SOONER OR LATER
by Cheryl Talley MossChapter One
Taryn Carter jumped into her midnight blue Mazda Miata and sped out of the parking lot of the downtown office building owned by Cannon, Collins, and Jeter, the most prestigious corporate law firm in Dallas, Texas. Taryn had been a law clerk at the firm during her last year of law school. But she'd been hired as an attorney after graduating number two in her class from the meritorious DFW School of Law. Even though Taryn had received numerous job offers from across the country, she chose to remain at CC&J. Taryn met her late husband, Attorney Joe Carter, at the firm. Unfortunately, Joe had died tragically in an automobile accident a few days after they had celebrated their first wedding anniversary. Taryn was considered CC&J's most promising attorney. For the last five years, she'd been knee deep in trials, and her track record was impeccable. During her entire career, Taryn had only lost one case, but that case had been impossible to win because the company she represented unjustly terminated a morbidly obese employee. Immediately after the case had been assigned to her, Taryn recommended her client offer a generous settlement. But the plaintiff had refused to settle out of court because she was certain she had sufficient proof that being overweight didn't hinder her work performance. Well, by the time the trial was over, the jury had been convinced enough to award the plaintiff two million dollars.
A week earlier, the firm had hosted an extravagant dinner to announce officially that Taryn had made partner. Also, the Dallas Morning Post had covered the ceremony the Bar Association had recently sponsored to announce its naming her ‘The Best Litigator in the City’.
It was around eight-thirty in the morning, and because of the drizzling rain, the streets were slippery. Driving fast and frantically, Taryn momentarily lost control of her car, but she quickly swerved to the next lane and avoided a rear end collision. After asking God to help her stay focused, she moved into the right hand lane and merged onto Interstate seventy-five north. Ordinarily, she loved driving the five-speed sports car her father bought her for graduation because it allowed her to maneuver in and out of traffic easily. At that moment, however, she wished she had driven her Mercedes today because of the rainy weather. Several attorneys at the firm offered to drive her to the hospital, but she had assured everyone that she could get there safely on her own.
As usual, traffic was terrible during rush hour, and the drizzling rain made it even worse. Taryn glanced at the speedometer and could not believe she was driving thirty miles per hour because it seemed as if her car was barely moving.Ten minutes earlier, Taryn’s brother, Trey, had phoned her at work to let her know their father, Robert Hamilton Sr., had suffered a heart attack, and he was being rushed by ambulance to Medical City University Hospital where Trey was a pediatrician. After driving for about fifteen minutes, Taryn realized that Trey could be in touch with the paramedics while their father was being transported. Instantly, she felt a strong urge to call her brother to get an update on their father’s condition. Ironically, as soon as she reached for her cell phone, it rang.
“Please tell me that he’s gonna make it, Trey,” she demanded nervously.
“Pray, Taryn, it doesn’t look good. Dad is unconscious and they haven’t been able to stabilize him. I have to go! They’re bringing him in now,” Trey said in a rush and hung up the phone.
Taryn prayed as the drizzling rain transformed into a boundless downpour, and traffic came to a sudden halt. What now? Please don’t let it be an accident! But an accident is exactly what occurred. When Taryn heard the blasting sirens of police cars approaching from the service road, her memory was reverted back to another rainy day…
Thirteen years earlier
When Taryn was sixteen, she went to the local mall to shop for presents because it was a few days before Christmas. She finished making her purchases around four-thirty in the afternoon. Jamar, a high school friend of her brother’s, approached her while she was walking to her car. Taryn had known Jamar since she was twelve years old, and she had a serious crush on him since the moment they first met. Jamar loved to draw portraits. Whenever he was home from college, Jamar would come to her house to visit. Taryn looked forward to seeing him and viewing his new sketches. She loved his friendly personality, and she admired the way he took pride in his appearance. Jamar was a fashion trendsetter. When most kids across the country were wearing baggy jeans, Jamar started wearing fitted jeans with plaid, preppy, shirts tucked inside his pants. And the next thing you knew, all of the guys in the neighborhood started to imitate him. Jamar was just cool like that. Jamar had been the starting quarterback for the University of North East Texas. Several broadcasters on ESPN had reported that he was a top candidate for the Hiesman Trophy. But he lost his shot at winning the illustrious award. You see, Taryn’s father, the head football coach for UNET, kicked him off the team two weeks earlier because he tested positive for cocaine. Jamar insisted that he had experimented with cocaine the one time. Coach Hamilton was sympathetic to his situation. However, the decision was out of his control. The school had a zero-tolerance policy concerning drugs. Furthermore, Coach Hamilton had repeatedly warned the players that drug usage would end their football career at UNET.
