Chapter 48 — Convictions
A week in prison hadn’t made it any easier on Hailey.
She may have accepted her new fate, but Hailey still longed to fly. Every day was a grueling test of her willpower, stuck in a row of empty cells with the bright blue sky visible through the bars set high on the walls. The guards chased away a bird trying to build a nest at one point, and it felt so perfectly fitting to her emotional state, Hailey nearly burst into tears right on the spot.
Every time, she remembered Jessica, and every time, she managed to steel herself.
By Friday, Hailey’s only transgression was a half-bent bar in her cell, twisted away in a moment of weakness on the second night after deciding to endure. The guards didn’t mention it, to her relief, but Hailey still felt awful about it. It stood as a reminder, right in her face every waking moment, that she had almost broken again. She’d damaged something around her out of rage and frustration, just like everywhere else, because she felt so disconnected from the world.
Jefferson was her lifeline.
”Winscombe!” called the guard on her block. “Lawyer’s here!”
Hailey swung her legs off the metal bed and got to her feet. She still never needed to clean herself up, thanks to the rituals she and Jessica did in the offices of LRP nearly a month prior, but something about the routine of splashing water on her face and brushing her hair like she used to gave her some comfort. It felt like returning to normal—and normal was the goal.
The guard held out the cuffs, though everybody knew they were largely ceremonial, and Hailey dutifully allowed herself to be chained up. They didn’t subject her to the full treatment, just simple handcuffs, but there were cameras everywhere. No one wanted to give the impression she was getting easy treatment, least of all Hailey herself.
”Why’s every other cell still empty?” asked Hailey.
The guard looked over her shoulder, shocked. Hailey never spoke to the guards, except for when she’d asked them to contact Jefferson on Tuesday.
She shrugged. “Nobody else to hold yet. This block’s only for people who got magic.”
Hailey was curious now, and the guard seemed friendly enough. “Did they give you special training or something to handle it?”
”Oh.” Hailey was a little surprised, but she supposed there hadn’t really been enough time to develop a training course or implement it to the guards. After all, everybody else only found about magic… a month ago.
It’s only been a month. Tomorrow, it’ll be two weeks since… since she died.
It still hurt. Every single moment of the day, it hurt, and Hailey didn’t think it was ever going away. She clutched at the blue streak in her hair, remembering Jessica, her voice, her face, everything. It helped her focus again, kept her calm, kept her strong.
The guard led her into the meeting room and closed the door. A moment later, the cameras clicked off, as usual, and Jefferson hurried in. He was usually here before Hailey, but today, he seemed a little rushed and off-balance—very different from the professional young man she was used to.
”Everything okay?” she asked nervously.
Jefferson set a stack of papers down on the desk, along with the two coffees he’d brought—one for himself, one for her. Hailey sipped it gratefully, still curious how he managed to get them into the prison. As far as she knew, that wasn’t allowed, but Jefferson still got around it somehow. She hoped that was an indication of a great lawyer, or at least, somebody who knew how to work the system.
”Yes, I’m fine,” said Jefferson. He took a seat, though he was clearly still distracted. “I have your pre-trial interview transcript. It looks great, Hailey. You… I’m sorry, it was right here…”
He dug through his papers, looking a little lost.
”…Seriously, Jefferson,” said Hailey uncomfortably. “What’s going on?”
Jefferson looked up. “I’m sorry?”
”You just called me Hailey, and you look totally lost. I think we’re friends by this point, aren’t we?”
”As much as I can be with a client,” said Jefferson. He sighed and stopped shuffling through papers. “I’m sorry. I’ve taken on a much larger caseload than usual while my firm is allocating more resources out here, and coordinating with other practices. Your case is complicated enough, and we’ve picked up another in the meantime.”
”I can’t give you any more details than what’s available to the general public, but yes. We’re now representing Rika Nishimura. I believe she’s a friend of yours?”
”Oh!” Hailey nodded. “Yes. So Alden must’ve given her your number?”
”I believe so. I’ve just come from a meeting with her and Special Agent Ashe.”
”That’s great!” Hailey smiled. “I’m glad you’re working for her too. She needs it.”
”…Right,” said Jefferson with a knowing look. “I sincerely apologize for the lack of professionalism here though. Your case is my top priority, as your lawyer. I’m merely acting point for Miss Nishimura until my firm can get more personnel out here.”
”Makes sense.” Hailey grinned. “Guess you’re not leaving D.C. anytime soon. How’s the husband feel about that?”
Jefferson coughed politely into a handkerchief. “Well, he’s enjoying the museums for now. We’ll see how long that lasts.” He opened the folders again and shuffled through with much greater purpose than before. “Ah, here we are. Your pre-trial interview. As I said, excellent. I think this will play very well in front of the judge.”
”And this is part of the bail hearing, right?”
”Precisely. We’ll be going to the courtroom later today. Are you prepared for that?”
Hailey nodded, not even slightly trying to hide her trepidation. She wanted to follow the rules, but if she had any chance of getting out until the trial date, she was going for it.
Jefferson handed over another set of papers to Hailey. “You can take these back with you. I want you to review them as many times as you can until I come back later. The hearing is set for four-fifteen.”
She glanced down the list. It included the statements she’d worked out with Jefferson previously, an accounting of the crimes she was suspected or accused of, general court etiquette, and a list of support in favor of her temporary release until the arraignment and trial. As Hailey looked down the list, her eyes watered up, as a huge wave of emotion pressed up into her chest and throat.
It was a list of people who had sent in official support or otherwise declared her a responsible and good-hearted individual. Her mother topped the list, followed by her father, Jeremy, Alden, Weston and Rupert, Cinza, Sheriff Jackie, Josh, and a whole long list of names she didn’t recognize, stretching on and on down the page and onto the back.
