Murder Has Two Faces


Tonya S. Coley


For disclaimers see Part 1.

Chapter 17

Johnnie called her associates into her office. "Have all our pending cases been wrapped up?" She asked, as they were all seated around her desk.

"Yes, Johnnie. All pending cases have been closed." Mike answered.

"Good. Since everything has been taken are of, I'm going to close the office during the trial." Johnnie stood up and began to pace her office. "Each of you will continue to get paid. So you don't have to worry about finding another job, unless you want to." She paused. "Tracy will be paid as well. He has been under a lot of stress since this mess started. His doctor ordering him to take a leave of absence was the best thing for him."

"Yes it was. I hated to see him go." Glenda solemnly said. She and Tracy were very close. They argued like siblings and he was a surrogate father for her daughter, Kaia. "I really miss him around here. I have no one to play with." She joked, pushing her emotions back.

Johnnie stood behind her, placing her hands on her shoulders. "I know you do, kiddo. We all do." Johnnie started pacing again. "Closing up shop will be good for you guys, too. You can use this time to go on vacation, or do whatever you want."

Mike cleared his throat. "I can't speak for anyone else, but I will be at the courthouse everyday until you are cleared, Johnnie."

"So will I." Glenda added.

"That goes for me as well." Laura said.

"Look, I don't want you to be wasting your time at the trial, when you can be spending it with your families." Johnnie said firmly.

Laura gave her a stern look. "You just try to keep us away. As for that talk about looking for other work, I should smack you upside your head for talking foolish."

Johnnie held up her hands in a peaceful gesture, and leaned against the front of her desk. "Damn, I'm sorry I said anything. I didn't mean to offend, boss lady." She gave Laura a warm embrace, followed by Glenda, and then Mike. "I just want to thank you for all of the hard work you put in to making our little firm a success."

Glenda snorted. "Johnnie, stop tripping. This is hardly a little firm. I haven't even taken the Bar, and hell I already drive a Benz." Everyone laughed.

"We have what we have because you all gave a hundred and ten percent. The sign on our door says 'Green and Associates'." She said, putting emphasis on the word 'Associates' to make it clear to them that this wasn't just her firm. "If I am not cleared, I want you guys to keep this place up and running. We have a deep client base, and you should do fine. I just ask that you see that Alma is taken care of, please."

"Of course, Johnnie, but it's not going to come to that. Bob is going to prove that you had nothing to do with Ballantine's murder." Laura assured her.

"I sure hope so. Now get the hell out of my office so I can take my wife to dinner." She playfully ordered while she held back her emotions. After her friends left, she walked over to the window and looked out at the skyline as tears streamed down her cheeks.


Johnnie sat in her chair with her back turned to the door. Well, this is it, another hell for me to endure. I know I didn't do this thing, I just hope that Bob can prove it. Why did I leave Alma that night? If I had just stayed home, then none of this would be happening. Johnnie was stirred from her thoughts when she heard Alma's voice. She turned to face her.

"Are you ready to go, Querida?" Alma asked as she entered Johnnie's office.

Johnnie stood up and removed her jacket from the back of her chair. "Yeah, baby, I'm ready."

Alma walked around Johnnie's desk, to take her into her arms. She moaned when she felt Johnnie's strong arms wrap around her. "I love being in your arms."

Johnnie held her, molding her body to fit Alma's. "I love holding you." She added a kiss to the top of Alma's head. "Where shall we have dinner, baby?"

Alma pulled back and looked deeply into Johnnie's eyes. She could see the tiredness they held. "I'd be happy if we could just pick up some take out and go home."

Johnnie smiled. "Take out it is. C'mon, let's go."

When they walked out of Johnnie's office, Johnnie took a long look around. "I'll be back soon."

"That's right, baby. You'll be back stronger and tougher than ever." Alma said as she rubbed small circles on Johnnie's back.

Johnnie leaned down and kissed Alma softly on her lips. "Thank you."

"For what?" Alma asked.

"For loving me and being here for me." She said. "Also for giving me a swift kick in the pants when I need it."

"That's why you married me, silly." Alma smiled.

"I thought I married you because of that great ass of yours." Johnnie said, and playfully swatted Alma on her backside. Then she walked to the door.

"You rotten little brat." Alma growled.

When they arrived home, Alma set a lovely table complete with candles and they enjoyed their meal from the Thai restaurant. After dinner, Johnnie cleared the dishes while Alma showered.

"I'm done." Alma said as she entered their bedroom, wrapped only in a towel.

Johnnie's mouth hung open. Lord help me, but that woman is fine as hell. "Uhm, ok." She stammered noticing how well Alma filled her towel. "I'll be out in a few minutes." She gave Alma a tender kiss as she made her way to their bathroom.

