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The next time I saw Adam was at my preliminary hearing, where the judge denied Tom’s petition to have my charges dropped or reduced. There, I also caught a glimpse of how Adam had gained his formidable reputation when he cut through O'Flaherty's evidence like a hot knife through butter. He didn’t question our second witness; he didn't need to.
I was surprised when, outside court, he expressed regret about the circumstance of our first meeting in over five years. He wished me well and reminded me that he was only doing his duty. Too ashamed to return the sentiment, I ignored his outstretched hand. His eyes sparked with anger. "I'll see you in court, Justin," he said and turned on his heel. With my churlish behavior, I severed the last vestiges of friendship between us.
"He's over-confident; it will work against him," Tom asserted in response to my mother's concern about how competent the prosecutor had been in court. She and Josh remained unconvinced, and frankly, so did I. Later, she expressed her opinion to my father, but he brushed her off, saying Tom's smart. He didn’t attend court, having made it clear that he wouldn't be publicly seen as condoning my behavior. I wasn’t surprised; my father’s first concern has and always will be the family name, and, in his opinion, his good reputation and political standing are crucial to maintaining it. I should have been grateful, I suppose, that, behind the scenes, he was doing everything he could to save my career, but I couldn't find it in me to feel anything but resentment toward him—not then, and not now. If it hadn’t been clear to me before, it became evident during my trial that he doesn't care as much for me as he does about my political future.
"Be careful," I cautioned Tom after the hearing. "Calling O'Flaherty might not have been a wise move." He disagreed.
"I know what I'm doing. This is just the start of proceedings; I'll make sure our trial witnesses are better prepared," he asserted.
The Cordis’ arraignment followed mine, and when Joseph was refused bail, we considered it a victory. "Excellent," my father declared. "The fact that the courts granted you bail you and not him will make it easier to convince the public that he misled you." That was the first positive thing he’d said since news of my involvement with Joseph broke.
I missed Angelique, more than I ever imagined I could. I wondered about her constantly, often aloud, but Tom continued to advise against contact, assuring me that he kept in touch. "She knows you're thinking about her and understands," he insisted, repeating that she was coping well. I admit to feeling put out that Angelique hadn’t bothered to send any return message.
About a week later, he was livid when, according to him, Angelique admitted to meeting with Adam. "He plans on having her testify against you," he fumed and delivered yet another diatribe against our former friend. I, however, was more concerned about Angelique.
"I offered my help, but she refused," he said with unnecessary spite, I felt. "Stop worrying about her and concentrate on clearing your name. She's not important."
"You need to watch your mouth," I warned, and he gave me a bitter smile.
"I'll never understand. Sure, she's beautiful, but so are lots of the women you've fucked," he said but tempered his tone when noting my anger. "You have no future with her; you know that, Justin. Make it work with Cynthia—you're lucky she stuck by you. If you want a piece of ass on the side, there are plenty that won't cost you a cent."
I chose not to respond because he would have said something that meant I would have to hit him. Tom doesn't know or understand Angelique, or how I feel about her. At that stage, I couldn't fully understand what I felt, except that I couldn't let her go.
For the two months leading up to my trial, I followed everyone's advice and stayed away. I tried, in that time, to do what was expected of me and saw a lot more of Cynthia. Sex with her has always been satisfactory, but no woman can make me feel as intensely as Angelique does, and I continued to think about her even, I'm ashamed to admit, when buried deep inside Cynthia. Thankfully, she seemed oblivious to the fact that I was thinking of someone else in our most intimate moments. She believed my passion was for her, and I did nothing to dissuade her.
A week before my second arraignment, my band of advisers met to discuss my plea. "You'll plead not guilty of course," Arnold announced.
"Not necessarily," I replied and then explained my intention to lodge an Alford Plea. My father and Tom, both lawyers, immediately grasped the significance. I had to explain to my mother, Josh, Arnold, and Cynthia that it meant I'd be acknowledging that the prosecution held enough evidence to prove their charge, but that I was not admitting guilt.
"I don't understand," Cynthia said.
"It's ingenious," my father grudgingly conceded. "You could avoid going to trial if the prosecution agrees to a plea bargain."
"Precisely…" Tom agreed and then broke off, no doubt remembering who we were dealing with.
