Chapter One: The Confession is only the Beginning
Turning the radio off in her car she sighed as she stepped out onto the pavement and made her way across the street to where she could see him waiting for her. She squinted in the harsh sunlight but relished in the warmth that seemed to be fading with the oncoming of winter. She felt herself smile as she came through the park's Iron Gate and stopped in front of him as he sat on the bench throwing huge chunks of bread at the black and grey pigeons in front of him.
"Look at them! They're like vultures." He remarked still throwing the pieces on the ground.
"I didn’t know you were such an animal lover Mr. Manning."
"Yeah... well it's a secret passion of mine... and what's with all this Mr. Manning crap? You don't see me running around here calling you Ms. Williamson, do you? Hell, you've seen my personal files! That's as good as being intimate!" He remarked.
She felt the laughter bubble up inside her chest and a small smile came to her face.
"Has anyone ever told you that you are just plain... well for lack of a better word... weird?"
"Yeah... but what the hell does my therapist know huh?"
"Obviously not enough!" Taking a seat beside him she peered over at his profile. He really was a handsome man. "So what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call?"
"I need a lawyer."
"I assumed as much!" She retorted.
"Yeah well I don't need one yet... but I will... soon. Probably in the next day or so."
She looked at him a little more closely now and saw the lines around his mouth and the set of his chin and realized that something wasn't right with her friend. He wasn't as relaxed as appeared to be. In fact if she really paid attentions she could see the weariness in his face and the tension in the whiteness of his knuckles. She suddenly felt worried for him... scared for him.
"Todd what's going on? What did you do?"
He didn't reply at first merely just stared at her in silence before taking a deep sigh and going back to the birds.
"Todd I need you to talk to me. If you broke the law in any capacity you need to tell me. I can't help you if you don't help me."
"Who are you... that Cuba guy?" He asked with a smirk.
"Stop making jokes and talk to me! What is going on? Why are you going to need a lawyer?"
"Because I'm going to be brought up on murder charges! Double homicide to be precise!" He stated.
There was another silence that settled over them again but this time it was different... it was a heavier silence. More weighed down with his last statement.
She swallowed hard trying to figure out what the best approach to this should be. She cleared her throat and shifted in her seat. "Why?"
"Are you asking me if I'm guilty?"
"What does that mean? I don't want technical answers. I want the truth."
"That is the truth."
"Explain it to me. Who did you murder?"
"Margaret and... her child." He stated softly.
"I just told you... I killed her."
"How did it happen, Todd? Because correct me if I'm wrong but you don't seem like the kind of guy that just goes around and kills unborn children. So tell me in detail what happened."
Taking in a deep sigh he began his story. "I went there to kill Margaret. I won't lie to you about it. I wanted her dead... mom or no mom. I didn't care. She was a threat to my family. And she had no regard for my wife or my children so why should I have any regard for her life and her child's."
She watched the anger pass across his face and felt the slight twinges of fear run through her veins. To see him so angry and cold wasn't something she was accustomed to and she almost felt sorry for those who may be on the receiving end of his wrath.
"I went after her... to her hideout... which was at this cave in the mountains... I was going to kill her. She pulled a gun on me... and we wrestled for it. It went over the mountain and then there we were. Just her and I... and I swear to you I'm not into hitting women but she just kept coming at me... screaming... hitting me and I just... I just wanted to get her to calm down. So I swung at her and knocked her to the ground."
"And you killed her?"
"NO! I mean I knocked her to the ground but she was still very much alive. I picked up a log... and I was going to... but then I looked... I looked at her stomach and... I couldn't do it. I couldn't kill her. I mean there she was breathing hard... her stomach protruding out at me and I just... I couldn't kill her. Not with her like that... carrying...
"...carrying your child." She finished for him.
He looked over at her briefly before turning away. "So I told her... I told her I would make a deal with her. I would let her live... both of them live if she would just leave town... and hand the child over to me."
"You were going to..."
"I don't care how the baby was conceived... it was my baby. My flesh and blood... another life that shouldn't be held accountable for his or her parent's actions. It didn’t matter how it was conceived… I could take care of the baby… I could love it."
She nodded. "I know."
"And she said okay.... she said fine. I was helping her up and we were leaving the cave and she turned on me... we were coming around the corner of the trail leading down the mountain and... She lunged at me... I didn't even think I just got out of the way and she went over... she went over the railing and into the water."
"I mean the last thing I heard... the last thing I heard was her scream. And then she hit the water and I couldn't see her anymore. She was just gone... I ran down to see if I could get her… you know rescue her but when I got there I didn’t see any trace of her… there was no body… nothing."
"Todd that doesn't mean you killed her."
"I went there to kill her. And you know how the people in this town are. They are always looking for a scapegoat... and I'm usually the likely suspect! I know everyone in this town is going to come after me with pick axes and their pitchforks! I just need someone to help me out."
"Todd you didn't kill her. It was her doing. She came at you; she went over the railing on her own. You were trying to help her. You were willing to let her go and take care of the child."
"But who's going to believe that? I mean you know me! You know how the people are in this town. They aren't going to believe for one second that I was willing to make a deal with Margaret! I mean everyone knows that I hated her! I didn't try and hide that! I wanted her dead! If I could have I would have killed her a long time ago."
"But you didn't... and you could have."
"No one is going to believe that."
"Then I'm going to prove it. I am not going to let you go to prison for something that you didn't do."
"They're going to try to pin this one on me. They are you know!"
"And we're going to stop them! I promise you that."
Looking over at her he sighed. "You have one hell of a fight on your hands. I'm as good as behind bars according to them."
"But they aren't the justice system. I'm good at what I do. That's why you always hire me. That hasn't changed."
He nodded. "I can't go to prison... not now. I've got too much to live for." He whispered still staring at the birds but the tone of his voice had changed. It was filled with empathy.
On instinct she reached out and took his hand and gave it a gentle but firm squeeze. "You won't. I won't let you. Nothing short of breaking the law is going to stop me from proving your innocence."
Looking over at her with a ghost of a smile she saw a light twinkle in his eyes when he spoke. "What if I paid you double... would you break the law for me then?"
She laughed at the semi-joke. "How about we cross that bridge when we come to it." She stated.