Chapter 2: Capture and trial

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 74

She saw the flash as she heard the gun go off. She shrieked, waiting for the pain, but there was none. She looked up at him, crying, her body shaking.

“Blanks.” He said casually. “I’m all talk.” He threw the gun into a corner “As I said several times, the threat is usually enough to get people to do what you want. Even if I had the real things, I wouldn’t have shot you or random people on the street, or blown up half the school. I’m not a cruel man. I just wanted the money. Yes, I was willing to stoop to some below the belt threats, but as long as no one called my bluff I had nothing to worry about.

“It’s not safe to go back to that garage now, but tomorrow I’ll leave in the morning. I’ll have to tie you up to the bed again. I’ll tell someone where you are, and you’ll be freed.

“As for me, I’ll go to Hawaii, or Paris, or London. Really, it doesn’t matter where I go, as long as I get out of here. Get away from this crummy life.”

“Well, since you mocked my desire to see my family, I guess that means you don’t like your family.” Her voice was shaky, not quite over the scare he had given her.

“Quite true. To them I am the useless black sheep. I was an accident to begin with. So, they want me gone? Well, I’ll be happy to go. Maybe I’ll play the rich guy. Or the intellectual. I’ll be a complete unknown, and I’ll be able to start my new life without the stench of failure following me around.”

“Do you really think that’s all it takes?”

“What do you mean?”

“Even if your body leaves here, your mind will still be the same. Unless you change your way of thinking it won’t make a difference.”

“Maybe so, but getting away from them permanently is a great first step.”

The next few hours were awkward, to say the least. With no other company or things to do the only outlet she had was talking to him. And she didn’t particularly want to divulge any information about herself. Same with him. He didn’t want to give up any details freely, either. He was happy enough to trash his family, though. From the way he talked about them, it seemed it was like taking Cinderella’s family, adding a few more siblings, a dad, and make the abuse one hundred times worse, and that was about equal to how terrible they all were. She didn’t know if they were really that bad, but…it only seemed to make her think more fondly of the good relationship she had with her own parents and siblings.

Fortunately there was some canned food and water bottles for when their bodily needs started making themselves known.

When it started getting dark he told her to go to bed. He didn’t even tie her up or anything like before. There was absolutely nothing to stop her from leaving. Except…her life was still in danger that way. Even if he couldn’t shoot her, he could still chase after her and hurt her.

She found herself wondering about this man. ‘Bruce.’ He says. ‘More than likely a fake name. But what is the real side of him? The nasty man he first presented to me, or the jilted and put down guy? Still, no matter what else may have gone on, this guy really isn’t playing for keeps. He didn’t have a real bomb. His gun only has blanks. He didn’t kill that man he carjacked. He says he won’t kill me either. He doesn’t seem like he’s made to be a criminal. He’s not taking any steps to covering his tracks. Either he’s dumb or just overly confident he’ll be out of reach by the time the cops collect enough evidence to convict him.

‘It doesn’t negate the impact of all he’s done, or make him a good person by any means, but he doesn’t seem like a bad guy under the surface. Well, let’s see what happens tomorrow. If he let one person go…’ She yawned. ‘He’ll probably let me go, too.’ Holding on to that hope she fell into a deep sleep, dreaming of being reunited with her beloved family.

She was awoken at some point by a piercing noise. She ran into the main room and saw ‘Bruce’ sitting in the chair he had occupied the night before, his head down.

“We have guests.” He said humorlessly, though with a wry smile. He looked up at her and said simply, “You?”

She had gotten her senses back enough to realize that the noises were police sirens. She looked out the window and saw the place was surrounded with police cars and swat teams.

“No.” She said to him. “I’m not responsible for this. I trusted you enough that you were going to release me in a little while. I wouldn’t want to risk this.”

“I see. So that money did have a tracer on it somewhere, or that guy we carjacked reported the car and someone saw us turn off here. Oh, well. I suppose the how doesn’t matter now, even if it was your fault.”

“So…” She hesitated, not wanting to know what kind of reckless, outlandish plan he would come up with next. “What now?”

He flicked his fingers dismissively. “Your work is done. Go on. Get out of here.”

“What?”

“There’s no escaping this now. The car is blocked off with police vehicles. Even if I threaten your life now, it won’t make a difference. They’re not going to let me escape a second time.”

“So you’re giving up?” She asked.

“Even further than that. I don’t need any more complications. I have one last plan, but I can’t put it into place until I know you’re safe. I did promise to send you back today no matter what.”

She saw him pull the gun out. “What are you planning to do with that? You already showed me last night it was full of blanks and told me you were all talk even if there had been real bullets in it.”