Jefferson spoke softly as a tear dropped off Hailey’s face. “Residents from the building fire who owe you their lives, a few of those you rescued in the Tacoma hostage incident, and some residents of Seattle whom you saved on the streets.”
He gently lifted the paper up and showed a handwritten letter underneath. “This is from the young man you pulled from a collapsing house in Lakewood. He sent it to your mother, who passed it along to me.”
Hailey tried to read it, but her vision was so blurry, she couldn’t make out a single word. “Thank you,” she choked out.
”And you don’t even need to fix your makeup for the trial,” added Jefferson with a smile. Hailey choked out a chuckle between the tears, too overcome with emotion to properly laugh. “I think you’re ready. We’ll be leaving here at four o’clock. Be ready, okay?”
”Nowhere else to be,” said Hailey with another pained laugh.
Jefferson nodded. “See you later, Miss Winscombe.”
They brought her some clothes her mother had sent over. Hailey knew they must be restricting all visitors besides her lawyer, because there was no earthly way her mother would have settled without trying at least six different outfits for the most professional, neutral outfit to wear in front of the court.
Dressed in a simple pencil skirt, blouse and cardigan, Hailey barely felt like herself in the mirror. She was always more of a jeans-and-jacket girl, but she knew this was all about appearances. An outfit like this spoke professionalism and calm—and Hailey was trying to convince them she wasn’t the unhinged timebomb the opposition painted her as.
The guard returned, and once again, Hailey was cuffed and escorted, this time out of the building entirely. They walked out of the gates, down to a surprisingly comfortable car, and were whisked away to the court building. To her surprise, there wasn’t a single protestor on the route.
Guess they managed to keep it secret I was getting my hearing today.
As they pulled up to the court, though, Hailey saw her folly—they were waiting for her.
It looked like a Hollywood premiere. Ropelines with police officers at regular intervals made a pseudo-red carpet up the court steps. Protestors filled each side, once again in equal numbers loving or hating her. Hailey didn’t want either group. She just wanted to go back, but the guard prodded her forward. Hailey started the long walk, as her ears were full of incomprehensible shouting.
Why did I ever want this? People screaming at me from every direction. I liked being in the center, but not… not like this.
As soon as they got inside, Hailey breathed a sigh of relief.
”You and me both,” muttered the guard. She took the cuffs off Hailey, now that they were out of sight of the cameras. “Straight through that door,” she added, nodding toward a side door near the main court. “Lawyer’s waitin’ in there.”
”Thank you,” said Hailey, trying to smile. The guard nodded, then took a seat on a bench near the door and grabbed a nearby newspaper.
Hailey hurried in to the room, where Jefferson waited, now with a proper briefcase instead of the simple paper folders he was allowed to bring into the prison. He glanced at his watch and smiled.
”Right on time, for once.”
”Oh, not you, Miss Winscombe.” He smiled. “Whenever I’ve had the police escort someone to the court, they are always late. It actually works to my advantage sometimes.” He glanced toward the side door, leading into the proper courtroom. “Are you ready?”
”…Yes,” said Hailey, after a moment of deep breathing.
Jefferson led her into the courtroom. It was huge, with a full balcony level above the main gallery, and it was packed. Reporters lined the upper floor in every direction. Hailey breathed a sigh of relief that they weren’t allowed cameras or recording devices—she’d had enough of being on camera all the time for a while. As her eyes fell down to the main level, she felt another huge wave of emotion crash through her.
Her mother sat right in the front row, her father next to her. Rupert and Weston both sat one seat down. Hailey hadn’t seen any of them since…
She choked up again. She nearly broke into a run, but managed to restrain herself as soon as she spotted the court officers lining the room. Walking past the sea of faces she didn’t recognize, Hailey beelined for her mother.
Stephanie had no such reservations. She practically leapt out of the bench and ran to meet Hailey, burying her in a hug.
”Hi, Mom,” said Hailey, feeling a distinct sense of déjà vu.
”Oh, honey…” Stephanie whispered into her hair. “Are you okay? Are they treating you well?”
”Yes.” She hugged her back. “I gotta go, Mom. I love you.”
Hailey stepped away, very conscious of how long she’d been simply standing in the aisle. They only had so long before the judge arrived, and she needed to be in position first. She waved to the rest of her family on the row, before following Jefferson through the little gate and into the front of the courtroom—right on time, as the judge arrived through the chamber doors.
”All rise!” called the bailiff. “The Honorable Judge Holden Whitney presiding!” They all stood up as the robed man walked in.
”Okay,” said Judge Whitney, settling down in his seat on the bench, and the rest of the room mirrored him. He glanced at the bailiff. “Are we all ready?”
The jury box was empty, of course, since they weren’t in a real trial yet, but Hailey did get her first look at the federal prosecution—and despite everything she could do, she felt intimidated. The prosecutor was a sharp-dressed, charismatic-looking man who practically exuded confidence and strength. More importantly, he seemed hostile to her from the moment she walked in, and Agent Aderholt sat next to him with an equally unfriendly expression.
”Criminal action 18-196, the United States of America versus Hailey Winscombe. Will counsel please rise and identify themselves for the record?”
The prosecutor stood first, as had been outlined in Hailey’s etiquette guide. “Good afternoon, Your Honor. Anthony Goldstein of the Department of Justice representing the United States. With me is FBI Special Agent Michael Aderholt.”
”Good afternoon to you both,” said the judge.
Jefferson stood up and straightened his tie slightly. “Good afternoon, Your Honor. Jefferson Baux on behalf of Miss Winscombe.”
”Good afternoon,” said the judge. He glanced down at his notes, before looking up at the defense table—directly at Hailey. “Would the defendant please rise and identify herself to the court?”
Hailey got to her feet, suddenly feeling unsteady and off-balance. She flexed her wings, barely brushing the back of Jefferson’s head, and cleared her throat. “Good afternoon, your honor. Hailey Aurora Elizabeth Winscombe.”
