Chapter 15: Giving testimony

Nick glanced at Brian, and was once again overwhelmed with a feeling of joy that he had such friends. They never doubted him for a minute. None of them had even for an instance believed that he could have raped that girl. He wished he felt the same way. He wished he could remember. He didnít think he could do something like that; even the thought of it sickened him. God, if something like that happened to anyone he knew, he loved.... If anyone touched any of his sisters that way he would rip them from limb to limb and damn the consequences. If only he hadnít drunk so much that night. If only he could remember...

"Hey Kev! Where you at?" Brianís shout echoed through the house.

They entered the kitchen where Nick pulled a bottle of water from the fridge. "It doesnít sound like heís here, B."

"Well where is he? He was supposed to meet us an hour ago. And where is Alexis?"

"Right behind you, loudmouth." Alexis walked into the kitchen, wiping sleep out of her eyes. She had moved to Orlando to be with Kevin a few months ago. Was being his rock through the whole mess. She didnít believe Nick was guilty either.

"Hey, did I wake you?"

"Gee Brian, youíre so bright," Nick laughed, then ducked as Brianís arms swung out in a playful swat.

"So where is my cuz?"

Alexis was surprised. "I thought youíd know."

"Hunh?"

"He was on the phone most of the afternoon, then tore out of here with his overnight bag. I figured he was off on group business. You mean you donít know where he went?" she asked.

"No clue. He didnít say anything?"

"Just that dinner tonight was off and heíd be back in a few days."

"If he went back to Kentucky, Iíd know by now," Brian mused. "Maybe Iíll just call home and see if everything is okay. Whereís the phone?"

She pointed to the side table.

"You know you go a message waiting?" Nick said, pointing to the flashing red light.

Alexis frowned. "I donít recall the phone ringing. Hit it Nick, maybe itís Kev," Alexis said as she sprawled tiredly in a chair.

Nick hit the button and the tape rewound. "Kevin? Are you there? Pick up. Kevin, come on..."

Alexis bolted upright. "Thatís Kat!"

"Are you sure," Brian asked excitedly.

"...Pick up the phone, Kevin. It's Kat...."

"Very sure," said Alexis.

The three stood stunned, listening to the tape play.

"I just found out about Nick. What is going on? This is ridiculous. He couldn't have done it. Kevin, please! Pick up the phone."

"Kat?"

Kevinís voice seemed to echo through the room, before the tape cut out.

"Nick, call Howie. Have him meet me at the airport," Brian said, taking charge.

"Iím going with you," Nick asserted, but Brian shook his head.

"You canít. You canít leave the States. If this doesnít work they could arrest you and hold you until the trial."

"But..."

"Nick, just call Howie. NOW!"

"Youíre sure heís gone to Toronto?" Alexis asked.

"Yeah," he said.

"Iím coming too." She rose to go and grab some clothes.

"No."

Brian and Alexis looked at Nick, surprised by his outburst. "No. I donít think so. Kevin didnít tell anyone where he was going. What if Kat only agreed to come forward if he kept quiet about it. She hasnít got any reason to trust us. I am surprised she still trusted Kevin enough to call him. You shouldnít go either Brian."

"But Howie..." Brian started.

"Howie goes. No question. But this may be my only chance to get this thing thrown out. If I stay, you stay." He turned his attention back to the phone.

"D? Sorry to wake you, but..."

 

Kat had arranged to meet with the lawyers first thing in the morning. 9 am. Which meant a frantic drive early. She swung around and picked up Lindsay at 6 a.m. The girl was disgustingly perky despite the early start and Kat tried hard not to hate her. Lindsayís dreams were coming true, while Katís were shattering.

She knew Kevin would be there, and trusted him enough to believe that he would come alone. But he was still going to be there, and he was still going to demand an explanation. She didnít know what AJ had said, but heíd obviously done as he had said he would and taken the blame for the whole thing. She hadnít expected that. She figured that he would be so pissed by her disappearing and leaving him in the lurch that heíd tell the truth about that night. Besides, she had assumed, AJ had always been so dedicated to Howie; he wouldnít risk losing that friendship by casting himself as the villain. But he had. Why?