“Yes…” He said dully. “But, like I also said, the threat is usually good enough to get people to do what you want. Now…leave.”

She understood what he was going to do. “Suicide by cop? You’re going to act like you want to go out shooting so they’ll take you down right here. Is going to jail really that scary an alternative? Huh, Bruce?”

“It’s Frank. Frank Miller. No point in hiding it now. Either way it goes telling you that won’t change a thing now. Now get out of here. Don’t make me keep telling you over and over.”

She slowly turned around, walking toward the exit. “Jessica!” Frank called out.

She looked over at him. “For what it’s worth…I really am sorry.” She could have sworn she saw a tear come down his cheek before he put his head back down.

She continued walking, each step seeming to take an eternity, the door to freedom seeming impossibly far away. She reached it at last, putting her hand on the handle. But…something was holding her here. She looked back towards Frank, then back towards the door. She wanted to escape. She wanted this to end! But…but…

She turned back around and walked back to him. “Frank!”

“Are you still here? Don’t you have a loving family waiting for you?”

“I don’t want to see you go out like this.”

“What do you care? You hate me, don’t you? So just sit back and watch the show.”

“No, I don’t hate you. I don’t like you, but I don’t want things to end this way.

“You ask me why I care? You remember what you said to me right near the beginning? You said if I ran away that you’d kill some random person to punish me, and let my cowardice rest on my conscience for the rest of my life. That is no different than what is going on right here. You’re straight up telling me that since things didn’t go the way you wanted that you’re going to throw your life away. I could just leave and let you have it your way, but I want to at least feel like I’ve done all I can to save you.”

“Save me? After all I’ve put you through?”

“Don’t get the wrong idea. I don’t care for you, but you’re not an irredeemable man. You didn’t take many chances to jump down a path to no return, but you didn’t. You could turn yourself in, and change your life. Doing what you’re thinking isn’t going to help anything. All you’re doing is giving up as usual. Do you really want your life to end here, proving your family right? If you die here all you will have accomplished is dying a cowardly loser. Death is the only true ending. So long as you’re alive there are always other paths you can take. Don’t take this short path. If you really mean it when you said you’re sorry, than I really mean it when I say that I don’t want you to die. I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to hear it. Take this opportunity to learn a new way to live your life. Don’t make your last recognition simply page five in a newspaper.

“Make a true new start. Not by running away from your problems, but by facing them head on. If you could get your families words out of your head and start living for yourself, than I believe that you have a lot of potential to do something great with your life.”

At her last sentence Frank finally looked up. “Potential? Potential…to do something great? With…my life?” He spoke as if a child, the look in his eyes changing, wondrous incredulity in his voice. “I think…I think that is the first time in my life that someone has said something like that to me. It may seem silly, but I think that it’s something I’ve always wanted someone to say to me.

Potential…” He let the word hang in the air. “Even with my miserable life I might be able to do something good for the people.”

“Come on.” She said. “Let’ s bring all this to an end.”

“Yes. I’ll need to use you again for a minute.”

“I understand.”

The pair exited the cabin to a line of policemen, all aiming their guns in his direction. Frank had his own gun to Jessica’s head, and she was holding the bags of money.

They walked down the steps, moving to a small open space between the cabin and the blockade.

She showed them the contents of the bags, then dropped them on the ground. They walked sideways away from the bags. “Don’t shoot!” She cried out to the cops as Frank whispered something in her ear.

Slowly, Frank lifted the gun so it pointed in to the air. Kneeling, going very slowly, he gently put the gun on the ground as well, once more walking a short distance away.

“He wants a pair of handcuffs.” She yelled out over the sirens.

Near her feet came the sound of clinking metal. She picked them up, putting them on one of his wrists. Frank turned so his hands were behind his back. “Go on.” He told her. “Bring this episode to an end with your own hands.”

Something made her pause for a moment. Bring it to a close…with her own hands. Yes, it truly was ending now. No more driving all around, no more guns pointed at her, or fear and terror. As soon as this was done, it was the end. She could go home! She could see her family! The unreality of it all, that she would ever be free again…she grabbed the other handcuff and sealed it on Frank’s other wrist.

When she was done Frank first got on his knees, than laid on the ground entirely. At that point things became really blurry. She felt like she was in a dream…or just waking up from one. Cops ran up, some grabbing her and taking her to safety, the others taking Frank into custody.

She felt like she was floating as the officers half dragged her to a car. Things seemed so bright and shiny and full of color. She let out an overly giddy cackle. Her own laugh seemed so funny to her that it made her laugh harder, getting more and more hysterical until a sudden jolt of pain slapped her illusions away.

