Mountain Memories

By Kennedy Northcutt ©2011

For disclaimers, see Part 1.

Feedback is appreciated ( You can also get updates on my blog ( or friend request me on Facebook. If you're a crazy stalker, go after James Stephens. He deserves it.


Part 5

Chapter 5

James Stephens lifted the glass of cognac to his lips and took a sip. It was smooth, just how he liked it. It was also one of the few vices Meredith allowed. He set the glass back on top of the polished bar and took a drag of the cigarette in his other hand. Meredith didn't tolerate smoking of any kind. She hated it. So he snuck a drag whenever he could, especially when he was at the club with his friends. They all smoked.

He smiled to himself. Meredith was no longer with him, now, was she?

"You doing okay, Mr. Stephens?" The bartender-a rather young pup with handsome, rugged features-polished the bar in front of him. "Can I get you anything else?"

James surveyed the dark-haired, college-age young man with a critical eye, noting his clean cut, all-American appearance. Danny was the name on the badge on the boy's chest. Not exactly a strong family name, but beggars couldn't be choosers, now, could they?

James knew he needed to find Lacey a strong young man to bring her to heel. But this one was too young for his tastes. Although, Danny did appear to be unafraid of hard work. And he was in college. How old was his oldest daughter, James thought? She definitely wasn't college age anymore.

"How old are you, boy?"

"Twenty-two, next month, sir," the bartender replied uneasily. "Why?"

"Eh," James waved him away. "Definitely too young."

James flicked the ashes of his cigarette into the ashtray next to him. He then glanced around at the other occupants of the spacious hotel bar. He wasn't one to frequent such places. He was more fond of the smoking room at his country club. Bars were places where one found companionship for the evening, if one so chose to go that route. The men he socialized with certainly weren't adverse to it.

Not James Stephens, though. He wasn't one to go trolling in hotel bars for female companionship. He had a mistress. He had a wife. He had two daughters. He didn't need to sit around hotel bars and pick up women to satisfy his baser needs.

A sweet, young blond caught his eye from across the room. She made a motion in his direction and then proceeded to head straight for him. James could see that she was beautiful. She had curves in all the right places. She wore just enough, and not too much, makeup for his tastes. She even had her hair cut in the latest style.

"Hello," she said in a sultry voice, as she placed a designer knockoff handbag on top of the bar next to him. "Buy me a drink, sugar?"

James motioned to the bartender with his glass.

"I'm actually waiting for someone," he said, as the bartender put another cognac down in front of him. "So, why don't you just take your drink and be on your way, young lady?"

"Well," she said, as she moved closer and ran a finger along his sky-blue business tie. "I was actually hoping to enjoy more than just a drink with you. Is this someone you're meeting going to keep you occupied all night long, sugar?"

"She…is," he emphasized, so she wouldn't misunderstand. "I'm waiting for a friend. We're planning to have dinner together."

The blond frowned and picked up the cognac. "Well, I hope she's worth it. In case you decide to change your mind, feel free to give me a call, sugar." She pulled a business card from her cleavage and handed it to him. "I can certainly make it worth your while."

She left with the cognac and didn't look back. James glanced at the business card in his hand. It had the name Melinda George and a telephone number in scrawled red text. That was it. He tucked it away in the breast pocket of his navy blazer and downed the rest of his drink.

"Hello, sweetheart," a brunette woman approached and sat confidently on the barstool next to his. "Sorry to keep you waiting." She leaned toward him and kissed his cheek. "I hope you haven't been here too long."

James gave her a tolerant smile after accepting the kiss she gave him. "Not at all, Delores," he raised his glass to the bartender and raised two fingers. "Join me for a cognac before we start our date?"

"That would be perfect, sweetheart," Delores answered, as she leaned an elbow on top of the bar and rested her cheek against a bejeweled hand. "I'm so glad you're finally home. I was beginning to think you were going to stay over there in that godforsaken place forever. Really, James, what is the appeal? Venice?"

The young bartender returned with the two cognacs and took away the empty glass.

"Oh, it wasn't so bad," James replied, as he sipped his drink. "I managed to get some sun and enjoy the night life."

Delores shuddered in revulsion. "I hear the water is filthy and the people are rude and rather obnoxious. Give me Monte Carlo any day, sweetheart. Or Aruba. I so enjoy the sandy beaches of Aruba. And all those delicious bodies…" She licked her lips and gave him a pointed look. "Why don't we take a trip to Aruba together, James? I can have Tristan ready the yacht and we can leave by the end of the week. Your wife will never know you were even back in Houston. Let her think you're still enjoying your vacation in Venice."

