~The Binding~

Chapter 36

Bron stared very hard at her own reflection in the mirror of the public restroom. On the way to the courthouse she had gone from not just victim but to star witness for the prosecution. Now she was kicking herself in the ass for not seeing the set-up from the beginning. "How could you be so stupid?" she asked the image of herself. Closing her eyes to gather her nerve she inhaled deeply and let out a cleansing breath. The bathroom stunk like any other over used public restroom.

She hadn't put two and two together until after Webster had informed her that Mc wouldn't be taking the stand. He couldn't, he had heard her testimony when they had discussed it via phone conference from her very own dining room.

Bron screamed at Webster and Maddigan for a full half hour before they had left the house. "You set me up!" They knew she would only go through this entire ordeal if Mc was going to collaborate her story to some degree as an indirect witness. Now Mc would only be testifying if he were called to do so as an officer of the law. The officer part had pitched her almost off her feet. She wasn't prepared, she had questions for which there was no time to answer. "When the hell did he cross over?" She asked from the back seat of the truck as they made their way to the courthouse. Her question had gone unanswered still. Kevin was crowding her intentionally in the back seat. Every time she muscled some space he would suck it up and get closer.

Exiting the ladies room she paced the small ante room where she had been placed with her husband. The Victim/Witness representative told her she was allowed to have two family members with her as support. Mc didn't count and was as of now sitting in the courtroom in the audience gallery. She would be called soon and she wasn't sure now if she had the ability to stick out the entire process.

Kevin sat in an old wooden chair with a torn red leather cushion. Half the brass tacks from the upholstery were missing and the chair squeaked every time he moved. The dark wool suit she wore contrasted with the light blue walls. Her blouse was only a shade or two lighter than the walls. He watched her pace back and forth as the heels of her pumps clicked on the marble floor. Not really a click more of a bam as she smashed her feet into the floor with every step she made. "Baby, calm down."

She turned and glared at him. Her face was red, with anger or embarrassment, he couldn't decide. Probably a little of both. He should have seen it coming but he hadn't either. It's not like he was well versed in criminal trials. Bron might have seen it had she been paying attention. After talking to Webster and Mc, he understood why she didn't. As much as Bron would like to have called herself an expert at law since she had so many dealings in her past, she had never actually been in a trial situation. The most she had ever done was suffer through questioning and pick Mc up at the local jailhouse. She didn't even know she was going to be the center of attention. Frankly, he didn't either, with everything going on, he assumed some of the attention would be placed on Mc.

"Calm down? I'm supposed to calm down after these assholes pull this shit on me? Kevin, I have to sit in that courtroom the entire time with that man. This is wrong, they didn't tell me this and you know it. Did you know about this? Did you know about Mc?"

The diminutive fire ball with a queasy stomach and a bad case of nerves walked to stand directly in front of him. She stood with her fisted hands on her hips. "Did you?"

"Nope," Kevin reached for her hands only to have her swing away from him. He let out a slow breath and waited it out once again. Another time or place he probably would have yelled at her to plant her ass and chill out or make her do it. This was neither the time nor the place. The way their luck was running, he'd get arrested.

Her hands tracked through her hair, and then she quickly looked in the mirror to make sure she hadn't messed her hair up. "I don't know if I can do this."

"Ya sort of have to now darlin', we're here and they're going to call you soon."

Bron stopped and turned on her heel. She looked at the mirror and spoke to his reflection in the mirror. "I don't want to do this. I could refuse to say anything. I could say that I don't remember. What could they do?"

Kevin shook his head and stood up. His approach was intended to be soothing, instead Bron interpreted it another way and fled from his embrace. He tried again and she relented. Wrapping his arms around her waist to prevent her escape, he hugged her tightly. "They could throw you in jail and I think that is the last place that you need or want to be. Think of the headlines baby. Backstreet Boy's Wife Jailed For Contempt."

Bron tore from his grasp and stepped five feet away from him. "You can't play that card. We talked about this last night! It's not supposed to matter, you said so yourself."

