I woke to the smell of coffee. My eyes drifted open and my surroundings came into focus. The color on the walls and the slant of the ceiling was familiar but but I felt out of place. My waking thought was, this used to be my home but I no longer live here. As the rest of my brain woke up, I remembered where I was and why.
The last time I was woken up, I laid in my own bed in my own apartment. My cell phone rang and my groggy hand knocked it off of my night stand in a failed attempt to make it stop. I rolled out of bed and hunted for the phone under my bed by feel. I could not lay hands on the phone, which was ringing for a second time. I laid flat on the floor so I could see under the box spring. The glow from my phone’s LCD screen was visible in the gloomy darkness under my bed. I grabbed the phone and brought it close enough to read the caller ID. The number had the prefix for a Beckham County phone number. I flipped open my phone and answered sleepily.
“Detective Kinsey,” the voice on the other side asked.
“Yes, this is him.”
“I am Officer Thompson with the Kiln Valley Police Department.”
My heart began to pound. My mother still lived in Kiln Valley. My breathing began to quicken to match my pulse. I felt dizzy so I propped myself against my bed for stability.
“I am calling you on behalf of Sergeant Hoskins,” said Thompson.
“What does Hoskins need with me at this time of night?”
“He asked me to call you because we have a suspect at a crime scene and the uh,” Thompson searched for the right words. “The uh, circumstances of the victim and the suspect are such that we could use your assistance. I am told you are familiar with the suspect.”
I felt a little relief since I was reasonably sure they were not talking about my mother.
“Um, yeah,” I said as I ran my fingers through my hair.
“I’d be happy to help,” I lied.
“Would you be able to meet us at the following address as soon as possible?”
I glanced at the rocking chair near my bed. My jacket hung over the back.
“One sec, let me get a pen,” I said and got off of the floor.
I walked over to the chair and pulled a small notebook from the inside pocket. There was a short pen clipped to the spine. I flipped to the first blank page, clicked the tip of the pen out, and put the pen to the paper.
“Okay, I’m ready,” I said.
“The address is,” Thompson continued but I had no reason to write down the address.
Here in my familiar room, I sat up and looked at window. The blinds were closed but sunlight leaked around them to gently illuminate the room with the quality of moonlight. I could make out the posters on the wall, still where I hung them back in high school. My desk was still in the same place, adorned with a few trophies and framed photographs. I swung my legs over the side of the bed and put my feet on the wood floor of my old bedroom.
I took a deep breath and rubbed my neck. The pillow I used when I was eighteen years old was not as supportive as the memory foam one I had in my apartment in Coeur d’Alene. The ache along the upper part of my spine reminded me that my neck wasn’t in as good of shape as the last time I used that old pillow. There was no mistaking the smell of coffee that drifted up the stairs. I pulled on my pants and threw on the white t-shirt I wore last night and prepared to go downstairs.
After the call from Thompson, I drove to Kiln Valley. I arrived at the familiar address and I helped the police there bring my oldest friend in to custody. Although I had wanted to stay and help her, I was forced to leave her in the care of the KVPD and the Beckham County Sheriff’s Office. I got into my car, started the engine, and almost put the car into gear when I realized I didn’t know where to go.
It was obvious that I would be no further help to Nicole here at the station. I wracked my brain, trying to think of what I could do for her. I was reminded of the criminal justice and forensics conference I attended in Spokane a few months ago.
There was a defense attorney who headed a panel that discussed the responsibility of the police departments in handling domestic violence incidents. The same attorney went on to speak to the entire conference about the ideas that he and a group of attorneys across the country had regarding changes to the legislation around murder. They proposed changes to the law that allow for more equal treatment of women, specifically those women charged with assaulting or murdering the men who had abused them.
When the speech was over, I approached Robert Otis and we talked for a while. I invited him to the cafe in front of the convention center for a cup of coffee. I had been lobbying my department for better resources for victim services and recently the chief had put me in charge of training our officers and detectives on the methods of properly handling and documenting cases of domestic violence as well as rudimentary counseling and advice that could be provided to the victims to help them cope as well as to help them make changes to avoid being a victim again.
I was proud to tell Mr. Otis about my program and the progress we had made. Recurring calls to the same addresses for reports of domestic violence had been reduced by half and more women were showing up for the free counseling provided by the department at the community center.