”Thank you, Miss Winscombe.” Whitney smiled down at her, and managed to make it feel friendly without being condescending. He looked sympathetic, in fact. “It’s all right. This is all just procedure.”
”Thank you, sir.” Hailey took a seat again while the judge returned to his notes.
”As I understand it, both parties have prepared evidence for their arguments regarding release, including documentation, video recordings, and witness testimony. Is this correct?”
”Yes, Your Honor,” said Goldstein, and Jefferson echoed him a moment later.
Hailey frowned. Who’d they be calling to testify against me getting released? Aderholt? Brian Hendricks?
Judge Whitney matched her own frown as he glanced over the list of documentation. “I’d like to remind both parties that this is not yet a criminal trial, and all arguments made today should be solely concerned with Miss Winscombe’s potential as a flight risk or otherwise avoiding the responsibilities of the court.”
She felt a sinking feeling as the judge spoke. Jefferson had warned her of the possibility that a great deal of their assembled support might be thrown out, since it was made by those who couldn’t properly speak to either of those traits—and in fact, they’d taken a few out themselves, since Hailey had failed to stick around for emergency personnel and fled the scene.
”With that in mind, Mr. Goldstein,” said the judge, turning to the prosecution, “please open the state’s position.”
”Thank you, Your Honor,” said the prosecutor. He got to his feet. “Miss Winscombe was a model citizen. Perfect grades, perfect attendance, perfect record. However, something changed this year. By now, we’re all aware what took place in Rallsburg and the new discoveries made there. We’re also aware of the ‘awakening’ process, and how it changes an individual forever.”
”Objection, relevance,” said Jefferson.
”Overruled.” To Hailey’s surprise, nobody seemed particularly upset by this sudden interjection. The judge seemed to have expected it, and Jefferson likewise had barely reacted to his objection being thrown out.
”Awakening is a permanent and irreversible process by which an individual gains access to magic, and changes them physically and mentally in ways we don’t yet understand. Since awakening, the defendant’s life has shifted in every aspect.”
”With this in mind, the prosecution motions that, given the clear segmentation of the defendant’s life around this single event and the significant change which may have permanently altered her mental state, all evidence and testimony prior to her awakening is irrelevant to determining her release eligibility and should be barred.”
”Objection, hearsay,” said Jefferson, a little more urgently this time.
The judge didn’t react immediately this time. He straightened his glasses, looking down at the prosecution. “Is this the purpose of your first exhibit, Mr. Goldstein?”
”Yes, Your Honor. May we approach the bench?”
Jefferson got to his feet, and the two lawyers hurried up to the judge’s side. Hailey forced herself not to fidget, since the judge was still occasionally glancing over at her during their conversation. She was tempted to listen in using magic, but thought better of it.
Follow the rules, Hailey. That’s the whole point of being here.
Judge Whitney was flipping through some pages on his desk, and Goldstein was pointing and talking rapidly. Jefferson didn’t look happy.
Hailey felt anxiety rising in her chest. She glanced over her shoulder at her mother, but Stephanie nodded back to the front pointedly. Hailey turned back around just as Jefferson was leaving the bench again—and he looked even worse than before.
”After reviewing the expert witness testimony, I’m inclined to agree with the prosecution,” said Judge Whitney. “All witnesses and evidence prior to the defendant’s stated awakening date of January twenty eighteen is not permitted in this hearing. You may re-submit this testimony at the arraignment, Mr. Baux.”
”I’d like to enter my strong objection for hearsay into the record, Your Honor,” said Jefferson. “The expert testimony is from the employee of an individual with significant cause to hate the defendant.”
”Overruled, Mr. Baux. I sympathize, but the argument is compelling and immediately relevant, and comes from a respected member of the scientific community.” The judge glanced back at the prosecutor. “You may continue.”
Hailey’s heart sank. Her mother, Weston, and any other support she’d pulled together from old friends and teachers was useless. Apparently, awakening was being treated like some disease, making her unstable. She wondered who the expert witness was, and why he’d have reason to hate her. Jefferson had the information, but he must not have expected it to be taken seriously, and hadn’t highlighted it to her for review.
She dug through the papers on their desk while the prosecutor outlined Hailey’s crimes to the judge, giving a blow-by-blow recounting for everything she’d been accused of. In Jefferson’s neatly outlined case notes, she found it—a new paper about magic’s effects on the brain, written by Dr. Wilson Kleiner. Hailey had never heard of him, but Jefferson had helpfully notated the important piece for her: Dr. Kleiner was an employee of Culver-Malton Group.
Hailey suppressed a sigh. Of course Malton wasn’t going to let her get off easy. He was in plenty of hot water on the other side of the Atlantic, but rich people were always petty, and they’d expected some kind of interference. This was probably just the start.
”…indirectly responsible for the death of Jessica Silverdale.”
Her face shot up to look at the prosecutor. She didn’t disagree, but she hadn’t expected them to bring it up.
”Is the state prepared to call its first witness?” asked the judge.
”Yes, Your Honor.” Goldstein cleared his throat. “The state calls Beth Silverdale to the stand.”
Hailey’s heart froze. She’d seen the Silverdales’ names on the long, long list of potential witnesses, but she and Jefferson agreed it was incredibly unlikely either Silverdale would make an appearance—and if they did, it would have been in her favor. Yet… here Beth was, walking down the aisle to the front of the courtroom, called by the opposition.
”Please state your name for the record,” said the bailiff.
”Bethany Silverdale,” said Beth, her eyes never straying near Hailey at the defense table.
”Do you solemnly affirm to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, under the pains and penalties of perjury?”
”You may be seated.”
