Unlocking the Soul Chapter 1
Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight
Summary: Bella Swan is a Public Defender fresh out of law school and ready to take on her first case....Jasper. Can a relationship that starts out hostile at best turn into something else? AU/AH
Unlocking the Soul
The harsh smoke filled my lungs as I took the last, long drag off of myCamel, hissing a bit when the cherry burned too close to the filter. Isnubbed it out quickly in the ashtray, returning both hands to thewheel. The cold plastic felt good against the slightly blistered tips ofmy fingers, and I once again thanked God for air conditioning. I had itset on a medium cool as I flew down the black asphalt, sandy desertstretching out on both sides of me.
I leaned over and cranked it up all the way as a slight sweat broke outon my brow when I thought of where I was headed, the United StatesPenitentiary in Beaumont, Texas.
Years of sleepless nights, midnight study sessions, surviving onthirty-six cent packs of noodles because all of my money had to gotoward books, had led up to this. My first case as a public defender. Ihad graduated from Baylor University the year before, passed the barexam, and was hired by the state of Texas six months later.
I had been stuck in the office up to this point, researching, doingpaper work, and treated pretty much like a secretary. Finally, lastweek, my boss had called me into his office and told me that I was readyto take on a case of my own. I was thrilled. I had worked so hard, andnow I was finally going to be able to practice law. I had expected himto give me a simple case, breaking and entering, assault, battery.
My jaw must have hit the floor when I flipped open the file he had slidacross the desk at me. The case was a charge in first degree murder. Atthe time I thought he had to be joking. Yet when I looked up from thefile to his face, it was clear that he was completely serious. I wasn'tsure how to process the information, so I simply stood, thanked him, andheaded back to my own desk, trying to convince myself that I couldhandle this.
I spent the following week pouring over every detail of the murder andthe investigation, but that did nothing to calm my nerves. The state hada solid case. The attorney who had been previously handling the case hadmanaged to get it continued several times, before finally just droppingit two months ago.
Today was the first interview with my client, and no matter how manytimes I told the butterflies in my stomach to quit fluttering and take afucking nap, they continued to stir my nerves.
My heartbeat doubled as the fences of the prison came into view. Iinhaled deeply a few times, trying to calm down, but only succeeded ingiving myself a headache. I pulled up to the guard booth, handing overmy identification and explaining why I was there. The thickly built mangreeted me with a smile and kind words, and I briefly wondered how hecould be so cheerful working in a place like this. The plastic of thebadge, stating that I worked for the Texas State Defense Attorney'sOffice, almost slipped through my sweaty fingers, but I managed to holdonto it, return his smile, and drive through the gates.
I swung into a parking space but stayed in my car for a few minutes,looking over my files one more time. When my hands stopped shaking, Iopened the door, and stepped out into the extreme Texas heat. I couldhave sworn that I could feel my heels sinking into the hot asphalt as Iwalked toward the narrow sidewalk where a very haggard looking man stoodwaiting for me.
His dull, brown hair was thinning on the top, a bald spot about the sizeof a quarter shone under the sun. Thick, plastic framed glasses coveredweary and plain brown eyes. He was wearing a pair of tan slacks and awhite dress shirt rolled up to the elbows, long damp patches of sweatstaining it around the neck and arms. Even his stance seemed tired.
"Miss Swan?" he asked when I reached him.
“Yes. Warden Meinheimer?” I said, offering my hand for him to shake.
“Yes, pleased to meet you,” he replied, giving my hand a limp shake. “Ifyou’ll follow me,” he said, turning and leading the way into the building.
I followed him through so many sets of doors that I lost count, windingthrough corridors before he stopped in front a thick, steel door with asquare of safety glass set into the middle.
“Your client is waiting inside,” the warden said, pulling a set of keysout of his pocket. “We’ll have to lock you in, but there will be a guardwaiting outside. Press the buzzer next to the door if you need anything.”
With that, he unlocked the door and swung it open, holding it wideenough for me to pass through.
Taking a deep steadying breath, I squared my shoulders and steppedthrough the door, resisting the urge to jump when it slammed shut behindme. Gripping my leather briefcase tighter in my left hand, I turned myattention to my first client.
