Death Is Not Enough
Montgomery County Detention Center, Rockville, Maryland
Wednesday 13 January, 11:15 a.m.
Laying his head on the cold metal of the interview room table, Thomas closed his eyes, too tired to wonder who was behind the mirror and too exhausted to be worried about what this meeting was about. He hadn’t slept in three days, not since they’d brought him to this place.
I’m in jail. Words he’d thought he’d never say. Goddamn Richard. The fucker had died. I ruined my life and he died anyway. Bled out from stab wounds to his gut. Thomas’s first aid had been too little, too late.
Murder. They’d charged him with murder.
He was almost too tired to be terrified. Almost.
He hadn’t seen Sherri since he’d been here. He hadn’t seen anyone. Not even his mother. His mom had written a letter, though. He laughed bitterly. Yep, she’d written him a letter, saying she was disappointed in him and how could he kill that nice Richard Linden? And oh, by the way, we will not be paying your bail or for a lawyer.
Thomas was on his own.
The door opened, but he was too exhausted to lift his head. “Thank you,” a man said. “I can take it from here.”
“Fine.” That voice Thomas knew. It was the guard who’d locked him inside this room. Leaving his hands cuffed behind him. “If you need anything, just ask.”
“Wait,” the new man said. “Uncuff him.”
Thomas lifted his head enough to see the man’s dark suit and tie. And his wheelchair. Thomas jerked upright, staring.
The man wasn’t old. He was young, actually. Maybe thirty. It was hard to say. His hair was cut short, his suit expensive-looking. He was studying Thomas clinically.
“Thomas White?” he asked.
Not for much longer. He’d be ditching his stepfather’s last name as soon as possible. He was sure the bastard was the reason his mother had turned her back. Part of him wondered what his stepfather had needed to do to force her to write that letter. Part of him worried about his mom. Part of him was too tired to care.
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“I’m your lawyer,” the man said blandly. He turned to the guard. “Uncuff him. Please.”
The way he said please wasn’t polite. It was … imperious. Commanding.
“If you’re sure,” the guard said with a shrug.
“I’m sure,” the lawyer said.
Thomas gritted his teeth when the guard jerked his arms under the guise of unlocking the cuffs. “One move from you, kid,” the man growled in warning.
Rubbing his sore wrists, Thomas glared and said nothing.
“That’ll be all,” the lawyer said, waiting until he and Thomas were alone to roll his eyes. “All right, then, Mr. White. Let’s start—”
“Thomas,” Thomas interrupted. “Not White. Just Thomas.”
“I can do that. For now, anyway.” The lawyer rolled his wheelchair to the table, appraising Thomas with too keen an eye. “Have you been eating?”
“I didn’t think so. I don’t have to ask if you’ve been sleeping. You’ve got bags under your eyes.”
Like you care. This guy, with his expensive suit and lord-of-the-manor attitude. “Who are you?” Thomas asked again, more rudely this time.
The man pulled a silver business card case from his breast pocket and gave one of the cards to Thomas. “My name is James Maslow.”
The card was sturdy and not cheap at all. Maslow and Woods, Attorneys at Law.
No way I can afford this guy. “I have a lawyer already.”
“I know. The public defender. If you choose to stay with him, I’ll honor your wishes. But first let me explain to you why I am here. Your history teacher and my law partner are brothers. Your teacher asked me to speak with you, as a favor. He thinks you’re innocent. I reviewed your case and thought he might be right.”
Mr. Woods talked to this lawyer? For me? Why? His lungs expelled air in a rush. “You believe me?’ he asked, his voice small and trembling, because no one else had.
Maslow nodded once. “Yes.”
“Why?” Thomas’s voice broke on the single word.
Maslow’s smile was gentle. “For starters, because your teacher told me what really happened the day you defended that young girl from Richard Linden’s advances.”
“Mr. Woods will lose his job,” Thomas whispered, remembering the principal’s barely veiled threat. Had that been only six days ago? Really?
“He decided to risk it,” Maslow said, and there was a spark of pride in his eyes. “Mr. Woods has written a letter to the school board on your behalf.”
“Wow.” Thomas cleared his throat. “That’s … really nice of him.”
“Well, he’s a really nice guy. I think you probably are, too.”
Thomas lifted his chin, stared Maslow in the eye. “I didn’t kill Richard Linden.”
“I believe you, but the prosecutor thinks he has a case. He wants me to tell you that he’s offering voluntary manslaughter. Eight to ten years.”
Thomas came to his feet, shoving the chair backward. “What? Eight to ten years?”
Maslow patted the table. “Sit down, Thomas, before the guard comes back.”
Thomas sat, his body shaking. Tears burned his eyes. “But I didn’t do it.”
“I know,” Maslow said soothingly. “But I’m required to tell you whatever they offer. Let’s discuss your case and then you can decide what you want to do about representation.”
Thomas rubbed his eyes roughly, clearing the moisture away. “I can’t pay you. I can’t even make bail.”
“Don’t worry about my fees. If you agree, I’ll be taking your case pro bono. That means for free.”
Thomas frowned. “I know what it means,” he snapped. “I got seven-eighty on my verbal.” Not that his SAT scores mattered anymore. No college would take him now. Nor was it this guy’s fault. He drew a breath. “I’m sorry, sir. I’m … tired.”
“You look it,” Maslow said sympathetically. “You’ve also made bail.”
Thomas’s mouth fell open. “What? Where did my mother get the money?”
“It wasn’t your mother. I’m sorry about that.”
His stomach pitched. Not my mom. “She really has cut me off, then.”
Maslow’s brows crunched in a disapproving frown. “I’m afraid so.”
“That’s why I don’t want to be White. Her husband changed my name when he married her. I want to change it back. Take back my real father’s name.”
“What name was that?”
“Thorne. I want to be Thomas Thorne.”