Walter Whitlock pushed through the heavy door of old city hall's courthouse. The building was old and smelled of cedar and musty books. Walter was one of Dirkhaven County's best lawyers and rarely lost a case. He was in his early forties. He had black brown hair and dressed in a dark blue pinstriped suit. To anyone who knew him through his practice, he was Walter Whitlock, success full lawyer, proud and fearless. If there was anyone that knew anything about Walter's past, they might notice a little bit more grey in his hair than usual, or a slight dissatisfaction in the way he walked. But to most people he was same old Walter they'd always known whose shoes squeaked against the marble floor as he headed towards the courtroom.
That spring there had been an accident in a small suburb, a case of drunk driving resulting in the death of one, the paralyzing of another. He had tackled the case full-force. It wouldn't be a hard one to win. He'd always taken a certain interest in alcohol related offences, he always found himself more motivated when he understood the impact of the crime. And a part of him understood the ripple effect of this case more than most.
It probably had partly to do with his past. Walter didn't have a childhood like most children. He grew up in the care of a single Mother and never knew his Father. It must have been hard enough having a child all by yourself; having alcoholism in the family couldn't have helped. He couldn't remember much about that time; therapists he had later in life explained it by saying he'd repressed the memories from that time in his life. He was never really sure if he couldn't remember, or he just didn't want to.
When he was seven, he was sent to live with a foster family who raised him better than his mother ever could have. He never started blaming her until later in life. Though his memories were shadowed, he still felt the same tinge of sympathy for the families torn apart by addiction.
He entered the courtroom, each side of the jury was buzzing with anticipation for the trial. He strode straight up to the front of the room and met his client. Debbie Churchill. She was a young woman, late twenties with a face that had probably at one time been full of youth and excitement. It was strange to see how suddenly a person could go from being full of promise, to hopelessly unfixable.
He'd spent many weeks going over the case with her, sorting out arrangements, getting papers signed, looking through medical histories, setting a court date and such. Not once had she cracked a smile. People like her were the reason he did what he did for a living.
Everything was set, nothing left to be done or said, he had this in the bag and everyone in the courthouse knew it. He shot a glance at the woman who would with any luck be facing twenty-five years to life in prison.
The woman looked up and stared at him. She had an old withered face with pale blue eyes and graying chestnut hair. Something about her face held a vague familiarity, he couldn't quite place. He'd probably seen her on the news or on the county's most wanted list. She was a repeat offender. Her picture was likely plastered to every police chief's notice board in all of Dirkhaven.
"Would the defendant please take the stand", the judge asked.
Walter flipped one last time through the case notes before stepping up to the podium.
"Now, the accused, maiden name, Rachel Foss has a record of over 10 accounts of drunk-" he was suddenly cut off.
"Don't you remember me?" she asked.
"Would the accused please not interrupt?"
"Right," he continued, "Over 10 counts of drunk driving prior to said incident and…"
"You don't even recognize your own Mother?" she said standing.
Walter's breath caught in his throat, "I'm sorry?"
"Would the accused please take her seat", the Judge repeated a little more harshly.
"You haven't changed one bit", she said admiringly.
"I'm sorry ma'am", he said stepping down from the podium, ignoring the silencing pleas of the judge, "I haven't seen my Mother for-"
"Thirty-five years" she confirmed.
By this point the entire jury had attuned to what was happening at the front of the room, an awkward silence hung in the air. People exchanged nervous glances and for a moment not a soul knew what would happen next, but one thing everyone was sure of was that lives were about to change.