”Miss Silverdale, I’d like to remind you that this hearing is solely concerned with the assessment of flight risk for the defendant, and as previously stated, all testimony prior to January of this year is non-admissible. This goes for everyone in the court,” he added, glancing at the two lawyers. “Keep it on point, gentlemen. We aren’t on trial yet.” He nodded at Goldstein. “Go ahead, Mr. Goldstein.”
”Miss Silverdale,” said the prosecutor, walking out into the middle of the court, “would you please state for the court your place of residence?”
”I don’t have one,” she replied—and Hailey could hear the undercurrent of rage in every syllable, of sheer hatred suppressed to tiny inflections on every word she spoke.
”What do you mean?”
”I’m homeless. I currently live somewhere provided to me.”
”And why are you homeless?”
”Objection,” said Jefferson, though both he and Hailey knew it was pointless. “Relevance.”
”Overruled,” said Judge Whitney, sounding bored.
”Because my home burned down,” said Beth.
”Where did you previously live?” asked the prosecutor.
”And it burned down?”
”On May fifteenth of this year, all because of her friends.”
”Objection, hearsay,” said Jefferson.
”Sustained,” said Judge Whitney. “Miss Silverdale, can you confirm firsthand that the defendant or anyone she directly associates with was responsible for your home being destroyed?”
”No, Your Honor.”
”Please keep your testimony strictly to that which you personally witnessed and can confirm.” Whitney turned back to the prosecutor. “Mr. Goldstein?”
”After your home was destroyed, where did you live?”
”A house in Tacoma, provided to us by a rich friend.”
”And who lived there?”
”Me, my husband Malcolm, my daughter Jessica and her best friend, Hailey.”
”By Hailey, are you referring to the defendant?”
”Yes.” Beth raised a hand and pointed at her, though her eyes still didn’t quite reach Hailey’s. If they actually looked at one another, Haily wasn’t sure how she’d react. Beth… what are you doing? Do you hate me that much? “That’s her.”
”Let the record show Miss Silverdale has identified the defendant Hailey Winscombe.”
”So noted,” said the judge.
”How long did you live with the defendant?”
”From May 16th until Thursday, November 22nd.”
”The 22nd is the same day Hailey flew across the ocean and illegally entered London, correct?”
”Objection,” said Jefferson. “Leading the witness.”
”Sustained,” said Judge Whitney. He glanced at Goldstein and straightened his glasses. “Mr. Goldstein, please rephrase the question.”
”Miss Silverdale, what happened on the 22nd that you stopped living with the defendant?”
”We had a funeral for my daughter,” said Beth, and now there was real venom in her voice. “Hailey flew out of the funeral and by the next day, she was in London. She hasn’t returned since.”
”So you lived with her for over six months?”
”And would you say she acted responsibly in that time?”
”It depends on what you mean.” Beth shrugged. “She left and came home at insane hours of the night, she dragged my crippled daughter across the state through mid-air, and she put them in more physical danger than most people witness in their lives.”
”Objection, hearsay,” said Jefferson quickly.
”Overruled,” said Judge Whitney.
Goldstein already looked satisfied, but he knew he had the room on the edge of its seat. Every single person in the audience was dead silent listening to Beth speak. Hailey clutched the edges of her chair, her fingers digging into the fabric unconsciously, terrified of every word.
And this is just the bail hearing!
”Miss Silverdale, are you aware of the typical conditions for a pre-trial release?”
”Well, the first major concern is the defendant’s criminal history and presence of violent crimes in particular. Given the previously outlined charges, I won’t go over this again. Second, the nature and circumstances of these crimes—whether or not they have relevance to being a flight risk.”
”Objection, relevance,” said Jefferson. “This has nothing to do with the witness.”
”…Overruled,” said Judge Whitney, a bit less certain than usual. “Continue, Mr. Goldstein, but make sure you’re still on target here.”
”Yes, Your Honor. Miss Silverdale,” said Goldstein, turning to her again, “one of the defendant’s accused crimes, which you mentioned earlier, is her illegal entry into London. How did she accomplish that?”
”Objection,” said Jefferson.
”Sustained,” said Judge Whitney, before Jefferson could even explain his reasoning. “Mr. Goldstein, unless you’re suggesting the witness also managed the same unprecedented feat, she most certainly could not have been present for the accused crime. Rephrase your question.”
”Miss Silverdale,” said Goldstein again, “could you please tell us the story of Hailey’s departure on November the twenty-second?”
”We were at my daughter’s funeral,” said Beth—and again, the sheer pain in those three words struck Hailey’s core like snapping a taut cord. “Hailey was late, everybody else had already arrived. We found out she was up on the roof. She finally came in after we’d been waiting probably thirty minutes, and we started the service. Except Hailey, after only six minutes or so, decided she couldn’t stay. Using magic, she made every single window and door in the church slam open, then flew out of the building. As far as I know, she flew straight from there to London.”
”Thank you, Miss Silverdale.” The prosecutor turned to the judge. “Late to important functions, leaving in fits of rage, and ignoring world boundaries and procedures, while holding extreme physical power and the ability to transport herself across countries and oceans without any assistance. The defendant poses an extreme flight risk.”
”And she killed my daughter,” Beth snapped.
A gasp rolled through the whole audience.
”Objec—” Jefferson started, but the judge cut him off.
”Miss Silverdale, you will restrain yourself to only answering the questions asked by the prosecutor or the defense. Is that understood?”
”Yes, your honor,” said Beth—but then she turned to look Hailey in the eye, and as the judge looked away, her mouth twitched into a vindictive smile, eyes burning with sheer hatred for the girl sitting across the courtroom.
Hailey leapt to her feet before she could stop herself.
”Take that back,” she growled.
”Miss Winscombe!” said the judge sternly. “You will be seated.”
”Hailey,” hissed Jefferson, gently grasping her arm.
