This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Season 5 Episode 8
The trip to the District Court is… interesting. The I-15 freeway is nerve-wracking to say the least. Traveling down that stretch of road, you just want to close your eyes and pray that you don’t get killed. A six-mile journey takes all of 30 – 45 minutes in rush hour traffic, and we have to hit it coming and going for the next several days at least. I’m silently praying for safe passage. My wife, on the other hand, is sitting next to me silent and stoic.
The courthouse is clean and professional enough, but the distance in between once you exit the freeway reminds me of Detroit. Where Detroit has liquor stores every few blocks, here there are bail bondsmen everywhere you look. Downtown is full of apartments in desperate need of repair and no-tell-motels all over the place—or at least that’s what they look like to me.
At a certain point, you reach the business district that looks like it totally shouldn’t be here—clean lines, high rises, well-maintained streets… which they very well should be with all the construction we kept hitting on the way out here.
The parking is atrocious down here and we can’t afford to get out of town tickets in three rental SUVS, or worse, towed. As such, we have a plan for pickup and drop off at the courthouse. All non-security staff will form a perimeter around me and Butterfly with Ray and Allen in front, James and Mandy on either side, and Vee and Marilyn bringing up the rear. The five members of my security team that won’t be parking the cars will form a five-point star around the eight of us with Jason at the lead, two guards at the rear, and a guard on either side. Butterfly will be duly buried in the middle of several people…
… Which is a good thing.
We can barely get the cars to the curb for fear of running over the Paparazzi’s toes as we pull up.
“Fucking vultures,” I mumble. This is insane and I have no idea how we’re even going to get out of the car.
“Where were all these people when this shit happened to me?” Butterfly blurts out, breaking her silence. “Why weren’t they this fucking hungry for a headline then?”
Oh, shit. She’s already losing it.
Several members of the press have cameras pressed against the glass of the SUV’s, and we can’t even exit the vehicle.
“Baby,” I say, taking her hand and trying to put out the fire before it starts, “remember what we said about the press egging you on.”
“Oh, don’t patronize me, Christian!” she barks snatching her hand from mine. “I’m not out of the car yet! And it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon either! These people have no fucking respect whatsoever. We’re trying to get to court, not walking the fucking red carpet!”
Dear God, somebody save me. I’m in a little metal box with a woman who’s getting more and more irritated by the second and my attempts at reason are only making it worse. What’s more, we can’t get out of the little metal box.
Unbeknownst to me, the city of Las Vegas has foreseen this little problem and has prepared accordingly. I can hear someone on a megaphone saying something, but I can’t quite make it out over the throng of people. As the cameras move away from the tinted glass, I crack the window slightly to hear what’s happening.
“Step away from the vehicle. Move away, or you will be arrested for obstruction of justice. This is your final warning.”
That’s right. Butterfly is a key witness in a criminal case. If they don’t allow her to get out of the car, they’re obstructing justice. I look back at my wife who looks through the crack in the window with stunned awe as the press is pushed away from the car. A few moments later, Chuck and Jason exit the car and another security detail takes the driver’s seat.
The door opens and we see Chuck, Al, James and Jason standing there.
“Are you ready?” Jason asks. I look at Butterfly, whose previous anger has completely deflated. She nods, and Ray exits the car first, then Mandy. It’s everyone else’s responsibility to fall in line once Butterfly exits the car, because she’s running to the door the minute she’s out of the car.
I never understood the concept of the courthouse having fifty stairs that you have to climb to get to the door. What’s the purpose of that?
When I step out of the car, I scan this situation before I let Butterfly out. Every fucking local newspaper in the state must be here. We’ve never had this much pomp and circumstance in Washington, and we’ve been to two trials where each of us was a key witness.
The press is neatly pushed away from either side of the car with Las Vegas Metro Police officers in tan uniforms with batons drawn holding them back from blocking our path to the door.
Now that’s what I call protecting and serving!
The cameras are still flashing, but I expect that much. We can’t stop them from taking pictures, but they have to let us through. I lean down into the car and take my wife’s hand.
“Ready?” I ask. She sighs heavily and nods.
She swings her legs out of the car and her Louboutin stilettos are probably the only picture of her that the press gets this morning. She stealthily stands to her feet and everyone quickly falls into formation as those sky highs take the stairs like Rocky. She doesn’t fall; she doesn’t stumble; she doesn’t trip; and she’s shorter than everyone on the peripheral. So, I’m certain that no one got a picture of her.
When we enter the doors of the courthouse, she doesn’t even look like she broke a sweat.
The police keep the press at bay until we all pass the metal detectors and enter the main hallway. Mac has informed me that only one station—KTNV Las Vegas—will have access to the trial. Because the case is so sensational, several media outlets filed for courtroom media access, but only one was granted. Thank God for small favors.
I’m busy checking on my wife to see how she’s holding up when I’m greeted with the last fucking thing I expected to see at this moment. I prepared myself for everything… every possible eventuality. I didn’t prepare myself for this.
Cholometes! Brian fucking Cholometes!
He’s sitting in the waiting area near the elevators looking straight at us. I glance down at Butterfly and she hasn’t spotted him yet. She’s too busy girding herself for the experience ahead. When he sees us, he rises from his seat and begins his approach. I put myself in my wife’s line of sight and I look down at her.
