Read Redress of Grievances Online

Authors: Brenda Adcock

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #General, #Legal, #Mystery & Detective

Redress of Grievances

Redress
of Grievances

Brenda
Adcock

Prologue

SHE
DROPPED TO her knees behind a row of bushes on the embankment overlooking
Interstate 20 near Dallas. Taking a deep breath, she watched the stream of vehicles
flow by. The cool night air ruffled her hair as it was swept upward by the
passing cars and trucks, and despite the wind, nervous sweat trickled down her
neck and into the hollow of her spine. She pressed the barrel of the rifle
against her cheek for a moment, savoring the feeling of the cold, smooth metal
against her skin. She was filled with a sense of comfort as her fingers gently
caressed the curves of the walnut stock. She felt as powerful as the sleek
weapon itself.

This
was a good place, affording her an unobstructed view of the west-bound lanes.
She glanced over her shoulder at her car parked in the shadows of the underpass
behind her. She shifted forward and lay on her stomach to observe the traffic a
few more minutes. Yes, this was a very good place, just far enough from the
city to be isolated and without the trashy gas stations and convenience stores
that seemed to be everywhere. She settled into a comfortable prone position,
wrapped the rifle sling around her left forearm, and positioned her elbows to
form a secure tripod, the rifle stock pressed firmly in the hollow of her
shoulder as she looked through the scope. Her finger tapped restlessly against
the trigger guard as she waited for the perfect target to come into view. She
ignored cars with a front seat passenger. Tonight the driver had to be a woman,
which seemed fitting considering how a woman had humiliated her only a few
hours earlier.

Oh,
there she is. Alone in that smart little sportster and superior looking in her
dark power suit; arrogantly talking to someone on her hands-free cell phone.
She closed her finger over the trigger and squeezed it steadily until the
bullet erupted from the barrel of the rifle, hitting its target no more than a
hundred yards away. As the windshield shattered, she smiled and felt the
tension that had been building inside begin to dissolve. You're not in control
now, are you, bitch? she thought.

She
saw the woman's panicked expression before rolling onto her back, hugging the
rifle against her chest. She lightly, lovingly stroked its length, waiting for
the climax. As she scanned the stars in the clear night sky she heard the sound
of metal screaming as the sports car careened into another vehicle. Her
breathing came more quickly with each sound. She smelled the scent of her own
arousal as it traveled through her body, reaching its peak at the unmistakable
sound of metal colliding with the concrete abutment of the nearby overpass. She
felt the final shudders of release course through her as vehicles began braking
to avoid the twisted wreckage.

When
her breathing began returning to normal, she loosened her grip on the only
lover she trusted to satisfy her. She sat up and scooted calmly down the
embankment toward her car. She didn't want or need to watch the activity around
the site. Even though some drivers had survived in the past, denying her the
revenge she sought, she was certain the woman in the power suit had not. She
laughed, knowing the next time could be even more satisfying.

Chapter
One

HARRIETT
MARKHAM GLANCED briefly at the legal pad in front of her before rising. Casting
a reassuring smile at the woman seated beside her, Harriett unbuttoned the
single button on her navy blue blazer and moved forward. As she reached the
jury box, she paused and removed her glasses, holding them loosely in one hand.
"Ladies and gentlemen, you are charged with an awesome responsibility in
judging the merits of this case," she began with a soft West Texas accent.
"You have listened attentively to the evidence presented by both Mr.
Davidson of the District Attorney's office and me, and we both appreciate the
time you have given up from your jobs and families to hear this case."

In
the midst of Harriett's closing remarks, the courtroom door opened, and a
well-dressed woman in her mid-fifties slipped into the room and took a seat in
the last row. She had heard Harriett Markham address juries many times in the
past. But this was the first time in eleven years. When she saw the glasses
Harriett held in her hand, she couldn't restrain a slight smile. Harriett's
prop, her security blanket, had remained unchanged.