"I'll play any card I want to." Kevin knew it was wrong, but at this point he would do anything to get the ball rolling just so they could get the trial over with and go back to their lives. It didn't help matters this morning when the Outlaws showed up first thing to try and take Kaylin for the day. His mother was the one who interceded for him and invited them to spend the day at the house with them. He said nothing as he watched the old familiar fire and brimstone rise to the comment.

"Rules of engagement," Bron barked at him.

"Shit… You're reaching now. Rules of engagement… Since when have we ever had rules of engagement during an argument?" Kevin laughed at her. "I've tried rules; ya still fight like a girl."

Bron crossed the room like she had a rocket up her ass. Her hand whipped up and Kevin backed his head away from her hand. A fist came up and her index finger flared out and towards his face. "I'm reaching! They're reaching! They're trying to get a man to make a mistake and rat out the very people standing out in the hall who are supposed to be protecting me from him. Tell me, who the hell is reaching?" Bron huffed at him.

Carefully Kevin raised his arm up, his hand wrapped around her delicate wrist. "You are going to do what is best for you and what is best for us as a family. You're going to try and help put this man away for good. Have you given any thought to what that man might have done to our daughter had he actually gotten his hands on her?"

Kevin watched her close her eyes, her body shook and then swayed. His hands wrapped around her to prevent her from falling flat on her face. "You have to do this. Do this for yourself baby. Face him and beat him down."

She sagged into him. "I'm scared," she whispered.

"I'm scared too. We'll get through this together. It's gonna be alright darlin', I promise." Kevin swayed her slightly in his arms. He didn't even want to think about what she had just said to him. He hoped she wasn't right and questioned if they would be safe.

Bron backed away from him. His hands began to busy themselves with straightening her clothes. "It's gonna be fine."

"No cameras in court, no phones. I hate not having my phone, they can't call me. What if something goes wrong at the house?" Bron questioned him not paying his hands much attention as they tucked her blouse back in the waistband in the back of her skirt.

"My mother is there, Jake is there." Bron nodded at him as she straightened the skirt that he had just skewed in the wrong direction by fussing with her blouse.

"Well I only left him because he knows when Cooper is going to want to eat again."

Kevin watched her check her watch. "Which will be soon. He knows and my mother knows it too." Kevin was trying to think two steps ahead of her.

"Cooper can be fussy Kevin, you know that." Bron fixed the cuff on her suit jacket. "Don't forget Bounce, she can be a pain if she wants to be."

"Kaylin can be a pain when she doesn't want to be." Kevin chuckled. "I love that kid but she loves to push the boundaries of parental love."

"She's just bored." Bron straightened Kevin's new tie which matched his charcoal gray suite.

"Bored my ass…" Kevin chewed on his cheek before he spoke. "You don't need to worry. I know it was hard for you to leave Jake behind today. I understand why you did it. You wanted him with the kids."

"All of us know Stevie is up here Kevin. What if he gets in the house somehow or storms in takes over the house while we're all at court and they're all in there?"

Kevin's hands snapped her head up so her eyes would meet his. "Stop with the over active imagination, Bron. I mean it. Keep it together."

Kevin bit back the bitter taste in his mouth. Now the conversation he had with Mc, Suzie, and his mother last night after Bron had went to bed didn't seem so far fetched. He had told them if he gave Mc the signal then Suzie and his mother were to scoop the kids up and head back to Lexington. Bron didn't have the ability to cope with worrying if the kids were safe while they were out of her sight and the trial at the same time. Kevin was amazed none of them balked at his heavy-handed tactics, not even his mother. He would see how the rest of the day progressed before he made his decision. They wouldn't leave today though. Bron would need to see her kids at the end of this day to reassure her mind. Depending how rattled she became as the trial commenced, he would send them back home in an instant, like tomorrow at the rate she was going.

The door swung open and an officer stepped inside. "They're ready for you Mrs. Richardson."

Kevin watched her face grow pale and she touched her stomach. The guard backed up reading the warning signs. Kevin grabbed her hand and spun her around. "Easy darlin'. We're going to get through this. Today is not going to be the worst of it. It's opening statements and only your testimony as far as I know."

