Author's Notes: Before you all panic, I have not forgotten about 'Born to Die'. It's just taking longer to get the next chapters out. There is much planning that goes into that story, and I thought that while you are all waiting that you would like something else to capture you minds.
This story is going to move a lot faster than 'Born to Die' and is going to be shorter, around ten chapters.
!WARNING!This story is going to have a very heavy presence of dog fighting, and animal cruelty. I do NOT condone the abuse of animals, but it is a factor in the plot-line and dog fighting is used as a means for illegal gambling, and sport.
Also, I have never stepped foot in a courtroom, other than the time I got married -yes my husband and I eloped- so I really am just going off of every law show that I have seen, to put some of the scenes together. Please understand that I have no knowledge of what really goes on inside a courtroom.
There are pictures up on my profile page of the new OC's.
There was something about being inside a courthouse that made Sofia Reagan feel like she had to watch her every move. Some part of her was afraid that she would do something illegal and be caught, thrown behind bars, and labeled a menace to society. There was such a presence in a place like this, which made her think about every action before she made it.
Readjusting her tan, knee length skirt as she sat on a wooden bench in the hall, waiting to be called into the courtroom, she couldn't help but observe the wide hallway. At every corner there were officers of the law, standing at their post, keeping an eye out to make sure that nothing happened to those who worked within the walls of the building. And also to keep order, should a defendant or protesters get rowdy or violent.
Lawyers and attorneys stood around, holding onto important stacks of files and paper work, waiting for their clients to meet with, to discuss whatever case they were involved in. Looking over to her own pile of paperwork, she was glad that she didn't have to deal with the amount of stress those stiff suites had to work under. She wasn't here as a prosecutor or even a defender, she wasn't involved in the case directly.
She was here as a professional witness.
She heard the creaking of heavy wooden doors open, and looked over to her right in time to see the bailiff walking out and approach her. Everything, from the way he stood and held himself, to the appearance of his crisp and spotless uniform, told her that he took his job very seriously. The hardened scowl on his face made it clear that he had seen everything there was to see inside a courtroom. Resting his aged hand on his sidearm, Sofia wondered for a brief moment if he had ever had to fire off his weapon within these very halls.
"They are ready for you, Doctor Reagan." He said in a strong voice.
"Thank you." Sofia replied with a smile, hoping that it would soften the larger man. She was sure that he didn't get very many smiles in his line of work. Gathering up her files she stood up from the bench, straightened her back, allowing her silk charcoal blouse to fall properly back into place, and followed him into the court room. Her black two inch heels clicked on the tiled floor, echoing in the courtroom as she entered.
She didn't look over to either side of the courtroom; rather she kept her eyes fixed on the older man at the front of the room, who sat behind a dark polished wooden bench. She wasn't going to lose her focus, she wasn't going to risk a look at the man who she was hoping would be locked away after today's trial.
With every case that she found herself a part of, Sofia tried to keep her emotions out of it, locking them away. Something that was difficult every time and something she failed to accomplish. It was so hard to not invest her whole self into the case that she found herself involved in. She was passionate about what she did, that it was second nature to her, and she had to force herself to pull back and keep an objective mind.
"Your Honor." She addressed Judge Marten as he leaned over his large desk. This wasn't the first time she had stepped foot in his courtroom, but that never stopped her stomach from twisting into nervous knots. Each time he would greet her the same way, with a slight nod of his graying head, and barely looking at her over the bifocals that rested low on his nose.
Judge Marten was a fair Judge in her eyes. He wasn't one to deal out harsh punishments just for the power trip, and he was one who truly wanted to hear both sides to every story. He wanted as much information on a case, and he made both sides work hard to prove their points.
With his slight nod, and wave of his hand, she walked up to the witness stand, placed all her files down, and then turned to the bailiff who was now standing in front of the witness box, holding out a black leather bound book that had 'The Holy Bible' written in a bold golden print. Reaching out she placed her right hand on the holy book, holding up her left and took the vow to tell the truth, and only the truth.
Once she was finished swearing in before the court and God, she pulled her skirt down a bit as she took her seat, making sure that she sat up as straight as she could, crossed her legs at her ankles in front of her, and awaited the first question.
As she waited for the prosecutor to approach her and start the questioning, she couldn't help herself as she looked over to the left side of the room where the defendant was sitting. What met her eyes made her skin crawl. The man who was trying to prove his innocence looked as though he could win a staring contest with the devil. His bitter cold, dark eyes held hers, and she knew that without a doubt, that he was a very dangerous man.