Alma pulled on one of Johnnie's t-shirts and turned on the TV. She climbed into bed and surfed the pay-per-view channels for a movie to order. She wanted to take Johnnie's mind off of the upcoming trial.

"Oh good, you ordered 'Hannibal II'. I heard that it was better than 'Hannibal'." Johnnie said as she dried off. She walked over to the dresser to retrieve a pair of boxers and a t-shirt. "I love that crazy son of a bitch. Hello Clarice." Johnnie said, mimicking Anthony Hopkins.

"You sound just like that creep. Come on and get in this bed. I need for you to hold me." Alma ordered.

"Yes ma'am." Johnnie said, quickly slipping in bed and wrapping her arms around her wife.

Alma jumped, screamed and squirmed around in Johnnie's loving embrace during all the scary parts. This was much to Johnnie's delight. The knowledge of Alma's dependence and complete trust in her made her beam with pride.

When the movie ended Johnnie turned off the TV, sending the room into complete darkness. Johnnie removed her t-shirt and boxers, and then removed Alma's t-shirt. She pulled Alma closer and whispered to her the undying love she had for her. She kissed Alma, and then began to peruse her neck. Alma moaned at the contact. She grasped Johnnie's shoulders, and then moved her hands down Johnnie's back. Her breath was ragged as she caressed Johnnie's smooth skin.

Johnnie used her tongue to trace the line of Alma's jaw, while her hand roamed down Alma's heaving chest. She touched Alma's breast and teased her nipple, causing Alma to hiss. She moved Alma onto her back and moved close to her, lying on her side. Johnnie continued to fondle Alma's breasts, bringing already engorged nipples to higher peaks. She whispered sweet nothings in Alma's ear as her hand slid down to a now mildly protruding belly. Johnnie smiled as she rubbed the paunch where their child grew. Not lingering in one spot too long, her hand traveled further down her wife's body to her fount that was already wet.

Alma moaned as Johnnie gently entered her with her fingers. Johnnie held them still inside her, enjoying the feel of Alma's muscles contracting around them. She began to move them to match Alma's undulation, eliciting moans and hisses from her wife. Alma's left hand found its way between Johnnie's thighs, making her jump at the contact of Alma's fingers on her swollen clit.

Johnnie continued to stroke Alma while Alma stroked her. Johnnie moved and Alma pulled her hand from between moist thighs, as Johnnie draped her thigh over Alma's. Her fingers moved with tenderness in and out of Alma as she pounded herself against Alma's thigh.

Alma began to sweat as she moved faster against Johnnie's skilled fingers. "Please, I need to feel your mouth and tongue." She begged.

Johnnie moved and situated herself between Alma's trembling thighs, replacing her fingers with her mouth. Alma gasped immediately upon contact. Her body moved rhythmically with Johnnie's tongue, which moved in and out of her with unmeasured speed. Johnnie then suckled her clit and kneaded her breasts in the same rhythm.

"Johnnie, oh God, I'm coming." She screamed. Her body buckled against Johnnie's mouth.

Johnnie grasped Alma's hips in an effort to hold on for the ride, moving with each buckle and spasm she had. Her need was growing more and more with each twitch of Alma's clit. After drinking all Alma had offered her, she crawled up Alma's body. She opened Alma's wet lips with her index and middle finger, while she spread herself open with her thumb and pinky and placed her clit against Alma's. "Oh fuck." Johnnie hissed as she rubbed herself against Alma. Her grind was slow and deliberate, while their kisses were loving and intense. Alma gently bit Johnnie's shoulder and chest. Johnnie moaned in Alma's ear, kissing and sucking her neck. Alma's soft hands traveled up and down Johnnie's back as she gently raked her nails against it.

They were face to face, breathing raggedly against each other's mouth. They were both near orgasm as their bodies moved in unison, their sweat-covered bodies gliding smoothly against each other.

"Alma, I love you so much." Johnnie whispered as tears flowed down her cheeks, dropping onto Alma's cheeks to mingle with her own.

"I love you, too." Alma rasped. "Oh yes, Johnnie!"

They climaxed together, their bodies going into wild convulsions. Cries and screams of release echoed throughout the room, then reverberated through tightly clasped bodies. Johnnie lay on Alma for a while and then rolled over, pulling her on top of her.

They stayed in bed for the remainder of the week. Only leaving it to eat, bathe and use the bathroom.


The telephone rang while Alma was setting up the guestroom for Tori and Ceecee.

"Hello." She answered. She could barely make out who was on the other end due to a bad connection. "Hello." She repeated.

"Alma? Hi, it's Gui." He said.

"Guillermo? Gui, is it really you?" Alma asked.

"Yes, Alma, it's me. How are you pepita?" He asked her, his voice full of concern.

"It's good to hear from you, Gui. I am ok, under the circumstances." She said.

Guillermo had taken a job on an oilrig in Venezuela two years prior. He felt that time away would help him come to terms with everything that had happened with Javier and the tensions between him and Johnnie.

