I arrived in DC late at night and stopped long before Capitol Hill where I eventually headed, picking the first Motel 6 I came across. I was exhausted and afraid of getting into an accident, so I just exited the freeway as soon as I had a chance. Not to mention that I absolutely could not afford staying in the Capitol Hill district, or any place reputable for that matter.
I entered the tiny hotel room and crashed on the bed without taking my clothes or shoes off. The lighting in the room was dim, with no overhead lighting, and one of the two nightstand lamps not working. To my surprise, I found myself unable to fall asleep. I was exhausted, my eyes burned and I couldn’t keep them open, but I was not out.
Begrudgingly, I picked myself up and made an effort to remove my clothes. Shoes had to go first. There is no pain quite like wearing cheap ‘vegan leather’ shoes with the rubber soles for over 12 hours. When I dragged my socks off, I realized that I had liquid-filled blisters and imprints of stitches and patterns from both my shoes and socks, sketched on my feet with the transferred black paint that came off the cheap shoe material, mixed with a day’s worth of sweat.
My feet didn’t really smell. They were just swollen and in pain. No way I could possibly wear these ridiculous shoes tomorrow, as I had to spend a whole day walking miles and miles of DC pavement and hallways.
Somehow miles in DC feel longer. I thought about it when filling the tub and soaking my exhausted body in nearly boiling water. At least one blessing for the day – DC does not run out of hot water.
I was also thinking about why I decided to drive 11 hours straight from Nicole’s house in the Appalachian Mountains all the way to the Capitol City. I guess subconsciously I knew the answer, but articulating it to myself made it seem like a frivolous whim, an emotional throw, rather than a practical step.
The tile in the bathroom was covered in rich steam, so was the small mirror above the sink. It was a good thing that I couldn’t see my own face. Standing there, naked and exposed, in every sense of these words, I couldn’t face what I was about to do.
“I want him to pay for this”, Quietly whispered Nicole after a long awkward pause. “I want justice, but not the kind of justice that the court can provide. I want real retribution.”
I knew exactly what she meant. I always thought that the word ‘justice’ was tainted by the ignorance and narrow-sighted formal justice system, with all it’s prosecutors, judges, courthouses and taxpayer-funded meals for the bastards who eventually end up in the prison. I knew based on my own experience, that in the court of law, justice is not equal retribution.
Nicole wanted retribution. She wanted to balance the accounts with the person who once spoke wedding vows, promising to cherish and protect her. To Nicole, those vows were more sacred than any state or federal law that prohibits a man to abuse his wife. The vows are sacred because they are built on trust, and Gabriel Sorvino broke that trust.
Gabriel Sorvino was an ivy league graduate, holder of a prestigious MBA, a refined specimen of the upper middle class society. He did not drink and did not smoke. He had no drug or porn addictions. He probably did not even cheat on Nicole. He swam every day in their estate pool for thirty minutes after a round of exercises on a treadmill and lifting weights. He was handsome as the devil himself.
“Handsome devil, I gave him this nickname.” Reminisced Nicole with her eyes looking down at nothing in particular. “He was the heartthrob in college. We met when I was in my second year. My field was in public relations.” At that she paused as if something just occurred to her. Then she lifted her eyes and looked straight at me, probably for the first time. “Ironic, isn’t it? I studied public relations, when I should have studied something about the private ones…”
Finally I managed to get a few hours of sleep. I checked out early, being the first person to grab a toast and a banana in the small kitchen area; pocketed a few small cartons of peanut butter and jelly, meeting with a disapproving eye of the help who served in the breakfast area, and hit the road. No need to pass on free food, I thought. After all, bananas and bread are all the same, whether they are served in the Five Star Hilton, or in this run down Motel 6. I drove the same Chevy that years ago I appropriated from my dad on a way out of his life. Sometimes driving this piece of junk bothered me, mostly because it reminded me of him, but most of the time I did not give it a second thought. It was just a car, a necessity for someone who is marginally employed and needs to get around. Beggars can’t be choosy.
I parked my car several blocks from the Capitol Hill, because finding a free parking spot in DC is no easier than ordering a can of cold coke in hell. Wearing the same damned shoes and twisting my toes to avoid the contact with the shoe surface that rubbed on the raw blisters, which already burst and spliced with my socks, I walked into the Library of Congress.
The registrar asked for an ID, and together with the driver’s license, I passed her my public defender’s license, which allowed me to wave the fee, and headed to the floor designated for the law section.
The floor was empty of visitors. Normally lawyers don’t visit the Library of Congress to brief for their cases. They use Lexis Nexus online libraries and eBooks, because, first of all, it’s the 21st century, and second of all, they have caseloads that would make such a day trip to DC a frivolous waste of time.
I, on the other hand, had no caseload. I only had one single case, and my first case at that. Cutting corners on my education, something told me that I had to get this one right. I had to feel the spirit of the law hovering in the dusted volumes of the Supreme Court almanacs and various law journals. I had to feel the justice system in my veins for this one.
Because how else to defeat it?
I thought of the strange menagerie of the current U.S. Supreme Court justices, who are setting in stone landmark decisions that very moment while I was perusing the Library of Congress to take them on. I was thinking of their strange obsessions with the loopholes and man-made doctrines which so often colored white into black.
… while the victims of domestic violence proudly carried blue-black flags of injustice on their faces and bodies …
… while ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ was only good for plastering across the government websites …
… while my feet hurt and my heart hurt even more, for Nicole and for my murdered mother …
… while the victims were put under scrutiny of a trial, taking upon themselves heat of the judicial zeal instead of their abusers, like human shields for our societal shame …
… while I was crying in the dark corner, between the two rows of bookshelves, on the faded carpeted floor, that absorbed the sound of the footsteps just as well as it absorbed the common sense portraying it irrelevant …
I took the damn shoes off, extracted a legal pad with lined yellow pages, and a ball pen, and armed myself to defend Gabriel Sorvino against the grip of the North Carolina death penalty.
[TO BE CONTINUED]
Copyright 2016 Ellie Maloney
This story is written for the #Blogbattle short story contest hosted by wonderful Rachael Ritchey, an author of two romantic fantasy books – Captive Hope and The Beauty Thief. Please check her books on the Amazon Kindle, don’t forget to rate and review her hard work. Also please check the #Blogbattle rules and vote for my story during the week of August 16, 2016. It will be listed under the #Blogbattle 68, prompt word ‘Menagerie’. Please comment below if you liked the story and want to hear more. I always appreciate it.