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story This is taking forever

It's always a challenge navigating my house without setting foot in front of a mirror. So it stands to reason that from time to time I find myself in a hurry, for one reason or another, and inadvertently stagger into view of one of the terrifying interdimensional portals. Barely a moment of opportunity need pass before the alternate universe Nate, on his eternal quest to rid me of hypocrisy, would appear in the mirror, and ask some targeted question designed to reveal a flaw in my thinking. Earlier in the week, such an encounter took place.

While searching for a spare mechanical toothbrush head, I inadvertently glanced into the mirror. Finding myself suddenly face to face with this gruesome inquisitor, I tried unsuccessfully to avert my gaze in time, but it was too late. "Pop Quiz hotshot: write a full length book that's better than the ones you make fun of online, or admit to yourself that you couldn't do any better." Instantly my mind fabricated some quick one liners, defensive quips that would free me from the hassle of acknowledging the validity of the shadowy figure's impeccable logic. Instead of rattling them off though, I was frozen, paralyzed by the inescapable gauntlet of reasoning.

"Of course I can write a 250 page novel of decent quality, anyone could do that, you simply have to avoid all those tiny things I pick at in other people's writing" I replied with confidence, but I knew I was in trouble. Nothing is ever as easy as it looks, and as to whether I could actually do better than the writers I picked apart, well, there was only one way to find out.

So I started writing the novel, and this is taking forever. I'm 3 days in and only have 70 pages, and probably every third one will have to be completely rewritten. And then I had to open up a whole new project just to keep track of all the stuff going on in the writing project, because I can't memorize 50 fictional characters names in 3 days. Anyway, the book is actually turning out ok, but this is really going to take a lot of work to be any good. I think probably a whole month.

The whole thing is a senseless pain in the ass, but I'm really driven to get back to criticizing episodes of Nash Bridges and other such popular works of literature. Who knew writing a book was so much work?
Update. Progress slowed a bit as I got into the deep end of what the novel needed to be. I'm glad I did the work of writing out the whole thing, as it's so much more clear now where the shortcomings are. I think what I've written (now 161 pages) is a functional novel, and an interesting one, but not really a good one yet. The hindsight strategy is working well though, since it's easier to see what's missing from something that exists than it is to imagine what needs to exist from a blank slate.
I'll be glad to send you a few chapters once I've at least done one cleanup pass on them.

I might just post it here, chapter by chapter. Go for the record for longest post in the history of Indietalk, lol.
Ok, so I'll start posting beta chapters here, for people who are interested in following this little experiment. None of this is final polish, but I won't upload chapters until pass 2 at least, since it does no good to have people give feedback on errors I already know are there.

Chapter one is short, so I'll post the first three chapters to start. Right now there are 21 chapters, but there will probably be a few more by the time I'm done.

I don't actually expect anyone to read all this, but in case anyone does, here it is. I'm sure any feedback would be helpful. It's my first attempt at writing a novel, so don't expect anything too great, this seems like the kind of thing that improves with practice. Reading it, I still feel like I have a long way to go before it's any good, thought it does have some interesting plot twists later on.

A quick note about the overall of the book for context.

The book is called "Scapegoat" and it's a story of a rivalry between a lawyer and a prosecutor involved in a high profile case that gains national attention.


Chapter 1: The Accident​

Emily Parker felt a strange sense of unease as she navigated her car through the bustling city streets, making her way homeward. The journey should have been a simple one, a routine trip to pick up medicine for her daughter, but in that moment, as she drove, she became aware of a sense of disconnection, as if a vital part of her was missing.

It was then that she realized, with a start, that she had left her phone behind in the office. The phone, that ubiquitous companion that had become an essential part of her life, was absent. And with its absence, she felt a sudden sense of vulnerability, as if she were adrift in a sea of unknowns. She could turn a few blocks ahead and circle back to the office, but she would be late getting home. Her mind turned to her daughter Lisa, who commonly waited in sight of the front door for her predictable return just before six each evening.

As she navigated through the streets, the sights and sounds outside the car window were a mesmerizing swirl of movement. Amidst the bustle of the sidewalk, townspeople were engaged in lively conversations in front of quaint shops. The ebb and flow of the day was reaching its end, as the workday drew to a close and people poured out of their offices and onto the streets, each with their own destination in mind.

Some headed to nearby bars for a drink with friends, others made their way to the post office to tend to their correspondence, still others lingered on corners, deep in animated conversations. In the distance, the unmistakable rumble of station wagons could be heard as families loaded up their vehicles with groceries from the local markets.

The hum of the road was interrupted by a sudden chime, echoing through the car and interrupting her daze. She searched for the source of the familiar sound, realizing it was her phone, ringing with its persistent, repetitive melody. A wave of relief washed over her as she realized that she hadn't left it at the office after all, but had merely dropped it, likely as she had climbed into the vehicle.

