The blissful emptiness of the first real night’s sleep I’ve gotten in days is interrupted by a shrill scream. I wake with a start, gasping as I try to adjust to reality. Kate is in the bed next to me, thrashing around, so I grab onto her and shake her firmly.
“Kate! Wake up!” I cry worriedly, and as I do, her eyelids snap open and she too looks around the room as if she’s confused where she is. I reach over to the bedside table and turn on the lamp, flooding our dorm in light. This is the third night we’ve tried sleeping in here. It took nearly a week after Kate’s stalker was caught for her to even consider coming back into this room and another week after that before she could be in here when it was dark outside. She’s still yet to make it for more than a few minutes in here by herself either during the day or night.
On our first night back in this room together, I attempted to sleep in my own bed, but I only lasted there an hour before Kate started having a panic attack so severe, she nearly hyperventilated. I’ve spent the last two nights cuddled up next to her in her bed and she’s done fairly well, if you consider that she’s been able to fall asleep at all. The downside is that I can almost count the number of hours of sleep I’ve gotten in the last three nights on my fingers.
“Are you okay?” I ask, when her breathing slows and she’s able to relax back into her pillow.
“Fine,” She whispers, sounding as though she’s nearly on the edge of tears. “Is the door locked?”
“Yes, Kate. Remember, I checked it right before I got into bed.”
“Can you check again, please?” She asks quickly. I sigh, but get out of bed and jiggle the doorknob on our brand new door to show her that it is indeed locked and can’t be turned.
“See,” I tell her reassuringly. “We’re safe in here. You’re safe.” She nods and lifts the covers next to her so that I can crawl back into bed.
“I keep seeing their faces,” She says quietly. “Deacon, Lydia, Constance, Elizabeth, those two police officers…”
“You shouldn’t have gone to the funerals,” I say, remembering the fight both Christian and I had with her each time she left campus to watch the stalker’s victims be buried.
“I had to. It’s my fault that they’re dead,” She says, and tears begin to well in her eyes.
“Kate, it is not your fault! You didn’t ask for any of this to happen and you certainly didn’t do anything that could have possibly warranted his actions. He’s insane.”
“I should have left campus,” She replies, shaking her head. “I should have left right after you’d been attacked, but I was too selfish. All I could think about was not losing Harvard. This has been my dream my entire life, growing up listening to Dad’s stories of his time here, and watching games, and attending alumni dinners… I wore a crimson sweatshirt in my very first Christmas card. I just wanted to be a part of this and now I am and it’s everything, but because I was too selfish to leave, six people are dead and I put Christian, and Elliot, and you at risk. I’ll never forgive myself.”
“Kate, it’s not your fault,” I repeat. “You deserve to be here, you worked hard to get here and you can’t let yourself feel guilty for living your life. This is only on him, Kate.”
She doesn’t say anything in response so I try a different approach. “Maybe tomorrow, you should make another appointment to meet with that psychiatrist. It seemed to help a little last time you went.”
“I can’t,” She says. “I have a deposition. I have to meet with Carrick and that lawyer in the morning. My parents are going to be there.”
“I’m sure they’ll understand.”
“No. Nothing is more important to me than seeing Dylan Abernathy pay for what he’s done. I want to give the prosecutor everything I can so that he will spend the rest of his life in jail. You know, I didn’t support the death penalty before all of this happened, but now, the thought of him living after what he’s done… I can hardly bear that.”
“I know,” I tell her, giving her a hug.
“You’ll go with me to my deposition tomorrow right?” She asks.
“Sure,” I tell her.
“Thank you, Ana. I could never have gotten through this without you.”
“Of course,” I tell her. “I love you, Kate. Sisters from different misters right?”
“Right,” She says with a laugh, but the brief moment of happiness is quickly replaced again with reflective sadness.
I squeeze her one last time, wishing she could forget what happened, even for just a second, and reach over to turn off the light. The blue light on my phone is blinking, telling me I have a message waiting for me so I take a quick second to read it. It’s from Christian.
Hope Kate is better tonight. I miss you in my bed.
