A Fighting Chance

A detective, a victim and the grim satisfaction of justice served

One spot in my city offers little hope for redemption. This place, so desolate and dreary, is my hunting ground. Souls can sink below view here, lost within the shadows. These are the ones I aim to reclaim. I’m a man consumed by hatred of an uncommon kind, and it only grows.

I stand vigil here in the perfect center of a lobby, just outside one of our courtrooms. Two short steps to the right and I can squint through the crystal inlays on the oak doors. Good lord, she looks tiny in there. She’s only 19. The only thing that keeps me from standing beside her is the court’s exclusionary rule.

How was she to know that he had planned this lie all along, dangling in front of her the thought of flying to Vegas? He promised she could manage his lingerie shop.

She wipes away tears and struggles through the rest of her testimony. At her left sits the wide-eyed jury. By their expressions alone, some are astounded, others sickened, and the last few are in some kind of stoic denial.

Prosecutors have thrown up a video on the wall. We see her begging, “Please, no!” The animal who tricked her into all this kept his camera rolling. The shape of her soft, thin features is nearly invisible now, hidden behind flush-red skin and eyes swollen from tears. At a mere 115 pounds, it will take every ounce of courage she can muster to stand against it.

Today’s beast has taken the shape of Richard Roberson. You can see he’s no giant, but he outweighs Amy by 60 pounds, and has no problem winning a fight with her. He likes to wrap a chain around his fist. With each blow to her head, I’m sure she felt every pound of his fury.

He made a video of one of these attacks, and right now that’s what is showing on the monitor.

I still remember stumbling across it. For hour after hour, I’d watch his home movies, well over 100 tapes. Then I found it, just like Amy promised I would. He decided to record himself changing her from a woman—a daughter and a mother—into a prostitute.

This is how you make a bitch, he swore, and we see him screaming it up on the screen. She triggered his rage by simply saying no. She wanted to return to her family, back home to Florida.

I peer through the glass. She’s badly shaken from seeing herself like this.

Look up, Amy. My lips barely move as I mutter. I’m right here. I’m right with you.

My eyes never leave her as I stare through the courtroom door. Tell your story. Let the last words this bastard hears come from you. She’s got a much better chance in this fight. When I’m in her corner, I bring along a badge and a gun.

With both hands, she wipes away more tears and takes a moment to tuck a curly lock of hair behind her ear. Amy timidly lifts her gaze, and her eyes drift across the courtroom.

I see you, Amy. Look toward the door.

Her eyes pan across the room, and then she spots me. I lock onto her chestnut eyes and slowly lift both hands, gesturing for her to inhale deeply. She does, and with a slight nod I urge her to finish him off. She straightens her back, exhales and continues.

His attorneys are all up now and moving like a pack, circling Amy, hunting for the best vantage from which to chew at her character. They try every trick they can to make her look like some bitter, vindictive liar.

Amy’s been on the stand now for three hours.

Finally, the heavy oak door creaks slightly and I am allowed to push it open. It’s over! She steps back into the lobby.

“It was hard, Chris. I hope I did OK?” She smiles apprehensively.

“You were better than OK, Amy.” I wrap my left arm around her and escort her to a side room.

With breathtaking speed, the verdict comes in. My eyes are glued to the judge as he receives the decision. Mr. Roberson and his defense team stand in anticipation. His knees nearly buckle as the verdict is delivered.

Count one: First-degree kidnap with a deadly weapon. Guilty. Count two: Second-degree kidnap with deadly weapon. Guilty. Count three: Pandering with force. Guilty. Counts four and five: Living from the earnings of a prostitute. Guilty. Count six: Coercion with deadly weapon. Guilty. Counts seven and eight: Sexual assault with deadly weapon. Guilty. Count nine: Possession of controlled substance with intent to sell. Guilty.

The hatred inside me smiles.