"Who's dead?" the young woman repeated, shocked at the news that her coworker, Carson Dawson, had just told her. "I told you, Rosa," he said, his eyebrows shooting up naturally when he became bothered. "Laurence Green was found dead in his home just last night."
"He was defending Bron Welty, wasn't he?" Carson popped open his soda can and took a long sip. "Welty's going to go away if he can't find a good attorney like Green." He paused, then looked back up at Rosa Rivera-Ortiz. "Have you been keeping up on the case?"
"Just what's on the news. Why?" "Green was from another San Diego firm. I think they won't be working for a while, so don't you think Welty might be coming here?" "And you think your father's going to let me on the case? Please. He hates me."
Carson's father, Aaron Dawson, owned the law firm Rosa worked at. She had been hired just from her exceedingly great argumentative attitude, but since then, Aaron didn't seem too fond of her. She was one of three women working at the Dawson Law Firm, but the only immigrant from Mexico. The others had been born in the United States.
Carson gave Rosa a sad smile. "Try to convince him you can do it." She tossed her fast food lunch in the trash and threw Carson a sarcastic frown. "Are you just saying I should defend him because I confessed to you I found him attractive when we saw the action film he was in a few years back?"
"You seem to remember that fairly well." Rosa laughed, "Don't even think of using that against me." Carson put his hands up in surrender. "How could I use it against you? I'm not the prosecutor!"
Carson had dusty light brown hair that drifted into his forest green eyes. He was tall but skinny, a meak figure but an impeccable lawyer. His father was intimidating, and had forced Carson into law, but Rosa was glad he followed in Aaron's footsteps because Carson was the only one at the firm she felt she could talk to.
"Where did Laurence Green work?" Rosa asked suddenly, feeling excited at Carson's suggestion to defend Bron Welty. Carson stared at her, probably trying to figure out why she was asking such a thing. He told her, and in minutes, Rosa found herself driving three miles away.
The receptionist glanced up from her desk. "Hello, welcome to Green & Smith LLP. My name is Maggie. How can I help you?" Rosa flashed her the briefcase she was holding. "Just a fellow attorney. I heard about Green, and I was wondering if I could speak with Mr. Smith."
"I'll see if Mr. Smith is busy," Maggie replied with a sweet smile. The red hair made her look extremely young. "Thank you," Rosa said, but Maggie was already on the phone. She tried not to listen to the conversation as the receptionist asked Smith if he was occupied.
"You can head straight back. You'll see it." Rosa nodded and her black heels clicked heavily against the ground as she walked down the empty hallway. Soon, she came to a halt in front of a door marked: H. Smith, with his credentials.
She rapped the door a few times, but a voice immediately said, "Come in." Harry Smith was seated at his desk, and Rosa jumped at the guest she saw sitting across from the older attorney. She backed up and went to close the door, but Harry stopped her with a raised hand.
"Miss, please come in. It would do good to introduce yourself." Rosa stepped away from the door and remained standing a good distance from the client. "My name's Rosa Rivera-Ortiz, and I wanted to talk to you about... well, about your late partner's case-"
"Regarding the person sitting here now?" Smith asked, and Rosa nodded nervously. "Please sit. Ms. Rivera-Ortiz, as you already know, this is Bron Welty, praised actor and role model. We were just closing up the case." "𝘠𝘰𝘶'𝘳𝘦 calling a mistrial? Not the D.A.?"
"Oh no, that's not what I meant, Miss Rosa. Is it alright if I call you that?" He waited for Rosa to nod before continuing. "We were closing the case here. I'm afraid Laurence and I can't share cases. If Laurence is done, so am I." "You're retiring then?"
"People don't trust an old-timer like me anymore. They prefer the younger, more recently-educated attorneys, Rosa." She smiled. "If I had to pick, I'd trust you as my defense, sir." Harry Smith chuckled.
"You know how to flatter. Perhaps you could use your charm to persuade the jury." "You know that's unlawful." "But possible." Rosa giggled, but then Bron Welty spoke, breaking the peace in the office.
"Why can't you just call a mistrial and get it over with? I don't wish to spend the next three months waiting for what I know will be a not-guilty verdict!" "You don't know that, Mr. Welty," Rosa said. "The jury's supposed to be unbiased. Trial starts next week."
