Strained — Part 6 (Conclusion)

By KG MacGregor

© 2002


Chapter 16


"Come and sit with me, Andy. It’ll be alright." Anna picked up the wheezing boy from his bed and moved to the rocker near the window.

She was almost asleep when she heard the first sounds of coughing from the room down the hall. Lily had suggested that she first try to calm him down this way, before giving him the medicine that would surely keep him up most of the night.

Anna sat down in the chair, letting Andy settle into a position facing forward, nestled into the crook of her arm. Slowly, she began to rock, softly brushing the curly hair back from his forehead.

"That’s it. It’ll be okay soon. Just take it easy."

Andy leaned forward to cough, but relaxed again as he fell back into the warm arms.

"Are you upset about Lily leaving again, sweetheart?"

Andy didn’t answer, but both of his attacks since he’d lived there had coincided with her trips to San Francisco.

"You don’t have to worry about that, you know. She’ll be coming back soon; and besides, you and I have fun by ourselves, don’t we?"

The small head nodded. He liked Anna, but he sensed that she didn’t like him as much as Lily did. Besides, he caused her to be hurt twice, and she might still be mad at him about what he did with the Bubble Big. What if he accidentally did something else? Then she’d really be mad.

It bothered Anna that Andy didn’t seem to feel secure with her. She’d followed Lily’s instructions about everything, and she tried not to ever let him feel bad about things. But still, it was Lily that he seemed to need, not her.

It was almost one o’clock before the child finally fell asleep. Anna gently carried him back to his bed, planting a soft kiss on his forehead before leaving him for the night.


Monday’s evidence was damaging to the defense, particularly to Kristy. The forensics expert testified at length about the bloodstains that were found at the bottom of the woman’s jeans. He focused on the degree of absorption of the blood into the cloth, apparently to refute the possibility that it was picked up from bloody items found in the dumpster. Congealed blood, he testified, would not absorb as fully.

Lily watched the jurors’ faces as they heard this damning testimony. It almost certainly put Kristy at the scene of the murder. On cross, the public defender asked whether absorption rates might vary if perhaps the pants had gotten wet since picking up the stain, or even if they were wet at the time. The expert conceded that the presence of water might alter the results. Again, Causwell had planted reasonable doubt.

Late in the afternoon, the prosecutor called witnesses to begin telling the story of how they had recovered the murder weapon. The public defender had deftly maneuvered to keep from evidence the identity of the man who had caused the disturbance, as he was not charged with any crime. Tomorrow, the jury would probably hear that the defendant’s fingerprints had been found on the instrument.


Anna grumbled miserably as she grabbed her car keys from her desk. Poor Martine had broken a crown and needed to make an emergency trip to the dentist. She would not be able to pick up Andy from his pre-school today. Anna would have gladly swapped places with her mother.

The car dealer was scheduled to meet all afternoon with their vice-president for human resources, Janet Mendelssohn, who had headed that department at the BMW dealership in Palm Springs. She was making a special trip from the desert for a conference with Anna and Hal on the company’s benefits package. It was too late to postpone, as she was due here in less than an hour.

"I’ll be back in a few minutes, Carmen."

Andy was surprised when he saw Anna at the door of his pre-school. She didn’t look very happy, but he was kind of used to that. He hoped he hadn’t done anything wrong.

"We have to leave a little early today, Andy. Martine had something else to do, so I’m going to take you back to work with me, okay?" He had visited the dealership once, and really enjoyed seeing all the shiny cars.

Since she’d picked him up early, Andy hadn’t yet had lunch, so Anna wheeled into the busy drive-thru lane of a Burger King on Wilshire Boulevard. "You want a cheeseburger?"

Andy smiled and answered eagerly. "And French fries."

"Okay, and a coke?"

"A milkshake." Lily had bought him his first one ever just a week ago.

Serious junk food, Lily would say. What the hell. The kid was in for a long boring afternoon. "Chocolate?"

Andy nodded and the driver placed the order. When she got the bag, she put it on the floorboard of the passenger side, taking the milkshake from the attendant. "Should I put this in the cup holder, or can you hold it?"

"I can hold it." The boy’s mouth began to water when he eyed the shake.

"Okay, but use both hands and be very careful." Against her better judgment, she allowed the child to hold the sticky drink between his legs. It was only a few blocks to the dealership.

As they pulled out onto the busy street, Andy began to have second thoughts about holding the icy drink. If he should spill it, Anna might get really mad at him for messing up her car. It was probably better to just set it in the cup holder. Carefully, he leaned forward, but the seatbelt locked with his goal just out of reach. He sat back against the seat, then tried again. Almost….

The light turned green and Anna started forward, not noticing the movement on her right.


Anna glanced sideways, but was too late to stop the disaster. The drink had tipped from his hands, and of course the plastic top dislodged, sending frozen chocolate goo between the seat and the console. It covered the leather-encased gearshift and for good measure splattered the instrument panel for the sound system.

"Uh-oh is right." 1…2…3…4…. "Andy, I asked you to be careful," she groaned, exasperated at the mess.

The boy suddenly burst into tears. This was the worst thing he could have done.

"Now don’t cry! I’m not upset with you, Andy. It was an accident." I am upset with you, but I can’t show it because you get even more upset than I do.

Anna pulled onto the lot, driving around to the back where Javier and Rudy detailed the cars they took in on trade.

"Hi guys."

The young men were surprised. The boss hardly ever came back to their corner of the lot.

"I have a little emergency here. I need you to stop whatever you’re working on and clean this for me before it stains. We had a little accident." Anna walked around and helped the boy out of his seatbelt, handing him the small bag with his lunch.

Anna stopped at the vending machine and got a coke. "Have a coke for now. We’ll get another milkshake later, okay?"