She kept her gaze steadfastly upon the road ahead, eagerly awaiting the moment she could safely retrieve her phone from its hiding place beneath the car seat. She hurriedly unfastened her seat belt, so she could reach the phone once the chance arose. Soon the road ahead was clear, and she approached an intersection that was bathed in the glow of a green traffic light. A sense of urgency filled her as the phone continued to ring, its familiar tune a siren's call.

The sun was setting over the small town, casting a golden light over the residential street. On the corner, three young children were playing a game with a basketball, their laughter and screams ringing out into the street. Tommy Sinclair had the ball and, with a determined kick, sent it away from the other two children. But fate had other plans. The ball bounced off a planter tree and rolled into the street, causing all three children to chase after it in a frenzied pursuit. The echoes of their laughter and excitement filled the air, marking a moment of pure, unbridled joy.

Seeing the green light, and no cars ahead, she impulsively decided to act. She leaned forward, her head ducking down to peer beneath the seat as she reached for the phone.
The world around her seemed to slow, and she became acutely aware of her own movements, her hand stretching out, fingers reaching for the phone, her head still ducked down, obscured from the road ahead.

Emily's fingers moved rapidly around the space under her car seat. She knew that she only had a few seconds of safety, and the phone continued to ring relentlessly. Her fingers brushed against a crumpled piece of paper and a stray pen, but not the phone. Suddenly, her fingers closed around the familiar shape, and she let out a breath she didn't realize she was holding.

She smiled, just for an instant, as she quickly straightened up, intending to check the road quickly and then answer the phone. In that exact moment, she felt the car hit something hard, the impact slamming her head into the steering wheel.

She was jolted into oblivion as the impact of the collision into the young boy sent her vehicle careening wildly down the street. The force of the crash was so intense, the car spun out of control, striking the two other children playing with the basketball. Sounds of crumpling metal and shattered glass echoed down the street as it slid sideways, the shriek of the skidding tires punctuated by the final blow as the car slammed into a parked vehicle a short distance away. The sounds of absolute terror filled the air as horrified onlookers gazed on, gasping in disbelief at the sight of three small bodies lifelessly sprawled on the pavement.

Cars had stopped on the street and people had gathered around the scene of the accident, their faces etched with shock and horror as they gazed upon the three small bodies lying motionless in the street. The air was filled with the sounds of horrified screams and cries of disbelief, as the reality of what had just happened settled in.

Parents pulled their own children close to them, clutching their hands tightly, as though afraid the same fate might befall their own loved ones. Soon the peaceful quiet of the small town was shattered, replaced by the cacophony of sirens and frantic voices, as the police and ambulances arrived to attend to the scene.
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this scene needs more research on police procedure, and has some subpar dialogue and pacing, feedback welcome.​

Chapter 2: The Arrest -​

She awakened to find herself in a hospital ward. Her senses were met with the monotonous beep of a machine stationed by her bedside, its rhythm like a metronome marking the passage of time. She looked down to find IV tubes entering her veins, their red hue illuminated by the dim light filtering through the curtains that surrounded her bed.

She sat up and drew the curtains, and her eyes took a moment to adjust to the light and focus. As her blurred vision began to sharpen, she looked around at her surroundings. The hospital ward was a world within a world, a place where the ticking of the clock echoed through sterile hallways and the hum of machines formed a symphony of life-saving measures. The air was thick with the scent of antiseptic, mixed with the faint aroma of flowers left by well-wishers. The sound of footsteps echoed through the corridor, as nurses moved quietly from room to room, their faces a blend of stoicism and compassion.

Most of the beds around her were empty, but there were a few other patients in the ward. Some were old, their eyes clouded with memories of a life well-lived. Others were young, their eyes bright with hope and the promise of a future yet to be written. Some were hooked up to machines, their breaths shallow and ragged, while others slept soundly, their chests rising and falling in a steady rhythm.

The walls were white, the floors gleaming beneath a veneer of scuff marks, and the curtains surrounding each bed a sanctuary of privacy. The room was alive with the sound of beeping monitors, the hiss of oxygen, and the hushed whispers of visitors. The late afternoon light filtered through the windows, casting a soft glow over the room, as if to remind the patients that they were not alone.

She looked down at her hazel hair, and had a fleeting thought that it looked longer than usual. The machine beeped again, and in that moment, Nurse Helen Redding appeared, her steps slow and steady as she approached. She was middle aged, and a bit stern looking for Emily’s tastes. With her eyes fixed on her patient, she reached for a digital tablet and jotted down notes, glancing up every so often to assess her patient’s state.

Nurse Helen approached Emily's bedside, her eyes flicking up to meet Emily's briefly before she began to speak in a clipped, professional tone. "Good morning, Miss. You're in the hospital," she said, glancing down at her tablet to take some notes.

Emily looked around groggily, trying to process the situation. "What happened?" she asked, her voice still heavy with sleep.

Nurse Helen let out a barely audible sigh before responding. "You were in a car accident, and you've been in a coma for a few weeks now. Do you remember anything from before the accident?"