“Prepare yourself, baby,” I say. “We’ve got company.” Her expression hardens.
“Whitshit?” she spits. I shake my head.
“Cholometes,” I reply. An instant look of horror mars her face.
The response comes from Ray. Apparently, my voice wasn’t as low as I thought it was. I look over at him and he’s scanning the room.
“What are you doing here, Brian?” he says before Cholometes even reaches us. He slows his approach at Ray’s tone.
“You’re my friend,” Cholometes replies. “I came to support you… and the family.”
By the family, you mean my wife. She has all the support she can get, Colostomy, she doesn’t need you!
“You didn’t have to come,” Ray says firmly. Cholometes ignores the implication.
“It’s the least I could do,” Cholometes replies, “especially after the events of our last encounter.” His words hang in the air. I take Butterfly’s hand. You mean when you outed our lifestyle in front of all her family and friends? Is that the encounter of which you speak?
“My little girl’s got a rough time ahead of her, Brian. If you’re bringing any drama with you, you can take it right back where you came from,” Ray scolds.
“I’m only here for support,” he responds before looking down at Butterfly. “You have my word.” Butterfly scoffs and rolls her eyes.
“Let’s go,” she says to me. I quickly lead her away from the scene without a word to Cholometes. My main concern right now is protecting her as much as I can.
“He doesn’t get within five feet of my wife,” I say to Jason and Chuck as we walk away.
“If he does, I’ll kick him in the fucking balls,” Butterfly growls under her breath as we walk deliberately towards the elevators. The bell rings that the elevator arrives and when the doors open, our group all stream in in formation—except one.
Sorry, Colostomy, no room.
There’s actually plenty of room, but the glare of at least seven angry men may have persuaded him to catch the next car.
The floor is surprisingly quiet when we exit the elevator. There are a few people in corners chatting quietly about… whatever. Butterfly never raises her head. She quietly watches her feet as we walk directly to courtroom 8A.
And now we discover why no one is in the hallway.
There are several people in the courtroom, spread out on different benches. The two benches behind the prosecutor are conspicuously empty. We all file in, and Butterfly still hasn’t raised her head or removed her sunglasses. Upon hearing us enter, Larson and his colleague turn around. Butterfly takes her seat, but I remain standing.
“Mr. Grey,” he says as he approaches the balustrade between us.
“Mr. Larson,” I greet just as stoically. He turns to Butterfly.
“Mrs. Grey, are you ready?” he asks. She removes her glasses finally.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she replies.
“Please, be prepared,” he says. “Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity—not that he was insane, but that he was coerced and intimidated… basically that he was too young to understand or unaware of the full impact of his actions.” She twists her lips.
“Why does that not surprise me?” she says a little too calmly.
“They’re going to show the video, and the pictures of your back. Things are going to get very graphic and pretty brutal…”
“Nothing they say or do is going to be as brutal as what they already put me through, so it doesn’t matter, does it?” she replies matter-of-factly. Larson sighs, no doubt noting the same hostility that I experienced in the car.
“They’re going to make you out to be the villain,” he warns.
“What else is new?” she replies.
“I just want you to be prepared for anything. Expect anything. Remember, we can’t mention the rape unless they do,” he cautions. She sighs.
“Mr. Larson, nothing could prepare me for this, but I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I ask,” he says, finitely. He glances at me again, then returns to his seat.
We sit in the courtroom waiting for an eternity for the proceedings to start, but it’s clearly only about twenty minutes. We hear more people come into the courtroom, but we don’t turn around to see who they are. There’s a guy sitting at the defense table looking at a notebook in a ledger. Clearly, he’s the defense attorney. After a few minutes, a door opens on the side of the courtroom and in walks some guy in a suit and handcuffs. This is obviously Vincent Sullivan, but I didn’t commit his face to memory. I can’t even remember what his brother looks like at the moment.
Butterfly glares at him, but he doesn’t look our way once. Sullivan is escorted to the defense table where the bailiff removes his cuffs. In both of the other cases we attended, both defendants scanned the room, made eye-contact with us and either sneered or jeered at us, but not Sullivan. He’s been coached. He doesn’t look left or right. He looks down or at his attorney—nowhere else.
“All rise. The criminal session of the Las Vegas Justice Court, Clark county is now in session, the honorable Wilson Bates presiding.”
The court stands to their feet as Judge Bates takes the bench.
“You may be seated.”
Judge Bates looks at the file in front of him and sighs.
“I’m not looking forward to this,” he mumbles, almost to himself. I think he forgot he was mic’ ed. What did he mean by that?
“Docket number 807154C-0404, the State of Nevada vs. Vincent Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan you stand charged with assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, manslaughter for fetal homicide, and attempted murder. You have entered a plea of ‘Not guilty due to diminished mental capacity.’ Do you wish to change your plea at this time?”
“No, your honor,” Sullivan says after a brief conference with his attorney.
“Is the state ready to proceed?” he asks.
“We are, your honor,” Larson replies.
“Is the defense ready to proceed?”
“Yes, your honor, we are,” the defense attorney replies.