Hailey allowed herself to be lowered back to her chair, though her eyes hadn’t left Beth’s for a moment. Only a strand of blue hair, which had fallen just far enough to be in front of her eyes, held Hailey back from flying across the room and shoving Beth up against a wall.
I’m sorry. I let her get into that situation, and I wasn’t fast enough to save her. But I didn’t kill her. Never that.
”My client would like to apologize for the outburst,” said Jefferson politely.
”Is that true?” asked the judge, looking pointedly at Hailey.
Don’t let her get to you. Remember Jessica. Remember your promise.
Hailey tore her eyes away from Beth and looked up at the judge. “Yes, your honor. I apologize for speaking out of turn.”
”Thank you.” The judge glanced at the bailiff. “Miss Silverdale, any other comments like that and you will be removed from this courtroom. I will not allow you to provoke the defendant.” He turned to Goldstein. “Proceed.”
”No further questions, Your Honor,” said Goldstein, a touch smug, but still with the typical courtroom professionalism.
Judge Whitney nodded. “Your witness, Mr. Baux.”
”A moment, your Honor?” asked Jefferson.
The judge nodded.
Jefferson leaned in to Hailey, covering up the microphone on their table, and dropped his voice to a whisper. “Hailey, I’m sorry.”
”For what?” asked Hailey, and realized a half-second later he’d called her by her first name again.
”You’re not getting bail.”
”We can’t win here. He’s going to line up every condition in order, and you can’t beat a single one. You have a huge list of criminal charges, you can fly, you have no permanent residence, no job, you’re not in school, and you have a history of impulsive actions they can back up.”
”…So what do I do?” asked Hailey, her stomach sinking more with every single word.
”We skip the rest of this. The judge is already annoyed with Goldstein, while we’ve played by the rules. If we keep going, we’re just dragging out the inevitable, and we’ve got a whole trial that hasn’t even started yet. I think we should start appealing to the judge and getting him on our side, and one way to do that is cooperating with the basic procedures.”
”I accept jail without any more protest, he likes me more because I didn’t waste his day?”
Hailey winced. “That’s…”
”I know.” Jefferson shrugged. “That’s how it works. It’s my best advice for you.”
She glanced briefly at her mother, doing her best not to start crying again. After a few seconds, Hailey finally nodded. “Okay.”
Jefferson turned to the judge. “Your Honor, the defense rests.”
To Hailey’s satisfaction, they seemed to have caught Goldstein off guard—and Judge Whitney as well. Beth was dismissed from the stand and hurried out of the room by the bailiff.
”Mr. Goldstein, you may call—”
”Your Honor,” interrupted Jefferson. “My apologies, but may we approach the bench?”
”…Approach,” said Judge Whitney, now visibly curious.
Hailey sat back in her chair, while Jefferson negotiated accepting continued imprisonment for her. She closed her eyes and tried to memorize every single bit of what she felt in that moment—the air, the clothes, the chair, the feeling of the place. It would be the last time she’d have that sort of freedom for a long, long time, if she understood anything about how trials worked.
Just like that, it was over. The judge briefly explained that he’d decided Hailey was, indeed, a flight risk, and could not be released to anyone’s custody, least of all her own. After all, nobody could possibly ensure she would visit court, since she could not be restrained. He went over every condition Jefferson had mentioned again, but Hailey was already tuning him out.
The cuffs went back on. Hailey gave her mother one last look, trying to smile confidently, but it was all for nothing. Stephanie was crying, her father was hugging her mother, Weston and Rupert looked like they’d been struck dumb.
Hailey walked from the courtroom, back into the sea of cameras, back into the prison van, back into her captivity.
She didn’t return to her cell right away. Instead, she was granted an additional session with Jefferson, discussing their next steps. It was now getting pretty late, and the windows were completely dark—fitting, that the sky vanished along with Hailey’s hopes of flying again any time soon.
Jefferson left after explaining the next parts of the trial process—she’d be arraigned, where they’d formally charge her with everything and set the real trial date. Usually, the arraignment and bail hearing happened at the same time, but they wanted to go through all the pomp and circumstance for her, take every single step one at a time, with the media circus surrounding the whole affair.
I thought mine was supposed to be the low-key one. Wasn’t Rika the big deal? I mean, I don’t want her to be treated like this either, but… ugh. I just want to go through this without feeling like the whole world is watching.
Hailey nearly laughed at the self-contradiction. Here she was, the party girl, the one everybody called a social queen, friends with everyone, always the center of attention—and she didn’t want anyone to see her.
Because it hurts so much. Because I’m on trial for the worst days of my life.
Jefferson left shortly afterward. He had a meeting with the prosecution, where they’d start discussing plea bargains. Hailey wasn’t necessarily going to get one—again, pomp and circumstance—but if Jefferson could reach a reasonable agreement, she definitely might take it. After so much chaos, Hailey just wanted to have her life settle down again.
Remember when it was just me and you living alone, Jess? Nobody else in our whole world for months and months. I hated it, but you probably loved it so much. Why couldn’t I see how nice that was?
Oh. Right. Because I was blaming myself for your ritual going wrong. Because we were in hiding, and we turned out to be right, ’cause he ended up burning down the whole town.
Hailey wanted to go back to that home now. She knew it was impossible—the building had been ripped apart by the magnetic ritual—but still. She’d give anything to be in her old bed, Jessica wrapped up next to her, with nothing to worry about besides work and school and trying to find a solution to Jessica’s ritual.
The guard took her back to her cell and left her alone again. Hailey felt exhausted. Something about prison messed with her body, made her more tired than usual. She spent more time sleeping every day. When the guard left, Hailey fell onto the bed and was asleep in minutes, back to the nightmares she still faced every night—of chains and quicksand and any number of other traps which might forever ground her.