Andy had stopped crying, but he was sure the tall woman was really mad at him now, no matter what she said. He couldn’t seem to help making mistakes around her. She made him really nervous.

The car executive found Hal and Janet already in the conference room. "Sorry I’m late."

"Well hi, Andy. I didn’t know you were going to be in this meeting too," Hal teased.

The little boy let a small smile creep out. He liked Hal.

"Yeah, Martine had to run to the dentist this afternoon, so Andy’s going to hang out here." Anna helped him into a chair at the far end of the conference table and spread out his lunch. "Shall we get started?"

An hour into their meeting, Anna noticed a very bored little boy opposite her. He had finished with his lunch, and had absolutely nothing to do but listen to their discussion on health coverage and hiring policies.

"Will you excuse me for a minute?" Anna tossed the trash in the can by the door and held out her hand to the child. "Come on. Let’s see if we can find something for you to do."

Anna and Andy walked down the stairs, where she flipped on the lights in the media room. "You want to watch some movies about cars?" She knew it was a pretty pitiful alternative to a Disney cartoon or the show about the dog that he watched on public television, but it had to be better than spreadsheets and numbers. Certain that he couldn’t hurt anything by handling the remote, she showed him how to push the buttons so that the pictures would change. "I won’t be long, then we’ll stop and get another milkshake on the way home, okay?"

"Okay." Andy hit the start button as she walked out of the room. Stopping for a moment by Carmen’s desk, she asked the receptionist if she’d mind keeping a watchful eye on the room. Carmen was more than happy to oblige.

"As its sleek, progressive design suggests, the new 745Li is a marvel of engineering. Inside, the cockpit invites you to sample the exhilaration of an advanced 4.4 litre 325 horsepower…."

The meeting dragged on, with Anna slipping downstairs twice to find Andy paying close attention to the demonstration films. She couldn’t help but be reminded of her own fascination with cars when she was a child and accompanied her mother and father to this very dealership.


"I think the DA’s going to wrap up his case tomorrow," Lily explained. "He’s entering the murder weapon into evidence, and I saw the fingerprint expert back in court today, so they must have found McGinnis’ prints on it."

"Won’t that be pretty damaging?"

"Yeah, unless they can make the jury think that they found it and decided they shouldn’t keep it because of the blood."

"And then what happens?"

"Well, when the DA’s finished, the defense will present its case. That should probably take the rest of the week. Then some of the witnesses will be recalled to clarify things. It’ll probably be the end of next week before closing arguments."

"And then it’s up to the jury."

"Right." As she’d listened to the evidence today and watched the jury take it in, Lily had found herself depressed about the events. Kristy was in deep trouble; at least tomorrow they’d show evidence against McGinnis. Maybe then the jury would balance the blame.

"You’d never believe who’s downstairs watching BMW sales videos."


"I’ll give you a hint. He spilled a chocolate milkshake in my car on the way over here."

Lily was glad at that moment that Anna couldn’t see her face, because she almost laughed out loud. The Z8 was Anna’s most beloved possession, and she could only imagine the look of horror on the woman’s face. "Soooo…is it ruined?"

"Nah, they’re cleaning it out for me, and shampooing the rug. It’ll be fine. But I think it took a year or two off one little four-year-old’s life."

"I bet. So what’s he doing with you today?"

Anna explained about her mother’s emergency. Not wanting to worry her lover unnecessarily, she decided not to say anything about the asthma attack last night. "You know, I should probably go get him and head home. He’s used to eating by this time."

"Tell him hi from me. I’ll try to call again around eight o’clock."


Andy was already bathed and ready for bed when Lily called, barely able to hold up his head, but not wanting to miss the chance to talk to her. He had missed his nap this afternoon, and with last night’s asthma attack, he was tired and a little cranky.

Anna too was more tired than usual, having gotten up very early to get ready for her afternoon meeting. Being out of the office on Saturday had put her a little behind.

"You want a story tonight or do you just want to go to sleep?" Please say you just want to go to sleep.

Andy answered by plucking the story of the dragon from the shelf.

"Okay, come get in bed." Anna scooted in beside him and propped up on the pillow. The boy sidled up next to her so he could see the pictures.

The story began in a small village, where a little boy….

The tall woman awoke to a very stiff neck, her head having fallen straight back against the headboard. The bedside light was still on, and the dragon book had dropped to the floor. Chester was sound asleep at the foot of the bed. A small boy was still cuddled into her side, now with his arm wrapped snugly around her stomach. She was unmistakably…wet.

Anna looked down at the sleeping child. Only in slumber did he seem to trust her; only then did he reach out to hold her. If one were to watch them together, they’d probably agree that she’d treated him well and that she’d taken good care of him. But they wouldn’t have seen the part of her that rationalized that Lily was his caretaker; she was just helping out. In truth, she was the one who had kept her distance, not Andy. Looking at the way he clung to her in his sleep, she knew she’d been missing out on something very special.

With a gentle shake, she called to him. "Andy. Sweetheart, wake up."

Groggily, the boy raised his head.

"We need to get cleaned up, okay?"

His eyes grew wider as he realized what he’d done. Sure enough, when the tall woman stood, she had a dark spot on her shirt and pants.

"Come on, honey."

She was going to be mad at him again.

Anna stopped at the drawer and grabbed a fresh pair of pajamas. Flipping on the light in the bathroom, she wet a washcloth and spread the soap. Andy peeled off his wet things and waited for her. Twisting her neck to ease the kink, she washed him and handed him the cloth to finish.

"Let me go fix your bed, and you can go back to sleep."

Anna quickly swapped the bottom sheet for a dry one and smoothed the covers. "All set."

Now in fresh pajamas, Andy crawled back into bed, still looking at the wet spot on Anna’s clothes.