“Very well. Bring in the jury.”
The bailiff leads 18 people into the courtroom and the judge has them sworn in. He begins the somewhat tedious task of jury instruction, and it’s at this moment that we discover that the jury will be sequestered, as well they should be. I expected as much. This case is way too publicized already to have them exposed to outside forces while they’re listening to it. I feel badly for them because this is going to go on for a while.
Once he has completed his instructions to the jury, he announces that Mr. Larson will be presenting opening statements on behalf of the State.
“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Larson says.
“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.
“Counsel,” he says to the defense attorney, who nods. Then he turns to face the jury.
“Anastasia Steele was a loner,” he began. “She was a good student, but a stranger in a strange land. She was implanted into the affluent neighborhood of Green Valley at 14, but she wasn’t wealthy or even well-off like the other residents of the community. She had come from humble beginnings—not impoverished or even unpleasant, but humble. She was raised for most of her life in the home of her mother and father in Montesano, Washington. However, as fate would have it, her parents split up, and Anastasia would come to Henderson with her mother to reside in the home of her mother’s future husband.
“The following years would not be kind to Anastasia, and one year in particular, she found herself knocked unconscious, kidnapped, bound, and subjected to one of the most brutal and violent hazing rituals in history—the degradation and branding of another human being.”
Larson handles the opening arguments like a seasoned professional. He paints a vivid picture of a young misfit with good grades in an unhappy home. He makes reference to the rape without calling it that, labelling it as the “incident” that sparked the attack.
He gives a chilling recount of how Butterfly was kidnapped while walking home from school, thrown in the trunk of a car, dragged to the bonfire, and then tortured by a group of teenagers.
He outlines a gruesome picture of a vicious mob and a brutal hazing ritual that left a 15-year-old girl in a coma for three weeks while her attackers went home to their beds and slept peacefully with no concern about the young girl they left for dead.
“That night, an officer happened upon the scene of the hazing, causing the participants and observers to scramble, leaving Anastasia Steele naked, burned, beaten, unconscious, bleeding, and left for dead on the ground. Her unborn child was inside of her, his or her little heart beating its final beats, if it hadn’t stopped beating already.”
Butterfly doesn’t react to the description, but various members of the jury are visibly affected by it.
“Anastasia was rushed to the hospital, underwent several procedures—one of which was to remove the remnants of the dead fetus from her uterus—and she spent three weeks in a coma. Meanwhile, the defendant and their co-conspirators who had executed this horrendous event and even recorded the whole thing on video, all went home to their fashionable houses and their comfortable beds, laid their heads on their pillows and slept, night after night. Anastasia was living the nightmare, but her vicious and brutal attack was reduced to nothing more than locker-room talk and urban legend.
“She was rescued from the hell that Henderson was to her, Green Valley, and taken back to Montesano by her father. She was enrolled in school and ready to rebuild her life until the father of one of the defendants paid off her mother and stepfather to bring her back to Las Vegas, where they could keep an eye on her and make sure that she didn’t spill their secret.
“Their secret stayed buried until a few years ago, when a routine background check unearthed a second name for Mrs. Grey—Anastasia Lambert, and that name led to a second set of school records, prompting an in-depth background check which uncovered the police reports and the horrific pictures you will see today of Anastasia’s broken body.
“Anastasia’s husband-then-boyfriend came to investigate the matter, setting off a chain of events that has led us here today. Simultaneously, Mrs. Grey—then Dr. Anastasia Steele—had begun seeing a patient for dignity therapy who, as it turns out, had recorded the video that you’re going to see today. This young lady was dying of a terminal illness and had sought out Dr. Steele to confess her involvement in Anastasia’s attack before she died.
“The video you’ll be seeing is 37-minutes long. It’s quite graphic and very brutal. It plays out like a horror movie. You must sit through the entire thing. We ask that you please prepare yourselves for the gruesome scene that you’re about to see. If any of you have weak constitutions, we will pause the playback while you compose yourself. However, we will resume playback because the video is evidence and you must see it in its entirety.
“As you are watching the video, ask yourself how it makes you feel. How it feels knowing that this is not a movie—this is not a re-enactment–that this really happened to a 15-year-old girl. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that no one felt that anyone should be brought to justice for this—not even the police. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that this could have been your child. Not one of them felt any remorse for what they did, and they don’t feel any remorse now. In fact, they’re trying to get away with it. How does that make you feel that something like that could happen in this day and time in the United States and no one is called to justice for it for nearly 15 years?
“That’s thirty-seven minutes… thirty-seven live minutes of the most vicious attack on a young girl that you may ever see in your life. Remember that Anastasia Steele’s terror and pain lasted more than that thirty-seven minutes. Remember that no matter what you hear in this courtroom, no matter what pictures the defense may want to paint of Mrs. Grey, of her family, and of the alleged assailants, remember what you see with your own eyes. Remember what the video tells you—what you saw.
“You’ll hear testimony from others that may seem circumstantial, but I ask that you consider it in context with everything else that you’ll see and hear during this trial. Let’s give Anastasia the justice that she finally deserves. Thank you.”
Larson takes his seat. The judge then announces that the defense, Mr. Drake, will present opening statements.
