Chapter 5: The Truth Hurts
Elijah Woodward had sustained quite a reputation in his twelve years of service to the law. He was only in his late thirties, yet he'd managed to gain himself a reputation as being ruthless in the courtroom, and perfectly polite and courteous outside. He respected the desire for justice, and considered himself a good judge of character. In about ninety-percent of cases when the evidence presented on both sides meant the outcome was utterly unforeseeable, he knew the trump card which would favour a win was the character of individual on trial.
Law had been in his blood as long as he could remember. His father had been the highly reputable Judge Sebastian Woodward, who had retired only last month, and so following his footsteps had been a rather big pair of shoes to fill. Due to the amount of successes he'd obtained, however, he felt confident he was living up to his father's reputation quite well.
He wasn't exactly the kind of barrister anyone ever expected. He was African-American in descent – in fact, most of his life had been spent in third world countries, where the respectability of the law was constantly challenged and questioned - yet knew an extensive amount on International Law. He was 5 foot 9, and always clad in dark suits, usually navy blue in colour which was his lucky colour. And despite his very busy work schedule, he still had managed to find love and make a family, with his wife being a successful business woman with her own chain of shops up and down the Australian coast, and his daughters both flourishing beautifully.
In short, he'd managed to keep the two worlds of career and family both distant and entwined quite beautifully.
"Mr Woodward," his secretary, Helen Rush, called, popping into his office momentarily. "Your ten o'clock is here."
"Ah, right," Elijah said, scanning his appointment list. "This would be a Mr Charles Pace, am I correct?"
"Yes, you are," Helen simpered.
"Would he be any relation to Liam Pace perchance?" Elijah enquired.
"From what I gather, they are brothers," Helen informed him.
"Thank you, Helen," Elijah said, smiling gratefully at her. "That'll be all."
As she scurried out, he sat behind his desk, turning the picture of his youngest daughter, Elyse, towards him, subconsciously mirroring her toothy grin. He stared at the door, waiting as two men walked in, one looking completely out of his depth, whilst the other seemed to appear fairly confident.
"Mr Pace," Elijah greeted Liam enthusiastically. "It's good to see you again. I do hope you're keeping well?"
"All thanks to you, sir," Liam replied, equally as enthusiastic. "This is my brother, Charlie."
Elijah turned and shook Charlie's hand, sharing the same wide grin in his direction, noticing the younger man looked worn and haggard, his eyes containing sheer exhaustion and pain.
"Now, what can I do you both for?" he enquired, gesturing for them to sit down in the chairs provided.
Liam looked at Charlie meaningfully.
"I've got a dilemma," Charlie began cautiously. "Well, not a dilemma per se. You see I survived a plane crash…"
"Oceanic 815?" Elijah recalled. "Yes, I heard about that. It's a miracle you all survived for as long as you did."
"Right. Well, I met this wonderful woman there. She was pregnant and ended up giving birth on the island. We fell in love and once we were rescued, we started a life together here in Australia. Her, me and the baby."
"Uh-huh, so far I'm following you," Elijah responded, nodding solemnly.
"She died not long after we were rescued," Charlie continued, his voice tightening with the pain accompanying that statement. "In a car crash, leaving me with the baby. His name is Aaron. He's got her eyes and her smile, and he's just the most gorgeous baby in the entire world. But a few days ago, the father of the child came to see me. I know for a fact Claire said he'd wanted nothing to do with his son about seven or eight months into the pregnancy, and he left her. He left them," he corrected himself. "And now he shows up, claiming to sue for custody unless I give him his son. And I don't know what to do."
"We were hoping to file for sole custody ourselves," Liam interjected. "Well, not me, but him. Is that possible?"
Elijah had been following this story with interest, his hands resting together on his desk as he began to process it all, his mind mapping out the possible routes they could go down should he agree to take the case.
"It's unusual, but not unheard of," he said slowly. "I've seen many cases of custody battles where someone who is not biologically related to the child in question win sole custody over the biological parent. Usually, however, you have to go down this long legal road of trying to prove what qualifies you for sole guardianship, or, in many cases, what makes the biological parent unfit to care for the child. Does the father display violent tendencies?"
"Um…no, not that I know of," Charlie said, looking bewildered by the question.