Emily shook her head slowly, wincing at the pain that radiated through her body. "I'm sorry, no. Everything is just a blur," she replied.

Nurse Helen's lips tightened into a thin line, her eyes narrowing ever so slightly. "That's alright, Miss. Let's go over a few basic questions to get you reoriented." She continued to ask Emily questions about her name, date of birth, and address. Emily couldn’t help but notice a palatable dislike in the nurse’s tone.

She answered each question as best as she could, trying to ignore the nurse's cold demeanor. As the questioning came to an end, Nurse Helen took a step back, still scribbling in her tablet.

"That'll be all for now, Miss. The doctor will be in to see you later," she said, before turning on her heel and marching out of the room.

As the nurse made her exit, Emily was left with a sense of bewilderment and disquiet from the exchange with the stoic nurse. She briefly entertained the notion of calling out to the nurse and inquiring about the current date, a pang of worry striking her as she wondered how long her daughter Lisa might have gone without her medication. However, the world around her started to grow hazy once more and the nurse's footsteps began to recede into a distant murmur.

As she gradually regained consciousness, Emily found herself surrounded by unfamiliar faces. A group of strangers introduced themselves as police officers, their voices gentle and polite. The officers inquired about her wellbeing and asked if she was in a condition to answer some questions.

The room was filled with an unsettling stillness, as the officers patiently waited for Emily's response, their gaze fixed upon her. Emily felt a sense of disorientation and confusion, struggling to grasp the reality of the situation she found herself in. Despite her confusion, the officers continued to speak softly and calmly, as if trying to comfort her. But the longer Emily remained in their presence, the more she became aware of an undercurrent of urgency in the officers' voices, as if they were searching for answers to a pressing problem.

She felt a shiver run down her spine as she looked around the sterile room, taking in the antiseptic scent of the hospital. The nurse, standing off to the side, watching the proceedings intensely, her eyes piercing and fixed upon Emily as she interacted with the police officers. Emily couldn't shake off the sense of unease that seemed to cling to her, making her heart race and her palms sweat. Something was not quite right, and she felt trapped in a dream-like state, unsure of what was real and what was not.

Detective Harris leaned in towards Emily, his eyes dark and probing. "Ms. Parker, we understand this is a difficult time for you, but we need to get to the bottom of what happened that day"

Emily slumped in her hospital bed, her eyes downcast. "I was driving home from work, and I stopped by the pharmacy to get Lisa’s medicine, and then I realized that I had left my phone at the office, because it wasn’t in my pocket. After that it’s just a blur, I was driving, and then I woke up here"

Detective Jones stepped forward, his voice low and insistent. "But see, that's a problem, Ms. Parker. We have evidence that suggests otherwise."

Emily looked up, her eyes widening in disbelief. "What are you talking about?"

Detective Harris reached into the pocket of his worn gray jacket and pulled out a stack of papers. "Well, for one thing, you just lied to us"

Emily's mouth went dry. "I have no idea what you’re talking about."

Detective Harris shook his head, his expression grim. "But you did, Ms. Parker. You were on the phone when the collision occurred. We found the phone in your hand at the scene. You can see where we’d be concerned when we’re investigating a situation, and the first thing you tell us is a lie, especially when that situation had fatal consequences."

Emily’s green eyes flickered with confusion for a moment, then she asked. "What do you mean by fatal consequences, I’m obviously alive"

The two detectives glanced at each other, and then back at Emily”

Detective Jones leaned in a bit. “Are you telling us that you don’t remember anything about the three kids?”

Emily shifted uncomfortably, noticeably thrown by this last question. “What Kids?”

Detective Harris jumped in abruptly. “The three kids you killed. The three kids that would be alive today if you weren’t distracted with your phone while driving through a populated area”

Detective Jones motioned for Harris to calm down. “We’re only here to find out what happened. Can you give us any other details about the day in question? Were you in a hurry for any reason, or taking any substances? Were there any mechanical issues with your vehicle?”

It was just dawning on Emily what must have happened, and she struggled to form an answer, frustration and fear creeping into her tone. “I just told you, I was on my way home from the office, stopped to get Lisa’s medicine, realized I didn’t have my phone, and was planning to go back to the office to get it.”

Detective Harris sighed heavily. "Ms. Price, you need to understand the gravity of your situation here, three kids are dead, and the prosecutor is taking the situation very seriously.."

Detective Jones picked up the baton. “We just need to know the truth about what happened here. Typically if someone admits that they weren’t paying attention, or maybe just hadn’t been sleeping well, the courts take it easy on these vehicular homicide cases. Of course once the lawyers get involved, there’s nothing we can do to help you. The best thing you can do is just tell us what caused the accident, and we’ll tell the DA that you were cooperative.”

“We find that innocent people are usually willing to just cooperate” Harris chimed in.

Emily looked up, her eyes brimming with tears. "I-I think I need a lawyer. This is starting to feel like an interrogation."

