Authors: Trevion Burns
The Romanovsky Brothers, Book 4
Copyright 2016 © by Trevion Burns
Bare Naked Words
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All rights reserved. The reproduction, transmission or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales, is entirely coincidental.
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“State your full name for the court, please.”
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God?”
The middle-aged court clerk lifted a red eyebrow at Gary, her frigid blue eyes rolling before she breezed away from the witness stand. Gary watched her go, feeling his stomach turn.
In the chamber above him, the judge laid down his gavel, called for order, and Gary shivered. Whoever was in charge of the courtroom’s thermostat had been heavy handed that morning, and as his emerald eyes danced along each pew, all four rows packed to the hilt, a second chill went down his spine because he’d locked eyes with him.
Him—in the first row of the pews, pressing clenched fists against his full lips, his dark brown eyes haunted.
Everything washed away until the courtroom was reduced to a blur—the burly Asian judge, the svelte court reporter tapping away on her machine, the defense and the prosecution tables. All of it moved into nothingness, and all that existed was him.
Gary was transfixed; so much so that when a tailored black suit suddenly stepped into his view he drew a sharp breath, sitting taller, lashes fluttering. His green eyes rose to the long, lean man moving toward him, and the world swayed back in focus. Gary’s attorney always moved with an unruffled gait and a cool hand in his pocket. Now was no exception. Their eyes locked as he came to a stop in front of Gary at the witness stand.
Eyes unsmiling, as always, his attorney spoke. His chiseled jawline sank with each word. “Good morning, Gary.”
Gary shifted in his seat. “Good morning.”
“How are you feeling?”
His attorney nodded, taking a moment to shoot an easy smile at the jury.
Gary looked at the jury, too, swallowing when he found that none of them were smiling back.
“I suppose that’s understandable…” His attorney returned his smile to Gary. “You’ve certainly been through an awful lot—”
“Objection, Your Honor, Counsel is testifying.”
Gary’s eyes flew across the room. The blonde woman hell-bent on seeing him go up in flames was motioning to the witness stand with a scowl. The frown barely reached the middle of her eyebrows, betraying her young age. Gary wondered if she’d even been out of law school for a year.
“Are we conducting a federal trial or having insincere small talk?” she begged.
The judge leaned forward, his downturned eyes moving to Gary’s attorney. “Mr. Almeida, if you could keep the focus on your witness…”
Gary looked back to his attorney, Jack Almeida, just as he nodded toward the judge.
“Of course, Your Honor,” Jack said, pushing away from the stand. He took slow strides away from Gary. “Mr. Romanovsky… Where you behind the wheel of the Cadillac sedan that struck and killed Pansy and Marcus Black on the twenty-first of August, 2004?”
Gary choked back another heavy swallow as Jack turned to face him. “Yes.”
“Did you leave the scene of the accident?”
Gary’s eyes fell because he could feel them burning. All this time and he’d yet to allow himself to cry.
“Mr. Romanovsky?” Jack approached the bench on a slow foot, this time, hesitating. “Why did you leave the scene of the accident?”
Only when the threat of tears was gone did Gary look up and meet Jack’s eyes. “Because I was afraid.”
Gary cringed. “I was a fourteen-year-old kid. It was an accident, and I was afraid.”
“Fourteen.” Jack scowled. “At fourteen years old, you fatally struck two people, drove away, and were never made to pay the price.”
Gary’s eyes searched the courtroom, not sure he liked what he saw looking back. He and Jack had gone over this questioning so many times that Gary had started hearing it in his dreams, but now, seeing the horrified faces of all the people in the courtroom, he had to wonder if his attorney was as brilliant as everyone claimed.
Jack unbuttoned his jacket and pushed it open, returning his hand to his pocket as he threw Gary the same mystified eyes everyone else was. As if, he too, couldn’t fathom how a fourteen-year-old could do something so despicable.
Gary couldn’t help but think his attorney was a hell of an actor because that was the most emotion he’d ever seen on that man’s face.
Jack began moving toward the jury stand, proving that his show of emotion was, in fact, especially for them. “You were never made to pay the price. You got away, scot-free. No questions. No charges. No convictions. You could’ve lived your life until your dying day, and nobody would’ve ever known.” Jack waited until he was at the jury stand, clutching the edge, making eye contact with each and every juror, matching their frowns, before turning back to Gary and shooting the frown at him. “Why? Why walk into the central office of the largest tabloid in New York City, ten years after you got away—scot-free—climb on top of a reporter’s desk, and confess?”