Kevin turned to the guard looking for confirmation of his statement.

The police office shrugged his shoulders at him. "Depends, cross-examination could take place today." The guard opened the door fully. "We need to proceed."

Still holding her hand, he walked through the door first. His grip wasn't extremely harsh but tight enough for her to know, she wasn't going anywhere but where she needed to go. There would be no running out on this one. "Please help us Dad, please," Kevin muttered after he turned his head away from his wife and glanced out a window.

The courtroom doors opened. Kevin stepped in first since all eyes were on the doors. The entire courtroom was staring at him. He walked to the oak banister that would separate him from his wife still holding her hand. Wrong probably, but he had limits on how much he would tolerate his wife's chain being jerked about this entire situation. He hated it, but he knew it was the way things were. He tugged her hand so she came around to the other side of the banister. He walked with her down the makeshift aisle still holding her hand until she reached her seat. He waited until she sat and then he sat directly behind her. For the first time he looked at the judge. The judge was frowning directly at him. "Great, just friggin' great," he bemoaned in his head.

Turning his head to the defense table he saw the same man he faced in his hotel suite last year. Lenny's eyes were dilated like a full moon hanging in the sky. Then Lenny's fixation changed from him to Bron. Kevin watched the man scrutinize his wife from the tips of her toes to the top of her head. It wasn't just a curious glance. The man was staring at Bron's body boldly in an open court room.

Kevin debated how to handle it. He wanted to jump over the banister and pound the living shit out of the man. Then Lenny gave him a smirk and he almost became unglued right in the courtroom when Lenny mouthed the word, 'Nice,' to him. "Fucking bastard," he muttered under his breath.

A hand landed on Kevin's arm and a male's voice entered his ear. Kevin looked down at the hand. The forearm was encased in Armani and a Rolex 4130 rested on the wrist. "Don't go there, he's baiting you. He'll get his no matter how this ends." Mc's words registered and Kevin pushed himself forward in his chair.

The call came for the prosecuting attorney to begin his opening statement. Bron listened to the statement, which leveled the charges of First-degree Rape, First-degree Criminal Sex act, and Sexual Assault, battery, and down a very long list of charges. She blinked when the charge of attempted murder had come from Maddigan and pushed herself further back in her seat.

Bron said nothing about the hand which brushed her shoulder. She needed that hand to hold her up right now, even if she was still sitting. Her mind was buzzing; she didn't understand all the different classes and charges. She refused to look towards the man she hated the most on the planet She thanked a higher power for Maddigan's head blocking her view of the table next to her.

Her mind swam with information as the defense attorney made his opening statements. She winced while waiting for the bombshell that never came. Maddigan looked behind her at Kevin and then back to the judge. Her nails were cutting small grooves in the palms of her hands when she heard the words that she had feared most.

"The government would like to call their first witness, Bronwyn Cooper Richardson." Maddigan spoke to the judge and then stepped out of her way as she approached the bench.

The air rushed out of her lungs and she gulped for air. Swallowing the saliva that had formed in her throat, she stood. She walked with controlled steps to the stand and stood until she was instructed as to what to do. She took the oath and then her seat. She answered his questions and then he asked her to repeat exactly what had happened the day of C.W.'s funeral.

She stalled but only for a second. Bron wanted to do exactly what Maddigan had asked her to do. To repeat her story as it happened with as many facts as possible. The courtroom was silent as she spoke except for an occasional cough from someone in the room.

Her voice was hoarse and old wounds lay open in her psyche. She searched for the green eyes in the courtroom that would give her a sense of comfort, a sense of purpose to continue. When she found them, they weren't the smiling eyes she was used too. There was no hint of the crinkles that would form around them when he was amused or happy. But there was one thing she saw, sympathy. She didn't want sympathy from anyone.

Bron sat straight up in the chair and looked toward Maddigan waiting for him to continue.

"Can you identify the man who attacked you?"

"Yes," Bron both spoke and nodded.

