Monday, January 19, 2015

The (Un)Settlement


At exactly midnight, I walk down the yard towards the lake. My footsteps echo across the emptiness as I walk down the dock, carrying a single object wrapped in stained linen. I waited until now, until the middle of the night, so that the thick banks of trees would block me from the other houses nearby, leaving me alone in the wilderness to dispose of “crucial” evidence with a well-executed throw. It lands with a soft splash that echoes in the quiet.

For the first time in years, I feel peace.


He crumpled under the first strike, the hammer connecting solidly with his broad forehead. The blood spread outwards, ran through grooves created by confusion. It made me smile with pride to think I had surprised him.

The top of his skull bore the brunt of the second blow, catching bone as he sunk to the floor. The third lodged in his eye when he turned his face up to me, pleading. I stayed within his fading line of sight as he fell to the side. I had patiently waited for this moment; I wanted to savor it, to watch his life leave him…one labored breath at a time.

This was my settlement, after all.

My payment for services rendered long ago.


I stared at the photograph, the back of my neck prickling with awareness. Six years, thousands of dollars spent on therapy and self-defense classes, and still I saw his face when I closed my eyes.

“I know you’ve got a history with him…” I snorted before I could stop myself and she sighed, shook her head. “He shouldn’t have gone free.” I said nothing. “Look, you’re the best I have, Hannah, but I’ll understand if you recuse yourself.”

I shook my head. “Not necessary.”

“There’s more evidence this time, an eyewitness…”

“I’m fine, Maria. It’s fine.” I smiled calmly. “Honestly.”

She nodded. “You won’t spend a single minute alone with him. I promise.”

That suddenly seemed…unfortunate. Lines of thought began forming in my mind, shining light on dark pathways I hadn’t known existed before now. I smiled a little wider.

“Of course. Whatever you think is necessary…”


Regrets grow from the tiniest seeds, from moments in time constructed by choices made. I so may regrets, some penned in indelible ink in places only I can see.

I shouldn’t have accepted the dinner invitation.

I shouldn’t have agreed to one more drink.

I should have said ‘no’ louder…hit him harder…run away faster.

I should have killed him when I had the chance.


The elevator doors closed on us and, as we began to descend, he turned and smiled at me. My knees went weak in the most cliché way possible.

“You’re the new attorney,” he said. I nodded. “How are you finding the work?”

“Quite a change from the prosecutorial side of the fence.”

He nodded, a man who knew everything. Older than me by ten years, tall and lean, hair starting to grey at the temples – he was, as many of my female colleagues had said, sinfully handsome.

“The illustrious District Attorney’s Office.” His smile took on a predatory glint; the air in the elevator grew thin. “I’d very much like to hear all about your time there, Counselor.” He reached across the space between us, placed his hand on my forearm. The warmth of his palm bled through my sleeve. “Perhaps over dinner? Tomorrow evening?”

I returned his smile with my own.

“Yes, sir,” I said, “I’d very much like that.”