“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Drake says.
“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.
“Opposing counsel,” Drake says, and Larson nods.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you of your instructions, that you must weigh this case on the facts. Although you may find yourself empathizing with the victim, although you must watch the cruelty of the action, you cannot decide this case on emotion. You must decide it on the facts. You must decide if Vincent Sullivan willingly and maliciously injured a young girl and caused the death of her unborn child. That’s going to be hard to do once you see the evidence.
“You’re going to be tempted to sympathize with the plight of a young girl who was victimized by a group of vicious teenagers, because that’s exactly what you’re going to see. No one is disputing that. What has brought us here today is Mr. Sullivan’s role in this act. And this is where it’s imperative that your personal prejudices and biases do not come into play.
“For one thing, we get a vivid picture of a poor young girl just trying to survive in the affluent neighborhoods of Henderson. They want you to believe that this poor little waif was an unsuspecting victim of an unnecessary violent act. While I won’t deny that this act was brutal and unfortunate…”
Unfortunate? What the ever-loving fuck? She was raped by a motherfucker who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and then beaten because she was raped! And he calls that shit unfortunate?
“… Don’t be cajoled into believing the ‘victimized nerd’ persona that’s being presented to you. This girl was a promiscuous opportunist looking to trap a young man simply because his family was well-to-do. This was no innocent that we’re dealing with. This was a young harlot who seduced the son of one of Green Valley’s most prominent citizens, lied on him about it and provoked him and his young girlfriend until a group of unidentified people saw through her scheme and put a stop to it. Did she deserve what happened to her? Did she bring it on herself? I can’t say, but I can tell you this. The prosecution has given you his version—his opinion—of what he thinks happened that night. As jurors, it’s your job to apply the law to this situation to determine Vincent Sullivan’s guilt or innocence.”
So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. You don’t want them to look at her as a poor little waif or a victimized nerd because that would be biased, but you want them to look at her as a promiscuous opportunist and that’s not? I’m confused.
“The boy that she targeted was a popular young man, a well-known athlete… and she was a misfit. She wanted to belong, to fit in by any means necessary, even if it meant trying to trap or blackmail one of the most popular boys in school, and she just played the wrong cards. I’m not saying that she deserved what happened to her, but I am saying that when you play a dangerous game, something dangerous is bound to happen.
“The video you’re going to see is dark. Forensics have verified its authenticity, but most of the assailants are hooded; and the key witness and videographer—God rest her soul—is conveniently deceased. Yet, the prosecution would have you believe that this powerful multibillionairess…” He’s pointing at Butterfly, “… just happened on this information—that an ailing woman with a terminal disease wandered into her office after 15 years with a key piece of evidence to put away several prominent members of our community; that we should now look at this suffering soul whose net worth is probably more than all of us combined and say, ‘Isn’t that so sad and tragic. Poor little rich girl.’”
His voice is so condescending that you can hardly believe that he’s talking about this brutally senseless act of violence that occurred to a 15-year-old girl. Yes, she’s a billionairess now, but this act didn’t happen to a billionairess. This happened to a nerdy teenager—an “A” student who wanted nothing but to graduate and get away from the hell that was an uncaring mother and an emotionally cruel stepfather and happened to be unlucky enough to get raped by the most popular boy in school.
Drake is trying to make Whitmore look like the victim. How can he be the victim when she’s the one who was raped and attacked? She’s the one who was beaten damn near to death. Her baby was beaten to death. How is he the victim?
“’People say believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.’ Those are the words to a song that my mother used to play all the time. What you see… You’re going to see a lengthy video of some kids doing some horrible thing to some other kid. And as that video is playing, some of you may become ill. Why? Because this was your first time seeing it and you were not prepared. This isn’t her first time seeing it…” He’s pointing at Butterfly. “But I can guarantee you she’ll vomit, and I’ll tell you why. It’s called practiced regurgitation. It’s what bulimic women do when they want to expel their food after a binge. They can barf on command. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”
He can’t be serious! His opening statement is to discredit her possible vomiting? I look over at Butterfly and she’s looking at him in utter horror. Is this really where he’s going with this? He’s not talking about Sullivan at all or his defense, only that the jury will have to review the evidence and determine if his acts were willful or malicious. The rest—and remainder—of his opening statement involved downplaying the content of the video, making Whitmore out to be the victim, and painting my wife as a wanton harlot out to snag a rich kid.
One of his final statements is to paint our marriage as her ultimate triumph in doing just that and using her newfound wealth to punish the good citizens of Henderson. For the love of God!
We painfully sit through several more minutes of this bullshit before the state’s case finally begins.
“The state calls Anastasia Grey,” Larson announces clearly. Butterfly takes a deep breath and walks to the witness stand. She’s sworn in and asked to state her name.
“Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey,” she replies and is told to be seated.
“Dr. Grey, what’s your specialty?” Larson asks.
“I’m a psychiatrist. I’m also the assistant director of the Helping Hands charity in Seattle, and I’m the executive director of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.”
Yes, sir, that’s my baby.
“I’m sure you’d like to get this over with as soon as possible, so let’s just get to it, okay?” Larson asks. Butterfly nods.
