[Sorry about the extreme lateness. Weekends always get busy around my place. If you’ve never read Oasis before, you should start with chapter one. I’m pretty sure we’ll be back on track for another new chapter this Friday. Thanks for your patience.]
“If it were up to them, they’d have already tossed you out.”
“Fine, let me clean up a little.”
“No. Don’t. That’ll make it harder.”
“Harder to what? Get pity?”
“Just trust me. Come on. Let’s go.”
I stood and my legs wobbled under me. My ribs hurt and my arms ached. The left side of my face was throbbing.
I still have to climb those stairs.
I wasn’t convinced that Samson had any kind of real plan, but I went along anyway. I guessed a little sympathy wouldn’t hurt.
The bright morning light flooded the room and made it possible for me to see myself in the mirror on the wall.
I looked even worse than I felt.
There were patches of dried blood caked about my face and shirt. The left side of my face was swollen and heavily bruised. Scrapes and bruises decorated my arms.
The sight of my ragged, beaten self made me angry. I imagined grabbing my bat, rushing upstairs, and breaking all five of my attackers before they knew what was coming.
But what could I really do?
Samson opened the door and motioned for me to exit.
I took a deep breath and headed out the door, almost head on into Lily.
She must have been standing right next to the door and stepped around when it opened.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
Lily took one look at me and gasped.
I clenched my jaw.
She stepped back and covered her mouth. Her eyes clouded up.
“Corbin, I didn’t know they would-”
“I don’t want to hear it.”
She reached a hand to toward my face.
I brushed it aside. “Leave me alone.”
I turned and walked down the hall.
Samson followed close behind.
Behind us, Lily started to sob.
Hearing her cry just made me madder. Serves her right.
My anger toward everything that had happened fueled me up the stairs, but by the time we reached the top, I was shaking and gasping for air.
Samson hurried me down the hall. “Don’t worry. I know you didn’t do anything wrong. Just trust me.”
He popped open the door.
A silence fell over the crowd, and they all turned to stare at me.
My gut twisted up inside. I felt the heat of their angry, accusing eyes.
Yesterday, I had been a slight irritant to some and a relief to others. Today I was lower than the deads that walked the street. Richard and his herd had probably already worked them into a frenzy.
Still, I knew inside that I done nothing to be ashamed of. I’d done nothing wrong. I walked down the center aisle, looking around the crowd to meet as many gazes as possible.
Many of the hard faces softened as they saw my ragged condition.
Whispers washed over the crowd. “What did they do to him?” “Serves the creep right.” “He looks like he’s been run over.” “I never would have thought he-” “Well, maybe he shouldn’t have molested the girl.” “That’s just not right.”
I caught sight of the man whose nose I had smashed last night.
He had two black eyes.
I was satisfied at that. I looked around for the others.
None seemed to have any visible marks from our fight.
Samson led me to a seat on the raised platform and then turned to the crowd.
“All right everybody, let’s calm down.”
The noise level dropped down to silence.
My eyes raced around the room. Where’s Linda?
“As you all know, Corbin here behind me has been accused of inappropriate conduct with Lily, who is fifteen. This meeting will be to determine if in fact he did what his accusers claim, and then decide what to do about it. And then we have one unrelated matter to discuss.”
The tall guy stood up. “We already know he did it. Let’s throw him out!”
A grumble of agreement echoed from the crowd.
Samson raised his hands. “Quiet!”
His booming voice echoed and everyone in the room went silent.
He glared at the tall guy. “I’m not a lawyer. I haven’t spent much time in courts. But, I do know this; there needs to be order for justice to truly be served. If you speak out of turn again, you will be removed from the meeting.”
The tall man frowned and sat.
“OK, Richard, I assume you will be presenting the case against Corbin?”
Richard nodded his fat head. “That’s right.”
Samson sat down in a chair close to mine.
Richard stood, smirked at me and faced the crowd.
“Ladies and gentleman, Samson put it too nicely. I am going to prove to you that Corbin St. Laurent raped an underage guest at this hotel and furthermore physically assaulted one of the other guests, my friend Matthew Smith.”
He turned to me and raised an eyebrow. “Mr. St. Laurent, What do you say to those charges?”
I fought the urge to roll my eyes, but I knew I needed to control myself if I was to have any sort of chance. “I did not rape Lily. I did punch your friend, but it was in self defense, and you know that. That’s what I have to say.”
Richard sneered and turned back to the crowd. “Look, everybody. I’m not going to waste your time with all of the formalities of a regular court case. I’m just going to tell you what happened.”
“Last night, soon after nightfall, some associates and I were returning to our rooms when we heard a commotion. Corbin came out of his room and looked very jumpy. He tried to distract us, but after a moment, Lily came out of his room. Her clothes were ripped in places and disheveled, and she was crying. She begged us for help. We sheltered her and Corbin became violent. He attacked Matthew and we did what we had to do to stop him.”
I clenched my jaw.
Richard motioned with his palms up. “Would all those who were with me and can verify my story please stand up?”
His four cronies stood up and agreed with everything Richard had said.
Anger and depression fought for control in my head. I hated Richard and his friends for their lies. Their bigotry and irrationality had doomed me. What could clear my name now? There was nothing.
Nothing I could say.
Nothing I could do.
Maybe if Lily told the truth. But she was downstairs bawling her eyes out right now.
The only thing to do was wait for this sham of a trial to end and take my lumps yet again. That probably meant back on the street, with ever increasing hoards of deads, and I was too tired of everything to keep struggling. They’d catch me, I’d be infected, and four, maybe eight hours later I’d be one of them.
What does it matter anyway? The virus is going to take us all no matter what we do. Might as well get my suffering over with all the sooner.
Richard paced back and forth in front of the crowd. “And there’s one more thing.”
He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper. He held it up for the crowd to see.
“I have here a statement written by Lily. She was too shaken, too upset, too broken to come to this trial so she wrote everything that happened in this letter. That’s right, she couldn’t even bring herself to come in front of Corbin and say what happened. So I had her write it down. It’s not very long, but I think it says everything that needs to be said. She’s downstairs waiting in my room until she receives news that justice has been done.”
Confusion filled my mind. Letter? In his room? What is he talking about? I just saw her in the hall.
Samson stood. “May I see the letter?”
Richard swaggered up and held out the paper.
Samson took it and sat down.
“Well, what do you think?”
Samson stared grim-faced at the paper and nodded. He frowned at me for a moment and then stood again. “The letter clearly states Corbin raped her.”
Richard turned to the audience and raised his hands. “There you have it, everyone. I don’t think anything else needs to be said about it. We only need to decide how Mr. St. Laurent should be punished.”
The arrogant pig dropped his arms and swaggered back to his seat.
Silence ruled the room for a very long ten seconds.
I cringed and waited for the inevitable.
Someone from the crowd yelled. “Kick him out! Let the infected have him!”
All at once, everyone was calling for my removal from the hotel, or worse.
After a moment of this, Samson stood again. “Quiet!”
I marveled again at his imposing stature and booming voice. I just didn’t want to believe that he dumb enough to buy Richard’s lies.
The noise tapered off.
Samson held up the note. “We’ve heard some pretty damning evidence, but I think we should at least let Corbin have a chance to defend himself. Corbin?”
I winced with pain as I stood.
Samson turned, winked at me and sat back down.
What is going on with him? And what am I supposed to say?
I looked around at the angry faces staring up at me and opened my mouth to speak.
What can Corbin do against the testimony of the five lawyers and Lily’s note? I have to admit, it looks bad for him. Find out now.
And thanks again for reading.