'Killer,' a voice screamed inside her head. 'Murderer,' it echoed.
His pressed black suit, more than likely a name brand, fit him as if it had been custom tailored. The thick gold chain that hung around his neck, added with the large gold, diamond encrusted rings on his hands, told her that he was used to getting what he wanted. Money was everything to this man.
If she hadn't known what he was involved in, she would have thought that he had a 'charming' look about him. It was easy to see that he was of Latino descent, his naturally sun kissed skin and dark hair that swept longer than most men would wear it, giving him the look of a pop singer that would have all the teeny-boppers falling over with a hormone overload.
But none of that mattered. She knew what he was hiding, knew the evil he was capable of.
Sofia watched as he grinned at her with his 'perfect' white smile, as he leaned back into the chair that he was sitting in. Her skin crawled as she felt his eyes wander over her body, as if he was appraising a show dog. The arrogance that was seeping off him in waves was sickening. She could see that he thought this case was a waste of time, and she was sure that he thought that he was going to walk out of this courthouse a free man.
"Please state your full name and occupation for the court." The Judge instructed her. Sofia pulled on all her inner strength and held her head high.
"Sofia Reagan, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine." Sofia answered. She was trying to use her best 'doctor' tone that she could, without coming off as to firm or harsh. She wasn't about to show any sign of weakness in front of the predator of a man who sat on the left side of the room. Men like him would latch onto any sign of vulnerability, twist it, and use it to their advantage.
"Mr. Mathews, your witness." The Judge said as he looked over to the prosecutor.
"Thank you, Your Honor." The young prosecutor addressed the Judge as he got up from his chair behind the desk that he was using to lay out all his paperwork. Stepping around the table, he took a moment to gather his thoughts, running a hand over his dark red tie and then closed his dark gray blazer, re-buttoning it.
"So you're a veterinarian?" The prosecutor asked, verifying her title.
"That is correct." She answered with a nod.
She watched as he walked forward, looking down as he did so. It was clear that he was trying to put into words what he was going to ask her, and all she could do was wait and answer him as best as she could. She had known going into this trial that this was one of Mr. Mathews first cases. He was fresh out of school, and his office had given him the chance to prove himself. She could only hope and pray that he was fully prepared for this trial.
Over the past few days that they had been working together, preparing and practicing for the case, she noted that he seemed to have the confidence that was needed. Now it was left to see if he could handle it when it came to the real deal.
"On May the Second, of this year, you were called out to assist the local police with rounding up of eight dogs, which had been beaten, and abused. Is that correct?"
"Yes, I was called out to look at the condition of eight dogs." She clarified for the court. "The local SPCA wasn't able to take the call directly, and I've worked with them many times in the past, and have a partnership with them. The local authorities know to call me if the SPCA is unable to assist."
Nodding his head, the prosecutor held onto his chin as he rested his elbow on his other arm that was crossed over his chest. "So this wasn't the first time that you have been called out to help, when animals are concerned, is it Dr. Reagan?"
"No." Sofia answered. She had been called out many times in the past, and she knew that there were more calls that would be made in the years to come.
"Tell the court what you saw once you got to the scene." He pushed as he continued to walk around.
"Upon arriving at the scene, the first thing that caught my attention was the pure filth that the dogs where living in. There where ten cages along the far side of the house, five on the ground, the other five placed on top. There wasn't any paneling between the top and bottom, so the urine and other waste had been allowed to fall from the top cages to those on the bottom." Sofia said as she looked around the court room. "Two of the eight dogs where loose from the cages, but where chained down by heavy duty towing chains."
"Towing chains?" The young man asked.
"Yes, the type of chains that are used to tow a car behind a tow truck." Sofia answered. It wasn't the first time that she had seen the use of the chains. It wasn't known for sure why they were used, but it was thought that the heavy chains could build up a dog's strength. It was a cruel form of conditioning and many times would result in the death of the dog. If the chain was too heavy for them, they wouldn't be able to walk around to ether eat, get water, or find cover from the heat.
"Are you a tow truck driver now Doctor?" The defender called out from beside his client. Both men had a disturbing smile.
"Your Honor, Please." Mr. Mathew spoke to the Judge, as he held out his hands.