"Meredith is no concern of yours," James finished off his drink. "Besides, it doesn't matter what she thinks. She thinks she has the upper hand now that she had my personal account frozen, seized control of my daughter's trust and had the attorney put a hold on all our joint assets. She even convinced the partners at my practice to give me notice that my services were no longer needed. I have half a mind to…"

"Oh, come now, sweetheart," Delores leaned toward him and took his weathered face between her hands. "Don't get all worked up over any of that. After all, you're the one who had your own daughter committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation. If I didn't know any better, I'd almost think you were a cold-hearted bastard with no soul or scruples."

James slapped an open palm on the bar and pulled away from her. He then raised a finger and held it between them. Anger smoldered in his gray-green eyes as he continued to stare into hers. She just held his gaze and smirked at him.

"Do not presume…"

"Settle down, James," Delores kept her cool, despite his show of temper. "I'm not your enemy in all this. I just want to help you. Is that really asking too much?"

The wind instantly left his sails and he seemed to sag with the weight of what she said.

"You wired me more than enough money to pay off my debts in Venice and return to Houston," he conceded. "Thank you, Delores. I will most definitely find a way to repay you for your kindness. I promise. I just need to find a way to get my hands on that trust. Lacey doesn't need it. When I found out she'd been hoarding money for all those years and investing it-" He finished with a disgusted shake of his gray head. "I can't believe my own flesh and blood would turn on me like that. Did I tell you she tried to attack me in the court room during the hearing?"

"No," Delores was shocked and laid a bejeweled hand over his. "That must have been awful for you, James. Isn't she some kind of Special Forces ninja or something? Why, she could have killed you. It makes me shudder to think of it."

"Yes," he nodded. "As it was, she attacked several guards who jumped in to subdue her. She also broke her psychiatrist's nose and bit the ear of one of the lesser partner's in our family's law firm. The man threatened to sue me for damages." He scoffed, "Good thing I had one of the senior partners convince him otherwise. Now the whole firm is working for my wife. Only God knows what that little bastard will do in retaliation against me. The whole world has turned on me, I tell you. It's just not right."

Delores leaned over and laid her head against his shoulder. "Don't you worry, James," she said and patted his arm. "I'm here for you, even if no one else is. I will use the money dear, sweet Humphrey left me to make things right for you. I love you, sweetheart. I always will."

James let the hint of a smirk touch his lips and kept his face turned away from hers, as he patted Delores' shoulder. "Thank you, Delores. That means the world to me. It really does."

A ringing in his left breast pocket had James instantly reaching for his cell phone. He glanced at the number and held up a staying hand to her.

"I have to take this call, Delores," he said. "Please excuse me."

He didn't wait for a reply as he slid off the barstool and moved toward a bank of windows across the room. Once he was far enough away from her not to be overheard, he answered the call in a gruff tone.

"I thought I told you never to call me on this…" He listened to the voice on the other end of the call for several moments. "She what? How could you let this happen? I thought you assured me there was no way…" The voice interrupted him again. But his anger got the better of him, as he lowered his voice and hissed. "I don't give a good Goddamn if she had help. You told me no one would find her there. How in the world did a Navy commander and his assistant figure out where she was? And why did you let them take her?"

James listened to the explanation from Dr. Benson. The simpering man's tone reflected his agitation as he told James that he was afraid the authorities would shut down his facility for what he'd done. He then said he was going to go to the authorities and turn James in. That set James off and his temper flared.

"Now, you listen here, you good-for-nothing excuse for a doctor," James kept his voice low, but made sure the man couldn't mistake the anger in his tone. "You keep that trap of yours shut or you won't have to worry about the authorities shutting you down. I'll hire someone to make sure you never work, much less run your own practice again. I will ruin you. And then I'll send the authorities after you for what you did to my daughter." He listened to Benson's sniveling reply. "Who do you think they'll believe, Benson? Hm? I'm a respected member of the medical community. My partners and I have built a successful practice here in Houston. We have an elite clientele that includes prominent members of the Texas government. I know judges, attorneys, members of congress and even the governor himself. My son-in-law is a damned United States Senator, for crying out loud. Do I need to make a few calls?"

It was clear to James that his point had been made. He could hear it in the reply that came back to him through his cell phone. Pleased that he'd gotten his point across, he smirked as he listened to Benson back down from his earlier threats. The man was a spineless git in James' mind. He was nothing more than a pawn in a much bigger game.