As much as she hated to admit it to herself she had enjoyed being with him. The memory of their lovemaking was one of her more recurrent "bad" dreams. She knew she didnít love him in any way other than as a friend. But gods, she had wanted him that night! She still did.

That was what had caused her to run, and to keep running. She loved Howie. Wanted him. Needed him. But whenever she thought of the two of them together in bed, it was AJís body she saw. It was what they had done to each other that she wanted. She told herself it was just because she had slept with AJ and not with Howie. She just wasnít sure that was all it was.

The morning traffic was lighter than she had expected and they arrived at the lawyerís office early. It was a huge office; several floors of a huge downtown Bay street building. The reception was filled with clients and lawyers. Kat felt very out of place.

"If he doesnít come can we go shopping after?" Lindsay whispered, sounding even more nervous about where they were than Kat was. The two were sitting in the foyer, waiting to be escorted back to the conference room.

"I am positive heíll be here. But if I am wrong, youíre on. It's the least I could do for dragging you along."

"You are the party here to see Mr. Bondon?" a sleek woman asked as she stood over them.

Kat rose, and Lindsay hopped up hurriedly. The woman escorted them to a large room. Several obviously junior lawyers hovered in small group to the left of the doorway. On the right were two expensively dressed men.

"You must be Kat," the sandy blond man said. "Paul Bondon. I am representing Nickolas Carter. This is Michael Turner, the prosecutor. I asked him here today in hopes that your testimony will provide enough evidence to have this case thrown out of court."

The dark haired man smiled quickly at Kat and then cautioned the other man. "Letís wait and make a judgement call on that after we have heard what this lady has to say." He turned to Kat. "We will have a transcriber in here, taking notes. Right now weíd just like to go over that night as best you can remember it."

"That is what I am here for."

"Good," Bondon said smoothly. "Now I have a small group of people who are working with me on this case. They are just going to sit over there, behind you. Just ignore them as best you can."

"Just making sure that Nick gets his money worth, huh?" Kat didnít think much of this man. He struck her as everything that was a typical stereotype of the legal profession. "Fine. Let them stay."

"Did you want anything to drink? Coffee? Water? How about your little friend? Does she need anything? Should she even be in here? This is a confidential matter."

"Lindsay stays until I say she goes," Kat responded.

"I really must insistÖ" the lawyer then trailed off as he saw the look on Kat's face.

"Could we please get started?" Turner chimed in. "If youíll just take a seat there?"

Kat sat in the chair, in front of a microphone as the two lawyers assumed there positions, one on either side of the big table.

"Now..." Turner began, only to be interrupted by the opening of the door. Kat didnít turn. She didnít need to. the look of relief on Bondonís face, and the sharp squeal that Lindsay uttered told her who had walked in. She squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, willing herself strength before she turned and was enveloped in Kevinís arms.

"What took you so long, Kev? We were about to start."

He held her at arms length. "You knew I was coming?"

"Sorry to tell you, but you are very predictable," she chuckled lightly, wiping away a tear. "I missed you, Train," she said, hugging him close.

"Kat, you had us all scared to death," he said, squeezing her tightly in his arms and kissing her forehead. He stroked her hair back and looked at her. "Are you okay? You look terrible."

"I love you too, Kevin. Iím fine. Just had a little trouble sleeping last night."

"Excuse me," Turner interrupted. "It is a pleasure to see you again Mr. Richardson, but I really think we should get started."

"Just a sec." Kat turned to Lindsay. "See I was right. But I think Mr. Bondon is also right. Lindsay, maybe you should sit outside. Is that okay?"

The girl nodded her head, unable to tear her eyes away from Kevin. He did have that effect on people.

They took their seats, Kevin dragging a chair over to Katís and sitting there holding her hand for support.

"Let the record show that this deposition began at, umm, 9:27 am." Bondon started. "Could you please recount your memories of the night in question."

Kat slowly retold her memories of the night. She left out any mention of Howie or their relationship. Just admitting to being with the guys that night, and recalling what she could about what had happened until the time she had left the hotel. This was followed by endless questions, "just for clarification." She was feeling as tired as the rest of the room as this was going on. She could hear the chorus of junior lawyers shifting around in their seats, leaving and entering the room. It was hard to ignore them, but she did.

After about an hour, Bondon called a halt.