I sigh and hit reply.
Not yet. I miss you too.
The next morning, Kate and I sleep in a little too long and have to hurry to get to the deposition. We dart into the tiny room the prosecuting attorney for the case has reserved at the Middlesex County Courthouse a few minutes late, and see Carrick seated at a table with both of Kate’s parents. Once he’d found out about what happened to Kate, Carrick volunteered his time to represent Kate as an individual to ensure that her interests were considered so that at the end of the trial, she wouldn’t end up as simply a file in a name. It’s worked well because he’s been working closely with the prosecutor’s office and we’ve actually got way more information about the actual case than we would have if Kate had done this without him.
“I’m sorry we’re late,” Kate says, hurrying into the seat next to her mother across the table from the lawyer for the State of Massachusetts. “Do you mind if Ana stays with me?”
“Not at all,” he says kindly, closing the door behind us, and Kate motions for me to sit in the chair next to her. Once I do, she grasps my hands, takes a deep, steadying breath and then stares intently at the lawyer.
“Are you ready, Miss Kavanagh?” He asks.
“Yes,” She says with a slight nod.
“Good,” He says and he reaches into his brief case and pulls out a tape recorder and places it on the table between himself and Kate. “If it’s alright with you, I’d like to record our conversation. No one will hear this tape other than myself and my team unless we decide it could be useful as evidence. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes,” Kate says again.
“Thank you, and please, be as detailed in your answers as you can.” The lawyer hits record and the conversation continues between him and Kate without any interruptions from myself, Carrick, or her parents.
“Will you please state your name for the recording?”
“And Katherine, can you please describe to me the first time you remember encountering Mr. Dylan Abernathy?”
“The first time? Uh, I…” Kate struggles, her eyes darting back and forth as she searches her memory. “I don’t remember the first time. It was so sporadic in the beginning.”
“Don’t worry, Miss Kavanagh. I’m not asking you to pinpoint when it started,” The lawyer reassures her. “Just the first time you remember noticing him.”
“Well, I think, um… in a computer lab, maybe? Yeah, I was working on a project for one of my journalism classes and I needed Publisher, but I didn’t have that on my laptop, so I went to a computer lab to work. He was sitting at a table across the room and he stared at me almost the entire time I was there.”
“Did that strike you as threatening?”
“No. It was weird and kind of uncomfortable but not threatening, at least I didn’t think it was at the time. I don’t mean to sound, egotistical or conceited or anything, but it’s not really that unusual for guys stare at me.”
“And when was this?” The lawyer continues.
“Early-ish October. I don’t remember exactly. Ana and Carter were dating though so at least three weeks or so before Halloween.”
“Okay, you said in the beginning it was sporadic. When did you start seeing him or running into him more regularly?”
“Probably after Thanksgiving. We only had one week of regular school, and then dead week, and then finals, so I was out of my dorm a lot. He would be there in the morning when I got coffee at the coffee shop on campus, waiting outside the library when I went to see Ana… I thought it was just because it was finals and everyone was really busy, but when I got back after Christmas break, he was still popping up everywhere.”
“Did you tell anyone?”
“No, I thought I was being paranoid,” She says, and I feel guilt flash through me. She had told someone, she’d told me, and I was the one who told her she was being paranoid.
“Did he ever approach you, speak to you?” The lawyer asks.
“Not until January. Ana, my roommate, and I were getting coffee and he approached her. He had her purse in his hand. Apparently she’d left it on the bar. We found out later he took her keys out of her bag and used them to get into our dorm.”
“Describe that incident for me,” He says, but Kate shakes her head.
“I wasn’t there. It was Ana who found him in our room,” She says. The lawyer turns and looks expectantly at me.
“Ana, would you please say your name and then describe the incident that happened on January 27th 2008.”
“Yes, uh, my name is Anastasia Steele,” I say, looking awkwardly down at the recorder as I explain what happened to me in the dorm that day.
“And you did file a police report, correct?” He asks.
“Yes,” I answer.