Detective Jones took a step forward, his voice stern. "Ms. Parker, that's because it is an interrogation. You're under arrest for vehicular homicide with aggravating circumstances. You’ll be confined to the hospital ward until you’ve recovered from your injuries, and then transported to jail pending trial."

She looked up at them in disbelief, as they handcuffed her to the hospital bed.

As the two police detectives prepared to exit the hospital room, they paused, turning their attention towards Emily. "Ms. Smith," one of them began, "We'd like to introduce you to Jim Stanley, a deputy who will be staying here at the ward to keep watch over you."

“Hello miss Emily” Jim said, stepping forward from behind the two detectives and giving her a brief smile.

He had light blue eyes, and wore the brown and gray uniform of the sheriff’s department. His dark hair was cut short and neatly styled, adding to his air of authority and professionalism. But it was not just his appearance that set him apart. Jim's easygoing personality and friendly mannerisms put Emily at ease, despite the fact that she was under his constant guard.

Emily looked at the stranger, confusion etched across her face. "Do the officers think I'm dangerous?" she asked, the fear evident in her voice. "I have a young daughter, I need to take care of her."

The detectives exchanged a quick look, before one of them spoke up, "This is for your protection, and the protection of the public. We need to make sure you're safe."

"Safe?" Emily repeated, confusion and fear warring within her. "What do you mean?"

But the detectives merely glanced at each other silently and stepped out of the room, leaving Emily to ponder their words and the watchful gaze of the deputy stationed at her bedside.

The days passed by in a blur for Emily as she remained confined within the hospital ward. The only solace she found was in the company of the deputy, Jim Stanley, who was assigned to guard her. Despite being her jailor, he seemed to take a genuine interest in her well-being and was often seen reading to her from his favorite books or simply chatting about life in general.

Jim made a few calls and found out where her daughter was, and told her that her sister Hannah had picked her up after being notified by the hospital as next of kin. That evening, she was able to call Lisa. Her heart ached as she heard the little girl's voice, filled with confusion and fear. Emily reassured her that she would be back home soon and that she was being taken care of. Hannah got back on the phone afterwards, and the two talked a bit about how Lisa was handling things.

“She was scared for a while, and some kids at school said some things, but this last week she seems to be ok. I think she really misses you”. Hannah’s voice sounded reassuring and calm.

“Can you both come and visit soon?” She asked.

“We’ll be there tomorrow, and I’ll even smuggle some doughnuts into the hospital for you” Hanna said with a smile in her voice.

They hung up, and Emily settled back into her bed, momentarily relieved by the news that she would see Lisa again soon.

It was then that Emily noticed that the television news program, which had been left on mute, was doing an update story about the crash. She listened attentively to the solemn tones of the newscaster as he began his report.

"We now go to an update on the accident two weeks ago that cost the lives of three innocent children and put Isle of Hope in the national spotlight." She turned her head towards the television and watched in growing horror as the reporter described the events that had led up to her current situation.

The camera cut to a field reporter standing in front of Emily's car at the city impound lot. She described how it all started with the horrifying accident, and mentioned that the car had been going at least 10 mph over the speed limit at the time of the collision, and spoke about the cell phone the police had found clutched in her unconscious hand when the paramedics pulled her from the crashed vehicle.

Emily felt a wave of sickness wash over her as the camera panned across the car, revealing that the front end was badly smashed and the windshield shattered. She clutched at her hospital gown, her mind reeling. How could she have caused this? How could she have been so reckless?

She felt her heart sink as the screen changed to a shot of the reporter Interviewing one of the children’s parents.

A middle-aged man with deep lines etched on his face stood before her. This was Stan Perkins, the father of one of the children killed in the accident.

"Mr. Perkins, thank you for speaking with me today," Tricia said.

Stan nodded, his eyes sad and weary. "Of course, anything to keep the memory of my son alive."

Tricia began the interview, "Can you tell us about your son, Michael?"

Stan took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a moment before responding, "Michael was a happy-go-lucky kid. He loved playing video games, riding his bike, and spending time with his friends. He had so much life ahead of him."

Tricia's eyes flicker for a moment, but quickly reverted back to a composed state. She cleared her throat before continuing, "Can you tell us what happened that day?"

Stan looked down at his hands. "It was a beautiful day, just like any other. Michael was walking to the park with his friends, and that's when it happened. A car came out of nowhere, and before he knew it, Michael was gone."

Tricia could see the pain etched on Stan's face and gave him a moment. "I'm so sorry for your loss," she said.

Stan took a moment to compose himself before continuing, "I just don't understand how someone could be so careless. What kind of person endangers children’s lives over a phone call?"

Tricia nodded, "Some people in the community are saying that it was an accident, and that no one should be accountable because there was no intent. How do you feel about that?"

Stan's eyes blazed with anger, "I feel sick to my stomach. People like that have no business being on the road. They have no respect for life or the consequences of their actions. She may not have intentionally killed Michael, but anyone who puts their own convenience over the safety of the public belongs in prison"

Tricia nodded in agreement, "Do you think justice will be served?"

