Rayna Abril sat up in her cramped seat. Her heart was beating. Hard. She looked around, confused. Why was she on a plane? Slowly, she remembered. Yesterday was the court case. Her dark brown eyes watered, but not from the rancid smell of the person next to her.
Rayna had graduated from law school just a year ago, but she was already the most sought-after lawyer in the field. Every single case she got, she would win by a landslide. Today should be no different. Still, this case was tricky. About a month ago, her best friend, Victoria Render, found out her father wanted to kill the weak population of the USA by giving them a deadly drug. She then reported him to the police. His court case was in a few days, and Rayna was his lawyer . . . how would she help a murderer with that much evidance stacked against him?
Today she would meet up with him to talk. Get all details possible, then get out of there. Rayna walked into his house. She had been there before, with Victoria. Victoria was here, but today felt formal, almost...ominous. Nervously, she tugged on her long brown hair.
She walked through the cold mansion. Shivering, she made her way to Mr. Renders office. Victoria never let her in here. When Rayna walked in, she finally understood why she hadn't. Everything was decorated with snakes, like he was a Harry Potter fanatic who got Slytherin when he took the Pottermore test.
"Hey, you’re here!" Victoria exclaimed. She was as energetic as usual, but her eyes seemed to have lost their sparkle. Mr. Render didn't even acknowledge her.
"Get your friend some drinks, Victoria," Mr. Render said. He smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. Victoria hesitated, but Mr. Render gave her a look. She glanced at Rayna. Rayna shot her a pleading look. Don't go, her eyes said. Mr. Render won the staring contest with his daughter. Victoria left the room.
"So, Rayna," Mr. Render said carefully, "Before we start, I need to tell you something." Rayna nodded.
Mr. Render pulled a green diamond from his pocket. Rayna gasped. It was beautifully clear and completely round. He rolled it around in his palm. The diamond caught the light and cast fractured rays all around the room. She was about to compliment Mr. Render on his treasure when he said, "Keep your eyes on the diamond."
Rayna couldn't look away even if she tried.
"Now, Rayna, listen to my voice.” He said. His tone turned haunting. “You will lie to protect me in the court case."
"I will lie to protect you." She repeated, toneless.
"You will make sure I seem innocent."
"Yes." What was she saying?
"In return, I will pay you handsomely. You won't tell anyone the truth."
"I won't." She wanted to scream at him to stop, but all she could think about was that green orb rolling around in Mr. Render's palm.
"Sign this contract. If I go down, you will go with me." Rayna signed the contract. Mr. Render put the diamond away.
"You will now wake up." Rayna jolted up. She looked at the murderer in front of her with a horrified look on her face.
“Well Rayna, now we know where your loyalties lie,” Mr. Render said with a creepy smile. “I will send your reward today. And if you tell anyone…” He didn’t finish the thought.
"I'm back!" Victoria exclaimed a few minutes later, water in hand. But all she found was an empty lounge, her father there looking very pleased.
Rayna sat on her bed, her mind swirling like a house in a tornado. She just promised to lie for the biggest murderer in the country! If she backed out, her life would be over. If she lied…she tried not to think about it. Still, lying was her best option. Backing out probably meant pain, (or certain death); Mr. Render was still very rich and could inflict more pain on her than the government.
The doorbell jolted Rayna out of her thoughts. Outside she found a box. CASSIUS was printed on one side. The other side had a snake emblem. This must be the reward, she thought. Trembling, she opened the box. 10,000,000 in cash. Her fingers stroked the green bills. Rayna couldn’t turn back now. Choking back a sob, she reached for her pad of paper. Time to lie for a snake she thought miserably; that was exactly what Mr. Render was.
The first day of the court case went by quickly. Every single word Rayna said seemed to make her mouth feel bitter. Mr. Reginald, the lawyer for the other side, was one of her best opponents. He made her second guess everything she said. During a recess, as she gulped down a cup of water, he glared at her with resentment. Finally, the day came to an end.
“See you tomorrow, I hope? ” Mr. Reginald asked her, his eyes narrowing. Rayna nodded, not trusting her voice. Mr. Reginald turned away with no further conversation.
That night Rayna couldn’t sleep. She kept tossing and turning, her thoughts like a sock in a washing machine. In the morning, the circles under her eyes were so dark, they looked like bruises.
“Rayna you look horrible!” Victoria exclaimed.
“Wow, I feel way better now,” Rayna muttered, glancing at her notes. All lies.
The court case started without a hitch. Just lies from a lawyer. Mr. Render sent glances her way, reminding her that if she told on him, she would be more than just fired.
Mr. Reginald suddenly stopped talking. He glared at Rayna like she was a repulsive bruise on his arm.
“Well,” he said, “it looks like Miss Abril isn’t paying attention.” Rayna looked at him with what she hoped was a serious glare.
“I said, isn’t it obvious that Mr. Render is a snake?”
Rayna felt her face turn white. No, I must keep focus. She switched to the poker face she always practiced in the mirror.
“I think even all people who work for him should be brought to justice.” Mr. Reginald's tone was light but it didn’t meet his eyes. The rest of the court case moved on in a blur. That might have just been the tears in her eyes
Rayna plopped herself down on the couch when she got home. Just a few more days and this will all be over. The smell of smoke reached her nostrils. I didn’t leave the stove on, did I? The smell came from outside. When she reached the porch door, her eyes watered from the stench. Maybe the neighbors were having a barbecue. That wasn't the case. Rayna's apple tree was on fire. A half-burned paper fluttered down from the sky.
I always knew you were a snake. Your favorite lawyer, Mr. R.
The paper was stamped with the CASSIUS logo. Mr Reginald was part of Mr Render's company. But why…?
She turned the paper over. And now that you're gone, we can finally take care of the rest of the states. A strong America will live long, without you.
Before she could think, she ran inside and grabbed her box of money. She stuffed food into a backpack, clothing in a suitcase.
Rayna got into her black SUV. She drove, pushing the speed limit up and her foot down. He knew the whole time.
She bought the first plane ticket she saw. It was a flight to a random city in Ireland. A few hours later, she was on a plane. I'm doing exactly what they wanted, she thought. Now nothing can stop them. Her mind wandered back to the green diamond that seemed to hypnotize her. And it clicked. That's why she was doing everything. Somehow, she had to figure out a way to stop.