This time, when the tears stung Gary’s eyes, he didn’t fight to hide them.
When no answer came, leaving the courtroom entrenched in silence, Jack shrugged, his eyes shrinking. “What was it about that night that grabbed you, consumed you, and moved you to confess, ten years after you’d gotten away with it?”
The first tear escaped Gary’s eyes, soaking the slacks of his business suit, and with uneven breath, he opened his mouth to give the only thing he was capable of giving any more.
Three Months Earlier
“Obstruction of justice. Leaving the scene of an accident. Vehicular homicide. Tampering with evidence. And those are just the ones off the top of my head. You’re headed to prison for a very long time, son.”
Slouched over in the most uncomfortable chair he’d ever sat in, wrist handcuffed to the leg, Gary Romanovsky’s green eyes rose, gleaming under the bright lights, and met the officer’s.
“Fair enough,” Gary said.
“Do you have any idea what prison is like,” the officer leaned on the table, “for a face like yours?”
“I guess I’ll find out soon enough.”
The officer craned his neck, making his head rear back, fingertips sealed to the steel interrogation table as he squinted one dull blue eye, his gaze flying to the mirror in the corner of the room.
“Why are you looking at them?” Gary asked, following his eyes to the mirror. He leaned forward, shaking his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes. The handcuff locked around his wrist sang out against the metal chair. He smiled as best he could, a slight hitch at the corner of his pink lips. “Allow me to save you the headache. There’s no reason to interrogate me or look to your superior for the right thing to say. I killed two people, and I’m ready to plead guilty. I did it. I confess.”
“I mean…” The officer sputtered, and then lowered his voice. “You realize you’re entitled to a lawyer?”
“I don’t want a lawyer. Am I speaking English?” Gary squinted before dismissing the officer entirely, eyes shooting to the mirror. He leaned over and spoke to his reflection. “I’m a murderer. I just confessed to the largest paper in New York City. I did not do that by accident. I’m not asking for a lawyer. I’m not asking for a trial. I just want you to put me in prison, and throw away the key.”
Silence infiltrated the room, and soon, the only sound bouncing off the walls was the air expelled from Gary’s gasping lungs. The squeak of the officer’s boots joined in as he circled the table. Then the ringing of the handcuffs as Gary was released from the chair.
“Let’s go, son,” the officer said, his voice now more resigned than accusatory. He took each of Gary’s arms behind his back and cuffed his wrists.
Gary closed his eyes tight.
As he was led to the door of the interrogation room, the silence prevailed, and for the first time in his life, it didn’t make him sick to his stomach.
For the first time in his life, the silence was a relief.
Zoey trembled from head to toe, curled over in the hospital wheelchair, hands clawed into her curly black hair. She tangled her fingers in it and nearly pulled it from her scalp. Tears plummeted from her eyes and hit the tile floor. Rhythmic beeping pervaded the quiet room, overpowered only by the occasional whimper that escaped her scowling lips. The scent of latex and hand sanitizer left her unable to escape her thoughts for a moment, the pungent stench serving as a constant reminder of where she was and why.
The hand on her shoulder repeatedly squeezed, moving in solidarity with the dreary melody of the steady beeping. Zoey’s cries waned into sobs, drowning out the beeps, and the hand on her shoulder squeezed harder.
“He’s a soldier,” the nurse whispered, her soothing touch ever present. “He’s strong.”
Zoey’s body shook a little harder, and the tears fell a little faster, bouncing off the dark brown skin of her thigh, which was peeking out of the hospital gown.
The nurse leaned down next to the chair and tried to catch Zoey’s eyes, but her brown orbs were riveted to the floor. She moved her hand from Zoey’s shoulder to her back, massaging in slow circles. “It’s a mother’s instinct to blame herself, but this isn’t your fault, hun.”
Zoey sobbed again, sniffling, tightening her fingers in her hair. “I should have been s-s-s…” She stuttered, and almost gave up when the energy of speaking became too much. The soothing hand on her back, however, propelled her. “I should have been stronger for him…”
The nurse sighed, almost in defeat, having seen this scene in her pediatric ward time and time again. Visitation hours had passed over and hour ago, but she and the other nurses had been secretly watching the news in the other room, and none of them had the heart to send Zoey Black away.
Three months early, baby Marcus fought from where he was curled up in the blinking incubator before them. His heartbeat was solid, he was breathing, but like most of the early birds in that room, he wasn’t out of the woods.
So the nurses let Zoey Black stay, and they would let her stay until both she and her son, were strong enough to go home.