"Think you can go back to sleep? I can sit here with you if you want."

Andy tucked Koufax under his arm. "I’m sorry, Anna." His quiet little voice nearly broke her heart.

She smiled down at him. "It’s okay. I’ll just go wash and change my clothes too." She reached out and smoothed his soft hair. "Andy, I like it when you hug me. It makes me feel good. If it’s okay with you, I want us to hug each other a lot more."

"Okay." Andy would like that too, but he always thought the tall woman didn’t like him very much.

"In fact, I think I’d like to have a hug right now before I leave. Would that be alright?"

The boy nodded and stretched out his arms. Anna leaned down and wrapped her own around him tightly. "I love you, Andy. I’m really glad you’re here."


The prosecutor had entered the knife into evidence and called his fingerprint witness to the stand. The expert described how the handle of the weapon appeared to have been smudged, as though someone had attempted to wipe it clean. Nonetheless, a few stray prints remained.

"And were you able to match those prints to one of our defendants?" the prosecutor asked.

"Yes, we got a five-point match on three of the prints."

"And to whom did those prints belong?"

"To the defendant, Kristy Parker."

Kristy Parker? Not Kenneth McGinnis? Fucking hell. Lily looked to the jury for their reaction. That was a clean sweep. All of the evidence implicated her sister, not the man who had actually done the killing.

Unless Kristy had lied to her! And Lily didn’t want to believe that.

When the public defender took over the questioning, he asked the expert to demonstrate how the knife would have been held to leave behind the prints in those locations. The man clutched the knife as though he were pointing it.

"So the prints were not left in this position?" The public defender raised the knife above his head as though he were ready to plunge it downward.

"No, but as I…."

"No further questions."

The prosecutor stood to clarify. "Was it your testimony that the weapon appeared to have been wiped clean before it was handled again?"


The public defender wanted the last word.

"Is there a way to determine when these prints were left on the handle, whether it was at the time of the murder, or perhaps later, when a cleanly wiped weapon was found in a dumpster?"


"No further questions."

Nice recovery, Lily thought.

The DA was clearly frustrated. Each piece of evidence he presented was refuted by the dumpster scenario. The most solid link between these defendants and the crime was the bloodstains on Kristy Parker’s pants and shoes.

He had two more expert witnesses to call, both engaged immediately after the "wet clothes" theory was offered. A forensic scientist who had worked late into the night would testify that the absorption levels of the bloodstains indicated that they were not diluted. The second witness, a blood splatter expert, was prepared to testify that the substance was thrown onto the items, not acquired by rubbing against something.

Both witnesses were very effective, and when the second finished his testimony, Lily could see that the jury was now convinced that her sister was present during the murder.

The public defender stood to cross-examine. "In the course of your tests, did you have the opportunity to examine any items belonging to the defendant, Kenneth McGinnis?"


"And why did you not test Mr. McGinnis’ clothing?"

"I was told that there were no bloodstains found on his clothing."

"So the only samples you examined were those belonging to Miss Parker?"


"No further questions."

What the fuck just happened?

"Your next witness?" Judge Wostyk addressed the prosecutor.

‘Your honor, the People request a recess until tomorrow morning at nine a.m." It was only 2:15.

"Approach." The attorneys whispered with the judge, who finally nodded her agreement. "The court will recess until nine a.m. tomorrow." Jury instructions followed, and the defendants were escorted by deputies back to the jail.

Lily leaned over the rail to catch Causwell’s attention. "What was that last bit? Are you just going to concede the clothes? That puts Kristy there."

"But if they can’t put McGinnis there, they won’t believe she did this by herself."

"But it doesn’t matter if they decide McGinnis wasn’t there. If they think Kristy was there, they’re going to find her guilty."

"Lily, we’ve got to stick to this strategy. It’s too late to change the story or to add anything. The jury would see right through it."

"So you’re going to let Kristy go to save McGinnis? You said you wouldn’t sacrifice one for the other." Lily was incredulous.

"They’ve not put on any evidence against McGinnis, other than being in possession of stolen property. Dumpster diving isn’t a crime." He put the folders inside his briefcase and started to leave.

"Wait a minute! My sister’s going to be convicted and McGinnis is going to walk."

"You don’t know that. I’ve got a witness that will testify that Graves has opened at least his limo to indigents, so Kristy’s story about him inviting her in is a reasonable explanation for how her hair got inside the apartment."

"Are you going to put either one of them on the stand?"

"I don’t think so."

"What are you going to do about the blood?"

"I don’t know," he admitted honestly. "Downplay it as confusing. Stick by the wet story. This jury isn’t going to turn on that. It’s circumstantial."

"And if you’re wrong?"

"Then I managed to save one of my clients. And that’s a pretty good result for a capital crime."

Son of a bitch!


"Anna, Causwell’s giving her up." Lily had walked through the city for more than an hour, through Union Square, through Chinatown, to Nob Hill. It wasn’t fair. Both were guilty, but her sister was a bystander and McGinnis had brutally killed a man.

Unless Kristy is lying! Lily couldn’t shake the fear that her sister had played her. But she needed a fighting chance.

"They’ve got her at the scene, and his new strategy is to prove that McGinnis wasn’t there. Anna, she could die for this. I need to get her a new lawyer. She needs to tell her side of the story. She can’t just give up."

"Sweetheart, can’t you talk to her? Make her see what she’s up against?"

"She just goes along with what the lawyer and McGinnis tell her. I watched those jurors put it together. Even if they can’t convict him, they’ll convict her."

"Then get her another lawyer. Call Rick."

"Who’s Rick? Oh, you mean Rick Patterson."

Rick Patterson was the husband of Anna’s college roommate, Liz, who lived in San Mateo.

