Why I Stayed – Part 21

I read somewhere that everybody dreams. People who say they don’t dream simply do not remember the dreams when they wake. Light sleepers and people who wake naturally are more likely to remember their dreams. If you use an alarm clock, you are snapped immediately from dream state to waking state and your mind doesn’t have time to commit the dream to memory. For most of my life, I slept like I was dead. Sometimes my alarm clock wasn’t even enough to wake me and my mother would have to come up the stairs to get me up for school. I rarely remembered my dreams.

When I moved in with my first boyfriend, I was completely unprepared for how it would effect my sleep. He lived in a condo and everything was different. The smells, sounds, and lighting were so unlike my old room in my mother’s house that I hardly slept. Things did not improve after we were married and we moved into his father’s house. In fact, I had nearly gotten used to the environment of the condo when I suddenly found myself in a strange house with all new scents and distractions. I would wake in the early hours of the night and sit up in bed. My eyes would be focusing on the walls of our bedroom while my mind was still living out some strange scenario from my dream.

Sleeping in this jail cell should have required yet another adjustment. It seemed almost ironic that I slept better on the hard bed, surrounded by concrete and steel then I ever did next to my husband. Perhaps it wasn’t so much where I slept that made it easier to come to rest. Perhaps the restlessness from which I suffered for so long was gone because I was mentally free from the pressure and fear of which my married life consisted. Physically I was locked away in jail, but mentally I was completely free of the prison that contained me for the last six years.

In my cell, I laid down and slept easily. I woke up when my body was done sleeping and I remembered my dreams almost every time. I kept having one dream over and over.

In my dream, I was lying on my bed in my parent’s old house. A strange noise would drift up the staircase from the living room and I would get up to go investigate. I would open my door and the noise would get louder. Every step I took down the stairs would carry me closer to the source of the noise but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the sound was. I would make it to the landing at the bottom of the stairs and notice that the sound I heard was static coming from the television. From where I stood, I could see a beer can on the end table next to my father’s chair and the remote control on the arm rest. I would cross the living room slowly, the white noise from the TV getting more intense with every step. The air would seem to thicken and as I got closer to the easy chair, my steps began to take more effort. I would summon all of my effort to take one more step and bring me alongside the recliner. I would slowly turn my head. And I would see that my father’s chair was empty.

This is when I would normally wake up in my cell. I would sit up, momentarily surprised at the papery clothes on my body. After I realized where I was, I would try to hold on to the memory of the dream. I would sit with my back against the wall of my cell and try desperately to hold on to the vision so I could figure out what happened.

Eventually the memory would fade. The sound of the television and the faint smell of cheap beer would dissipate. I would have to give up on my dream and either turn my attention to the bleak surroundings of my cell or to the story I was writing in my head.

I sat in just this way when I heard keys jingling outside my door. The door swung open and the young cop from the other day peeked into my cell. He pulled the door the rest of the way open and I saw Robert Otis standing behind him.

“Nicole, it’s time for your initial court appearance.”

I stood up from my bed and stretched. My slippers made a soft shushing sound as I walked out to meet my lawyer in the hallway.

“I have a change of clothes and some food for you in the interview room. We can go over what will happen and what you need to do after we get some food in you.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Mr. Otis gave me a funny look like he was not used to hearing that word.

“You’re very welcome,” he said.

We walked behind the young policeman, who led us to the interview room. I felt a flush of pride when I remembered how I handled myself in the face of Detective Demarco and I was hoping to have a chance to tell my attorney how well I did. Robert opened the door to the interview room for me and I was suddenly very hungry. On the table was a white paper bag. In the center of the bag was the brown image of an owl, slyly winking one eye.

“Oh my god,” I said. “That smells amazing.”

“I was told that is your favorite,” said Mr. Otis. “Dig in and we can talk when you’re done.”