She at first was lost as to where she was, or why. Frank was nowhere to be seen. Only a few cops around her, and one man dressed differently. She tried to get up but the two officers by her sides held her down.

“Hello, Jessica. My name is Dr. James.” That explained why he was dressed differently from the rest. “Are you back with us now?”

“Huh? Back where? Who are you? Why are keeping me here?”

“I told you who I am. And you’re not being kept here. You just had a minor breakdown from nerves, and I want to be sure you’re not going to lose it again so it would be best if you stayed there and just took some deep breaths. You need to get oxygen to your brain and relax a bit. When you calm down, then we’ll take you to your family. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

“My…” She felt tears coming down her eyes. She had been having trouble keeping up with what was being said, but that one had come in loud and clear. “Yes! I want to see them!” She started breathing harder. “I want to…I want…I want t-to. F-family, yes. Please. I want, I want, I want-“ She was breathing too hard to finish her sentence, her breaths coming in short jerks, making her feel light-headed

“Jessica!” Dr. James said severely. “Stay with me here. Just listen to my voice and close your eyes. Breathe deeply in.” She tried as best she could to comply. “Breathe slowly out. Breathe in…breathe out…breathe in…breathe out.” There was always a three second gap between each breath, and she slowly got her mind under control by just following his directions.

After about five minutes he stopped talking, but she kept following the pattern he had outlined. After another five she felt like she was finally herself again. “Thank you.”

“No problem. Now, let me test if you’re truly back to your senses. What is your name?”

“Jessica Moreland.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-two.”

He asked her a series of questions that seemed painfully obvious, but she thought that that was the point. If she couldn’t answer questions like that, than she couldn’t be called fit to talk.

“Very good. I think that will do it. Now, I know you’re probably anxious to go home, but it would be best if you tell us everything that happened now, while it’s still fresh in your mind. It will only make it worse to drudge up those memories later. I’m sure you don’t want to ever have to recall these details more than you have to.”

She took another deep breath. One of the officers took out a tape recorder. She started from the beginning, telling the officers everything she could remember about her ordeal. All told it had only been two and a half days, but it felt like two and a half months.

When she finished she felt an incredible wave of fatigue come over her, leaving her feeling weak. “Please.” She begged, starting to cry again. “I need to go home. I don’t care anymore about anything else.”

“I understand. Thank you for your patience. I know this has been difficult for you, but it will come in very handy for the trial.”

‘Trial?’ She thought blankly. As an officer helped her into her car something distracted her from thoughts of her family. ‘Yes. The trial.’ She stood up, looking around.

“What’s wrong?”

“Where is that guy?”

“He should still be in one of the squad cars here. Why?”

“I need to talk with him for a second.”

“That wouldn’t be wise.”

“I don’t care! Please!”

The officer let out a sigh, and after a minute located the car Frank was in. He was sitting calmly, his eyes closed, but his face heavy.

“Frank.” She said quietly.

“Hmm? Oh, it’s you.” He said emotionlessly. “I don’t know what you’re expecting from me now. Can’t you just go home already? At least where you’re going you’re actually wanted.”

She thought she heard a touch of despair enter his voice. “Do you hate me now because I talked you into surrendering quietly?”

“Not at all. I think that was probably the first smart choice I’ve ever made. If anyone has the right to hatred here it’s you. Well, I guess at the least I can escape my family in jail, so this turn of events isn’t a total loss.”

“Was that really what all this was about? Couldn’t you have found some other way to accomplish that? If you had the foresight to have spare cars and make a fake bomb and to make an exchange near the school, than couldn’t you have used the brains you had to simply move out of town?”

“You’re right, of course. If I had met someone like you before this, they may have set me straight before I took this reckless course of action. Heh. Too late now for that, I guess.”

“So what now?”

“Well, I caused you enough trouble for one lifetime. When I’m askedI’ll just plead guilty. No need to drag things out. As you said…” He put on a sly smile. “I wasn’t very good at being a criminal, leaving witnesses and evidence behind. It would only be a matter of time before I was convicted anyway.”

Jessica felt she was finally seeing her kidnapper’s real self. She could never condone his actions, but she didn’t wish eternal damnation upon him either.

“So…that whole bit in the cabin about potential and doing great things…was that the truth, or were you just acting like I did?”

She hesitated for a few seconds, then said, “Half and half. I didn’t want things to end with a shootout, so I said what I had to, but at the same time there really is time to change your life around if you make the choice to let it happen.