Stan let out a heavy sigh, "I hope so. All I want is for the person responsible to take responsibility for what they've done and face the consequences. It won't bring my son back, but it's a start."

Tricia thanked Stan for his time and the news returned to a shot of the anchor desk, but Emily was already tuned out, her mind spiraling through her fragmented memories, trying to remember who she had called, and why, or even when she had found her phone. Had she gone back to the real estate office and gotten it? How much time was missing before the accident?

Suddenly, Emily heard a voice behind her. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you." It was Deputy Stanley, who had come to check on her. "Are you alright?"

Emily shook her head. "No, I'm not alright. I don't know how this happened. I don't remember anything."

Deputy Stanley looked at her kindly. "I know it's hard, Emily. But we need to find out what happened. For the sake of those children, and their families."

Emily felt tears welling up in her eyes. "I understand that, but I just can't remember. It's like my mind has gone blank."

Deputy Stanley nodded. "I know it's frustrating, but we're not giving up. We'll get to the bottom of this, I promise you."

"Jim," Emily asked in a small voice. "What is going to happen to me?"

Jim's expression softened as he walked over to her bedside. "Don't you worry, Emily," he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "The truth will come to light. In the meantime, just focus on getting better." Emily took a deep breath and nodded, grateful for the deputy's words of comfort.

Emily was left feeling hopeless as she made call after call to lawyers. She scoured the internet, searching for anyone who might take on her case. Each time she reached out, she was met with disappointment. The first few simply declined her without explanation, but she pressed on, determined to find someone who would believe in her innocence.

When she finally got through to the fifth attorney, she was beyond frustrated. "Why won't you take my case?" she demanded, her voice shaking with anger.

The attorney sighed on the other end of the line. "A lot of people in this town are very upset, Emily. The children who died in the accident were very young. Their parents are demanding justice, and bottom line, it’s a no win situation from an attorney’s perspective. If I lose the case, I’m a bad lawyer who lost a highly publicized case. If I win, I’m always going to be the guy who set a child killer free."

"But it was an accident!" Emily pleaded, desperation creeping into her voice.

"I'm sorry, I just can't help you," the attorney said, his tone final. And with that, the line went dead.

Emily sat there, staring blankly at the phone in her hand.

As Emily sat in her hospital bed, she gazed out the window at the passing clouds, lost in thought. She couldn't help but think about her daughter, Lisa, and how she had been separated from her for weeks now. She felt a sense of guilt wash over her, as she realized the impact her actions had had on so many people.

Suddenly, the door to her room creaked open, and she saw a figure appear in the doorway. It was her sister Hannah, who had traveled all the way from Savannah to be by her side. Emily's heart swelled with emotion as she saw her little girl, Lisa, peeking out from behind her sister's dress.

"Mommy!" Lisa cried out, as she ran over to the bed and threw her arms around Emily's neck.

Oh, Lisa, my sweet girl," Emily said, tears streaming down her face as she hugged her daughter tightly. "I've missed you so much."

"I missed you too, Mommy," Lisa replied, smiling up at her.

As the two of them hugged and caught up, Hannah stood off to the side, happy to see the mother and daughter reunited.

"I was just wondering about the medicine she takes for her anxiety" Emily said, looking up at Hannah.

"Has she been okay without it?"

"Don't worry," her sister reassured her. "I picked her up the night of the accident and got her medicine the next day. She's been doing just fine."

Emily breathed a sigh of relief, grateful to her sister for taking care of everything. As she hugged her daughter close, she knew that she had a long road ahead of her, but with her family by her side, she felt better for the first time since waking up in the hospital.

Hannah sat quietly by her bedside, looking sad and uneasy. Emily asked, "What are they saying about the accident in town?"

Her sister hesitated, fidgeting with the edge of her sleeve. "It's not good, Emily," she said softly. "There are so many rumors going around. People are saying that you were drunk when it happened, even though the toxicology reports have proven otherwise."

Emily's eyes widened in disbelief. "How could they think that? I wasn't drinking!"

"I know," her sister replied, "but people are angry and they want someone to blame. They want justice for the families of those children."

"But it was an accident," Emily said, her eyes widening in disbelief as the reality of the situation gradually sunk in.

Her sister nodded, her expression filled with empathy. "I know, but sometimes, people don't want to believe the truth. They want someone to pay."

Emily sighed, feeling overwhelmed. "I just want to go home. I want to make sure Lisa is taken care of."

"We’re doing the best we can," her sister said, taking her hand. "Just take care of yourself. That's what's most important right now."

As Emily sat in the hospital ward, staring out the window and watching the raindrops cascade down the glass, her sister spoke to her in a hushed tone. "There's something I have to tell you, Em," she said, her eyes downcast. "It's about the prosecutor who's handling your case."

