Fools Like Us by Charlie Crane by Charlie Crane - Read Online

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Summary

Billie Reed Sanchez is the wife of a battering husband in LA County Jail on a domestic violence charge, and Christopher Abel is a representative of the law firm that's offered to defend him. When Billie and Chris meet, things instantly sizzle between them, and they enter into an intense sexual, romantic relationship. Before long, the two lovers embark on a cross-country journey to rescue Chris' nine-year-old daughter from her semi-famous, repressive, novelist step-father. They establish headquarters on Central Park South and set out to learn what they can of the writer—his lifestyle is beyond upper class, conspicuously lavish for an author who shows no means of income other than a few books published with moderate commercial success. It's clear that he's doing something else for his money. And if its illicit activity, it will surely put Chris' daughter and ex-wife in peril. Billie and Chris are determined to discover the truth, while not losing each other in the process.
Published: Torrid Books on
ISBN: 9781633558090
List price: $3.99
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Fools Like Us - Charlie Crane

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Chapter 1

How was it possible I pitied this kid? A child molester, or in this case a would-be child molester was supposed to be the lowest form of life. But as I sat in his chair in his small living room and watched him tremble, as he told me of his history of sexual abuse at the hands and the penis of his stepfather, as each word fell out of his mouth not like a testimony but like a confession, I couldn’t help but see the direct connection between what had been done to him when he was a child and powerless, and what he’d been fighting with himself to not do as an adult.

What most often struck Christopher Abel in his line of work was that the difference between victim and perpetrator was only a question of when the snapshot was taken. This prospect had been charged with a misdemeanor, a first offense for trying to lure a pre-teen boy back to his apartment from the park at the end of his block. The tears welled up when he swore he’d never done it before and would never do it again. Chris had to remind himself in these pitiable cases that he was here to do business, and there was no way this twenty-something black kid who worked as a convenience store clerk was going to be able to pay his firm’s fee. He gave him the number to give him the benefit of the doubt, and of course he was right.

He was surprised by the ones who could dig it up if they thought their freedom depended on it. Like the middle-aged white guy who looked like an anchor at Fox News, but was the only white resident of a South Central housing project—he’d shot one .38 caliber bullet through his front door when he heard someone jiggling his lock and caught a kid in the shoulder and was charged with attempted murder. He’d not batted an eyelash when Chris quoted him the $25,000 fee for openers. He casually rose and walked into his bedroom and came out with two-hundred-and-fifty one-hundred dollar bills in stacks of fifty and handed them over. Chris represented a criminal defense firm in Los Angeles, in the capacity of securing only the clients who could pay their fees.

He left the would-be pedophile sitting on his sofa, wringing his hands and staring at his floor, hating himself at the thought of what he’d almost done, and Chris knew he’d never look back. He couldn’t, it wasn’t what he got paid for. It wasn’t up to him to track this kid. He wasn’t his savior. He hadn’t the time or inclination to cure all social ills. Besides, for every one like him there was another heartbreak waiting at his next appointment. He did think of posting a sign on the light pole in front of his building to warn parents in the area that there was a potential predator in their midst. But something like that could push this kid over the edge and Chris would have a suicide on his conscience. The charges carried a penalty of up to a year in jail and Chris shuddered at the thought of this puny, emotionally frail kid convicted of that kind of crime in a correctional facility. The truth was he was already in a sort of a prison, given that he was stuck with that mind and that history. By now, Chris was pretty good at putting these people behind him. He had to be, and he had to make tracks, if he wanted to make his last appointment of the night, a domestic violence case up in Pasadena.

* * * *

He rolled down the block, looking for street numbers and there it was. His appointment was on the second floor of this up and down duplex and he was a few minutes early, so figured he’d smoke a half a joint and get ready for his night of unwinding. The sun was setting, and LA was starting to take on its mid-April, nighttime chill.

He walked the outside wooden stairs of an older house converted into two units—Pasadena was one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and could kill you with quaint. He’d always disliked these domestic situations. The typical scenario was a lot of booze, a quarrel that turned physical, a husband in jail or out on bail, and a wife with a black eye and a bloody lip who regretted making the call. Most times they’d change their minds and want to call the whole thing off, but it wasn’t that simple. Domestic violence in California is seen not just as a crime against a spouse, but also as a crime against the state. In simple terms, if a prosecuting attorney thinks he can get a conviction he’s likely to prosecute. Part of that decision was made based on how cooperative the victim of the domestic violence was deemed to be.

Let the prick rot, that’s what the lady said, when he asked if she were able to post bail for her husband. She didn’t have a mark on her that he could see so Chris checked the paperwork and saw that she’d been beaten around the midsection with a leather belt.

Are you okay? he asked her.

Okay? Yes, I’m okay, but that doesn’t mean good. She lifted her shirt to show him the welts on her belly. She stood, turned, and pulled her cotton shirt high above her jeans so he could get a look at the welts on her back. He could also see that she wasn’t wearing a bra and had nice firm tits. Propriety was the least of their concerns in these emotional states.

