CHAPTER XIV - CONCLUSION
See part one for disclaimers. Write the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening statements were made hours ago and Angie was called to the stand first. The D.A. had hoped to put Denise on the stand before anyone else but she hadnít been released from the hospital by the time court began.
Angie breezed through the prosecutorís questions and the defenseís cross examination with ease. The next witness for the county was Sara. She confidently walked to the stand, not backing down from DeVittemís glare. He knew this woman would be the death of his freedom and the intense stare he gave her showed more of his fear rather than his anger.
He counted on his contacts to handle her - to make sure she never spoke a single syllable in court. What he didnít count on was the determination and strength of Denise VanCook and the will and spirit of his target, Sara Langforth.
Angie smiled as she listened to Saraís testimony. She was good on the stand. Damn good. Denise would have been proud. The defense was unable to pose a single objection. She used the term Ďsuspectí when she referred to DeVittem, trying to remain neutral; factual. But the sharp edge her tongue put on the word, cut through the courtroom, stabbing anyone who was listening - especially DeVittem. All DeVittem and his attorney could do was sit and wait for their turn at bat. The D.A. finished and DeVittemís lawyer finally had his turn.
"You say this man is the one you saw in the dimly lit alley on the night of September 15th of this year correct?" he asked, trying to shake her recollection.
"Yes," Sara answered, making sure to add, "But it wasnít dimly lit. Evening was just beginning to fall but I still had plenty of light."
The attorney overlooked the additional comment Sara added for the juryís benefit.
"Now at the station house you identified him from an eight year old picture. How can you be so certain it was my client?"
"As I explained to the detectives I mentioned the man I saw looked about 10 years older but thatís already been established in Sgt. Michaels testimony." Sara was quick, confident and articulate. Strike one to the defense.
"But how can you be sure?" the attorney asked with a cocky grin.
Sara grinned. She debated on mentioning something she had noticed but never mentioned. She had even asked Angie to bring the mug shot book but didnít state why to any certain extent. Oh what the hell, she figured. Go with it.
"Ask Mr. DeVittem to unbutton his shirt," Sara grinned. "The man who killed Kevin Bakker was wearing a cross tattoo or a design similar to it." Sara turned to the judge. "Do you have a piece of paper your honor so I can draw a picture for the court?"
The judge looked to both attorneys for approval. When nether one posed an argument he handed Sara a paper and a pen.
It was a chance. A big chance. But this whole incident was filled with big chances. The prosecutor felt exceedingly nervous. His witness could be killing his case. If DeVittem didnít have such a marking then that would cast doubt on his identity. At least he felt that way until he looked over to see DeVittem, wipe his profusely sweaty brow.
As Sara drew the top half of the cross DeVittem undid his collar and pulled down his shirt to expose what looked like a Celtic cross on his right breast. Sara finished her picture and looked to the jury before anyone else. "May I step toward the jury," she asked the judge who gave his approval. She held up the picture for them as she walked over.
"This line here," she pointed to her picture, "was his shirt line and this design above is what I saw." As the jury oooed and ahhhed at how close Saraís picture came to DeVittem who was now facing them. His attorney got worried but soon came up with an explanation.
"You could have seen that from the mug shot," he challenged Sara.
"Yes I could have," Sara nodded before casting a glance toward Angie. "But this tattoo is recentÖwell perhaps not Ďrecentí. Letís just say that he didnít have it the last time he was arrested because it lists a skull on his arm and a dagger on his ankle but it says nothing about the cross on his chest."
With that Angie stood up and brought the book to the D.A. Sure enough, Sara was on the money and the district attorney stood up. "Your honor," he began. "I have the mug shot book in question that I can turn in as an exhibit to Miss Langforthís testimony."
"Objection," the defense attorney cried out. "Your honor weíve been given no prior notice that this book would be used and I ask that you dismiss it as evidence."
The judge paused a moment, giving deep thought to it. "Overruled," he answered. "You wanted to know why the witness was so sure and she provided you with the answer. This book isnít anything that canít be seen by anyone in the public. Iím overruling your motion. Bailiff, please take the book and show the jury the page which points out that DeVittem didnít have a cross tattoo at that time please."
Strike two to the defense.
"Mr. Connely," the judge told DeVittemís lawyer. "You may continue."
Mr. Connely now looked as nervous as his client. He had to find somehow, someway to salvage the case and discredit Sara as a witness.
"Would you say that you and Lt. VanCook are intimate?" the defense insinuated.
"Objection your honor," the prosecutor said standing up. "This question is irrelevant to the case."
"Sustained. . . Please restructure the question Mr. Connely."
