Abandoned Building – Makeshift Courtroom – Later
Kadin squirmed slightly under the eyes of everyone in the room. The hunter was sitting in a chair facing what appeared to be the judge’s bench. On her right, facing toward her, were two rows of chairs for the jury.
The hunter sucked in a deep breath and cast a glance over her shoulder. The chairs behind her were filled with clan members – all but one. Kennedy sat directly behind her. She was briefly distracted from her anxiety when Elana leaned over to whisper in her ear.
“Try to relax,” the blonde said. “Don’t be cocky, just calm.”
“Easy for you to say. I feel like I’m goin’ to implode here,” the hunter mumbled as she sat back in her chair.
The side door to the room suddenly opened and twelve black-cloaked clan members filed into the room. They headed over to the jury box and took a seat in their chairs. Finally, the eldest Knight, Kael, entered.
“All rise,” a deep voice bellowed, as Kael approached the bench. All the members in the room instantly stood and waited until the elder was seated.
He scanned his eyes out over the crowd before calmly speaking, “Be seated.”
The courtroom fell into a quiet hush. After a long pause in which the trial didn’t proceed, Kadin leaned over to Elana.
“What’s the holdup?” she whispered to her lawyer.
The blonde turned her head to the side and quietly responded. “The prosecutor. He’s not here.”
Just as the words left her mouth, the double doors at the back of the room swung open, and a young man dressed in an expensive suit walked in, carrying a briefcase.
“My apologies to the court,” he explained as he placed his briefcase on the table to the right of Kadin. “I was held up at the airport.”
Kael nodded in recognition. “You are excused, but don’t let it happen again.”
“Yes, your Honor.” The lawyer nodded as he pulled his pad from the briefcase. His eyes darted to the side, toward Kadin.
“All right,” Kael said before clearing his throat. “Now that we are all present, shall we begin?” He nodded towards the prosecutor. “Mr. Steel? Your opening remarks?”
Marcus Steel straightened his suit and adjusted his tie. “Thank you, your Honor.” He picked up his pad and began to go over his notes one last time.
Steel approached the jury with an air of confidence. He looked deep in thought as he began to speak.
“Cold blooded murder,” he announced before pausing dramatically. “That is the reason why we are here today.” He paused and glanced back at Kadin over his shoulder. His coy smile was visible to the hunter, but not the jury. “Ms. Van Helsing cruelly, ruthlessly, and cold-heartedly murdered your brethren, who were merely trying to defend themselves. In fact, it was the defendant’s very own father that had originally tried and failed to claim their lives.”
He paused again and let his expression grow intensely serious. He reached up and removed the glasses from his face, making it a point to meet each of the jury member’s eyes as he finished.
“We are not here to point fingers or to call names. There is no doubt that Ms. Van Helsing committed these crimes. She herself has openly admitted to them numerous times. In fact, she has boasted about them again and again.” He took a moment for a dramatic pause. “You are not here to determine her punishment. You are simply here to assign guilt, to see that justice…is served. Thank you.”
Marcus finished his opening remarks and turned away from the jury. He met Kadin’s eyes and smiled as he took his seat.
“Thank you, Mr. Steel.” Kael said. Then he turned his gaze to Elana. “Ms. Velmont?”
The blonde nodded and stood from her seat. She adjusted the glasses on her face before casting a quick glance at the hunter. She smiled before making her way over to the jury.
“Mr. Steel has presented my client in a rather unpleasant light. He would have you to believe that Ms. Van Helsing is a cruel, ruthless, cold-hearted murderer whose sole purpose in life is to see that your brethren are completely extinguished from the face of the earth.” She paused to look back at Kadin, forcing the jury to look at her as well. “The person you see before you today is anything but.”
She trained her eyes back on the members of the jury. “Kadin Van Helsing does not seek out your kind for vengeance or for sport.” She paused once again. When she began again, her face creased with pain. “But the memories of what she has had to do will be with her for the rest of her life. There is no punishment, no justice that you can mete out, that will be worse than living with the experiences she’s already had to face in her young life. Mr. Steel calls it murder. We call it self-defense and will prove it. All we ask is that true justice be served today, not revenge based on hearsay or unfounded accusations. Thank you.”
Kennedy leaned over to whisper in Kadin’s ear. “Wow. She’s good.”
The hunter nodded in agreement as she watched Elana make her way back over to the table. “I see this.”
“Thank you, Ms. Velmont.” Kael glanced down at an open folder on the bench before him. “Mr. Steel?” He looked up at the prosecutor and nodded. “Your first witness?”
“Yes,” Marcus replied, standing to button his jacket. “Thank you, your Honor.” He glanced down at his own notes. “The prosecution calls Coen Vance to the stand.”
Kadin closed her eyes and shook her head.
“What? Who is it?” Kennedy once again leaned over the bench to whisper to the hunter.
Kadin pulled her head up from the table. “One of Serena’s brothers.”
The slayer turned her attention to the front as the scarred man from the alleyway took the stand. “Oh, him.”
Once the young man was sworn in, Marcus approached him.
“Mr. Vance, you are the brother of Serena Vance, correct?”
“I was her brother, yes,” he answered.
“And as such, you were…privileged to know the Defendant better than most, yes?”
“Yes, I suppose you could say that,” Coen replied stoically.
“Perfect, and as such, you had the opportunity to witness Ms. Van Helsing and your sister engage in rather…questionable activities, isn’t that right?”
Coen’s eyes suddenly fixed on Kadin. “Yes,” he said firmly. “She made Serena do things she would never have done otherwise. She turned her against her own family, against her own kind.”
“Objection, your honor.” Elana rose from her seat. “Relevance?”
“Sustained.” Kael then turned to Marcus. “Keep your questions in the scope of the trial, Mr. Steel.”