"Mr. Gates, you will hold your words till it's your time to question the witness." Judge Marten said, looking at the defendant, who only held up his hands in surrender, nodding his head.
Looking over to the snaky man, she tried hard not to shiver as he grinned at her. She knew better then to fall into the trap that he was trying to bait.
"As I said," She restated, "two of the dogs were chained down, unable to seek cover from the harsh heat, nor did they have any water."
"And the other dogs, what about them?"
Reaching into one of the files she had with her, she brought out some photos. "Three of the dogs had their ears, and tails cut off, and two of those dogs had duck tape wrapped around their snouts." She handed the photos over to the Judge and watched as he looked them over, then sitting them on his desk.
"Go on." Judge Marten spoke to her.
"It was easy to see that they had been used as bait dogs. Their ears and tails had been removed to prevent the attack dog from latching onto them, and pulling. Their snouts taped shut so they couldn't fight back and injure the fighting dog."
"So you are saying, that in your professional opinion, that they had been used in dog fighting?" The Prosecutor asked.
"Yes." Sofia said with a nod, which only caused the other half of the court room to erupt into outrage.
"Objection!" The Defender called out as he jumped up from the chair that he had been sitting in. "There was no proof that my client had any part in any dog fighting! It's pure speculation!"
"Proof? The dogs are all the proof that is needed!" Sofia called out over the loud hum of the room. There was no denying that the dogs that she had seen where a part of a fighting ring. There had been bite marks and open wounds on all eight of the dogs. The three bait dogs, had all been near death, and had to be euthanized.
"Order! I will have order in my courthouse!" Judge Marten called out over the yelling, as he slammed down his gavel on his desk.
It took a few moments for the room to simmer down. Mr. Mathews, who was still standing, looked back over at Sofia and nodded to her. "No further questions, You Honor." He said, then turned and made his way back behind the table.
"Mr. Gates, your witness." The Judge said to the defender. Sofia watched as he stood, straightened out his suit and tie, then walked around the desk to approach her.
"Dr. Reagan, did you see the dogs fighting?" He asked in a calm voice, as he leaned into the witness stand. His closeness was unnerving, but she wasn't going to show that he was getting to her. It was all a game to him, and she never was one who liked losing to cheaters.
"Mr. Gates you will remove yourself from the witness stand. I won't warn you a second time." The Judge said in a strong voice. Sofia held her head high, and saw that the Bailiff had inched closer. She was sure that he would 'remove' Mr. Gates himself should the defender not heed the Judges warning.
Once the shady man backed up, placing his hands in his pockets, Sofia found her voice.
"No." Sofia said. It was the truth, and as much as she wanted to say something to make sure that this was an open and close case, she had taken a vow on the Holy Bible to speak only truth.
"So you don't know for sure that this so called 'dog fighting' took place." He stated with a smile.
"The dogs are all the evidence that you need." She said once again. "All three of the bait dogs, had been stolen.
They each had an ID chip that we scanned for in their necks. It's a well known fact that fighting rings will steal or kidnap family pets to use as bait, to train the fighting or attack dogs." She answered strongly. It was one of the hardest things that she had to deal with as a vet. Putting down family pets that had been taken from their loving homes and used in the blood sports was heart wrenching.
Those who were behind the fighting, who trained and bred the dogs to hate, starving and beating them till they craved blood, didn't want to deal with 'adopting' or 'buying' other dogs or pets that would only serve the purpose of being torn apart.
With a laugh, Mr. Gates turned to the Judge. "So at the most, my client is guilty of housing a few lost pets." He said looking back to Sofia with knowing grin. "There is nothing that can prove he had anything to do with the condition of them. Who is to say that he didn't even find them already in that poor condition, and was trying to help nurse them back to health?"
A sick feeling took hold of Sofia, the knots where long gone from her stomach and now there was a raging storm taking over. She knew, from past cases, that it was hard to prove anyone guilty of dog fighting. The blood sport was too guarded, and those who participated in it, were all part of other large organized crime unites. It was just like drugs or gun running, it was a source of income, and they would do whatever they could to protect it.
"I have no further questions." Mr. Gates said as he made his was back over to his client.
"Thank you Dr. Reagan." Judge Marten said as he wrote something down. It was his way of telling her that he had heard all he needed to from her and her part of the trial was now over. Picking up her files, she stood up and stepped down from the witness stand.