And James was sure he would win. He had to. There was too much riding on his successful bid to gain control of his daughter's money for him to lose it all at this point.

Then he saw Delores waiting patiently at the bar for him and realized she had a part in his plans, as well. There was nothing he wouldn't do to get his hands on Lacey's trust. It was worth millions and would put him back in the good graces of his colleagues and his family. He would be on top, once again. He just needed that money.

"I don't want to hear it anymore, Benson," he said curtly. "Just keep your damned mouth shut. Don't breathe a word of this to anyone. You hear me? Better yet, take a trip out of the country. I hear Aruba is a nice place to visit in the winter." He was about to simply hang up on the man, when another thought occurred to him. "And don't you ever call me on this number again. I don't want to have to explain to the police that you made threats against me and my family. Are we clear?" He heard the reply, caught sight of Delores waving to him and waved back to her with a pleasant smile. "Do not cross me, Benson. Not if you know what's good for you. Good bye."

He hit the End button on the phone and tucked it away in his blazer pocket. He then returned to the bar and ordered one final drink.

"Another cognac, Danny," he said to the bartender.

"Oh, now what's the matter, sweetheart?" Delores watched the bartender put another snifter of cognac in front of James. "Are you sure it's wise to drink so much before dinner?"

"You rented a limo, didn't you?" He eyed her over the rim of his glass, as he took a sip.

"Why, certainly," she replied with a quick smile. "Nothing is too good for my James."

"Well, then," he downed the rest of his drink in one swallow. "I don't have to worry. 'Cause you'll be taking good care of me, Delores."

A frown of concern marred her brow. "Who were you talking to, sweetheart? Must have been some conversation to get you all worked up like this."

"Nobody," he answered. "Just a friend who wanted to give me a little heads up about something. Nothing important."

"Okay," she nodded. "I just don't want anything spoiling your welcome-home celebration, sweetheart." She looked him in the eye and took the lapels of his blazer in her hands. "I want this night to be very special. So the sky's the limit. You just tell me what you want to do after dinner and I'll see if I have the means to make it happen." She ran a well-manicured fingernail along his jaw line and then pressed the same finger against his lips. "Now," she continued. "Why don't we forget about money and families and everything else for tonight and just celebrate? Let's enjoy our time together and go have an elegant dinner. I made a seven o'clock reservation at our favorite little place." She linked her arm in his and stood up. "Shall we? Afterward, maybe we can go up to my suite here at the Four Seasons, enjoy some champagne to toast your future success and make love until dawn. What do you say?"

He glanced at the bartender and back at Delores. "I…um…"

She reached into her bag, pulled out a hundred dollar bill and slid it across the bar. "Keep the change, Danny. I'm sure you can buy books or something with that. How are those classes of yours going, anyway, sugar?"

"I graduate in the spring, Mrs. P.," Danny grabbed the money and tucked it away in the front pocket of his blue jeans. "Thank you for asking. You two have a great evening."

"Oh, we will," she winked at Danny over her shoulder and mouthed "See you later, lover," as James escorted her toward the hotel lobby.

They disappeared around the corner and Danny just shook his head. He put his hand in his pocket and fingered the hundred dollar bill there. A smile graced his features as he wiped down the bar and tossed the two empty snifters into the soapy water of the sink. A quick wash, rinse and dry and they were back on the shelf for the next customers. And Danny knew there would be others. It was why he had taken the job as bartender at the Four Seasons.


Mac turned to look at the figure huddled in the backseat of the four-door sedan. Lacey's head rested against the seat back and her legs were pulled up to her chest. She wore a pair of baggie sweats that Willows had given her to wear that morning. They were so baggie, in fact, that she looked like a young kid in them.

Lacey had barely spoken more than a few words all morning. She really hadn't done much of anything at all. She hadn't touched the Egg McMuffin or coffee Mac purchased from the McDonald's drive-thru. Lacey had also locked herself in the bathroom for more than an hour and emerged without a word. She was acting like a listless zombie.

Mac was worried.

"Hey," Mac put a hand on Lacey's upraised knee and watched the woman cringe away from her. "I'm not going to hurt you, Lacey." She pulled her hand away and tucked it in her lap. "I would never hurt you."

Lacey didn't respond. She didn't look up. She just sat there with her head against the seat and her arms wrapped tightly around her knees. There was a blank, faraway look in her eyes as she stared out the driver's side window. And Mac couldn't read her at all. It was like the Lacey she knew wasn't there. She was just-gone.

