A/N: Apologies for the longer wait for this chapter, friends. I've got a lot going on right now, and I just got a bit behind. I hope you all will enjoy this chapter, though, and the next few that follow will be very emotional. Just a warning! XO-Chrmdpoet
Chapter Twenty: The Road to Justice
I pulled the wheelchair out of the trunk of the taxi before carefully helping Rachel out of the backseat and into the chair. After I paid the cabbie, I pushed Rachel up to the front door of the building and over to the side. I dropped the lock on the wheels before walking around and crouching down in front of her. We locked gazes as I laid my arms across her lap and laced my fingers through hers.
"Are you ready to do this?" I asked her softly, because I wasn't going to take her into that building unless she was really ready. If she needed me to sit here in the cold with her for a fucking hour or longer, I would do that. It didn't matter. All that mattered was that Rachel was okay and that we did anything and everything we could to keep her from falling back into the dark place, and I knew that if there was anything that could instantly send her tumbling back there, it was this—having to possibly see her attacker, hear his voice.
I'd told the detective that I would have Rachel into the station within the hour, not because I was trying to rush her, but because I wanted this shit to be over with. I didn't want to have think about the possibility of that bastard being out on the streets any longer, possibly stalking other girls, laughing about getting away with what he did to Rachel. I didn't want Rachel to have to think about that either. I didn't want her to have to worry that he might ever find her again. I didn't want her to have to worry at all. But most of all, I wanted justice, and Rachel deserved justice for the horror that that piece of shit put her through.
Rachel's deep, chocolate eyes were wide as she stared into me. She wasn't crying, which surprised me, because I figured she'd be a complete wreck by now, but honestly…she was sort of starting to freak me out. It was like she was in shock, because she hadn't said a single word since I'd shaken her awake after she passed out on me. She didn't say anything when I confirmed what she'd heard or when I told her that I was taking her into the station right then so that we could get everything over with. She just stared at me, and that's exactly what she continued to do as I waited for an answer that I was starting to think I wasn't actually going to get.
"We can wait if you're not ready," I whispered to her as I stroked her palms with my thumbs.
She seemed to finally come back to reality then as she shook her head quickly like she was trying to shake away her thoughts. "I'm scared," she told me quietly and my chest grew tight as the words escaped her in a whimper. Her bottom lip began to tremble, and the tears she'd been holding back began to build in her widened eyes.
"Me too," I told her honestly as I squeezed her hands, "but hey, maybe this will help. Maybe putting this guy away will help us both to move on."
Rachel took several short, shallow breaths as she stared into my eyes, and for a minute I was afraid that she might hyperventilate, but then her breathing evened out as she closed her eyes and squeezed my hands tightly. "Okay," she whispered as she opened her eyes and locked gazes with me again.
"Okay?" I reiterated, because I just wanted her to be sure.
She nodded and did her best to give me a small smile, which I instantly returned. I pulled myself up off the ground and leaned forward to press my lips gently to her forehead. "Okay then," I said as I unlocked her wheelchair. I ran a hand through her hair and squeezed her shoulder before I turned the chair and pushed her into the building, hoping with every cell in my body that today was the day we could put all of this to rest once and for all.
We were taken to the same interview room we'd been in the day Rachel gave her detailed account of the attack. Just being in there gave me chills, because every single time I glanced up at the two-way glass, my stomach just bottomed out. My mind would immediately flash back to that day, back to me spilling my stomach into a trashcan and banging on that fucking glass like my life depended on it as I listened to Rachel sob and stutter through the details of the worst experience of her life.
My fingers were laced through Rachel's and locked tightly, our joined hands resting in her lap as I sat beside her at the table and waited for the detective to come in. I didn't really have a clue what all Rachel had to actually do. Surely they wouldn't make her interact with the guy or see him face-to-face. The lady had mentioned a line-up, but I was pretty sure from all the TV shows I'd watched that that was done from behind a two-way glass much like the one that was currently making me nauseous with memories. Yeah, I watched a lot of Law & Order, the original and the SVU edition. I mean, hello…have you seen the lady cops on those shows? Damn. It was like a crime against all lesbian-kind to NOT watch that shit.
The door suddenly opened, knocking me from my thoughts, and Rachel squeezed my hand to the point of pain as the detective briskly entered. She smiled and shook both of our hands before dropping down into the chair on the other side of the table. "How are we feeling?" she asked as she placed a few files on the table.