“Yes, your Honor.” He turned back to the witness and sighed. “Mr. Vance, did the Defendant ever openly admit to killing your brethren?”
“Absolutely,” Coen spat. “Not only did she admit to it, she laughed about it. She said she made those beasts pay for what they did, and she enjoyed it.”
Marcus smiled. “Thank you, Mr. Vance. No further questions.”
Kael turned to Elana. “Your witness.”
The blonde stood slowly and smoothed out the material of her skirt. She paused before quietly approaching the stand. “Mr. Vance, you say that Ms. Van Helsing openly admitted to you that she killed your brethren?”
Coen nodded slowly. “Yes…”
Elana stepped right up to the stand and stared down the young man. “Did she tell you how she did it? Did she tell you when, where, how or with what?”
Coen didn’t answer at first. Then he clenched his jaw and said, “No. She didn’t.”
Elana turned towards the jury. “So, this cruel, ruthless, cold-hearted murderer, according to you, boasted and laughed about her killings, yet she didn’t so much as tell you one single detail about them?”
“No,” the man replied in a whisper.
“If my client was so proud of what she’d done, as you claim, one would assume that she would want to tell you as much as she possibly could, wouldn’t she?”
“Objection,” Marcus rose from his chair with a huff. “Argumentative, your Honor.”
Kael eyed the man down. “Overruled. Sit down, Mr. Steel.” The lawyer complied with another huff. “The witness will answer the question,” the judge added.
Coen said nothing and looked at Mr. Steel, perhaps looking for some clue as to how to respond.
“I withdraw the last question, your Honor,” Elana said. “Mr. Vance, did you witness Ms. Van Helsing kill your sister or brother?”
“No,” he answered shortly.
Elana nodded and then faced the judge. “No further questions, your Honor.” She turned away and walked back to her seat.
Kael nodded and turned to Coen. “You may step down, Mr. Vance.”
The man quickly left the stand and made his way to the back of the courtroom, taking a seat behind Marcus.
Kael once again turned to the prosecutor. “Mr. Steel, your next witness.”
Marcus flipped through his notes before standing once again. “Your Honor, we call Mr. James Vance to the stand.”
A man rose from the back of the room and walked to the witness box, where he sat down without saying a word.
Steel slowly walked up to the witness box. “Would you tell us about your daughter and your son, Mr. Vance?”
James cleared his throat. “They had both just gone through their rite of passage to adulthood. Serena was especially proud of the necklace that she had received as confirmation. But…” James trailed off taking a deep breath, “but she hadn’t had it very long before…before that monster killed them!” He yelled the last phrase, unable to contain his anger any longer.
“Objection your Honor,” Elana said, rising from the table.
“Sustained,” the judge answered, turning to Steel and Vance. “I realize emotions are running high, but Mr. Steel, please advise your witness to refrain from such outbursts.”
“We apologize, your Honor,” Steel answered before turning back to his witness. “Now James, I realize this is difficult, but will you please recount what happened to your son and your daughter?”
“Van Helsing hunted them down. She trapped and killed them as if they were nothing more than a sport to her. She took the necklaces as trophies for her conquest.”
Steel walked over to the table and held up a necklace. “Would this be the necklace of which you spoke?” he asked.
“It is,” James answered.
“No further questions,” Steel told him. “At this time, I would like to submit this item into evidence as Exhibit A. This item was found in the Defendant’s cabin when she was placed under arrest by the Order.”
The judge showed the necklace to Elana. “Do you have any objections to this submission?”
Elana walked over and examined it carefully. “No, your Honor,” she answered.
“Alright then. Your witness.”
Elana walked over to the witness box.
“First, Mr. Vance, did you personally see Kadin kill anyone?”
James glanced at Steel, who nodded. “No, I did not.”
“And this necklace, Exhibit A, is given to anyone who completes the rite of passage to adulthood, is that correct?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“So that means that there could be literally hundreds, if not thousands, of these same necklaces in the world?”
“Objection,” Steel said, moving to his feet.
“Overruled,” the judge replied. “Please answer the question.”
“The necklace belonged to my son,” James replied.
“I asked if more than one of these necklaces had ever been produced, but I’ll ask again. Has more than one of these necklaces ever been produced?”
“Yes,” Vance answered in frustration.
“Were your children’s necklaces engraved?” she asked.
“No,” he answered.
“So you really have no way of knowing if that necklace belongs to your children, or even the true nature of how my client would have one in her position, is that correct?”
“No I don’t,” he answered. “But we all know what she is.”
“Thank you,” she replied. “No further questions, your Honor.”
As Elana took her seat, Kadin pulled her closer to whisper in her ear. “But Serena gave it to me.”
“Exactly,” Elana whispered. “Gave it to you. Just roll with me here, okay?”
Kadin appeared unsure, but she nodded just the same.
“Your Honor, the prosecution calls Isa Spence to the stand,” Steel announced.
Kadin groaned at the name. “Great, first the brother, then the dad, and now the grandmother. It’s one big happy family reunion.”
The back doors to the room slowly swung open. An elder dressed in the traditional Knight’s robe walked in and made her way slowly to the stand. She did not make eye contact with the hunter as she took her seat. After she was sworn in, the questioning began.
“Mrs. Spence, how do you know the defendant?”
The woman’s cool blue eyes swept over the short distance to lock onto Kadin. The hunter visibly flinched.
“She was…involved with my granddaughter.” The woman seemed to nearly choke on the words as she forced them from her lips.
Marcus placed one hand in the front pocket of his pants. He began to pace in front of the stand as he spoke. “So, is it a fair assumption to say that you knew Ms. Van Helsing better than most? That you were more acutely aware of her past behavior?”