Do you intend to pay for his defense?

Yeah, I’ll pay for the bastard’s defense. But let him sit there and think about it for a while. Maybe he’ll come back human. She fell into her seat and lit a cigarette. Mind?

No. Go right ahead.

It had been charged as a felony—the corporal injury did appear to be willful, but this crime was a wobbler which meant it could have been charged as a misdemeanor. He had no priors, not for anything, so chances were he’d do no time. Most likely skirt by with probation. He could end up with a felony conviction on his record though, and Chris was already thinking that the best his lawyers could do would be to get it knocked down to a misdemeanor.

His next question was one he didn’t have to ask, but it wasn’t rare for these conversations to wander. It was usually the sits who’d start telling him all their problems that were even remotely connected to the charges, and they’d often draw outside the lines. It was just them there, it was always just them there, and neither would have a reason to complain. Small talk, or any subject that was a deviation was often therapeutic, and the closer Chris got to a prospective client, as long as it wasn’t in a negative way, the more likely they were to retain his firm. How long you been married?

She looked at him suspiciously and he realized that she was smart and present enough to know it was irrelevant. But she softened and Chris could almost hear her thinking, oh, what the hell? Two years. But we’ve been together four. He lost his job. And now he doesn’t feel like much of a man.

I understand. I’m sorry.

He’s not the only one! Lots of men lose their jobs and don’t beat up their wives. She looked away and said, I think I’ve had it this time.

Chris glanced down at the paperwork. But this is the first time, isn’t it? No other charges for this kind of thing.

I just never called before. My dad’s a criminal lawyer, so I know the drill. I never wanted to do this to Johnny. I know all the trouble it causes.

Your father? Here in LA? Why doesn’t he represent him?

He’s licensed to practice in California, he’s up in San Francisco. But he hates Johnny. He never wanted me to marry him. He won’t lift a finger to help me if it means helping him. He thinks the best that could happen is I get rid of him once and for all.

I see, well...if you want to retain us, it’s going to cost you upwards of ten-thousand dollars. And I’ll need at least half that much tonight.

Do I have to decide this very moment? Are you in a big hurry?

No, I’m not in a big hurry.

Good. Then can I think about it for a few minutes?

Yeah, you can think about it for a few minutes.

Good, she said. What’s your name anyway?

Christopher Abel. Chris.

Are you?

Am I what?

Able.

At some things, I am.

That’s good to hear. I’m Billie by the way. She stood and headed for her small kitchen, What’s your drink, Chris?

Oh, drink, no. I have a drive—

She stopped and turned. You’re not going to make me drink alone, are you? In my distraught state? There was some sarcasm in the way she said it. She did seem to be holding it together pretty well. But no doubt that what she was going through would cause anyone a little distress.

Whiskey?

Whiskey! My kind of man.

Her back to him, she poured and said, On the rocks?

That’s fine. Thanks.

Where you from, Chris?

Here, I’m an LA kid.

Really? She turned and glanced at him. A rare bird."

Yeah, you’re right. Are you from San Francisco?

Yep, Marin County. Just north of there.

It’s beautiful up there.

Yes, it’s beautiful. It’s so, so beautiful. She came back into the living room with their drinks and retook her seat across from him. She was a pretty girl. Very California looking. Fit. Long light-brown hair, naturally straight, but professionally tended to. She sat at the edge of her chair, her jeans spread. She was open to him. It was remarkable how open most of them were to him right from the start. Their guards were down, he was on their side. They had no reason to lie to him. Chris often thought he should wear a priest’s collar under his suit jacket for all the confessions he’d taken over the past seven years. He got to see parts of them, personal parts they’d go out of their way to hide from everyone else, and that wasn’t always a good thing. He often heard more than he wanted to hear, but it served his purpose. In their eyes, he could be trusted. And it was true. He could.

God, he really is a fucking asshole. Why does he think he shouldn’t go through the same shit everyone does? He’s a child. And now he can’t even fuck me like he used to. Jesus, what am I doing here?

They both took a drink of their whiskey and Chris sat back and said, Maybe he’s going through a transition.

Yeah, a transition. He gets so dark sometimes. He scares me.

I understand.

He thinks there’s no bottom to it. He thinks I’ll never leave. But there’s always a bottom to it, isn’t there? There’s always a bottom to everything.

You’re right. And only you can know what that is.

She nodded at his words, telling him that this was utmost on her mind. How much she could take or how much she should take, when she’d cross the line into dangerous territory was what preoccupied her and rightfully so.

How ’bout you, Chris? You married?

Not anymore.

Just once?

Yeah, just once.

Kids?

That question always hit him in the gut like a body shot. Yeah, one. I have a nine-year-old daughter.

Oh, a little girl?

Yeah, she lives in New York. With her mother.

Has your wife remarried?

Another shot to the belly. Yeah, she has. To a writer. A novelist.

Really? Anyone I ever hear of.

Maybe. He’s successful. They live well.