"I heard, pepita. I am so sorry about Phillip. I just got the news. We don't get regular communications on the rig." He said. "I just talked to Mami and she told me everything."

"Thank you, Gui." She said, her voice full of emotion. "I am so glad to hear from you. I have missed you."

"I miss you, too. Mami tells me that you and Johnnie are expecting another baby. I am happy for you both." He said.

Alma was pleased to hear that he had changed and the time away had done him some good.

"Mami also told me of the trouble that Johnnie is in. Pepita, I know that Johnnie and I haven't gotten along at all, but I am hoping to change that. I was a fool for wanting to deny you happiness." He paused; he could hear Alma as she sobbed quietly.

"Gui, I am so glad to hear that. I know you tried before you left. I hope that you two will one day become friends." She tearfully said.

"I hope so, too." He said. "I hope that she is found innocent, Alma. For both of your sakes."

"Thank you so much, Gui." She said.

Guillermo heard one of his friends yell for him that they were leaving for the rig. "I have to go now, pepita. You take care of yourself. I love you."

"I love you too, Gui." She said as she listened to him hang up.

Johnnie was walking toward their bedroom when she heard Alma crying softly. She walked into the guest bedroom and saw her wiping away tears. "Alma, baby are you ok?" She asked as she rushed to Alma's side.

Alma looked up at her and smiled. "Yes, beloved. These are happy tears. I just talked to Gui."

Johnnie's back stiffened. "Yeah? So what's going on?"

"He called to give us his condolences. Mami told him when he called her today." She informed her.

Johnnie breathed a sigh of relief. "Ok."

"He also wanted to congratulate us about the pregnancy, and to wish you well with the trial." She said.

Johnnie was shocked. "Really?"

"Yes, really." Alma smiled. "I knew that with time he would come around."

Johnnie, still uncomfortable where Guillermo was concerned quickly changed the subject. "So how is this coming?" She asked as she pointed to the bed. "Why don't you let me make the bed, and you can dust or whatever."

"Okay." Alma quickly agreed. "My back is killing me."

Johnnie chuckled. "Well, if you didn't try and get into that unusual position last night, your back would be ok." She told Alma as she wrapped her arms around her waist.

"I didn't hear you protesting." Alma argued as she placed her arms around Johnnie's neck. "As a matter of fact, you seemed to like it."

"Oh yeah, baby. That I did." Johnnie said. She leaned down for a kiss, but was interrupted by the sound of a horn blowing in their driveway. "Well, looks like our guests have arrived. You go greet them while I finish up in here."

"Okay, beloved." Alma quickly ran out of the room.

Johnnie stood there for a moment. "I wonder if that wasn't the plan all along." She laughed and shook her head as she quickly hurried to complete the task.

Alma went outside to meet Tori and Ceecee. Ceecee ran into Alma's arms and they embraced, giggled and cried happy tears. Tori stood off to the side waiting for her greeting, but it never came. Alma and Ceecee walked inside, leaving Tori standing alone in the driveway.

"Well, how are you, Tori? It's so good to see you." Tori sarcastically yelled at the two women going into the house.

Johnnie had just finished up in the guest room, when Tori trudged in with a number of bags. "Hey, Tori." Johnnie said as she went over to help her friend. "Why didn't you come and get me? I would have helped you with these."

Tori dropped what remained of her load and tried to catch her breath. "I didn't know that you were here." She paused. "Alma just scooped Ceecee up and they went into the house. I didn't even get a hello, a kiss my ass, or nothing. So how could I have known that you were home?"

Johnnie laughed at her. "Remember? They got me like that a couple of years ago, too."

"What is it with them? They act like teenage girls at a slumber party." Tori grumbled.

"I have no idea." Johnnie said. She looked at the bags. "Is this all you guys brought with you?"

Tori looked at her like she had grown another head. "Are you nuts? This is only half of Ceecee's stuff. While she was packing, I asked her if she was planning on moving in with you guys. Now as for me, I brought two garment bags, one suitcase and a duffle for my shoes. She not only filled all of her luggage, but the rest of mine."

Johnnie couldn't help but laugh at her friend. "C'mon, let's get the rest of your stuff and let you relax. We have dinner plans with Annie and Myra, and then we go dancing."

Tori cheered up at the news. "Sounds good to me. I can hardly wait to see Ceecee shake her ass."


After dinner, they all went to 'Leather and Lace'. Johnnie wanted to go to 'The Back Door', which Annie now owned and brought back up to it's long ago grandeur, but Annie wanted to check out 'Leather and Lace'.

The place was packed and the music was thumping. Annie looked around and got a few ideas for her club. "Damn, this place is nice." She said.

"Yeah, it is. The DJ plays a mixture of everything." Johnnie told her, as she moved along with the music.

