June 22, 2013
The day after Rogue told me, told all of us, that I was asked to testify in court against Ashley, I was still trying to figure out what was to be done and said. I obviously had to do it; there wasn’t exactly an out. I had to testify. I told Rogue I would do it and the rest of the family looked on worriedly. She called Scott Kramer and told him to relay my message and consent to the prosecutor. Now we had to wait and see what would happen. We knew that Ashley was in the county jail awaiting the start of the trial. The prosecutor had over 400 pages of the indictment ready for the judge to read. She had already been found competent to stand trial. Her attorney had tried to get the grand jury to rule that she was legally insane, but the fact that she had done this in multiple states and was convicted in both, threw that notion out. Now she was going to stand trial.
Meanwhile, our Denali cousins had left. Marcus left with them as he and Tanya were now all but inseparable. I had a feeling there was going to be another wedding soon. Alice was all but jumping out of her skin with joy of that prospect. Marcus was very grateful for everything we had done for him. He’d had lengthy conversations with Alexander and they had gone on quite a few walks together prior to his leaving. So the neighborhood was a bit quieter but not by much. When you have Watchers and Wolves plus some Vampires, quiet is not something that happens often.
What made this upcoming trial bearable is the new gift that Rogue bestowed upon us: the ability to digest, taste, and enjoy food and beverage. My family and I went to the grocery store and stocked up for the first time ever. Then Esme and I went to the wine store and bought some amazing wine. We plan to go wine tasting after this trial is over. When we had the Watchers and Wolves over for dinner, everyone was able to eat and drink. We had hunted the previous week and were full that way, but it was still nice to enjoy a few glasses of wine and enjoy some of Esme’s exceptional cooking. On this particular night she made lasagna, Greek salad, eggplant parmesan, and garlic bread. For dessert she made tiramisu and an apple pie. Everything tasted absolutely heavenly.
I have determined that my favorite things to eat are green apples, chips and salsa, lasagna, and green tea ice cream. I also love semi-sweet red wine. I never thought I’d utter those words again after being turned. Being so used to saying that my favorite type of food was a nice juicy lion or bear was normal. But having a perfectly grilled steak or filet mignon is definitely a new thing for us all. Rogue, it turns out, was a great cook and Alexander would often brag about her cooking. She made killer stuffed peppers. They were absolutely delicious when she made them for us. As soon as Esme tasted them, she immediately wanted the recipe, which Rogue jotted down for her.
Getting down to business, Rogue told me that I had an appointment with the prosecutor and she said not to worry because he was just going to prepare me for the trial so I would know what to expect. So the next day, I got up, put on a suit, and made sure I looked like the consummate professional. I got into my car and drove downtown to the office of the District Attorney (DA). My appointment was at 10 a.m. When I got there, I parked, walked into the building, which looked like a very modern office building made out of primarily glass, and after checking in with the guard and going through the metal detector, I took the elevator to the 5th floor. After that I walked into the office, said who I was and sat down. I didn’t even have to wait 5 minutes when the DA walked out and introduced himself.
“Dr. Cullen, thank you very much for coming. My name is Christopher Allen and I will be trying this case.”
“Thank you Mr. Allen. Anything I could do to help.” We shook hands.
“Please follow me. We have everyone set up in the big conference room.”
“Everyone?” I asked as I followed him.
Before I could get the answer I was seeking, we had gotten to the conference room which was all see through because of all the glass and I saw some familiar people sitting there. As soon as they saw me, their eyes lit up and they all stood up; before me were Bill Connolly, Betsy, Melanie, Shandy, Carol, and Charlotte. I walked into the room and walked over to Charlotte first. I was so thrilled to see her here even under these circumstances. I could tell she was still very slim and limping a bit but her eyes were shining again and her face was split into an ear to ear grin. I felt like she was another one of my children. As we hugged, I saw Betsy wipe tears away. We all remembered the night we almost lost this sweet, sweet girl.
“Well howdy, Dr. Cullen. Fancy meeting you here,” Charlotte greeted me with her usual bright sense of humor. Everyone laughed, even the DA.
“Hi, Charlotte. It’s so good to see you. How are you feeling?” I asked.
“Eh, well you know—getting stronger each day,” she replied with a smile.
“Well that’s wonderful to hear. Does that mean you will be coming back to the hospital or have you decided to stay in Texas?” I asked tentatively.
“Naw, I can’t stay in Texas . . . too hot, remember? No I’m coming back here. Now I kind of have to anyways,” she said with a little wink to the others.