“He left behind a notebook that had fingerprints all over it so the police were able to find out who he was,” Kate continues. “Once we found that out, I got a no contact order, and a restraining order, and I really didn’t see much of him for the next few weeks.”
“Nothing at all?” The lawyer asks.
“Well, maybe a few times on campus, but I always had Christian, uh… Ana’s boyfriend, with me, so he never approached me again. He was sending me things in the mail though, letters and pictures, those kinds of things. The police have most of that.”
“Okay, then let’s walk through February 14th,” He says.
“My boyfriend, Elliot Grey, and I spent most of the day with Anastasia and Christian. We got stranded in this café for a few hours because the snow was too bad to drive in, but when the plows finally came through, Christian and Ana left, and Elliot and I went to dinner,” She says, and the lawyer picks up a pad and begins taking notes as she re-describes being accosted by Abernathy in the restaurant.
“Elliot called the police, and they took a report, and then drove us both back to campus. From my understanding, the Dean got involved and shut down the dormitory so that only residents with student IDs were able to gain access to the building. Two officers were posted at the front doors to guard through the night while the Cambridge Police Department searched the city.”
“And then what happened?”
“Elliot and I stayed in Christian’s room with him and Ana. I was too scared to sleep in my room because I knew that Mr. Abernathy knew where I lived. He’d threatened me that night and I took that as possibly a threat on my life, so I wanted to be somewhere where I felt safe. I talked to my mom, we played a drinking game, and then went to bed. I don’t know how long I was asleep, I didn’t look at the clock, but a little while later, sometime in the middle of the night, both Elliot and I were awoken by a loud noise.”
“And those noises turned out to be gunshots, correct?” The lawyer asks, scribbling over his notepad.
“Yes. I guess we missed the first one, but the second shot woke us up. He’d killed the two officers standing outside the door of our dormitory.”
“Okay, then what happened?”
“We laid there for a minute, we didn’t really know what it was at the time. I was waiting for Christian to turn on the lamp beside his bed, but he didn’t so I got out of bed to turn on the overhead light and found that Christian and Ana were gone. Almost immediately after that, we heard the third gunshot and since I’d only heard two at that point, I thought it was Christian and Ana who’d been shot. I panicked and tried to get to the door and, since it was unlocked, I actually got it open before Elliot was able to grab me. He locked the door, hauled me into the bathroom, ordered me to lock myself inside and to not open the door for anyone but him. I couldn’t move. I just stared at him as he positioned himself next to the door so he could tackle anyone who came through. We both stood there, waiting, until we heard him trying to break through the door across the hall, the door to my room. A girl screamed somewhere in the hallway and then there were two more gunshots, and at that point, I guess I came to senses enough to close and lock the bathroom door. When he broke through the door to mine and Ana’s room, I hid in the shower and started crying. I thought I was going to die.”
“You didn’t see it when he broke into room 310?” He asks.
“No,” She says, shaking her head. “Ana did though.”
The lawyer turns to look at me and I describe the scene I witnessed from the stairs, watching Christian throw himself in the room, and the scuffle that ensued. Kate answers a few more follow up questions, including things about her car being broken into and what was taken, until the prosecutor reaches over and turns off the tape recorder.
Well, I think that’s a good start.” He says as he tucks the folder, the recorder, and his notebook back in his briefcase. “Fortunately, you kids did the right thing getting the police involved from the beginning so we have a long trail of evidence to support the case. This wasn’t a crime of passion, it was a well thought out series of crimes that ultimately led to murder. I’ve got some interviews to conduct with the families of the other victims, but I think it’s fairly safe to say that this will be an easy one.”
“Thank you,” Carrick says, getting out of his chair to shake the other lawyers hand. The prosecutor smiles at him, accepting his handshake.
“No, thank you,” He says, “This testimony will make my job a lot easier.”
“If there’s anything more I can do to help,” Carrick says. “Please, just let me know.”
“Will do,” The lawyer responds, and after shaking the hands of everyone else, he exits the examination room. Carrick closes the door behind him, and then returns to the table, sitting across from Kate’s parents so they can finally ask the questions I know they’ve been biting back throughout the entire interview.