Isa spoke calmly as she answered. “Yes. I knew what Ms. Van Helsing was capable of. She’s a Van Helsing, after all. I tried to warn Serena that the woman would only bring her heartache and pain.” The old woman paused, and her eyes saddened. “I tried to tell Serena that a life with her would never be stable, never grounded. After all…” The woman stopped and looked over at Kadin, anger in her eyes. “You can’t tame a wild beast.”
Elana started to make notes on the pad in front of her, while Marcus placed his hand atop the old woman’s. He looked into her eyes and spoke slowly. “And just where did Ms. Van Helsing lead your beloved Serena? Where are your grandchildren now?”
“They’re dead.” The words left the old woman’s mouth like venom seeping from a snake bite. “They’re dead, and Kadin Van Helsing killed them.”
“Your Honor, I request the last sentence be stricken from the record?” Elana interrupted.
Kael nodded at the objection. “Mrs. Spence, please limit your responses to the questions asked. The jury will disregard that last statement. Mr. Steel?”
The lawyer shook his head. “Nothing further.”
Elana stood up from her chair, but did not move from behind her table. “Mrs. Spence, you say that my client is the person responsible for your grandchildren’s death?”
Isa nodded. “That’s right.”
The lawyer pulled the glasses from her face and placed them on the table before approaching the stand. “Well, I must admit that I am a little confused.” She placed both her hands on the bench in front of the witness chair and leaned in. “Was it really Ms. Van Helsing who killed them, or was it in fact Serena’s very own kind, her so-called ‘brethren,’ who brutally and viciously murdered her, all because she refused to hand over her lover?”
The courtroom erupted in a chorus of outrage, but Kael quickly ended the outburst with three slams of the gavel.
“There will be no outbursts tolerated from either side. This trial will proceed with no other interruptions, or I will clear the courtroom!” He turned to Elana with a nod. “Ms. Velmont, please approach the bench and explain where this line of questioning is going.”
“None of the brethren witnessed my client kill Serena,” Elana began. “It’s been stated by Mrs. Spence that her granddaughter had an intimate relationship with my client, and the only thing that ties Ms. Van Helsing to this family is a necklace, which I should add, might have been given to her as a result of their relationship. My client contends that she did not kill Serena and that she was trying to defend both herself and Serena. I’m trying to establish if Mrs. Spence, as an elder herself, has such knowledge of what transpired.”
The judge nodded. “You may continue.”
Elana turned to Isa. “Mrs. Spence, please answer the question: Do you have any knowledge that someone within the murdered brethren plotted to kill my client and/or Serena?” The elder stared at the other woman with disdain in her eyes, but said nothing. “You are under oath,” Elana reminded her.
“Yes,” Isa ground out between gritted teeth. “It was the Knights who passed judgment on Serena.”
“So, the unfortunate death of Serena was caused, not by Ms. Van Helsing, but by the laws and practices of her very own people, correct?” Isa refused to respond, but Elana didn’t press her. She merely turned to the judge. “I ask the record shows that the witness has not answered. I have nothing further for this witness at this time your honor.”
Marcus instantly rose from his chair. “Redirect, your Honor?” Kael nodded his approval. The young man approached the stand once again. “Mrs. Spence, is it not true that, if it weren’t for the influence of Ms. Van Helsing, your granddaughter never would have betrayed her cause? Is it not true that if it weren’t for the Defendant’s blatant disregard for Serena’s duties to the Knights, your granddaughter would never have been put in the situation of having to choose between her heart and reason?”
Isa waited a few tense moments before responding. Her eyes once again landed on the hunter, who was busy looking anywhere but at her.
“No,” the elder woman said softly.
A surprised gasp could be heard in the courtroom. Marcus raised an eyebrow. “W-what?”
Isa met his eyes and sighed.
“She loved her. Heaven knows I’ll never understand it, but Serena really…loved her.”
Marcus turned to the judge and nervously cleared his throat. “Your Honor, may I have a short recess to confer with the witness?”
Kael glared down at the man. “You have five minutes, Mr. Steel, and don’t keep me waiting. I’m not a very patient man.”
“Thank you.” He walked over to Isa and began to talk to the woman in hushed tones.
Elana turned to Kadin with a smile, but the hunter did not return the sentiment. “This is good. We’re winning.”
Kadin finally met the other woman’s eyes with a forced smile. “Yeah.”
Marcus stepped back from the stand and faced Kael. “Your honor, I have nothing more for this witness at this time.”
The elder nodded. “Very well. Is there another that you would like to call?”
Marcus ran his fingers through his hair and sighed. “No, your Honor.”
“Ms. Velmont?” Kael then turned to the other lawyer. “You may call your first witness.”
Elana stood confidently. “Your honor, the defense calls Kadin Van Helsing.”
Watchers Council – Slayer Gym – Moments Later
Faith was busy pounding on a heavy bag when Willow walked in. She stood back and watched the slayer relentlessly attacking the bag for a moment before slowly approaching.
“You know, there are other ways of releasing your anger besides beating a helpless bag to a pulp,” Willow said, as she sat down on the nearest bench. “I prefer the classic dish smashing, myself. Ice cream is good too.”
Faith stopped punching and snorted, remembering Willow’s earlier attack. “Yeah, but with either one then there’s that messy cleanup.”
“True,” Willow conceded.
Faith grinned for a second, then sobered and resumed her angry pounding.
“I know you wanna rush in with the rescue, Faith, but I think Ro’s right. We have to respect Kennedy’s wishes when it comes to Kadin. Remember how she reacted the last time we butted in?”
Faith looked at Willow incredulously. “Ro’s right? Am I hearing you correctly?”