“I didn’t want this to end here with your death, and I still don’t want it to end that way in the future, so I better not hear about you offing yourself. And if you’re gonna ask me again why I care it’s because, even if you have done a lot of bad things, your life is still a human life. Once it ends you lose all hope of redeeming yourself. And it’s true that you caused me enough terror and distress over the past few days, so don’t add to that by doing something stupid. I could spend the rest of my life whining and hating your guts, but I know that I will never move past this if I’m unable to let those kinds of feelings go.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to forgive you for what you did to me but, for what’s it worth, I wish you luck.”

He let out a quick laugh. “Still stupid. Still worrying about me, still hanging around instead of going to the place you really want to be. It’s a strange feeling for me. Well, let’s just say I understand.”

She felt she’d done all she could here, and walked with the cop back toward the car. The trip home seemed to both take forever and no time at all.

When they pulled up to her family house she found herself spellbound by her childhood home. With a little assistance from the two officers she walked to the door, knocking on it. When the door opened and she saw her mother she broke down into tears, throwing herself at her mother, sobbing her heart out, overjoyed.

Her mother quickly called out for the rest of the family, and they all come running as fast as they could. Her father and brother came over and joined the hug, and things just seemed so right. This warmth, this love, this atmosphere of home surrounding her…this couldn’t be a dream or an illusion. This was real. She had finally made it back.

“I love you so much!” She said to all of them.

“I love you too!” Came three other replies.

She broke off the hug at the sound of the twins, wanting to join in on the action. She kneeled down and picked them both up, hugging them to her. “I missed you, too. And I’ll be here for your birthday.” Her knees felt weak again. “Yes, I’ll be here.”

She looked over at her brother. “Why are you crying, George? You’re a tough guy, right?”

“I don’t care! I don’t care if I have to go back to a smaller room. I want you to come back home! I miss you, and I don’t want anything like this to happen again.”

“Come home. Yes. I think I would like to stay here for a while again. After all this, I want to spend more time with all of you while I still can. That’s the most important lesson I think I gained from this. That is, of course, if you’re okay with that, mom and dad?”

“Are you crazy?” Said her dad. “No one else laughs at my corny jokes like you do.”

“I would love to have you back as well.” Said her mom. “It’s not the same here anymore.”

As they all joined in another group hug for a moment her mind left her home, and Frank popped into her head. ‘If he had had a family like this…’ She stopped that train of thought. ‘No. No matter what his reasons, it doesn’t excuse what he did, no matter how horrible his family was. He didn’t have to take such dramatic measures. I pity him a bit, but that’s all I can give him.’ So thinking, she let her mind drift away from the chaos of the past few days, and back into her family.

Jessica didn’t make feel like discussing her abduction much with her family, and they didn’t ask much. Her parents only wanted to confirm that she had not been sexually abused, and when she told them she hadn’t been, they questioned no further. When they thought she wasn’t in earshot, she would hear them talking about Frank as if he was the devil himself.

She knew their comments weren’t completely unwarranted, but…sometimes even she didn’t know how she felt towards Frank. As he had said, a lot of his plans relied on empty bluffs to work. He wouldn’t have killed anyone. He let go the other person he abducted, and would have released her too once he felt it was safe. But, on the other side of it, it was the same kind of defensive argument that didn’t hold up to logic. That was like saying that a serial killer shouldn’t be punished as badly because he killed ten people, but he choose not to kill an eleventh. It didn’t negate in the slightest all of his previous acts. He may not have had real bullets in his gun, but it certainly felt real enough to her when he was waving it around, threatening to kill her. Especially that last time when he actually shot the gun directly at her just to demonstrate that they were blanks and not real.

She couldn’t force herself on either side of the divide, hovering somewhere in the middle. She couldn’t make herself just let go and forgive him for all he had put her through, but she couldn’t make herself hate him either. What really stuck out in her mind for a weak justification was his response at being told he might have potential and could make something of his life. It was completely different from the innocent faces of the twins, but that look of detached wide-eyed wonder when she had told him that stuck in her mind, like if he had heard someone say that to him before he would have found a much better way of getting away.

She tried her very best to empathize with him, not because she felt he was right, but because she was trying to understand him and why he chose the path he did. She tried to imagine her family being the complete opposite, everyone always fighting, her dad a drunk, slapping her mother. She imagined being constantly told she was hated and unwanted, that she would be better off dead, how her brother was a much better person than she could ever hope to be.

Thinking of her family in that way was very painful, and made her cry. Up ‘til that point, she could understand Frank’s feelings, and why he wanted so bad to get away. But, as always, when she came upon thoughts of her kidnapping she couldn’t find any sufficient grounds to approve of him. She could think of several other options than kidnapping for ransom. Things like simply moving out of town or moving in with a friend.

