The Code of the Hills

The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen Read Free Book Online

Book: The Code of the Hills by Nancy Allen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nancy Allen
child’s deposition, and he got it under oath. She said she made it up.”
    â€œShe was coerced, don’t you see? They made her say that. Good God, Madeleine, look at this: he confessed. In his own hand. It’s signed.”
    â€œThe case is unwinnable. She’s given conflicting accounts. The jury won’t believe her, it’s a waste of time.”
    Madeleine walked away, her departure a clear dismissal. Elsie had tried to broach the topic the next day, but with the same results. She had never mentioned it to Madeleine again. But the image of the girl slumped in the courtroom, her eyes dull, was a picture she was sure she’d carry for life. She’d let that child down, sealed her fate. Never again , she had vowed.
    Now, back at her office, she toiled over paperwork, checking the front door twice to see if anyone was waiting outside. She plopped back into her chair with a scowl; Noah’s tardiness was beginning to seriously rankle. Spinning in her chair to face the computer screen, she checked her e-­mail: seventeen messages, but none from him. Next, she checked her texts and incoming calls: nothing. She shot him a quick text: Where are you? Then she stared at the silent phone as she ate a cup of blueberry yogurt at her desk and washed it down with Diet Coke.
    By mid-­afternoon her temper was flaring; it looked like he wasn’t coming by, after all. When she stalked to the third floor courtrooms, activity had settled into an afternoon lull. Not much was going on, and nothing was set after three o’clock. She knew there was no other explanation: he hadn’t come to see her, and he hadn’t called to cancel.
    Hell, hell, hell, she thought. Her spirits fell, and she trudged painfully back to her office, ruing her decision to wear boots with freaky high heels. A glimpse of an officer on the stairs raised her hopes for an instant, but when he turned toward her, Elsie’s hopes were dashed. It wasn’t Noah.
    She had experienced her share of disappointments, but this stung. She felt deflated. What kind of idiot was she, letting him stand her up like this? What self-­respecting grown woman would tolerate it?
    By the end of the day she sat at her desk in a funk, leafing through an old copy of Missouri Lawyers Weekly . Shortly before five, as she turned in her chair and stared out the window, the phone rang. She jumped, hastily grabbing the receiver.
    â€œThis is Elsie Arnold,” she said.
    â€œHoney, it’s Mom. How’s your day?”
    â€œOh, Mom,” she said, lowering her voice. “Not so good.”
    â€œWhat’s the matter?”
    â€œNothing,” she lied. “Really, it’s no big thing. Just stupid stuff.”
    â€œIs that boss being mean? Did a judge bawl you out in court?”
    â€œNo, nothing like that.” She checked the time again: five on the dot. Noah had blown her off. She swiveled in her chair. It was dark outside, and she saw her own reflection in the window.
    â€œMom, am I fat?”
    â€œDon’t be silly. You are a beautiful girl.”
    â€œThat’s not what I asked you.”
    â€œWell, you’re not a toothpick, if that’s what you mean. But you know what your grandfather used to say.”
    â€œOh God, Mother, please.”
    â€œYour grandfather always said men like a girl who’s got some meat on her.”
    â€œMother, he was born in 1920. He lived through the Great Depression. Look, I’ve got to go.”
    â€œIs this about a man? I could give you some good advice if you’ll just talk to me. Tell me what’s the matter.”
    â€œI don’t really want to go into it.” She switched the phone to her other ear, bracing herself; her mother was very free with her advice.
    â€œYou know, it’s not what they look like, it’s how they treat you that counts.”
    She rolled her eyes. “You’re talking like I’m an eighth grader.” Her

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