“Did I kill anyone?” Lucy asked the nurse.
“No,” the nurse said. “But you’re in enough trouble anyway.” She nodded at the federal marshals sitting outside Lucy’s hospital room. “Runaway, huh?” The nurse took a look at the monitor hanging over Lucy’s head. “Well, you didn’t kill yourself, that’s for sure. Not even a broken bone. Good thing for you that airbag went off.” She closed the door and put a thermometer in the patient’s mouth.
“Lucy, my god!” Larry Glass came bursting into the room, his jacket still awry from the frisking the Marshals had given him. “What in the world were you thinking? You could have been killed. You could have killed someone else. Do you know how close you came to that BUS??” He was actually purple. The nurse stepped between the furious lawyer and the girl in the hospital bed.
“It’s ok,” Lucy said. “He’s my lawyer. It was his car I crashed. I’m so sorry, Larry. I thought we were going to the Maryland authorities. Once the feds get me, I’m done.”
“Well, they have you now,” Larry said sadly, straightening his clothes. “Someone on the Maryland side is obviously leaking to the feds. The federal marshalls were waiting at the states’ attorney’s apartment to arrest you. They already got your urine from that nurse so they know you’re pregnant.”
“How can they do that?!” she asked indignantly.
“It’s completely legal. They have your picture going to the abortion clinic, so they suspect you of trying to kill your ‘baby.’ Which you were, actually,” he continued in the same level tone of voice. “Taking urine from a suspected baby carrier has been legal since the Fetus law. As soon as the hospital says it’s okay, you’re going to Chesapeake for holding for rendition back to Virginia. Give me a hug now, because the next time I see you there will be a pane of glass between us. Chesapeake used to be a supermax, and the feds have been slowly returning to that model for their runaways. They know Baltimore is a big stop on the Rainbow Road, and they’re trying to make an example when they catch someone.”
“But I didn’t come for an abortion!” she cried. “I didn’t know I was pregnant until I started feeling so weird in the morning. I came to go to school.”
He leaned in. “They are going to find your boyfriend,” he said, his voice hardening. “And get him to admit to having unprotected sex. Or even that you told him you were pregnant weeks before you ran away. How long do you think some teenager is going to hold out against the VBI?”
Her boyfriend. She looked at Larry.
“I’ll take that chance.”
“Who’s the father?” the guard asked her for the thousandth time. Or maybe it just seemed like the thousandth time, because of the lights and music in her cell. She hadn’t slept in so long she had no idea how many questions or hours had passed. Drifting. Ice. Water pouring over her. “Don’t put your head down,” he said, lifting the bucket he’d just emptied on her head. “You’re not sleeping until you tell us who fathered this baby.”
“Who’s the father?”
I guess we brought this on ourselves, Lucy thought, filing those papers that said I didn’t know I was pregnant when I came across, so they couldn’t send me back under the Fetus law. Maybe I should tell them who I managed to have sex with in that tight-knit society. Maybe Arthur won’t actually kill Mom if I tell on him. No, I gotta keep it a secret. They have no other way to prove I knew I was pregnant. I’ll just keep saying it must have been the ferals, that last day.
Boy, sleeping on a concrete floor makes for a rude awakening. But even the floor of the cell was actually welcome after the lights and the noise and the ice water and the who and who and who.
“You look like a drowned rat,” Larry said. Lucy held the prison visitor phone away from her ear and glared at him through the glass.
“Get me out of here!” she cried. “They aren’t letting me sleep, music, lights, questioning me endlessly. Who, who, who is the father?”
“I’m afraid we did that,” he said ruefully, as if he’d read her mind, “If they can get someone to testify that you had sex more than a month before you left, that makes it look like you missed your period and knew. I’ll file a motion with the Runaway Commissioner, but people don’t get appointed to be Commissioners because they’re sympathetic with the runaways. The law took away your right to jury trial for a reason: they want you renditioned back and they know the federal Commissioners will do that.”
She was silent.
“Josh wants to come next visit,” Larry said suddenly into the silence. “I thought we lost him when he found out you were pregnant, but he seems to be committed to getting you off. Maybe he has a rescue fantasy or something. Not a bad characteristic for a defense lawyer,” he ruminated.
Oh, great, another man who wants to tell her how to live her life, Lucy thought. “Can Kelly come? or Joanna?” she asked. She was suddenly hungry for a female voice.
Larry didn’t answer.
She looked at him. He looked at his watch.
“You don’t want her associating with me,” she said suddenly. “Do you? You think I’m slutty because I’m pregnant and only seventeen years old.” She heard her voice rising and he shook his head behind the glass, gesturing to the guards all around.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said in a loud whisper. “She’s very busy that’s all.”