“I’ve called you first, Dr. Grey, because I want to set the scene for what the jurors are going to be seeing. I’ll be asking you several questions about the incident. I need you to be as detailed as possible and as succinct as possible. I know that’s going to be hard, but we must get to the facts. Do you understand?”
“I understand,” she nods.
“Tell us, when did you first arrive in Green Valley?”
“In 2000. I was 14.”
“Where were you before you moved to Green Valley?” Larson asks.
“We lived in Montesano, Washington.”
“How would you characterize your childhood, Dr. Grey?”
“It started out really good when we were in Washington. We had a great relationship, but once we moved to Vegas, everything changed.”
“Changed in what way?” Larson asks. Butterfly shrugs.
“It felt like my mother hated me,” she says. “I don’t know any other way to say it. She told my daddy that she was leaving because he couldn’t provide the type of life that I deserved, but when we left, she treated me like I was an imposition the entire time, like all of her problems were because of me. She was unhappy with my dad during the last year or so of their life together, so I thought that if she moved to a new life, maybe she would be happy, and things would change… but she wasn’t. At least she wasn’t happy with me.”
“So, what did you do?”
“I studied hard. That’s all I could do. My clothes were plain; I was poor. I obviously didn’t belong, and Green Valley made sure that I understood that. I resented it. I was happy in Montesano with my simple clothes and my simple life and my travel books. She said I needed to have more, and she brought me here—and gave me nothing but misery.”
“How was school?” he asks. She scoffs.
“School was school,” she says. “Study, do my work, get my grades, go home. I was teased for not having the things that everyone else had, but I tried to ignore it. Home life was much worse, so school and friends weren’t a big deal.”
“Were you abused at home?” Larson asks. She shakes her head.
“Not immediately,” she replies. “They never hit me, but the mental warfare was brutal. Even now, as a mental health professional looking back on it, I don’t know how I survived it.”
“What about your father?”
“We talked when we could, but she did everything in her power to keep us apart. She even had me saying cruel things to him when he called. She’s a miserable soul. To this day, I still don’t know what was going on.”
“Okay, so we’ve established that your home life was pretty miserable, and school life wasn’t much better. Did you have a plan of escape?”
“I was only 14 when we got here. Escape hadn’t even occurred to me. I was waiting for my mother to get what she wanted and stop treating me like crap. Eighteen was four years away. It was obvious that the only way I was going to college was through scholarships, so school it was. I liked school. I liked learning. It was the people that I didn’t care for.”
“So… at the beginning of 2001, you met one of the popular students in school, is that correct?”
“Tell us what happened,” he says.
“Cody Whitmore offered me a ride home from school.”
“Did he take you home?” Larson asks. Butterfly shakes her head.
“After a… harrowing encounter, for lack of a better word, he left me stranded in the middle of the desert to find my own way home.”
“And after that encounter, what happened?”
“I went home and told my mother and stepfather what happened.”
“And?” Larson presses.
“My stepfather and I went to Cody Whitmore’s house to confront him and his father. My stepfather took one look at that house—all that money—and his whole tone changed. We went inside. Whitmore’s girlfriend was there and denied everything. His father wouldn’t hear anything after Whitmore denied everything, and my stepfather didn’t even raise his voice to fight for me. He apologized for disturbing them and we left. He berated me the entire way home.”
“Why do you think your stepfather didn’t fight for you?”
“Because he didn’t believe me,” Butterfly replies.
“And why do you think that was?”
“I can’t speak for Stephen Morton and he’s no longer with us to speak for himself—not that I believe he would—but I can tell you this. I already told you that my mother couldn’t stand me. He liked me even less. He took one look at that house, all that money, Whitmore’s gorgeous blonde girlfriend, and all I heard all the way home was that there was no way in hell that Cody Whitmore would want my ass. It was awful. I wish I had just kept the entire thing to myself or ran away from home… something.”
“I can imagine,” Larson says. “So, let’s get to that fateful day in March of 2001. Can you set the scene for us?” Butterfly’s expression hardens.
“From the time we had confronted the Whitmores all the way to that day, my life was hell. I was an open target for everybody. They were already teasing me, so I thought it wouldn’t make a difference if they were teasing me some more. I was wrong. If I left early from class, someone was waiting to antagonize me. If I stayed over and waited until the halls were cleared, someone was still waiting for me. It’s like they had assignments to get me and they didn’t even go to class until they got me.
“It was little simple stuff at first like gum in my hair, kicking or pushing me on the way down the hall, knocking my books out of my hand, flipping my lunch tray over… just bullying stuff. So, when they were following me home taunting me that day, I didn’t think anything different of it. I wanted them to stop, but what could I do?” Larson nods.
“What happened next, Anastasia?” he says softly. Butterfly closes her eyes.
“I remember feeling something in the back of my head. It was fast—it was like fire… like a hot knife jabbing into my skull. Then I saw… stars or flashes of light or something. I heard ringing… and then, nothing.”
“And what do you remember next?” he asks. She sighs.
“I opened my eyes and it was cold… and dark. I didn’t know where I was at first, but then… I saw the taillights shine in my eyes, and I felt the movement. I knew I was in the trunk of a car.”