He was sitting at the metal table with his back to me. His long, curlyblonde hair seemed to glow above the collar of the orange jumpsuit hewas wearing. He was leaned back in his chair, long, toned arms restingon the top of the table, beating out an impatient rhythm with histhumbs. My steps feigned confidence as I walked towards him, heelsclicking against the floor. His thumbs stilled, but he didn’t straightenout of his lazy stance.
I rounded the table, grabbing the back of my chair and keeping my eyesdowncast until I was seated. Taking another few deep breaths, I lookedup at him.
He continued to lean back in his chair, head tipped, glaring at methrough heavily lidded eyes. His features were elegant and leonine, witha slim nose, high cheek bones and full lips. Wildly curly hair tumbleddown on either side of his face, parted in the middle and fell just pasthis chin. The man was intimidating to say the least, but I couldn’t letthat feeling show, not if I wanted to do this job the right way.
“Jasper Whitlock?” I asked.
When the only reply that I received was a short nod, I continued. “Myname is Isabella Swan, and I’m your state appointed counsel. Do you haveany questions for me before we begin?” I asked.
No response, no movement, no indication that I had even spoken.
Okay, I thought flipping open the files I had just pulled from mybriefcase. I took a few moments to scan through them again, but before Icould speak, Jasper finally spoke.
“We both already know the where’s and the when’s,” he said, voice lacedwith a thick Texan drawl. “Why don’t you go ahead and ask what youreally want to know, why they sent you here instead of that other dipshit.”
“Excuse me?” I spluttered.
“C’mon, I’m not stupid. I know why they sent you. They thought if theysent a pretty little skirt flouncin’ in here that you’d get me to talk.That my mouth would open as fast as your legs probably would.”
Keep calm, keep calm. He's just trying to get a rise out of you. Staycalm. Keep your head.
“And just why won’t you talk, Mr. Whitlock?” I countered. “You haven’tsaid anything to even try to deny your guilt.”
“And I’m not gonna start now,” he returned, “You won’t get a single.Goddamn. Word. Out of me.”
“Mr. Whitlock, you have got to give me something to work with here,” Isaid, quickly becoming fed up with his nonchalant attitude. “Do you wantto go to prison for the rest of your natural life?”
He was silent once again. The only acknowledgment that I got was hiseven, heavy stare. With a huff of frustration, I looked back down at thefile in front of me. He didn’t utter a word as I went through everysingle detail that I had. There was no flicker of emotion from him as Iwent over the evidence found at the crime scene or the coroner's reportof the victim's body, a Ms. Alice Brandon.
“Now, if I’m correct, Ms. Brandon was a life long friend of your sister,Rosalie?” I asked, checking the name on the paper in front of me. Aflicker of something flashed in his eyes when I mentioned the sister.Protectiveness?
“Yes,” he grumbled.
I was so surprised that he actually responded to a question, that ittook me a few minutes to resume my reading.
We sat there for another hour, but he didn’t say anything more. Istarted stacking my papers and files pack into my briefcase, and once Ihad buckled the leather strap, I rose from the table, holding out myhand to Mr. Whitlock.
Looking up at me, arching one golden brow, he grasped my hand in a quickfirm handshake.
“We will meet back here next week at the same time-”
“You’re coming back?” he asked, cutting across me.
“Of course I am, and maybe next week you’ll feel like talking,” I told him.
“Don’t hold your breath,” he said with a snort.
“Mr. Whitlock, we go to trial in a little over two months, and I willhave something out of you by then,” I told him with a confidence that Ididn’t really feel.
All I got was another snort and a shake of his head, so I moved to thedoor, pressing the buzzer with my thumb. I thanked the guard when heopened the door, and followed another through the building and out thefront doors.
I rushed to the car, unlocked it and hopped inside. Cranking it over, Iturned the air up all the way, and leaned back against the head restwaiting for the car to cool.
Well, that was a big waste of time, I thought to myself. All that Idiscovered was, one, Jasper Whitlock is an asshole. Two, he doesn’t likeme, and three, I am pretty sure that he was covering for someone.
Thanks to sparagus for being an amazing beta, to Clurrabella for giving me legal advice, and to catonspeed for giving me the title for this.
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