"Mr.
Davidson has presented an admirable case on behalf of the State, and indeed, we
should all be disturbed when a person loses his or her life before God
intended. It isn't a part of the normal pattern of life for most of us. But
neither is being repeatedly beaten by a person who assures you he loves you
with each blow he delivers.

"The
State has presented the physical evidence to you, and the facts of this case
are not in dispute. Lawrence Bowers is dead. Carol Bowers shot him. Those are
facts. However, the difference between what the State believes and what I
believe is a matter of interpretation. My job has been to convince you that my
interpretation of the events leading to the untimely death of Lawrence Bowers
is the correct one.

"In
all cases like this, the burden of proof lies with the State. They must prove
to you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Carol Bowers killed her husband for no
other reason than that she wanted to. She thought about it, planned it, and
then executed Lawrence Bowers, a defenseless six foot three,
two-hundred-fifty-pound man."

Pausing
for effect and turning slightly toward the prosecutor, Harriett continued.
"Remember what you have heard during the last four days. Despite what Mr.
Davidson would have you believe, if you consider the testimony of witnesses
presented by the defense, you will find that the attorney for the People has
failed to meet his burden.

"Friends
of the deceased testified to his violent temper that intensified when fueled by
alcohol. Douglas Sanders testified that Mr. Bowers was, in fact, drunk and
disorderly before he was physically ejected from the Longhorn Tavern on the
evening of his death. Susan Castro and Dr. Hector Rivera have given testimony
as to numerous occasions when Mrs. Bowers arrived at either their home or
clinic for comfort or treatment due to injuries received at the hands of
Lawrence Bowers. We have presented physical evidence which documented a long
trail of abuse against Mrs. Bowers for at least five years."

Moving
slightly away from the jury, she leaned against the wooden railing surrounding
the court stenographer's desk and crossed her arms across her chest.

"I
know what you're thinking, ladies and gentlemen. Carol Bowers should have left
her husband five years ago, and I couldn't agree with you more. But she didn't.
She stayed, for reasons none of us will probably ever understand. Why does a
whipped dog stay with an abusive owner? Why do you stay at a job you hate? I
don't know the answers to those questions, either. But I'm not here to delve
into the psychology of abused wives, abused dogs, or abused workers. It isn't
your job to determine whether Carol Bowers was abused physically by her
husband. That fact is also undisputed. You're here to decide whether she had a
right to stop the abuse when she became afraid that failure on her part to
react this time could result in her own death. Would there be something worse
about this beating than the others? Perhaps not, but did Carol Bowers believe
Lawrence Bowers would kill her this time? Eventually, ladies and gentlemen,
even a whipped dog will turn on its master.

"The
evidence shows that Mr. Bowers was shot at extremely close range. There was
gunpowder residue on his clothing at the point of contact. But gunpowder
residue was also found on Mrs. Bowers' clothing at a place that would be
consistent with a weapon being discharged during a struggle. The prosecution is
not claiming that Mrs. Bowers lay in wait for her husband, and they concede she
had been an abused spouse. What Mr. Davidson expects you to believe is that
based on one or two punches or slaps, Mrs. Bowers had not yet reached the point
where deadly force for the protection of her own life was necessary. How many
punches or slaps would have been enough? Five? Ten? Twenty? I submit that once
you have been knocked unconscious, you are no longer capable of defending
yourself.

"Mr.
Davidson has presented a vast array of statistics dealing with spousal abuse
for you to digest. What those statistics have done is cloud the issue you are
considering. The prosecutor has attempted, in essence, to throw a handful of
feathers in the air, hoping a duck will fly out. The evidence and testimony do
not support any contention of premeditation. This is simply a case of
self-defense on Carol Bowers' part and nothing more. Lawrence Bowers is dead,
and that is regrettable. But I submit to you that Lawrence Bowers' own actions
were the proximate cause of his death. If Lawrence Bowers hadn't been in the
habit of drinking heavily and then beating his wife, he'd be alive today, and
you wouldn't be sitting in that jury box."