Emily felt a knot form in her stomach. "What is it?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

"He's got a reputation," her sister began. "People are saying that his conviction rate is unusually high."

Emily's eyes widened. "What do you mean?" she asked, her voice rising.

"I mean, he's not used to losing cases" Hannah said, her tone serious. "People are saying that he's looking to make a name for himself, and he's willing to do whatever it takes to get a conviction."

Emily felt a sense of dread wash over her. "But... but I didn't do anything wrong," she stammered.

Her sister placed a hand on her shoulder. "I know that, Em," she said. "But it's not just about what actually happened. It's about what people believe happened. And right now, people believe that you were at fault. We need to find you a lawyer as soon as possible"

Emily listened intently as her sister spoke, a sense of unease settling in her chest. "I tried calling several lawyers I found on the internet," she told her sister. "None of them would touch the case with a ten foot pole.”

Hannah’s eyes drifted for a moment, searching for something in a memory.

“I think I know what’s going on. One of the kids Parents is Steve Whittaker, and he’s on the city council, which means that all the lawyers know him. It’s a small town, and he holds a lot of sway in that group. I expect no one wants to be the first to cross him.”

Her sister nodded, her expression thoughtful. "I heard about someone in Savannah who sometimes takes cases at reduced rates to help people. Would it be okay if I went to talk to him about your case?"

Emily nodded gratefully. "Yes, please do, I need all the help I can get." She watched as her sister stood to leave, feeling a glimmer of hope for the first time in what felt like an eternity.
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Chapter 3: The Lawyer -​

Hannah had always been an early riser, and she relished in the quiet of the early morning hours. She tiptoed out of her bedroom and made her way to the kitchen, the cool hardwood floor feeling refreshing under her feet. She flicked on the coffee maker, letting the comforting aroma fill the room as she prepared her morning cup. She needed a clear head to tackle the daunting task ahead of her. As she sipped her coffee, she gazed out the window at the first light of dawn. The sky was painted with soft shades of pink and orange, and the sun had just begun to crest over the horizon. After a few sips of the hot, bitter brew, she sat down at her computer and began her search.

She tried a few search terms, hoping to find some clue that would lead her to the right lawyer. It seemed serendipitous when she saw an advertisement at the top of the sponsored links mentioning the exact charge Emily was facing, and offering reduced rates.

Without wasting a moment, Hannah clicked on the link and began reading through the attorney's website.

“Welcome to the homepage of Christopher Lane, Esq. With over two decades of experience in the legal field, Mr. Lane is a renowned attorney who has dedicated his practice to helping those who have been accused of DUI, vehicular assault, or vehicular manslaughter.

At our law firm, we understand how daunting and emotionally challenging it can be to face criminal charges of this nature. Mr. Lane is here to help you navigate the legal system and provide you with the guidance and support you need to achieve the best possible outcome.

Don't let criminal charges of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide destroy your life. Turn to Christopher Lane, Esq. for the legal representation you need and deserve. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and let us help you find a path forward.”

She quickly jotted down the address and phone number for the attorney's office and glanced at her phone to check the time. It was already after nine, so the office should be open.

She quickly placed a call to the office, and a man picked up the phone. She asked if she could come in that morning to see Mr Lane, and was told that he could see her at about 10 am.

Hannah made her way to the top of the stairs and slowly tiptoed down the hall. The basement door was slightly ajar, and she could see her father Steven, hard at work in his workshop, tinkering with some sort of electrical device. He was a balding man, about 65, an average build and kind, intelligent eyes. She peeked inside and greeted him warmly, hoping that he wouldn't be too busy to help out with Lisa.

"Good morning, Dad," she said, stepping inside. "Are you busy?"

"Not really" he replied, smiling up at her from behind his workbench. "Just working on a little project. What can I help you with?"

"I have a few errands to run this morning, and I was hoping you could look after Lisa for me. It shouldn't take more than an hour or two."

"I'm going down to a lawyer's office to see if I can convince him to take Emily's case."

Steven looked up from his book and raised an eyebrow. "A lawyer, eh? Do you have a specific one in mind?"

Hannah nodded. "Christopher Lane. He's supposed to be one of the best in the city."

"Ah, yes," Steven said, rubbing his chin. "I've heard of him. But you know, my dear, there are a lot of lawyers out there who will promise the moon and deliver nothing but craters."

Hannah frowned. "So how do I know if he's trustworthy?"

Steven leaned forward and placed his book on the table. "Well, for starters, a good lawyer will always be upfront about their fees and what they can realistically accomplish. They won't make unrealistic promises just to get your business."

Hannah nodded, taking mental notes. "What else?"

"A good lawyer will also take the time to listen to your case and understand your goals," Steven continued. "They won't just try to push their own agenda onto you. And most importantly, they will have a solid reputation in the legal community."

Hannah smiled. "Thanks, Dad. That's really helpful."

"Of course, of course," her father replied. "I'd be happy to. It'll be good to spend some time with her."

Hannah breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for her father's help. She knew that she could always count on him, no matter what.

