Marcel addressed the jury. "Is he telling the truth? He made the second contract out of ignorance and not malicious intent? By which I mean, no more malicious intent than is normally called for in these situations."
Some of the angels nodded, looking reluctant to do so.
"It doesn't matter if it was in ignorance," said Roman. "That's never an excuse for breaking the law. You messed up, and in doing so, you've invalidated both contracts."
"Come now," said Marcel. "It's not as though either of the Damned were that wronged. This technicality aside, she really was wiped from the memories of all she knew. And he got nine more lives. Nine more lives! We all know how rare reincarnation deals are. He got exactly what he asked for. He was even reunited with her. Hell has fulfilled these contracts as nobly as possible, and you can't hold everyone responsible for one underling's mishap that no one else even knew about."
"Oh," said Roman, a predatory note in his voice. "I think others knew about the glitch. Others in much higher positions. Your honor, may I call another witness?"
"Who?" asked Hannibal.
"My father," said Roman. "Jerome, Archdemon of Seattle."
There was a collective gasp among some, but whether that was from Roman acknowledging Jerome as his father or simply the summoning of such a high-ranking witness, I couldn't say. Hannibal nodded.
"Granted. Niphon, you may step down. Jerome, please join us up here."
Niphon couldn't get out of there fast enough. He practically barreled into Jerome when they passed in the aisle. For his part, Jerome was sauntering along casually, as though all of this were beneath him and it was a great concession on his part to even show. He sat down, crossing his hands neatly in front of him and affecting a bored look.
"Jerome," said Roman. "Isn't it true you knew about the connection between Seth and Georgina? Er, Kyriakos and Letha?"
Jerome shrugged one shoulder. "I knew they were both contracted souls."
It was an answer worthy of an angel. Some of the truth, but not all of the truth. I half hoped some angel would call him on it until an unfortunate fact hit me. Demons could lie without detection. There was no way to prove he was telling the truth or not.
"Did you know the terms of her contract?" asked Roman.
"Of course," said Jerome. "I do for all my employees."
"So you knew that the contract allowed her to be wiped from the minds of all those who knew her when she was human."
"Yes," said Jerome.
"And you knew that Seth was once her husband, with a contract that involved her."
"No," said Jerome flatly. "I most certainly did not."
A lie, a lie, I thought. But there was no way to prove it.
"If that's so," said Roman, "then why did you use Seth Mortensen to help retrieve Georgina when she was captured by Oneroi last year?"
"I don't remember the specifics of that incident," said Jerome delicately.
"Well," said Roman, "if you need your memory refreshed, there's an angel here who witnessed it all who can give us a recap. One I'm sure the jury won't question."
Jerome's features went perfectly still as Roman's trap sprang open around him. Jerome might be immune to angelic truth detection, but anything Carter swore to seeing Jerome do or know would be held as gospel. Carter couldn't lie. If he said Jerome had used Seth to rescue me, then everyone would believe it, regardless if Jerome continued to deny it. Seeing the futility of more cover-up, Jerome came clean.
"Oh," he said. "Those Oneroi."
"You used a human psychic to help retrieve her," said Roman. "He had the power and the ritual but no way to actually find her in the void where the Oneroi were holding her. You suggested using Seth as a way to find her soul, and it worked. Why? How did you know that?"
Jerome shrugged. "They were always mooning over each other. I figured if ever there was any merit in that true love nonsense, then we could use it to help us."
"That's not what Mei said." I took advantage of the conversational nature of the proceedings, my mind spinning with a long-lost memory. "Mei said it defied the odds and that no matter how in love we were, it shouldn't have worked."
Jerome's dark gaze flicked to something behind me, and I was guessing Mei was now enjoying the full force of his glare.
"Georgina was trapped in the vastness of the dream world," added in Roman. "One soul lost among dreams. For someone else to reach her and call her back required a staggering connection, two souls with a tie that's bound them through time."
"Please don't get sentimental," said Jerome. "It's nauseating."
Roman shook his head. "I'm stating facts. Everyone here knows it's true. Their souls had to have been bound for him to get to her, and you knew it, which is why you suggested using Seth. You knew about the contracts and their history. This wasn't one small error confined to a bumbling inferior. You knew about it. And you knew there was a problem."
"Which is why you had Erik killed and initiated a transfer for me!" I exclaimed. Seeing Jerome sitting there so coolly, so uncaring . . . it drove home the truth. He had known all along what was transpiring with Seth and me, and what it meant. I'd never thought Jerome and I were friends, but it was startling to really accept just how much he'd been working against me in order to further Hell's goals.
"Oh, Georgie," he said. "Always you and the melodrama."
"It's not! We can get proof - "
Roman put his hand on mine. "Not easily," he murmured. "There'll be no paper trail, I guarantee it. And it's not relevant to this case right now."
I thought about kind, generous Erik, bleeding to death before my eyes. "It's relevant to me."
Jerome let out a long-suffering sigh. "Is there anything else? Can I return to my seat, please?"
The judge glanced between Roman and Marcel. Both men shook their heads.
When Jerome was gone, Roman pushed the case. "Your honor, esteemed jury . . . we've provided more than enough evidence to show that her contract was not fulfilled. Through whatever mishaps, those from her human life did not stop remembering her. Per article 7.51.2 of the Soul Chronicles, Georgina's contract is invalidated. She's entitled to her soul back and the remainder of this life, free of Hell's employment, per the section on damages and reparations in article 8.2.0. Likewise, Seth Mortensen's contract is also invalidated because it was made under false pretenses. The imp who drew it up knew that it violated hers and knew that the very conditions of Seth's - finding her and making amends - included a degree of remembering. It's impossible for his to exist without contradicting hers. He too is entitled to the restoration of his soul."
"Your honor - " began Marcel.
Judge Hannibal held up his hand. "Silence. I'll make you a deal."
There was a restless shifting in the courtroom, an undercurrent of excitement. Demons loved deals and bargains.
"Go on," said Roman.
"I'm willing to dismiss the case without a jury vote and grant that Letha's contract wasn't honored. I'm willing to give her all of the restorations outlined in article 8.2.0."
Gasps surrounded us. My eyes widened, and I turned to Roman questioningly. Was it as easy as that? I didn't know all the details of 8.2.0, but by my understanding, if the contract was invalidated, I could return to Earth and live out the rest of my days as a human. In possession of my soul. It seemed too good to be true.
"However," continued Hannibal, "I don't see enough evidence to support the releasing of this second soul. Your argument for it will be thrown out for being groundless."
"But it isn't!" I cried.
"If we don't accept, then what?" asked Roman.
Hannibal shrugged. "Then the jury can vote on the question of both contracts."
Roman nodded thoughtfully. "Can I have a moment to confer with my, um, client?"
"Sure." Hannibal banged the gavel. "Five-minute recess."
The spectators didn't need to be told twice. This was huge. A soul getting released was not something that happened every day, nor was a deal like we were being offered.
"What's the catch here?" I asked Roman softly.
He narrowed his eyes. "Well, I think Hannibal thinks he's in danger of losing two souls and is trying cut his losses. Your evidence is pretty solid. Seth's is too, though not quite as good - especially without Seth actually here. Still, Hannibal would rather let you go easily and ensure that he still keeps one soul in this mess."