They made their way to a table and took their seats. A waitress came over for their drink orders.

"Alma, I guess you are the designated driver." Johnnie whispered close to her ear.

She looked up at Johnnie and smiled. "I don't have a problem with that, my love." She kissed Johnnie on the tip of her nose. "So, will I get a song out of this?"

"Anything you want, babygirl." Johnnie purred. "What is your request?"

"Our song, please." Alma said, smiling broadly.

"As soon as they open the mikes, you will have your song." Johnnie winked.

Annie leaned over to Johnnie. "Red Owl, take a look at the bar, and tell me who you see."

Johnnie looked and saw her unknown savior leaning against the bar with a redhead pressed up against her body. "That's the pony-tail; the one who brought me home that night."

"Yep that's her. You gonna go and thank her properly?" Annie asked.

"Yeah. Think I'll buy her a drink while I'm at it." Johnnie said. She leaned over to Alma. "Baby, I see a friend. I'll be right back."

"Okay, baby." Alma said.

Johnnie made her way to the bar. "Hello, friend."

The redhead looked up. "She's taken, go find your own."

Johnnie arched an eyebrow and looked down at the diminutive woman. "Don't worry. I'm not interested in her for that. Besides, she's looking for the same thing I am and neither of us falls into that description.

The pony-tailed woman laughed. "Damn right." She turned to the redhead. " Now if you'll excuse us for a few minutes…"

The redhead cut her off. "I'll be waiting right over there." She said as she pointed to the opposite end of the bar. "Don't keep me waiting."

The woman laughed again. "Don't worry, Nina. I won't."

Johnnie waited until Nina was out of earshot. She turned to the woman. "I just wanted to come over and thank you for what you did for me." She paused. "I would like to, but I don't know who I am thanking."

The woman held her hand out. "My friends call me G."

Johnnie accepted the offered hand. "Thank you, G. I really mean it."

"I'm not going to have to haul you out of here tonight, am I?" G asked, smiling.

Johnnie laughed. "No, I'm here with my wife and some friends of ours. I'd like for you to meet them if it's ok with you and your lady?"

G chuckled. "She's not with me, but she wants to be."

"Well c'mon then, while she's not looking." Johnnie said.

Tori and Annie stood when Johnnie approached the table with G. Annie was first to reach for G's hand. "Hi, remember me? My name is Annie, and this is my girlfriend Myra."

"I could never forget you." G laughed as she looked up at the extremely tall woman. "My friends call me G."

"Nice to meet you." Myra said as she shook G's hand.

"I'm Tori, and this is my wife Ceecee." Tori said, shaking G's hand. "Pleased to meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine." G said, shaking her hand and then Ceecee's.

Johnnie stood behind Alma. "This is my wife, Alma."

G took Alma's hand into hers and gently shook it. "It's nice to meet you, Alma."

Alma looked at G. "You look so familiar, G. Do I know you?"

"Uhm, no I don't think so. I guess I just have one of those faces." She offered.

"I can't explain it, but it seems like I should know you." Alma said.

G became a little nervous. "They say we have a twin somewhere. Maybe that's it."

Alma decided to let it go for now. "That must be it then." She smiled at her.

G smiled in return, but her smile faded when she heard Nina call her. "Guess I had better go. You have a nice evening."

Alma smiled. "You, too."

G said her farewells to Johnnie and her friends.

Johnnie stood up at the microphone waiting for the song she chose to be loaded. As soon as she started singing, the entire bar went silent. 'I must have rehearsed my lines a thousand times 'til I had them memorized.' She sang.

Tori's mouth hung open. She leaned over to Alma. "I had no idea that Johnnie could sing like that."

Alma smiled. "Yes, my baby can really go. She has a beautiful voice." She paused. "That song was playing when we went out on our first date."

Johnnie continued to sing Patti LaBelle's If Only You Knew, looking directly at Alma. Her mellow voice rivaled Patti's, much to the awe of the patrons in the club. As she neared the end, her eyes filled with tears as she saw Alma's tear-stained face. Her final note was met with thunderous applause. As Johnnie walked back to her wife and friends, she wondered if this would be the last time that they would be together, out having fun as they were at that moment.


Johnnie sat up against the headboard of their bed, with pillows supporting her back. "Alma, don't put on that nightie."

Alma shrugged and tossed it aside. She walked over to Johnnie, and Johnnie guided her to straddle her thighs.

"You've been awful quiet since we got home, beloved. I know you get quiet when you've been drinking, but I feel something is bothering you." Alma whispered.