She went so far as to see, if she was in his situation, if she could cut off all other options but the one he took. She assumed he didn’t a job, or just a simple part-time one, that he had no friends or at least ones that would let him move in. If he was stuck in his family house being constantly put down, if he had had enough, and didn’t want to go on a homicidal rampage…she asked herself, “What then?”

Thinking of it that way made his choice just a little more believable, but still no more acceptable. At the least if he wanted to leave his family behind he could have claimed homelessness and gotten assistance through social services.

So that was that. What he had done was better in its own way than killing the rest of his family, but she had been able to think through a more peaceful alternative than what he had done, so he should have been able to as well.

A few weeks passed, and Jessica had been slowly readjusting to her normal life. She let her brother keep her old room. She was fine taking a smaller room if it meant she could be with her family.

Beneath the surface, no matter how much she tried to forget, was a pit of unease and destroyed security. It had all happened so quickly and easily. As Frank had told her, she had just been the unfortunate first one to walk by. It could have been anyone else that was taken that night, but it had been her. And there was absolutely nothing to stop it from happening again. She found herself sinking into depression whenever she was alone. Sleep was difficult for her because she kept half-expecting to wake up in a totally different location to some random stranger.

Just when it felt like her despair was about to reach a peak, her parents asked her for help in setting up the twin’s birthday party. With all the other thoughts that had been going through her head, she had nearly forgotten one of the main things she had been thinking of during her captivity. She threw herself wholly into the preparations, helping in making the cake, double checking the RSVP list, making sure there were enough tables, that bowls of chips and dip were filled. She found that concentrating fully on her task helped her to forget.

It was noon. The party didn’t start for another three hours, so she figured she should set them down for a nap so they’d be awake for the festivities.

“Emily. Marty.” She called out, seeing them crawling around in the kitchen.

The two of them looked toward her, both of them smiling and crying out, “Jess.” Their pure joy shone through her, helping her heart heal a little. She picked the two of them up.

“Come on, you two. I think it’s nap time.”

Now both of them were frowning. “No! No nap!”

“Stay ‘wake.”

“Okay, then.” She replied. “How about I read you a story?” She took them to their room. There were two cribs, but they mainly only used one, as the two liked to sleep together. Her mother had told her it was a comfort thing. If one of them woke up and was scared, there was someone right there they could hold.

She set them down on the floor while she picked out a few books. She presented them one at a time until they both agreed on one, then sat down with them in the rocking chair. The story they chose was the Three Little Pigs.

She tried to make up the voices for the characters, the two of them kicking and babbling. When she got to the Big Bad Wolf blowing down the pigs houses she would blow hard on them, making them laugh and copy her.

When she was done they asked her to read it again. When she finished it a second time they were settled in under her protective hold as she gently rocked back and forth. After a few more minutes and a few sleepy yawns, the two of them were out like a light.

She thought of putting them in their crib, but she didn’t want to stop her motions. She enjoyed feeling their warmth, hearing their soft breathing, totally relaxed, their world steady. She closed her eyes, holding tight to her brother and sister, feeling such love for the two of them.

She had only intended to rock them for a while longer, not wanting to let them go yet, but she found herself relaxing, a sense of peace and safety overtaking her. She found herself slowly drifting off, unable to fight it. And soon she was sound asleep, the world finally feeling right again.

She was woken up sometime later, blinking sleepily and fighting the gentle shaking, the voice calling her name. The heavy weight on her lap lifted, and she slowly was coming back to herself.

“Hey there, sleepy.” Said the voice of her father.

“Hi, Daddy.” She said as she yawned.

“Your face had such a look of serenity that I didn’t want to wake you, but the guests are starting to arrive. Of course, your mother had to take a picture. I’m sure she’ll show it to you later.”

She put her hands out, and he helped her up. “Oh, man. I was really out. I haven’t had a sleep that good in a while.”

Her father gave her a quick hug, “I know. So come on downstairs when you’re ready.”

She hugged him back. “I will. Thank you.” When he left she went to her room to get changed.

When she finished she went downstairs to join the festivities. The twins were wearing matching blue and pink party clothes, looking so cute.

More guests arrived, most of them with their own small kids.

Of course the twins, being so young, didn’t really understand about birthdays, but they did know they loved lots of attention, and so they certainly felt the party spirit. Sometimes when she would walk by they would breathe hard on her like the wolf, and crawl away giggling like mad and she’d get on her hands and knees chasing after them.

Because the main focus was on the twins, and most of the children were so young, the party itself was pretty simple. They were mostly left to their own devices, but there was a movie playing on the TV, which a few of the older ones sat down to watch.