Hours later, she was awakened by a rapping sound on her bars. The lights suddenly snapped on, flooding the cell block with light.
”Winscombe,” said the guard. “Lawyer’s back.”
Bleary-eyed, Hailey glanced around. Her clock said it was past eleven.
”Special exemption ’cause his schedule is insane. Take it while you can, trust me. Come on, up and at ’em.”
They did the whole routine again—cuffs, the walk, the cameras, the interview room. Jefferson didn’t arrive right away, leaving Hailey alone in the interview room for a while. She paced back and forth, grateful for the larger space to move around in, but it still wasn’t much. Finally, after many minutes, just as Hailey considered calling the guard back in, Jefferson arrived.
”I’m so sorry for the delay, Miss Winscombe,” said Jefferson, folders packed between his arms.
”What happened?” asked Hailey, now seriously worried. If Jefferson was this harried, something huge had to have happened. So far, every time she’d worked with him, he hadn’t been phased in the slightest. Did someone die? Another one of us picked up for a trial? Is he working with Cinza now?
”Hm?” Jefferson looked confused. “Oh, I’m sorry. No, nothing happened. However, I think it’s important I keep you in the loop on the plea negotiations. We haven’t really had time to go over how pleas work, and what expectations we should set here.”
”…Okay.” Hailey hesitated, glancing at the clock on the wall. “You’re just here so late, and they said it was a special exception.”
”Well, it is for the prison procedure.” Jefferson shrugged. “I’ve worked stranger hours before on a case, and I assumed you’d welcome the distraction.”
”So this is just you being really busy?”
”More or less.” He smiled. “If you’re worried about my health, I’ve got colleagues arriving tomorrow to start taking over Rika’s case.”
”Are they as good as you?” asked Hailey. “Because she needs it more than me.”
”They are.” Jefferson looked a little taken aback. He quickly shuffled through his papers before looking up again. “So far, the prosecutor is being obstinate about your charges, but I’m fairly certain the state will drop nearly all of them. Goldstein will be a problem, but I’ve been in contact with other members of the DOJ, and I’m told they want to end this quietly without any significant punishment for you.”
”So what’s wrong with Goldstein?”
”He’s not one to let go easily.” Jefferson sighed. “I’ve only heard of him by reputation, but I know he doesn’t like pleas, even though that’s practically our entire justice system these years. It’s the only way we can still function, really.” He shuffled around another paper with an outline on Goldstein, sliding it over to Hailey. “It’s why they chose him.”
”What do you mean?” asked Hailey, while she started skimming the profile.
”They wanted someone beyond reproach, so the public won’t think they’re giving you an easy trial. Goldstein is who they came up with, and make no mistake, he’s going to put you through the ringer.”
Hailey winced. By all the accounts Jefferson’s firm dug up, it seemed true. Goldstein was going to want to put her through a whole trial, no pleading out early. She could be in prison for months during the trial process, since she’d already been denied bail.
It’s what needs to happen. I can get through it.
”…Okay,” she said finally.
”I’ll be working on the plea bargains though. We might be able to get something through quickly, especially since bail was denied. That helps fulfill the image you’re being treated seriously. You’ll spend more time in prison now to get out sooner, all right?”
”We should discuss what timeframes sound acceptable to you. I’ve outlined similar cases here, to give us some ideas for what this sort of charge can plead out to, but obviously, there’s no such thing as true precedent here…”
Jefferson kept speaking, but Hailey had gotten distracted. She’d been practicing enhancing her hearing while in the prison, since she was so isolated and wanted any kind of stimulation or distraction while stuck in her cell. It became a habit, and now she did it during conversations simply to keep an ear out for possible danger while talking.
Something caught her attention. The guard in the next room was watching something on TV, and they’d just mentioned a few words in the same sentence which set her heart pumping.
”Olympic Forest… awakened… golems… massacre…”
”Stop,” said Hailey suddenly, cutting Jefferson off mid-sentence.
”I know it sounds rough, but—”
She waved him silent, squinting at the doorway. She couldn’t see through, of course, but something about the motion helped her focus on the sounds wafting through the door. The cold metal chair, a stark contrast to the soft fabric of the courtroom, only added to the shivers running up her skin as the news report continued.
”Governor Ashe deployed the National Guard to the region, under the command of Captain Hoskins. Working with Cinza and the awakened, the Guard were able to drive back the assault and save the lives of dozens still present in the camp. CNN brings you now exclusive footage from a reporter who happened to be on-scene during the attack.”
Hailey leapt to her feet and ran to the door, pressing her face against the window. Only half of the screen was visible, but thanks to her magic, she could make it out perfectly. It was a video of the pilgrim camp in full swing, as the amateur reporter CNN had bought the footage from tried—and failed—to find Cinza after stalking her home from D.C.
”What?” asked Jefferson, sounding fearful.
”Brian Hendricks just attacked somebody. They said something about a massacre.”
”Oh God…” he murmured. “What are you doing now?”
”There’s a TV I can see from here.” Hailey went quiet again as the video abruptly shifted in tone.
A gunshot, and then another, and suddenly the massacre was in full swing. The guard leaned forward, as if watching an exciting movie. Hailey felt sick, but tried to ignore it. She watched the golems, she watched as the reporter desperately tried to catch the action on his phone, even though people were dying all around him.
”They’re killing everyone out there…” Hailey murmured.
”How bad?” asked Jefferson.
”I don’t know…”
She saw Cinza and Makoto sprint past. Ruby was visible a few moments later with Hector, both absolutely terrified. People she knew, ducking bullets, throwing fire and objects, making shields and barriers, doing anything to hide from the hail of gunfire shredding the camp. It was utter chaos.
If any of them… if they die out there while I’m stuck here…
A wolf howled, and a girl darted across the screen accompanied by a huge chunk of wood. The camera tried to follow her for a moment, but it couldn’t keep up, and there was no way anyone could identify her—anyone who didn’t know her already.