"Thank you, Dad. I really appreciate it. She's upstairs in her room, and I've left some toys out for her. I'll be back soon."

As she turned to leave, her father called out to her.

"Hannah, be careful out there. The world can be a dangerous place."

"I will, Dad," she replied, smiling over her shoulder. "I'll be back soon."

When Hannah arrived at the office of Christopher Lane, the Savannah-based lawyer, she was greeted by a tired-looking building that seemed to be in dire need of some maintenance. The storefront was far from being in line with the rest of the bustling street and looked as though it had been forgotten by time.

As she entered the office, she was met with a nearly empty room. The only piece of furniture in sight was a small receptionist desk, with a tarnished brass bell on top of it. She rang the bell and was met with a warm, hearty voice that echoed from a back room.

"Come on in," the voice beckoned, "I'll be right with you."

As she entered the cramped and cluttered back office, the air was thick with the musty smell of old books and legal documents. Despite the dreariness of the room, Hannah's eyes were drawn to the young attorney sitting at his desk, his eyes flickering between his computer screen and the telephone pressed against his ear.

Christopher was a man in his early thirties, with a wiry build and a shock of messy brown hair that seemed to have a life of its own. Despite the disarray of his hair, his face was clean-shaven and sharp, his jawline chiseled and defined. As he finished his phone call and hung up, his eyes flickered up to meet Hannah's, and a warm, genuine smile lit up his face.

"Ms. Parker, I presume?" he said, rising from his desk and extending a hand. "I'm Christopher Lane. Please, have a seat. How can I be of assistance to you today?"

Hannah recognized the voice from the phone earlier. “I think we met earlier on the phone when you were just a secretary” she joked.

“You know how turnover is these days” he said, smiling. “How can I help?”

She explained the situation with Emily, and the charges that were being filed against her. Lane listened intently, nodding his head as she spoke. When she finished, he leaned back in his chair, his eyes closing briefly in thought.

"This is a difficult case," he said slowly. "But I understand your concerns. I'll do my best to help your sister." He stood up from his chair, reaching out his hand to shake hers. "I'll take the case."

Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Mr. Lane," she said gratefully. "I really appreciate it."

Lane smiled, "No need to thank me yet. Let's see what we can do to help your sister. But first, we need to gather more information about the case. Can you tell me what happened on the night of the accident?"

And with that, Hannah began to recount the events leading up to the crash, with Lane taking notes and asking questions along the way. The two of them talked for about a half hour, going over all the information that she had so far.

As Hannah left the office of Christopher Lane, she couldn't help but feel a sense of relief wash over her. She had been so worried about what to do for her sister, and now it seemed as though they might have found someone who could help. Christopher had been very insistent on speaking with Emily as soon as possible, and so they had quickly arranged a time for him to visit her at the hospital.

The next day, Christopher arrived at the hospital. Hannah was there to introduce them, and she could see the determination in his eyes as he approached the bed where Emily lay, hooked up to various machines and surrounded by sterile white walls.

"Ms. Parker," he said, "it's a pleasure to finally meet you."

Emily looked up at him, her eyes tired but her expression curious. "You’re the lawyer?" she asked.

He smiled. “I’m at least a lawyer”

Christopher pulled up a chair and sat down beside the bed. "I need to speak with you about your case," he said, his voice low and serious. "I've heard about the rumors that are circulating, about the prosecutor who is looking to make a name for himself by getting a conviction in your case. I want you to know that I won't stand for that. I believe that you are innocent, and I think your case is an opportunity to fight a system that frequently prioritizes convictions over justice."

Emily listened to him, her heart beating faster as she realized that this man might just be their best hope for clearing her name. Christopher spent a few minutes introducing himself, detailing his experiences as a lawyer, and the many cases he had taken on where the justice system had failed innocent people, often forcing them into plea bargains for crimes they didn’t commit with intimidation tactics. He told her about the various legal strategies he was considering, and the ways in which he planned to fight the prosecution's case.

Christopher sat across from Emily in a chair next to the hospital bed, studying her face as he asked her a few standard questions. She was clearly anxious and nervous, and he tried to put her at ease with a warm smile and gentle tone.

"Can you tell me a bit more about the accident, Emily? What happened that night?" Christopher asked.

Emily took a deep breath and began to recount the events leading up to the accident. Christopher listened carefully, nodding occasionally to show that he was following along.

When she finished, Christopher leaned forward in his chair, his expression turning serious. "Emily, I want to be honest with you. Your case is important, not just because of the severity of the charges, but because it highlights a larger issue at play here - institutionalized vengeance. There’s no easy way to tell you this, but I spoke to the prosecutor’s office today, and they are seeking an unusually high sentence here. I think it’s partially a reaction to the public outcry surrounding the case, and partially an attempt to steamroll you into accepting blame. There is no criminal intent in your case, and yet the prosecution is seeking to punish you severely to appease the families of the children who died in the accident. I don’t think that it’s fair or just, and I believe that we can win this case if we work together."