"Yeah, I tell you what. Let me call him and call you back."

"Okay, but you can’t tell him what I told you at home. He can’t hear that unless Kristy agrees to hire him."

Anna made the call and finally got through. Briefly, she explained that someone she knew in San Francisco needed a criminal attorney on short notice. Lily had said that they probably wouldn’t need his services for more than a few days. Rick was a partner at one of the larger downtown firms, and was more than willing to push work onto the desks of associates to take a case for his wife’s longtime friend.

"Are you coming to the city?"

Anna thought about it for a moment. The next few days were going to be critical for Lily and her sister, but she and Andy had finally crossed an important bridge and it wouldn’t be right to leave him suddenly. "I really can’t, Rick. My partner Lily is there, and she can meet with you. Will you see her?"

"Sure, but Liz will be disappointed. You really need to get up here again soon."

Liz! "You know, on second thought, if you wouldn’t mind a houseguest or two…or three, maybe I’ll come on up this afternoon. Lily and I have her nephew living with us right now. He’s four."

"The more the merrier, then. Come on up!"

Anna took his office address so she could give it to Lily. "I’ll tell her to call you."

The car dealer buzzed the receptionist. "Carmen, I need you to move things around for me for the rest of the week." Anna looked at her own calendar. "I’ll be back on Friday in time to do the Chamber luncheon." It was the day she would give her speech asking to be elected vice-president. "Oh, and I need two tickets to San Francisco, first class, about five o’clock today. Return early Friday morning."

Next, she rang her mother, arranging to pick Andy up in a few minutes. Holly agreed to come by and get Chester; Anna would leave a house key under the mat.

Finally, she phoned her lover. "I’m coming up with Andy. I want you to give Rick a call. Talk to him, and plan to stay at his house tonight."

"Are you sure about bringing Andy? Maybe he should just stay with Martine." Lily was worried that a trip would disrupt his routine.

"No, he should be with us. I didn’t want you to worry, but he had an asthma attack Sunday night after you left. He’s okay, but I think it would be awfully hard on him if we both left."

So Anna didn’t want to leave him any more than she did. A warm feeling settled over Lily as she realized that the three of them would be together again tonight.

"I’ll call Rick, but I need to go talk to Kristy. I need to get her to change her mind about this and come forward."

"Okay, hon. I’ll call you when we land. See you soon."


Chapter 17

Lily waited at a distance from the entrance to the jail. Causwell was in conference with the clients already and she needed to talk to Kristy alone. When she spotted him leaving, she headed in and was shown right away to the attorney’s conference room.

"I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I’m a little busy right now. If you need something about Andres, it’s going to have to wait." Kristy was clearly agitated, and Lily suspected it had to do with the events of the last two days.

"Kristy, your lawyer’s hanging you out to dry. It’s time to come forward and tell the DA what really happened."

"No! We’re going to beat this. He says our story’s still good." Her voice wavered as though she weren’t convinced of her own words.

"Your story’s still good for McGinnis," Lily spat. "The jury knows you were there, Kristy. If they can’t convict him, that doesn’t mean they’re just going to let you go. He’s going to walk, and you’re going to die."

"But if I tell them what happened, we’ll both die."

"No, you won’t. Listen to me." Lily pulled her chair closer to the table. "It isn’t too late to cut a deal with the DA. They know they’re going to lose McGinnis, and they want him really bad. You’re the only one who can put him there. Believe me, they’ll bargain to get him."

"But then he’ll be executed."

"Maybe, maybe not. But McGinnis doesn’t give a rat’s ass about you! He’s willing to let you take the rap for this so he can walk free. All he’s told you all along is to keep your mouth shut. And why is that? Because he knows if you talk, you can hurt him."

The prisoner was flustered. She’d seen the faces of the jurors too, and she knew her sister was right.

Lily almost had her.

"It’s not just McGinnis, Kristy. Your lawyer is sacrificing you to save him. He told me so himself. He said if he managed to save only one of you, then he’d be satisfied with that. Kristy, you need a new lawyer!" Lily implored.

"I don’t know. They’re both going to be so mad."

"Who gives a fuck whether they’re mad or not? Look at the way they’re treating you! Stand up for yourself."

Still, the prisoner was noncommittal.

"Unless you made it all up," Lily suddenly accused.

"No. It’s the truth." Kristy raised her head and jutted out her chin. "I didn’t kill that man. Kenny did, and he’s the one that ought to pay for it."

Lily had won.

"I’m going to come back in an hour with a new lawyer. You need to tell him everything, Kristy."

The brunette nodded defiantly.

"And don’t say anything to anyone else. Do you understand? You can’t let McGinnis or Causwell know that you’ve changed your mind." Or they’ll change it back.


"No, you can’t take all of those."

Andy had put as many of his toys as possible into the box that they kept beside the couch. Anna had taken some of his clothes to pack and told him to pick out a couple of toys to take. He was leaving again.

When she took the box away, he started to cry. He wouldn’t be able to play with the toys anymore, or drive the little jeep. And he wouldn’t be able to swim or to play with Chester. And he couldn’t go to school anymore. But what bothered him most was that he wouldn’t have Lily and Anna to hug him or read to him or play with him anymore. He really liked it here and he didn’t want to leave.

"Andy, listen to me." The limo was in the driveway. If they didn’t leave soon, they would miss their plane. "You can’t take them because we don’t have room. They will be here when you come back."

"When will that be?"


"When will I get to come back?"

Realization suddenly dawned on Anna what the boy’s problem was. He thought he was being moved again. He thought he was losing all his toys, just like he had lost the ones at the Shull house.

"Sweetheart, look at me." Anna used two fingers to tip the boy’s face toward hers. "You’re coming with me, and we’re both coming back in three days, maybe even with Lily. I promise."