“What do you mean kind of have to?” I asked, puzzled. She hesitated for a fraction of a second and then stuck out her left hand on which I saw a diamond ring.
“Ben proposed! We’re getting married!” She was absolutely beaming.
“Oh my dear, that’s wonderful! Congratulations!” I said hugging her again.
“Thank you so much!”
Then the DA cleared his throat.
“I’m sorry to interrupt this but we really need to get down to business. There’s much preparation to be had before the trial.”
“Yes of course,” Bill spoke up. I quickly walked around shaking hands and hugging those in the room before taking my seat at the table. I was sitting between Charlotte and Bill.
The DA than began to speak. “I want you all to be prepared for what will happen in the court room. Ms. Cunningham will not be able to harm you or touch you as she will be shackled to the floor and table. She may scream something out but will be quickly removed if that happens. Do not be afraid of her. I will ask you questions regarding everything you saw and experienced. Do not leave anything out.”
He then proceeded to pass out a paper with questions on it. We all looked at them very carefully. I know I read each one at least twice before I refocused on Mr. Allen.
“These are the questions I will be asking you. I want you to familiarize yourselves with them. They are standard questions. Nothing out-there. However, when it’s time for cross examination, the defense will try its best to discredit you or throw you off track. They may even become belligerent. Your greatest impact is to stay cool, calm, and collective. Remember, the truth is on your side. We have a mountain of evidence but we need witness accounts, too. I know that Rose Melanides will also testify. I will call her to the stand first so you can understand what it will look like. From what I gathered from Agent Kramer, Mrs. Melanides is a former FBI agent and that will greatly help our case as her record with the bureau is absolutely spotless and she has testified in many cases previously.”
He took a sip of water that was in a Poland Springs bottle in front of him. We all had bottles in front of us as well as pens and yellow pads in case we wanted to take notes. I saw that Bill, Betsy, and Charlotte were diligently writing on their pads as the DA spoke.
Mr. Allen continued. “As you know we have her on tape pretty much confessing to you Dr. Cullen of practically every crime. We have her interrogation by Agent Kramer, all of your eye witness accounts. Not to mention the horrendous attack on Charlotte, and I’m so sorry that you will have to relive that on the stand but it’s the only way.”
“I understand. I want her gone,” Charlotte said gravely.
“And that’s what we are aiming for. I am not going for anything less than the death penalty on this one. We are also calling to the stand the three residents who found you in the parking lot after the attack and another very important witness is the patient Mr. Yang who survived Ms. Cunningham’s attempt on his life. As he has yet to be discharged from the hospital, he has graciously agreed to a video conference during the trial. I still want to speak with the judge on that one. Perhaps if the patient just gave a deposition as opposed to actually being present, even via video. I do not want his health to suffer,” Mr. Allen said thoughtfully.
At that point he let us just take in everything he had said and process it. Afterwards, we all stood up and shook hands. He understood that we needed time to review everything and prepare properly. He also said that if at any time we had any questions to call him; he gave us each his business card which even had his cell phone number on it. This man was very dedicated to his job and he wanted to make sure this case was closed once and for all.
After we left the office we stood in the parking lot trying to digest everything. We agreed that we would get together after trial as we had been asked not to speak to each other about it. No one wanted to give the defense ammo that we had practiced or made something up. We all wanted to have the trial go off without a hitch. So after hugging everyone, I got back into my car and looked at the clock. It was 1 p.m. We’d been in there for 3 hours. Talk about time flying by. I knew very much what I wanted to do and that was to go home.
I drove barely above the speed limit and when I pulled into the driveway, I sighed with relief. I sat there behind the wheel with the car turned off until I heard tapping on the window. I hadn’t realized that I was lost in thought still sitting in the car. When I looked up I saw that it was Esme, looking at me with concern. I smiled and got out. First thing I did was give my wife a real big hug and a very long very intense kiss. Then we walked back into the house where I headed straight to the kitchen, a location I almost never entered prior to Rogue’s little gift, and opened the refrigerator. There on of the shelves, in a Tupperware container, were two stuffed peppers left over from when Rogue cooked for us. While I got them out and warmed them in the microwave, Esme poured us both a glass of wine.
Then as I toasted my wife and as I chewed on the absolutely mouthwatering peppers, I explained to Esme everything that had happened that morning and what I had to do for the upcoming trial.
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***Hey guys! If you want to make the stuffed peppers mentioned, I’m attaching the recipe in the link below! It’s one of my best known dishes. Hope you enjoy it too! Bon appetite! ~xoxo Olga <3