Emily looked up at Christopher, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. "Thank you, Mr. Lane. I just want to move on from this and put it all behind me."

Christopher smiled warmly. "We'll do everything we can to make that happen, Emily. You have my word."

Emily felt a tear roll down her cheek, overwhelmed by the kindness and dedication of this stranger. She had been so lost and afraid, and now she felt as though there was finally some hope.

"Thank you," she said, her voice shaking. "Thank you so much."

Christopher reached out and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. "You don't have to thank me," he said. "I'm just doing what I think is right."

Emily was in for a rude awakening when nurse Helen came to her hospital room the next day with charts and a tablet in hand. "Miss Emily," she said, her voice carrying a hint of sympathy. "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. You're being discharged from the hospital today and the police will be picking you up."

Emily's heart sank. The thought of going to jail filled her with dread. She had heard horror stories about the conditions and the people she would meet there. But then she felt a hand on her shoulder, and she looked up to see Jim, the deputy who had been so kind to her since her arrival at the hospital.

"Don't worry, Miss Emily," he said in a gentle voice. "I'll come visit you in jail and bring you whatever you need. And I'll give you some advice on how to survive while you wait for your trial."

Emily was grateful for Jim's kindness and the words of comfort he offered. But their conversation was cut short when the police arrived to escort her out of the hospital. As soon as they stepped outside the front door, they were mobbed by photographers and angry protesters. The policemen pushed her into the back of the squad car as people in the crowd threw things at her and shouted insults.

"Don't pay any attention to them," Jim yelled over the noise as the car door slammed shut. "Just keep your head down and stay strong."

Emily clutched the edges of her hospital gown, feeling helpless and exposed. She didn't know how she was going to survive in jail, but she was determined to try. And she hoped that Jim would keep his promise to visit her, to help her get through this dark time.

As the police car drove away from the hospital, Emily felt a sense of hopelessness wash over her. She had never been in this kind of situation before, and she didn't know how to react. The flashing lights from the photographers' cameras and the angry jeers from the crowd were overwhelming. She could feel herself starting to shake, and she wrapped her arms around herself in an attempt to calm down.

Deputy Jim sat in the front passenger seat, turning around every once in a while to check on her. "Just hang in there, Emily," he said. "I promise, things will get better."

Emily didn't believe him. She was being taken to jail, and she was facing a long, drawn-out trial. The things she was hearing about the prosecutor troubled her as well. How could a person who had never met her be so polarized against her?

The drive to the jail seemed to take forever. Emily was lost in thought, trying to make sense of what was happening to her. She didn't understand why this was happening to her. She had always been a law-abiding citizen, and she had never been in trouble with the law before.

When they finally arrived at the jail, Emily was taken to a holding cell. She was given a jumpsuit to wear, and her personal belongings were taken away. She was told that she would be taken to a more permanent cell in the morning.

Emily lay down on the thin, uncomfortable cot, and closed her eyes. She could hear the sounds of other prisoners in the distance, and she couldn't help but think that this was her new reality. She was alone, and she didn't know how to get out of this situation.

Emily closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing thoughts. She needed to stay strong and not lose hope. She would get through this, she told herself.
@Nate North, I would like to see sights, sounds smells, as in describing the office and the drive through the road. For instance, is the office an expensive suite or just a room at the back of a warehouse? And was the drive through the scenery a pleasant trip during a Sunday afternoon or a slog through heavy rain?

I would also like to see a point-of-view (POV). Again, writing in novel form is not like writing a script; the writer has to do it through a character like Emily or Stan. He can do it through more than one person, but every scene should be only ONE POV. So, for example, the incident in the office could be from Emily's POV while the drive could be from Stan's POV. And, if the POV switches, use a break line like a line of asterisks, as in put in ******* which would show the reader that he was the POV was changing.

You're doing well.
@Nate North, I would like to see sights, sounds smells, as in describing the office and the drive through the road. For instance, is the office an expensive suite or just a room at the back of a warehouse? And was the drive through the scenery a pleasant trip during a Sunday afternoon or a slog through heavy rain?

I would also like to see a point-of-view (POV). Again, writing in novel form is not like writing a script; the writer has to do it through a character like Emily or Stan. He can do it through more than one person, but every scene should be only ONE POV. So, for example, the incident in the office could be from Emily's POV while the drive could be from Stan's POV. And, if the POV switches, use a break line like a line of asterisks, as in put in ******* which would show the reader that he was the POV was changing.

You're doing well.
I agree that so far I'm not prioritizing descriptions enough. I realized when I came to the end of the (rough draft) book, that I hadn't even described what one of the main characters looked like. I had the story in my mind, and just tried to get the core events down as fast as possible, but it definitely needs more descriptive detail in future versions.

The feedback on the POV stuff is interesting. I understand what you mean, and of course the book does shift from one character to another many times, but I could certainly have clearer intent and execution of those changes.