"How close were you to Ben Chase?" asks the lawyer, as he stands opposite William Dare, who is standing in the witness box.
"Quite close. We were partners in work for years and we would go to the bar after work together sometimes," William replies, looking as confident as ever.
"During those times working or at the bar, did Ben Chase ever seem violent towards you or anyone else?" the lawyer questions.
Will shakes his head. "No. Ben couldn't hurt a fly," Will says and I scoff. "I mean, at times he would have had to be rough with some suspects, but other than that, Ben seemed a genuine, nice guy."
"Did you ever see any interaction between Ben Chase and his niece, Annabeth Chase? If so, what was it like? How were they towards each other?"
"I've only seen a few interactions between them over the years and, to me, Ben came across as a doting uncle. He worshiped Annabeth. However, Annabeth always had a mysteriousness to her. She seemed to be analyzing people all the time. Ben did complain to me a few times that Annabeth was becoming troublesome. He would find alcohol hidden in her bedroom but he was really understanding, and would say that she was still grieving her father and the mother that didn't want her."
"'Mother that didn't want her.'"
To anyone else here, they're just a few words in a sentence. To me, it's a stab in the heart.
Angry tears threaten to flood my eyes but I refuse to allow this man the satisfaction of hurting me. I've been hurt too many times.
This is where it stops.
"Also," Will continues. "Ben allowed my daughter, Rachel, to stay with them while I went away. When I got back home, Rachel told me herself that Ben was kind and looked after her well. Rachel said, however, that Annabeth would say things to her. Things like, 'watch your back' and 'he's not as nice as he seems'. Rachel said that Annabeth would practically beg for attention."
I scowl as I hear what this man has to say.
'Beg for attention?'
All I wanted was for Ben to leave me alone.
"Can you go on to describe the day you found Ben Chase?" the lawyer asks.
"Yes. I remember it clearly. I was working a long shift, one that I usually shared with Ben. I noticed instantly that he didn't show, which was strange because Ben rarely had days off at all. I went on with my day, thinking he'd turn up late or he might phone in sick. However, he didn't turn up and he didn't phone in. I decided to go around to his place as soon as my shift ended. I knocked the door several times and no one answered. I looked through the window but I couldn't see Ben in the living room."
Will's face crumbles. He holds his head in his hands as emotion takes over him. He's a good actor - too good.
"I was going to leave. But, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something on the floor by the doorway of the kitchen. I knew what to do. I kicked the door down and ran inside to find Ben lying on the floor. I looked for a pulse but I couldn't find one. I instantly knew he had been stabbed as there was a wound in his chest, which was bleeding profusely. I called the police immediately and they arrived shortly after."
"What time did your shift end that day?" the lawyer asks.
"I believe it was 2.30pm," Will replies.
"The call you made to inform us of Ben's death was at 3.30pm. It took you an awful long time to report the incident, especially as you went to Ben Chase's home after your shift, which did end at 2.30pm that day. There is a one hour gap. That slot of time seems a little too long," the lawyer points out, his voice suspicious.
My breath catches as I realize that this could be a turning point. The lawyer has noticed something suspicious, that could possibly prove that Will is an evil bastard, just like my uncle was.
I watch closely for Will's reaction. The expression on his face is nearly none existent, but I notice the lines between his brows become more prominent as he frowns. I notice his right fist clench in anger.
"Did you leave Ben Chase's house between that time, William Dare?" asks the lawyer.
"No. Not at all. You must take into consideration that it is a ten minute drive to Ben's house from the station. I spent a long while knocking the door and once I got in I had to check for a pulse. I looked for signs that there may had been a commotion but there was nothing."
The lawyer walks back and forth as he considers what to say next. "Nothing? At all?" the lawyer questions.
"Nothing that caught my attention," Will replies.
"You're saying that you did not notice any items that could've been used as weapons on the scene?" the lawyer asks.
Will stares at the lawyer.
"There was nothing," he responds, his voice firm.
"How peculiar," the lawyer comments.
"Is there a problem?" the Judge asks the lawyer from his seat.
"Nothing, Your Honor. I have just noticed that the evidence we have conflicts with what our witness has to say. We found evidence that something had been used as a weapon."
I watch Will intently as the lawyer speaks. I know that there was something there. The belt.
"Annabeth Chase had wounds on her back that she said was inflicted by a leather belt. A medical examiner found traces of leather in the wounds, which proves that it was a leather belt that inflicted the injuries. However, there was no belt on the scene, which would lead us to believe that someone had taken it."
"There was no leather belt on the scene," Will says.
"I know... Because you're the one who took it. Why?"
"You're wrong," Will insists.
"Am I?" the lawyer asks. He turns to a prison officer. "Pull out 'Evidence Pack: 2', please."
I watch as the officer reveals a see-through, plastic bag... Which contains the brown, leather belt Ben had used to hurt me that day.
"W-where did you find that?" William Dare asks, his eyes wide and face pale.
"At your home. We expected to have to do a big search. However, the evidence was easy to find. For someone as smart and sly as you are, you are terrible at hiding evidence."
The lawyer turns to the Judge.
"That is all, Your Honor."
"Can we have William Dare escorted out and have our last witness, Rachel Dare, come in," the Judge orders and I find myself sitting up straighter as Rachel Elizabeth Dare is brought in and made to stand in the witness box.
I sit in a confused state for a while, wondering when the police had searched Will's house. I force myself to concentrate as Rachel is asked questions.
"Yourself and Annabeth Chase were said to be enemies, why was that?"
"My hate towards Annabeth was never real. I relate more to her than anyone else I know. I've been abused by my father, William Dare, for as long as I can remember but I didn't know about Annabeth's situation until high school when the rumors started. I was popular and Annabeth wasn't and I used my power to make sure everyone believed she was a liar. I did this so no one would believe that the very thing that was happening to Annabeth was happening to me."
"You didn't think to come to the police?" the lawyer asks.
"I wanted to, but he would threaten me, said he'd kill me if I told, that no one would believe me. I felt so useless. The only thing I could do was try to survive."
Rachel's teary, red eyes meet mine. "I will never forgive myself for adding to your pain, Annabeth. But I think you understand that in a situation like this, everything you do is for survival."
I direct a small nod her way and then lower my head as tears escape my eyes.
I am in shock. I truly believed that Rachel was intending on defending her father. I don't know what made her change her mind. I am just relieved that she did.
The hour's tick by and start to feel like year's as we wait for the verdict.
When the Judge walks into the room after what feels like forever and takes a seat, my whole body starts to shake.
I have never been more scared and nervous in this moment.
My stomach turns and I feel sick.
"Annabeth Chase," the Judge calls out. "Percy Jackson."
Percy and I both stand up. I have to force myself to gain composure as I wobble on my feet.
"This case has been long and hard but the verdict is finally in. At the beginning, the act inflicted against Ben Chase seemed to be cold-blooded murder. But as the case unravelled, we discovered that not everything was as it seemed. Annabeth Chase, you were brought up in a violent household by the only family member you had left. His job was to love and protect you, but your upbringing was void of that. I am sorry that Ben Chase is not here to take his punishment. Percy Jackson, you were the only person there for Annabeth when times were harder than ever. We are not saying the act committed against Ben Chase was good. However, evidence has been collected and we have come to the conclusion that you were performing in self-defense."
The Judge pauses.
I swallow hard.
I squeeze my eyes shut as I wait for the verdict.
"And, for that reason, Annabeth Chase and Percy Jackson has been found not guilty of killing Ben Chase."