"We're okay," I answered, because Rachel looked like she might blow chunks everywhere if she even attempted to open her mouth and speak. Her face was pale and her bottom lip was trembling again. I hated it. I just wanted to retreat back to the safe little world we'd been in earlier, back to the bed, back to the kissing, back to…just being us.
"Good," the detective said as she smiled at us. "So, let's get down to it, shall we?"
Rachel and I both nodded in answer, and I didn't know about her but I felt so freaking awkward and uncomfortable and freaked out and just everything in-between. It was one of those moments when though you know that you are actually an adult, you feel like a child, like your parents should be there taking care of whatever needed to be taken care of. I hated that feeling. I hated feeling small, but that's exactly how I felt in that moment, and if I felt small, then I couldn't even begin to imagine how Rachel felt.
"First of all, I want you both to know that this IS the guy. We caught him when we got a hit on your credit card, Rachel," she said as she focused all of her attention on Rachel. "He used it to book a room at a small motel just outside the city. We recovered a switchblade that was actually on his person. We've had it tested for DNA, and there were traces of blood found on the blade that were, in fact, a positive match for yours."
Holy shit. This was happening. This was really happening. They got the guy. I mean, they actually fucking got him. My heart was hammering in my chest like it was trying to get out and a million emotions all struck me at once. I was relieved, of course, and I was ecstatic that we were going to be able to put that piece of shit away like he deserved, but I was also furious. I just couldn't believe the audacity of the man—carrying around the knife he'd stabbed Rachel nearly to death with while casually using her credit card to book motel rooms. It was like he didn't have a care in the world, like he was almost cocky about it, and that just fucking set my teeth on edge.
"We had enough evidence with DNA found on the knife and the possession of the credit card to be granted a subpoena for his own DNA, and it was also a positive match for the seminal fluid from the rape kit," she continued, and my head was just spinning. I glanced over at Rachel and her face was still white as a sheet and her hand was gripping mine so tightly that my fingers had gone entirely numb.
"So, then why does she have to do this line-up or whatever?" I asked her, because it sounded to me like they had a damn slam dunk. Any jury or judge or whoever that let a guy off with that much evidence mounted against him would have to be a fucking clueless idiot.
"It's standard procedure whenever the victim has seen their attacker's face or distinctly heard his voice," the detective answered matter-of-factly. "We certainly shouldn't need the line-up identification to secure a conviction, but rape cases can be difficult. So, we live on the philosophy of the more solid your case is, the better, even if you have one piece of evidence that could win the case on its own. Think of it this way: the more evidence you stack against this guy, the less likely he will be able to claim anything other than guilt, not to mention the less likely that any judge or jury would deem him innocent."
"So, Rachel just has to identify this guy's voice, and then that will be the end of it?" I asked her.
"That's what we're hoping for," she said, nodding, "and as long as we're not dragged to court, then yes. That should be the end of it. We will be going for several different charges, all of them with potential for a large sentence if convicted, and we're hopeful, if not confident, that he will be convicted in full on all counts."
"Okay…um…" I mumbled, because my thoughts were on overload in the moment and I felt like I was in way over my head. It all seemed simple enough, but I didn't want anything to go wrong, just because I didn't know anything about what was going on. "Can I just have a minute? I need to make a call before we do this."
"Absolutely," she said, nodding to me again. "I'll be right outside, and you just let me know when you're ready."
"Okay, thanks," I told her.
As soon as she left the room, I pulled out my cell and speed-dialed Hiram. "Who are you calling?" Rachel asked me quietly, which made me jump because she hadn't really said a word until now and I wasn't expecting her to.
I squeezed her hand and said, "Your dad. I think maybe you should have a lawyer here or something. I just don't want anything to go wrong, okay?"
She nodded gently and whispered, "Thank you," just as the phone clicked in my ear and the familiar voice of Hiram Berry echoed through the line.
"Hiram Berry speaking," he said as he answered the call.
"Hiram, it's Santana."
"Santana! How are you, dear?" he asked me kindly, his voice full of affection which made my heart swell in my chest. "Is everything alright? How is Rachel?"
"Uh, I'm fine," I told him, my voice a little shaky. "We're fine, me and Rachel. It's just that, well…sorry to spring this on you, but it was kind of just sprung on us as well. They caught the guy…Rachel's attacker."