I tore open the bag. Inside I found a cup of crispy tater tots and something big wrapped in white paper. I took the cup out of the bag, set it in front of me, and in a matter of seconds had eaten half of the crunchy potatoes. I reached into the bag to grab what was wrapped in paper. Grease had saturated the paper in places, making it translucent. I unwrapped the parcel and found a cheeseburger dripping with grease and The Brown Owl’s special sauce. My first bite was so big that I almost couldn’t close my mouth to chew it. I somehow managed to take smaller bites going forward and finished the burger. I sat back in my chair and smiled.

“You have quite the appetite,” said my lawyer.

“I haven’t been eating much lately, I have some catching up to do.”

“Well,” he said looking at his watch. “We have about twenty minutes until you’re due in front of the judge. I am going to step out into the hall and let you put on the clothes I bought.”

Mr. Otis pointed to to a black plastic bag that sat on the table.

“You brought me clothes?”

“And shoes,” he said offhandedly. “Your house is still locked up so I couldn’t get you anything of your own to wear. I guessed at your size, so hopefully it all fits okay. After your hearing, you’ll be transported to County Jail. They’ll take these clothes and put you in a uniform. They’ll let you have these clothes back whenever you leave for trial.”

The food suddenly felt heavy in my stomach. The idea of going to jail put damper on the happiness I felt from the food and I was momentarily not sure if it would stay down.

“I’ll step out into the hall while you dress, knock on the door when you are done.”

Mr. Otis opened the door and pushed it closed behind him. I swallowed a bit of my lunch that had started to come up and washed it down with a can of Diet Coke I found next to the empty white bag. I leaned across the table and lifted the black plastic bag over the greasy remains of my cheeseburger and set it on my lap. Inside was a soft purple sweater and a pair of gray slacks. A red shoe box was in the bottom of the bag. I opened it to find a pair of shiny black flats. I looked at the door to make sure the little window was closed and cast a worried look over my shoulder at the one way glass on the other wall.

I wouldn’t put it past Hoskins to sit in the room on the other side of that glass to watch me change. The thought gave me goose bumps but I calmed myself by thinking my lawyer would not allow anyone to be in that room to violate our privilege to privacy.

I took all the clothes out and set the shoe box on the floor. Underneath the shoe box was a pair of nude-colored knee-high stockings, a comb, a nude-colored bra, and a makeup kit. I made a mental note to thank my lawyer for being so thorough even though I knew I’d see every penny of this on an expense list later. The expense of my legal representation made me think of Kinsey. I had no idea how he did it but he had arranged for a capable lawyer to take my case. That couldn’t have come cheap and I could only imagine the debt he would owe after this was done.

I tore the tags off of the bra and checked the size. It wasn’t perfect, but it would fit. I slipped the paper shirt off and put the bra on as fast as I could, just in case. I lifted the purple sweater and noticed it was a tunic-style sweater that I had seen hundreds of women wear downtown. It wasn’t something I would buy for myself but when I slipped it over my head and looked into the mirror, I saw that it fit nicely. I pulled off my pants and put the slacks on. They were a little big but I preferred that to too small. I pulled on the stockings, put on the sensible flats and crossed the floor to knock on the door.

Robert opened the door and gave me a quick look up and down.

“They seem to fit,” he said.

“You did a great job,” I said.

“Actually, it was my secretary. But I’ll tell her you were happy with her choices.”

I nodded, returned to the table and picked up the comb. I turned to face the mirror so I could watch as I combed my hair.

Robert went to the table and sat down. He used a pen to slide the greasy wrappers out of the way and opened a small valise. He took out some sheets of paper and set them side by side. I watched him in the mirror and saw him straighten each one so it was square to the other sheets as well as to the edge of the table.

“The state of Idaho does not have an insanity defense,” he began.

“That’s fine because I am not insane,”

He sighed and shook his head.

“I know that. What I mean is we can’t plead temporary insanity. We have two choices at this stage in the process and I need you to understand the implications of both of them before you decide.”

