Carla stood with Chase as they waited for Juliet to return from her discussion with the state police. They'd been there filing a report on the Molotov cocktail which had been investigated but there wasn't enough numbers given for the license plate to be able to trace it.
Chase had his own suspicions of course. He thought it could be one of Hank's friends, one or more of them he didn't know because he did have some cousins living two counties down. They hadn't shown up in court to support him so far or even made any noise but maybe this was their way of helping him, by terrifying the woman he'd victimized.
But then he knew it also might tie to Dylan the county deputy who had aided and abetted in what Dallas, Hank and the other men had done to Carla…in this so-called rodeo event. She'd been scared…almost too much to even want to report it but Chase reminded her they needed to document any retaliation even if they didn't notice where it came from or who was responsible. Miranda hadn't been upset about the burned tree…she'd been more concerned about someone trying to hurt Carla. She said that she'd make sure she had her dogs and her shotgun lying close by in case anyone returned for another round.
Chase just kept her close to him, the warmth of his strength and solidness kept her grounded when she thought she might panic sometimes. She tried so hard to keep the terror at bay and she'd been getting better at it but there were times…when all kinds of hidden triggers set her off to remembering and even reliving what happened that night in the barn.
"They'll find who's responsible Carla."
She shivered against him and tried to believe it.
"Anyone else get firebombed," she asked, "What about Arlene?"
"State police said just you so far but they put extra patrols by a couple other women."
She nodded relieved about that. She didn't want anyone else to go through what she did and she knew she had to just put it behind her no matter how tough that proved to be. Otherwise, the men who hurt her would win and she'd be forced to remain trapped by what they did to her. They both looked up to see Juliet return to brief them on her discussion.
"So what's the score," Chase asked, "They going to haul anyone in for this?"
She sighed, shaking her head.
"Not today…we got a lot of suspects and nothing tied to anyone of them."
He figured as much and he knew that they might never be able to prove a case against anyone unless they slipped up next time.
Not that he'd allow there to be a next time.
"So what's next," Carla asked, "now that I'm done testifying for now."
"I think there's enough to ensure that Hank will be heading to trial…he doesn't want a trial believe me and neither does Tex despite his bravado. We can build a strong case against him…to put him away for good."
Carla nodded hoping she was right. Juliet went to talk to the clerk at the desk and she returned to them.
"You're done here…my office will make sure this is taken seriously but I don't think you have to be worried about this department like the county sheriff."
Carla and Chase both said goodbye to her and headed out to Chase's truck where it was parked. He had some errands to run so he'd drop her off at the library so she could study for a few hours.
Then up walked Tex dressed in one of his outfits, blocking their path.
"Excuse us…we've got to head on out."
Tex shot Chase a look and then he smiled at Carla who just stared at him, trying to steel herself.
"I thought I might run into you at the state police's office."
"I'm not surprised…you must know your client is under investigation for what happened last night."
Tex looked taken aback.
"My client…he has an alibi you know," he said, "and they will come down and sign an affidavit stating that he was at home with them…you know Slim?"
Chase's mouth pressed into a thin line.
"Yes I do…and that's not much of an alibi because he hired you."
Tex tipped his cowboy hat.
"Why yes he did…but he wouldn't lie…not under oath anyway," he said, "he's an honest God fearing soul and Hank is not responsible for the vandalism outside your home last night Carla."
She spoke up finally keeping her voice calm and even.
"So you say…but talk is cheap."
"You're so right…I learned that as a trial attorney…but come on Carla, you have a whole list of men with grudges against you and maybe some of their family too…for those allegations you made of what happened that night at the party."
"If so…they're all friends of your clients…some of whom were at that…party."
Tex's eyes twinkled and she knew he enjoyed doing this with her…trying to put her on the defensive and intimidate her…all to get the focus off of his client.
"Or you could have done it yourself…maybe Chase here helped you get the materials and light it…then make a false report of retaliation."
That angered her to the quick but he knew that and that's why he said it. She knew bait when she saw it and she knew she had to keep her cool around him. She wouldn't give him anything to use against her…or give up an inch towards his side.
"That's not true and you know it," she said, "If Hank…your client did it, then he'll pay for it like the rest of his actions."
Her body tensed as she spoke but she kept her control. Chase slid his arm around her waist and looked straight at Tex.
"You heard the lady now get out of our way."
Tex stepped to the side and they both walked to get into the truck.
Carla studied for a few hours in the library. A librarian conducted story hour in the corner with a half dozen kids and she didn't see Arlene around. She did see another volunteer who hadn't been in here in a while, a woman with short curly hair the color of umber named Missy. She stacked some books on the shelf but every so often she'd cast a glance at Carla.
She knew why. People just looked at her funny all the time while the rape case was in the press like right now because of the prelim. When it slowed down until the next stage, people would lose interest and follow something else.
Missy wandered ever closer though and Carla wondered why so when she got up to get some water from the fountain, she headed back to where the young woman worked. They'd been in the same class in high school until Missy got held back for missing so many classes. She'd obviously had other things to do.
"Hey what's up Missy?"
The other woman looked at her as if surprised to be addressed.
"Hi Carla…haven't seen you in a while."
A slight snort followed.
"Yeah I heard…got yourself in a bit of trouble didn't you?"
Carla just looked at Missy wondering what she was getting at. It's not like the two of them had been best friends in school but they hadn't been enemies either…they ran with different crowds.
"Something like that…only I didn't cause it."
"I heard you were out partying one night and enjoying yourself only later you changed your mind."
Carla paused wondering who Missy had been hanging with to get her information.
"You've been talking to Hank?"
The woman fell silent and she got her answer.
"You'd better stay away from him Missy," Carla said, "he's a very bad man…"
"So you say but it's just words isn't it," Missy said, "Just lies…Hank's been real good to me. We went clubbing the other night…not that he's been doing that much but it was fun."
Carla just sighed hearing the enthusiasm in Missy's voice.
"Missy you don't know him…not like I do…he's just going to hurt you…badly."
The other woman folded her arms.
"I don't think you know him at all," she said, "He told me you were an opportunistic whore and that you wanted to be paid to sleep with those men…"
Carla knew the stories he'd been spreading….they were his legal defense.
"It's not true…I never wanted any of what happened to me," she said, "he started in on me when I was just 13…wouldn't take no…I had to defend myself…"
"Yeah right…like you haven't fucked all those guys at the motel…I used to see you leave with a different guy every night. Did they all pay you too?"
Carla just wanted to shake Missy when she talked like that. But she knew what Hank was doing…he was trying his case before it really hit the courtroom…tainting the town's view of her to clear his own name.
"No…no that was different…I'm not going to explain or defend it…"
"Yeah I wouldn't think so," Missy said, "How do you explain being a slut…now excuse me I have work to do."
Carla watched her walk away and she felt so upset right now but she knew she had to not let it get to her or she'd never last the entire prosecution. But she did know she was done studying so she packed up her books and left the library.
Then she looked up and saw Dylan standing in front of her.