The defense attorney paused a moment. "What is the nature of your relationship with Lt. VanCook?"
"Objection again your honor! I can not see the relevance in this line of questioning."
"Neither can I," the judge agreed. "Mr. Connely where are you going with this?" he added.
"Iím trying to find out if Miss Langforthís testimony is being exploited due to any emotional attachment with Lt. VanCook. After all they did spend over a month together," the attorney said while looking at Sara.
"No," Sara replied. The D.A. tried to hide his wince at Saraís outburst. Voluntary comments were something he wanted to stay away from.
Connley saw the reaction from Sara and ran with it, "But you spent a month with her?" he persisted. "Surely you formed somewhat of an intimate relationship?"
Angie was on the edge of her seat when she felt a tap on her shoulder and she gave a little jump.
"Howís she doing?" Denise whispered.
"Beautifully so far. Connely is asking her how intimately you two know each other," Angie whispered. Denise didnít reply to Angie. She just looked at Sara. At that point, Sara noticed Denise taking a seat next to her partner, right behind the D.A.
"Lt. VanCook and I spent a month together. Thatís true," Sara began, looking back to Mr. Connely. "We spoke intimately on many issues in life. But if you think for one moment that sheís coerced me into sitting up here, telling falsehoods about that man over there then youíre crazier than your client."
The jury smiled and gave a few light chuckles to Saraís response.
"Objection!" the defense attorney cried out.
The judge tried not to chuckle himself at this point. "What are you objecting too," he tried to ask in all sincerity.
"She canít talk to me like that. Who do you think you are?" the attorney asked Sara.
Sara looked past Mr. Connely and straight into DeVittemís eyes. "His worst nightmare." Casually she turned back to Connely again. "And you both know it."
DeVittemís attorney realized too late that he kept Sara too long on the stand. Strike three to the defense. He was out.
"No further questions your honor," he said to the judge, walking back to his seat next to DeVittem. He didnít even ask for the right to recall because he knew there was no way he was going to put her back on the stand again.
When the prosecutor turned back to smile at Angie, he then saw Denise. "Yes, you made it", he whispered to her.
"Your next witness Mr. Prosecutor," Judge Harris ordered.
He rose confidently to his feet. "The prosecution calls Lt. Denise VanCook to the stand your honor."
Sara and Denise passed each other, giving only a nod to one another as Denise took her place behind the stand. DeVittem just sunk lower into his seat with every step Denise took and as Denise gave her sworn oath he felt his freedom slipping away.
"Has the jury reached a decision?" Judge Harris asked the foreman. Only an hour had passed since the jury left for the verdict room.
"Yes your honor," she replied. "On the charge of murder in the first degree, we the jury, find the defendant, Carlos DeVittem, guilty."
Angie clapped her hands together once in victory before melding them together as if in prayer; giving thanks. The sound melted in with all the other commotion in the courtroom as a result of the juryís decision. Denise embraced Sara hard. "I told you youíd do it," Denise whispered her congratulations.
"Thank you," the judge replied in a neutral tone to the jury. "Youíre all free to go." The judge opened his notebook and scribbled something. "Sentencing will be set for December 2nd at 9 am. Bailiff please escort Mr. DeVittem back to holding. Court dismissed." As Judge Harris banged the gavel, the D.A. turned around and thanked Denise and Angie.
"And you," he said looking at Sara. "You were great. You had me a little worried now and then but you were brilliant. I hope we never have to do this again sometime," he teased.
Sara laughed. "You and me both."
"Well I have to go," the prosecutor said rising and filing out with everyone else. "You ladies take care now."
They watched him walk out with everyone else. Moments later they were the only three souls left in the vacant courtroom.
"Iím heading out too," Angie announced. "But first I have to thank you," she added to Sara, shaking her hand.
"It was my pleasure. Iím glad I could help."
"Shame you didnít get here sooner," Angie told Denise. "You should have seen her. She was phenomenal." Denise and Angie shared a brief smile. "Well, Iíll see you outside," she added to Denise.
They both watched Angie leave in silence before turning to face each other. It was as if they were memorizing each other; knowing they would probably never meet again and hoping to capture this moment forever.
"I guess thatís it," Sara sighed as she stroked the top of one of the bench seats with her fingertips. "Iíve fulfilled my civic duty," she added with a grin.
Denise continued to examine Sara - her light blonde bangs, her oval face and slender lips. "Weíll let you know the sentence as soon as we find out," Denise told her. "and as for DeVittemís thugs, donít worry. Heís smart enough to know that harming you now will only cause him more trouble. Besides I think your Ďguardian angelsí from the other day will still be looking out for you for quite sometime."
