Eeek, here's one I did awhile ago, on a prompt that requires the story to be written with the first line...I hope you enjoy it!
"Yes it's true," she said.
The judge looked at her sternly from where he sat on the bench.
"Would you swear to it, Ms Parsons?"
She just stared at him.
"You know my client didn't commit the murders," she said, "He should be released at once."
The judge just shook his head at her.
"Roy Turner is still under suspicion given that he's confessed to four killings," he said.
C.J. just folded her arms.
"My investigator Matt Houston caught the real killer," she said, "Coach Salinger did it and he mostly will be facing criminal charges fairly soon."
The judge reviewed the file but his expression didn't change.
"The facts that you have provided have yet to be determined," he said, "and until then, Turner's staying in county lockup until the authorities decide what to do with him."
Once he had been officially cleared of the murders, C.J. didn't really care what happened to her client that she had inherited from her mentor, F. Lee Bailey. He could rot in prison as far as she was concerned, because the man had seriously unsettled her with his slimy mannerisms and his voice that seemed to seep inside of her every time she heard it into places she didn't want him to find. Almost as if he knew what was hidden there, the monster from her dreams.
No wonder so many of the town folks had believed that he had been guilty of the slayings even before he had confessed to them. The man got off on tormenting other people and trying to pry their secrets right out of them, making the grief they had held within them fresh all over again.
"We'll hear from the state board of corrections by the end of the day," the judge said, "and hopefully by then, the county prosecutor would have officially dropped the charges."
C.J. just sighed. She couldn't wait to put as much distance between herself and the people of Lake Utah as possible. Ever since she first arrived, they made it clear she hadn't been welcome. They stalked her, threatened her with guns, threw a Molotov cocktail through her motel window and had even taken shots at Matt and her inside Murray's car. Not her favorite way to spend a few days in what had been billed as one of the top rustic tourist traps in the state. Even after Matt and her had apprehended Salinger and had gotten the truth out of him, the relatives of the victims appeared to still be more angry with them than they were with the man who slayed their loved ones in cold blood, snuffing out three of those lives simply to cover up one murder.
"Where is your investigator," the judge asked, "I'll need a statement from him signed and notarized."
C.J. didn't know but she believed that Matt had gone to comfort Murray over the untimely loss of his car to a vigilante mob and had promised him that he would reimburse him for a new one. Murray had cheered up and started poring over catalogues online of flashy sports cars or babe magnets as he called them.
"I still can't believe it was the coach," the judge said with a sigh, "My two boys played on his football team."
She didn't know how to respond to that. Matt and she had done their job which was to clear her client and to find the real killer. The town didn't have to like that or them but hopefully, the two of them wouldn't have to check under their car for any explosives before taking off back to L.A.
"I just want to clear out this case so I can get out of your hair," she said, with a nod.
She meant every word of that. The case had been a nightmare for her since she agreed to handle the arraignment while Bailey had finished a trial elsewhere. But before she could make that simple court appearance, Turner had confessed to the crimes leaving her in the lurch. Then the townspeople had started coming after her, furious about her defense of the man they had labeled, "the monster." A slimy individual who loved to live up to the image of a mass killer even though he had really done nothing more than steal an expensive watch off of one of the victims. But C.J. knew that Turner hadn't wanted to go back to prison on a parole violation as a petty thief when he could feed his narcissism with assuming the role of a serial killer. Even if it meant spending the rest of his life in prison or going to the gas chamber, it didn't matter to Turner who had been consumed even further by the role he had stolen from the real killer.
He had played the part well and had fooled her, because she really believed him to be a dancer as he provided a highly descriptive blow by blow account of how he had carried out the murders of four young and very healthy teenagers struck down in the prime of their lives. She had even called him one herself until Matt told her that Murray had uncovered some medical records which said that Turner suffered from emphysema, enough to cast doubt on his story.
"Ms Parsons, anything else?"
She looked up at the judge who cast her an impatient glance and she shook her head. He waved his arm.
"Then get the hell out of my courtroom."
She left and walked through the hallways of the courthouse where the deputies and other attorneys threw her odd glances in parting, no doubt hoping that she wouldn't be haunting their corridors for much longer. Looking up ahead, she saw Matt talking to a deputy.