"He won't go for that," I confirmed, the memory of Adam's last words to me filling my head. "But it helps our media campaign,” I added, referring to the fact that the Alford plea would lend credence to my claims that Joseph had misled me.
The possibility that I'd be found guilty and have to spend a lengthy time in prison remained, but I refused to linger on that outcome. At my mother's request, I spent the night before the start of my trial at our family home. I woke early, anxious and hyper-aware of the very real possibility of imprisonment. I remember thinking that everything I'd ever hoped and worked for could be taken from me. The enormity of what I'd done, what I'd sacrificed, really hit me then, and I wondered, not for the first time, just how different my life could have been if I'd accepted Angelique sleeping with other men. I'd done it with Natasha; many of the women I dated had slept with other men—why the hell did things have to be different with her? I castigated myself.
I managed to contain my emotions by the time I made it downstairs to where my parents were having breakfast. My father, as expected, had lots of advice on how I should conduct myself in court. "The eyes of everyone in this state, the country, perhaps, will be on you. You're a Wade; act like one," he instructed when I sat down.
"I'm sure Justin knows how to behave, Joshua," my mother tried to intervene. "He' a senator, after all," she reasoned almost timidly in response to the icy look he cast her way.
"Have you forgotten that he deliberately ignored both that fact and the family name?" he turned his accusing gaze on me. Reluctant to get into yet another argument, I remained silent, accepting the cup of coffee that Martha, our housekeeper, offered. His words had been only the precursor to my verbal damnation that day. In court, I sat stoically as Adam verbally lacerated me.
“Justin Wade is a man educated in and who has sworn to uphold the law. He is an elected official and holds a position of trust in our community. He is a man, who should have known better, done better, than flout the very laws he swore to uphold. Yet the defendant, supposedly a pillar of our community, did just that,” he said in what was only the start of the list of my misdeeds he’d quote.
It took everything in me hold my head up when what I wanted was to get up and run out of that room, away from the damning eyes I could feel on me, and the cameras I knew were filming my every emotion. More than anything, I wanted to escape the blistering words of my former friend. I was consumed with shame and anger—at myself, but also at Adam Thorne for so effectively denouncing me.
Things worsened, when, by the end of the first session, Tom was spectacularly blind-sided when Natasha, during his cross-examination of her, challenged him about his membership of Liaison. He and I exchanged heated words about that when alone.
"What the hell did you think you were doing?" I demanded.
"What I'm supposed to. I needed the jury to question her motives."
"Try doing your job without antagonizing the people who have dirt on you, Tom! That would be the smart thing to do."
By the end of that day, I'd been mentally and physically exhausted. My courtroom experience and the ensuing media frenzy had taken its toll. Cynthia wanted to spend the night. "I want to support you, Justin," she said, when we dropped her off at her home.
"I need to be alone, Cynthia" I replied tersely and ignored her hurt expression as she leaned in to kiss me. The media reports that night heavily favored the prosecution.
'Prosecutor Adam Thorne, lived up to his fearsome reputation as he damned Senator Wade for trampling on the trust our community,' one reporter said.
That first hellish day was nothing compared to the next. I was forced to sit through Carmen Bonnaci's testimony, during which she related how unsuspecting and naïve Angelique had been when she started as a dancer, and just how effectively Joseph had manipulated her into becoming an escort. Hearing someone else voice her innocence left me with a feeling of discomfort and guilt, something I hadn’t experienced before. Even Tom’s relative success when questioning Carmen's motives did little to alleviate my unease. Things only worsened when, on our way to lunch, a rather intimidating man, who I soon realized is Angelique’s friend, Samuel, accosted me.
What affected me most, however, was seeing Angelique. The light had left her eyes, and her face was pale and drawn, yet her beauty was as undeniable as ever. My heart leapt in my chest, and I wanted to rush to her side. But Samuel threw me a menacing look as he and another friend, a woman, led her away.
The three were sitting on a bench outside the courtroom when we approached. Angelique looked up but turned away instantly when our eyes met. Deep regret and guilt washed over me, and I unceremoniously dropped Cynthia’s hand. Outraged, she aimed an audible accusation of 'whore' at Angelique. I wanted to strangle her when seeing Angelique’s bowed head. I stepped forward, wanting to comfort her, but Tom barred my way. I watched helplessly, as Adam’s second chair conferred with him before approaching Angelique. I wondered what she could possibly have to say to Angelique who, I’d only recently learned, the prosecution had named a hostile witness. I hadn't even thanked her for her loyalty, I realized then, and fervently hoped that Tom had.
