a signed and notarized copy. I am more than willing to present this document to Mr. Damien Crawley as well.”

“We, uh, we, can take care of that,” stammered out another of Senator Crawley’s lawyers.

“Damien will sign your damn papers,” Senator Crawley growled out. “Are we done?” Ms. Talbot glanced at Katie and Cash, who both nodded.

“Yes, I believe everything has been discussed,” said Ms. Talbot. Senator Crawley stood, pushing his chair back so fast, it fell to the floor. He didn’t bother stopping, just walked straight out the front door, not even sparing one last glance at Katie. His lawyers scurried after him and they heard engines roaring to life a minute later. Ms. Talbot turned to Katie, giving her a warm smile.

“I can go over the agreement with you, if you’d like.

“I would, thank you,” Katie said. “I’ll be sure to ask if I have any questions.” It turned out Katie didn’t need any help, as the agreement was only five pages long. She signed and dated where she needed to, then sat back with a sigh.

“I’ll have these sent by express mail, and hopefully, within a few weeks, you’ll no longer be married,” Ms. Talbot said as a colleague gathered up the papers.

“Thank you, Ms. Talbot, well, everyone. Thank you,” Katie said, knowing there were no words to describe her gratitude.

“Yes, thank you,” Cash said. “This was above and beyond.” Ms. Talbot waved her hand carelessly and laughed.

“Nonsense,” she said lightly. “Besides, you might want to save your thanks. You haven’t gotten the bill yet.” Everyone laughed as Cash started walking his lawyers out. Ruby came over to stand next to Katie.

“I so wanna be her when I grow up,” Katie said.

“Agreed, sugar. Absolutely agreed.”

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