Welty ignored Rosa and slammed the palms of his hands on Smith's hardwood desk. "This should be a quick trial, then?" "Don't forget you're on trial for murder," Smith reminded him. "People want justice for your live-in housekeeper. Grace Johnson was a lovely woman."
"Dammit, Harry, I thought I said not to mention her! Don't you think this is hard enough for me?" Rosa looked down at her shoes, wondering if this conversation was meant for her ears. Luckily, Smith resumed a businesslike exchange of words with her.
"What exactly did you need?" "I want to defend Mr. Welty," she said before she could process what she was going to say. "What?!" Bron yelled, standing up abruptly. He looked back and forth between Rosa and Harry quickly.
"You're not serious!" he shouted at Rosa. "Don't even think-" "This is a big responsibility, Rosa. Are you sure?" Smith interrupted calmly. "This is exactly what I need, Harry," she said sternly to show Bron she meant business.
"Very well, I'll let the D.A. know-" "I've got it covered. I just need the information." Harry dug through the stacks of files on his desk and pulled Welty's out. He passed it over to her, and Rosa saw that Bron looked furious.
"Don't you worry, Mr. Welty. I'm a fine lawyer. You won't spend a day in prison." The actor did not look reassured. He tightened his jaw and glared at her with angry eyes until she was out of sight.
Rosa Rivera-Ortiz was in for an earful when she got back to her law firm. Boy, Aaron Dawson was 𝘮𝘢𝘥.
"You took on a case without consulting me?" he screamed in her face. Carson's eyes apologized to her from behind his father. "And not just a case, but the one that could send the whole country into an uproar! Do you have any idea what you've just done? Be happy I don't fire you right now, Ortiz!"
Rosa was suddenly filled with this confidence she never had before. "Then why don't you?" Aaron had been turning away to stomp back to his office, but he froze in his tracks. "What did you just say?" "Why don't you fire me? You treat me as though I'm completely worthless!"
When her boss had nothing to say, she continued with a piece of evidence that would convince Dawson to let her take it on. "I'm defending Bron Welty. Imagine the money!" Aaron Dawson was all about the money, and she knew this would change his mind.
Aaron growled at her but said nothing as he stormed away. Carson let out a heavy breath and didn't speak until the door to his father's private office had slammed shut. "So, you did take my offer? You're defending your celebrity crush?"
Rosa playfully slugged him. "Shove off, Dawson." Carson smirked and walked away. Rosa then darted to her cubicle and got to reading about the case as intently as possible.
The only person home other than the housekeeper and Bron himself was his girlfriend, Charlene Larson. But Bron Welty's home is humongous. Charlene was in a completely different wing of the house at the time of the murder. According to Bron, Grace Johnson, and Charlene, two in the afternoon was her usual "workout" time.
While in interrogation, Bron Welty brought up details of the murder that only the killer would've known. He was immediately arrested, but sent home at arraignment. Cops were stationed around his temporary house in any case that he should leave, but his passport was confiscated. He couldn't have left the country.
Trial began the next Tuesday, and Rosa had been preparing the whole of last week. She had called Welty quite a few times over the past few days, but he did not pick up. He appeared to be ignoring her. That was not a good sign, considering he had court.
However, he was standing at the front, waiting for her. He pasted a fake smile onto his handsome features, but Rosa did not allow her fondness of the man get past her duties as his attorney. "Good morning, Mr. Welty. I trust I find you well prepared?"
That's when she noticed the woman standing next to the movie star. Charlene Larson was as gorgeous as always. She seemed to have complete faith in Bron, though, because she didn't look the least bit terrified next to him. "I am doing quite well, thank you."
He was not that polite with her the last time she'd seen him.
The three of them walked into the courthouse, Rosa's briefcase swinging with jealousy beside her. She didn't know how envious she would be when she saw Charlene. Bron's girlfriend shouldn't even be right next to him; she was testifying for the prosecutor.
Charlene moved to sit in the gallery, but Rosa grabbed her arm to stop her. She immediately let go at the look on Charlene's face. "You can't sit in here. I'm sorry, Ms. Larson." Rosa paused. Then she said, "This officer will lead you to where you need to be."
As Charlene was being escorted out of the room, Rosa took her place at the defense table next to Bron Welty. Strange. He hadn't looked back or said good-bye to his girlfriend. Before she could question it, however, the judge spoke, asking for the prosecution to make their opening statement.