I shared every agonizing and often humiliating moment with Angelique as Adam relentlessly bombarded her with questions. I also felt pride when witnessing the courage, determination, and the odd flash of defiance she demonstrated. He was particularly ruthless, I felt, as he badgered her into responding.
"A companion? What kind of companion? Did you accompany him to social events, on visits to his constituents, perhaps?" he asked disdainfully. Tom objected, only to be overruled.
"Ms. Bain, what kind of companionship were you paid to provide for the defendant?" Adam demanded. Visibly upset, Angelique was forced to admit she'd been employed to sleep with me. She tried to explain the nature of our relationship, but Adam cut her off.
"You were paid to have sex with the defendant?"
"Yes," she whispered. Her embarrassment increased when Judge Bolton asked her to repeat herself, loud enough for the court to hear. My shame matched hers—not for my reputation this time, but for the part I played in bringing this down on her.
My contrition worsened as I listened to her reluctantly admit that I was the first person she'd slept with for money, and I felt gutted when witnessing the shock and betrayal on her face when shown the signed agreement for her exclusive services. I realized, then, that I should have discussed it with her. She had, over time, shared personal aspets of her life with me; she'd trusted me, and I'd never reciprocated in any way.
Tom prepared to cross-examine her, but I reached over and firmly grasped his arm. We were locked in silent communication when Judge Bolton reminded him that the court was waiting. Tom asked for a moment to consult with me.
"I need to cast doubt on her testimony. Don't you see how damaging it's been?" he hissed.
"No! She's had enough," I said through clenched teeth.
"Don't be a fool," he argued, but I told him to leave her alone, that she didn’t deserve what was happening to her. He continued to protest.
"Just fucking do as I say, or I'll fire your ass right now," I threatened, staring him down. He sighed in resignation and declined the opportunity to question her.
I watched as, on the verge of tears and her head held high, Angelique left the courtroom. My heart ached in a way it never had for anyone or anything before. I ended up arguing with just about everyone that night—with Tom when he guessed my intentions and warned me not to contact her. "The media now knows who she is. They are, probably, watching her every move. You can't risk it; don't be such a damned fool!" he said.
"I need to speak to her," I insisted, and Cynthia stepped in.
"Justin, be reasonable. Tom’s right; besides, you promised."
"I told you I'd think about it. I also said I was going to speak to her; I owe her an explanation and apology."
"You owe that woman nothing. She's a prostitute, for goodness sake," Cynthia said, crying as she tugged on my arm.
"Don't ever call her that again, do you hear me? What you did outside that courtroom was unforgivable. Angelique showed more class today than your privileged upbringing seems to have instilled in you. If you ever speak about her like that again, you can forget about me, do you understand?"
"Do you love her?" Cynthia asked, aghast.
"Of course he doesn't," Tom consoled. "Justin’s just being chivalrous." He glared at me, a warning, and I chose not to answer Cynthia. However, the thought that what I feel for Angelique could be love had been planted in my brain. Could it be? I wondered. I still wasn’t sure; all I knew then was that I'd never felt the same way about any other woman. The rational side of my brain argued that a match between us was impossible.
My father called with yet more advice, and I, uncharacteristically rude to him, snapped that I didn't need anyone else's damned opinion that night. He hung up on me, and I didn’t care; all I felt was relief to finally be left alone.
The press had a field day with Angelique’s testimony and her evident distress. A photograph of her leaving the witness stand, side by side with one of Cynthia and I holding hands made the front page of a major newspaper. The Madonna and whore inference was apparent in the tone of the accompanying article. Cynthia had learned by then to not say anything derogatory in my presence, but I knew by her ever-present smile that she enjoyed Angelique’s humiliation. I cursed the media, and I wanted to call Angelique to lend support, thank her for her loyalty, and apologize for how much it was costing her. Her time on the stand would, unquestionably, have been less traumatic and embarrassing if she'd cooperated with the prosecution. My guilt quadrupled that night.
