Tina wrapped her arms around herself and shivered. She didn’t think she’d ever felt this cold before. Normally she complained when rooms seemed too warm.
It had to be nerves.
She remembered telling Jake she’d never found a restaurant cool enough. He’d countered by accusing her of wanting to live in a meat locker. During one of the few movies they had attended together he had complained about the cold theater and put his arm around her, telling her he needed a hot-blooded woman to keep him warm. She had laughed at him then and snuggled up as close as she could, wishing she could remove the narrow armrest between them.
Now there he sat behind the defendant’s table, wearing a pale gold short-sleeved shirt, and from her spot in the courtroom, about 30 feet away, she could see sweat beads glistening on his forehead. A warm flush rose up her neck as she pictured the way his hair tightened into little ringlets when he perspired. She sneaked a quick side-ways peak at Alex and found him staring at her, amused.
“I’m cold,” she whispered.
“Keep thinking about Jake,” he teased.
She socked his arm but quickly regretted it. She leaned toward him and hissed, “How can you make stupid remarks at a time like this?”
Before he could answer the bailiff called “The United States vs. Jacob Philip Garret.”
Jake stood, his hands folded in front of himself. Tina thought he looked oddly confident and, well…radiant. Must just be the way the afternoon sun reached in, highlighting the copper glints in his hair.
Sure didn’t look like a jerk who could so easily dump a girl.
The day of the divorce Tina hadn’t paid particular attention to the ambiance of the place, but this courtroom, despite being a federal court, surprised her with its seediness. Dark paneling, obviously 70s fake wood Masonite, lined three walls all the way up to 15-ft. ceilings. Windows from the ceiling to about a third of the way down provided light and relief from dreariness on the wall to Tina’s left.
Facing Tina, the Federal Magistrate presided over the court from his bench high enough on the wall to afford him a view outside.
On the floor below him, the Assistant United States Attorney and Jake’s Federal Defense attorney faced each other from behind matching tables set at right angles to the spectator benches and the Federal Magistrate’s bench.
If Alex hadn’t begged her to come with him to his brother’s preliminary hearing, even arranging for other stylists to take her appointments for two days, she wouldn’t be here, no matter how much Gloria pleaded.
Jake himself had told her to forget him, but how could she when Alex and Gloria kept trying to manipulate her life so she would have to confront him?
‘Try to forget’ he’d said in the voice-mail message. Forget him. Oh sure. She had thought they had something special. Pictured a life together, children, a house—the works. Then, without any warning, he leaves that stupid message.
Forgetting Jake wouldn’t be easy, but she had to do it and go on with her life.
Why Gloria cared what happened with Jake, Tina didn’t understand. She wouldn’t have supposed that Austin’s grandmother would be such a pushover for Jake’s so-called conversion. She remembered with amusement Alex’s stunned expression when, during their drive from Dallas, she had revealed that Austin said Jake ‘got Jesus in his heart.’
As she sat there listening to the preliminary hearing proceedings she found herself praying for Jake, and the instant she turned her attention to the Lord she felt ashamed. She feared she might burst into tears on the spot.
I know, Lord. You’re right, as usual. I know it grieves You if I’m cynical about Jake’s conversion.
She hated feeling mean and cranky, but she couldn’t stop thinking about that stupid message on her answering machine. Every time she recalled each lethal word she felt as betrayed and abandoned as she had the first time she listened to it Saturday night. She swallowed the giant lump in her throat.
She’d been so sure there had been a woman with him. Now she didn’t know. Maybe it had been Austin. Or even her grandparents.
Bless him, Lord. Protect him and bless him, even if I can’t be with him, thank you for making Yourself known to him.
Her eyes filled. She had to stop thinking about their relationship and what might have been or she could lose it right here in front of Mr. I-Think-I’m-God Federal Magistrate, the Honorable W. Robert McMasters. She wondered what the W. stood for. Weak, she decided. Only an innately weak person had to strut the way this man did when he’d walked in an hour ago.
Cody Smith, the Assistant United States Attorney, wore tan slacks, navy blue blazer and a too-red tie for what Tina thought must surely have been his first real case. His face shining with evident delight in his own importance, he presented the charges. Tina had trouble understanding him. Listening carefully, she deduced that Jake was being charged with three separate accusations: violation of probation, kidnapping, and fleeing apprehension.
Smith argued that Jake should be held without bail, citing his job as an over-the-road truck driver and the fact that the current case arose out of hiding the child for four days.
Upon finishing his short but enthusiastic presentation, the young attorney smoothed the sides of his short blond hair with a self-satisfied flourish of both hands and sat down.
Louis Glover, Jake’s federal public defender, detailed the events of the past few days, particularly emphasizing that the child had voluntarily entered Jake’s truck, remaining undetected for several hours, and that Jake had voluntarily surrendered to the FBI in Harrison. He stressed the word ‘voluntarily’ and used it frequently. In asking for reasonable bail, he deferred to ‘Ms. Waters, attorney for Jacob Philip Garret.’