James Crestholm stood and adjusted his tie, before stepping in front of the jury. He was rather handsome as well. Jet black hair that was slicked back and a muscular build under his jacket, Crestholm could easily win the jury with just his good looks.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he began, and Rosa almost swooned over the sound of his voice. "I intend to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Bron Welty willfully, and intentionally set out to end the life of Grace Johnson, and for this reason, I am charging him with second-degree murder.
I will be able to clearly show that not only was Mr. Welty fully aware of the situation and the consequences of his action, but we will also hear from witnesses that can attest to the events, causes, and consequences of this man's wrongdoing. Just because he is a role model for many young children does not give him the right to perform such atrocity.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury." James Crestholm winked at Rosa as he sat back down, but she ignored him. Standing to her full height, Rosa hoped that she didn't appear as one to be bothered by a simple opening statement such as that.
"We are here today because the prosecution believes that my client is guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Grace Johnson. This is just simply not the case. Through witness testimony and facts, I will prove to you, the jury, that Mr. Welty was not capable of performing— what did you call it, Mr. Crestholm, an 'atrocity'?—an atrocity such as this.
Miss Johnson was a dear friend and housekeeper of Mr. Welty, and he had no intention, no motive, to end her life." Rosa turned to wink at James as she said, "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen."
"That was a pretty good opening statement," Bron whispered to her once she seated herself again. "I told you, Mr. Welty. With me as your attorney, you have no chance of spending a day in prison."
The rest of trial had gone fairly well. Charlene Larson's testimony wasn't as nearly as convincing as Rosa had believed it would be. She admitted to not knowing where in the mansion Welty had been at the time. They also had a psychiatrist who confessed that Welty was not in the right mind to "snap" like that.
Rosa was ready to head home; trials always managed to wear her out. Her heels clicked against the cement steps leading away from the courthouse, but a voice called out to her. It was the voice that had caused her to swoon. She shook her head and kept walking.
Then, a hand that belonged to James Crestholm gripped her elbow. Rosa yelped and spun around. "Fancy a drink?" he asked. "It's on me." Rosa already found a million things wrong with that. "Drinking with the enemy?"
James smiled, flashing his perfect white teeth to her. "Don't think of it like that. Just fellow lawyers having a chat." Rosa blushed, but she rolled her eyes to ease the heat in her cheeks. "I'm fine, and I've got a boyfriend. Thank you." She tried not to smirk at the stunned look on his face.
It wasn't true in the slightest bit; Rosa was single as can be. The only male companion she had was Carson, but they were strictly friends. They couldn't be together even if they wanted to, due to an agreement from Aaron Dawson.
Crestholm nodded absentmindedly and adjusted his jacket awkwardly as he stalked away. When he was a good distance away, Rosa burst into hysterical laughter. It was very childish of her to do such a thing, but it was hilarious. She was still giggling when she returned to her house.
All of her joy died away as she walked up to her porch. Carson was standing there, his eyes bloodshot and wet, as though he had been crying. A thousand thoughts drew through her mind at once. He didn't look like he wanted to talk, though, because he immediately collapsed into her once she was close enough.
Because he was so much smaller than she was, Rosa was able to handle his weight. She heard him start to sob again and, being the good friend she was, Rosa patted his shoulder. This embrace didn't last long. Carson stood up and moved aside, allowing her room to enter her house.
"Come in," she said, her voice cracking. He followed her inside, and she shut the door behind them. She gestured to her kitchen, and Carson just sat in a chair facing the counter. Rosa leaned against the tile, and she tried to catch Carson's gaze.
"What happened?" He looked up at her, his eyes gleaming from the tears. "Dad died." Rosa was stunned. She didn't like Aaron either, but the fact that her friend's father was dead... now that was haunting.
Carson caught on to her nervousness. "He had a heart attack early this morning. By the time he got to the hospital... it was over. There was no use in fighting." Rosa reached across the counter and placed a hand over his, which was gripping the edge of the tile until his knuckles turned white.
"Carson— I'm so sorry." He shifted in the seat. "Do you want to know the worst part?" He did not wait for her to respond. "I don't miss him as much as I want to." "The grief will come later—" "NO!" he shouted, standing up sharply.