"Give her some time, Mac," Willows commented from the driver's seat next to her. "I'm sure those drugs they had her on are still in her system. Another day or so and we should start seeing some improvement."

Mac turned back around to face forward. "Not if she doesn't eat or drink anything." She leaned her head against the window next to her. "How much farther until we reach Houston?"

"We're just on the outskirts, right now," he answered. "Barring any unforeseen traffic problems, we should be hitting the downtown area in about twenty minutes or so."

"That's good," Mac sighed.

"Have you decided where you want to stay tonight?" Willows glanced over and saw the frown Mac wore. "I can put you up in a hotel until you can make other arrangements. It's no problem."

Mac glanced over her shoulder at the listless woman in the backseat. "Lacey has a condo, unless her father sold it. We should probably go there. Hopefully her clothes are still there. Otherwise, I have no idea where to find something for her to wear. She can't continue wearing the same thing, day after day."

Willows nodded. "Understood. Just give me directions and I'll get you there, ASAP."

"Okay," Mac returned her attention to the road ahead. "Thanks, Commander."

"Not a problem, Mac," he shot her a lopsided grin. "Truth be told, this is one of the most exciting cases I've worked in a long time. Most of what I do involves piles of paperwork and endless arguing with my colleagues over nit-picky stuff that doesn't really matter. I got to actually be a hero for once. It was kinda nice to actually earn these bars on my uniform."

Mac glanced at him and smiled. "So, what happens next?"

"Not sure," he shrugged. "I'll talk to the JAG office in Virginia and see if I can get the charges against the colonel dropped. I'm sure when I fax over the updated medical information I received from her psychiatrist, as well as submit my report on what's been happening here in Texas, they'll reconsider. I'm also submitting an official recommendation that she be honorably discharged on medical grounds." He frowned. "I actually think it's kind of strange that you were discharged and she wasn't."

"Lacey didn't remember being in the Army," Mac replied. "And I'm sure her father intercepted any mail that was sent to her parents' home. For all we know, she could have been promoted to a full-bird colonel while all this was going on."

Willows chuckled. "That would certainly be something. I'll look into it and find out what I can."

There was a long pause in the conversation while Mac considered whether or not she should bring something up to him.

"I want to take her to Wyoming with me when I head home at the end of the week," she said in a low voice. "I think it would be good for her to get away from Houston and her family for a while. My family owns a ranch near Jackson. My brother is a large-animal vet with connections in the area. He's sure to know a good psychiatrist who can help Lacey with her recovery. Besides, his wife runs a B&B out of their house and they have three boys. It's a noisy household, but a happy one. I want to give her that. I think she needs to see how a normal family interacts. And things are pretty slow around there, right now, so we'll all be able to pitch in and keep an eye on her. I can't leave her here, by herself, Jason." She looked pointedly at him. "I won't."

He caught the look she gave him. "I'm not sure that's such a good idea, Mac. After all, I can't guarantee that I can even get the insubordination charges dropped. She might still have to face the charges in a JAG court and give her side of things. At the very least, it won't look good for you to be taking her home with you. She's still in the Army, you know."

"I don't trust her family, Jason," Mac added. "Her father is a complete bastard who locked her away in a mental facility and had her drugged out of her mind. I don't care where he is or why. His motives are completely self-serving and he doesn't give a damn about anything except her money. The man is a first-class, scum-sucking son of a bitch and should be thrown into a pool of starving piranhas, as far as I'm concerned. I don't know about her mother and sister. For all I know, they might be in on all of this. Or they might not know a thing about what's happened."

"Do you think they'd go along with what her father did to her?" He shot her a raised-brow look. "Honestly?"

"Her sister? No," Mac shook her head. "Lily seems to genuinely care about Lacey. But I don't know about her mother. She seemed to stand by her husband the two times I met the woman. I really can't say whether she knew about this or not. Maybe she did. Maybe not. Either way, I don't trust her any more than I trust James Stephens."

A sniffle from the backseat instantly drew Mac's attention. She turned to find tears streaming down Lacey's cheeks and her eyes tightly closed. She hadn't moved from her position, but her shoulders jerked with silent sobs.

"Pull over!" Mac ordered.

She waited for Willows to hit the next off ramp and pull the car onto the shoulder. Then she jumped out of the passenger side and got into the backseat with Lacey. She pulled the sobbing woman into her lap and just held on tight, while Jason sat patiently in the front seat.

The tears soaked through Mac's ACU shirt to the t-shirt she wore underneath. She didn't care. She just continued to hold onto Lacey and let her cry.