“Right. Busy. Buffing her resume for Harvard. While I sit here being tortured by the federal police. And all because I got trapped in a red state.”
“Be quiet for God’s sake,” he said. What was she doing, pushing away her own lawyer? The Glasses had been unbelievable to her. She couldn’t give up hope now. It was the only thing keeping her going.
“Now let me get a picture of you looking like this so I can take it to the Commissioner and see if I can get you held somewhere else or at least get a camera in the interrogation room. The Bill of Rights may not apply to the states, but it still applies to the federal government.” He reached in his pocket. “Oh, I forgot, they took my phone away when I came through security. Ok, someone from the firm is going to come see you every day. I’ll have Josh file papers with the Commissioner asking to transfer you. That may rein in their interrogation methods. Anyway we have to prepare you to testify at the rendition hearing.
Back in her cell, they were shaking her awake again. She thought it had stopped when they realized she was not going to tell them who the father was. What more could they do to a woman they’re pursuing under the fetal protection act? At least she was safe from the worst of it until she gave birth.
“Get dressed,” the guard said. “You’re going to court.” He slammed the heavy door behind him. Would she ever get used to being so alone? She couldn’t even exercise in the yard with the others. If the sleep deprivation didn’t break her, maybe the loneliness would. She was starting to think being interrogated wasn’t so bad. At least it was another human being in the room with her. She put on the awful pink prison dress and shoes and ran her fingers through her cropped blonde hair. She probably had dark roots by now. Of course they didn’t put mirrors in the cells. I wonder if they make anyone but the Fetal runaways wear pink, she thought as she struggled to snap the front closed. She’d be needing a bigger prison uniform soon.
“E pluribus unum.” The dingy little courtroom still had a Seal of the United States on the wall. Unum, hah, Lucy thought. Her father had told her it meant, out of many, One. Since the Agreement, the country was more like the eagle on the seal, half the states under the arrows in the eagle’s talon – with no Bill of Rights, there was no protection for women or gays or lesbians. In the olive branch states, Joanna is going to Harvard. And I’m going to jail. Or maybe into labor. Or both. Some unum. Somehow seeing the people who were trying to send her back to Virginia dressed up in legal robes – of the United States no less – made it infinitely worse. At least the girl catchers and the prison guards were open about it. They were thugs. These were thugs in robes.
“Sit down!” her guard pulled her into a seat at the side of the room, a bright pink spot in the drab surroundings. The door at the back of the courtroom opened, and Larry and Kelly and Josh walked in. The door swung open again to admit a big red-faced white guy with a dimpled chin followed by a slender young black woman. They sat at the table opposite Larry’s. Her lawyers exchanged glances.
A small, balding man with cheap plastic framed glasses took his seat at the bench.
“The Commission for the Return of Runaway Mothers is now in session, Commissioner Elving Picart presiding. God save the United States and this honorable Court. You may be seated.”
The young woman stood up. “May it please the court,” she said, “I move the admission for purposes of this case of Theodore Erickson of the United States Department of Justice. Mr. Erickson has been admitted . . .”
“I know who Mr. Erickson is,” the Commissioner interrupted. “We are honored, Mr. Erickson,” he addressed the newcomer. “You are admitted to practice before this Commission for the purposes of this case.”
“Your honor,” Larry said, rising from his seat. “We received no notice that there would be a substitution of counsel. “We at least need a couple of hours to prepare a response.”
“What could you possibly think up to say?” Commissioner Picart asked, with a look of incredulity on his face. “That Theodore Erickson isn’t experienced enough to practice before the Runaway Commission? That’s funny. I notice, by the way, that you have never tried a Runaway case, Mr. Glass. Are you sure you don’t want us to appoint a public defender for your client?”
Lucy looked steadily at the supposedly neutral judge who was all that stood between her and the return to rapist heaven at Arthur’s as he insulted her lawyer right out of the box.
“Thank you your Honor,” Glass replied levelly. “My colleagues and I are confident we represent our client and prove to the Court that Ms. Atreides did not leave Virginia for the purpose of seeking an abortion and so she cannot be sent back. You may recognize my associate Kelly Groff from the Ableman rendition case she won last year.”
Lucy relaxed a little. Kelly was the best. If anyone could get her out of this.
Picart ignored the invitation to acknowledge Kelly and glanced at the file on his desk. “I don’t see a request for a pregnancy physical,” he said. “Isn’t that fairly standard? Blood, urine, have to be sure our new mothers are properly taken care of while they’re our guests,” he chortled. “Well,” he continued, with a puzzled look at the famous new lawyer in the courtroom, “I’ll just save us all some time and order it.”
