*Author Note 2020*
I've decided to go back through this story and correct the timeline issues that affected my ability to continue it. Hopefully by doing that, I can continue to write the story to its conclusion!
Original Author Note: This is my first attempt at original fiction. I'm a prolific fanfiction writer and have posted many stories on the sister site, but this idea just refused to go away and I knew I needed to find somewhere to post it before my head exploded! I hope that you'll read and review because it personally means a lot when someone takes the time to give their opinion, positive or negative.
One final point, I'm not American and therefore any mistakes regarding the legal process are my own and I apologise in advance for them. Any mistakes in the discussion of Stockholm Syndrome are also my own.
The heat in the courtroom was oppressive. It pressed down like a thick blanket, blocking out all the air in the room and creeping slowly towards each and every person sat within it. The air conditioning was blasting at full pelt, creating a hum in the room that almost, but not quite, drowned out the whispered conversations that were taking place all around.
She sat, her hands folded in her lap just underneath her expanding stomach, not wanting to look up lest she catch the eye of anyone else in the room. It had been hard enough when she had been sat in the witness box three days earlier, desperately trying to convey the truth whilst all the time being expertly steered by the sharp-suited, flint-eyed District Attorney who was determined to get the answers from her that he needed to secure a conviction.
She had worn the most demure outfit she could find, a simple black dress and jacket matched with a small string of pearls that her mother had given her and simple pearl drop earrings. She had wanted to convey to the members of the jury that she was not some stupid, simple country girl spellbound by a cunning criminal. She wanted to show them that the relationship, albeit commenced under unusual circumstances, had been real. That their love for each other had been real.
On her left, her mother was fanning herself with a copy of that morning's newspaper. Even without looking, she knew what the headline was. It had been the same headline for the duration of the trial, the editor insisting on printing a gruesome countdown to an outcome he was convinced was inevitable.
"What's taking them so long?" her mother muttered, not really expecting an answer. She hadn't been expecting answers for months now, preferring instead to avoid discussing the topic and acting as though the past year had never happened. She too was convinced of the outcome which the whole town expected and, indeed, demanded.
At that moment, the door at the far end of the room opened, and the twelve jurors traipsed back in. It was the first time she had looked up since returning to the courtroom after it had been announced that a verdict had been reached and she now found herself searching their faces, desperate for a clue to their decision, pleading with her eyes for their mercy. The atmosphere in the room changed and once again became tense. People sat up straighter in their chairs, eager to bear witness to this historical moment. Once the jury were seated, the door above the judge's bench opened and the Right Honourable Herbert McKay came back into the room. He swept up the short flight of stairs and settled himself back in his chair, surveying the room quickly as he did so. He caught her eye, but made no show of recognition, compassion or rebuke. Every eye in the room followed the court officer who took the slip of paper from the portly gentleman in the front row of the jury box and handed it up to the judge who, in turn, cast his eye quickly over it before passing it back.
"Mr Foreman," Judge McKay began. The gentleman in question duly stood. "Have you reached a verdict on which all of you are agreed?"
"We are, Your Honour."
She began to pray fervently.
"Stand up Mr Haynes." Judge McKay's contempt was barely disguised. "In the matter of the People versus Garrett Haynes on the charge of robbery in the first degree, how do you find?"
The foreman never looked at her once. "Guilty."
She felt her chest tighten as a ripple went around the room.
"On the charge of kidnapping in the first degree, how do you find?"
"On the charge of rape in the first degree, how do you find?"
"No…" she whispered.
"On the charge of false imprisonment, how do you find?"
It was the final knell in the coffin. She was on her feet before she even realised and it was only when everyone in the room turned to look at her that she realised she had not only thought but had in fact shouted her protestation.
Judge McKay looked at her with an expression now bordering on sympathy. "Sit down Miss Moore."
"No!" she exclaimed, ignoring her mother pulling on her arm. "No, please…please you've made a mistake…" she turned beseechingly towards the jurors, many of whom were also looking at her with sympathy. "Please, please it's not right…it's not…"
"Sarah, sit down!" her mother hissed.
"Please…" she persisted, pulling free from her mother's grip and moving out into the aisle of the courtroom. "Please…please don't." She moved down towards the gate leading into the well of the court. No-one moved to stop her, clearly enthralled by the spectacle. "It didn't happen that way…it didn't…" Again, she felt the hot tears before she realised they had been released. "Please…" she stopped at the gate, one hand protectively over her stomach, the precious remnant of a relationship that no-one else was prepared to even try to understand. "Garrett…"
As with every other day during the trial, he refused to look at her. Even when she had been giving her evidence he had kept his eyes on the table in front of him, never glancing up even as she spoke of her love for him.