"It's okay, Lac," Mac kept a firm hold on the sobbing woman, as she gently rocked her. "I'm here. It's gonna be okay, now. You're safe. No one's gonna hurt you anymore."

Heart-wrenching sobs shook Lacey to the core as the tears continued to spill down her cheeks. The stupor she'd been in since leaving the hospital finally gave way and every emotion she hadn't been able to feel while on the drugs suddenly poured out of her.

Lacey cried for what her father had done. She cried for the years of abuse she had been forced to endure at his hand. She cried because her mother didn't believe her when she told the woman what her father was doing. She cried because she didn't want Lily going through the same abuse she had. Then she cried because her sister hadn't been treated the same as she had.

She cried when she remembered her years military service. Yes, she could finally remember all of it. It was both exhilarating and scary at the same time. She remembered the blood, the bodies that she had worked tirelessly on in the operating room or in the field. She had saved some of them-many of them. Others were just too far gone. She cried for those she had lost.

She even remembered the young Iraqi boy she couldn't save. His death was the last straw. She remembered the day his mother brought him to the gates of the Combat Support Hospital, or cash as it was commonly called, there in Mosul.

She remembered explaining to the woman, through an Iraqi interpreter, that she wasn't allowed to treat the boy's wounds. She remembered the pleading in the woman's voice and eyes. She remember the tired look the little boy gave her, as she turned him away with an apology and told his mother to take him to the civilian hospital in Mosul. The boy was injured by an insurgent IED. Lacey knew he needed treatment. He probably even needed surgery. But policy dictated that she couldn't treat him. He wasn't in danger of losing life, limb or eyesight at that point and he hadn't been injured by U.S. forces. So, she sent them on their way.

His mother returned with him two days later. The infection in his wounds was so severe that Lacey knew he was probably already dying. When Lacey asked the woman if she had taken him to the hospital in Mosul, the mother merely shook her head.

An hour later he was dead. His mother blamed Lacey for his death. Lacey blamed military policy and let the woman beat on her with her closed fists, until one of the other surgeons intervened. He escorted the woman to her dead son and let her wail over his body. Lacey returned to her tent, sat on her bunk and stared out at the desert.

A week later she walked out of another failed surgery, marched into her CO's office and asked to be sent to Ft. Rucker so she could be trained as a flight surgeon, instead. She figured it would be far easier to do flight checks on military pilots, rather than perform meatball surgery in the field.

But then, someone higher up the Brass came up with the idea to put a trained field surgeon onboard a medevac helicopter. They remembered a flight surgeon during Desert Storm who had been assigned to a medevac as part of the crew. They also remembered that the flight surgeon actually provided front-line medical support above and beyond what a medic was trained for. Having an actual surgeon onboard a medevac was ideal. Such a person would be right there to make decisions that were sure to increase the survival rate of casualties from the field.

That's why Lacey was ordered to do more than simply perform flight checks with the medevac helicopter pilots in Iraq. It was why she was assigned to a specific helicopter and didn't spend a lot of time in the cash in Baghdad.

That's when she met Ollie and his crew. And that's how she ended up flying-and crashing in the desert-with Mac. They had survived through Hell and back together. They had been through thick and thin together. Mac. But Lacey realized that their relationship went far deeper than mere comrades and fellow survivors.

They had been secret lovers before that fateful day. Mac had been there from day one. She had even been there when Lacey was…

Another sob tore from her as the memories of her rape came back to her again. They weren't disjointed and disconnected memories this time. They were there. She remembered the barbed wire tattoos. The taunting. The physical pain of that traumatic attack was still with her. The pain of it was so real, so raw, that she felt like she was experiencing it all over again. Her body shook uncontrollably as she let out an agonizing cry of pain.

"Come on Lacey," Mac's voice intruded on the memories and brought Lacey back from the brink. "Please don't do this. You're scaring the shit out of me."

Mac was really there with her. Lacey clung to that realization like a lifeline. She pushed back the memories and called up every last ounce of willpower to get her emotions under control. The tears still rolled down her cheeks and her body continued to ache, but she managed to stop wailing enough to feel Mac's arms around her. She clung to that as her hands held onto Mac's arms.

But Lacey wasn't sure she could survive this latest ordeal, even with Mac there with her. So much had happened to her that she wasn't even sure her sanity was still intact. The scars from her time in the Army couldn't hold a candle to the shit her father had put her through. And she remembered everything. She remembered it all.