She still has her eyes closed. Is she… regressing? Right there on the stand?
“What were you thinking?” Larson asks.
“I was horrified,” she says calmly, a single tear falling down her cheek. “I didn’t know what was going on.” She opens her eyes and looks at Larson. I’m relieved to see that she didn’t regress, but she’s pale as a ghost and she doesn’t look well.
“There’s only one reason to put a live human being in the trunk of a car, and it never ends well. Here I am—a live 15-year-old girl, bound, cold, and in the trunk of a car.”
Her voice is cold and even as another tear streams down her cheek. She wipes the tears away immediately as Larson continued.
“When did you realize what was going on?”
“Not for a while,” she says, her voice failing a bit. “When the trunk opened, all I saw was hoods. I thought I was about to be a human sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. But when they reached into the trunk and pulled me out, I could see that they were… my age—kids. All I could think was, ‘What the hell is happening?’
“Nobody talked to me. They just grabbed me out of the trunk and started dragging me across the grass. My head was still banging from whoever hit me and I couldn’t see anybody. I had tears in my eyes. I was still seeing spots from when they shined the light in my face. I could see the bonfire, though, and I knew it couldn’t be good.” She drops her head.
“I saw some of their faces because they were all wearing hoods, but they weren’t all wearing masks. The two that were wearing masks—I heard their voices. I knew exactly who they were. I begged for my life; I pleaded for them to tell me what I had done wrong…” She grabs the railing of the witness stand. She’s looking for strength, I can tell…
I’ve got you, Butterfly. I’m here. Be strong, baby.
She takes a deep breath and raises her head again. She already looks spent.
“Go on,” Larson says. She begins to worry her scar.
Come on, baby. You can do this.
She clears her throat.
“She got in my face. She said something to me…” Butterfly says.
“Who did?” Larson asks. Butterfly looks up as if to pull strength.
“The one he calls Carly Babe,” she says. She was searching for her words. “She taunted me, she called me a bitch, and then she slapped me. That must have been the ‘go’ signal, because they all came at me after that. The hits were coming from everywhere. They hit me everywhere… everywhere! I don’t know how long this went on. It just seemed like it wouldn’t stop.
There was nowhere to go,” she says, her voice cracking. “My legs and wrists were tied… I tried to roll away… I couldn’t get away. No matter where I tried to roll, a foot or a fist came at me, and they were peeing on me and spitting on me… oh, God…” She whispers the last two words before thrusting her hands into her hair.
“I couldn’t cover my face or my head or my mouth… I just wanted it to stop; I wanted somebody to help me… I called for my mother, but she wasn’t there…” Her words trail off, and she stops for a moment.
“After a while, one hit just ran into the other,” she says. “I was still screaming when the urinating and spitting started, but after a while, I just stopped. I was exhausted and I couldn’t scream anymore. Nobody was listening anyway. Nobody could really hear me. The smell of piss permeated my senses, and I just prayed to hurry up and die. When I felt that first burn, I was surprised that anything could cause more pain than I was already feeling, but I was certain that I was about to get my death wish.”
She’s never explained things to me like this… ever. My stomach is churning, thinking about this ordeal. I know what happened, but I imagined how horrible it must have been from what I’ve learned, heard, and saw. Even now, it’s worse than anything I ever imagine. Larson purses his lips and nods at her.
“Your honor, I like to introduce into evidence state’s exhibit one.” The judge nods and Larson turns to the jury.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see the video of the night in question. You will first see the taped confession of Melanie Coleman, a terminally ill woman who confesses to recording the video live. Please prepare yourselves.”
I’m not ready to see this again. I’ll never be ready to see this again.
“Please remember that deathbed confessions are admissible and not considered hearsay,” Larson says. “These confessions often occur because a dying person wants to live their final days free of secrets they have been concealing throughout their lives. Know that Ms. Coleman died days after she recorded this confession.”
Larson somberly takes his seat as the video begins to play. A frail woman connected to oxygen declares her name and that she recorded the video on March 10, 2001. She introduces some of the people in the video, including her cousin—Carly Madison—but admits that she doesn’t know most of the assailants.
“Today is the day. Today is the day that we send a message to everybody that doesn’t know just how we take care of things in our town. Today is the day that we show that little broke bitch that she can’t fuck with me or my man and get away with it!”
I watch with clenched fists as Carly Madison-Perry and her piece of shit boyfriend, Cody Whitmore, set the scene for the horror that will change my Butterfly’s life forever. I watch the petite young brunette being knocked unconscious and thrown into the back seat of a car.
Ray clears his throat. Amanda gasps.
They were still at the school. Students were everywhere! Nobody did a goddamn thing! Nobody said a thing! Even after the attack… nobody said shit!
There’s a conversation going on like these girls are headed to a slumber party right before the screen goes black… a fucking slumber party!
When the screen comes back, there are about five girls in the frame looking like witches in black on Halloween. They each say some Fuck with us and die type of bullshit before they take my Butterfly out of the trunk of the car. The camera zooms in on her. She’s been crying and she’s absolutely terrified.
