Alice trembled as she sat in the hard plastic chair. Hackett was standing behind her, probably much closer than he would have with any other prisoner, but despite her wish for him to place a reassuring hand on her shoulder, he didn’t touch her. Her arms ached to hold onto her baby for strength and support, but Alicia was kept outside the room by a female guard, withheld from her until the interview was over. She felt vulnerable and anxious – wearing a simple white dress and immediately postpartum – to the point that chills permeated through her.
Across the table in front of her sat “all the right people”, as Hackett had described them. Alice wasn’t familiar with the ins-and-outs of the justice system, and the introductions had happened too quickly for her to process who was supposed to be who, but they were all somehow connected to the murder case to which she had confessed. At least one of them, she supposed, was the lawyer that had been assigned to her.
One of them, a woman with oval glasses and a salmon-colored suit jacket, spoke, “Could you please state your name for the record?”
“Alice Leigh,” she answered, and her voice squeaked so she cleared her throat. She balled her hands into fists tightly enough that her fingernails dug painfully into her palms, and it helped to steady her.
“Please tell us what happened on the night of December the sixteenth of last year?” The woman was scribbling something with a pen, and didn’t look up as she spoke.
“Damon and I went back to our motel room, and, um, he wanted me to try out some pills; he never said what they were.” Alice was hyper aware of Hackett’s presence behind her, and she couldn’t stop herself from turning red as she continued, “They made me feel pretty out of it, like a sedative, and the last thing that I can fully remember was, um … we started having sex.”
She wished that she could see Hackett’s face, to at least guess at what he was thinking. She reminded herself of his promise, and forced herself to keep talking, “He had started doing that sort of thing a lot more, so I just assumed he was in the mood for it …” Alice felt stupid, sitting in that plastic chair with a handful of people carefully noting down every word she said. She didn’t want to talk about her former life, but she couldn’t move on with her new one until the matter was over and done with.
“The next thing I knew, I was in the shower with Damon scrubbing me up, and it smelled so strongly of blood that I thought I was going to vomit. It was so awful, I sort of willed myself into blacking out again.” She stared down at her hands as she opened them, and saw the deep crescent-shaped marks in her skin. For some reason, they made her want to start crying, so she kept talking to keep herself distracted, “Damon had us leave really early in the morning, while I was still groggy, but it was weird because he had paid for at least two more nights at the motel. Later that afternoon, I looked through our bags but I couldn’t find the clothes that we had been wearing, and I realized that he had a different pair of shoes from before. A couple of days later, the police picked us up to question us about a murder that had happened, and Damon suggested that I should say that I had done it. When I asked why, he said it would be a good joke, and that I didn’t have anything to worry about because the system always goes easy on women.” She still wanted to cry, so she bit her lip to regain herself. “I went through with confessing, because honestly, I thought that he did it.”
No one said anything; they were all busy writing down notes and shuffling through papers. Alice felt ever colder, and began to shake so violently that it scared her. She hoped that she wasn’t on the verge of fainting, and sorely wished that she could be back in her room with her baby. How much longer was it going to last?
Finally, Hackett’s hand rested on her shoulder, and the touch flooded her eyes with tears. He gave her small squeeze as he asked, “Is that testimony adequate?”
“Just about,” the woman replied. “We’d like her to sign a statement that she gave a false confession, and that Mr. Rake had coached her on what she should say to make it sound plausible. Then, of course, she’ll need to sign a transcription of the testimony.”
“I’d like to remind this council that the prisoner recently gave birth, and is still in recovery after substantial blood loss. Her doctor advised bed rest and minimal stress,” Hackett pressed. Alice was relieved to know that he was looking out for her.
“Very well, we’ll do this as quick as possible then.” There was more shuffling, and a piece of paper was passed over to Alice along with a pen. She turned to look up at Hackett, who nodded to her, then badly signed her name. A minute later, another one was put in front of her, and she did the same.
“We’ll let you know about the hearing.” The woman stuffed everything inside a manila folder, then placed that in a briefcase, then smiled warmly at Hackett. “It was good seeing you, Basil. Take care of yourself.”
Alice felt numb as Hackett helped her stand and guided her out the door. It was a relief to find the guard holding her baby just outside the door, and she eagerly took Alicia back into her arms and held her against her breasts.
“Are you okay?” Hackett asked quietly.
Alice nodded. “I think I will be, now that I have my baby back. I wasn’t so sure a minute ago.”
“I can get a wheelchair for you, if you don’t feel up for walking back to your room,” he offered.
“Yes, thank you.”
Hackett quickly retrieved a chair from the interrogation room for Alice to sit on, then sent the female guard to the infirmary. As they waited, the council exited the room and the woman in the oval glasses paused to wink at Hackett before leaving with the group. The warden’s jaw hardened, and his eyes burned as he watched her walk away.
“Basil?” Alice asked timidly, alarmed by his expression.
“It’s nothing, my darling,” he whispered, then knelt beside her and gently placed a hand on the baby’s head. “I bet Alicia missed her mommy while you were in there.”
“I know I missed her dreadfully! I felt so empty without her in my arms …” Alice bit her lip as tears threatened to start flowing again. She hated how out of control her emotions had become. “I’m sorry …” she said, rubbing her eyes. “I really don’t know why I was like that in the past, and I regret it so much …”
“Hush now, it’s okay.” Hackett tenderly touched the side of her face. “Soon you’ll be Mrs. Alice Hackett, whether I like it or not, remember?”
“I swear I’ll be faithful. More than faithful. You won’t ever have to worry about me …”
He kissed her forehead. “I know.”