“Yeah, I know. Much as I hate to admit it,” Willow grumbled unhappily. “I’m speaking only of this point regarding Kennedy and nothing else,” Willow quickly clarified. “Of any other recent decisions made by Rowena Allister we shall not speak,” she announced firmly.
Faith snorted again and stopped her workout. Then she joined Willow on the bench. The redhead handed the slayer’s water bottle to her. Faith took a long swig of the liquid and set the bottle back on the bench. She looked over at Willow, who wore a worried expression on her face.
“For someone who thinks Rowena’s decision about Kennedy was right, you sure don’t look too confident,” Faith said.
“Stupid, huh?” Willow said with a sheepish grin. “My head tells me one thing, but my heart tells me another.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I mean, I’m sure Kennedy can handle herself, and I know she’ll call if she needs backup, but…this whole Kadin thing…”
“I’m just scared that things won’t work out, and I’m not sure she can handle another heartbreak so soon.”
“I hear ya.”
“It’s really none of my business,” Willow said. “It’s her life, and if she wants to chase after some chick who’s got more emotional baggage than a Samsonite store, then it’s on her.”
“Well, Ken’s a pretty emotional person herself,” Faith pointed out.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Willow replied.
“I know what you mean,” Faith agreed. “You put those two together…”
“And it’s like putting a lighted match in a gallon of gasoline.”
They both paused for a moment and then looked at each other.
“And we’re sitting here doing nothing, why?” Faith asked.
“Because Ro said she believes in Kennedy, that she could do this.”
The two of them sat silently next to each other on the bench for three full seconds. Then Faith said, “You still got that map?”
“Let’s go,” Willow said, rising quickly and waving Faith to follow her.
Abandoned Building – Makeshift Courtroom – Same Time
All eyes were on Kadin as she slowly rose from her chair and made her way over to the witness stand. The bailiff approached her hesitantly and began to swear her in.
Kennedy leaned over the front of the bench.
“Elana?” She caught the lawyer’s attention and motioned her over. “What are you doing? You can’t put her up there. Lawyer boy over there will roast her over the coals. You know that.”
The lawyer kept her composure and only nodded. “He’ll try, but she’s the only witness to what happened.”
Kennedy watched in stunned silence as the woman quickly walked away.
Elana approached Kadin with a smile. “I am sure that by now you are quite aware of why you are here today. You have been charged with the ‘murders’ of multiple members of this Knighthood. What do you have to say about that?”
Kadin remained silent as her eyes scanned over the courtroom. She paused to let out a breath before she responded. “I ain’t gonna deny it. I was in a very bad place back then, and yes, I’m responsible for taking lives.”
Elana nodded and took a step forward, placing her hands on the bench in front of the hunter. “So, you admit that you murdered these werewolves in cold blood?”
“I never said that,” Kadin replied curtly.
“Well, what exactly is it that you are saying, Ms. Van Helsing?”
“I said I killed some of them,” the hunter replied calmly, “but I didn’t murder them.”
“Would you care to explain to the jury and the rest of the court what you mean when you say you didn’t murder anybody?”
Kadin shifted in her seat nervously. “I hardly knew who or what I was from one day to the next back then. Losing my father…like that…it left this huge, gaping hole in my life. I didn’t know how to fix it. I just lashed out at the nearest thing, the thing I had always been taught to hate. If I’d take out as many werewolves as I could on the prowl, I might get the ones that killed him.”
“So what you’re saying,” Elana turned to look at the jury as she spoke, “is that your intentions weren’t purely malicious. You were in a lot of emotional pain, and you weren’t really thinking about what you were doing.” She turned back to Kadin with an expectant look. “Would it be a fair assumption to say that your killings in fact weren’t a premeditated act, but were, in fact, more of an emotional response to the death of your father?”
“Objection, your Honor.” Marcus shot up from his seat as soon as the last word left his opposing lawyer’s mouth. “She’s leading the witness, practically putting words in her mouth, and this whole defense is ludicrous. ‘She was angry at her daddy’s death, so she killed?’ Come on!”
The elder considered the objection for a moment before nodding. “I’ll sustain your objection, Mr. Steel, and although I would agree with your assessment of this defense, it is exactly that, her defense. So I’m going to allow Ms. Velmont to proceed, and then you will have your chance to question the witness in cross examination. Now, please take your seat.” He turned to Elana with a stern glare. “Ms. Velmont, please proceed carefully.”
The blonde nodded. “Yes, your Honor, thank you.”
Kennedy watched as Kadin let out a slow breath and sank back into her chair. “What in the frilly heck is goin’ on here?”
Abandoned Building – Outside Makeshift Courtroom – Moments Later
Coen approached his grandmother outside the courtroom, anger seething from his every pore. “Why the hell did you do that?” he demanded.
The old woman slowly sat on the worn bench. She folded her aged hands in her lap and sighed. “I don’t expect you to understand,” Isa said.
“You’re damn right, I don’t understand!” the man replied in anger. “I don’t understand why you just went in there and basically gave that murdering bitch a free pass. If it wasn’t for her, my sister and brother would still be here.”
The elder’s eyes remained focused on the opposite wall, her breathing even and steady. She blinked once and lifted her eyes to meet her grandson’s.
“No, Coen. If it wasn’t for us, they would still be here. That woman didn’t kill them…we did.”
Watchers Council – Lobby – Same Time
Faith and Willow were both briskly walking through the Council lobby, toward the front door, when a voice behind them called out, “Where do you two think you’re going?”
Faith and Willow looked at each other and turned around to see Rowena standing behind them with her arms folded across her chest and a disapproving look on her face.
“We’re, uh,” Faith looked to Willow for help but found none. “We’re going out for ice cream. Want some? You look like a vanilla girl, I’d say.”
