Alexis was pacing the halls in front of the courtroom where Sorel's trial was taking place. They had broken for lunch recess. Zander was scheduled to testify when court reconvened. As she turned for the umpteenth time, she was startled to see Ned. Her face must have registered her surprise, because he smiled a sad little smile at her. Despite herself, she felt her heart give a little leap at seeing him. "Ned?"
Her voice trembled just the littlest bit.
"I can't stay, Alexis." He said as he stood before her. "You know how I feel about your involvement with all of this. But even so, I just wanted to come by and tell you that I want you to have success in this. I know how much this means to you." Before she could say anything or even react, he bent down and brushed his lips against her cheek and then he was gone again. Alexis stared after him, not noticing Dara Jensen until the other woman had come up in front of her.
"I don't see your client, Alexis." She said. Zander was the main point of her case, and she was more than a little unhappy not to see him with Alexis. "If he isn't here to testify, then our deal goes out the window. That means your client will stand trial under the original charges of drug smuggling, selling and accessory to murder."
"He'll be here, Dara, but since you brought it up, I'd like to remind you, counselor, that he was not an accessory to murder, that he had no foreknowledge of what was going to happen in that hotel room, so proving him guilty of that charge will be an uphill battle."
"I'd like to remind you counselor, that I can still get him on the drug charges. And I'm sure I can think of others as well."
Both women fell silent as the elevator opened and Sorel was brought in, cuffed at ankles and wrists. While his jailors checked off his arrival with the bailiffs and paperwork was exchanged, he noticed the two women.
"Well, well, I see the wagons circling. And no Zander Smith in sight." He smiled wolfishly. "Good day, ladies."
When he was well out of sight and hearing, Dara turned on Alexis. "Without Zander Smith, the prosecution's case is, at best, weak. Get your client here, Alexis. If not, I'll hold you personally responsible." She walked into the courtroom.
Emily arrived next. Her face paled when she saw Alexis alone. Alexis tried to comfort the young woman with words, but she knew she was trying to convince herself as well.
Then Roy was stepping off the elevator. Emily's face lit up as she saw who was with him. "Zander!" she cried. She ran to him and the two of them hugged.
"Good work, Roy." Alexis said. He shrugged, obviously uncomfortable with her praise.
"It just took a little snooping. I don't think he was in any real danger."
Alexis was proud of the way he gave his testimony. Even on redirect, when the defense tries to twist his words and trip him up, Zander managed to maintain his cool. He identified Sorel as the man who had ordered the police officer's death. And when the defense tried to portray him as an opportunist intent on saving his own skin, Zander set the record straight.
"I've done a lot of things that I regret, that I'll regret for the rest of my life. I can't change what I have done. But I can change what I will do from this day on. That is what motivates me to get on the stand today and tell the truth. I have a chance at a life when at one time; I saw no other paths but the dark ones I took. I can't go back and make what I've done go away. All I can do is take the chance that I've been given and make something of myself. And maybe someday, I can stop some other kid from making the same mistakes I did."
The defense lawyer had nothing to say after that. Zander was excused. Soon after that, court was recessed for the day.
As soon as the judge had left the courtroom, Emily flew into Zander's arms.
Alexis just grinned at the two of them, relieved and happy. Sonny nodded at them from his seat at the very back of the courtroom. He came over and shook Zander's hand. "Good work, kid." Then, with an acknowledgement to Alexis, he left the courtroom.
Leaving the two of them to their reunion, she went over to Dara still standing by the prosecutions' table. "So I assume Zander's deal is still in place?"
Dara was pleased enough. She was checking her notes; the testimony today couldn't have gone better. "I don't see any problems, so I think it's safe to say that your client is free and clear."
Alexis smiled. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw one of Sonny's bodyguards come in. He went straight to Zander and handed him something.
"You left this behind." She overheard him say.
"Thanks, Dara." Alexis said, and then moved closer to Zander. She saw what he had in his hand.
The one she'd given him as a gift right before he disappeared. The one he'd laughingly promised to wear everyday. He'd been wearing it when he'd vanished.
She heard Carly's voice; "you can't seem to keep a leash on him. So who's got to do your job for you?"
A horrible suspicion began to grow in her mind.