She could now remember with vivid clarity those agonizing moments when they had strapped her into a strait jacket and were pumping drugs into her system. The mind-numbing delirium and hallucinations the drugs caused. Benson's face above her own, as she went into cardiac arrest and nearly died when they gave her too much medication. The darkness of unconsciousness.

She even remembered waking up in that fog-that emotionless fog that made her as docile as a…What was it Callie had called her? A newborn kitten? Callie. Anger. Hate. Those were the emotions she wanted to feel when she was hopped up on Thorazine and whatever else they were giving her. She only knew about the Thorazine because Nurse Hester had mentioned it to one of the orderlies when they shoved the rancid-tasting stuff down her throat. She hated it. Now she could at least feel the emotions that she hadn't been able to feel then.

Unfortunately, she could do nothing more than let the tears fall over everything that had happened to her. So, she just let herself cry.

"I remember," the words came out barely more than a hoarse croak when Lacey had calmed down enough to speak. "I remember everything."

"What?" Mac looked down at the disheveled blond head against her chest. She moved some of Lacey's hair away from her tear-streaked face. "Did you say something, Lacey?"

"We crashed," Lacey said with a wan half-smile, after clearing her throat. "We crashed in the desert and almost died."

Mac couldn't help the grin that split her features, as she hugged Lacey closer to her. "Yes, we did. But we survived. And we did it together."

"I hurt," Lacey cringed. "I hurt so much, Mac."

She turned into Mac and buried her face in the hollow of Mac's throat and let more tears come.

"I know," Mac continued to hold the distraught woman and rested her cheek against the top of Lacey's head. "I know, sweetheart. I'm here. We'll get through this together, too. I promise."

Willows caught her pointed look, as he watched them in the rearview mirror. He just sat there and nodded, as he realized he was as much a part of the drama unfolding in the backseat of his government-issue sedan as its other two occupants.

There was no way he would allow Lacey Stephens to face a court martial for caring and being cared for by another person. After all, wasn't that one of the initial lessons a soldier learned in basic training? You chose or were assigned a battle buddy and then you stuck by that person through thick and thin. They became your closest friend and, for some, became even closer to you than your own family.

So why, then, did the military have such a problem with same-sex relations? Willows knew it had more to do with fear than anything else. There were still those who believed you could catch homosexuality, as if it were the common cold.

But Willows knew that wasn't the case. He had been on both sides of the issue as a JAG attorney and knew the arguments both sides used. He had even asked to be removed from a case when he realized he would have to argue for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy in order to win. He wasn't gay, himself. But he knew a few colleagues who carefully hid their true natures in order to serve their country.

He actually thought it was ridiculous that he could openly date, without anyone batting an eye over it. He just could never date another man without the proverbial shit hitting the fan. Not even if he fell head-over-heels in love with a man, which he had no inclination of doing.

Jason loved women. He loved the way they smelled, the way they looked. He loved everything about them. And he loved making love to them. They were so soft and vulnerable in his arms. It was intoxicating, like a drug. So why couldn't two women love each other-or even two men, for that matter-the same way he loved women? The logic of it was completely foreign and didn't make a bit of sense. Love was worth fighting for. Wasn't that true?

Then again, government bureaucracy was often confusing and redundant. Lawmakers were always trying to create new laws, rules and regulations to fit their own agendas, while also appeasing the masses that put them in office in the first place.

Invariably, however, it was up to attorneys and judges to interpret the law and make enough sense of it to put it into practice. And Jason's experience with the law had enforced his belief that everything was open to interpretation. It was probably why he was more open-minded than most of his colleagues.

He also believed that there was more to being a lawyer than merely playing a legal game of cat and mouse. He still held onto the notions that ferreting out the truth and carrying out justice were more important than winning a case. He was just old-fashioned enough for those ideals to still stick.

He glanced in the rearview mirror again. Then again, sometimes winning a case meant that justice would best be served if the truth stayed hidden from the court. He sighed, as he continued to wait for Mac to give him a signal that they were ready to continue on their way.

A few cars passed by, as the government-issue sedan sat idling on the shoulder of the off ramp. No one inside the car seemed to care that the world outside continued on without them. All that mattered was the breakthrough taking place in the backseat.

It was the first step on a long road to what Mac hoped was Lacey's ultimate recovery. She just didn't know how long a road it would be. All she could say at that moment was that she would be there every step of the way for the woman she loved. There was no doubt in her mind about that. And no one was going to stand in her way. Not James Stephens. Not even the devil himself.


Continued in Part 6

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