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Authors: Irene Hannon

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BOOK: The Way Home
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Cal frowned. He should have chosen his words more carefully. Gram was one sharp lady herself. “I hardly know her, Gram,” he hedged.

“Hmm. Well, far as I can see, there's nothing wrong with giving a deserving person a break. The news will get out either way. Might as well be from her.”

She made it sound simple, Cal thought. And maybe it was. Maybe he was making way too much out of this. After all, he wasn't going to tell Amy anything. He just wanted to make sure she was in court to get the news when it did break. “Thanks, Gram.”

“For what?”

“For helping me decide what to do.”

“Well, it just seems like common sense to me. It's not like you're giving away a state secret.”

Cal chuckled. “True. Listen, tell Dad I said hi, okay?”

“Will do. And, Cal? Do one thing for me, would you?”

“What?”

“Work on those personal feelings. You never know where they might lead.”

“I'll give it some thought.”

“Don't think too much, son. You have a fine mind. But some things are best left to the heart.”

As Cal replaced the receiver a few moments later, he thought about his grandmother's advice. She might be right—but he wasn't sure he trusted his heart in this case. There were just too many odds stacked against a relationship between him and Amy. Yet, even as logic told him not to take the chance, his heart urged him to do otherwise.

Cal sighed. He didn't know which would triumph in the end, but he did know one thing. Ready or not, bad timing notwithstanding, incompatibilities aside, he had suddenly come face-to-face with an opportunity for romance. And he had a feeling that it was about to change his life forever.

Chapter Six

A
my glanced over at Cal. He'd only looked her way once since the afternoon court session began. But that one look, along with an undercurrent of tension in the courtroom, convinced her that something big was about to break.

As she studied his strong profile, she thought again about his unexpected call the night before. Though he'd complimented her on the Saint Vincent's story, it had been clear that his main purpose was to ensure that she would be in court today. Considering his impeccable integrity and “no comment” policy with the press, she suspected that he'd wrestled with the decision about whether to call her. The fact that he
had
made her feel…well, lots of things. And most of them didn't have a thing to do with the trial. Sure, her adrenaline was pumping, as it always did when she was covering a story that had potential for high drama. But the warm glow in her heart and the antic
ipatory tingle in her nerve endings had no connection to her job.

Knowing that Cal had come to respect and like her enough to stretch the limits of his ethics on her behalf made her feel very good—not to mention more than a little nervous. Although their relationship had started out rocky, and despite the fact that they were different in so many ways, she liked Cal Richards. A lot. Which wasn't wise, of course. Cal and she obviously weren't right for each other. And besides, she didn't have time for romance. She had a career to build, and that took every ounce of her energy and focus. She couldn't afford any distractions. And the assistant prosecuting attorney was a distraction with a capital
D.

“The prosecution would like to call Eldon Lewis to the stand.”

Amy refocused her attention on the courtroom proceedings. As she watched the older man make his way to the witness stand, she sensed that he was the reason Cal had called her. She leaned forward intently, watching as the man took the oath and sat down.

Cal walked over and smiled at the witness, who was clearly nervous.

“Mr. Lewis, would you please state your name and occupation for the court?” His stance was relaxed, his tone conversational, and Amy knew he was trying to put the man at ease.

“Eldon Lewis. I'm a janitor at the community college.”

“And what do you enjoy doing in your free time, Mr. Lewis?”

“I'm a big sports fan.”

“So you're familiar with the defendant in this case, Jamie Johnson?”

The man darted a quick glance at the sports star. “Yeah. He's a real good player.”

“I want you to think back to last September. Can you tell the court what you did on the night of September fourth?”

The man swallowed and nodded. “Me and my friend Hal went to the game. Jamie was playing that night. After the game, we stopped at the Watering Hole by the stadium to get a burger.”

“What time did you leave?”

“About one in the morning.”

“Can you tell us what you saw when you were leaving?”

“Well, I waited in front while my friend went to get the car. I have a bum leg, and it was acting up that night. I was kind of back in the shadows, and next thing I know, Jamie Johnson pulls up at the bar next door. A girl got out of his car, and they were laughing.” The man paused and shifted uncomfortably.

“Are you sure it was Jamie Johnson, Mr. Lewis?” Cal asked, his tone still conversational.

The man nodded emphatically. “Sure. He got out of the car to open her door, and the streetlight was shining right on his face. Then he kind of tripped on the curb, and he and the girl started laughing again. She called him ‘Jamie' when she said good-night, and she told him to drive careful because the last thing he needed was a drunk-driving charge.”