“Ice cream?” Rowena said skeptically. “That’s the best you could come up with? Ice cream?”
“Welllll…” Faith shrugged. “We didn’t think we’d have to come up with a getaway story, all right?”
“Why is it so hard for you guys to trust Kennedy?” Rowena asked, walking towards the two of them. She quickly held up a finger and added, “Willow, don’t answer that.”
“I do trust Ken,” Faith answered, before the witch could protest. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t still worry.”
“A part of me is worried too,” Rowena admitted. “I’m not sure if I can trust Alex that everything is ‘above board and legal’ regarding this trial. But I know Kennedy can keep her cool in this. Just have a little faith…Faith,” Rowena finished with a look that showed how awkward the sentence came out.
“Normally, I’d say yeah, go Kennedy” Willow said, “but since when do you have faith in her? Since she became your personal lapdog?”
“Okay!” Faith said, seemingly surprised by this turn of events and holding up her hands in a calming gesture
“She is not my lapdog!” Rowena argued.
“Ladies!” Faith tried again.
“She might not be your dog, but I’ll lay odds she’s been in your lap!” Willow remarked.
“What?!” Rowena exclaimed.
“Let’s just…” Faith said, coming to step between the other women as they inched closer to each other.
“You heard me,” Willow went on, looking past Faith. She dodged around Faith’s head to meet Rowena’s eyes as she started to sarcastically mimic Kennedy and Rowena’s earlier comments to her. ” ‘I’m going to Rowena’s place.’ ‘No, we’re done.’ It’s not hard to read the writing on the walls when it’s in big bold letters, including a FLASHING NEON SIGN!”
“Calm down,” Faith said, putting a hand on each woman’s shoulder.
“Oh yeah?” Rowena countered. “Well, if that were true, at least SOMEONE’S been in my lap, because it sure as hell hasn’t been you!”
“WHOA! Okay!” Faith yelled. “That’s it. Ding. Ding. Round over. Blondie and Red, get to your corners.” Rowena and Willow both looked down at the ground, neither saying anything more. “Jesus Christ,” Faith sighed. When the room continued to remain silent, faith turned to both of them. “Look, that ice cream idea sounds pretty good right now, so why don’t the three of us go up the kitchen, raid Andy’s freezer and just…veg for a while, okay?”
“I’m not hungry,” Rowena answered.
“Neither am I,” Willow answered.
“See, there you go. You both still have something in common,” Faith remarked with fake optimism. “Then you two can watch me eat, instead.”
Faith grabbed each woman by the arm and pulled them along.
Abandoned Building – Makeshift Courtroom – Same Time
Kennedy’s eyes remained trained on Elana as she once again approached the stand and began to question Kadin.
“Ms. Van Helsing,” Elana began in a low, sweet voice, “as a witness to the deaths of the clan members, please recall for us what transpired that night.”
Kadin averted her eyes. When she spoke, her voice broke and rasped. “According to Serena, the Order intended to trap me, and she was sent as bait. But over the course of being with me, we…we got…close. When the day came to finally turn me over to the Order, Serena told me about the plan. She wanted us to leave, and we planned on it, but she wanted to make one last attempt to talk to her family. They agreed to meet us…so we did.”
“What happened then?” Elana asked.
“They captured me, but they also captured Serena. We were placed in a circle of the Brethren. They began to turn into werewolves and…and then Serena turned…After that, we both began to fight our way out of the circle.”
“So you did not kill Serena?”
Kadin looked angrily at Elana. “No, I…I loved her. I only wish her family had loved her as much.”
“So if you didn’t kill Serena, did you see who did?” Elana asked.
“Her brother did it,” Kadin answered.
Marcus immediately shot to his feet. “Objection, your Honor. Mr. Vance is not on trial here. There is no corroborating evidence for Ms. Van Helsing’s statement.”
“Your Honor,” Elana said before the judge could answer. “Kadin Van Helsing is the only living witness to what has happened. It’s important that she tell her side of the story.”
“Overruled,” the judge told Marcus. “Please continue.”
“Thank you,” Elana told the judge. “Now Kadin, you mentioned that you did in fact kill members of the brethren. Can you explain?”
Kadin nodded. “When they began to attack, Serena and I started to fight back. I killed one werewolf and she…she was just an unstoppable flurry of fangs and claws. She’d taken out practically everyone.”
“Practically?” Elana asked.
Kadin nodded again. “Everyone except her brother. She spared him but…he attacked her while her back was turned and…they fought to the death.”
“He lost to Serena?” Elana asked.
Kadin shook her head. “No, I killed him. I was trying to save Serena but…it was too late. He’d already done too much damage. She…Serena…she died in my arms. That’s when Coen came in. He decided I’d done it all on my own, so he went after me. I-I did what I had to in order to escape.”
Elana turned to the jury with a sympathetic look, then brought her gaze back to the Head Elder sitting at the Judge’s Bench. “Nothing further.”
“Mr. Steel?” Kael motioned towards the witness stand.
The prosecutor nodded, then slowly stood from his chair. Kadin’s eyes focused on him with pure disdain.
“I see,” he nodded and averted his eyes. He moved around slowly from behind the table. “So, you lost your father and claim you had no control over what you were doing, is that correct?” He placed one hand in the front pocket of his slacks.
“After his death, I had some rough months, yes.”
“Did this lack of judgment also apply to your mental state, as well as your emotional state? I mean, at the time, were you not aware that killing another person was wrong?”
“No,” the hunter sighed. “I knew it was.”
“And yet, you killed anyway?”
Kadin looked toward Elana as she answered. “Yes, I killed people. People who were werewolves.”
Marcus rubbed his forehead in confusion. “Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems that your mental state was not incapacitated in any way at the time that you committed these crimes against people. You say that you were in a bad place emotionally, and yet, you knew that what you were doing was wrong.”