Later on, they lit the candles, one blue and one pink, each with a number one on it. The frosting was the same way, but to give it more of a yin-yang feel the blue candle was in the pink frosting, and the pink candle in the blue frosting.

The light were shut off, and everyone sang the birthday song. When they were done Jessica told them to pretend they were a wolf, and blow out the candles, and they responded by huffing and puffing and blowing the candles out.

Jessica felt so glad that she had been able to see this, and without warning, before she could hold it back, her eyes filled with tears and she started sobbing. Everyone turned to look at her, someone hurrying to turn on the lights.

Her parents and brother came running over to see what was wrong.

“I’m sorry.” She said between breaths. “I’m just…I’m…” She turned around and just ran to her room, unable to speak further.

Of course they followed her as she bawled on her bed. Her father pulled her to a sitting position and put his arms around her. “What’s wrong, honey?”

She still couldn’t speak yet, so she just cried in his arms, her mother sitting down and joining in.

After a few minutes she wiped her eyes, saying again, “I’m sorry. I just…throughout that whole ordeal this was one of the few things I was scared of missing. I wanted to be here for this, and I am. I’m alive, and I want to keep being here for them.”

“It’s over now, sweetheart. It was all just a bad dream. You’re okay now.”

“Yeah.” She let out a heavy breath. “I’m okay. It’s over now.”

She knew that wasn’t the complete truth, and she got a reminder of that two weeks later. A policeman came to the house, asking to speak with her.

“Hello, Jessica. My name is officer Wilkins. I’m one of the men in charge of your case.”

Jessica felt a heavy feeling in her chest. “I don’t want any more reminders of what went on. I told them everything I knew as soon as I was freed. I have nothing else to say about it.”

“I understand. But this isn’t about needing testimony. This is about a personal choice you must make.”

“And what is that?”

“The man who kidnapped you, Frank Miller, has pled guilty to all counts against him, telling all.”

Jessica felt strange now. He had said that he was going to do that, but she didn’t know if he meant it. “Okay, so what about this choice?”

“Well, with his confession there is no need for a trial, but in two weeks is his sentencing hearing. Your presence is not mandatory, but it will be an opportunity for you to speak directly to your captor and the judge. What you say can help make sure he stays behind bars a long time. As I just said you are not required to be there, but I think that, even if you decide not to speak, that you should still be there to see the resolution.”

After giving her some paperwork and instructions about the day, time, and location of the hearing the officer wished her well and took his leave.

Even though she had no desire to think about that man or her abduction ever again, now she couldn’t stop thinking about it. Her parents offered no opinion, simply telling her this was a choice that only she could make.

She was completely split down the middle in her thoughts. Half of her wanted to just let things happen at their own pace, and have no involvement with the hearing. If he was going to be jailed anyway, than she didn’t need to be there. On the other hand, the other half of her firmly believed that she should go. She should speak and let her voice be heard, and truly bring things to an end in her mind.

She went back and forth several times, each day giving rise to one choice being better, the next day the other one seeming the more prudent.

Compounding her problems were her unclear feelings about Frank himself. If she did choose to go, would she utterly condemn him, and wish for the maximum possible sentence? Or would she still have that small bit of pity for him and his situation, and ask for a lesser sentence? She still couldn’t decide whether he could be considered a good person who had done bad things, or simply a bad person in general who just gracefully gave up when he realized he couldn’t escape.

Even up until the day of the hearing she couldn’t make up her mind about what to do. It came down to the wire, but she finally decided that she was going to at least go to the courthouse. That way she still had a little extra time to decide whether she was going to speak there or not.

Her brother and the twins were left with a next door neighbor. Her brother complained that at least HE should be allowed to go, as he wanted to see the scum who had kidnapped her. In the most sincere tone she said simply, “I don’t want you to see what goes on there. It’s going to be a very emotional time, and I don’t want to add any more stress to you or mom and dad. You can come if you like, but it would make things a lot easier for me if you would just stay here.”

It was quiet for a while, George with a big contemplating frown on his face, but finally he gave in. “Fine! Just give it to that guy good for me, huh?”

She rubbed his head. “Thank you, George.”

When the three arrived at the courthouse they asked for the room where the hearing was to be held.

There was still a little time before it all began, but as she entered she saw there weren’t many people there. There were some of the people who worked there, a group of five people, and a smaller group of two.

The smaller group, a man and a woman, gave her a quick look, then returned to their conversation.

The bigger group seemed more interested in her. There was a man and a woman, looking over twice her age. There were also two girls who looked like twins, and a man. These three all looked to be closer to her age, albeit a little older.