Sara nodded and began to make her way out. When she was at the double courtroom doors she stopped. She turned slowly, taking a last look at Denise. She wanted Denise to follow but Denise didnít move. She stayed stationary, remembering every detail of Sara Langforth. As Sara opened the door and disappeared, Angieís voice echoed over and over in Deniseís mind. She was phenomenal. She was phenomenal. She was . . . But Denise let Sara walk away just the same.
Denise heard a tap on the office door and looked up. It was Angie.
"Can we talk?" Angie said with great concern as she poked her head inside.
"Of course," Denise said getting worried. She could tell something was bothering Angie. "Whatís wrong?"
"Thatís what I wanted to ask you," Angie replied.
"What do you mean?"
Angie took a deep breath. This wouldnít be easy. "Have you seen her at all?" she asked.
"Who?" Denise asked turning her eyes way. She knew damn well who Angie was referring to.
"You know who," Angie began softly. "The one youíve been pining over the last four months. The one who makes you stay here 15 hours a day; sometimes all night . . . Iím worried about you."
"Iím fine," Denise replied.
"Youíre not fine Denise. I see it behind those depressed baby blues of yours. Why donít you go see her?"
"Like you said, itís been four months. Iím sure sheís moved on with her life."
"Are you so sure about that? Because I know you havenít," Angie countered.
"Since when did you become Dr. Joyce Brothers?" Denise said getting caustic.
"Get as sarcastic as you like but this needs to be said . . . I hate to see you lonely."
"I can never be lonely. Iíll always have you to nag me," Denise replied.
Angieís first reaction was anger. Then frustration. Then sorrow. Sorrow for Denise. "Go to her," she begged softly.
"And do what?" Denise asked. "I have no reason to see her."
Angie looked around the office thinking of a reason. Thatís when she saw it.
"Her book!" Angie explained. "Take her book back to her."
"Oh god," Denise laughed. "That is so adolescent."
"What do you mean itís adolescent?"
"Iíd feel like a scared teenager conjuring up some stupid excuse to see her," Denise responded.
"Youíre not a scared teenager," Angie began. "Youíre a scared adult . . . Besides donít you think sheíd like her book back? She told you it was once of her favorites."
Denise thought of the ridiculous plan. A plan that was getting less ridiculous the more she thought about it. Angie could tell Denise was considering it.
"Go ahead!" her partner urged with a smile.
Denise thought some more. "Maybe next week," she said looking at the book on her desk.
"No!" Angie said forcefully. "Not next week. Tonight."
"Tonight?" Denise asked, pulling at her clothes. "Look at me. Iím a mess."
"Sheís seen you a lot worse Denise."
Denise hated it when Angie was so goddamn logical and she knew for every con she spewed, Angie would give a pro. She might as well quit now while she was behind and the thought made her chuckle.
"Whatís so funny?" Angie asked.
"You," Denise answered shaking her head. "Tonight huh?"
Denise thought it over again. "Okay, but what happens if I get there and sheís . . . not interested."
"Then youíll know. And you can move on without wondering what Ďcould have beení."
Before Denise could reconsider Angie went over to the coat rack and got Deniseís coat. With a deep sigh Denise stood up and Angie helped her with the sleeves and zipped her up. She walked to the door after picking up the book and waited for Denise. Pausing to give another deep sigh, Denise finally walked over, taking the book.
"I hate you," Denise muttered.
"Weíll see after tomorrow if you still hate me," she smiled.
Denise cracked a smile and without anything further left the office. When Denise was almost out the squad room's double doors Angie called to her.
Denise just gave a wave and out she went. Denise couldnít even remember getting to Saraís new apartment but soon enough she was in her hallway. Sheíd been there once to drop off some paperwork for Sara to sign regarding the case in Canada against the man that tried to wager her life for the black satchel. Denise raised her arm twice but both times couldnít bring herself to knock. She took a deep breath to try again and she finally lowered her hand. Suddenly the door opened before her knuckles could make contact. Denise saw Sara hugging a tall brunette haired woman.
"Denise!" Sara exclaimed. "What are you doing here?!"
Denise couldnít put her finger on how she felt. Anger. Hurt. Guilt. Maybe all three. Serves me right for listening to Angie she told herself. She watched them a moment longer and realized she had to say something. "Your book," she said handing it over to Sara. "Iím sorry for not returning it sooner. I didnít mean to interrupt you," she added, as she turned to go.
"Do you have to leave?" Sara asked. Denise stopped and faced Sara.
"Iím sorry," Denise began. "I assumed youíd be alone. I should have called first."