"Shh, baby. Don't talk, just let me touch you." Johnnie said softly as her hands went up to touch Alma's face. Her eyes closed as her fingertips traced Alma's eyebrows, cheekbones, nose, lips and chin. She was memorizing Alma with her fingers. Johnnie gently touched her neck and shoulders, slowly moving down to her breasts. She could feel the swell of Alma's nipples as she brushed her fingers across them, and heard her hiss from the contact. Her fingertips traveled down to Alma's belly and she giggled when Johnnie's fingers brushed against it. Johnnie's fingers wandered past hips and thighs, and then up Alma's curvaceous back. When she was done, she opened her eyes. "I love you, Alma. I always will."

Chapter 18

Johnnie quietly dressed in her black Armani suit, with a white silk blouse. Alma pinned the cameo that Rosa had given Johnnie the previous Christmas over the top button of the blouse.

"Johnnie, do you want to eat something before we leave?" Alma asked.

Johnnie sighed heavily. "No, baby. I'm not hungry."

"Querida, you need to eat something. How about some toast and coffee?" Alma suggested.

"Alright, Alma. That sounds good." Johnnie agreed.

Ceecee had prepared a light breakfast of fruit and cereal. "I figured no one would want anything heavy." She said when Johnnie and Alma walked into the kitchen.

"I'm just going to have toast and coffee, but Alma you need to eat something a little more filling. Gotta take care of Little One." Johnnie light-heartedly said.

Alma protested. "I don't think I can keep anything down."

"Then you will have toast and juice." Johnnie said firmly. "You aren't going anywhere until you eat something."

"Yes dear." Alma said.


The courtroom was filled to capacity. Reporters and news crews stood lined up against the walls of the courtroom, spilling out into the hallway. Johnnie's associates, along with Rosa, Miguel, Annie and Myra had gotten there before them. The jury was seated. Johnnie, Bob and his assistant were seated at the defense table. Jeff Abbott and two of his associates were seated at the prosecutor's table.

"All rise." The bailiff ordered. "Court is now in session. The Honorable Andrew O'Connell presiding."

Judge O'Connell came in and took the bench. "You may be seated."

The bailiff walked over with a file. "The People versus Johnetta Green. The charge is murder in the First Degree." He handed the case file over to the judge.

"Mr. Prosecutor, you may begin your opening statement." The judge said.

Abbott stood and walked toward the jury box. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. You have been assigned the responsibility of passing judgment on the defendant, Johnetta Green. She has been accused of the brutal murder of Wilmington's mayor, Alexander Ballantine. Mayor Ballantine was 54 years old when his life was taken from him. A man yet in the prime of his life."

He went on, telling the jury what seemed to be the life story of Ballantine. He then went on to tell them about conflict between Ballantine and Johnnie, and then the brutal condition Ballantine's body was in when his body was found.

"Johnetta Green was a highly decorated member of the Wilmington Police Department. She was Rookie of the year, and even won the Medal of Valor. She was also given numerous commendations. These are the things that my esteemed colleague is going to tell you." He said. "Even those who follow the rules can also break them. The people are going to prove that Ms. Green had the motive and opportunity to have committed this heinous crime. We have evidence that places her at the scene. Look at her." She said, pointing at Johnnie. "She is a very powerful woman, in excellent condition. Very capable of overpowering Mayor Ballantine; he was much smaller than she is."

As he continued, Bob leaned over to Johnnie. "He is such a blowhard." He whispered, bring a small smile to her face." I hope he doesn't talk much longer. The jury will be bored to tears when it's our turn."

Johnnie looked over her shoulder at Alma. Alma smiled at her and placed her finger under her chin. She lifted her head with it, gesturing for Johnnie to keep her head up. Johnnie winked at her.

Bob finally got his chance to give his opening statement. He stood and walked toward the jury box. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Mr. Abbott has, in great detail, gone over the what, who, where and why of this case. I won't bore you by repeating them. He says that the people have proof that my client murdered Alexander Ballantine. We have proof to the contrary, and during this trial we will go into great detail why you cannot convict Ms. Green of this crime." He paused. "Upon hearing all of the evidence, if the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt that my client is guilty, then you have no alternative but to convict her. If the state doesn't, then you must find her innocent. Thank you." He turned and walked back to his seat.

"My, he is an arrogant SOB, isn't he?" Abbott's associate whispered.

Abbot looked at him. "That's not arrogance, it's confidence. He must have something that will get her off."

"Alright, Mr. Abbott, call your first witness." Judge O'Connell directed.

Abbot stood and said, "The people call Dr. Robert Kirasawa to the stand.

Dr. Kirasawa was the Chief Medical Examiner of New Hanover County. He performed the autopsy on Mayor Ballantine. After he was sworn in, Abbott proceeded to ask him of his credentials, which were very impressive.

"Dr. Kirasawa, can you describe for the jury the cause of death of Mayor Ballantine, and the extent of the injuries on his body?" Abbott asked.

"Mayor Ballantine died of blunt force trauma to the head. He was completely covered in blood when I began my autopsy. The trauma to his head area was very extensive; his skull was fractured in several places, badly enough that portions of his brain had been exposed." Dr. Kirasawa explained. Members of the jury winced at the description and the photos that were circulated among them.