"Is he an alcoholic? Does he have an addiction or mental illness which might affect the way he would raise his child, if given sole custody?" Elijah pursued.
"No… I don't think so," Charlie replied, flustered. "Look, I only met the guy once! Other than being a prick, I don't think he has any violent tendencies, or addictions."
"I know you won't want to hear this, Mr Pace," Elijah said slowly, leaning back in his chair. "But any reasonably impartial judge will not look twice at your case. They'll automatically issue custody to the biological father. Have you got anything that might give a judge reason to hear your side of the story? Anything that might plant a seed of doubt? That's what we'll need if this case is to get through."
"Um, I know a few weeks before Claire's death, he was harassing her for custodial rights," Charlie recalled nervously.
"Okay, I can run with that," Elijah said, retrieving a notepad and jotting down notes. "We can check police records, see if any kind of harassment claim was ever filed. Anything else?"
"She seemed to be under the impression he was following her," Charlie listed.
"Under the impression?" Elijah shook his head. "It's not a phrase we who work in the law are particularly fond of, Mr Pace. Under the impression is a phrase which is enough to give even the most watertight of stories reason for extra scrutiny. Is this really all you have to go on?"
"Like I said," Charlie said, through gritted teeth. "I only met the guy once. But I just know he's no good. If Claire had wanted him to see his son, she would've done, and I would've had no right to interfere. But I'm trusting her judgement with this one."
Elijah looked sympathetically at him.
"I understand your plight, Mr Pace, really I do…" he began.
"Do you have kids?" Charlie interrupted, his eyes alight with a furious kind of pride.
"Two girls," Elijah replied, nodding.
"And if they weren't yours? Would you still feel the same way towards them?"
"Yes," Elijah said slowly, not sure where this was heading. "They're terrific girls."
"Aaron is this amazing little boy," Charlie ploughed on. "I know what foods he likes, and what he doesn't like. I know his favourite toy. I know he could watch Thomas the Tank Engine all day. I know his birthday – hell, I was there when he was born! – and I know just where he likes to be tickled. This other guy … he knows none of this. He has to have some other ulterior motive! I dunno…"
He slumped his head in his hands, feeling despair spread through him like wild fire. Alright, he might not have said it in as many words, but Elijah had basically implied there was no hope, that this case was an open-and-shut one.
In an effort to help, Liam decided to question the motives of the lawyer.
"I thought you took all sorts of cases, even the unusual ones," he questioned. "My brother really loves this little boy. Can't you think of any way we can win sole custody for him?"
"I only take cases I can find an angle from to win," Elijah said shortly. "I don't believe in taking cases just for the money, Mr Pace. I have to be sure I can deliver justice if an injustice has been caused. I feel for your brother, I really do, but I'm afraid knowing all about someone else's child isn't enough to win over the judge."
He stacked some papers he had lying on his desk, mostly as a way of avoiding the crushed look of his potential client.
"Although…" He looked hesitant. "I suppose we could try and use your character to try and wrangle a win. It's very rare where a court case is based solely around the individual client's character."
"So you'll take me on as a client?" Charlie asked hopefully.
"Yes," Elijah responded, having a feeling this wasn't going to be an easy case to handle. "But first, I need to know everything about you before I can proceed. That includes any criminal charges or anything else unusual, because you can bet your ass that the lawyer handling the father's case will search for anything they can hold against you."
Charlie shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
"You need to know everything?" he questioned, looking nervous, thinking about his criminal charges.
"Yes, because the lawyer representing this little boy's father's case will no doubt do a lot of digging on you, Mr Pace," Elijah said, jotting down the odd note on his pad. "In most cases, they usually check through police records, medical records, that sort of thing. We rarely have to go deeper. So, tell me everything – good and bad – about you, that way we can be prepared for it to come up in court. We can work out weeks beforehand how to make it sound positive."
"How can you do that?" Charlie enquired confused.
"If, say, you were an alcoholic, and you'd had various encounters with the police due to your addiction," Elijah explained patiently, "the lawyers prosecuting against you would immediately jump on that and use it as a reason to blacken your character, make you appear twisted and unbalanced. But, with good planning, the lawyer defending you – in this case, that would be me – could use that as a way of building up this determined side of you, by using your alcoholism as a way of proving how you'd tried to get back on the straight and narrow and succeeded."
