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Home > Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(12)

Complete Me (Stark Trilogy #3)(12)
Author: J. Kenner

Time has no meaning to me until the door finally opens again. The bailiff steps out. He speaks to another of the German attorneys, who then bends and whispers something to Maynard. I try to read his lips, but of course I cannot. I see Charles stiffen, though, and my own body tightens as well. Charles reaches for Damien, his hand closing over his elbow. He speaks low, but I am only one row behind and I make out the words. “They want to see us in chambers.”

I swallow as Damien stands, and without thinking, I reach for him. I don’t see him move. I don’t see him reach for me. But for the briefest of moments, his fingers close over mine. Electric shocks whip through me. He squeezes my fingers, his eyes meet mine.

I open my mouth to speak, but I don’t know what to say. I am scared, so scared. But I don’t want Damien to see that. He knows it, of course, but I want to be strong. I need to be as strong as he believes me to be.

And then he is walking away, moving through the heavy wooden door to the judges’ chambers. Going where I cannot follow into a world I don’t understand.

All I know is that trials are not usually interrupted in this way.

All I can see is the stern expression on the judges’ faces and the blank control in the eyes of Charles Maynard.

All I know is that they have taken Damien from me.

All I feel is fear.

Chapter Four

Ollie has moved to the defense table to sit with the legal team. I know he is trying to find out what is going on, but his absence makes me feel even more at loose ends. It has been over an hour now. I am alone and desperate for information. For the first time since I came to Germany, I truly feel what it is like to be in a foreign country, because I have no understanding of what is going on around me.

It’s not the language, though. The fact that I do not speak German only exacerbates the illusion. The German attorneys all speak fluent English, and I can hear what they are saying to Ollie. And what they are saying is that they do not understand any more than I do. We have all stepped through the looking glass, and I’m afraid that what we will find on this side is something even worse than the spectacle we anticipated.

I press my hands to the bench beside me, preparing to lever myself to my feet. But I force myself to remain seated. Pacing will only call attention to me, and I have already noticed how many of the people in the gallery are staring at me, whispering among themselves. In the absence of Damien, I stand as his proxy. It is not a role that I would mind under normal circumstances, but today I do not want to be in the spotlight.

When I am certain that I will go completely mad if even one more minute passes without any word, the door to the judges’ chamber opens and the group files out. The professional judges come first, their expressions unreadable. Then Maynard, then Herr Vogel. The lay judges follow, and Damien brings up the rear.

I’m not sure when I stood up, but I’m standing when my eyes meet Damien’s. My hands are fisted in my skirt, and I’m silently screaming at him to tell me what happened. He remains silent, and though I search his face, I can find nothing helpful in his expression. It is completely blank.

He slips in behind the counsel table, and he is only inches from where I stand. My heart lurches, because he is no longer looking at me, and a cold wave of fear settles over me. Then he shifts, his eyes once again meeting mine. I blink away tears and reach out for him. He takes my hand in his and squeezes it.

It’s bad, I think. Whatever it is, it must be very, very bad.

Damien releases my hand, and my sense of foreboding increases. He sits at the defense counsel table, and I take my seat, as well. There is already one witness—a janitor—who saw him arguing on the roof with Richter before Richter fell to his death. Could there be another witness? It is the only thing I can think of, and worry consumes me.

Then the judges are back at the bench and Ollie returns to the gallery. The bailiff calls the proceedings to order just as Ollie sits beside me.

“Do you know what’s happening?” I whisper.

“No.” His forehead is creased, and he looks as confused as I feel.

The tall judge begins to speak in slow, controlled German, and although Herr Vogel and Maynard and Damien stay perfectly still, the other attorneys at the defense table begin to shift in their seats. They weren’t privy to what was said behind closed doors, and from my perspective, they look like men about to explode.

Behind us, the spectators in the gallery begin to whisper. The gloom that has filled this space has lifted. I don’t understand how or why, but I am sure that something shocking is happening. Shocking, but good.

I glance at Ollie, afraid that I’m seeing too much, but he meets my eyes and holds up his hand. His fingers are crossed, and in that one moment, I could kiss him. Whatever his issues with Damien in the past, right now he is on Damien’s side. He is on my side.

And then suddenly the judge is finished, and he’s standing, and he’s filing out of the room with the other judges behind him. As soon as the door behind them has shut, the courtroom explodes into a cacophony of sounds, some cheers, some shouts, but some boos and catcalls. One of the attorneys takes pity on me. He turns and faces me. “The charges,” he says in a thick German accent. “The charges have been dropped.”

“What?” I say stupidly.

“It’s over,” Ollie says, pulling me into a hug. “Damien’s free to go home.”

He releases me and I stare at him, my body cold with shock. I’m scared to believe it. Afraid that I haven’t heard right and someone is going to tell me that I’ve misunderstood and the trial will be recommencing any moment now.

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