"Oh Houston, I'm glad to see you."
She looked indeed very happy, he noted and he left the deputy to approach her.
"Any chance we're heading home soon?"
She made a face.
"I've got to wait for some paperwork on Turner," she said, "Bailey's not answering his phone lately."
"Murray's heading back on the train," he said, "I promised him we'd replace his car."
"That seems like the right thing to do under the circumstances," she agreed.
He put his arm around her shoulder.
"Then I guess the best thing to do is head back to the motel until we get some news on your client," he said, "unless you'd rather see the sights."
She shook her head at that.
"No thanks," she said, "Been there, done that and I just want to head back home."
She seemed tired so Matt led her to the car that he had parked outside the courthouse. He had half wondered if it would even be there in one piece but there it sat parked in its usual pristine condition.
"Maybe you better check it," C.J. joked.
He did a precursory examination but everything looked fine. Still, the memory of trying to shield C.J. and himself form an assault by the mob that attacked them in a car remained firmly etched. If Sheriff Loftus hadn't smelled trouble brewing and driven up and rescued them, he didn't know if they would have made it out of live. Especially when one vigilante took a rifle and started shooting at them, and they had just barely gotten away with their lives.
They got in the car and he started the engine and pulled out of the spot. C.J. rested her head back, not bothering to look out the window as they drove back to the motel.
"Want to stop and pick up some lunch?"
She looked at him for a moment.
"Let's order some pizza."
They arrived back at the motel and Matt did just that while C.J. showered, closing her eyes beneath the spray. She felt all the grime slip away, most of it from inside her mind and the shower truly refreshed her. She pulled on a robe and went into the bedroom to see Matt sprawled there with a beer. He handed her one and she sipped it.
"I'm glad this one's nearly done."
He patted the bed.
"Come here and sit with me."
She looked at him, her head tilted.
"There enough room?"
"Plenty," he said, "And I promise I won't bite."
She chuckled at that and sat down beside him, stretching her legs out. Their shoulders brushed comfortably as they remained in silence for a little while.
"Thanks for your help," she said, finally, "I know this was a very difficult case and it got dangerous there for a while."
He couldn't argue with that but he thought he saw a trace of guilt in her eyes.
"All the more reason for you not to face it alone," he said, "Besides, it's nice to spend some time in the country with a beautiful legal eagle."
She patted his arm.
"That's very nice of you to say that Houston," she said, "but it's not necessary."
He looked wounded.
"Of course it is," he said, "You did a brilliant job counselor."
"So did you, PI."
He looked at her then, the smile of contentment on her face and the ease of expression now that they had nearly put this case behind them where it belonged with the growing roster of ones they had solved together.
"I hope I didn't get you away from anything important."
"Oh C.J. just stop that," he said, "You know I wouldn't ever stay away if you needed me."
She smiled at that and she felt exactly the same way about him. They had been best friends for so long since they were in elementary school.
"Thank you for that."
He looked at her carefully from where he sat.
"My you're being awfully reflective today."
She responded to that by turning to look at him.
"Who was the real monster here, Houston?"
If he were taken aback by her question, he didn't let on but he realized that his answer mattered to her a great deal even if he didn't know why.
"I don't know," he said, "I would guess Salinger because he raped a young woman who trusted him and then killed four young people with their whole lives ahead of them to cover it up. It doesn't get much more heinous than that."
"But I think calling him a monster lets him and us off the hook because we're dehumanizing him when we do it. And we do it to tell ourselves that only someone not human would be capable of committing atrocious acts."
She pondered that.
"The only people who can do evil are human."
"Exactly," Matt said, "I saw it a lot when I was in the military. How dehumanizing killing itself could get so that sometimes we lost all sight of that to survive."
She stroked his arm.
"But you came back Houston."
His mouth became grim.
"My cousin didn't."
She knew that too and the emotional toll it had taken on him the past years since Will had been declared dead after being caught in the limbo of "missing in action" for quite some years. Even though there had been no body to bury, it did provide some closure for Matt and his family including his Uncle Roy.
"C.J. what is this about," he asked, "what's going on here?"