"What about drugs?" Charlie countered.
"Well, it would depend entirely on the class of drugs," Elijah mused, folding his hands together as he leaned back in his chair. "If you were caught handling serious quantities of illicit substances, and received a jail sentence – which you'd, naturally have served – of, say, a year or above, then you'd find the judge less likely to sympathise with your plight. Ex-convicts, no matter how minor the crime, don't generally favour well in court, except in exceptional circumstances where the judge feels they've been dealt some sort of injustice. Then, and only then, would the criminal charges be overlooked."
"Oh…" Charlie folded back, looking unhappy. "Well, I appreciate you giving it to me straight, Mr Woodward."
"Have you been to prison?" Elijah enquired, looking at him hard.
"A couple of times," Charlie admitted. "Well, not really to prison prison. But I have been locked in a cell for a couple of days. Not exactly an environment I'm eager to return to, let's just leave it at that."
"Well, I can work with that," Elijah said smoothly. "But give me all the bad details of your life first, that way I can start working out a way of making sure if any of this does come out in court, we'll be prepared."
Charlie nodded, looking over at Liam who was remarkably quiet, his eyes attentive and focused.
"Okay," Charlie said quietly, exhaling loudly. "Let's start with my teenage years…"
After an excruciating first session with Elijah, Charlie came out of the office physically drained. Liam had remained behind to discuss the matter of payment, which left him to wander up to the receptionist, a young girl in her early twenties with stone grey eyes and a stretched smile that seemed to resemble plaster – one crack, and it would all crumble.
"I'd like to make another appointment for Tuesday," he said politely. "Preferably in the afternoon."
"Right," the woman drawled, looking bored. "I can pencil you in just after Mr Jefferson at 1p.m. That's 2 in the afternoon if you need to write it down…"
"No, thank you, my brain can sufficiently cope with having that tiny date stored away there," Charlie said lightly, his mouth itching to release something more bitter, something less PG and decorated in ugly, foul words.
"Right," the receptionist repeated, pencilling in the appointment before tapping something into her computer. "Right, that's you booked in, Mr Pace. Have a nice day and please do not hesitate to ring if you need to cancel or change your appointment."
He nodded curtly, before turning to exit the building as fast as he could. He leaned himself against the exterior of the building, breathing in and out as the panic began to settle in.
What the hell was he doing?
He hadn't counted on the fact that he would have to be judged on his character. True, he'd not known what to expect, but he hadn't expected his past crimes to catch up on him like this.
"So…how did the meetin' go?" someone drawled beside him.
Charlie nearly leapt about a foot into the air, his hand flying to his chest. He turned and saw Sawyer leaning against the wall, his arms folded, a cool expression on his face as if this was a perfectly normal thing to do.
"You must stop this," he near enough snarled.
"Stop what, chief?"
"Sneaking into my life like this." Charlie inhaled and exhaled slowly. "What are you doing here?"
"Showin' my support," Sawyer replied, grinning. "Not got any pom-poms or anythin' but…"
"Ha, ha, I'm crying with laughter," Charlie retorted, looking more close to the other extreme. "How did you know where to find me? There must be a dozen law firms scattered around the place, if not hundreds."
"You forget wha' I used to be. Who used to be," Sawyer reminded him. "I can dig up information on anyone."
"And you used your Southern charm no doubt," Charlie sighed.
"That too," Sawyer said, grinning. "So…how'd it go? Did he take on ya case?"
"Yes, but it's not that simple," Charlie informed him. "I had to tell him all my dirt. All of it. He said something about making sure he knew my past just in case the opposition – whatever you call it – managed to dig up dirt on me and used it against me."
"Makes sense," Sawyer said, nodding. "All that 'know thy enemy' crap certainly not a bad thing to use in situations like this."
"I could really use a cigarette," Charlie suddenly said, the urge random and quite out of place.
"Didn't know ya smoked, Watson."
"I don't." Charlie exhaled sharply. "God, I'm beginning to regret this. I have nothing on this guy. For all I know, he's perfectly nice and I just saw the dick side to him because that was what I wanted to see. I love Aaron too much to let him go, so maybe I kind of demonised his father in my own mind because I'm just desperate to find a reason to keep him."