Mr. Otis was interested in seeing how our efforts worked out over time and said if I ever had any questions or needed his help to call his cell phone. He handed me a business card, which I put in my jacket pocket. Later, as I got into my car and prepared to drive home from Spokane, I put the card in my glove box.
As I sat in the Kiln Valley Police Department parking lot, I remembered that Mr. Otis’ card was still in the glove box. I popped the door open and pawed through the contents until I came upon the white, glossy card.
The back of the card had a color photograph of Robert Otis with a thoughtful look on his face. The front had his address, desk phone, and his cellular phone number. I dialed the number and listened to it ring while I stared at the face on the back of the card. The line stopped ringing and I was sent to a voice mail greeting.
I hung up and dialed again. Otis’ phone rang again until the same unemotional voice mail greeting snapped into my ear. I hung up and dialed once more. A groggy but confident voice answered.
“This is Robert Otis and this better be important.”
“Mr. Otis, this is Detective Kinsey. I work for the Coeur d’Alene Police Department and I had talked to you for some time at the,” I started.
“The CJS conference,” said Mr. Otis interrupted.
“Yes,” I said excitedly. “You gave me your business card and said I should call you if I found a case you would be interested in.”
“I guess when I said that I had not thought you would call me at,” Otis paused. “Four thirty in the morning.”
“Right, I’m sorry to bother you so late. Or early. Anyways, I have a case you might be interested in and I would like to hire you.”
Otis needed more information but after I told him Nicole’s history and what she had done earlier that morning he agreed to take a look at her case. I tried to impress upon him some urgency because I had history with the KVPD and I did not trust them to handle Nicole or her case properly.
“I will get there to visit her as soon as I can. There will not be a judge available for a few hours so I have a feeling she will be in holding for a while,” Mr. Otis told me.
“Thank you,” I said.
“Detective, you know I don’t take every case because these cases can be very difficult and expensive.”
“Yes, I know that.”
“I will call you tomorrow when I know more.”
“Thank you, Mr. Otis,” I said but he had already hung up.
I sat in my car for a minute after talking to Robert Otis. I was exhausted and I did not feel like driving over the mountain pass and to my apartment in Coeur d’Alene. Instead, I put the car in drive, exited the parking lot, and drove towards my old house in the cul-de-sac where I grew up.
I tried calling my mom on the way but she was a pretty heavy sleeper. I turned into my old neighborhood and parked my unmarked cruiser in the spot where I had parked my parent’s old station wagon countless times.
I got out of my car, grabbed the small shaving kit I kept in the glove box, and shut the door. When I turned towards my house, I could not help but look at the house next door. The house where Nicole had lived when we were younger was in need of a coat of paint. The yard was in decent shape, but only because my mom took care of it to stop the weeds from overtaking her own. There were no lights on but I caught a glimmer of light reflected off of the cut glass in the old front door and I was reminded of all the times I watched Nicole look at me from the other side of that window.
I walked up the steps to the front porch of my parents house. I rang the doorbell and then immediately knocked. I could not remember if my mom had fixed the doorbell since the last time I visited. The old porch swing hung to the left of the door. The chains that suspended it creaked as a soft breeze pushed the seat back an inch or two.
I started to knock a second time when my mom opened the front door and looked at me through the screen door.
“Trevor, what on Earth are you doing here?”
“Sorry to wake you mom, it’s been a long night and I wondered if I could sleep here instead of driving all the way home.”
My mother opened the screen door immediately and reached for my face with both hands.
“You look so tired, of course you can stay here. You’re always welcome here, this is your home.”
I let my mom pull my face down where she could kiss my cheek. She turned and walked into the house and I followed her in. I shut and locked the door behind me. My mother stood in the kitchen with one hand on the counter next to the fridge.
“You don’t have to tell me anything now,” she said with a look of concern on her face.
“Thanks mom, I’ll fill you in after I get a little sleep.”
“Sounds good, honey.”
She walked up to me and held her arms out to hug me. I wrapped my arms around her and gave her a squeeze. She patted my back like she used to when I was little and then backed up. I gave her a half smile and made my way up the stairs to my old room.
It seemed that now that my body had gotten a little sleep that it was time to go down and give my mom the explanation she had been waiting for all morning.
I opened the door of my bedroom, walked across the hall to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. I was visibly tired. Blue green crescents hung below my eyes, the whites of which were run with red. My face was covered in stubble and my hair was a mess. I turned from the mirror and used the toilet. I turned back to the sink, washed my hands, and splashed some water on my ragged face.