He still looked doubtful.

"Andy, do you remember what I told you last night before you went to sleep? I told you that I loved you, and that I was glad you were here with us. We’re going to visit somebody today, but trust me, Andy. We’ll be back."

The child wiped his tears, but he was still afraid. He would try to be very good.

"Now come on. We’re going for an airplane ride."


Andy forgot his fears and had a ball on the airplane, marveling at the G-force when they took off, and peering out the window at the hills and clouds below.

When their plane landed in San Francisco, Anna had a message on her cell phone that Lily and Rick had gone to the jail to talk with Kristy. Liz would be waiting for them at baggage claim.

The old friends greeted each other warmly, and Andy met five-year-old Chloe and two-year-old Ricky. By the time they reached the San Mateo home, the three were already friends too.

The children were fed, bathed, and put to bed soon after the newcomers arrived. Anna and Liz settled down in the kitchen to wait for word from the jail.

"He’s a doll, Anna. Will you and Lily have him long?" Liz hadn’t yet been told what the visit was about, but was thrilled to be seeing her friend again for whatever reason.

Anna filled her in on the story of Kristy and the trial, and of how they had come to care for Andy.

"Liz, I tell you, that little boy has stolen my heart."

"Like his aunt did, huh?" Liz was remembering a couple of years ago when Anna had first talked to her about this remarkable woman she had met in the earthquake.

"Yeah, something like that."

The women heard the garage door go up, a signal that Rick and Lily were home.

Lily greeted Liz again–they had met on one of Anna and Lily’s visits to Eleanor’s house–and Anna led her partner down the hall to look in on the sleeping boys. Andy was sleeping soundly in the top bunk, the rails raised on the sides so he wouldn’t fall.

"Did you tell Liz about his little problem?"

"Yeah, Ricky has the same problem, so it was no big deal."

Lily stood on the rail of Ricky’s bed so she could get a good look at Andy while he slept.

"Was he excited about coming?"

"He freaked out. I think he was afraid he was getting moved again, but I think he’s okay now."

"God, I didn’t even think about that. Anna, he must have been scared to death."

"Yeah, but he calmed down. He liked being on the plane."

"I bet."

"So what’s up with Kristy?"

"Let’s go back in here and Rick can tell you."

Rick Patterson had been shocked when he discovered that his new client was the defendant in one of the most notorious murders in the Bay Area. He and Lily had talked to Kristy Parker for two and a half hours, taking down the details of her story. When they finally left the jail, he had called the prosecutor at home, requesting a seven a.m. meeting to discuss a plea bargain. They knew each other fairly well, having worked opposite sides of many cases.

"So Kristy’s decided to tell her side," Lily finished. "But everything’s going to hinge on whether or not the DA believes her story. If he doesn’t, he isn’t going to touch this. He won’t want to cut her a deal unless he’s confident that her testimony will convict McGinnis."


In a gesture of authority, District Attorney Warren Hasner slid the fourth chair to the end of the table. He would ask the questions, and for this moment at least, would act as judge of Kristy Parker.

When the deputy exited, Hasner began the negotiations. "Miss Parker, do you have information on the Peyton Graves murder that you’d like to share with me?"

"Yes," she replied simply. Rick and Lily had explained that she needed to be forthcoming about what she knew before they could begin bargaining.

"So why don’t you tell me what happened." The prosecutor opened up his notebook and took out his pen.

"We went to rob him, that’s all. But Kenny got mad."

"Whoa! I need you to back up. I want you to tell me everything that happened, starting with the very first time you ever laid eyes on Peyton Graves or his apartment."

Kristy’s story began on the afternoon of the murder, when she passed Graves on the street in front of his loft and asked him for a handout. As she had stated in her police report, he invited her into his home and gave her food, a warm raincoat, and some money. She thanked him and left.

When she met up with McGinnis, she told him the story and he asked about what was inside the apartment. She described some of the trinkets, and said that she thought he had money in his office, because that’s where he had gone to get her a few bills.

They watched the building that night until he left and slipped unnoticed into the gated garage when someone drove out. Unable to advance the elevator without a security code, they waited in the shadows until Graves returned, jumping onto the elevator as he pressed the code for his floor.

McGinnis pulled a pocketknife and threatened the man, unless he got some new clothes and money like his girlfriend had gotten earlier that day. Graves told him there was no need for the knife; that he would give him whatever he needed, including all the cash he had.

Once inside the apartment, McGinnis told him he only wanted the cash, and Graves emptied his wallet. McGinnis wanted more, and shoved him into the office, telling Kristy to bring him a bigger knife from the kitchen.

Kristy did, thinking all along that McGinnis was trying to scare the man, pretty sure herself that he had more cash in the office. When Graves said there was no more cash, McGinnis stabbed him in the shoulder and said he would do it again if Graves didn’t get the money. Graves fell to the floor….

"How did he fall? Face up or face down?" The crime scene unit had marked a bloodstain on the carpet apart from where the body was found. This might explain that.

"Face down. But Kenny rolled him over and sat on him and yelled at him to say where the money was. He kept saying there wasn’t any more money, and Kenny just started stabbing him, over and over. Then he was dead."

This was good, Hasner knew. But before he could deal, he needed to know Parker’s role.

"And what were you doing during all this?"

"I was yelling at him to stop. I tried to push him off, but…."

"Where were you standing when you tried to push him off?" They had found smears of splattered blood near Graves’ head consistent with someone standing in close proximity.

"I was at the door. And I came straight in and pushed Kenny."

"Draw me a picture."

She sketched it out. She would have been standing where the smears were found.

"How did you get out of the building?"

"The same way. You didn’t need a code to go down, and we waited again until a car came in."