"I wouldn't tell ya lawyer tha'," Sawyer said, looking alarmed. "Look, I don't really get all tha' law talk. Was never my scene. But what I do know, I learned from my uncle, an' he says the most important thing to do is keep up a confidence façade, so you look like ya know what ya talkin' about. The moment you let these nagging doubts interfere, the whole thing comes crashin' down."
Charlie looked at him appreciatively.
"Wow. That's actually really good advice, Sawyer. Thanks."
"Don't mention it – ever," Sawyer grunted. "I got my reasons for doin' all this, an' it ain't cause I got a soft spot for ya."
"Aw, shame," Charlie teased. "I thought we were building something special here. A kind of solidarity at least."
"The only kind of solidarity you'll be gettin' is my foot up your ass," Sawyer growled. "Let's cute the mushy crap, shall we? S'wearin' thin."
Charlie grinned, appreciating for the first time Sawyer's blunt honesty. He needed to hear the truth, even if it hurt like hell. He hated false hope, hated giving it. It was the same as lying in his book and, frankly, he just wanted this over. One way or the other.
He was lugging up the last few of the boxes when he saw her sitting on the double bed, her knees drawn to her chest, her expression a mixture of worry and misery. Aaron was at his grandmother's so they'd not had any distractions whilst they'd began the arduous process of moving, but that didn't look like the reason Claire was so unhappy.
"Claire?" he said, putting the box he was carrying slowly on the ground.
She looked at him, her eyes a picture of worry and distress. Instinctively, he walked over to her and sat down next to her, unsure whether she needed physical contact or not.
"What's wrong, luv?" he asked, opting to put a light hand on her shoulder.
"This. All of it," she confessed, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "It reminds me of when I was putting drapes up in my old apartment."
She gave him a meaningful look.
"That was when Thomas broke up with me. Said he couldn't go through the pregnancy even though he was the one who talked me into it."
"Oh…" Charlie said slowly. "And you're thinking history is gonna repeat itself?"
"Well, can you blame me?" she asked, spreading her hands out. "Charlie, before you I was determined not to let another man go near me. I was about two steps shy of becoming a nun! I didn't even want to keep Aaron until being on that island forced me to do just that. And I wouldn't have had it any other way." She paused for breath. "I guess I'm just waiting for something to go wrong now that we've come so far."
"Well, something in this place could fall apart," Claire listed. "Or maybe we don't make rent one month and we get kicked out. Or the worst one…" She gulped. "You deciding this isn't the life for you. You getting up and walking out of here and not looking back. You cutting me out of your life completely."
"Claire…" Charlie began, anxious to alleviate her fears.
"It scares the hell out of me, that idea," Claire informed him. "I've envisioned it in a million different ways, trying to mentally prepare myself for that scenario if it ever comes. Thomas left me. My father left me. The men in my life don't generally have a habit of sticking around."
She lowered her head, close to tears. Their dream was in tatters; she couldn't imagine him wanting to stick around to try and figure this mess out. But try as she did, she couldn't brace herself for the possibility he could walk out and leave her. It would break her, she just knew it.
Before she knew it, he'd shuffled closer to her, putting an arm around her and kissing the side of her head.
"That's silly," Charlie murmured against her ear. "Think about all I've done for you, Claire. I've done so many insane things for you, that just the idea of leaving you at the first sign of trouble is ridiculous. Do you remember what I promised you when we were at the caves after we got you back?"
Claire struggled to recall that dark period, not because she couldn't remember but because she was reluctant to remember the darker memories. She remembered Charlie staying with her all night, despite the fact she'd not remembered who he was, and even then had been astonished at the lengths he'd gone to try and help her.
"I said I'd never leave you," Charlie continued. "And I won't. Even if the worst happens, and we end up on the street, well, I'd try and make a home for us all the same. Somehow, I dunno, you've managed to change my entire world. All I ask from you is to trust me and not to doubt me. I'll get us through this and any other problem we come across."
She felt herself crying at the same time a wide smile dawned on her face. She leaned her head against his, resting a hand against his cheek.
"Thank you," was all she could weakly muster.
"We'll get through this together," Charlie whispered. "That was your saying I do believe?"
Claire let out a nervous titter.
"I think so," she giggled.