I left the bathroom and made my way down the stairs. The bottom of the stairs fell between the living room and the dining room. My mother sat in a recliner in the living room in a robe and slippers. The television was tuned to CNN with the audio muted. She had a cup of coffee on the end table next to her and was holding a newspaper up with both hands.
“Hey mom,” I said. “I’m going to grab a cup of coffee, do you need a warm up?”
“No, honey I’m fine.”
I walked to the kitchen, poured some coffee into my cup and opened the fridge. I grabbed a half gallon of whole milk, opened the paper spout, and poured some into my coffee. The milk disappeared into the dark coffee and then rebounded in curling cloud. When the color of my coffee looked right, I stopped pouring and replaced the carton to it’s shelf in the fridge.
I carried my cup to the living room. I walked past my father’s chair and took a seat on the couch nearest my mother. I took a drink of coffee and set the cup down on the same end table as my mother’s cup. I leaned forward, put my elbows on my knees, and rested my face in my hands.
“I haven’t read a newspaper in weeks,” my mother said. “But I was hoping to find something in here that might explain your late night visit.”
My mom folded the paper and smiled at me. I doubted the paper would have anything in it about what happened the previous night. The police would not release any information to the press until they had to and the neighbors’ reports of the emergency vehicle activity would probably not make it into today’s edition.
“Did you find anything?”
“No, nothing but the same worthless stuff they always print. Which is why I haven’t opened a paper since the day after Thanksgiving.”
“Nicole killed Jerrad,” I blurted out.
“Oh my god,” my mom said. She reached for her coffee cup and I could see that her hand was shaking.
“Hoskins called me to help bring her in to custody. She was still sitting on the body when the cops showed up. They needed me to talk her down so evidence didn’t get ruined.”
“Well, I can’t say he didn’t deserve it.”
I looked at my mother.
“You and I both know that,” I said and sat back in the couch. “But she will have a hard time explaining it to a jury. I have a feeling she will be going to jail for a long time.”
“Is there anything you can do?”
“Well, I know of an attorney that helps with those kinds of cases. I called him and he said he’d look into it.”
“Have you heard from him since?”
“No, but I’m not sure he can even get in to see her. She has to declare her lawyer to the police or they will arrange a public defender. That will take hours if not a couple days.”
My phone rang and I was startled to find it was still in my pocket. It was an Eastern Washington number, I recognized it as Robert Otis’ cell phone. I stood up, walked to the window that looked out into our back yard and answered the call.
“I was able to pull some strings and spoke to Nicole a few minutes ago,” said Mr. Otis.
“How is she?”
“She is alright. I introduced myself and instructed her not to talk to the cops or sheriffs without me.”
“Good, thank you. Can I do anything?”
“This is never an easy conversation to have since it usually happens during times of an already difficult circumstances.”
“You need to know how you’re going to get paid,” I said.
“Well, yes. I have reviewed the police report and from what you told me last night this is exactly the kind of case I want to take. I think for now we should just talk about covering my expenses and we can talk about fees later.”
“No problem. I have a credit card that I can use to pay for your expenses.”
“Excellent. I need to get to work, as I’m sure you do too.”
I was about to say thank you again when I noticed that Robert had already hung up.
“Lawyers always have to talk about getting paid,” my mother said. “Don’t take it personally.”
“Thanks mom,” I said.
“Do you enough money to pay him?”
“He said he only needs expenses now, I can use my credit card for that.”
“When it comes to fees though, that’s where it will be bad.”
“Yeah, I’ll figure something out.”
“Well, your father didn’t leave me much but he did leave this house. Bought and paid for. If it means getting Nicole the best defense lawyer you can find, we’ll just get a loan on it. I’m old enough for reverse mortgage or we can maybe do some kind of equity loan.”
“Mom, that’s really nice but I don’t think it will come to that.”
“Well, if it does you just ask me and we’ll go to the bank right away.”
I looked at my mom and tried to smile. But the stress and the fear that had been pushing me onward collapsed. The relief I felt at knowing that Nicole had a decent lawyer and that we had funding if it would come to that left me deflated. I looked at my mom and tried to blink back the tears that had been building after my phone call with Mr. Otis. The tears fell anyway. They left cool tracks down my cheeks and dripped onto the legs of my pants.
My mom sat forward in her chair and put her hand on my knee.
“It’s going to be okay, honey. We’ll take care of Nicole.”