After days of testimony, the jury finally retired to deliberate. Clisty didn’t report the daily account of the events in court. She didn’t want any reason for Ezra to have a retrial. There would be time for all of that when the Network wound up filming the whole story. She decided to release the sketches during that evening’s news. She walked out to the outer hall and stretched, trying to work the anger out of her body that had been stored in her muscles since she was nine.
“I’m here for you, Babe,” Jake said as he came up behind her and rubbed her back. “All we can do now is to wait for the jury to come in.”
“I know,” Clisty said as she turned. She lifted Jake’s right arm and threw it over her shoulder and same with his left. Smiling up at him she surrendered to his safe arms. “It’s been so long. How will I ever do a story every week?”
“You do it all the time now,” Jake encouraged her. “There’s something new on each broadcast, Hon. Every evening you report a new account of the happenings and people of Fort Wayne.”
“I know. I guess it’s still the geography that has me rattled.” She buried her head in Jake’s shoulder and sighed. “It’s this case, having Faith back and at the same time, I have to make a major decision about my career.
“Is the network still waiting for your answer to their New York offer?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “They said, after the trial they’ll want an answer. The trial will be over soon. Now, I’m too tired to think about any of it.”
“Clisty, this story will be far different from all the others you will cover and far more difficult. This one is as personal as it gets. Stratton kidnapped your best friend right out of your own living room and he nearly took you too. He had his hands on you until you got away and he jerked Faith right out of your grasp. It can’t get more personal than that. You are emotionally exhausted, which is a lot harder than physical exhaustion.” Jake soothed her back with gentle hands.
“You’re right, Jake,” Clisty whispered as she remained in his arms. “I can’t ignore how angry, afraid, weak, vulnerable, and happy I’ve felt through all of this. Happy, obviously, because I’m glad Faith is home. But the other stuff, the bad feelings, sometimes, I experienced all those emotions at the same time!”
They clustered in the hall for as long as it took for all four of them to gather, Clisty and Jake, Becca and Clint. Then the Sterlings came out of the courtroom. Clisty put her arms around Roma and kissed her cheek. “Are you two holding up okay? We’re going to film some comments. Can we hear from you two?”
“From Ralph, maybe. I have nothing to say right now,” Roma said. “I am so upset. That man is a monster and his wife was so weak, she went along with his demands.”
“I understand,” Clisty empathized with her. “How is Faith doing?”
“She’s at our home, but I don’t want the TV audience to know where she is. She’s alone. I am still terrified for her. We’re going to hurry home to be with her.” Mrs. Sterling whispered. Then she smiled and her voice cracked. “Faith got Pooky off to school today—her first day in a new school, in any school for that matter,” she brushed a tear from her cheek. “Pooky was so excited. It’s a new beginning for all of us.”
“Sorry to break this up, Mrs. Sterling,” Becca chimed in softly. “I don’t want to rush any of you, but I think we’d better get some video, outside the court room. It’s always good to get immediate reactions if at all possible. We’ll use it for the eleven o’clock news or save it for the News Magazine. We’ll look at all of it and then decide.”
Clint stepped back from the small cluster of us with the TV camera in his hand. After quickly finding a good spot, he raised the camera, adjusted the lens and started filming. Becca stepped behind him, out of his shot, where she could see what he saw in the view finder. She paused for only a second and then made the thumbs up gesture. She put up three fingers, counting down to zero. Clisty knew they were ready.
“We are outside the courtroom where the jury has just received instructions from the judge. They will not be back until they have reached a verdict.” She looked over and nodded toward Roma and Ralph as they stood just beyond the view of the camera. “Mr. and Mrs. Sterling, is there anything you would like our audience to know?”
Ralph took Roma by the elbow and let her over to the microphone. Ralph began. “We are hopeful that justice will be served. Stratton took our daughter’s childhood away from her and our lives away from us at the same time. I want him punished. Mrs. Stratton’s testimony told us that someone in that house loved Faith. I know that no one ever expressed it, but we hope Faith felt it. For that, we will be eternally grateful. Pooky, our granddaughter, loves Emily Stratton and that tells us there was love in their house in spite of that ... man. We will wait for the jury’s verdict. In fact,” he looked at his watch. “We’re going home to get Faith and we’ll all be right back, in case the jury doesn’t deliberate for very long. Then, we’ll play it hour by hour, day by day, just like we have lived for eighteen years, until this nightmare is over.”
“Thank you;” Clisty said. “We know what this trial has meant to all of you. This is Clisty Sinclair for the News at Eleven.” The microphone suddenly felt heavy in her hands. She handed it to Clint.
“Let’s all go for some supper,” Clisty said. “Mr. Fisher has our cell phone numbers and will call us when the verdict comes in. Maybe a little food will give us the energy to get through this.”
“Perfect,” Becca agreed.
“If we go to the Courtroom Grill across the street, we won’t have far to come back if the verdict comes in fast,” Jake offered.
“During supper?” Becca quipped. “We should eat at the train station if Stratton’s on the fast track to the pen.”
“I think I could eat an entire Thanksgiving feast in the few minutes we’ll be gone,” Clisty said as she allowed herself to pay attention to her body. “I had no idea I was hungry until now.”