I know you're all dying to see what happened to Edward. I'll let you get to it.
I scrambled to speak to Lara about what could be done, to ask my dad who was in charge of the prison system in Jefferson County, to start paperwork to request a transfer to the Federal Detention Center in Seattle. I spoke on the phone to Esme, who told me she'd had a tearful call with Edward over what had happened. Turned out, he was concerned for me. He wasn't hurt, upset, or sad. Just worried that I'd been handled too roughly when I protested his treatment.
Crying on the phone with Esme was unprofessional, but I couldn't help myself. It was a shame that she lived so far from Edward, and had a husband who'd hardened his heart toward his son. She did plan to meet me there next Sunday, which I knew would make Edward happy. She told me she normally visited him monthly on the first Saturday, and would only have to alter her plans slightly to meet me there. I was excited to meet such a strong, supportive woman.
My weeks were about to bleed together; work was overwhelming me with a new case. I'd pushed all of my responsibilities with the IPNW onto my student helpers because I simply didn't have the time. I had to squash the guilt that came with that, and remind myself that he was still being helped.
When Saturday came, I slept as late as I was able. I was absolutely exhausted from everything that I'd been working on, and not being able to sleep at night during the week. I was seriously considering getting a prescription for a sleeping pill from my doctor. The two students arrived at lunch time, bringing food with them. We spread everything out onto the table, mixed in with the papers from the case file.
"Did I tell you I heard from Judge Black?" Liam asked. When I shook my head, he continued. "He's granted us retesting on the sample, it's being done on Monday. They're going to include a percentage of degradation as well as comparison. We won't have the results back for several weeks, but I'm confident that's going to be our ace."
I nodded, happy with the news. "Leah, what have you been able to get back from the research you were doing into the detectives and arresting officers?"
She sighed. "Nothing financial worth sneezing over, one detective is retired now with a squeaky clean record. One officer was only 21, he's the one I'm looking at the most heavily."
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"He handled the DNA. Or should I say, mishandled. I think the answer lies with him. He wasn't on shift that night, but witnesses put him at the scene, in uniform. He only questioned the girls, took no statements from anyone else. Lauren Mallory, the victim, said she thought she'd seen him at the party earlier in the evening, in plain clothes. That was left out of the reports, which were taken and filed by-"
"Officer Newton?" I guessed, looking at the names on the paperwork.
"Bingo," she said, pointing at me.
Something in my stomach turned over. "What is Newton doing these days?" I asked.
"Detective First-Grade, city of Seattle, Washington." She shifted some papers around, finding what she wanted and looking at me. "He's been denied promotion to Lieutenant due to, and I quote, 'too many disciplinary actions brought against him by superiors'."
"Interesting. Both of you, good job. Leah, give as much of that to the researchers as you can. Find Ms. Mallory and get another statement, specifically asking her who was at the party."
Finally feeling like we had something positive to go on, I was beaming as I went in to the corrections center the next day. There was a plump woman in the waiting area, with soft brown hair and kind blue eyes. Her face was lined around the eyes and mouth, and I could imagine the hardships she'd faced had aged her more heavily. She was still a beautiful woman with an incredible spirit.
"You must be Esme Cullen," I said, extending my hand as she stood. She set her purse on the chair and wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug.
"Thank you, Ms. Swan. You have no idea what this means to me," she said thickly.
When she pulled away, I saw her dash the tears from her eyes. "Mrs. Cullen, I love my contribution to the Innocence Project. I've had a nearly perfect life, and I just feel like it's the least I can do for those that haven't been as lucky."
"Whatever your reasons, I'm thankful for you," she said.
"You've been his only champion for ten years. Now you have a team," I said teasingly. She laughed lightly before we were ushered down the hall.
When the guard led us into the room, Edward was not there. We sat in the two uncomfortable metal chairs, waiting. I checked my watch too many times, only to realize it was just a minute since I last checked. After thirty minutes, I stood in agitation and banged on the door on our side of the room.
It was opened by C.O. Lahote, who looked sheepish.
"Paul!" I barked. "Where the hell is inmate 285536? We've been waiting for thirty minutes!"
"I'm sure he'll be here soon, ma'am," he replied stiffly.
"Cut the 'ma'am' crap, Paul. I was in your wedding, for God's sake! Where is Cullen?"
He hunched his shoulders and leaned in. "We've got a new warden, Bella. Hates the IP. Calls for more lockdowns and more rough handling than anyone I've ever worked for."
"What?" I breathed.
"I'm trying to keep my job, but you need to know- I never laid a finger on him, I swear it!" He moved back away from me as what he said sunk in.
"Wait, what? Paul-"
"Step back inside, ma'am. I'm sure the inmate will be along shortly." He took my arm and pushed me back inside the private interview room.
"You can't deny his right to see his counsel!" I shouted down the hallway, hoping someone in charge could hear me. "I demand he brought in immediately!"
The door closed in my face with a harsh click. "Ugh!" I screeched.
Esme was glancing up at me tearfully from her seat, her head cast downward. "This is why he's lost hope, Ms. Swan," she whispered.
"Please, call me Bella," I said, sighing and sitting back down.
We waited another five interminable minutes before the opposite door finally swung open. A suit-clad man I'd never met before strode in, his gait arrogant, his portly figure shadowed by several guards. Esme gasped, and that was when I saw Edward shuffling in, legs and arms shackled to each other. His sorrowful eyes lifted to meet his mother's before he looked back down at the ground.
I stood abruptly, my chair scraping harshly and echoing in the freezing cold, barren room. The air had been sucked out like a vacuum, and I couldn't breathe. I heard short panting noises, clamping my mouth closed only when I realized that it was my breathing.
Edward's head had been shaved, and there were fading yellow bruises along his head and face. Someone pushed his back, and he stumbled forward and just barely caught himself on the edge of the table with his cuffed hands. His head came up, and I noticed the rainbow hues of deep purple and blue along his neck and throat.
"What the fucking-"
I was interrupted by the suit. "Ms. Swan, Mrs. Cullen, I'm Aro DeLuca, the new warden."
Any theories as to why there's a new warden?
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