"Actually, I think I have several questions that I would like answered before this is over," Turner said, leaning forward. "You said that you were there that night, however, you obviously cut off ties with the group immediately after that nightÖ"

"That had nothing to do with this matter." Kat said firmly

"I think I should be the one who decides the relevance of that."

The moving about of the lawyers shifting around behind her was really starting to get on here nerves. Someone walked into the room and she was tempted to turn and glare at them. But she was determined to fight off this question.

"That had nothing to do with this matter." Kat repeated.

"I think you should answer the question," he insisted.

Her anxiety split over and she answered angrily, "why? Are you looking for a bit of titillation? Something you can sell to the tabloids? I grew apart from the Boys for other reasons. There was nothing that Nick did that caused it. Next question."

"I must insistÖ"

Kevin glared at Bondon, shaking his head slightly. The lawyer cleared his throat, "She has answered the question, Mike. Let's move on."

"Fine. You said that you knew nothing about these charges against Mr. Carter. How can that be? It has been headline news for months now."

"I was out of the country. I only returned two weeks ago."

He laughed derisively, "and where were you? On the moon? This news has been everywhere."

"Not in Cuba."

"What?"

"I was in Cuba for two and a half months. Funnily enough it is one of the few places on the globe where the Backstreet Boys are not big news. Or at least they weren't where I was."

"May I ask what you were doing in Cuba," the lawyer asked sharply.

"May I remind you that I am a Canadian citizen and we are not stopped by the US embargo? I had an opportunity to go to Cuba for a Spanish language study course. And I took it."

"That must have been an expensive excursion." Turner was still fishing. For what she couldn't figure out.

"I had enough money. I sold a few books before I left."

"You would have had to have sold a library! How do I know that you are not being paid to supply this testimony?"

"So that was where he was going with this," she thought. "I just sold two books, actually." She paused. "I am a writer, Mr. Turner. I have been writing for some time now. I had written two romance-type books. Not great literature by any stretch of the imagination, but lucrative."

"You did it?" Kevin was stunned. "You actually finished the books you said you would? You sold them?"

She nodded, "they should be on the stands in the supermarket at the end of the month."

He hugged her. "I am so happy for you. That was what you wanted."

"I wanted to be a 'functioning' writer. They are not what I want to be writing forever, but they bought me some freedom for now," she agreed.

"Romance, hunh?" he wiggled his eyebrows at her, and she laughed. "Oh shut up, Kevin."

"Could we please get back to this matter?" Turner broke in. "You were in Cuba for two and a half months. That is a long time."

"Yes."

"You must have had a reason to stay away for that longÖ"

"If you are going to try and reintroduce your earlier question about why I lost touch with Kevin and the others, I still refuse to go into that. I stayed in Cuba because I had an opportunity to attend an extended language course. Had I realized that this was going on I would have come back sooner. I was not aware of it until yesterday. As soon as I found out I called Kevin. And I am here now."

"And all you did while you were away was this course?"

She laughed, "of course not. I also swam, snorkeled, surfed, took some scuba lessons, and had fun. It you would like to know my full itinerary I am sure that I can find it."

"So can you stand yet?" Kevin asked, interrupting the older man.

She grinned widely. "Can now. Hang ten, baby."

He laughed. "Sun and sea. You are so predictable," he said mocking her earlier comment about him.

"I didn't just hang out on a beach, you know. I also met people and did sightseeing."

"Danced the night away?" he teased.

"Hey, maybe I was after a little Latin Lover, too," she teased back. Then stopped, blanching as she remembered that was one of Howie's nicknames. She turned away as tears began to fall. She removed her glasses and wiped her eyes. Then put them back on and took a deep breath.

"Kevin? Look, I really appreciate you being here. But if you and I keep stopping to catch up this will drag on all day."

"Hear, hear," Turner muttered, then pretended to look out the window as he caught Kat's glare.

"Why don't you go outside? Keep Lindsay company. And take the chorus with you." She turned around to indicate the rows of spectators. Her gaze locked with a pair of deep chocolate brown eyes. They were somewhat bloodshot, tired-looking, but still as gentle and tender as always. How could she have not known he was there? Gods, he was so beautiful.

She struggled to find her voice. "And take Howie with you."

Chapter 16