When Justice is Served


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SYNOPSIS: Assistant district attorney, Nicole Duval, deathly fears encountering the rapist who brutally assaulted her. Even Judge Douglas Keegan, the man she loves, cannot offset her post-traumatic stress disorder. Their sexual relationship is terriby flawed. When a horrible secret relating to their paternity surfaces, things couldn’t be worse—until she prosecutes a rape case that tests her very sanity…

Florida, 1950
Sixteen-year-old Mattie Wilson gazed at herself in the mirror. Concealment of her pregnancy was no longer possible. It never dawned on her to tell her employer, Mr. Avery Lucas Keegan, who had expertly seduced her while his wife lay in the hospital with a possible miscarriage. She prayed he might never find out because some instinct told her if he did, it would change her whole life, and likely not for the better. Thus, after her last payday she never went back to Mr. Keegan’s mansion where she worked as a housekeeper.

She was devastated and angered by the injustice of Mr. Keegan taking advantage of her and putting a baby in her belly. He lived in a mansion on a hill and had everything. Her poor baby would have nothing. It was a terrible injustice, she thought, envying Mr. Keegan’s wealth, from which the baby he created would never receive any benefit.

The problems with Pap multiplied when, in the first week she was off from work, he reached out his hand for his cut of her salary.

“There’ll be no more money, Pap,” she said with lowered eyes, fortifying herself against the storm blowing up the minute she spoke.

He snorted, spittle forming at the corners of his mouth marking the telltale sign of his heavy drinking night after night when he came home from his job. “Don’t mess with me, girl. Ye rent’s due. Pay up.”

“I can’t pay you. I won’t be getting any more paychecks,” Mattie announced timidly, afraid to look him in the eye.

“No paycheck! What the hell does that mean?” Then, almost like he was seeing her for the first time in months, he blinked a couple of times, his forehead squeezed into a frown.  His eyes glanced toward her abdomen. His face froze with shock. His mouth fell open and his lips hung like limp pieces of rubber.

“What in the hell is this?” he snarled, spittle shooting from his mouth. Like a striking snake, his hand jerked at the apron tied about her waist, snatching it from her swollen body. “Son of a bitch! How long you been carrying on with someone, girl? Who in the hell does your bastard belong to?” he demanded, drawing back his hand to hit her.

Mattie cowered away, throwing up her arms to shield his blow. “I don’t know,” she lied, knowing Pap must not learn that Mr. Keegan was the father.

“Don’t know! What the hell kind of answer is that? How many good for nothing bums have you been sleeping with?”

His expression looked dangerous, causing Mattie to cower further away from him. She remembered the often-used path she took through the woods from the Keegan’s place back to Pap’s shack. A story formed quickly in her head and she started pouring out words of desperation.

“It happened in the woods when I was coming from work late one evening. Somebody grabbed me from behind, and covered my head with something and did it to me. I don’t know who it was. By the time I got the sack off my head he was gone.” Her voice trembled apprehensively, tears running down her cheeks.

Pap seemed to believe her story, but his wrath still boiled. “You ain’t gonna keep some man’s bastard around here. You can just get rid of it, give it away, do whatever you want with it, but I ain’t going to be feeding another damn mouth. You hear me, girl?” he yelled, lurching forward to grab her wrist while his other hand slashed across her cheek, sending her staggering backwards against the wall.

Life was precarious at best the next three months before Mattie would give birth. Once in Mr. Townsend’s store where she bought food, she saw Mr. Keegan there. His shocked gaze of disbelief caused Mattie to cringe fearfully. Seeing him frightened her so badly she turned and ran from the store. She hid outside behind bushes until she saw Mr. Keegan leave not a minute after her. Only then would she go back into Mr. Townsend’s store to buy groceries.

Mr. Townsend gave her the name of a woman who worked for the Social Services Agency whom he said might be able to help her.