Tom mounted our defense next, and I thought we started well with the opinion of our expert witness on corporate governance, but we lost ground when Adam argued that the professor had based his views on the principles, not the practice of the law. Next, he rattled Connor Jones, my accountant, and by the time Jones vacated the stand I'd started questioning Tom's ability to effectively combat Adam in court. It felt like nothing had changed since Harvard. Tom had, even then, underestimated Adam’s ability to out-think and out-maneuver him. Be it in the academic field, a fencing bout, or an exchange of ideas, Adam had bested him every time.
When it became apparent that O'Flaherty had absconded, I decided that I needed to step in, do whatever I could, at that late stage, to defend myself. After he’d negotiated an adjournment, I informed Tom that I'd contact him later.
"We need to decide our strategy for tomorrow," he argued.
"I know, but I want to speak with my father first."
"Good, I was going to suggest that," he said.
"Meet me at my place at eight tonight," I told him and brushed aside his objections. Tom was annoyed at being excluded, but, at that stage, I didn’t care about his feelings. He'd repeatedly assured me that our witnesses were well prepared. Adam had proven him wrong. My life was on the line, not Tom's. I had to take charge.
My father, for once, chose not to remind me of my sins and eagerly agreed with my plan to take the stand. "It's time to tap into the reserves of goodwill the public holds for you," he said, echoing my thoughts. Tom, when we met, rightly advised me of the risks involved.
"It could go either way," he warned.
"I have to give it a shot. Even you must concede that our case isn't going well."
"Fucking, Thorne!" he cursed, but the fight had left him. He could see it was our only chance of turning things around. We spent the night going over the questions that, based on the information we wanted the jury to know, he should ask me. Next, we discussed every possible question we believed the prosecution would ask. By the time Tom left in the early hours of the morning, I felt as if I'd regained a modicum of control. I was highly aware of just how vulnerable I'd be under cross-examination, but as I told my father, I'd rather go down fighting than continue to feel like a sitting duck.
I felt I'd made a positive impression on the jury when I admitted to foolishly trusting Joseph. I’d made an error in judgment and had shown weakness in succumbing to the sex on offer, I confessed, knowing I wouldn't be the first or the last politician to admit to seeing a prostitute. Many had gotten away with sexual indiscretions.
Adam was, predictably, brutal in his cross-examination. I struggled to contain my anger at times as he accused and goaded responses from me. I believed I was doing well enough until he pressed on my involvement with Angelique.
"Why did you sign the agreement when Ms. Bain was already available to you?" he asked.
“I did it to help her?"
"To help her?" he asked incredulously.
"Yes," I said, unable to hide my irritation.
"Exactly how did it benefit her to be treated like chattel?" he challenged, and for just a moment, I questioned my motives.
"I didn't think she should have to sleep with other men," I responded.
"Did she ask you to protect her from having to sleep with other men?"
"No," I responded tersely.
"So you and Joseph Cordi decided that you were best suited to determine this young woman's fate, and you determined it was to be tied to you in a sexual contract. On what grounds did you decide that?"
I should have expected the question, but, still, it surprised me. Silently, I conceded that I'd never considered what would be good for Angelique. All I'd thought about was what was necessary to maintain the relationship we'd started.
"I didn't think she should have to sleep with other men," I repeated after a suspenseful pause.
"You're a wealthy and influential man. In fact, you are one of the richest men in this state, are you not?" he asked, the challenge clear in his eyes.
I felt myself warm with both annoyance and shame at the way he'd successfully positioned me as a privileged man who'd taken advantage of a guileless woman. My response was a short, “Yes.”
"Why not offer her a loan, something, anything, that didn't demand she sell her body?" Adam continued, and I squirmed internally, the realization of just how stupid I’d been washing over me like a tsunami.
I accepted Joseph's claim that Angelique was his to command, yet I had no idea what agreement she'd made with him. I could have, should have, discussed the matter with her. I could have paid her directly; I could have done what Adam suggested and granted her a loan or found her a suitable job. I accepted the status quo, didn't consider alternatives. How the hell did I make such a foolish miscalculation?
I answered the only way I could. "I didn't think she'd want that," I confessed, and Adam pushed home his advantage.
"So you arbitrarily made the decision to purchase her body. You didn't consider her feelings or wellbeing. Did you ever contemplate offering her an honorable way out—one where she wasn't forced to prostitute herself, a way that would maintain her dignity and self-worth?" he challenged rather than asked.