I did as much as I could with my hair, which was limp and a little greasy. I walked to the table and set the comb down. I picked up the makeup kit and got close enough to the mirror to use it for my face. When I got close enough, I could see the rough outline of chairs in the room on the other side. I was relieved to see that both of them were empty. I looked at Mr. Otis to see he was watching me with an expectant look on his face.

“Go on,” I said. “I’m listening.”

“Our first option is to work out a plea agreement with the prosecution. If we plead guilty, we could likely talk them down from a murder charge to manslaughter. Manslaughter takes the death penalty off of the table and carries a much shorter prison sentence than murder.”

I took my focus off of my eye shadow to tell him, “Okay.”

“Our second option is very difficult and most likely impossible.”

“And what is that?”

“To plead not guilty and convince the jury that you had no choice but to kill your husband. It would be a justifiable homicide defense built around self defense.”

I had just finished putting on some pale lip stick. I turned and looked at him.

“Why would that be so impossible? I can sit in the court room and tell them all under oath that my husband was going to kill me. It would not be a lie. It was only a matter of time until he pushed me too hard or choked me for too long.”

“That might be the case, but that is hard to prove in court without history of abuse. Without medical records or police reports to corroborate your story, the prosecution is going to make you out to be a cruel bitch who got sick of her lazy husband and killed him.”

I was suddenly very angry. I slammed the makeup kit shut and walked over to where my lawyer sat at the table.

“That man was going to kill me. He very nearly killed me earlier that night!”

“I see,” he said and nodded his head. “You don’t know this but there is a reason Mr. Kinsey sought me as your attorney.”

“I assume he looked in the phone book under ‘slime ball defense attorney’ in the yellow pages and you had the biggest ad.”

Mr. Otis laughed.

“Not exactly. Mr. Kinsey attended a conference at which I was one of two keynote speakers. He came to me after my presentation and told me how impressed he was with my ideas.”

I looked at my attorney with a skeptical expression on my face.

“My presentation was about methods of representing women who were abused by their husbands. I spoke about the need for change in the law because it does not provide equal protection to women. I spoke about how when women find themselves in a position where murder is their only way out of an abusive relationship, they are overwhelmingly sentenced to longer jail terms than their victim would have gotten for killing the woman in a drunken rage. After my presentation was done, Mr. Kinsey sought me out and we talked for a while. I gave him my card, which has my cell phone number on it.”

My anger abated and I sat down in the other chair. A few years ago, Trevor was given the chance to leave the Kiln Vally Police Department for the Coeur d’Alene Police Department. Coeur d’Alene was a much larger city and had the resources for the kind of police program that Trevor had tried and failed to implement at KPD. He was currently a detective for CPD but he headed an unofficial department of “Victim Services” officers that specialized in helping the victims of crimes, especially domestic abuse.

“When he left you at the station the other night, Mr. Kinsey called my phone four times in a row. I very nearly didn’t pick up but my wife urged me to answer. I’m glad she did.”

“Why,” I asked.

“Because your case is exactly the kind that needs help from someone like me.”

I put my elbows on my knees and almost put my face in my hands when I remembered my makeup.

“So,” he started again. “I need you to understand that I am not your friend. I am not here to tell you what you want to hear and I will often say things that will make you angry and make it sound like I am not on your side. But keep in mind that I am the only person that can help you.”

I looked at him and nodded again.

“You were telling me that you knew your husband was going to kill you and that you had to do what you did to prevent that from happening. That is self-defense, if you ask me. However the law is not so forgiving and we run a huge risk by pleading not guilty.”

“A huge risk?”

“Yes, a huge risk. If we plead guilty to manslaughter, they will sentence you to fifteen to forty-five years in prison. If we plead not-guilty, go to trial, and you are found guilty you will either be sentenced to death or life in prison.”

“Okay, that is a huge risk.”

“Are you prepared to take that risk?”

“Absolutely.”

“Good,” said Robert and picked up his next set of papers. “Let’s get ready for your first appearance in court.”

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