Even Natalie’s there… and so’s her dad if the golems are there. Oh my god…
Eventually, the National Guard soldiers started showing up. The reporter kept trying to film them, but soldiers waved him off while they set up a perimeter and fired back at Brian’s line. Finally, someone managed to scare him off, and the reporter signed off under the cover of a half-collapsed tent, returning it back to the CNN talking heads.
I can’t stay here.
Hailey was halfway to the skylight window before Jefferson spoke up.
”You can’t go.”
”If you leave,” said Jefferson slowly, “and you break out of custody here, you will never be free. They won’t give you any kind of leniency the second time around, and nobody will be looking to cooperate anymore. You’ll most certainly be in prison for decades, if not life.”
“They’re dying,” said Hailey, her voice cracking. “I just watched people get shot and killed. Massacred.“
”And it’s a terrible tragedy,” said Jefferson, shaking his head. He really did look sincerely in pain, which calmed Hailey down somewhat. “I’ve no doubt if you joined them, you could save some lives, but you’ve fought Mr. Hendricks and his forces before. You couldn’t beat him. What’s different now?”
”I…” What’s different is that Jessica’s gone… so he’s right. I’m even worse off now than I was.
”Stay here. You’re still doing good. You’re setting precedent. We’re creating a whole new legal system to handle the awakened and magic. It needs to be done right, and you’re the perfect person to start with. Everything you did was with good intention and just motivations, and at the end of the day, you never seriously hurt anyone.”
”…I came really close,” murmured Hailey. She took a step away from the skylight, and then another.
Jefferson nodded. “Show them you’ve changed. Stay here.”
Hailey took a deep breath. She took one final step and sat back down in the chair. Jefferson sighed, and Hailey did right along with him. Neither of them spoke another word about it, getting back into the case, into Hailey’s future trial, and all the challenges she’d face in the days to come.
Hailey went to sleep with the full expectation of tossing and turning all night, worried about what might have happened in Washington, if anyone she knew had died. When she finally did drift off, she didn’t sleep well, but for two entirely different reasons. The first was Beth Silverdale’s face, leering at her from the witness box, vindictive and victorious, finally getting her own form of justice for all of Hailey’s transgressions.
She treated her own daughter horribly… Jessica moved in with me because they kicked her out.
She’d gone over that with Jefferson, and pointed out that Weston could testify to that effect, as could—and she mentioned him with great reluctance—Ian Wong, whom Jessica had lived with until turning to Hailey. Jefferson thought it might be useful, but discrediting one character witness when they had so much more to deal with wasn’t something worth focusing on.
Hailey privately disagreed, but he was the legal expert. She was out of her depth. She studied business in college.
I wonder if I’ll ever work a desk job in my life. Probably not. People like me don’t really end up in normal offices. Sorry, Mom. Guess I’m not following in your footsteps after all.
The second reason for Hailey’s lack of sleep wasn’t in her head at all. It was another unexpected visitor to her cell in the morning, well after the sun had risen.
”Hailey,” whispered a voice nearby.
Hailey’s eyes slid open. She wondered why she’d managed to awaken so peacefully, despite the apparent presence of someone in her cell. Yet, the moment she heard that voice, she knew she was safe. With that voice, Hailey was safer than she’d ever been in her life—because despite how much she hated her own power, Beverly Bensen was that powerful.
”Hi, Beverly,” said Hailey. She pulled herself to a sitting position against the hard brick wall, and glanced down at her plain and scratchy prison clothes. “Like my new outfit?”
”…I wanted to come see you sooner.”
”You’re busy and I’m not exactly the nicest person to talk to lately,” said Hailey. “I get it, seriously.”
”Okay.” Beverly shuffled slightly in place, seeming to shrink again. Hailey patted the seat next to her on the bed, and Beverly took it. Hailey put an arm around her, just as she might have done for Jessica, and Beverly leaned in. “Thanks.”
”…Yes. I’m just… last night was exhausting.”
”What do you mean?”
”Keeping them alive,” murmured Beverly.
Hailey raised an eyebrow. “Them? I thought—”
”My brother and sister are there.”
”Alden and Meg are there?” asked Hailey, shocked.
”Yes. I don’t know why. I… wait, you know?”
”I listened in on a TV in the guard room last night.” Hailey shook her head. “Don’t worry about me. You protected them all night?”
”Yes… Alden nearly got shot so many times… Meg too… Neither of them know the other one’s there. I’m really worried about them.”
”Why don’t you tell them?” asked Hailey finally, breaking a months-long embargo. She’d been dying to ask that question for so long, but held back because she wasn’t sure where she stood with Beverly yet. Now, though, she felt like Beverly was being foolish. Her siblings deserved to know the truth.
”What if they—”
”They’ll get it. Alden will get it,” said Hailey impatiently. “After everything we’ve been through? Your brother’s a smart guy, Beverly.”
”I don’t want to put them in danger.”
Hailey snorted. “‘Cause that’s worked out really well so far.”
”They’re like I was…” said Beverly quietly.
She leaned against Hailey slightly. It reminded her so much of Jessica, Hailey’s throat choked up—but as always, Jessica was a source of warmth, while Beverly was always cold, always distant, even if she sat only a few inches away.
”I was so curious. I read the book without a second thought. Same as Alden. When I saw him… when I saw the page in his hand…”
”You did it though.”
”What was I supposed to do?” asked Beverly. “it was either let him die or let him go through the same nightmare I did.”
”It’s not a nightmare,” said Hailey firmly.
”…It’s not,” agreed Beverly finally. “But…”
”I get it, you’re afraid. But you can’t keep this up forever. Scraps are going to keep spreading, you’re gonna get even busier. Nobody else can awaken people, since nobody else knows the book like you do,” said Hailey.