"Well, sheís going to be alone," the brunette said with a smile. "Iím going home and Rick here is on his way to a meeting."
Denise looked further into the apartment to see a man behind Sara. The woman turned back to Sara. "Give me a call and weíll have lunch next week." Sara nodded and soon the woman was departing, giving Denise a wave.
"Iíll let you know what the Salvation Army says later today," Rick told her.
Sara nodded and Rick gave a nod to Denise as he started to leave. He paused however and took a closer look at Denise. "Youíre the cop," he exclaimed. Denise smiled. She wasnít sure just what the comment meant exactly but she took the handshake he offered. "You look a lot better than the last time I saw you slumped over a steering wheel," he grinned.
At first Denise didnít understand but soon she realized this was Rick, the homeless man that came to Saraís aid. Funny he doesnít look homeless. Heís dressed pretty damn good.
"Nice to meet you," Denise answered shaking his hand.
"Nice to meet you too. Iíve heard a lot about you," he replied.
"Rick," Sara interrupted. "You donít wanna be late for that meeting. The shelter needs the armyís support."
He took the cue to shut the hell up and move on. "Right," he told Sara. "Anyway, nice to see you Denise. Sara, weíll talk later."
Rick began to make his way down the hall with a silly grin on his face.
"Come in," Sara said opening the door wider for Denise. Denise walked in, taking a look around. Everything looked the same as it did before. Everything, except Sara. She was still just as beautiful but her hair was much longer now and a darker shade of blonde, probably a result of lack of sunlight during the winter months.
"How have you been?" Sara asked in her gentle style pulling Denise back from her observations of the woman.
"Good. Been busy," Denise answered. "Copís work is never done it seems. And you?"
"Iíve been working too. I gave up real estate though. I started a homeless shelter downtown. Rick now works for me and heís doing a great job with getting us backers and financial support. Canít say Iím making money but I donít have to worry about that so it works out. Janet helps me out too. Sheís the one who just left. Old friend from my college days who used to be a social worker and now tries to do good without all the red tape," Sara smiled. "Iím sorry I didnít properly introduce the two of you but I have to admit I was surprised to see you here."
"Thatís okay," Denise replied. "Iím a bit surprised to be here myself."
"Why? Didnít you want to come?"
Months earlier Sara would have put a sexual spin on the expression but now her words seemed detached; edgy. And Denise began to second guess herself for being there.
"Angie thought I should come here."
"And you didnít?" Sara asked.
Denise considered how to answer the question. "I didnít want to interfere in your life . . . But it feels like thatís exactly what I did when I saw you with her."
"You mean Janet?"
"Like I said, sheís an old friend. And you werenít interfering with anything. Sheís MY Angie," Sara grinned. "As a matter of fact, thereís no one your presence could interfere with. I havenít been seeing anyone. I havenít wanted to see anyone."
Deniseís desire to pull Sara into her arms and thank God she didnít move on was so strong. Maybe she still had a chance. Sara watched Deniseís eyes become moist as she watched her reaction.
"What is it?" Sara said softly, hoping Denise would open her heart.
"I lied," Denise said starting to weep but quickly regained composure.
"You lied? About what?" Sara asked as she began stroking the officerís arm.
"About being good. Thatís a lie. Iíve been miserable. I spend hours at the office trying to forget about you but it doesnít work. I wonder where you are and what youíre doing. I wonder who youíre with and if she could ever care for you as much as I do. . . Everything reminds me of you and I miss you so much I ache."
Sara was speechless. Not that she didnít believe it. She certainly could because she felt the same way. She was just having trouble finding the words to say.
"I donít even know what Iím doing here," Denise said starting to feel insecure when Sara said nothing in return. "I should just leave you alone. I shouldnít have come back," Denise said starting toward the door.
Sara grabbed Denise by the sleeve of her leather jacket and turned her around until they were face to face.
"Donít you dare walk out of my life again," Sara ordered. "I ache too Denise," she added in a whispered.
Denise moved in closer until they were forehead to forehead. "Do you still love me?" Denise asked after a few moments of just holding Sara in her arms. "Does this feel right to you?"
Sara felt herself a bit choked up too and she cleared her throat. "Yes . . . But you should know that I lied too when I said there was no one I wanted to see. ĎCause I never stopped wanting you and I know I never will. But I gotta know . . . Am I the one? Am I the Ďappleí of your eye?" she added, smiling up to Denise.
Denise returned the smile and stroked Saraís cheek. "Itís safe to say Iíve found my red, delicious. If you come with me, Iíll most certainly leave the orchard."