A murmur swept the courtroom, and the judge banged his gavel until order was restored.

Cal waited until the room was completely quiet before he spoke again. “Please continue, Mr. Lewis. What happened next?”

“After the girl went in, Jamie got back in the car and took off with his tires screeching. When he got to the corner there was a blinking red light, but he didn't stop. And that's when I saw the man in the middle of the crosswalk. Next thing I knew, Jamie hit him. Then he slammed into a streetlight.”

Once again, the courtroom erupted, and the judge banged more forcefully on his desk. “Order, order,” he barked.

When quiet was once more restored, Cal put his hands in his pockets and rested one foot on the elevated platform where Eldon Lewis sat. “What happened then, Mr. Lewis?”

“I just kind of stood there in shock. Then Jamie got out of the car, so I knew he was okay. A couple of other cars came by a minute or two later and stopped.”

“Did you report this to anyone?”

The man looked down and shook his head. “No. I—I didn't want to get involved, and other people had already stopped. So I knew someone would call the police.”

“Did you realize you were the only eyewitness?”

“No. Not until you folks told me.”

“Mr. Lewis, let me ask you one final question. Is there any doubt in your mind that the man you saw
on the night of September fourth was Jamie Johnson?”

“No, sir. It was him, all right.”

“Thank you, Mr. Lewis. No further questions at this time, Your Honor, but I'd like to reserve the right to recall this witness.”

The judge nodded. “Does the defense wish to question the witness?”

Jamie Johnson's lead attorney stood. It was obvious that the testimony of Cal's witness had taken the defense team off guard, and Johnson himself was clearly angry. “The defense would like to request an adjournment until Monday so that we can process this new information over the weekend, Your Honor.”

“Very well. We will reconvene at ten o'clock Monday morning. Court dismissed.”

Amy instantly rose and headed toward the door, pushing through the crowd, her cell phone in hand. She needed to alert the station to get ready for a live feed. Steve was waiting in front of the courthouse, and she intended to catch Johnson on tape as he exited. She also needed to review the notes she'd taken and organize her thoughts for her on-camera report.

Steve was off to one side of the courthouse as she exited, and he quickly joined her.

“What gives?”

“The prosecution came up with an eyewitness.”

Steve gave a low whistle. “Big news.”

“I think Johnson and his lawyers will come out the front. They aren't going to be expecting any of the TV stations to be here. I want to catch them off guard and see if we can get a comment.”

Steve hefted the camera to his shoulder. “I'm with you.”

Amy stepped to one side of the main door, her heart banging against her rib cage. She forced herself to take several long, deep breaths. Her lips and throat felt dry, and she wished she had a drink of water. But she didn't dare leave her post. Johnson could be along any minute. And, thanks to Cal, she would at last have her scoop.

 

By the time the pandemonium in the courtroom quieted and Cal finished conferring with his own team, Amy had disappeared. A quick, sweeping glance of the room confirmed her absence—as well as the chaos in the opposing camp. His gaze lingered for a moment on Jamie Johnson, who was one angry jock. His defense team was huddled around him, and it was clear their plans were in disarray for the moment. But Cal expected a quick recovery. They would reappear Monday with both barrels loaded, and he fully expected that they would do everything they could to discredit Eldon Lewis's testimony. Unfortunately, they might very well succeed. But he hoped that the man's sincere recount would ring true with some of the jurors, or at least plant enough doubt to stave off an acquittal on the involuntary manslaughter charge.

As Cal gathered up his papers and stuffed them into his briefcase, Bill Jackson leaned over. “I sense wrath in the opposing camp.”

Cal glanced again toward the defense team. “That's putting it mildly.”

“We certainly took them by surprise. I expect those guys will be putting in some long hours this weekend.”

Cal gave his colleague a brief, mirthless grin. “They'll be well compensated for it.”

“Too true. Say, speaking of long hours, did you notice that our favorite reporter was in the courtroom again today? Talk about a coup! She'll definitely have the scoop on this news.”

“Yeah.” Cal picked up his briefcase. He didn't want to discuss Amy with Bill. “And as for those long hours…see you tomorrow.”

Bill made a face. “I'll be glad when this is over, if for no other reason than I'll finally have my Saturdays back.”

“Until the next case comes along,” Cal reminded him with a wry grin as he turned to go.