Kadin’s face cast an annoyed glare at Steel. “Yeah, so?”
Elana caught the slip Kadin’s demeanor. She sat up in her chair and stared her down. When Kadin looked over, she raised a brow, but Marcus had already detected the abrupt shift in the hunter’s demeanor.
Marcus crept closer to the stand, his eyes locked with Kadin the whole way. “Does it make sense to you that a person would be considered incapacitated when that person clearly knew the difference between right and wrong?”
“Well, I guess that depends on who you ask,” Kadin replied calmly before slowly leaning into the man, her eyes never leaving his.
Marcus’s eyes flared with anger. He slammed his hands down against the bench in front of the hunter. “Do you really expect us to believe that you, Ms. Van Helsing, were so in love with a werewolf – the kind of person you’d sworn to kill – that you decided to run away with her, but instead, her own brethren killed her? You, who took every opportunity up until that point to kill any werewolf you could find? Do you think we’re a group of idiots? There is no way that Serena would have ever loved you.”
Kadin’s fist flew out so quickly that it seemed like a blur. A split-second later, the sickening crunch of bone against bone echoed in her ears. Marcus stumbled back from the witness stand, clutching his broken nose.
“Kadin, no!” Kennedy was up out of her seat and leaping over the bar separating her from the front of the courtroom before the hunter could even slide her chair back. She raced over as the judge banged his gavel.
Kennedy caught the other woman’s arm in mid swing, pinning it behind her back. Kadin’s face was slammed against the back wall as the slayer fought to restrain her.
“I’m really trying not to lose my temper here,” Kennedy explained calmly. “But you’re not making it easy.”
“Yeah, well, this ain’t exactly the highlight of my day, either,” Kadin grunted as the pressure on her arm increased slightly. “Damn. Ease up, would ya?”
“Are you trying to get yourself killed?” Kennedy asked in an exasperated whisper. She leaned in to bring her face just to the side of the hunter’s. “You keep this up and there won’t need to be a trial. You’re acting like a psycho with no self control and it really ain’t helping your case here.”
“You heard what he said,” the hunter retorted. “Was I supposed to just let him talk about Serena like that?”
“I didn’t say that,” Kennedy replied quietly, as she released the hunter’s arm. “Serena’s dead, but I know you’re not ready to join her, not yet. So straighten up.”
Kadin rubbed her wrist as she turned to face the other woman. “You don’t know what it was like…you weren’t there…” She trailed off and averted her eyes uncomfortably.
“No I wasn’t there, but I’m here and he’s trying to pull your strings. Don’t let him.”
“Your Honor,” Elana began. “I ask that we take a twenty minute recess so I may counsel my client.”
“Agreed,” the judge said. “Mr. Steel? Are you all right?”
Steel continued to hold his nose and simply nodded.
Kael lifted the gavel with a sigh. “We’ll take a brief recess and reconvene in twenty minutes.” He slammed the gavel down, and everyone stood as he made his way from the courtroom.
Kennedy watched as Elana stomped back to the table and slammed her notepad into her briefcase before snapping it shut, somewhat more roughly than necessary. She leaned in to whisper to Kadin. “Looks like somebody’s pretty pissed. I’d be very afraid, if I were you.”
“Too late,” Kadin breathed. “I already am.”
Abandoned Building – Briefing Room – Moments Later
Elana and Kennedy entered the briefing room to see Kadin already seated. The lawyer slammed her briefcase down onto the table, causing Kadin to nearly jump out of her seat. “What the hell were you thinking in there, huh?”
The hunter shrugged. “I don’t guess I really was.”
“Oh,” Elana laughed, pulling her glasses off and throwing them onto the table. “You can say that again.” She placed her hands on the table in front of Kadin and leaned in. “Do you want to lose? Is that it? Do you want them to find you guilty? You really want to die that badly?”
“No,” the hunter replied softly. “I don’t.”
Elana stared at the woman’s downcast head before letting out a long sigh and pinching the bridge of her nose. “Look,” she said, as she slowly sat in the chair across from Kadin, “I know that what he did really got under your skin. He had no right to say what he did. But you cannot, and I mean cannot, give them anything to use as an excuse to convict. Remember? We talked about this.”
Kadin let out a long sigh of her own before slowly lifting her eyes to meet her lawyer’s. “I know,” she nodded, “and I’m sorry. He just…” She grit her teeth, her knuckles turning white in her tightly clenched fist.
“I know,” Elana said soothingly. She reached across the table and placed a hand atop the hunter’s. Kadin’s fist unclenched, and her knuckles returned to normal. Neither woman said a word as they sat in mutual silence. “What happened to you and Serena was terrible, but if you don’t control that temper out there, they’ll win. Do you understand?”
Kadin simply nodded.
From across the room, Kennedy watched the scene, both sadness and longing in her eyes.
Abandoned Building – Makeshift Courtroom – Minutes Later
Everyone in the courtroom was seated as they waited for the Head Elder to return. The side door slowly opened, and he stepped through, followed by the members of the jury. Everyone stood and waited for them to be seated. Once Kael had taken his seat in the judge’s chair, he nodded and said, “Be seated.”
Kadin glanced over at the prosecutor. She couldn’t quite fight back a grin when she saw the splint now covering the man’s nose, but she did manage to push it down quickly.
“Ms. Van Helsing?” Kael’s voice pulled Kadin from her amusement.
“Y-yes?” she asked.
The Head Elder motioned towards the witness stand. “Please retake your seat.”
The hunter stood and made her way back to the stand. Once she was seated, Kael nodded to Marcus to continue.