Sara began to chuckle but soon it turned into a hum of arousal as Denise claimed her lips with a tender kiss. Sara returned the affectionate gesture and she gave a silent thanks to Angie for advocating Deniseís return to her. Sara knew that for the rest of her days she would love this brave, daring woman who had risk life and limb to keep her safe. But more than the protection of her body she felt the protection of her heart. She finally found a place to call home and it was in Deniseís arms in moments like this.
Denise, for her part, fell into the kiss with all her heart and soul. No conflicts. No pressure. No need to Ďdo the right thingí. In fact this WAS the right thing - holding this woman, loving her. It wasnít just the adrenaline rush that made her love this woman as much as she did. This woman was a part of her. Since their separation she hadnít felt complete. And if she had her way she would never let her go again.
As Denise pulled back she made a mental note to call Angie. The officerís fingers began to stoke the lips she was fortunate to just kiss. Sara closed her eyes and gently captured them on one of the sweeps across. The desire to take Sara to bed after so many months was very strong but Denise resisted. Sheíd resisted before. She could do it again. At least for the time being.
"What do you say we do this right this time umm?" Denise said softly.
"What do you mean?" Sara asked taking her time to open her eyes.
"Letís do this the way Ďnormalí people do."
"Well what do Ďnormalí people do Denise?" she remarked with a coy grin.
Denise smiled and gently released her embrace, zipping up her coat a little more. "Would you like to go out tomorrow night? Dinner and a movie perhaps?" Denise said formally.
"Why Lt. VanCook I would be honored?" Sara grinned. "But I should warn you . . . I may not kiss on the first date."
"Shucks," Denise said snapping her fingers.
"I might do more," Sara added with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
Denise chuckled and hooked Sara under the chin with her fingertips before giving her a light kiss. "Until tomorrow then?"
Sara gave a kiss of her own as she stroked Deniseís face. "Tomorrow," she agreed.
Denise opened the door and Sara followed leaning against the frame.
"Where you off to?" Sara asked.
"The precinct," Denise answered. "I think I owe Angie a big thanks."
"Make sure you give her mine as well."
"I most certainly will . . . Have a good night Sara. Iíll see you tomorrow."
Denise began to walk out when Sara stopped her, "Hey! What are you doing this weekend?"
"I donít know, spending it with you perhaps?"
Sara smiled. "I was thinking . . . Maybe you could take a few vacation days. I happen to have a beach house in the Bahamas you know."
"You donít say," Denise teased.
"Yes, I do. Weather looks clear down south. No storms coming. Think you might be interested?"
"Well Iíll have to think about it. A weekend getaway is a pretty big commitment. Something you donít wanna rush into," Denise teased. "Iíll let you know tomorrow."
"You do that," Sara nodded with a growing smile. They stood a few more moments admiring each other. Denise pulled Sara to her by the waist and locked her in a tender embrace.
"I love you Sara Langforth," she whispered as she kissed the smaller woman on top of the head.
"I love you too Denise."
With a contented sigh, Denise turned and walked down the hallway to the front door of the complex. She stopped and turned around to see Sara still watching her. She blew her a kiss, which Sara caught and placed over her heart.
Denise opened the door and stepped outside. Oh yes. I think a thanks is certainly in order for Angie.
Sara walked back inside and picked up the phone, pausing until she heard a voice on the other end. "Hey, Denise was just here and I wanted to thank you personally."
Angie smiled as she looked at the picture of her and Denise on the desk. "Youíre very welcome. She looked too long to find the right one to let her slip away. When you called and asked for my help I was more than happy to give it."
"Thank you Angie that means a lot to me," Sara answered. "And the idea about the book - very clever."
"They pay me to be clever you know," Angie chuckled.
Sara joined her merriment. "Anyway, thanks to you Ďclever girlí I have a date tomorrow but youíll have to act surprised when she tells you. Sheís on her way there now."
"Oh donít worry. I can pull it off. But you do realize that one day weíll have to tell her the truth."
"If she takes my offer to go to the Bahamas this weekend Iíll tell her when sheís out in the sun with a margarita. She wonít care by then."
Angie chuckled again and gave a sigh. "Whatever is she going to do with us?"
"Love us both . . . At least I hope."
"Well you take care Sara," Angie said. "I better look busy here for when she gets back."
"Take care Angie. And thanks again."
"Youíre very welcome Sara. ĎNight."
Sara hung up the phone. Was it wrong to go into cahoots with Angie? Sara wondered for a brief moment. When she recalled that smile on Deniseís face and how it filled her heart with joy she had her answer. Nahhhhh not on our lives.