Turning to the one holding my arms, I try to see his watch but can’t make the numbers out.

“Can you tell me what time it is, please?” I ask. I have to sign those forms at one o’clock. I hope that’s enough time for me to call Paul’s office and get out of holding.

“Why? Got a date?” he snickers as his hand goes instinctively to my shoulder to lower me into the back. “Watch your head, ma’am.”

“I didn’t violate any orders,” I say as soon as they get in and close their doors. “He invited me. He said he wanted to meet with me. So we could, well, so we could talk. You don’t understand, he asked me to come to Sandstone. I’m innocent.”

“That’s not our job to determine, ma’am.” the driver says as he pulls away from the curb. “It’s just our job to take you in.”

“Look, this is a mistake. I mean, I’m sure Blake reported I was there last night, because I was there. But I was only there to get evidence that he stole my company. He asked me to meet him because he thought he could, well, um, he wanted to take advantage of me, of my situation. Anyway, I swear to you I did not go there on my own and I don’t have contempt for any court.”

“Ma’am,” the policeman in the passenger seat says with his jaw locked and a stiff tone. “I am not a judge and he is not a jury. Save it for court, ‘cause we don’t care.”

I settle as much as I can against the back seat, feeling the bitter tears of anger and frustration fall down my cheeks. How does Blake do it? Every time it seems like I’m going to get my life back, or that we are going to finally outsmart him, he just pulls another ace out of his pocket. The officer must have realized he was ruder than necessary because he turns to me and speaks almost gently.

“In case you were still wondering, ma’am, the time is eleven a.m.”

“Thank you,” I reply, wiping my tears on my shoulder. I start doing the math in my head. If Mark and Paul Fries can get the paperwork together, and I can get someone from Paul’s office to come bail me out quickly, I can still make the courthouse by one to sign everything. I just need to get that phone call as soon as I can, and hope when Mark calls Paul he will have them set up and ready to answer my phone. My body starts swaying with excitement and false hope.

“Well, that perked you up,” the officer says with a smile and turns back around.

“I have a very important appointment this afternoon,” I try to explain. “If I can get my phone call from holding pretty quickly, I can make bail in time to get there.”

It dawns on me I’m starting to sound like some ex-con from the movies speaking in jail vernacular and displaying my inherent knowledge of the system. If I don’t stop getting arrested, soon I’m going to be known as “Jailhouse Julia.” The thought makes me giggle a bit, until the informative officer brings all my joy to a stop.

“You won’t be getting bail, Ma’am. You’ll go from holding straight to your arraignment in court.”

“What? How long will that take?”

“Depends on the judge’s schedule. If it’s a light day, maybe six or seven hours. If it’s heavy you’ll probably be held over for night court. But don’t worry. Those dockets go fast. If you get bail, you could be out by about three or four tomorrow morning.”

“Unless Katie’s on leave. She’s the only bursar who stays late,” his partner corrects him.

“Yeah, but even if she gets bail the bondsman can sign a writ, maybe. I guess it depends on the judge,” he answers back, pretending I’m not in the back seat looking like a crushed tin can.

“What do you mean, if I get bail? This isn’t the way it worked last time at all!”

“Well you see,” the officer shifts in his seat and turns back around, his eyes aglow. You can tell he really loves the system, how it works and explaining it to budding lawbreakers like me. “The last time, you were given bail because the court put out a protective order. So you were released on your own recognizance.”

“But this time,” the driver continues, stealing his partner’s thunder, clearly not for the first time. “You violated a court order. So that’s a crime and it shows your intent to repeat the original crime and it means your recognizance clearly isn’t good enough. Thus, now you have to stand before a judge and defend yourself on both charges and show there’s someone else who will sign for you.”

“But that’s the thing. I didn’t break the order!” I stomp my feet as if that is going to magically open up their minds. “Blake asked me to come to his office. I didn’t just walk in by myself.”

“The thing you’re gonna like, ma’am,” the passenger points at me as if he is picking me for a ball game. “Is that the judge might be willing to listen to your story. Since you seem to want to tell it.”

“Until you get in front of the judge, though,” the driver continues, obviously used to getting the last word. “You should shut up about it. Because, no one in booking gives a rat’s ass.”

Gruffly but with an odd amount of care, the officers walk me into booking, guiding me through a maze of desks until they find one that is open. Standing me in front of the wooden chair, the officer who drove looks me straight in the eye.

“Promise me you’ll behave and I’ll cut you loose,” he says, motioning to the zip tie cutting into my wrists.

“I promise,” I reply earnestly. It is a baby step, but my first step to getting out of here and to the courthouse on time. He turns me around. I hear the click of a pocket knife and feel the sweet release of my hands coming undone. Bringing them forward, I rub my wrists looking at the swollen lines already turning red around each of them.

I sit down in the chair and look at the clock. It’s eleven forty-five. I’ve got an hour and fifteen minutes to make this work. Frantically I look around for the person who is supposed to be booking me. A heavyset sweating woman with a severely short haircut and hands the size of my head gives a deep sigh and sits down, peering at the paperwork the cop left. Taking her dear sweet time, she scans the orders as if she is memorizing my history.

“I’m sorry,” I start to get her attention. She frowns and looks at me from the side of the paper. “I really need to get this part done. Can we get started?”

She snort-laughs and gestures to me while she speaks to a male officer at the next desk. “She wants to get started.”

Tags: Priscilla West Billionaire Romance
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