What’s his name?

I’d rather not say, if you don’t mind.

I understand. I guess you miss her though. Your daughter, I mean.

Is she trying to finish me off?

Yeah, I do. I miss her. She looks just like me, the poor kid.

No, now you’re not fishing for compliments, are you?

He wasn’t. He didn’t think he was all that bad-looking, but it was hard for him to think well of himself with regards to anything lately. It had started with the divorce—he’d grown up the only child of divorce and was determined that not happen to his kid.

Nah, I’m really not. Thank you though.

For what? I didn’t say anything. They both had a chuckle. No, you’re handsome, Chris, don’t you know that?

I don’t think about it much. I know I’m no George Clooney.

No, but you’re handsome in your way. And you’re kind of sweet, too, aren’t you?

Sweet? Just how much whiskey have you had tonight?

The same as you. But it’s early yet.

You’re right, it is.

So what happened?

What happened with what?

Your marriage, of course.

I don’t know, who can remember?

I’m sure you can.

Ha, yeah, well, it’s never just one thing, is it?

No, but it’s always one main thing. I’ve already told you what’s killing my marriage, haven’t I?

Yeah, your side anyway.

I’m only asking for your side.

Ha, right.

So?

So...I guess it was the cheating.

She cheated on you, Chris?

No.

Oh, you?

Yeah, I guess so.

You mean you don’t remember that either?

No, I do. I remember.

I’m sure you do. And so?

Yeah, it was me. More than once. And like you, she’d had enough.

Why’d you do that, Chris?

Why’d I do what?

Why’d you fuck all those women?

Why?

Yeah, why? Wasn’t she giving you enough sex?

No, she was.

So?

Jesus, you are relentless, aren’t you?

No, I’m honest. And I expect the same of others. I don’t think it’s much to ask. Life’s too short for all the bull. Lies bore me.

Yeah? So?

So, tell me why you couldn’t keep your dick in your pants. Tell me why it was more important than your marriage. More important than your little girl. I won’t judge you, Chris. I already like you. Just tell me. I’m interested.

Nothing’ was ever enough for her. Not the house, not the two cars in the garage, not the trip to Bermuda. I think I stopped liking her, and then I didn’t want to fuck her anymore.

I understand.

You do?

Yeah, I’ve heard it before. It’s not that uncommon. I just hope your little girl’s okay. It’s not so easy on a kid, you know.

I do know.

She stood and swept up his empty glass and made for the kitchen and the whiskey bottle. If she’d been trying to disarm him, it had worked. He was starting to get loose. Loose enough to take a good, lascivious look at her ass as she walked away—to even imagine it outside her jeans. Yep, he could see that.

Got any weed? She called out from the kitchen, her back to him.

Weed?

She screwed the lid back on the whiskey bottle and turned to face him. Yeah, weed. Grass. Pot. Got any? She came towards him with the drinks. I think you’ve heard of it before. She bent over to put his drink in front of him, her face just a few inches from his. She made a point of taking a long sniff and said, In fact, I’m sure of it. It was one thing to have a drink with a client. It wasn’t the most professional thing to do, but he’d done it more than once, and at least it was legal. As long as he left under the two drink limit no one could say much about it. But pot was still illegal, and he did represent a criminal law firm.

Why? You like weed?

Do I like weed? Hmm, let’s see. Yeah, I do. I like weed. Why? You’re not gonna rat me out, are ya?

I doubt it.

I’m from San Francisco. Everyone I know likes weed. Even my dad gets high.

He does?

No, he doesn’t. Yes, he does. What difference does it make, Chris? Yes, I like it. I like it a lot, and at the moment I don’t have a single bud in the house. Now are you going to drink my whiskey and hold out on me? That doesn’t seem fair. She bent over and got closer, took a big whiff and said, It could be Thai, but I’m not so sure. If I guess it, will you break it out?

Hawaiian.

Ooh, Hawaiian, my favorite!

Yeah, okay, fine, he said and pulled out the half joint he’d forgotten to leave in the ashtray of his car. Billie sat next to him and twisted her body to face him, one knee up on the couch. He fired it up, she took a few hits, her body eased and unwound. Her jeans rubbed against his gabardines at the knees and thighs. They laughed and talked as though they were old friends. Nothing was sacred with her, and Chris liked that in a girl.

They got so relaxed that they’d forgotten to take care of business. He remembered why he was there and blurted, Oh, I need to get that retainer from you. You know, for your husband’s defense.

I’ll give it to you tomorrow. I don’t keep that much cash in the house, Chris. I’ll have to go to the bank and get it out of the box. Is that okay?

Yeah, sure, what time? I can meet you there. Where’s your—

I don’t know what time I’ll be going. Probably best we do it at night. Same time, same place?

Yeah, okay, same time, same place, he told her and stood to leave.

Thanks, Chris, she said, and threw her arms over his shoulders and hugged him. Her braless breasts pressed into his chest—he felt something. No, not just that, though he did feel a surge in his cock when she held him