[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] Jason was watching from home and monitoring Twitter looking for trending hashtags on his story when his work phone rang.

“Nice job, kid,” Jules said. “I like the numbers on this story so far. I’ll be curious to see the ratings for tonight’s program but so far I like what I see on Twitter and Facebook. Our website is also very busy with viewer questions for our panel, and we’re not even half-way through the interview.”

“Thanks, Jules, I’m glad you like it. I’m watching the hashtags on Twitter and there’s some good traffic. People are really getting into this debate; they’re talking about good parenting and not so much about the Toussignant case, which is exactly what I was hoping for. If you’re OK with it I’d like to keep this story going. Like I’m thinking of having a Debate of the Generations going on this, see if younger people like me are more likely to fall on one side and if GenXers like Toussignant have a darker view on this. I’d like to get the phone-in shows to take up this topic, too, maybe with representatives from various generations along with experts in the studio, and really give our viewers a chance to weigh in on this. I’m getting tons of emails and tweets on this story, it’s nuts.”

“Yeah, well, you get to keep pushing that story as long as you keep us in front of the competition.”

“Roger that, Jules, thanks.”

****

Abdul Bédard-Lellouche was in the same jail as Jeff Toussignant, though in a different wing. He was accused of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, illegal drug trafficking, and a half-dozen other charges. So was I. Apparently we had to wait until Toussignant’s trial was over to have our cases heard. Our lawyers weren’t particularly optimistic about our chances of breathing free air in a long while. The investigation was still ongoing and the cops were going through cold cases of sudden deaths. I hadn’t had a chance to chat with Abdul, not that we needed to. We were very much aware that there were a lot of cases that hadn’t yet been uncovered.

It might surprise the casual observer to learn that Abdul was looking forward to the start of Jeff’s trial the next day, and not because he would have to testify. No, the reason he looked forward to it was that if he survived long enough to testify it was a good indication that he would not be murdered by someone working inside the jail for the gangs. Right at the moment he lived in a weird sort of limbo where he did not know whether he’d be allowed to wake up the next morning or if he’d find himself with an artisanal knife somewhere deep into his back.

Something I was more than a little worried about myself.

****

Nathalie had no idea how she’d managed to finish her shift at the corner store. No doubt Marc’s presence helped a great deal. He could always be counted on to soothe her nerves. They had watched the interview with Jeff and the panel discussion on the CBC website after coming home, taking time to pause and go back to watch some bits again when they felt the need to hear something more than once. They had talked about it throughout, and Marc was pretty confident he had a solid handle on what Jeff had in mind for his trial and what that might mean for his beloved. He just wasn’t sure Nathalie could see it as clearly as he could, and he was debating whether to level with her on that or not.

“I’m so worried, Marc. I don’t know what he means to ask me when I get on the stand. He says he intends to show that his childhood was so difficult it left him permanently scarred. Do you think he’s going to ask me questions about what our life was like when we were kids?”

Marc took a deep breath. Here we go.

“Look, honey, I hope to hell I’m wrong about this, but that’s what it looks like to me, yes. I think he’s thought this thing through pretty good, and he appears to have a plan he means to follow. I have not talked to him at all since he got arrested, you know that. You’ve been to see him a few times and all I know about what he’s done in jail since his arrest is second-hand information from you and also from that interview. I would feel more certain about my assessment if I’d been able to look him in the eye, but even without that, just looking at him on TV and hearing you describe his body language and everything to me, I’d say the odds that he’ll ask you to help him make his case on the stand are, unfortunately, quite high. I’m sorry, baby.”

“But I don’t want to help him!!!” Nathalie almost shrieked. This is what she’d been dreading for weeks now and there was a part of her that held on to a tiny sliver of hope that she could somehow avoid having to talk about her family in public, in a freaking court of law, in a trial that was going to be followed very closely by just about every media in the province – if not the country – and she had resisted asking Marc for his opinion on this because she feared he would have to take away that tiny sliver of hope from her, like he’d just done.

“Shit! Why does this have to happen to me!?! What are our kids supposed to do with this? Even if they don’t watch me testify their friends’ parents will have read about it in the newspaper or seen it on TV so the friends will know and what will that do to our girls?”

Marc did not have words to comfort her. He only had his arms. He wrapped her up in them and held her close, stroking her hair as gently as he could. “I know, I know. It’s not going to be easy. But I’ll be right here with you, every step of the way. I believe in you. I know you will do the right thing and do it well. We’ll be OK, I promise.”

She so wanted to believe him.

[next chapter]