She just looked at him.
"Nothing…just another case completed that had me thinking…like some of the others."
But Matt had noticed a difference this time. C.J.'s reaction both to Turner, once to the point where she had walked out on her own client and then later with Salinger after it became clear the extent of his crimes. She glanced over at him to reassure him but her eyes looked far away.
"Last night, you woke up suddenly," he started.
She stiffened beside him and he could feel it and her subtle withdrawal.
"That was nothing," she said, sipping her beer.
Matt had been napping in a chair by where she slept, not willing to leave her alone after everything that had happened in the past couple of days. She had fallen asleep once her head hit the pillow, exhaustion claiming her. He had read a book for a while before nodding off himself until he heard her scream.
"What scared you in your sleep?"
She didn't say anything and he knew he was losing her.
He reached closer despite the barrier she had placed between him and lifted her chin with his fingers so he could read her face. Suddenly it became critical for him not to miss anything and he didn't know why.
"What's…nothing," he asked, more gently, "that you can wake up like that and not tell me about it?"
She sighed, knowing why he had asked. When he had bad dreams and she had been in the vicinity, she had comforted him when he awoke disoriented and had reached for the nearest person who had been her. She had to be the one to pull on the brakes when their actions merged into something else, some direction if not exactly forbidden, one that had been closed off. That hadn't been the problem when it had been her turn to wake up from a nightmare, one she barely remembered as soon as she opened her eyes and realized that he had embraced her. Putting her into the unfamiliar position of not knowing what to do next.
"I don't even remember…it's just that…"
The door bell rang and they knew that their pizza had arrived. Matt got out of the bed and went to the door to collect it and pay the delivery man. When he returned to bed with it, he knew the moment they had just shared, the one when she just might open up to him had passed again. But that didn't stop him from trying.
"Is it what happened with Carl?"
She closed her eyes briefly at the mention of her dead boyfriend who had been killed by a high school classmate of hers who had become obsessed with her, enough to kill anyone who stopped him from having her. And Carl had been in the way, and paid the price for that. She still missed him even though it had been about six months since his murder. The man who had killed him, Christian Dean, dead at her own times with only Matt as a witness. It had clearly been self-defense but she had learned that day that she had the capability to snuff out a life. She also had the ability to move forward in a way that disturbed her considering she had done that to another human being. Dean had a younger sister who remained ignorant of her brother's mental obsession and at a court hearing to close out the case, she had confronted C.J. and had yelled at her, calling her the monster who killed her dear brother. Deputies had hauled her away but the woman's words had made their mark. Apparently even she had been someone else's monster.
But she faced some of her own in the world including in her sleep.
"No, it doesn't have anything to do with that," she said, and she meant it.
"Then what is it?"
She just reached over for the pizza and he sighed, but said nothing, watching her concentrate on the slice she held which had been loaded with pineapple, ham and mushrooms. Matt knew she hadn't eaten much since she took this case and was now making up for lost time, but it was more than that. He didn't think he'd get an answer from her.
"Houston, you've been up against so many monsters…I mean men who killed dozens of people without feeling any remorse."
He knew that had been true. Whether chasing after cold blooded serial killers like the wealthy billionaire Castanos or the man who had killed two women that Matt had loved, he had proven to be just as relentless as those he pursued. Until he caught up with them and took them out of circulation one way or another. She knew that the world had become a safer place because of him. But there were monsters out there that remained outside his reach, hiding in the shadows.
"I caught up with a few of them and they're gone," he said, "but there are always more of them out there. Almost as if they're being planted and taking root in the world."
She definitely knew that and that he would never stop trying anyway until the day he died. But right now, she didn't want to talk about them anymore, she just wanted to relax and unwind from an arduous case with her best friend.
He sensed that she felt tense and he reached for her to pull her closer.
He stroked her hair back off of her shoulders and started working his magic fingers on the tight muscles in them. What else could she do but close her eyes?
"That feels nice…"
"You've had a rough couple of days," he said, "and hopefully soon we can go home and put this behind us."
"I'm waiting for that phone call right now and I'm out of here."