"Oh, sweet Barbra!" Hiram exclaimed as he gasped, and I couldn't help but smile a bit at that. "Are they positive they've got the right man?"
"Yes sir,"I answered. "There's a ton of evidence and DNA matches and stuff, but I need your help. Rachel and I are at the station right now, and they want her to do a voice line-up or whatever to see if she can identify the guy's voice to make the case even stronger, and I was just thinking that like…shouldn't she have a lawyer for that? I've watched a lot of Law & Order, and I'm like 99% sure there should be a lawyer present, right?"
"Yes, Santana, you are absolutely right," he told me, and I actually felt a little proud of myself in that moment. Hells yes, Law & Order, bitches. "There is obviously no chance of me making it up there soon enough, but I did connect with an old friend from law school while Leroy and I were in the city just after the attack. He assured me that he would cover the case for me if I was unable to be there. So, let me just give him a call, sweetheart, and see if he can make it in today. Tell Rachel that I love her so much, and that her father and I will call her later this evening. Okay?"
"Okay, thanks Hiram," I said sincerely, and then we hung up. I squeezed Rachel's hand as I sat my phone on the table and waited to hear back from her dad. She looked at me with so much emotion in her eyes, and I couldn't help myself. I leaned over and gently pressed my lips to hers. She sighed beautifully into the kiss before resting her forehead against mine and closing her eyes.
And we waited.
The guy that Hiram had called for us showed up about twenty minutes later. Apparently, he'd only just been down the street at the courthouse, so that was fortunate for us, because I really didn't want to be stuck at the station all day long. He seemed pretty nice, but I didn't like the way he kept looking at Rachel like she was going to break any second. I mean…sympathy was bearable at times, but pity just wasn't. Pity was like a fucking knife to the chest. It made you feel weak, like you had a giant tattoo across your forehead that read VICTIM. To me, it was one of the worst feelings, and I just hoped that Rachel hadn't even noticed it, that she was too distracted by everything that was happening to notice that stupid, sad look in his eyes.
The detective told me that I couldn't be in the room with Rachel when she made the identification, because apparently the guy's lawyer could try to say she was influenced or something. I was there, though, when she told Rachel exactly how it was going to go down. Apparently, she'd written down the words that Rachel had told her the guy said during the attack. She said that there would be five different men in the line-up and they would step forward one by one and say the line, and Rachel just had to point out which one sounded like the guy.
At first, I thought…well, that's simple enough, but then that day in the interview room came flooding back to me because I could vividly recall every fucking second of that torture, and I remembered the words that that sick fuck had said to her. If you try to scream again, I'll kill you. If you fight me, I'll kill you. If you try to run, I'll kill you. Got it? Dread filled my chest as those words played in my mind on repeat. How in the hell was Rachel going to be okay if she had to listen, again, to the guy who stabbed her and beat her and raped her say the very words he said to her right before he almost took her fucking life? How was she supposed to just bounce back from that? It was hard enough to have to go through something like that once, but to then have to relive it? Where was the justice in that?
I hugged Rachel before they took her in, and she clung to me a lot longer than I'd expected her to. I didn't mind, though. I would've given anything to have been able to go in the room with her. It was like I couldn't bear the thought of being separated from her, and I didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing, because I didn't want Rachel to think that I thought that she couldn't do anything without me; then again, Rachel wasn't acting much to the contrary, at least not in the month since the attack. I honestly didn't think it had to do with the attack, though. I mean, I knew that we needed each other. We needed each other for comfort and reassurance and that sense of safety that both of us seemed to have otherwise lost since the attack, but I really think it was mostly about my feelings for Rachel. It was about the way my heart sped up and slowed down at the same time whenever she looked at me or touched me or slept tucked into the bend of my body. It was about the way I loved her…the way I loved her like nothing else in the world mattered.
"I'll just be right here," I told her as I kissed her cheek, "waiting for you."
She nodded and I could already see the tears threatening to spill from her eyes as she took soft, panting breaths and forced herself to let go of my hands. They wheeled her away from me, and I plopped heavily down at the detective's desk where the lady told me I could wait, and less than five minutes later, I saw something that completely chilled the blood in my veins.
A shuffling sound caught my attention and I looked up to see a few detectives leading a line of five men toward the room opposite where Rachel was. It was the guys for the line-up, and my heart just plummeted into my stomach because all I could think in that moment was that one of those men was the guy who attacked Rachel, and he wasn't even thirty feet from me.