“Do we have any answers yet?” Mr. Kavanagh asks. “Why Kate was the one he targeted?”
“Nothing absolute,” Carrick says, reaching into his own briefcase for a manila file and then passing it to Kate’s dad. “A psychiatric evaluation from Suffolk County reveals that Mr. Abernathy has behaviors and delusions of grandeur often found in patients who suffer from Schizophrenia. Unfortunately, his demeanor is also consistent with Antisocial Personality Disorder.”
“He’s a sociopath,” Mr. Kavanagh infers.
“Possibly,” Carrick replies.
“But why Kate?” Mrs. Kavanagh asks.
“I can’t say for sure. It could be pure coincidence that Kate was the one he chose to focus his obsession on. But, if you’ll look through the folder, you’ll see several transcripts of sessions Mr. Abernathy had with a criminal psychologist. Interview number six details a past relationship he shared with a young woman named Lucille Olson when he was an adolescent. His description of her, I would say, is extraordinarily similar to Kate, beautiful, blonde, green eyes. He specifically mentions the similarity in their hands, that Kate’s hands are identical to Lucy’s. Anyway, that relationship ended in an infidelity, which the psychologist states left Abernathy in a prolonged state of rage and depression.”
“How did you get this?” Mr. Kavanagh asks.
“The prosecutor gave it to me just yesterday. Abernathy’s lawyers have submitted the transcripts as evidence for a case of not guilty by reason of insanity, but I don’t want you to worry about that. The prosecution was prepared for that defense and I’ve worked with the state’s lawyer on some ways to get around that. It’s actually a defense I’ve used myself fairly often and it’s not as foolproof as some people would think.”
“So this was all revenge on some girl he dated in high school?” Kate’s mom asks angrily.
“I don’t know,” Carrick says. “Fortunately, it’s not our responsibility to infer why it happened, only that it did, and that Mr. Abernathy’s actions we’re conducted in willful contradiction to the law. With the evidence against him, that shouldn’t be an issue. So, perhaps now, we should talk about what you want out of this.”
“What do you mean?” Kate asks. “I want him to go to prison, I want him to spend the rest of his life paying for what he’s done.”
“He will,” Carrick assures her. “But, do you want to seek any other kind of reparation?”
“Like, money?” Kate asks.
“Well, yes,” Carrick says. “The Abernathys are a family of means, and Dylan Abernathy has a very hefty trust fund. I don’t think it would be unrealistic of us to expect several hundred thousand, if not upwards in the millions, of dollars in punitive damages.”
“Millions?” Kate’s mom asks, looking immediately over to Mr. Kavanagh, but he’s staring at Kate, leaving it to her to make the decision.
“Kate?” Carrick asks.
“Get what you can,” She says quietly. “But I don’t want his money. We’ll give some of it to the victims’ families, to the police department, and the rest we’ll give to the University with the hope that they’ll be able to use it to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.”
“We can do that,” Carrick says, giving her a kind smile. I hear his phone buzz in his pocket against the plastic chair and he reaches down for it as he continues. “I’m going to meet with Elliot later in the week to have him write a notorized statement to send to the prosecutor… ah, speak of the devil. Ana, it’s Elliot. Would you let him know I’m finishing up with Kate and will call him back in a moment?”
“Sure,” I tell him, reaching out for the phone. I step out of the room to answer. “Hi, Elliot. It’s Ana.”
“Hi…” He says, clearly not expecting me to be answering his father’s phone.
“Your Dad is talking to Kate about the trial. Kind of weird how much faster this one seems to be moving than the one with Elena right?” I tell him.
“Yeah, that’s kind of why I called. I just got served with a subpoena,” Elliot says.
“A subpoena? For the stalker thing?”
“No, it’s from Elena’s lawyer.”
“Oh, uh… hold on,” I tell him, knowing that he definitely needs to talk to Carrick for something like that. I walk back into the room and tap Carrick on the shoulder. “Are you finished? I think this is important.”