"In your years of experience have you ever seen trauma to the head to that extent, barring automobile accidents?" Abbott asked.

"Never." Doctor Kirasawa replied.

"In your expert opinion, would you consider this a brutal death?" Abbot inquired, looking toward the jury.

"Yes, very brutal." The doctor responded.

Abbott smirked. "Would you agree that the murderer had to be crazed to do something this animalistic?"

"Objection!" An outraged Bob yelled. "The witness, with all his experience and credentials is not qualified to make that assessment."

"Sustained." Judge O'Connell agreed.

Deflated, Abbott said, "No more questions for this witness."

"Your witness, Mr. Wooten." The judge said.

Bob stood up. "No questions for this witness, Your Honor."

Judge O'Connell excused Dr. Kirasawa. After he left the stand, Abbott called his next witness, Mrs. Alice Winders. When she was sworn in, Abbott began his questions. "Mrs. Winders, how long had you worked for Mayor Ballantine before his untimely demise?"

"I was Mayor Ballantine's secretary for almost 25 years." She answered.

"In those years, you got to know Alexander Ballantine, the man, very well. Wouldn't you agree?" Abbott asked.

Mrs. Winders straightened in her seat. "Yes, absolutely."

Abbott smiled. "Could you tell us a little about Mayor Ballantine?"

"I'll try." She said. "I began working for Mayor Ballantine right after he graduated Duke Law School. He was a very nice man, and always treated me with respect." She looked at the jury. "He worked hard for the decent people of this city. He brought new businesses to our city and that created good steady jobs." Mrs. Winders began to get teary eyed. "He was a loyal man, a man of impeccable character."

"Silly rabbit." Bob whispered to Johnnie.

Johnnie looked at him in total confusion. "Bob, what are you talking about?"

"The door just opened." He said, smiling.

"Yes, yes, Mrs. Winders." Abbott paused; he knew that she might have gone a little to far. He hoped that her commentary had gone unnoticed by the defense. "Now describe for us Mr. Ballantine's office on the day you discovered his body."

"I came into the office and started the coffee as I did every morning. His door was closed, as usual. I went in to open the blinds in his office." Her voice began to shake and her eyes filled with tears as she continued. "His office was in disarray, and I found him lying in a pool of blood behind his desk. It was horrible, just horrible."

Abbott grimaced and looked at the jury, shaking his head. He walked back over to her, and patted her hand. "Thank you, Mrs. Winders." He looked at the judge. "No more questions."

It was nearing lunchtime, and the judge decided to break at that time, giving Mrs. Winders the opportunity to gather herself. When court reconvened, Mrs. Winders returned to the stand for cross-examination.

"Your witness, Mr. Wooten." The judge stated.

"Thank you, Your Honor." Bob stood and walked to the witness stand and cordially smiled at her. "All right, Mrs. Winders." He cleared his throat. "Now, you stated in your testimony that you had worked for Mayor Ballantine for almost 25 years, is that correct?"

"Yes, that is correct." She answered.

"That means that you knew the mayor quite well." Bob said.

"Yes, you could say that." She told him.

"Well, then it would be easy for us to believe you when you said that he was a man of impeccable character. Is that correct?" He asked.

Abbott grimaced. "Shit." He said, under his breath.

"Absolutely." She stated, tossing her head back for emphasis. "He was an upright and just man. He did everything that he could to make sure this city was portrayed in a positive light. Mayor Ballantine tried to make certain that decent citizens held jobs with this city. Unfortunately for him and us, he was unable to complete his task." She looked directly at Johnnie.

Move to strike the witness's last statement, Your Honor." Bob requested.

"Granted. The jury will disregard Mrs. Winders last statement." He turned his attention to the witness. "Mrs. Winders, answer the questions asked of you and keep your opinions to yourself." He admonished.

"Yes, Your Honor." She said, repentantly.

"Mrs. Winders, you said that the mayor was a man of impeccable character?" Bob asked.

"Objection. Asked and answered, Your Honor." Abbott said, nearly leaping from his chair.

"Withdrawn, Your Honor." Bob said as he walked back to the defense table. His assistant handed him his briefcase and he opened it, removing a stack of files. He walked back toward the witness stand. "Mrs. Winders, what would you say if I told you that here in my hands are files that would suggest the contrary about Mayor Ballantine?"

Abbott sprang from his chair. "Objection! May we approach the bench, Your Honor?" He was livid. As soon as he and Bob stood before the bench, he began pleading his case. "Your Honor, you have already ruled that this so called evidence is inadmissible."

"Indeed I did, counselor." Judge O'Connell said. He turned his attention to Bob. "What do you have to say for yourself before I hold you in contempt, Mr. Wooten?"