She
pushed herself away from the railing and slipped her glasses back on. Looking
into the eyes of each juror, Harriett concluded softly.

"The
simple truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that once you have considered all of the
evidence and the testimony of the witnesses, you have no choice but to return a
verdict of not guilty to the charges against Carol Bowers. Thank you."

She
returned to the seat next to her client and patted her hand as she sat back and
waited for the prosecutor to present his closing argument to the jury. In the
back of the courtroom, the woman left as quietly as she had entered.

NINETY
MINUTES LATER, Harriett walked through the beveled glass front door of Markham
and Lazslo. She had spent the early part of her career in a towering glass
office building and had hated the impersonal atmosphere. Eleven years earlier,
she had purchased an older home in Austin and spent six months refurbishing it
to house her new private legal practice. For the first few years, it had served
double duty as her office and home. But six years later, she had taken on a
partner, and that coupled with a steadily growing clientele, had finally forced
her to live elsewhere.

Waving
at her receptionist briefly, she continued past a small, homey waiting area and
down the carpeted hallway toward her office. Phyllis Schaeffer, her secretary
for the last eleven years, was at a large file cabinet near her desk. Harriett
opened her briefcase and dropped a thick manila folder on Phyllis's desk.
"Any messages, Phyllis?" she asked.

"A
couple," Phyllis answered over her shoulder. "Strike another blow for
the underdog?"

Harriett
glanced through her messages. "Hope so. By the way, I appreciate the
overtime you've put in on the Bowers case. Why don't you take off early, and
treat your husband to dinner on me? Put it on the office credit card, and I'll
authorize it."

"I
was just doing my job, Ms. Markham."

"Never
turn down free food, Phyllis. Nick in?"

"I
don't think he's back from lunch yet."

Harriett
performed the same ritual every time she won a case in court or felt confidant of
a win. Entering the bathroom that connected to her office, she looked in the
mirror and winked at herself. "Way to go, kiddo," she said to her
reflection in the mirror.

Following
the greeting to herself, she undressed, changing from the business suit, heels
and pantyhose she hated into comfortable gray slacks and a loose fitting black,
gray, and white striped man-tailored shirt. Rolling her shirtsleeves up, she
ran warm water in the sink and washed her face, removing most of the makeup she
had worn for court. She patted her face dry and reapplied only a thin line of
eyeliner and a light coating of lipstick before running a brush through her
hair. Gazing at herself in the mirror once again, she smiled. "Much
better."

There
were a number of advantages to having an office in a house, not the least of
which was the kitchen. A side door from her office led into a small kitchen
area with a well-stocked refrigerator. She rummaged around and a few minutes
later returned to her office with a sandwich and a glass of iced tea. Propping
her feet up on an overstuffed hassock, she leaned back on an early American
couch and bit into a delicious sandwich. She was relieved to have finally
reached closure on the Bowers case.

Her
thoughts and sandwich were interrupted by the buzz of her intercom. "Could
you pick up, Ms. Markham?" Phyllis asked.

Barefoot,
she dragged herself up from the couch and went to her desk. She placed her
sandwich on a piece of paper and finished swallowing her last bite as she sat
and picked up the sleek beige receiver. "What's up, Phyllis?" she
asked, looking longingly at her sandwich.

"You
have a visitor, Ms. Markham. She says she's an old friend."

"Does
she have a name?"

"Alexis
Dunne."

For
a moment, Harriett was speechless trying to imagine why her former lover would
be in Austin and wanting to see her. Memories flooded her mind, not all of them
pleasant.

"Ms.
Markham?"

"Uh,
I'm sorry, Phyllis. Could you ask Ms. Dunne to wait a few minutes and then show
her in?"

Replacing
the receiver on its cradle, she looked around her office but didn't know what
she was looking for. In what seemed more like a few seconds than a few minutes,
there was a knock at her office door.

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