He raises a brow and then reaches for the phone. “Elliot? Subpoenaed? Jesus Christ. No, don’t do anything,” He says, and he sounds angry now. “You are not to give anyone a statement without me present, do you understand? When are you being summoned? Okay, call my office, have my assistant put that on my calendar. Alright, don’t worry about it. I’m sorry that it’s going to interrupt your school schedule. I’ll call you later, son. Bye.”
“Elliot is being subpoenaed?” Kate asks.
“Yes, by Elena’s lawyer. I’m going to have to speak to Christian. Why don’t we all go out for lunch? My flight isn’t for a few hours and I can talk to Christian before I leave.”
“Okay, I’ll call him,” I offer, and I dial Christian’s number as Carrick offers and invitation for lunch to Mr. and Mrs. Kavanagh.
“Hi, baby. How’d it go?” Christian answers on the second ring.
“Good, but your dad got a call about Elliot being subpoenaed by Elena’s lawyers, he wants to talk to you about it over lunch.”
“Sure, should I meet you at Ten Tables in twenty minutes?”
“Yeah, I’ll let them know,” I tell him.
“Alright, see you soon. Love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.”
I hang up the phone and tell Carrick that Christian will meet us at the restaurant, and he nods as he picks up his suitcase.
“Carrick,” Mr. Kavanagh says, stopping him before he can leave the room. “We really appreciate everything you’ve done to help Kate, but we know you’ve got your hands full with your son’s case. If this is too much…”
“Please, don’t silly,” Carrick says, raising his hand to stop him. “In both instances, I’m merely playing a supportive role, looking out for the kids. The real work is being handled by the state and like the prosecutor said, this one is going to be fairly easy.”
“Then at least let us pay you for representing Katherine,” Mrs. Kavanagh interjects. “Between Kate and Christian, your entire firm is tied up and you’re doing everything pro-bono.”
“And I wouldn’t have it any other way. My wife and I think of Katherine as family and I would never dream of asking family to pay me for my help.”
“Thank you,” Mr. Kavanagh says, reaching his hand out to shake Carrick’s. He returns the gesture and then motions for Kate and I to leave the room first. We climb into Kate’s Mercedes and lead the way to the small restaurant off a residential street in the middle of Cambridge. Christian’s car is already outside when we arrive and we find him seated at a table waiting for us when we enter the restaurant.
He holds out his arms for me and I hug and kiss him quickly before he pulls out a chair for me to sit at the table.
“You okay, Kate?” He asks as he takes his seat next to me, reaching under the table to grab my hand. She nods and gives him a grateful smile. We order and then have the first easy conversation I’ve been apart of in weeks until the food arrives.
“So what is this subpoena about?” Christian asks when the general murmur of conversation around the table dies down as everyone begins to eat.
“If I were to guess, I’d say that Elena’s lawyer is going to use Elliot as a character witness against you, Christian, and I say against you because he will not be able to lie under oath.”
“What does that mean?” Christian asks.
“From what the state prosecutor has shared with me so far, I believe her defense is that she was not the instigator of your relationship. She’s going to claim that you used physical intimidation and threats of violence in order to coerce her into a sexual relationship.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I snap, unable to stop my angry outburst.
“That’s bullshit,” Christian says.
“I know,” Carrick says. “Unfortunately, you have a record of instances of violence and disorderly conduct that could, in theory, support her claim, and they’ll ask Elliot to confirm that as a character witness. Really, she’s just trying to turn this into a he said, she said case.”
“He was underage!” I argue, but Carrick shakes his head.
“That doesn’t matter. Rape is rape. A minor is able rape an adult if the adult was indeed forced to submit to sexual acts against their will. Christian is a young, very fit, strong male, and Elena is a small woman. In the eyes of a judge, it could theoretically be possible.”
“So, what, now I might go to jail?” Christian asks, now panic evident in his tone.
“Of course not,” Carrick says. “Really, what her lawyers are hoping is that the prosecution will get scared that the case is going to get thrown out and they’ll offer her a plea bargain with high restitutions and no prison time, but I am absolutely not going to let that happen. Unfortunately, other than your testimony, the prosecution’s evidence is a little lacking. I’m doing everything I can to suppliment that for them. I even pulled your phone records, but the only texts I could find that were of a sexually explicit nature come from you.”