"Your Honor, Mr. Abbott's witness has implied that the deceased was a man of high moral standards." He argued. "I believe she stated that he was a man of impeccable character. Therefore, she opened the door to the issue of character. I can site case files; Williams v. the State of North Carolina, Estes v. the State of New York. Need I go on, Your Honor?"

"No, that won't be necessary. Step Back." He told them. "Objection overruled."

Johnnie looked back at Alma with hope in her eyes. Alma gave her a broad smile.

Abbott walked back to his seat with his face red from anger. He could not believe that his hard argued motion had been so easily overturned by a mistake on the part of one of his witnesses.

"The defense would like these files admitted into evidence as Defense Exhibit A, Your Honor." Bob calmly stated.

"So noted, counselor." The judge said.

After the court officer admitted the evidence, Bob then handed a duplicate stack to Abbott. He then turned to Johnnie and winked.

"Damn, Bob has his shit together." Tori whispered to Alma. Alma nodded and smiled.

"Now, Mrs. Winders, here in my hands is proof that Mayor Ballantine wasn't forthright, and his character was not as impeccable as he had people believing." Bob said, smugly.

"Impossible." She retorted.

"Do you remember the allegations he made against my client?" He asked.

"Of course I do. I typed up the drafts for the press myself." She said, indignantly.

Bob smirked. "Could you list a few of those allegations?"

"I would be happy to." She said, growing annoyed. "The mayor had information that Ms. Green was involved in organized crime and money laundering. He also had information that she was receiving pay-offs from the mafia while she was on the police force."

"Is that so, Mrs. Winders?" He asked calmly, irritating her even more. "All of this information he had, was it backed with documentation?"

She seemed a little less sure of herself. "The mayor told me…"

Bob interrupted. "Did you see any of this proof?"

"No." She said flatly.

"Well, Mrs. Winders, I do have documentation," He emphasized, "that it was Mayor Ballantine who was involved in organized crime, money laundering, witness tampering, illegal campaign contributions and acts that would not be considered normal behavior for the decent people of Wilmington."

She sat there speechless, while gasps came from the jury and spectators in the courtroom.

"Objection, Your Honor. Mr. Wooten is making a speech, not asking a question." Abbott said.

"Sustained. Mr. Wooten, please refrain from making speeches until closing arguments." The judge ordered.

"Yes, your honor." Bob said. "No more questions for this witness."

"The witness is excused." The judge told her.

Bob went back to his seat and leaned over to Johnnie and whispered. "I told you, when one door closes, another door opens."

"How did you know that you would be able to use it?" Johnnie asked, still in shock that he got the evidence admitted.

"I knew that someone would say what a great guy Ballantine was. I just didn't think that it would happen so soon." He revealed.

"The people call Jonas Peters." Abbott said.

Peters took the stand and was sworn in. He looked a little unnerved.

"Mr. Peters, how long were you the mayor's assistant?" Abbott questioned.

"I was with Mayor Ballantine for 11 years." He said.

Abbott was going to delve into their relationship, but thought better of it. He was afraid that Wooten would pull another surprise out of his hat. "Could you tell us what you found on the day the mayor's body was discovered?"

"Yes." Peters answered. "I was coming into the office when I heard Mrs. Winders scream. I ran into the mayor's office and I saw her screaming and trembling. She pointed to the other side of his desk. I noticed the large bloodstain on the carpet. When I got around the desk, I saw the mayor lying in a pool of blood. I could barely recognize him. His head seemed to be bashed in. It was a horrific sight."

Abbott continued his questions. "What, if anything did you do then?"

"I immediately dialed 911. The police and rescue came immediately. There was nothing the EMT's could do."

"It is known that the mayor was well liked in the community. Can you think of anyone who would commit such a terrible act against the mayor?" Abbott asked, moving to put Johnnie into Peters' line of sight.

"I sure can." Peters said with confidence. "Johnetta Green. She was under investigation by the mayor, and she made an attempt on his life once before."

"Is that so?" Abbott inquired. "Could you tell the jury about it?"

Peters looked at the jury. "We went to the Martinez baby's funeral, to offer our condolences. He was the son of Ms. Green's lover."

Johnnie immediately stiffened at Peters' comment.

"When she saw us there, she became enraged, and attempted to strangle the mayor with her bare hands. It took three people to get her off of him. She nearly killed him." He told him.

"What is the time relation between the Martinez baby's funeral and when the mayor's body was found?" He asked him.

"The funeral was on the seventh, and the mayor's body was discovered on the morning of the eighth." He told him.

"Thank you, Mr. Peters. No more questions for this witness, Your Honor." Abbott seemed a little more pleased with himself than before.

"I am sure that you will be questioning Mr. Peters at great length, is that correct Mr. Wooten?" Judge O'Connell asked.

"Indeed I will, Your Honor." Bob said, as he stood up.

