• "Scotch on the rocks, and keep it coming," Jeffrey Mitchel Cander was in for a long night, in hopes of a hangover the size of the state of Texas the next day. He sat at the bar with a heavy sigh and waited for his drink, itching nervously at the spot where his damned suit jacket had been rubbing against his wrist all through the case. Aggravated, he yanked the jacket off and tossed it over the stool next to his.

    His drink arrived and he took it gratefully in between two hands, reveling in the feel of the cold glass against his heated skin. After a moment, he took a large gulp, closing his eyes and murmuring a sigh at the alcohol burn racing down his gullet. He sat still a moment, thinking, then finished the drink before slapping the glass back down on the bar. It was filled almost instantly by the bartender.

    Three drinks into the night, Jeffrey was feeling a little bit better about himself, despite the fact that he'd let a murderer walk on notions of "insanity"... It was his job, after all. There wasn't much he could have done about it. He was hired to keep Richard Bliss out of jail. He had done his job. But still, he couldn't stop the niggling doubt in the back of his mind.

    "You saw the evidence, Jefe," Chris had said to him the night before the final verdict. "The man's as guilty as OJ."

    Jeffrey had laughed and brushed his friend off. Christopher was the impulsive type. The type to believe what he was told without a question and to go into the world with a happy smile and a twitching tail, believing that all would be well, because there was justice in the world... Even after seeing the OJ trials, he believed it. Jeffrey didn't understand it in the slightest.

    'But he'd been right,' Jeffrey thought, sucking down his seventh scotch. 'Richard was guilty. He killed Kenna, out of cold blood. And I helped him get off on insanity. What the ******** is wrong with me?'

    He lifted his eyes to meet the bartender's. Watery blue gaze met concerned brown and the bartender pulled the glass from Jeffrey's fingers.

    "Maybe you're done for the night?" he asked in a tone that stated, more than asked. "Got someone I can call to pick you up?"

    Jeffrey snorted and stood. "I'll walk."

    "Keys. You can pick 'em up tomorrow. I'm not leaving you with the possibility." The bartender's voice was stern enough that Jeffrey actually acquiesced, handing his keys to the man behind the bar.

    "If my car isn't right out there..." he pointed in the general direction of the bar bathrooms, no where near the parking lot, "when I come back tomorrow... I'll have your job."

    The bartender nodded and watched quietly as Jeffrey stumbled for the door.

    Once outside, the cool evening air hit the lawyer hard and he was sent almost reeling back against the wall of the bar. He stumbled to the bushes and retched a bit as the world spun around his head. After some time, the world righted itself and Jeffrey stood on his own two feet again. He remembered a bar down the street and started for it, in hopes to get himself to the point of drunk where walking was no longer an option.

    "THIS IS BULLSHIT!," Gemini Phillips shouted over the roar of the courtroom. She was being held back by a strong-looking man and a weepy woman. Kenna's parents. Gemini was her best friend. "That b*****d killed her and you're letting him go? How could you do that? He's just going to do it again! He's a murderer! Kenna was his ******** wife and he KILLED her!" Kenna's parents pulled the girl from the courtroom. She broke free from their grasp just outside the doors and stumbled against someone just outside the room.

    "You okay?" Christopher asked, extending a handkerchief. Gemini took it and wiped her eyes before crying even more. She couldn't stop.

    Christopher Derrickson was lying on his bed, attempting to sleep. He couldn't help but continually see her face when he closed his eyes, though. Not the young girl to whom he'd loaned a handkerchief, but the dead girl Kenna. He'd been the one to perform her autopsy and her face, beautiful as it was, had been perfectly preserved by the murderer. Richard had left that one part of her untouched by hand or knife. A chill ran down Chris's spine.

    'Did he enjoy looking at her face while he killed her?'

    He shook his head and rolled over again, trying once more for sleep. His eyelids slid closed and his mind was once again filled with Kenna's face and Gemini's voice. Both horribly sad and ruined by that one man. Somehow, above it all, he managed to fall asleep.

    The phone ringing startled him awake again and Chris sat bolt upright in his bed. He snatched up his phone and answered with a groggy, "Wha?" even as he rubbed his eyes and attempted to see the bedside clock. It was three in the morning. Who could possibly be calling now.

    A crackling voice came in on the other end and he had to strain to hear. "Bad connection, what?" he asked softly. The voice got louder and clearer.

    "I should've... why take a... Wha'swrongwithme?"

    Chris blinked slowly and recognized the voice as that of his best friend, Jeffrey Cander. The one who'd defended that evil man at the trial. The reason for Kenna's beautiful face left untouched and the reason behind Gemini's torn voice. Sitting back against the headboard, Chris scrubbed his hand over his face.

    "Try that again, Jefe?" he asked calmly, employing his favorite nickname for his friend in an attempt to bring him back from whatever dark pool the man had climbed into tonight.

    "Shoulda... said no." That was all. Three simple, frighteningly sober-sounding words for how slurred the man's voice had been merely two seconds before. Chris reached out for his pants and, cradling the phone against his shoulder, started to pull them back on.

    "Where are you, Jeff?" There was no answer now but heavy, strained breathing. A moment passed and he could hear the man on the other end vomit. "Jeff?" More silence, a groan, and then a cough. "Jeff, if you can ******** hear me, say something NOW!" Chris's heart was racing. The last time this had happened... Jeff had been nearly killed by a gang out on the pier. He couldn't live through that again. Not now.

    The silence was interrupted by another retching and then, to Chris's horror, a sickening thud and crack of head hitting pavement. The line went dead as the phone hit the ground.