I look over at my wife and she’s not paying attention. She’s holding her head down, even turns it away as the video plays, most likely trying to tune it out as much as she can. She leans her head on her hand, blocking her view of the screen. No one looks at her—they’re concentrating, horrified, on the events happening on the screen.
She can’t watch the video. The last time she watched it, she ended up catatonic for several days—but she lived this horror, and she knows exactly what she’s hearing.
The first time I saw this video, I didn’t hear it, but now I do. It’s faint, but it’s heart wrenching. You can barely hear it over the commotion of the vicious crowd—kicking, beating, and desecrating this poor girl—but when you hear it once, it becomes clear, almost like you can’t hear anything else over it…
Jesus, my heart is breaking, and Ray looks as if he could leap out of his seat right now.
The video is nearing the end, getting into the worst part of the attack. Women have begun to cry as they hear her screaming for her “mommy.” I’m getting more and more enraged watching the callous, cold, and unbelievably cruel behavior of these monsters as they torture my Butterfly.
When the searing of her skin can be heard in stereo throughout the courtroom, and her wails of agony rip through my ears and heart, that’s when the vomiting begins, and my Butterfly is not immune. Even after having lived through it, her stomach still can’t take it once the video is played again. I want to rush to her on the stand, but I know that I can’t, and the court has actually supplied barf bags for just such an emergency. Five people lose their breakfast and several others are green in the face watching this display.
It seems like it takes forever for the video to finally end, but it was only a few minutes from the branding to the end of the video. Several of the jurors, the onlookers, and my wife are unable to compose themselves once the video is complete. Sullivan is looking down at the desk and Drake is simply examining the condition of the attendees in the courtroom with a bit of concern.
Yeah, asshole. Just because you can watch that shit without blinking doesn’t mean that every other human being can.
It’s music to my ears when the judge calls a brief recess and the jury is quickly led out of the courtroom.
Butterfly collapses in tears on the stand, having fought to hold herself together as the jury is led away. Why is she trying to be strong now? No one—except that fucking defense attorney—would blame her for falling apart during this time. She leans forward on the railing of the stand and weeps until her body shakes. She did the same thing when she had to identify the people in the video last year. I sprint around the balustrade to get to her taking long strides to get to the witness stand.
“No!” she shrieks, jerking away when I touch her without lifting her head. I’m shocked that she won’t let me touch her, but pretty certain that she wouldn’t let anybody touch her right now. Nonetheless, I turn my gaze—and my rage—towards the defense table. Sullivan still hasn’t raised his head, but when Drake catches my gaze, he immediately turns and begins to confer with his client. You despicable, reprehensible…
“Sir,” Jason says, breaking my gaze from the defense table. He needed to, and I think he knows that.
“Get Alex on the phone,” I say, my voice only loud enough for him to hear me. “I want everything he can get on this guy. This is going to be his swan song.” Jason nods, but doesn’t move. Don’t worry, I won’t kill him. I’m more concerned about Butterfly right now.
“My wife needs ice water,” I say, a little louder, my voice still rugged as Satan, “and a salt packet if you can find it.”
“I’m on it, sir,” he says, and turns to leave.
“I knew this would happen,” the judge says and produces a salt shaker from under his lectern, placing it on the side of his podium. “There’s a vending machine down the hall with water in it.”
“Thank you, your honor,” Jason says and dashes from the courtroom.
“Thank you, sir,” I say. “It’s much appreciated.” He nods and leaves the bench, going to his chambers. I take the salt and wait the eternity for Jason to return with the water. I glare at the defense while my wife weeps in the stand.
“Practiced enough for you?” I hiss at Drake. His brow furrows deeply.
“You’re not supposed to talk to me,” he says finitely.
“Why not?” I seethe. “Court’s not in session. There’s nobody here for your performance now!” No matter what he tries to get the jury to believe, he doesn’t believe that she practiced this reaction any more than I do. There’s no fear in his eyes, but he’s a bit dumbstruck. Sullivan continues to stare at the table in front of him like a good little puppy.
“Chris!” Al is in my line of sight almost immediately. “No,” he says, and that’s all he says.
“Come on, son,” Ray says, walking up next to him. “Let’s check on Annie.”
I’m seeing red. I’m seeing death and carnage and mayhem. I’m so sick of this shit. I’m so sick of my wife going through unnecessary stress and pain, and I’m really sick of Nevada and I’ve only been here for less than a day!
But I have to see about my wife.
I tear my gaze away from the not-so-cocky asshole at the defense table and go over to my wife. I move to the opening on the side of the witness stand to get closer to her, to speak to her before I try to touch her again.
“Baby?” I say, gently. “Baby, it’s me.” She throws her arms around me without looking, sobbing on my shoulder.
“I know, Baby,” I say, gently stroking her back. “I know.” She still says nothing but continues to weep.
“We can ask for a recess until tomorrow…” Larson says approaching us, his voice concerned. I’m just about to agree when my little waif squeaks in my ear.
“No… no… I have to do this… I can’t put it off anymore…” and she continues to weep. I blink the tears back in my eyes and look at Larson.
“She’s going to do it,” I say, just above a whisper. “I don’t know what’s going to happen if I get her out of this courtroom and she doesn’t do this today.”
That’s the truth. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Larson examines me for a while, then nods.