"You don't get it, Rosa! I'm not going to miss him, that's the problem! He was an asshole towards you, and you have no right to defend him if I'm not going to! You know that you're not going to mourn him, and I am not blaming you for that."
Rosa pulled her hand away from Carson and turned to her cabinets. "Drink?" she asked him, and she almost laughed because she just thought about James Crestholm and how he had asked her for the same thing. She reached for a bottle of wine.
Down three glasses each, Rosa was still feeling sober and Carson wasn't crying anymore. They were now sitting next to each other on her small sofa, one of her arms slung over his shoulder. "Does that mean you'll be taking over Dawson Law?" she asked.
Carson shrugged. "I don't know, Rosa, I was thinking of starting something else. Something I want to do, you know?" Disappointed, she nodded lightly. "You won't close it down right away, will you?"
He turned his head towards her and smirked. "Yeah, I'll let you finished the 𝘉𝘳𝘰𝘯 𝘞𝘦𝘭𝘵𝘺 case." When he said the name of the actor, Carson winked. Rosa took her arm back and slugged him. "Quit that! Our relationship is purely professional."
"Oh, really?" Carson asked, raising his brows. Rosa wanted to scream at her friend; Carson was irritating her in a completely friendly way, but it still was infuriating. She needed to wring his neck (metaphorically, of course).
The next few trials also went fairly well, and Rosa was even more steps closer to setting Welty free. She was getting awfully excited and got this sense of exhilaration when she was around him, and she couldn't explain it. She couldn't possibly fall for him, though. He was a client, nothing more.
And that damn James Crestholm! After every day at court, he'd try to convince her to get drinks at the pub down the street. She wanted to do much more to him than just get drunk, but he was the enemy! That was wrong on every level!
This was not a story, not a fairytale. Rosa would NOT fall for someone who she couldn't ever date or go out with.
After the fifth day of the trial, Rosa was walking down the steps away the courthouse, just as she always did, when an arm grabbed her and a hand clamped over her mouth. She tried to scream, but no sound came out. The strong arms pulled her away from the direction of where she wanted to go and into a dark alley.
Rosa fought against the person holding her, but they were so fucking strong! When the grip lessened just the tiniest bit, she yanked away and kicked them in the place where people would not like to be kicked.
Her attacker stumbled away, and Rosa caught a glimpse of light blonde hair and a gleaming badge that looked very familiar to her... "Oh shit!" she yelled, putting her own hands over her lips in shock. "I'm so sorry, Officer!"
The other woman straightened and flashed the badge towards Rosa. "Not police. Private investigator. I didn't mean to scare you, I just knew you couldn't speak to me about the case in public. This is the safest place, Ms. Rivera-Ortiz."
"I can't speak about the case at all," she replied, stepping back. "Strict confidentiality rules." The woman ran right over the end of Rosa's statement. "I know all the details I need to know about it, anyway. You may want to hear what I have to say."
Curious, Rosa asked, "How long have you been investigating Bron Welty?" The other person seemed to be counting on her fingers. 'Must be a long time,' Rosa thought. Finally, the lady perked up. The answer shocked Rosa.
"Ever since he filmed 'Jump' in Germany." Rosa thought back to the year that movie came out. "That was seven years ago! You've been tailing him that long?" She nodded. "Charlene promised me a million."
Rosa's mind was slipping. Charlene Larson— Welty's loyal girlfriend—wanted him followed? Did she suspect him of cheating? But seven years? That's an awfully long time of suspecting another lover.
The P.I. caught Rosa's confusion. "It has nothing to do with anything you might think." She dug through a bag that Rosa had just noticed, and pulled out an incredibly thick folder. She passed it to the lawyer, and Rosa grabbed it. "Put that bastard away," the investigator hissed, and then she was gone.
Rosa stared at the darkness beyond her, standing with her jaw wide open. That was a lot she just had to hear. She hadn't even caught the P.I.'s name incase she had been lying the whole time. What if the folder in Rosa's hands was full of lies? As Rosa walked back home, though, there was one question tugging at the back of her mind.
What if it was the truth?
Part 2 coming soon! I hope you enjoyed this! No one DM'd me about the "Help" post, so I tried my hardest. This was so much fun to write, though. What do you think? What do you think the folder contains? I want to hear your theories!
~~ Naomi Malfoy ~~