"What did you take from the apartment?"

Kristy listed the items she could remember: another coat, two silver candleholders, some figurines from a display case. The Herend pieces had prompted the call from the pawn shop. Police had recovered almost everything; only one of the candleholders was still unaccounted for.

"And the knife?"

Kristy sighed. "That was stupid. I grabbed it when we were leaving because I thought Kenny’s fingerprints would be on it. I told him when we got outside and he hit me. He said he’d already cleaned it and I should have just left it there. So we stuck it in between two of the paper racks. Kenny said that was going to get us caught."

Hasner found Parker’s tale credible, but knew that he’d need more than just her testimony. The jury had seen the evidence that placed her in the apartment, so they’d be hard-pressed to ignore her interest in shifting the blame.

"Your story is very interesting, Miss Parker. Why should I believe it?"

"Because it’s the truth," she declared emphatically. "And because I can prove it."

Even Lily and Rick were startled. Had she been holding out on them?

"Is that so?" Hasner certainly hoped so.

Kristy looked at her sister and lawyer, worried about giving up what she knew was an important bargaining chip.

"Warren, before my client gives you any specific information, I think we’d like to know how that would be in her best interest." Let’s hear the offer, Warren.

"Your client participated in a grisly murder, Rick. I’m willing to drop the death penalty in favor of life imprisonment, maximum security."

"Not good enough, Warren. Not even close. I’m thinking murder two, 25 years max."

"What kind of proof, Miss Parker?" he demanded.

"Kenny got rid of the clothes he was wearing because they had blood all over them. I know where they are."

The clothes! Of course! It was all Lily could do to keep her cool, not wanting the DA to know that she was just hearing this herself for the first time.

Hasner considered the offer for the testimony. The bloody clothes would indeed prove that McGinnis was there, and that he had done the stabbing. If he declined, Parker could get the death penalty, but that wasn’t likely without direct evidence; she could be handed a life sentence; or she could be acquitted altogether. Irrespective of what happened to her, McGinnis would likely go free.

"Alright, we have a deal. I want a recorded statement and a…."

"Wait." Kristy suddenly reminded everyone of who was really in charge here. "I want one more thing."

Rick, Lily and Warren exchanged puzzled looks.

"My offer is very generous, Miss Parker," Hasner chastised. "You should take it and be satisfied."

"No. If I’m going to testify against Kenny, you have to promise that he won’t get the death penalty. No matter what."

"I can’t promise that," Hasner answered, all business.

"Then you can forget it. You’re asking me to help you kill him, and I won’t do that."

Though she was here in an official capacity as an attorney, Lily had been nothing more than an observer to these negotiations. She was glad she hadn’t missed this moment. What her sister was asking was altogether a fair request. More importantly, it cleared Lily’s conscience for her hand in this: She didn’t want to be party to an execution.

Hasner was had, and he knew it. "I want the shirt, and I’ll need to do tests on it."

"So we have a deal?" Rick confirmed.

"Yes. I’ll get my office to write it up. See you in the courthouse at nine."


Rick and Hasner left to prepare the paperwork they’d need to present to the judge for an extended recess. Lily stayed behind to talk again with her sister.

"Kristy, I’m proud of you for doing this. I know it was hard, but you did the right thing."

"I don’t know, Lily," she said dejectedly. "Twenty-five years is a long fucking time."

"But it beats the death penalty. And there’s always a chance for parole."

"I guess. Glad I don’t have to share a cell with Kenny. He’s going to shit the bed!" She stifled a chuckle. When she’d thought about what Lily had said, she’d realized that Kenny was only concerned about himself. It had always been that way. She’d given up Andres because Kenny didn’t want him around, and had beaten him for wetting the bed.

"So I’ll see you in court later, okay?"

"You’re going to hang around? I thought you’d be in a hurry to get back to LA. To Andres."

"Actually, he’s here. He and Anna flew up last night. Rick’s a friend of hers, and she’s the one that arranged for him to see you."

At once Kristy was suspicious. "She did this?" Why would Anna Kaklis want a hand in this?

"No, she didn’t do anything." Oh, fuck! "I called her after what happened in court and told her you needed a new lawyer. She knew Rick and his wife, so last night they came up here while Rick and I were here talking to you. Anna has nothing to do with any of this."

"I want to see Andres." Kristy still held this card.


"And I want to meet this Anna Kaklis."

Fucking shit.


Chapter 18


"I don’t think he needs to go to a place like that." Anna was adamant. Lily had called her partner immediately after she left the jail with the news that Kristy wanted to meet her face to face.

"I don’t either, but she’s still got those goddamned papers on John Moss’ desk. All she has to do is call him and say give Andy to Lisa Parker. I know you don’t want to do this, sweetheart. I hate to ask…."

"I don’t care about that, Lily. I’ll go see her if she wants. I just don’t want Andy to have to go there to see her. Can’t Rick arrange to have her meet him at the courthouse or something?"

What? "You don’t care?"

"No. If she needs to talk to me to satisfy some curiosity, I’ll go. I’ll see her this afternoon if she wants. But if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather Andy never set foot inside a jail."

This is about what you want for Andy? "Um…okay. I’ll talk to Rick and see what he can arrange. Are you sure about this?"

"Absolutely. Tell her I’ll be there today."


"Fucking bitch," Kenneth McGinnis muttered under his breath. He and his public defender had gotten the devastating news when they reached the courtroom.

Causwell knew something was up, since the defendants were not delivered from the jail together. Someone had already summoned Parker, the bailiff said. When Lily walked in with Rick Patterson, he knew his client was toast.

Out of the eyes of the jury, Rick introduced himself to the court as Kristy Parker’s new attorney and requested a continuance of the recess so that he might complete negotiations with the District Attorney. Wostyk granted the recess, postponing the trial until nine a.m. on Thursday morning. That would give the DA time to locate the shirt and complete the necessary tests to link it to the crime.