She didn't have to hang around to learn what the outcome of the trial would be. Mr. Gates and his client would win, like all the others before them. She had to wonder for a brief moment why she even bothered to keep coming into testify, it wasn't doing anyone any good. There was no justice. She had hoped that Mr. Mathews would have more to throw at them, but it looked like he had been relying on her testimony to seal the case. Something that he would learn from, and hopefully not do again, but it didn't change the likely outcome this time around.
At the end of the day a man would walk free, planning on how to get a hold of another dog to train and prep. All the while she was left to deal with the mess left behind. She would be the one who would be working with the dogs who weren't put down, hoping that they would improve and show signs of recovery. The knowing that most families wouldn't ever look at them due to their scares, missing ears, or tail, was painful for her. They wouldn't get to know what living with a loving family would be like, people didn't adopted damaged pets.
She was about to pass both the prosecutor and defender, when she heard the cat call from the man who was going to walk away from his crimes.
"Maybe you and I could get together later, and you can show me how to properly care for my animals?" He said with a smile that made Sofia want to vomit. She wasn't stupid, the lust and desire was clear to see in his eyes. He didn't even try to control his needs, thinking that he was entitled to whatever he wanted.
"Mr. Gates." The Judge called out, having heard what had been said. "You will keep your client under control. Next time I hear even a whisper come from that side of my courtroom, I will hold you both in contempt of court."
Relived to hear the Judge's voice, and his warning, Sofia turned and made her way out of the courtroom, wanting to get as far away as possible. Once outside, she slumped down on the same wooden bench that she had sat on before, and took a few deep breaths. She had known that it was a long shot to prove that he was behind the fighting, but she hoped that the prosecutor would do his job and press for something else, there was no way that they could let that man walk away without more than a slap on his hands.
Pulling herself together, she gathered all her things and made her way out of the courthouse. She didn't want to hang around, not wanting to run in to that man again. As far as she was concurred she wasn't ever going to have to worry about him again. Most like him in the past, up and move, finding a new place to open shop where there isn't as much heat on him. Knowing that there are going to be eyes watching him, waiting for him to make a mistake, she was positive that he would find a new town to build up his new fighting ring.
Walking outside she felt the heat of the day. It was only ten in the morning, the case trial having started at seven, and she knew that it was going to be another hot day. Making her way down the steps, she headed for the parking lot, and to her Jeep.
Opening the driver's side door, she leaned over and flopped all her files down on the side seat, and then reached into the back for her change of shoes.
She had never been one to dress up; she would rather wear her sneakers then high heels. She knew that the heels made her legs look even toner then they where, but they killed her feet. And she wasn't sure, but she would guess that men would rather deal with a happy woman, rather than one who was pissed off because her feet where killing her.
Even growing up she had always been a bit of a tomboy, choosing to wear jeans and a lose shirt rather than a skirt or dress. However she knew that at times like this, it was best to look the part, comfort would have to take a back seat.
Once her grey flats where slipped on her feet, Sofia dug into her bag for a hair tie. As much as she loved her long dirty blonde locks, they always found their way in her face while she was driving. It didn't matter if the AC was blowing, or the weather was nice enough for the top to come off her jeep, little strands of hair always found a way to bother her.
Finding a clip, she twisted her long hair and pinned it back, happy that she wasn't going to have to deal with fighting it on her way home.
Pulling herself into the black jeep, she reached over to close her door, when she saw the defendant walking out of the courthouse. He seemed to know where she was in the parking lot, glanced her way, and smiled at her. He was a free man, and she could see the proud, sickening arrogance rolling off of him even from a distance.
"One of these days," She said to herself, knowing that the man, who was shaking hands with his lawyer as they stood on the steps of the court house, couldn't hear her. "I hope you get bit." She breathed out as she pulled her door shut with a slam.
She wasn't one to wish harm on anyone, but she knew that the justice system failed, letting those who should be behind bars walk free, and those who had been misrepresented, trapped in the injustice. Life was not fair, she knew that. She just hoped that someday Jose Mendoza, the very man who was walking away as a free man, would end up in a dark alley and found himself having to face an evil darker than him.
'What goes around comes around.' Sofia thought as she placed the key in the ignition and turned it. Her jeep roared to life, and she didn't want to waste any more time then she already had. The day was still young, and she had a lot to mark off her 'to-do' list.
Authors Notes: Well this is it for the first chapter, let me know what you all think, and there is more to come soon!