”They’ll be okay,” said Hailey, and hugged her a little tighter. “Meg’s tough, she’ll be fine.”
”I hope so,” said Beverly, but Hailey could see her vague smile in the mirror above her sink.
”So you were there last night,” prompted Hailey. “Did…” she trailed off, too afraid to ask.
”People died…” said Beverly quietly. “But… nobody you know, I think. I wasn’t able to keep it all in my head at once, but I tried.”
”What do you mean, keep it all in your head?”
”I…” Beverly hesitated. “That’s a kind of magic I don’t think I should share. I’m sorry.”
Hailey shook her head. “If it’s dangerous, I’m the last person you should share it with. Don’t worry about it.” She glanced out of the cell. “I’m kinda surprised though. Nobody’s awakened or anything since you got here?”
”I… I did another time bubble.” Beverly leaned up again, shrugging Hailey’s arm off. “I wasn’t just here to say hi. I was…”
She grimaced, and a current of rage wash through her eyes. She hadn’t ever seen that before, and it terrified her.
”I was sent here.”
”What?” Hailey glanced around, as if expecting somebody else to appear in the cell, but of course no one did. “By who?”
”Rachel,” said Beverly, with an odd bitterness to her words. She stood up. “She’s called another meeting.”
”Just like last time.” Beverly shook her head. “She’s calling everyone back together to figure out what to do.” Just like when we decided to kill Jackson, Hailey mentally filled in, realizing Beverly’s reluctance.
”…I can’t leave,” said Hailey firmly. “I’m in prison.”
”Well,” said Beverly, gesturing to the cell bars. “They can’t see inside anymore… and in a way, you aren’t leaving your cell.”
”I did something to make it look like you’ll still be here sleeping. You shouldn’t be gone that long anyway… I hope…”
”No, what do you mean I’m not leaving my cell?”
”Oh, well…” Beverly hesitated, then seemed to let out a breath.
Suddenly, though Hailey hadn’t noticed they were gone, she realized the birds outside had started chirping again and the engines were rumbling on the streets outside. Hailey looked around her small cell, expecting something to happen, but all she saw were the same grey-bricked walls she was used to.
There was a wooden door in her wall. A plain wooden door with a brass doorknob. As far as she could tell, it had always been there—though of course, Hailey had never seen it before in her life.
”…How?” asked Hailey breathlessly.
”I don’t know,” said Beverly uncomfortably. “And that scares me. Remember when I said there wasn’t any magic I didn’t know, except your wings?”
”That’s not true anymore. People are inventing new magic… it’s not just what’s in the book anymore. I helped her do it, and I still don’t know how it works. I’m exhausted, and I’m scared.” Beverly shivered. “I’m worried what might be next.”
”So… I’m just supposed to… go in?”
”Yes.” Beverly hesitated. “I have to go now. Will you go in? I was told you needed to be there.”
”…For you,” said Hailey firmly. Not for me. Not because I wanted to leave anyway. I’ll do it because Beverly agreed to ask me, so she must think it’s important, even though she doesn’t like Rachel. She got to her feet, glancing down at her clothes uncomfortably. “Wish I had something better to wear…”
Beverly gave a small smile. “I thought… I thought you might say that.” She gestured to the bed, and one of Hailey’s old favorite outfits was there—her usual flight outfit, no less, and exactly what she’d want to be wearing going into something unfamiliar. “I won’t be there… Good luck.”
Hailey nodded. “Thank you.”
Beverly disappeared. Hailey quickly changed, summoned her bag from across the hall, then took a deep breath and opened the door. Behind it, a black veil, exactly as she’d once seen in a portal behind the Kettle and Bones, back in Rallsburg over six months ago. Hailey steeled herself and stepped through, closing the door behind her… only to find exactly the same void she remembered.
The cobblestone path stretched out in an eight point circle. In the center, a very different building than the one she’d previously seen, but the doors at the points of the circle still remained. None of the tents or structures had returned save one—the very same portable classroom they’d met in.
Hailey took another breath, very conscious of the sudden change in air quality. She started walking, and as she got halfway around the circle, another door opened—and out stepped Rika Nishimura. She wore an orange prison outfit very similar to the one Hailey had just taken off, and looked far worse for wear.
”…Well, fuck me, why didn’t I get that kind of service?” grumbled Rika, eyeing Hailey up and down.
Hailey burst out laughing. “You too, huh?”
”Door in my fucking cell wall. Figured it was worth stepping through.” Rika shrugged. “Looks like we’re in for round two, eh?”
Digging into her bag, Hailey quickly found a set of clothes Rika could throw on. It wasn’t great—Hailey was a good three inches taller, with a larger bust and wider hips—but still, it was something.
”I feel like I’m getting swallowed by your clothes,” Rika muttered. “Don’t you have anything smaller?”
”No… sorry,” said Hailey, apologetically.
”Well, still better than goddamn bright orange,” she sighed. “On that note… that blue in your hair?”
”Nice,” said Rika, with a small smile. “Exactly the same color as hers.”
Hailey smiled. Neither of them said another word as they finished the circuit of the cobblestone, finally arriving at the portable classroom. As soon as they walked up, the door swung open. Hailey glanced at Rika, who shrugged and started forward.
Just to help. For Beverly, for Jessica, and then back to my cell. I’m not doing anything else.
Even as she took her first step forward, Hailey could feel the tingle again—the rush, the excitement. Hailey had always been searching for an adventure her whole life. She ran away from home, she crossed the country to meet her boyfriend, she traveled the world. She chose a remote and mysterious college. She’d been the first to read the page in Beverly’s room, before the girl erased herself.
And it led to everything else. Keep her in mind, Hailey. Keep it steady.
Torn between two desires, Hailey walked into the room, with Rika only a few steps behind.