He smiled and he felt the tightness of the muscles in her neck and upper back recede. He knew he had his skills that he had learned from an ex-girlfriend down pat to make her feel better. As for what was troubling her, that would obviously have to wait.
"Want to go on vacation?"
She thought about it.
"Where would you like to go?"
He broadened his strokes and heard her sigh in response.
"Someplace that's beautiful and peaceful…"
"Houston…that's what was written on the travel brochure for this town."
"They might want to rethink that."
"They just considered us outsiders to their way of life here, an unwanted intrusion," she said, "I can't say I blame them. Even I was convinced that Turner had killed their children."
"I was until Murray dug up the medical records from prison."
She nodded, remembering the disbelief in her voice when Matt had presented her with that information. After telling him it wouldn't be enough, he had offered her his services and had teased her about the costs. But she knew she would never see an actual bill. Not even as a joke given that they tried to pull that one on Murray after the Joey's World caper and he had nearly had an embolism over it.
"He really got off on the pain he caused those families," C.J. said, "even though he didn't raise a hand against their children, he participated in their murders as if he were involved."
Matt knew that she meant that the crimes hadn't stopped when their children had bled to death from being stabbed by a frenzied Salinger but had continued with the taunts of Turner and the lies which fed his ego. In his own way, he had become a monster too. He wrapped his arms around her tighter and she turned to face him and their eyes met…
What she saw there almost led her to something that she had never thought of doing at least not in recent years. They had flirted with the boundaries of their friendship while they were both younger but as the years passed, each had kept their romantic relationships and even engagements apart from their friendship. But right now, she wanted to reach out and draw him closer to her, to just close her eyes and go with what she felt rather than what she thought and looking into his eyes, she saw the mirror of her own thoughts. Only with less of the turmoil that she felt inside her.
He stroked her face and their lips met and they kissed gently, brushing each other at first and then she pulled him even closer. The mattress creaked as they shifted their positions to get closer. She felt his hands loosen her blouse from her skirt and wrap around her waist, his palms burning into her skin. And she didn't feel like stopping him, she just wanted to forget the rest of the world and concentrate on the here and now. How it felt to be close to him. She started pulling off his shirt, wanting to get her hands beneath it to touch his skin.
Then she stopped.
He looked at her, his face flushed, breathing hard just like she did. She looked at him, her heart pounding and her mouth suddenly dry.
"What are we doing," she asked when she caught her breath.
"I think it's obvious," he said, dryly.
His arms were still wrapped around her and she remained there.
He caressed her hair and tilted her chin up.
"Why," he asked, "Neither of us are in a relationship right now."
He listened to her sigh and pull away from him, putting some distance between them.
"I don't think this is really what either of us want," she said, "I don't think it's what I want."
Now that stung a bit.
"C.J. what is going on here," he said, frustrated, "You close yourself off when I ask you about last night and the next thing I know…"
"I know," she said, "Houston, it's just been a really tough few days and it reminded me…"
She bit her lip and the words that she held back so long wanted to spill out. But they just couldn't, so she just looked at him, conflict in her eyes.
"That there's a lot of evil in the world and I just want it to go away for a little while."
He reached over for her, this time as her friend and she let him.
"I know," he said, stroking her back, "but there's one less killer on the loose. That's all we can really do is to make this world a little safer one step at a time."
She paused and then she nodded against his chest.
"I guess that will have to do."
They settled there for a while and then the phone rang. C.J. answered it and learned that the prosecutor had dropped all the charges against her odious client and he would be transferred back to prison on the parole violation. In addition, a grand jury would be convened to determine whether Salinger would be facing murder charges.
She turned to face Matt after putting down the phone.
"I guess that means we're sprung."
He smiled at her.
"Would you like to get up and hit the road," he said, "We should make it on the highway before the traffic's bad."
She paused leaning her head back against his chest, listening for his heartbeat.
"Maybe we should wait a little while before we head back into the world."
He stroked her hair as she closed her eyes.
"We've got all the time in the world," he said, with a sigh, "It's certainly not going anywhere."
And neither were some of its monsters. But as she fell asleep against his chest, at least they could be kept at bay for a little while.
Around them, the town of Lake Utah peacefully slept.