"And so we shall. If I had a glass, I'd raise it and give some soppy speech like the sap I am, but as we've not unpacked the plastic cups, let's just be thankful we have each other and dry our tears, alright?"
"Our tears?" Claire questioned.
"Yeah. I drove myself to tears with my own speech. Call it a gift…" Charlie bragged, earning him a playful punch on the arm from Claire.
"You're so cute when you try to be funny," she teased.
"Try?" Charlie had picked up on the key word. "I am made of utter hilarity."
She laughed at his expression. He laughed too, noticing her button nose always scrunched up when she laughed.
It was these habits which made Claire who she was.
It was these habits he would later miss with all his heart and soul.
"I'm only dragging out the inevitable here," Charlie realized gloomily, having resurfaced from the memories which had popped up out of nowhere. "I'm going to lose Aaron, and then return to whatever hole it was I'd crawled out of."
"Not necessarily," Sawyer reasoned. "Ya gotta at least believe ya have a chance. It's all about confidence…"
"No, it's not. It's about having a damn chance," Charlie snapped, pinching the ridge of his nose. "But maybe you're right. I've got to at least fight for him. He feels like my own son. I'd love it if he was. The fact that he's not due to some biological crap makes me so angry."
Sawyer couldn't really add anything at this point. Sensitive discussions were usually something he strived to avoid. He became cagey whenever he was dragged into one, and kept quiet, only uttering the odd sarcastic remark to keep up appearances. However, in this instances, he could kind of feel for Charlie. I mean, their lives all sucked one way or another – and he knew most of them, even if they wouldn't admit it, would've preferred to have stayed on the island, but to have everything you'd ever worked for to be taken away from you… well, it had to sting.
"So, what's ya next move?" he asked quietly.
"Bide my time," Charlie responded, looking worn and ragged. "This Mr Woodward guy suggests I try and dig for something that can prove this guy isn't worthy of being a father, without breaking the law obviously. But how can I do that? Lure him to my house and make him confess to a non-existent crime?" He shook his head. "I don't do crafty, or wily, or cunning. I can't be any of those things, not if I want to raise Aaron."
"You can't," Sawyer agreed, a smirk creeping across his features. "But I can."
Charlie raised his head, looking half hopeful and half wary.
"What do you mean?" he asked slowly.
"I'll try an' dig up some dirt on him," Sawyer clarified. "I mean, your lawyer doesn't know 'bout me – probably best – an' you clearly need help. I mean, look at ya…"
"So, I think ya need someone on ya side. We don't make a half bad team, ya know."
"Yes, 'cause the last thing we partnered up on turned out so well," Charlie muttered sarcastically.
"It worked, didn't it? We got the guns. An' if you hadn't grassed to Sun, we could've gotten away with it," Sawyer retorted.
"Yeah, well, even though I know you're the one to come to in situations where morality is thrown out the window, but I'd rather not do anything that'll put my case into jeopardy," Charlie muttered.
"I wouldn't do anythin' illegal. I'd jus' fish for information," Sawyer insisted. "I got people who owe me favours, so it's not like it's impossible."
"I dunno… I don't really even understand why you're even helping," Charlie admitted.
"Well, since I can sense an emotional discussion about a mile away, I'm jus' gonna assure you it's 'cause of Claire," Sawyer said gruffly. "I have no ulterior motive to screw you over, Charlie. If you don't believe anythin' else, believe that. We're not exactly dissimilar, you an' I."
"How'd you figure that one out?" Charlie asked quietly, amused.
"We both have done things we ain't proud of for one," Sawyer listed meaningfully. "An' we both have women we'd do anythin' for, but are lost to us, one way or another."
"You're talking about Kate?" Charlie realized.
"I never mentioned any names," Sawyer hastened to say. "My point is… Oh, screw it. Let's jus' say I have a soft spot for whining twerps like you."
Charlie rolled his eyes, but grinned.
Coming from Sawyer, that was the closest to a compliment he was ever going to get – and it didn't even sound like a compliment, more like an observation.
A/n: Sorry for not updating in forever, but this is where it gets tricky. I know next to nothing about the law. So I'll have to do some research which sucks lol. If anyone can give me any pointers, just PM me because I have no idea where to even start lol, but I'll give it a crack. Thanks for all the reviews. They really keep me going!