As he strode out of the courtroom, he ignored the venomous looks hurled his way by Johnson. The man was clearly holding on to his control with great effort. In fact, in the absence of his lawyers, who were almost physically restraining him, Cal suspected Johnson would be punching someone out. Probably him. His seething anger was almost palpable.

As Cal stepped into the hall, he once again glanced around for Amy, but she was nowhere in sight. He supposed she was already on her way back to the station. The story would probably be in the top slot on the six o'clock news, and time would be of the essence in putting the piece together. Though he could understand her haste, he felt oddly disappointed by her absence. Which was not a good sign. Some
how, some way, he had to figure out a way to get over the attraction he felt for her. Problem was, he didn't have a clue how to go about it.

After detouring to drop some papers off in another part of the courthouse, Cal exited by a side door, glancing toward the main entrance as he stepped outside. The sight of Amy and the cameraman who had done the filming at Saint Vincent's brought him to an abrupt stop. She must be waiting for Johnson to come out, he realized with a frown. Considering the man's black mood, that might not be wise, he realized, suddenly switching directions. He needed to warn her to be prepared for the sports star's anger.

Amy was so focused on the door that she didn't even see him approach. But as he rapidly closed the distance between them, then paused a few feet away, Cal saw a great deal. He saw the slight tremor in her hand. He saw the pulse beating frantically in the hollow of her throat. He saw the way she nervously moistened her lips. He saw her swallow convulsively and take a deep breath. Most people would never notice those subtle signs of nervousness. But he did, which only caused his frown to deepen. Since when had he become something other than “most people,” he wondered? Since when had he become so attuned to her nuances?

Cal didn't know the answer to those questions. All he knew was that right now, Amy was doing something she didn't enjoy. And he suddenly recalled what she had told him that night in her apartment—that there were some parts of her job she didn't particu
larly like. This kind of confrontational reporting was obviously one of them. A big one.

As Cal once again started forward, the main door suddenly opened and Johnson burst through, followed by his attorneys. Amy stepped forward and held the microphone out.

“Mr. Johnson, would you like to comment on the latest development in your case?”

Startled, he stopped and turned to her, his face growing even more thunderous when he saw the camera. “What the—?” He muttered an oath and roughly knocked the microphone aside. The violence of the action made Amy momentarily lose her balance, and Johnson reached over and gripped her arm as she teetered. He stepped close, towering over her. “You are asking for big trouble, lady,” he said through clenched teeth, his face only inches from hers.

She stood her ground and stared up at him defiantly. “If you don't let go of my arm, you're going to be in even bigger trouble than you already are,” she said coldly.

It all happened so fast that Cal was momentarily stunned. He recovered at about the same time as Johnson's lawyers, who interceded before he could reach Amy.

“Come on, Jamie,” one said placatingly as he put his hand on the man's shoulder. “Let it go. Remember what we talked about inside.”

The sports star hesitated for a moment, then released Amy's arm, throwing in a shove for good measure. “Yeah. But stay out of my face, you hear me?”
he called over his shoulder as his lawyers hurried him away.

Steve lowered the camera from his shoulder and shook his head. “Man, that is one angry dude. You okay?”

Amy drew a deep breath and nodded. “Did you get all that on tape?”

Steve grinned and patted the camera. “It's recorded for posterity. Not to mention the six o'clock news.”

Amy managed a shaky smile. “Great. Listen, give me two minutes to go over my notes. Then we'll do a live feed.”

“Sure thing. I'll wait over on the bench.”

As he ambled off, Cal watched as Amy ran the palms of her hands down her slacks and closed her eyes. Though she'd stood her ground calmly and coolly with Johnson, the encounter had clearly been traumatic for her. At least clear to him, Cal amended. Yet she'd displayed an amazing degree of calm and bravado.

Cal knew that Amy considered these kinds of assignments a proving ground, a step toward the kind of reporting she really wanted to do, but watching her now, he wasn't sure the prize was worth the price. And strangely enough, he suddenly wished he could just give her her dream so she wouldn't have to deal with people like Johnson. But he knew that the best he could do was simply let her know someone cared.

“Amy?”

His voice was gentle, but she gasped and instinctively stepped back, her body tensing into a defensive posture as her eyelids flew open.

“Cal!” Her shoulders sagged and she tried to smile. “You startled me.”

“I'm sorry. I came out the side door just in time to witness your encounter with Johnson. Listen, I know you said you were okay, but are you sure?” he asked, his brow furrowed worriedly.

BOOK: The Way Home
11.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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