“Would you be Jessica, then?” Asked the older woman.

She couldn’t be certain, but Jessica assumed that this was Frank’s family. “Yes, I am.”

“I thought so. Nice to meet you.”

“And would you be relatives of Frank?”

“Most unfortunately. That ungrateful son of ours has caused you quite a bit of trouble, I fear. I’m sure there’s nothing we can say to help, but let us apologize for our son’s behavior. Totally unmotivated and lazy, he certainly chose a, for lack of a better word, interesting way of trying to make some money and stop living off of our generosity. Lots of people can’t believe it, that he would go so far, but we certainly can. He always has to do choose the stupidest, worst ways of handling his problems. It’s been a media circus at our house. Honestly, we were just too nice for our own good. We should have thrown him out years ago. At least then, even if was still as much a good-for-nothing as he is now, he wouldn’t have to burden our family with this nonsense.”

“Nonsense?” Putting an edge in her voice she continued, “I’m so sorry my kidnapping was such an inconvenience to you.”

“Now, now. Don’t take that as a slight on you. I swear, that boy was the biggest mistake I ever made. At least now we won’t have to deal with him anymore. It’ll be a relief to you too, right? Let’s hope for the death penalty, huh?” She let out a fake laugh.

“Y…yes. Excuse me. I need a little time to prepare.”

“Of course.” Jessica sat down on the opposite side of the room from them. She felt anger swirling around her, intense anger, and she didn’t know why it was so powerful. All she knew was that that woman rubbed her the wrong way. Especially that last line about wanting the death penalty. It was no joke to her. Even if she didn’t like her son, to say such a thing, even jokingly, was reprehensible to her. And the way she talked, it seemed more like she was annoyed for the negative attention brought about by her son’s actions rather than out of any concern for the victim, her. They hadn’t even talked for more than two minutes, and Jessica already felt she disliked everything about her. None of the rest of the family had said anything to her, but they certainly didn’t speak up at all in Frank’s defense. Even if he had done wrong, aren’t families supposed to stick together in these situations? Beneath the surface, part of her started agreeing a little more with Frank’s choice.

Jessica was still seething when the judge came in. After that Frank was brought in. He was wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, his hands handcuffed in front of him. Jessica felt mixed emotions about seeing the man again. She glanced over at Frank’s family, and she could see, thought they didn’t display it openly, nothing but contempt in their eyes.

The judge made his opening statements, talking about the crimes committed, the purpose of the hearing, and various other things relevant to the case, before asking if anyone would like to speak. The man of the couple in the back spoke up, saying he wanted to.

He came up, stating his name as John Zimmerman. He spoke of anger and disloyalty. Turns out that the car at the garage had belonged to John. John was furious that a person who he trusted as a friend and who he lent his car to while he was away for a week would betray him by making his car a crime scene and abducting an innocent woman.

The next to go up was Frank’s mother, Michelle Miller. She stated that she would be speaking for the family. In stark contrast to her earlier demeanor, she was now the picture of politeness and courtesy. She spoke in a grandmotherly voice, in a sickeningly sweet tone. She talked about her boy was simple a misguided person who took some wrong actions in his life. It was a beautifully deceptive speech, her lines seemingly nothing but praise and acceptance for her child, while at the same time subtly suggesting that he should get the maximum possible sentence.

If before Jessica wasn’t sure of her feelings on Michelle before, she was definitely certain now. It made her feel sick to her stomach. How she could be so heartless to her own flesh and blood? It was like Michelle was a snake. Every sentence made her skin crawl and her stomach burn.

She knew what she wanted to do now. When Michelle sat back down with the rest of her family she took her own place at the podium. She gave her name, identifying herself as the victim of the kidnapping.

She spoke of her ordeal, being truthful of both sides of her divided thoughts and emotions. She in no way expressed any acceptance for his actions, but she tried to speak up for him as much as against him.

When she finished Frank was asked if had anything to say. He said that he was sorry, expressing regret for his reckless actions, and he accepted any punishment meted against him. Following that he added that he would like to make up for his crimes by helping out others, though he hadn’t yet decided how.

The judge called a thirty minute recess to deliberate. She just stayed in her seat during that time, a choice she quickly regretted. Though they were talking quietly, snatches of their words carried over to her, like, “…gonna fry.” “He’s finished.” “…won’t have to deal with him anymore.”

The more she heard, the more she seethed inside. She couldn’t even stand them for two hours. How must it have been like to stand them for over twenty years?

“Come get me when things start again.” She snapped to her parents as she left the room. If she didn’t leave she would start a ruckus.