Kadin cast a sideway glance at the man as he slowly rose from his chair. He dropped his hand from his nose and braced it against the table, flipping through his notes with the other. His eyes scanned the page carefully before he finally looked up to the hunter. “Do you recall the name Mark Jasper?”
Kadin looked deep in thought for a couple of seconds, but then she answered, “No.”
Marcus flipped another page and began to read off more names. “Rhys Hill? Eliza Fillmore? Eric Stevens? Davis Moreland?”
Marcus flipped the page back down and approached the stand, this time with a little hesitancy. “I must say, that is quite surprising, Ms. Van Helsing. Seeing as how all those names belong to the faces of those you so emotionally killed a few years ago. Is it not?”
Kadin slowly closed her eyes. “I didn’t know their names.”
“Yes, Ms. Van Helsing, we are aware.” Marcus placed his hands behind his back and slowly made his way over to the jury. He stopped and placed his hand on the bench before them. “It would seem that not only were you emotionally detached from yourself, but also from those you so freely killed in your effort to fill your emotional void.”
“Your Honor?” Elana objected from her seat.
“Withdrawn,” Marcus replied with a raised hand. He let out a long sigh and scanned his eyes over the jury before slowly beginning to speak once again. “She doesn’t even know their names. She took the time to hunt them down and kill them like animals, yet she doesn’t even know their names.” He shook his head as he made his way back to his seat. “Nothing further at this time, your Honor.”
“Very well,” Kael nodded before turning to Elana. “Ms. Velmont?”
Elana looked over to see Kadin’s head bowed. She sighed and shook her head. “I have nothing else for this witness at this time.”
The head elder turned to Kadin. “You may step down.”
The hunter nodded her understanding before slowly leaving the witness stand to take her seat next to Elana.
Kennedy watched as Kadin made her way back to her seat, that usual air of self-confidence completely gone from her step.
“Your Honor,” Elana began. “I’d like to recall Coen Vance to the stand.”
Marcus looked over at Elana briefly, before looking back at Coen who slowly began to rise from his seat in the audience.
As Coen sat back down at the witness stand, the judge said, “We must remind you that you are still under oath,” and Coen nodded.
“Mr. Vance, Ms. Van Helsing claims that you arrived on the scene after the attack. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” he answered. “I found her surrounded, ankle deep in bodies.”
“And did you get a good look at those bodies?” she asked.
At first he said nothing, and Elana pressed, “Remember, you are under oath.”
“Yes, I did,” he answered.
Elana nodded. “Of the bodies you examined, what would you say was the cause of death?”
“Objection,” Steel said from his chair. “Mr. Vance is not a medical examiner.”
“Allow me to restructure the question,” Elana quickly said. “Mr. Vance, did the victims at the scene have lacerations or puncture marks consistent with those of claws and fangs? Again, I remind you that you are under oath.”
Coen chewed on his lip for a moment, before finally answering, “Yes.”
“Thank you,” Elana replied. “The defense rests, your Honor.”
The judge turned to Marcus. “Mr. Steel, do you have any further questions for this witness?”
The prosecutor shook his head. “No, your Honor.”
Kael nodded for Coen to step down and then released a long sigh. “All right then.” He paused to look at both attorneys. “We’re in recess until both attorneys have prepared a closing argument.” He lifted the gavel and gave it a single knock.
Abandoned Building – Makeshift Courtroom – Minutes Later
Kael motioned to the prosecutor. “Mr. Steel, your closing statements.”
Marcus nodded his gratitude before slowly making his way over to the jury. He again placed his hand in the front pocket of his slacks before slowly beginning to speak.
“Ms. Velmont would have you believe that the defendant, Kadin Van Helsing, is just a helpless victim. She was so severely traumatized by the loss of her father that she was not able to emotionally rationalize between right and wrong.” He paused to motion wildly. “Please…maybe in another society where law, logic, and reason have no standing whatsoever, yes. But here in this society, people must and should be held accountable for their actions. No matter the circumstances, as a child, we are all taught the difference between right and wrong, and we know that if we do something that is wrong, then we must be held accountable for our actions.”
He turned to cast a brief glance at Kadin. “Is what happened to Ms. Van Helsing heartbreaking? Of course. But every time one of us loses someone that we love, we can’t go out and kill the first thing that reminds us of that pain. How could we as a society separate the cold-blooded murderers from those who were just…having a really bad day?”
He smiled wanly before continuing. “The plain and simple fact is that Kadin Van Helsing was not emotionally scarred by her father’s death. She was not emotionally incapacitated. No, she had a thirst for bloody vengeance that was satisfied only when she took the lives of those who she blamed for her father’s death, whether they were guilty of the deed or not! Which is why she was found with six werewolf brethren dead at her feet. It wasn’t about love. It wasn’t about self-defense. This woman is a killer, plain and simple.”
He placed his free hand in his other pocket and turned to the jury. “What about them?” he asked, emotion in his voice. “What about the lives that were torn apart by the rage of one very ticked-off monster hunter? Who can speak for them and say that justice will finally be served?”
He paused, removed his hands from his pockets and pointed at the various members of the jury. “You can.”
He took a step back and nodded. “Thank you.”
Marcus turned from the jury, looked at the other attorney and smiled.
Elana nodded in respect before slowly rising from her chair. “Mr. Steel makes a very good point,” she began, as she made her way over to the jury. “How can we as a society separate the cold blooded murderers from the emotionally unstable? Well, the answer is more simplistic than you may think.”
She turned to motion towards Kadin. “A cold-blooded murderer does not care about what he or she has done. They do not stop to think for one minute that maybe, just maybe, what they did was wrong, and they certainly do not change that overnight.”
