Before the story begins, I’d like to announce the winner of a free e-book copy of my historical novel, Indian Summer. Congratulations, Concetta Payne! You’re my lucky winner! Thank you for your help deciding what story to share. I hope you enjoy it.
Thank all of my other readers who helped me make this decision. Your input and your friendship mean a lot to me. ~ Dellani
Now, for It Takes a Thief – part 1
Jason Banes was a thief. Despite how much he and his lawyer might publicly deny it, it was the truth. Which was why he was standing before the judge in an ill-fitting suit, sweating. A twist of fate had brought him to this. He was an excellent thief, masterful, skilled, almost magical in his ability to divide his marks from their possessions.
Regardless of his skill, he’d been caught. His palms began to perspire as the judge looked over the top of her pearl studded reading glasses. She didn’t look happy. Jason saw his world collapse as she studied him. Her scrutiny made him nervous. She looked like a velociraptor ready to attack and rip his guts out with her long, sharp claws. She blinked.
“Mr. Banes,” her contralto voice was somewhat husky. It would have been undeniably sexy in a younger woman. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“No, Ma’am, Your Honor.” He cleared his throat quietly. “Nothing that hasn’t already been said.” His tenor voice was lightly seasoned with an Oxford accent.
“What’s been said is a lot of claptrap and hooey, young man. I don’t believe half the crap your esteemed lawyer’s shoveled. I want the straight stuff, kid. I want it plain and I want it now.” She tossed the file folder on the floor in front of her bench.
The bailiff eyed the file, but let the contents scatter, making no move to pick it up. This was how Judge Walker was. That was for dramatic effect. God Himself wouldn’t interrupt the flow of her monologue.
“Objection!” Jason’s lawyer tried to assert himself.
“You hold your water, pipsqueak!” She pointed one well manicured finger at him, glaring over the pearls. “When I want to hear from you, I’ll ask.” She folded her hands, gazing patiently at Jason. “What really happened the night of the Eleventh of May? Who are you trying to protect?”
Who indeed? And why was he still trying? Because admitting he’d been used and set up stung more than the actual arrest. He, Jason Banes, internationally renowned, master thief, had been taken in by a woman.
But what a woman! Long, mocha colored legs, sleek black hair, fathomless eyes and a smile to sink a thousand ships and make the sailors beg her to let them do it again. Her eyes had attracted him first. The color of fine, smoky jade, they nailed him as soon as he walked in.
Judge Walker’s dry lips were pinched together angrily and she was frowning.
“I want to know what happened that night. This was a two man job. Whomever you’re trying to protect is obviously letting you twist in the wind, young man.” She paused, her face softening. “Honey, this is your first conviction. But by the time you get out, you’ll be older than God. I hate to see anyone as handsome and young as you end up a dried up old prune before he even grows a beard.”
This was an exaggeration, to be sure. Jason was 23, handsome and muscular. He had a beard, albeit not a very presentable one. His hair was pale strawberry blonde, silky fine, soft curls against his chin. He could have been offended by her remarks, but he wouldn’t let himself. Having been on his own since he was 14, he’d learned to survive on the street. Small, fast, wiry and smart, he’d taken to crime like a fish to water.
Nine years later, at the top of his game, he was struck down, arrested, and facing hard time. He sighed, shuffling his feet nervously. He stared at the toe of his shoe. He’d scuffed it on something. Rubbing it on the back of his pants, he focused on the action while he tried to think. They were waiting, the judge, jury, courtroom junkies and the lawyers.
“I don’t know her real name, Your Honor. She merely called herself Orchid.”
“Was she a flower, Mr. Banes?”
He allowed himself to smile seductively at that question. “In places,” he said with a satisfied grin. “Very like a flower.”
Another memory threatened to overwhelm him. He kept himself under control, determined not to lose the thread of the conversation again. Not now, when he had their attention.
“So, this flower girl—what was she to you?”
“My partner, my friend, my—lover.”
“And you met her how?”
“In a bar the second night I was in town.”
“Do you frequent bars?”
“I’m single, Your Honor. I’m rich. I like action.”
“Is that a yes?”
“Come sit up here,” she motioned to the chair in the witness box.”That way everyone can hear you.”
He walked forward, taking his place at the witness chair. The bailiff walked over.
“I remind you that you are still under oath, Mr. Banes.”
“Yes, thanks.” He nodded as he adjusted his suit before sitting down.
“Continue,” Judge Walker said.
© Dellani Oakes