In her wildest dreams, Anna hadn’t expected to be sitting in the visitors’ room of a jail, moments from coming face to face with a murderer. A murderer with her partner’s face, she acknowledged as Parker was led through the door.

Kristy took a seat at the picnic style table across from the beautiful dark-haired woman. On the far side of the room, an older couple–parents, Anna thought–met quietly with a crying young woman in an orange jumpsuit. Other than that, she and Kristy were alone.

"I’m Anna Kaklis," the tall woman started, almost mesmerized by the familiar green eyes across the table.

"I know who you are. In fact, I know quite a bit about you. You sell cars. And you have a big house in Brentwood. And you make lots of money."

Anna tried to remember what information she had put on the social services forms.

"And you and my sister have rings just alike. Isn’t that sweet?"

"Well there must be something you don’t know, or you wouldn’t have invited me down here for a chat."

"Not a chat, really. I just wanted to see what you looked like. Although I was curious…."

"About what? Perhaps I can enlighten you."

"About why you cared enough about me to ask your friend to be my lawyer."

"Because I care about Lily, and she said you needed a lawyer."

"So you did it for Lily, not for me."

"I’d say that’s right. But if justice gets served in the meantime, that’s a good thing too."

"So is that how you feel about Andres too?"

"I beg your pardon?" What does Andy have to do with this?

"Do you put up with him because you care about Lily and that’s what she wants?" That’s how it had been when she first started hanging out with Kenny. He liked her and he put up with Andres. But when Andres got to be too much trouble, he had to go.

"No, it isn’t like that."

"Tell me what it’s like, then."

Anna was almost afraid to say how she really felt, knowing this woman’s penchant for using Lily’s concern about Andy to manipulate her. But Lily and Rick had reached her last night, persuading her finally to do the right thing in this murder case. Maybe she had one more "right thing" in her.

"I’ll tell you how I feel about Andy. I adore him. I think he’s sweet, he’s smart, he likes to have fun, and he loves my dog. He makes me laugh, he makes me sad when his feelings get hurt or when he doesn’t feel well. He makes me feel good all over when he hugs me. Kristy, I want him to live with us from now on. Even if Lily should leave me, I’d want him to stay. That’s how I feel about him."

As Anna’s words poured out, so had Kristy’s tears. She had once had the chance herself to love the beautiful little boy just the way Anna had described. She could never have given him things like they could, but she would have taken care of him. Instead, she had let him down when she chose Kenneth McGinnis.

Unable to deal with this onslaught of emotions, the prisoner suddenly stood. "I need to get back to my cell."

"No, wait." Anna wanted to say one more thing. "Lily says when you go to prison the state will put Andy up for adoption, but it will take a long time. And he might be moved again. If you sign the papers tomorrow, we can start the process now of making it permanent. Will you do that for Andy? For all of us?"

Kristy’s tears were unchecked as she nodded. "Can I see him one more time?"

"Of course," Anna assured. "It’s already arranged."


"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to American Airlines Flight 119, service between San Francisco and Los Angeles International Airport. At this time, we’d like to invite our first class cabin to board…."

"That’s us, pal," Lily said, crawling under a row of seats in the crowded departure lounge to retrieve the matchbox X5 Anna had given the boy on his first visit to the Premier BMW dealership.

Their business in San Francisco was finished. Early Wednesday afternoon, police recovered a bloody t-shirt and bandana from the flat rooftop of a two-story building four blocks from the Graves loft. Both had been wrapped around a stolen silver candlestick so that they could be easily thrown. Hair samples from the bandana identified its owner as Kenneth McGinnis, sealing the prosecution’s case. Unwilling to gamble his fate further, McGinnis agreed to plead guilty on Thursday afternoon to first degree murder in exchange for a life sentence. He was headed to San Quentin.

In accordance with her agreement, Kristy Parker also pleaded guilty to second degree murder and would be sentenced to 25 years at the Valley State Women’s Prison in Chowchilla. She would be eligible for parole in 15 years.

The excited boy stomped energetically down the jet bridge to board the plane, Lily guiding him into the window seat in Row 4. Anna followed, taking the aisle seat directly across from her partner.

The blonde had been bowled over on Wednesday afternoon when Anna asked her how quickly they could get papers together for Kristy to resign her parental rights.

"Well, there are a lot of forms involved but they usually keep them in a packet. It’s just a matter of filling in the information and getting her to sign."

"So could it be ready by tomorrow afternoon?"

Lily chuckled; Anna was in her CEO mode. "I think the papers are the easy part. Who’s going to strong-arm my sister in signing them?"

"She’s ready, sweetheart. I told her we wanted him and that we didn’t want to wait and take a chance that he could be moved again."

"You told her we wanted him?"

"Yeah. We do, don’t we?"

Oh my god! "Anna, are you sure?"

"I’ve only been this sure about one other person in my whole life."

The tall woman’s back would probably recover eventually. It wasn’t every day she caught 115 pounds of running jumping screaming blonde.

A businessman gestured toward the window seat in Anna’s row. As she stood to let him in, she looked down on the gleeful four-year-old peering out the window telling Lily all about the different colored suitcases being loaded into the hatch below him.

"I can’t believe they let kids fly in first class," the man grumbled. "A hundred dollars for an upgrade and we have to put up with jabbering rugrats."

That’s my rugrat, and his ticket cost $1,100. I’d say he has a right to sit wherever he wants. Biting her tongue, Anna managed to keep that thought to herself.

Andy settled down, but the businessman persisted. "Listen to him. I bet he doesn’t shut up all the way to LA."

Will you?