Tom objected but was overruled, and I was forced to admit that I hadn't considered the option. Adam went in for the kill, but I don’t doubt that even if the ruling had gone against him, he would still have found a way to deliver his next, crippling blow.
"You wanted to bind Angelique Bain to you. You deemed her unsuitable to date but wanted her sexually. You didn't care about her fate or that of the other women who may have been forced into prostitution because of circumstances beyond their control. You selfishly ignored the law. You signed the contract for Fidelity not because you wanted to save Ms. Bain but because you wanted her for yourself.”
Tom objected at that point, and Judge Bolton decided in our favor. The reprieve didn’t last, though. Adam questioned me about my knowledge of Fidelity and its subsidiary Sigma.
"As I've already testified, it was not my intention to mislead Mr. Jones or infer that he should ignore due process. And, regarding Sigma's revenue, I didn’t consider it necessary to check. I believed what I'd been told and what my initial research confirmed; that Fidelity was in the business of commercial property development. No subsidiary company was disclosed in discussions before I signed the contract or included in the company’s assets register, so, for me, none existed. In terms of the financial reports, I perused them, satisfied myself that the business continued to perform well, and then forwarded them to J.J. and H. I did not, as you have suggested, enter into the contract for Fidelity planning on committing a crime," I responded.
"But you did, Mr. Wade. You committed several crimes, with intent; when you participated in the illegal prostitution at Liaison, when you entered into a contract for the sexual services of a vulnerable woman, and again, when you chose to enter into a business partnership with a man you knew to be a criminal.
"You consciously, and to satisfy your desire to have Angelique Bain for yourself, flouted laws you swore to uphold. 'I did not think she should sleep with other men,' you highhandedly stated. What made you think you had the right to demean her instead?” he asked. Tom objected vehemently, but it didn’t stop Adam.
"You willingly entered into a business partnership with a man you knew to be a criminal and, in the process, deliberately ignored the plight of the hapless women caught up in his schemes. Afraid that he might uncover something to hamper the agreement for Ms. Bain’s sexual services, you knowingly dissuaded your accountant from investigating Fidelity, did you not?" he continued, stopping only when Judge Bolton belatedly cautioned him.
Having made his point, Adam rested. I refused to speak to anyone that night, not even my mother, and I ignored my father's insistent calls. I was simply incapable of listening to him tell me, again, how much of a disgrace I was. I clung to the hope that I may, at the very least, have raised doubt in the jury's minds and that I still had a chance of avoiding prison.
I managed to maintain my calm exterior throughout prosecution’s closing argument the next day, in which Adam again attacked my character. Tom tried valiantly to restate our case, defend my actions and my reputation. I breathed an exhausted sigh of relief when the jury, finally, retired to deliberate. My fate rested in the hands of twelve of 'them', I realized, and it dawned on me just how baseless my father's teachings, in fact, were.
While waiting for their decision, I felt like I was balancing on the edge of a precipice. By late evening, with no verdict announced, Judge Bolton ordered the jury sequestered for the night. Unable to avoid my family any longer, Cynthia and I joined our parents for dinner.
"You need to announce your engagement when this trial's over," my father all but commanded to the approval the Buchanans.
"I may, in fact, be found guilty," I retorted irritably.
"You won't be convicted," he said, displaying the arrogance I've come to expect.
"Well, they might surprise you." I would have relayed precisely what was on my mind, but for the pleading look on my mother's face. I resolved, however, not to be pushed into yet another rash decision.
The next day, Tom called with news that Judge Bolton had summoned both defense and prosecution counsels.
"What the hell does that mean?" I asked, even though I already suspected that the jury had reached a stalemate. My thoughts were confirmed when Tom called a short while later to say the jury was stuck on a ten--two guilty verdict. My relief evaporated when he added that the court had not declared a mistrial. The judge decided to issue the jury with the Allen Charge, instead. We were deeply disappointed but still hoped for an acquittal.
We weren’t kept in suspense for too long. Just over six hours later, we were back in court. My heart relocated to my throat when watching the jury file in. I schooled myself to breathe, and, thankfully, by the time Judge Bolton reached for the slip of paper, I'd gained control of myself—outwardly at least. His expression remained impassive as he read. He handed it back to the bailiff before formally asking the foreperson whether they'd reached a verdict.