Seeing Larry again rising to his feet, Picart added, with copies of everything to the defense of course.
“Your honor, we want our own experts to examine her too. We don’t want copies of government reports on how my client is doing. She was kept without sleep for several days and interrogated without letup.”
“A serious charge if you can prove it,” Picart said to Larry. “I’m not having a bunch of outside experts running around my lockup. Your client doesn’t look like she’s suffering to me. Very attractive color on you,” he added, looking at Lucy for the first time since he entered the courtroom. Lucy felt the edges of the room go dark. The air was too thick to breathe. She was so hot. This was a new thing, this feeling like she was going to black out. Maybe she had hurt herself in that car crash. Or maybe it’s what pregnant ladies do: swoon.
When her vision cleared, Larry and that new guy from DC were standing at the bench talking to the commissioner about something. As she looked around she saw Josh staring at her. “You okay?” he mouthed silently. She nodded. What difference did it make? They couldn’t help her. She certainly couldn’t help herself. And she’d been feeling so full of it when she got away. Like she was a real adult, who could take care of herself. She was going to be back in solitary confinement and then she was going to be back in Richmond Virginia with a baby on the way. The VBI wouldn’t torture her to tell them who the father was. They’d probably just pick a feral off the street and marry her to him. Or Arthur would say she could have the baby, stay home and take care of Mom. And then he would visit her in her room every night. Oh, Kelly was right. They should never have agreed to turn her in. She’d be in Canada by now. Or at least New York.
“All right counselor,” Commissioner Picart was saying to Larry. “You can have a brief conference with your client. There’s a lawyers’ room over there. The guard will be right outside in case she decides to pull another stunt. You have your car keys with you this time? Guard, frisk the defendants’ lawyers to be sure they don’t have anything a runaway shouldn’t get near. Like abortion pills, he muttered.
“Your honor,” Larry protested angrily.
“OUT.” The commissioner said. “You want to talk to her directly. You get frisked. You too, Ms. Groff, he said sarcastically emphasizing the Ms. Him too,” Picart added, seeing Josh walk away with Larry.
A few minutes later Larry closed the door and spread his arms. “Come get a hug,” he said. You’re still only a young girl and this must be just awful for you. He wouldn’t even hear argument on our motion for bail.”
“I didn’t think so,” she said sadly. “After I tried to escape again.”
“Yeah, where did you think you were going?” Josh asked angrily.
“Canada,” she said, looking at Kelly. “Follow the drinking gourd.”
That shut them up for a minute.
“I was going back to the office. At least there the Rescuers were around to protect me,” she added. Like Josh and Kelly said in the first place. She tried to lower her voice. They were trying to help her. She was really angry with herself. Why did she stop running, once she got out? She could have been in Canada a thousand times by now. Or she could have stayed with the Rescuers. They would have known better than to just drive up brazenly to the Planned Parenthood clinic like she stupidly did. She kept thinking she could rescue herself. Not doing a great job on her own.
“Ok while we have a moment, we have to talk about the trial. That asshole did at least say he’d hold it within ten days. If we win, you could still get a legal abortion. But he didn’t seem disposed to us, even before Erickson showed up. “
He paused and he and Kelly exchanged glances again.
“WHAT?” she said. “Who is he? Why did the judge act like that?”
“He’s the most important lawyer in the Justice Department,” Larry finally said. “He’s argued more Supreme Court cases than anyone else in the country, and won most of them. Of course, it got a lot easier when they got that fifth seat after the Agreement. But the question is why are they sending Theodore Erickson to a simple rendition hearing. Is your stepfather that important?”
“I guess he is,” she answered, wiping her hand across her eyes.
“The more interesting question,” Josh interjected, finally speaking up, “is why he’s giving us such a quick hearing. Usually if it goes to a hearing, rather than the girl catchers just hauling them back, they put it off until it’s too late to get an abortion.”
“I know,” Larry said. “I had a motion for an emergency order of transfer in my briefcase, but I didn’t need it because he set it so quickly. And they stopped interrogating you. I didn’t need any of my motions.”
“We’re going to LOSE, that’s why,” Lucy heard herself shouting at their little lawyer conversation. “What’s the difference? I’ll never get an abortion in Virginia once they send me back. And apparently Arthur wants this to end as quickly as possible.”
“We’re going to do our best for you, Lucy,” Larry said, taking her hands in his. “But we cannot defend you if you don’t tell us how this pregnancy came about. We are going to have to try to get the man who got you pregnant to say it was just a few weeks before you left.”
She knew it would come to this eventually.
“When I ran away,” she said, trying very hard not to meet Kelly’s eyes, “I was waiting in the garage where people said the Guides came to pick people up and there were these ferals . . .”