“You pulled my phone records?” Christian demands angrily.
“I’m your lawyer,” Carrick argues, defensively. “And your father. I didn’t even need a subpoena, you’re on my phone plan. I just had to call the phone company.”
Christian’s lips press together in an angry scowl as he looks away from his father.
“So, what do we do?” I ask Carrick nervously, but he gives me a reassuring smile.
“Anastasia, this is what I do. I don’t want you to worry about it. I promise you, I will not let her get away with this. I’m confident that the little evidence we do have in conjunction with Christian’s testimony will be enough to persuade a judge. We have the truth on our side, and the state seems very eager to prosecute in this case.”
“You’re sure?” I ask and he smiles.
“Of course I am. I’ve never lost a criminal case as a defense attorney, I can’t let helping the prosecution tarnish my reputation.” He winks.
We finish our meal and once Mr. Kavanagh takes care of the check, Christian and I walk Carrick back to his rental car and I give him a hug good bye.
“Chin up, Ana,” He tells me. “I’m being serious, she’s not going to get out of this. No judge in the world would side against a minor in a sexual assault case. Her only hope is a plea bargain and, I promise you, I will absolutely, under no circumstances, allow that to happen. I’m fighting for my son, and the only way this ends is with her in prison. You just wait and see.”
“Okay,” I tell him, and he hugs me one last time and then moves onto Christian.
“Call me if you need anything,” He tells him.
“I will,” Christian replies.
“I’ll see you both in a couple weeks?” He says, brightening a little. “Bora Bora, can’t wait.”
“Me either,” I tell him, smiling down at him as he gets into the car. Christian and I step up onto the curve and wave as he starts the car and drives away. I give one last hurried hug to both Mr. and Mrs. Kavanagh, wish them both a safe flight home, and then get into the passenger seat of Christian’s Audi before he drives back to campus with Kate in his wake.
“Are you staying with Kate again tonight?” He asks when we park in the lot closest to Grays.
“Yeah, she’s still not quite making it through the night,” I tell him.
“Well, I’ve got a study session with Ros until 7:30. Would you come over for a few hours after that?”
“Sure,” I tell him.
“No Kate allowed,” He says, narrowing his eyes at me, and I laugh.
“Hmmm. I wonder what we’re going to do?” I ask sarcastically, and he smiles back at me knowingly.
We walk back to Grays with Kate and when we reach the third floor, I give Christian a kiss goodbye and follow after Kate into our room. She hangs her coat on the hook by the door and before I’m even out of my boots, she’s firing up her laptop and pulling textbooks towards her. I watch her settle in to do her homework, feeling a warm sense of happiness fill me as I think about how strong she is to be able to continue living her life after something so traumatic.
“I’m proud of you,” I say, coming up behind her and kissing her on the top of the head.
“Why?” She asks, not looking up from the textbook she’s reading.
“A lot of people wouldn’t be able to go on after something like this. A lot of people would have had to step away from school or work, but over the past few weeks, I’ve seen you more dedicated to school than ever. Is it because it helps take your mind off things?”
“Partially,” She responds, turning to look at me. “But also because… well, I made the choice to stay here, and because I made that choice, six people are dead. I’m never going to forget that. Ever. I made this choice and now I can’t take even a single second of my time here for granted. I have to be the best, the best in my discipline, the best in my field, and I need to make a difference here so that their deaths weren’t for nothing. I have to do this for them now.”
“Kate, it wasn’t…” I begin, but she cuts me off.
“You can tell me it wasn’t my fault as many times as you want, Ana, but I’m never going to see it that way,” She says, and she turns back to her book.
I stare back at her for a moment, not knowing what to say, and I wonder what it’s going to take for her to move past this or if moving on is even possible. I think of her, years in the future, collecting her degree, and worry that in the moment that should be the proudest of her life, she’ll be thinking that she hasn’t done enough to deserve what she’s earned, and the thought makes me want to cry.