He loved it when he had a chance to make conversation with a beautiful woman like this knockout sitting next to him. "So what kind of work do you do?"

"I sell cars," Anna answered dryly, extracting the headphones from the seatback pocket in front of her. There was no music as yet–they were still on the ground–but that wasn’t the point. Headphones in place, she buried her face in the latest Car & Driver in an attempt to discourage conversation.

"So does your boss make you read that kind of stuff to keep up with the industry?" The obnoxious man reached into her magazine and pointed at the article she was reading.

"Something like that," she answered, turning back to her magazine.

Lily stretched to retrieve the X5, this time from underneath Anna’s foot.

"Can’t you at least keep his toys over there where he doesn’t bother other people?" the man barked rudely.

Lily looked at Anna, the blue eyes saying "I’ll handle this." If Andy hadn’t wanted the window so much, Anna would have traded seats with him right then.

"I tell you. People have no control over their kids at all these days. They just let them do whatever they want," he went on.

"I bet he’s not bothering you half as much as you’re bothering me," Anna snapped. "At least he knows to stop talking to people when they cover their ears!"

With the headphones still in place, Anna hadn’t realized that she was practically shouting at the man. That is, until the woman behind Lily began to applaud, joined soon by the two men sitting behind Anna and the jerk.

The rest of the ride was peaceful, except for the occasional delighted squeal from the small boy as he discovered new things he liked about flying.




Greg Cahill wheeled his 740iL onto the lot at Premier Motors, excited about picking out his next new car. Ever since Anna had called him with the news that his lease was about to expire, he’d had car fever.

The new president of the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce was a faithful BMW owner. In a moment of stupidity a few years ago, he had bought a Jaguar, but his friend had taken it in trade and wholesaled it "the hell off this lot" as soon as he handed her the keys.

The car dealer–who was herself the Chamber’s new vice-president–had suggested a loaded 745Li, and there was a red one in her showroom right now. As he pushed through the double glass doors, its gleaming elegance caught his eye right away.

"Hi, I’m Greg Cahill. I’d like to see Anna Kaklis, please." He introduced himself to the weekend receptionist.

"I’ll page her for you."

The silver X5 squeezed its way through the crowded lot, snaking around the new cars toward the employee parking area in the back. This visit to the dealership on Saturday was a treat for both Lily and Andy; Lily because she got to see her lover, Andy because…well, because he got to see everything.

Saturdays like this were great, but Thursdays were Andy’s favorite day of the week. Anna picked him up from pre-school before lunch, bought him a cheeseburger, French fries and a chocolate milkshake–which always sat in the cup holder–and brought him back to the dealership to spend the afternoon. Sometimes he would sit in her office playing with the model cars while she worked, but most of the time he would watch the videos in the media room. Once, she even let him sit on a stool in the service garage while she worked under the hood on an old car. That had been really cool, especially when she asked him to get down for minute so he could hand her one of the tools.

Sticky handprints smeared the glass door in the back as the pair entered through the downstairs offices.

"Anna Kaklis, please come to the showroom."

"Did you hear that, Andy? They must have seen us come in. Let’s go wait in the showroom, okay?"

The little boy skipped ahead, wondering if the big red car was still there. Sometimes, there were different cars. Anna said that was because people liked them so much that they bought them and took them home. There it was, a brand new 745Li, and a man was looking at it, probably to take it home. Andy knew all about the car from the video he had watched over and over.

"Hello," the man said to the little boy who had come to stand on his tiptoes so he could look at the engine.

"Hi," said Andy. Anna had told him that he should be extra nice to the people at the dealership. "This car has a B-8 engine."

"A V-8 engine?"

Andy nodded excitedly. "Yeah, with tirty-two balbes." He wasn’t quite sure what all that meant, but he knew it was good.

"Thirty-two valves! No kidding!"

"Yeah, you can see it if you look here." He stretched again and pointed under the hood.

"Why it certainly does," the man agreed, having no idea where to look for those valves.

The blonde woman’s mouth dropped as she watched the pseudo-sales presentation unfold. How does he know all this?

"And the seats have little bitty holes ‘cause they have heaters!"

"Heaters? In the seats?"

"Uh-huh, heaters. And it has a on-board caputer, too!" Andy wasn’t sure what that meant either, but it too sounded really nice.

The dark-haired woman approached silently from behind her lover, who was now thoroughly astounded at what she was seeing. "Hi Greg. I see you’ve met my son."

"Your son?"

"That’s right. At least he will be in a couple more weeks. Isn’t that right, Andy?"

Andy suddenly grew bashful and sidled up next to the car dealer.

"And this is my partner, Lily Stuart." She held out her arm to the blonde woman, who was still amazed at the scene she had just witnessed. "This is my friend Greg Cahill, who happens to need a new car today."

"It’s nice to meet you, Greg." Lily found herself immensely pleased to be part of this scene, getting her first glimpse of what she knew would be a long and loving mentoring of this child in the family’s business. "I should warn you, these guys have a reputation for tag-teaming on a hard sell."

"Well if everything this young salesman says is true, then I want this car right here." He looked back at the boy, who was smiling up at both of his soon-to-be moms.

"Greg, if Andy said it, I’m sure it’s true, because he knows all about cars." It excited her that this boy she had come to love so much shared her passion. In her mind’s eye, Anna could picture that one day a handsome young man with curly brown hair and green eyes would climb the stairs to the executive offices on the second floor.


The End. You can stop reading now. If you like, you can drop me a note at and let me know what you thought of the tale.

Thanks to all for reading the saga of Anna & Lily, who are going to be taking an indefinite break. I’ve really appreciated your words of encouragement.

Thanks to those Canadian Uber Addicts who commented on the first draft. I appreciate your help.


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