She went to the bathroom, then sat outside the room, just concentrating on her breathing, trying to relax her mind.

A short while later her mom and dad came to get her. She sat down in her chair, and listened to what the judge’s decision was. “After due deliberation, and taking into account the relevant testimony, I hereby sentence you, Frank Miller, to a minimum of fifteen years with the possibility of parole. Even if you meant no physical harm to your victim, there is no doubt that the emotional scars will pain her for quite some time, even if she didn’t request a harsh sentence for you. A favorite saying for you seems to have been that the threat is good enough, and you’re quite right. The threat is good enough to net you a good long sentence to think about the uncaring acts you committed for the sake of your own selfish desires. If your words are indeed genuine, than take this time to reflect on how you can act for the benefit of others in the future, instead of focusing on yourself.”

“Yes, your Honor.” Replied Frank.

“That is all. Dismissed.”

Jessica thought to leave, but she found herself looking back towards Frank. She wavered, then made a decision. She walked up to him and the guard escorting him away.

“Frank!”

He turned to her with an odd expression. “You again? Can’t you ever be satisfied with how things turn out?”

“I meant what I said. I hope you can find your chance to use some of what you learned to help someone else in your life. You made a mess of things, but so long as you’re alive there is always an opportunity to improve yourself or others. If you stay alive and face responsibility for what you’ve done, if you make the best use of the gift of life…then I truly believe I’ll be able to forgive you.”

“Yes, yes. Everything seems so much clearer now than it was before. It might interest you to know that I did try and off myself.”

“What?” She asked angrily

“I had been thinking of what you had been telling me, and I felt…inspired. Then my family came to visit. I had brought shame upon the family. Everyone was asking questions. The summer home was off limits until the investigation was over. Blah blah blah. They trashed me so heavily that when they finally left I couldn’t hear your voice anymore.

“I felt so completely worthless that I made a noose of my blanket, tied it the bars, stood on the toilet, and let myself fall. That was supposed to be the end of me, but…

“As I was falling your words came back to me. My mind quickly changed. Now I wanted to live. But it was too late. I couldn’t free myself. I went into that state where everything seems like it stops to a snail’s pace. I was scared of hurting you again, and never being able to see the potential I had in me. I felt myself being choked, and just when I thought it was the end…rip. The blanket was made of a thin material, tearing off at the end.

“When I realized I was alive, that I could breathe, I felt a sense of fear and reality. I saw that I really didn’t want things to end that way. And since that time I’ve finally been able to drown out the voice of my family. I can’t say I’m proud of who I am right now, or what I chose to do, but it was more like I can see the person I can be in the future. I’ve been holding onto that image ever since, and it’s made me feel stronger. No matter what may come, or what anyone else says, I’ll survive and fight to make that image a reality.”

“I’m…happy to hear that. Just don’t stop that feeling, and I believe you’ll be fine.”

“Thank you for everything, Jessica. This is goodbye for now.”

“I…I…I guess I should thank you, too.”

Frank’s eyebrow rose. “Thank me. For what?”

“For making me appreciate my family more. For not killing me.”

“No need to thank me for that. Thank me for real when I someday truly change my life around.”

“I will.” She said after a second.

She walked away, feeling grateful for having talked things out.

As she went to leave she saw Frank’s family ask to speak to him too. The guard said he really had to take Frank away, but Michelle put on the sad mother act, asking how he could be so heartless as to not allow her to say goodbye. The guard sighed, and said, “Three minutes.”

Speaking quietly, she said, “Only fifteen years, huh? This countries judicial system needs to be more merciless to scum like you.”

The others quietly agreed.

“You put us through all this trouble, you worthless ungrateful dog!”

“A dog?” Said Frank, looking up into a corner of the room. Suddenly he burst into laughter.

Michelle gave him a sly smile. “Something amusing, convict?”

Frank wiped a tear from his eye. “Nothing you’d appreciate.”

“Try me. I’m fascinated to know how you can laugh even now.”

“Well, if you must know I’m fine with the analogy of being a dog. After all, if I’m a dog than as my mother you’ve just admitted that you’re a bitch!”

Frank ignored the gasps and outcry and harsh words following after him as he walked away, glad to have gotten in that one slight at his mom. He walked away the winner. He didn’t even hear what they were saying to him anymore. His mind was filled with one day being a person people could look up to. He didn’t know if he would ever succeed, but he would damn sure try his hardest. He would try harder than anything he had worked for in the past.

Potential.” He said to himself, determined to fulfill it.


Submitted: September 26, 2012

© Copyright 2021 naruto17. All rights reserved.

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