"We have not, Your Honor. We remain deadlocked.” Her response reached me as if it had traveled through a long, windy tunnel. I glanced over at Tom to make sure I hadn't misheard. He nodded, and my pulse took off in a hopeful canter, as I, like everyone present, held my breath.
"The case against Justin Wade is dismissed without prejudice on the grounds of a mistrial," Judge Bolton finally announced. My first thought was, 'we did it,' but I soon realized that he’d said ‘without prejudice, which meant the prosecution could call for a retrial.
"What do you think they’ll do?" Arnold asked later that day as we, once again, gathered at my parents' home.
"Knowing Thorne, he'd want to prolong Justin’s agony and go for a retrial," Tom declared.
"I'm not so sure about that," I said, having contemplated not only what I’d previously known about Adam, but also what I’d learned during the trial. "He won’t base his decision on personal feelings. He'll do what he thinks is right legally and best for the DA's office."
"And what would that be?” Mom asked.
"Do nothing," I conceded.
"And you'd be cleared?" Cynthia asked hopefully.
"Technically, I'd be free, but there’ll always be a cloud hanging over me. By not calling for a retrial, he would, in fact, be condemning me to a lifetime of speculation."
"What does it matter? By the time the next election comes around, the public would have forgotten. You just need to keep your nose clean and work hard for your constituents. And you should announce your engagement immediately—use it as a demonstration of turning over a new leaf," my father declared, already getting into campaign mode.
"There’ll be no announcement," I said decisively. "I want to wait until the dust has settled." The pressure to commit to Cynthia would continue, I knew, but having just come out of the disastrous aftermath of the last decision I’d been forced into, I was determined to remain steadfast in my refusal.
After an excruciating weekend wait, Adam announced that the Commonwealth would not be seeking a retrial. Some, in my group of supporters, believed our old friendship had played a part, after all, but I knew better. He'd simply made the best legal decision as I'd known he would.
I thought I could avoid thinking about Adam Thorne as easily as I'd done before, and I hoped that after a reasonable interval, when the media interest died down, I could contact Angelique. I'd no longer have to listen to Tom’s warnings about her being followed or her phone being tapped then. I wasn’t sure what, exactly, would become of our relationship, but I hoped we'd be able, somehow, to salvage and build on what we'd had.
On Thursday, some weeks later, I arrived at Cynthia’s for dinner only to have her gleefully open her laptop almost as soon as I entered. What I viewed completely blindsided me.
"Looks like your prostitute's found a new source of income," she spitefully remarked. I was too shocked to give the response she deserved. The sight of Angelique and Adam together at a ballet performance sent a wave of red-hot jealousy through me. I've never felt the need to smash someone's face in as much as I did his at that moment.
'How the fuck did this happen,’ I asked myself and then questioned whether I'd imagined him decimating her on the stand. I know both of them well enough to know there'd been no pretense in their courtroom antagonism. So how could she now be on such friendly—scrap that—over friendly terms with him? I wondered.
I made my way to the door then. "Where are you going? Dinner's nearly ready," Cynthia called out.
"I warned you about saying things like that," I replied tersely and slammed the door behind me. I was annoyed at her, yes, but more than anything, I needed to be alone. I feared what I'd say or do if she continued to gloat. My mind churned, and my feelings vacillated between jealous fury and unjustifiable hurt. That night, and all of the next day, I tried to come to grips with exactly what I was feeling. I even called Angelique, several times, but her phone diverted to voicemail. I sat on my sofa, fuming at being ignored, when, in reality, I deserved to be. I wondered why I cared so much when the realization struck that it could only be because I loved her.
"Fuck," I muttered and then promptly tried to talk myself out of it. But I could find no other explanation for my desperate longing to be with her and the jealousy I experienced at the thought of her with other men. I'd never imagined feeling this way about anyone before. I didn't think it possible. "Fuck," I muttered again, recalling just how poorly I'd treated her. Had I really become so insensitive; had I succumbed to my father's teachings to the extent that I'd become incapable of recognizing love just because the woman I developed those feelings for doesn’t share my background? I decided, there and then, that I needed to see Angelique. I had no idea what I'd say; all I knew was that I had to speak to her.