She turned back to the jury and met each of their eyes. “Kadin Van Helsing is not one of those murderers. She knows that taking another life in the name of anger is not justified by the claim of agonizing, heart-wrenching pain.”
She took a step closer to the jury box, a pleading expression on her face. “She will be haunted for the rest of her life. There will not be a night in which she lays her head down to sleep that she will not re-live what happened to Serena – that, try as she may, she was unable to save her. But this trial is not about love and it’s not about hate. It’s about guilt or innocence. It’s a matter of deciding if it was murder or self-defense. Coen Vance himself stated that the marks on the bodies he found in Kadin’s presences appeared to come from claws and fangs, neither of which Kadin Van Helsing has. Mr. Steel has tried to build a circumstantial case based on a grieving family’s pain and a necklace given to my client. That’s supposed to equal murder?”
Elana paused and leaned in to the jury. “The answer is it doesn’t, because this isn’t murder.”
She paused and took in a steady breath. “Mr. Steel was also right about another point. Justice does need to be served here today. Killing my client for defending herself, and another werewolf, I should add…well, that’s not justice. That…is murder. I ask that you return a verdict of not guilty. Thank you.”
Elana turned to Marcus and discreetly returned the smile as she made her way back to her seat.
“Thank you, Ms. Velmont. The court will now recess for the jury to deliberate. We will reconvene when the verdict is in,” Kael announced, then slammed the gavel down.
Abandoned Building – Makeshift Courtroom – Later
Everyone in the courtroom waited anxiously as the jury filed back in. Kennedy reached through the wood of the makeshift barrier from her place behind Kadin and grasped the hunter’s hand. After a moment, she felt it squeezed in return.
Once the last jury member was seated, Kael was handed a slip of paper. His eyes studied the words on the slip for a moment, then he folded it and returned it to the bailiff, who, in turn, returned it to the jury foreman.
“Would the Defendant please rise?” Kael said formally.
Kadin let out a breath and dropped the slayer’s hand. Then she and Elana slowly stood.
Kael turned to the jury. “Foreman, please read the verdict.”
The foreman opened the paper and began to read.
“In the matter of The Order of Knights Argentum vs. Kadin Van Helsing, on the charge of six counts of Murder in the First Degree, we find the Defendant…”
Kadin’s breath caught in her throat as she waited for the sound of her fate to be read.
“Yesss,” Kennedy hissed from behind Kadin, who finally began to smile. She looked over to see Elana smiling as well.
“Thank you,” Kadin said sincerely to her lawyer.
“You’re quite welcome,” Elana said, as she shook Kadin’s hand. “Let’s not do this again sometime.” She gave Kadin a wink, which made the hunter chuckle slightly.
Abandoned Building – Front Entrance – Night
Kadin pulled her leather duster tightly around her body as she stepped out into the cold night air.
“Never thought you’d be so glad to see a dirty, smelly Cleveland back alley, huh?” Kennedy looked over at the hunter as she stepped out behind her, placing her hands in the pockets of her jean jacket.
The hunter nodded with a smile. “Yeah. I guess it is true that you never know what you got ’til it’s gone.”
“Good point,” the slayer added with a smile.
Both women stood in awkward silence, looking anywhere but at each other. “So, that lawyer of yours was pretty amazing, huh? She’s got a wicked way with words. Impressed even me, and I’ll tell ya, I’m not an easy girl to impress.”
“That so?” Kadin smirked flirtatiously.
Kennedy swallowed hard at the look she was receiving from the other woman. “Uhhh…yeah?”
The hunter chuckled lightly. “No, I know what you mean. She really saved my ass back there.” She smiled softly at the other woman. “You know…I’m glad you stayed.”
“It was nothing,” Kennedy dismissed with a shrug.
“Yeah well, still,” Kadin said. She reached out and placed a gentle hand on the slayer’s forearm. “Thanks,” she whispered softly, staring back into another pair of deep brown eyes.
“You’re welcome,” Kennedy whispered back just as softly.
Kadin held the other woman’s gaze for a long moment, then quickly retracted her hand from the slayer’s forearm. “Well, I guess I should be getting back. Got a window to replace and all.”
“Y-yeah, you probably should,” Kennedy agreed. Kadin turned to go. “Were you attracted to her?” Kennedy suddenly blurted out.
The hunter stopped in mid-stride and slowly turned to face the slayer. “What?”
Kennedy swallowed back her fear. “Elana…were you attracted to her?”
“Why? Do you want me to ask her out for you?” Kadin asked with a small chuckle.
“No,” Kennedy said quickly. “I mean, you, you guys, you two seemed pretty…cozy,” Kennedy said, tripping over her words.
Kadin shook her head with a disbelieving smile. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I saw that whole hand thing,” Kennedy explained. “You know, the ‘I’m sorry’ and then the ‘I know’ and then the hand thing.”
Kadin reversed her direction and took the few steps back to come face to face with the slayer. “The whole hand thing? That was a comfort, not a come-on.”
Kennedy shook her head with a sigh. “You’re right, I’m sorry. I mean, it’s none of my business anyway.” She turned to go but stopped when the hunter’s hand shot out to grab her elbow. The slayer instantly found herself mere inches from the other woman’s face.
“This is a come-on,” Kadin said softly. She pulled Kennedy’s face down to hers and issued a smoldering kiss.
When the kiss was over, Kennedy swallowed back the lump in her throat. A smile slowly appeared on Kadin’s face.
“Maybe I’ll see ya around the tombstones again sometime,” Kadin said, as she started to walk away.
Kennedy blinked a few times. Then a smile started to creep to her face.
End of Trial By Fury
Next on Watchers…
What do a villain straight out James Bond, a lovesick Andrew, a stuffed cat named Madame Fliffertop and an army of giant bugs have in common? The Watchers Council is about to find out!