“If you think that’s best,” he says, and he says it to me. I’m a little shocked. I lean in to my wife’s ear.
“Butterfly?” I say softly. She nods feverishly on my shoulder.
“She says, ‘yes,’” I tell him, doing everything I can not to fall apart myself. He nods and walks back to the prosecutor’s table. Jason comes back into the courtroom with two large bottles of water.
“Baby?” I say to my weeping wife. “We gotta pull it together now, okay?” I say. She nods, still sobbing. I pull her back from my shoulder and give her the water. She looks like hell. Her eyes are all puffy; her face looks like it’s going to explode.
Marilyn and Mandy return to the courtroom clinging to each other with Ray right behind them. They look like they’ve been through the wringer, too. I didn’t even know they had left. Ray was just standing next to me a minute ago… wasn’t he? Al looks like he may have shed a few tears himself, but James is clinging tightly to his hand. None of them have seen this video that I know of, and today, they got to see it on a wide screen.
“Ana?” Jason says softly, handing her the salt shaker. She shakes some in her palm and licks it out, letting it sit on her tongue for a while. Her crying has become sniffles, and I hand her my handkerchief to wipe her face. She dries the tears and her face is very red and swollen. Her eyes are so bloodshot that the whites don’t look like they’re there anymore. Jason removes his handkerchief from his pocket and douses it in water, some of it spilling onto the floor, and hands it to Butterfly. She covers her face in the cold, wet cloth and takes several deep breaths to compose herself.
The bailiffs come through with a garbage can and remove all the barf bags, including my wife’s, while she slowly and shakily pulls herself together. When she removes the handkerchief, some of her color has returned, but her eyes are still red, and she still looks like a train wreck.
“Do you want your purse?” I ask. “Your lip gloss?”
“I don’t care how I look,” she says, tying her long hair in a single knot behind her back, the shorter part falling over her shoulders. I stay at the stand with her while people begin to file back into the courtroom.
“Remember, if you feel like you can’t do this…”
“I can do it,” she interrupts me and clears her throat. “I can do it.” I nod and kiss her hand firmly.
“I love you,” I say, cupping her cheek. She swallows.
“I love you, too,” she replies, looking at me with bloodshot eyes. I wet the handkerchief again and wring it dry before giving it back to her with a fresh, dry one from my other pocket. I’m all out of handkerchiefs now. That’s a first.
I stay with her at the stand until the last possible minute when the bailiff tells me that I need to take a seat. I tear myself away from my wife and take my seat behind the prosecution. The same bailiff walks over to my wife and says something. She nods, and the bailiff walks to the door of the judge’s quarters. A few moments later…
… And court is back in session.
“Mr. Larson, would you like to continue with this witness?” The judge says.
“Yes, your honor,” he says, and he walks over to Butterfly.
“The video says it all,” he says, with sympathy. She nods.
“That it does,” she replies.
“Can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”
“Objection, your honor,” Drake says. “With all due respect, the witness has no way of knowing which assailant is Vincent Sullivan if she’s face down on the ground.”
“If it please the court, your honor, I’m getting to how she can tell us which assailant is Vincent Sullivan,” Larson protests.
“I’ll allow it for now. Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods.
“Dr. Grey, did you know Vincent Sullivan?” Larson asks.
“I knew of him,” she says.
“He was in my biology class. I saw him every day. He didn’t stand out or anything, but I saw him, so I knew who he was. He’s also right next to me in the yearbook. I’m Steele; he’s Sullivan.”
“The defense is right,” he says. “You were face down. How do you know who the people were who are behind you?”
“I watched that video more times than I would like, mostly because even though it happened to me, I still can’t believe it’s real. I still can’t believe that a bunch of kids who aren’t old enough to purchase cigarettes are capable of doing something this cruel. Unless someone has given us another video of this event, I’ve watched that boy abuse me more times than I care to discuss.”
“So, once again, I ask you, can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”
“Vincent Sullivan is the guy that branded me the first two times,” she says clearly. “He’s the one that backed away when he heard that I might be dead.”
“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibits 2 – 54.” Larson retrieves a folder and reveals several pictures of Vincent Sullivan on the night of the attack—stills pulled from the video along with his yearbook picture from 2001 and his current mugshots. Like Butterfly, the images haven’t changed much.
Larson also introduces pictures of a broken and battered Butterfly along with pictures of her grotesquely and freshly burned back, accompanied by pictures of the current scarring incorporated into the garden tattoo.
“Dr. Grey, I have to ask. These are some pretty graphic pictures. I can’t even see how someone could survive something like this and yet, you’ve indicated to me that you haven’t had any work done. I think we’d all like to know just to be able to effectively link you to this incident, how can this person that we see so brutally beaten turn out to be this person that we see today?” She sighs heavily, looks down, then raises her gaze back to Larson.
“I’m carrying permanent scars on my back, in my mind, and on my heart. I guess God saw fit not to have me wear them on my face, too.”
A/N: Criminal cases in Clark County normally initiate in the Las Vegas Justice Center and then move to the District Court. For aesthetic and creative reasons, I mention the District Court, but the descriptions of the courthouse and courtroom are the LVJC.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/
Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/
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