"If he is present in this courtroom today, would you point him out for us?" Maddigan didn't turn towards the defense table until Bron had pointed at Lenny.

All Bron heard was 'let the record show…'. She had turned to Kevin, who now seemed to be smiling at her with his eyes.

Kevin watched her glance towards her watch and then he glanced towards his. He knew it was time for Cooper to eat and Bron did too. Kevin watched her fidget in the seat. She seemed okay until she had to point Lenny out. Kevin frowned when Bron asked to have Maddigan repeat a question.

Mc was leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees, his hands tightly clasped together.

Kevin felt something uncomfortable and looked down at his foot. Leaning over, Mc whispered in his ear. "This isn't going to work. She can't concentrate."

Kevin said nothing nor acknowledged what Mc had said. He was sitting in judgment in his own way on his wife. He listened intently for what seemed like half the day. Maddigan must have brought up every single thing Bron had ever said to Webster. Then he launched into Bron's history, her history with her husband, her husband's death, her history with Mc, which made him shift in his seat more than once. Frequently Kevin fixed his gaze on her to let her know he was listening to her and paying attention.

"As I understand, you were also a victim of another assault in Pittsburgh."

Kevin sat up so fast the chair bounced and the entire room of people looked at him. "Sorry," he mumbled. Kevin understood what Maddigan was doing. He was putting Bron's history to the jury before the defense attorney had the chance to attack with it. But damn, he recalled what he had done to Bron that night, it could be deemed the same thing by others. Kevin heard far off church bells chime the noon hour. He hoped they would break for lunch; Bron was once again fidgeting in her seat.

Mc bumped his elbow and shook his head from side to side. Once again Bron had to have questions repeated. Kevin watched the pattern form. Bron was distracted by the clock. To her the clock signaled she needed to do something for her children. Her children weren't here so she would begin to get anxious. The judge called a break for lunch. Kevin let out a sigh when the judge and jury left the room. He stood up again and went to stand between the two tables and wait for his wife.

They were escorted to the anteroom once again. Bron sat at the table picking at her food. Kevin understood her reasoning; she didn't want to go out because of the press. Mc had brought food to them and then excused himself saying he had something to do. "Traitor," Bron grumbled at his retreating back.

"Eat something babe, please."

"I'm not hungry. I told him I wanted a burger and greasy fries and he brings this crap back."

"Because he knows, as well as I do, you would just end up barfing all the grease up."

"Damn fruit salad. The smell is making me sick." Bron shoved the fruit plate towards Kevin. Bron watched her husband happily pick at the contents. "I'm going to find a pay phone and call home."

Without a word, Kevin followed her out into the hall with the fruit plate in hand. She fished around in her purse to make a call. "Seventy-five cents for a call?" She gawked at Kevin. "Since when? It used to be a dime."

Kevin snorted, almost inhaling a grape. "It's never been a dime."

"You wanna bet wiseass," Bron glared at him.

"Okay, I believe you." Kevin dropped two more quarters in her hand.

Bron rang the phone, the answering machine kicked in. She turned to her husband. "They aren't answering." Quickly, she held out her hand after placing the receiver back on the hook.

Kevin handed her more change. She tried again and again. Still the phone went unanswered. A cell phone was handed to Kevin. He spoke and then smiled. "Baby, come here. They're not answering because they're on the other line."

Bron ripped the telephone from him and began to speak. She paced back and forth asking how everyone was and what they had for lunch. If the grandmothers were getting along.

Kevin listened and thanked his lucky stars his wife didn't realize that her children were already on a plane headed back to Lexington. She had spoke to all of them and seemed relieved when she hung up the phone. "Whose phone is this?" Bron flipped it shut, "Oh it's Mc's."

Kevin retrieved the phone and turned it off. He would return it when they returned to the courtroom. It sucked that Mc had jumped the gun, but maybe it was for the best. He would deal with the consequences of his actions when they were safely ensconced in their home later this evening. "Time alone is what we need..." Kevin mumbled as they once again headed into the courtroom. Kevin put on his Kevin Backstreet persona for the public.

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