"Then, due to the late hour, I will recess until tomorrow. I would hate to interrupt during cross." The judge stated.

"Thank you, Your Honor." Bob said.

The judge banged his gavel. "Court will reconvene tomorrow morning at 9 am. Court is adjourned."

Johnnie stood and turned to talk to Tracy and her other associates. Alma could sense the anger brewing in her wife. "We'd better get her out of here, Tori. I don't know what is going on, but Johnnie looks as if she about to blow." Alma whispered.

The press hounded them as they made their way out of the courtroom. When they made it to the underground parking lot, Bob pulled Johnnie aside. "Johnnie, you need to relax, you are all tensed up. Today went well, in my opinion. We got the evidence on Ballantine admitted, and the jury will see what a perverted little man he was."

"Yeah, I know. It's just that…" She trailed off.

"Go home and get some rest." Bob told her.


Johnnie was quiet the entire drive home. Alma held her hand, not bothering to make Johnnie talk. She knew when to intervene and when not to. She only offered her support.

"Thank God there is no one here." Tori said as she pulled into the driveway.

Alma sighed, thankful that the yard was free of the press. She didn't know what Johnnie would do being in the state of mind she was in. "Good. They are going to leave us alone."

When they were inside, Johnnie headed for the bedroom. Alma started to follow, but Tori stopped her. "Give her some time, Alma. This has been a rough day."

Alma nodded. "I just want her to know that I am here for here."

Tori wrapped her arm around Alma's shoulder. "She knows, Alma."

After a few minutes, Johnnie emerged for the bedroom dressed in her workout clothes. "I'll be in the basement." She muttered.

Alma followed as far as the kitchen. She listened for the sounds of Johnnie's equipment, but after a few minutes she heard nothing. She moved closer to the door that led to the basement and listened, and still she was greeted with silence. She thought something was wrong, and went downstairs.

Johnnie sat at the bar, with her back to the stairs. She was working on her third drink. She heard Alma come downstairs. Johnnie knew Alma's footsteps, and braced herself for the argument that was about to begin.

Alma stopped on the bottom step, when she saw Johnnie sitting at the bar. Oh no, Querida. You have got to talk to me. "Johnnie?"

"Not now, Alma. I need to be alone." Johnnie said harshly. I don't need this shit from you tonight.

Alma cautiously walked up to her, placing her hands on her shoulders. "Baby, please don't drink."

Johnnie tensed at the contact. "I need a little. Just a couple more and I'll stop."

"No, beloved. You won't be able to stop." Alma reasoned. "You are drinking because you are upset, not because you want to mellow out. You'll go overboard, and what good will it do?"

Johnnie was about to blow, and she knew it. "Alma, go back upstairs."

"I'm sorry, but I can't do that." Alma told her. She knew Johnnie was on the brink, but if it took for her to lose her cool, then so be it. She had to help her work through what ever it was that had her so upset.

Tori and Ceecee listened at the top of the steps in case they were needed.

"Leave me the fuck alone!" Johnnie yelled as she stood up and faced Alma.

"I will not." She yelled back. "You are going to tell me what has you in such a state, and you are going to tell me now."

Johnnie, her anger boiling over at this point, hurled her glass against the wall shattering it. Tori nearly ran downstairs, when Ceecee held her back. "It was only a glass." Ceecee whispered.

Alma jumped at the sound. "I'm not leaving."

"Okay Alma, since you want to know so bad, I'll tell you." Johnnie growled, mere inches from Alma's face. "After all the drama and all the bullshit that I've been going through, I was completely dismissed as Phillip's parent." She turned away from her. "The baby of Ms. Green's lover. What kind of shit is that to say? I wanted to wring his fucking neck. Ms. Green's lover, he said. Goddamn it, Alma, you are my wife. Phillip was our son."

Alma placed her hands to her lips. She knew that Johnnie was very sensitive about that issue. Johnnie hated the fact that their marriage was not recognized and her name couldn't be on their children's birth certificates. "Baby, it doesn't matter what they say."

"I listened to them call me everything but a child of god and that didn't hurt me at all. When they took my son away from me, it was too much." Johnnie said, her voice beginning to shake.

"Beloved, look at me." Alma said softly.

Johnnie turned to face her; tears had stained her face as her body trembled in efforts to regain control of her temper.

"It doesn't matter, Querida. I am your wife." Alma said, moving closer to Johnnie. "Phillip was your son, just as much as he was mine. No one can take that away from you. I don't think that you could have loved him any more if you had given birth to him. He adored you; you know that. So don't let the words of narrow minded and petty people take that away from you."

"I'm sorry." Johnnie whispered as Alma took her into her arms.

"No need to be sorry, baby. Just know that I love you and I am here for you whenever you need me." Alma said softly as she caressed Johnnie's back.

To be continued in part 10

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