Mattie trekked all the way across town to see the woman who lived in a fabulous neighborhood and a beautiful home. It was a whole world away from the other side of the tracks where Mattie lived among ancient homes and shacks falling into ill disrepair. When she stood before the woman’s house, she was flooded with the same misgivings known the first time she stepped over the threshold of the Keegan mansion and witnessed a world of affluence beyond her imagination. It hit her how out of place she was there.

Suddenly, without even going to the door, she turned and hurried away, eager to cross over the tracks into the only place in the world offering her a sense of security.

Lying on her lumpy mattress night after night, she struggled decisively. Pap did not make idle threats. He said he would not feed another mouth and he meant it. Her only option was to leave, or give away her baby when it was born. Yet, she didn’t see how she could ever give it away. Every time it kicked, her love for it grew stronger. Having someone to love was the most wonderful feeling known to her, since her mama carried to the grave the only love Mattie knew. Having the baby warm and snug inside her had already begun to mend the years of love deprivation. If she gave the baby up for adoption, her empty arms would feel empty forever.

What was she going to do? Night after night the question kept her wakeful. The days offered no peace while she lived with Pap’s anger that could be dangerously close to exploding every evening after he came home from work and consumed at least a six-pack of beer before passing out on the sofa.

Mattie knew a woman who lived close by that  delivered babies for those who could not afford the hospital. She went to see the woman and got her offer of help with the baby’s birth.

When the day arrived for Mattie’s delivery, she walked to the woman’s house and told her the baby was coming.

“Go back home, put on a large pot of water to boil, gather up clean sheets and some clean towels and rags, then put yourself in bed. I’ll be there shortly.”

By the time Ettie Mae Brown, midwife, got there, Mattie was already straining and trying to push the babe from her body. Without much help, the infant came into the world crying with healthy lungs. Mattie lulled into a peaceful euphoria since the birth came easy.

At least the first one did.

Mattie had not counted on a second babe, but sure enough, another came popping out of her with as healthy a cry as the first. Ettie Mae commented that it was the first twins she had delivered.

A large wicker basket sat on a table in the corner. Mattie had found it in the trash bin near Mr. Townsend’s grocery store. She had made a little mattress to fit, made some tiny sheets and a quilted coverlet, and put some pink ribbon on the handle and around the outer edge of the basket. Since the babies were so tiny, the basket would hold them both for a while until they outgrew it.

Ettie Mae Brown finally left when she was sure mother and babies were well. In the days ahead, she stopped by occasionally to see if Mattie needed anything from the store.

Mattie saw Pap peek at the babies only once. He was angry all the time, it spilling out in raving fits when his meal wasn’t ready, or when he found something else to complain about. When he consumed many beers, littering the floor with the cans, he threw them at Mattie in violet rage anytime she came through the room. She nursed bruises frequently. Daily, she dreaded Pap’s homecoming from work and the abuse he inflicted on her.

“I want them out of here,” he kept screaming at her day after day. “You get rid of them, else I will,” he threatened.

One evening after she made dinner for Pap, she went into the room and nursed the crying babies. Feeling unusually tired after having a restless night previously, she fell asleep after putting the babies in their basket. Mattie slept soundly, enjoying a deep sleep when something awakened her. As her eyes adjusted to the near darkness diluted with a wash of light coming through the open doorway, she saw a shadow above the basket where the babies slept. Alert all at once, she sat up in bed, straining her eyes toward the large shadow. She saw her father standing above the basket with a pillow in his hand. Mattie sprang from the bed.

“What are you doing?” she cried, jerking the pillow from his hand. His strong smelling beer-breath made her nearly gag. Reaching for the light switch, she flicked it. The sudden brightness illuminated her father’s evil face. Caught in the near act too horrible for words to express, Mattie screamed. “Get out of here! Get out of here!”

Reality of what he had nearly done seeped through the stupor of drunkenness, and Emory Wilson turned and hurried from the room lest he still do the deed he started.

The near tragedy made Mattie realize she could no longer remain in this house. Pap had been about to kill her babies. She could not take the chance that he might try again.

