RUNAWAY ROSE
Chapter Thirty-Two

Around noon the next day, the guard arrived at Rose’s cell. "You have a visitor," he told her, escorting her caller to her cell.

Wearily, Rose came to the door of her cell to see who it was. Her cellmate had been removed earlier that morning, escorted out by a slick-looking gentleman who had glowered at the woman as they walked away. Rose suspected that the man was the woman’s pimp, and she pitied her cellmate.

Will Hutchison stood in front of the bars of Rose’s cell. Rose stared at him with a combination of surprise, relief, and dismay. She hadn’t wanted too many people to know what had happened, but somehow Will, and probably Deborah as well, had found out what had happened. She wondered how they had found out. Maybe it was in the newspaper.

"Will...what are you doing here?" she asked, wondering why he had seen fit to visit her here.

"Your director, Mr. Parsons, contacted Deborah this morning about what had happened. She called me at work, so I came down."

"Well, thank you. I’m...in a bit of trouble."

"That’s an understatement. I just want you to know that Deborah and I are on your side...we don’t believe that you did it."

Rose’s heart sank at what she had to say. "I thank you, but you put too much faith in me. I did exactly what they’re accusing me of. I killed Marietta Scott."

Will paled. "My God...why?"

"It was an accident. I didn’t mean to." Quickly, she told him what had happened.

Will shook his head. "I’ll find you a lawyer."

"I can’t afford a lawyer."

"Don’t worry about the cost. I’ll take care of it." He put up a hand as Rose started to object. "I can afford it. Besides, Deborah would kill me if I didn’t. Don’t worry. We’ll get you out of this."

Rose sighed resignedly. "All right. Thank you. I appreciate it."

"I’ll get someone to see you this afternoon. I know several lawyers, and I’m sure I can find someone who can help you." He paused, pulling out his pocket watch. "I have a meeting in twenty minutes, so I’ve got to leave." He turned to leave.

Rose called to him. "Will...thank you. Thank Deborah for me, too."

He nodded before hurrying down the corridor.

Rose walked over to the bunks and sank down on the lower one, exhausted. Worried about her future, she hadn’t slept all night. Now, she lay back, ignoring the grimy condition of the sheets, and closed her eyes.

*****

The guard awakened Rose around four o’clock. A portly, balding man with a briefcase stood outside her cell. The guard let him in and locked the door behind him, walking away.

"Miss Dawson? I’m Henry Binder, of the Binder and Keel law firm, specializing in criminal law."

"Mr. Binder." Rose shook his hand. "Sit down." She offered him a seat on the lower bunk.

Binder eyed it distastefully, preferring to stand. Setting down his briefcase, he dug through it, extracting some papers.

"I understand that you’re being charged with homicide."

Rose nodded. "Yes, but it was an accident."

Binder didn’t say anything, but Rose could almost read his thoughts. He’d heard too many guilty people defend themselves for crimes they had committed.

"Suppose you tell me your side of the story."

Rose told him what had happened, from Marietta’s constant taunts and obnoxious behavior, to the fight the previous night, to her accidental killing of her fellow actress.

Binder nodded, scribbling in a notebook the whole time. Rose wondered what he was writing, but didn’t ask. When she finally finished her story, he looked back over the notes that he had written and gave her his assessment.

"You’ve already decided to plead guilty," he commented, looking at his notebook. Rose nodded.

"I didn’t mean to kill her, but I did. It was an accident." To her embarrassment, tears welled up in her eyes and poured down her cheeks. The strain of the last twenty-four hours was overwhelming her.

"I’m sorry," she told him, wiping her eyes. Wordlessly, Binder handed her his handkerchief. She wasn’t the first client to break down and cry.

"I think you can make a good case for self-defense," he told her as Rose wiped her face with the handkerchief. She shook her head.

"I didn’t have to kill her. It was—"

"—an accident. I know," he told her, sighing. "But she attacked you first, and she had shown hostile intent for several months."

"I could have walked away."

Binder sighed. "Yes, but you had no way of knowing how the fight would end. You could easily have been killed in her place."

Rose nodded slightly, conceding his point, but she still didn’t feel that she had acted in self-defense.

"Look, I’m trying to find an argument that will get you acquitted. If you are convicted, you may be facing ten to fifteen years in prison. I don’t think that’s what you want to happen. I also feel that a self-defense plea is your best hope."

Rose was silent for a moment, thinking. It hadn’t been self-defense, and she knew it. But she didn’t want to spend years in prison, either. One night had been more than enough for her. And it was true, she hadn’t deliberately killed Marietta. She would bring her back if she could.

"All right. I’ll plead self-defense," she told him, knowing that such a plea sounded feasible, if only to someone who hadn’t been there.

He nodded, turning to a fresh page in his notebook. "Let’s work out the details of your defense," he told her.

Rose nodded, and they began planning for her trial.

Chapter Thirty-Three