"Garrett!" she tried again, "God damn it, look at me!" Weeks of frustration boiled over. "Look at me!" She pushed open the gate and made to move into the well of the court when she felt a hand on her arm and turned to look into the kindly face of the court police officer.
"Miss Moore, either sit down or leave the court!" Judge McKay banged his gavel, his sympathy for her clearly wavering.
"Garrett…" she tried to wriggle free from the officer's grip but it was firm without being painful. "Please…" she felt her chest tighten again with the weight of emotion, "please tell them it wasn't like that…"
Judge McKay had clearly had enough, "Officer, take her outside please."
The officer made to pull her back, but she surged forward, her arm slipping from his grip, her balance wavering and, before anyone could stop her, she tripped and fell forward, the gate swinging open easily and causing her to pitch onto the floor at the side of the defence table.
An audible collective gasp came from the spectators as, quick as a flash, Garrett leapt from his seat, hurried round the table and crouched beside her.
"Are you all right?" he asked in a low voice.
She didn't have a chance to answer before the court officer attempted to help her up. "Come on Miss Moore."
"Leave her!" Garrett snapped and, for the first time in a long time, she saw the flash of anger in his face that had initially upon their first meeting sent her into spasms of fear.
"Get your client away from Miss Moore!" Judge McKay shouted to Garrett's lawyer who immediately left his seat and joined the melee.
"Garrett…" he said, taking his client's arm.
"Get off me!" Garrett shook him off. "And take your hands off her!" The court officer stepped back. He helped her to her feet and she took the opportunity to throw her arms around his neck.
"Miss Moore!" Judge McKay rapped his gavel again. "Miss Moore, move away from the defendant now!"
She wasn't listening. She clung to him, eyes tightly closed, breathing in his scent, that sweet, familiar scent, trying to commit every piece of him to memory. She could feel the court officer trying to prise her away from him but she resisted, gripping him tighter. For a moment, he reciprocated. Then she felt his breath leave his body in a rush and he pushed her away. She met his gaze, her confusion evident on her face.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice breaking slightly, before gently pushing her back into the arms of the court officer.
"Garrett…" she pleaded, "don't, please don't…" the officer started to drag her away as firmly as he dared in her condition. Garrett turned his back on her and moved back to his seat at the table, deliberately keeping his gaze averted. "Please…" she said as the officer propelled her down the aisle to the door. All eyes in the room turned to look at her, all except the person she wanted to look at her. Once outside in the corridor, the door to the courtroom closed over, she sank down into the nearest chair and put her head in her hands, sobbing hysterically for the end of the idyllic life they had built together.
"Well…" Judge McKay said as the room quietened down, "now that the histrionics are over…" he cast his gaze on Garrett. "Stand up Mr Haynes." Garrett did as instructed. "Having you here in my courtroom may be a momentous occasion for the local press and an unrivalled spectacle for the citizens of this town. But when I look at you, all I see is a man who, in the course of a robbery, abducted a helpless young woman, raped her, and kept her imprisoned for a period of almost six months. I have disregarded the comments made by Miss Moore on the stand because I concur with the expert report that she is clearly a victim of Stockholm Syndrome and that you systematically brainwashed her during that period into believing that you were a person capable of love. You are an evil man with a criminal record that in thirty years on the bench I can only describe as shocking."
He adjusted his papers on the desk in front of him. The room held its collective breath. "On the charge of robbery in the first degree, I sentence you to a period of twenty years in prison. On the charge of kidnapping in the first degree, I sentence you to a period of twenty years in prison. On the charge of rape in the first degree, I sentence you to a period of twenty years in prison. On the charge of false imprisonment, I sentence you to a period of twenty years in prison."
He gave the spectators a chance to digest this. "These sentences are to run consecutively. If I have my way, Mr Haynes, you will never see the light of day again. And let's just hope and pray that Miss Moore can return to some semblance of a normal life." He paused for dramatic effect. "Court dismissed." He banged his gavel for the last time.
The room erupted. Journalists rushed outside to call their papers and dictate their stories, the press cameras swooped in as Garrett was led away, trying to get a comment from his attorney. Others ran out of the room trying to find the supposed victim in all of this to gauge her reaction to the sentence.
But the corridor outside was empty. There was no sign of Sarah Moore, the young woman abducted, raped and held against her will by a man just sentenced to an eternity in prison.
A man whose child she was carrying and a man who, everyone in the courtroom could see, she believed she was desperately in love with.