The next day she took the basket with her babies and went to the bank. She drew out all her money and was flabbergasted to learn that her account contained far more than what her bankbook showed. Mr. Keegan, for whatever reason, had seen fit to deposit a great deal of money into her account, enough to see her safe for many, many months to come.

* * * *

That night Mattie waited until Pap passed out. With her one bag packed full of everything she owned, along with the few baby clothes and diapers, she eased from the house. She headed for the bus stop, hoping a bus would come soon. She hadn’t decided where she was going. It didn’t matter just so she got away from Pap.

Clouds were building in the darkening heavens and rain would soon pour from the sky. Even then, drops started falling and hitting the dirt to create dust puffs. She took the blanket and spread it across the basket, but soon the drops came in earnest and the blanket quickly became wet. She sought the shelter of a storefront whose overhang yielded modest protection from the rain. The babies cried because of the dampness and from hunger, and Mattie cried, too. Weeping blindly, she spotted a cardboard box in front of the store. Although it was damp, she ripped it apart and managed to make a cover to put over the basket to protect the babies from the rain. They continued crying, and Mattie had no idea what to do.

She realized the helplessness of her situation. What was she to do with two tiny infants? She had no home, no place to stay, no one to turn to.

It was then she remembered the social services woman.

From her purse, she took out a piece of paper and wrote the birth date of her babies. She started to write the names she gave them, but changed her mind. She put the paper in the basket and sat there next to it, thinking and crying over what she planned.

After a long time, the rain slackened for a spell. Mattie hid her suitcase in some bushes. Keeping the torn up cardboard box on top of the basket, she walked across town to where the social services woman lived.

The lights were on in the house. With tears still pouring as wildly as the rain, she went up the steps to the small roofed porch. Setting the basket down in front of the door, she knelt and kissed each of her babies. She started to ring the doorbell, but bent down and kissed them again. The rain came harder and she was aware the babies needed to be inside where it was warm and dry. Quickly, she rose and pressed her finger against the little lighted doorbell button and the chimes from inside rang in her ear. With one last quick look at her babies, she rushed down the steps, hurrying toward a nearby bush to hide.

Before Mattie arrived at the bush, she came to a stop when a sudden change of heart overtook her so strongly she knew she would stop breathing if she didn’t turn back. Running, she went back and grabbed the handle of the basket. When she tried to lift it, the handle broke and the babies nearly spilled out on the concrete floor of the porch. In the window, Mattie could see someone inside the house walking toward the front door. With no time to spare, she reached inside the basket and grabbed one of the babies. She released her bosom from her clothing to let the baby find her breast to keep it quiet while she ran behind the bush.

Nearly blinded by rain and tears, she watched in misery as the door opened, spilling light onto the porch and the basket containing her other baby. She didn’t know which baby she held, didn’t know if it was her tiny girl or her little boy. Either way, her heart lay bare and bleeding inside that basket with her tiny infant as the woman lifted her baby, dragged the basket inside the house, and closed the door behind her.

Mattie felt sobs choking her. She started walking. Where would she go? What would she do with a tiny baby?

She hugged the little baby to her bosom and kissed its tiny cheek, the strong sense of loss for the baby left behind like a knife in her heart. The baby in her arms seemed somehow torn in half with the absence of the child she was leaving. How could she go through life with this one baby always reminding her of the one she gave away? What was she to do?


About jeanettecooper

Jeanette Cooper, a native Georgian, a former elementary school teacher, graduate of University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s in Reading instruction, is mother of a son, grandmother of a grandson, and lives in North Florida near the Suwannee River. Jeanette enjoys walking, reading, cooking, and gardening, but her greatest pleasure comes from writing and watching characters come alive as they interact with one another in adventurous life-like dramas that motivate reading pleasure. Her latest romantic suspense novels are Passionate Promise, Vulnerable to Deceptive Love, Stripped of Dignity and The Wrong Victim.. Jeanette loves to hear from her readers, and invites you to contact via her web site at: www.jeanettecooper.net.
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