Judge Walker had a flicker of compassion for the young man. He reminded her so much of someone she’d known in her youth, but couldn’t quite put a face and name to him. It was the eyes, she thought. Those melted chocolate orbs tugged at her heart. Blinking away irrational tears, she left as abruptly as she’d come.
Judge Honoria Walker strode purposefully to her office, waving away the bailiffs.
“Go home,” she told them. “Your shift was over an hour ago. Send your replacements up, please. I don’t want to be disturbed.”
“Yes, ma’am,” they answered in chorus. They left her once she was seated at her desk, already dialing the phone.
After a handful of rings, someone answered. The voice was aged, rough, almost brittle. She could remember a time when he hadn’t sounded quite so abused, but time had not been kind to her old friend and mentor.
“Kyle, it’s Honey.”
He cleared his throat. The vibrating baritone she remembered so well, boomed out.
“Honey! Good Lord, it’s a surprise hearing from you today!”
“It’s been far too long since we spoke. I apologize, Kyle. I’ve been so busy with this case.”
“How’s it going? Boy’s guilty?”
“That’s what I want to talk to you about.”
After a long explanation, she had Kyle Tourney’s assurance that he’d make some calls.
“I’ll get back to you soon, my dear. Before I go, how are you? You sound tired.”
“Exhausted. Bert’s in the middle of his treatments and having uneasy nights. Even with the nurse, it’s difficult. I’m nearly at my wit’s end.”
“Let go,” her old friend replied. “Let him go, Honey. He’s fought a good fight, but he’s tired. It’s time for the old warhorse to hang up his spurs.”
“The horse doesn’t wear the spurs, Kyle,” she said sharply to cover her distress.
“You know what I mean, Honoria. If I’m going to make these calls tonight, I need to go. I’ll call as soon as I know anything.
“Thank you, Kyle.” She sniffled, hanging up the phone quickly before he heard her cry.
Judge Walker hung up her robe with care, shaking the wrinkles free before putting it in her closet. She headed to her car, facing the bitter cold night with her chin held high. The two bailiffs, replacements for Cortland and Drover, walked her to her car. She waved her thanks as she pulled out of her parking place.
The brownstone townhouse was a welcome sight, though she wondered why all the lights were on. Every floor was illuminated, shining into the night. Not bothering to park in the garage, she hopped out of her car on the driveway. She flung the door open, calling for the nurse.
“Betsy! What’s going on?”
“Coming, Mrs. Walker.” She appeared at the top of the stairs.
“Why are all the lights on?”
“Mr. Walker wanted it that way. I couldn’t get him to sleep before promising to have the place all lit up when you got home. He took his meds, but wouldn’t sleep until I promised. It’s been a rough evening. What kept you?”
Her voice held deep concern, though to Honoria it seemed to hold a reprimand as well. Probably her own guilt shading the other woman’s words.
“Complications with a case,” she said quietly. “I wish I could tell you more, but I can’t just now. I’d better go up and check on him.” She headed up the stairs.
“You do that while I go shut off the extra lights. And you’d best put your car in the garage. There’s been break ins.”
“Thank you, Betsy. I’ll do that before I go up.”
She pulled into the garage. Turning off the car, she put her head on the steering wheel as the automatic door closed behind her. The tears she’d been fighting since talking to Kyle fell hot and heavy. She knew she had to let Bert go, but it wasn’t easy. He’d been part of her life over 40 years. They’d been married for 36 of them.
Meeting as freshmen, they’d married right out of high school. He’d seen her through college, law school and the birth of their four boys.
The first 10 years of their marriage had been hard. Finances were tight, especially with two children born in less than two years. Bert worked three jobs to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
The next 10 years weren’t much better, but they’d hung in there, raising their children and struggling to get her established as one of the top lawyers in the city. They’d held on against the odds as he went back to school after she opened her law office. Once she became a judge, it was better. Their children were grown, moved out, and gone. They had 10 good years before he got sick.
© Dellani Oakes