When Faye Waters stood, Tina and Alex glanced at each other.
“Where did Jake find that absolutely delicious attorney?” Alex whispered. “It’s a good thing I brought my check book. She’s definitely top drawer and will no doubt charge accordingly.”
“For Pete’s sake, how can you tell anything about her just from looking at her?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Listen.”
Indeed Ms. Waters presented a convincing case. She pointed out that her client had not violated the terms of probation; contact with his own two children had been proscribed, but the original district court agreement did not, in fact, prohibit contact with any other minor. Further, regarding the current kidnapping case, the child himself admitted to having entered Mr. Garret’s vehicle.
She alluded to facts recently discovered that would explicate Jake’s reaction upon discovering the child in his truck, then moved quickly away from that point at the indignant “Your honor!” issuing from the government’s table.
Waters spent the next few minutes detailing Jake’s impeccable work record and his exemplary behavior in every respect, concluding with an eloquent request for reasonable bail. She pointed out that in the two years since the Nebraska decree Jake had never been delinquent on alimony or child support payments and had had no judgments of any kind from any judiciary body. When she finished, she thanked the Magistrate and sat down.
“Your honor,” Glover said, “Mr. David Page, Austin Page’s father, asks to speak to this issue.”
McMasters nodded his assent and David stood up.
Tina hadn’t dared turn toward him before even though he and Will were seated directly across the aisle and she had sensed his surreptitious glances from time to time.
Before entering the building she had noticed Gloria and Laura strolling around the square with the children. She had even considered offering to take a turn watching the little ones so the women could go inside with Will and David. Thankfully she had quickly recovered from that momentary glimpse into insanity. As if Laura would let her touch another of her children.
Now that David had his attention focused entirely on the Magistrate, Tina had a clear sight line, and felt free to study him closely. She noticed that he seemed terribly tense. He held on to the bench in front of him as if he might fall over without it.
“Your honor, the blame for the mess we’re all here for,” he began nervously, checking the edge of his front tooth with his tongue between phrases, “is at least partly our fault as parents.” He took a deep breath.
“My wife and I both had gone out of the van for only a few minutes, but during that time, Austin left the van too, and then he got into Jake, er, Mr. Garret’s truck.” He took another deep breath and continued.
“We don’t believe Mr. Garret ever intended any harm to our son, and really, Austin came back to us is great shape, you know, sir? He actually had fun, so we can’t be mad at Mr. Garret.” He cleared the back of his throat with a cough and then glanced back at Will who nodded encouragement.
Tina listened, astonished, as David resumed:
“Your honor, my father-in-law and I want to post his bail so Jake can go back to work.” He nodded at Will, who stood briefly and then sat down.
Silence hung heavily over all of them until McMasters, after staring at him for what seemed like five minutes, finally nodded, indicating that David could sit down.
Dust motes danced in the sun rays sparkling through old leaded glass windows that could have profited by a good going over with Windex and paper towels.
The clock pendulum clicked back and forth, back and forth, and nobody seemed to need to breathe.
McMasters concentrated on his notes, flipping his pen up and down with a sharp whack. At length he gazed down into the waiting courtroom and began speaking, his buttered-molasses Southern bass voice edged in amazement. First he narrowed his eyes on the Assistant U.S. Attorney.
“If your supervisor hasn’t bothered to warn you yet, I will. I don’t like eager young attorneys wasting this court’s time just so they can gain some experience.”
Smith gulped and rubbed sweaty palms on his nice new tan slacks.
“Mr. Smith,” the Magistrate continued, “before you pursue this case, I strongly recommend careful research. Be sure you apprise yourself of the ‘recently discovered facts’ Ms. Waters has so recently discovered. Whatever they are I would personally be interested if they can explain what I’ve just seen here.” He sat up a little straighter and growled, “Mister Page.”
David stood again.
“Mr. Page, you have given me something today that I dearly love: a new experience. Thank you, son. You may sit down.”
He fastened his eyes on Jake who had remained standing throughout. “Mr. Garret, these good people here are willing to stand your bail. I hope that humbles you.
“Now: there seems to be ample evidence to charge you with fleeing apprehension and interfering with custody of a minor. Therefore,” he paused importantly, “I am binding you over for trial. Arraignment is scheduled for Monday, at 9:00 a.m. in this courtroom. Despite the reassurances of David Page and of Ms. Waters, I have to agree with Mr. Smith that you pose a significant flight risk. Therefore, I am setting bail at $250,000. You can thank Mr. Page that I didn’t set bail at a million.”
He looked at each attorney in turn.
“Is there anything else?”
Tina, and the rest of the courtroom, waited tensely, but no one spoke.
“Bailiff, call the next case.”