Taryn was very happy to see Jamar because she had been constantly wondering how he was doing. No one had heard from him since he was expelled from the university. “Hey, Jamar,” Taryn said, giving him a hug.
“What’s up, Baby-girl?”
She grinned as she held up her shopping bags. “Nothing much. Just shopping for a little sumthin’ sumthin’ for the folks.”
“I was about to go to Burgers & Stuff for something to eat. You wanna go?” Jamar asked.
“Sure,” she said cheerfully. “I’ll follow you. I’ll meet you at the front of the mall.”
Jamar shook his head. “You can ride with me. My jeep will be much safer in this drizzling rain.” Jamar noticed that Taryn was hesitating, so he smiled and quickly continued, “C’mon, girl. Stop trippin’. I’ll bring you back to your car as soon as we finish eatin’.”
“Okay, I’m parked right over there” she said, pointing toward her vehicle. Then she walked to her car and put her packages into the trunk. When Jamar drove his car beside Taryn’s parked car, she opened the car door and hopped into his SUV.
“So how have you been, Jamar?” she asked as he drove out of the parking lot.
“Okay, but I’ve been better.”
“Look, I want you to know Dad told me that cuttin’ you from the team was one of the hardest things he had to do. He said that he believed you when you told him that you only messed with drugs once.”
“Yeah—right,” Jamar mumbled sarcastically, rolling his eyes at her.
“No, seriously, Dad loves you like a son, Jamar.”
“If he loved me like a son, he would’ve had my back, Taryn!” he shouted.
“C mon now, Jamar. You know he had to do his job,” Taryn said as she turned around in her seat and looked at the street sign. “Hey! You should’ve turned left back there.”
Jamar didn’t say anything. He just glared at her, and flicked on his turn signal.
“Why are you getting on the interstate?” Taryn asked after she realized Jamar was about to get on the highway.
Jamar continued to drive in silence.
“Just where are you going, Jamar?”
“Shut up, bitch! Your punk ass daddy ruined my life! Now I’ma ‘bout to ruin his by killin’ yo ass!”
Taryn blinked with surprise. “Please pull over so that we can talk! You don’t wanna do this, Jamar,” she pleaded.
Jamar slapped her hard across the face with the back of his hand. “Didn’t I tell you ta shut up?”
Taryn’s eyes widened and her ears rang. She didn’t realize her lips were bleeding until she wiped the tears from her face. When she saw the blood on her hands, she panicked and tried to open her door.
“I know you not tryin’ ta jump out the car!”
“I wasn’t gonna jump, Jamar!”
“You must think I’ma damn fool!” he yelled before he punched her in the ribs with his fist.
Taryn doubled over in pain. This fool is crazy. He really must be on drugs. I’m gonna die if I don’t do something, she thought. Taryn also thought about how her family was going to be disappointed in her for getting into Jamar’s car in the first place. Then she remembered talking to her father on her cell phone while she was in the mall. If I can distract him for a moment, I could call for help. Dear Lord, please help me!
She believed God must have answered her prayers because the drizzling rain immediately stopped. When Jamar turned off the windshield wipers, Taryn slipped her hand into her jacket pocket and curled her fingers around her cell phone. She then pressed the send button, and prayed her father would answer.
“Please think about this! Think about your family, Jamar! I swear to you, if you let me go, I won’t tell anybody!”
“You must think I’m stupid?”
“No, I know you’re not stupid, Jamar! But can you just tell me why we’re going south on Highway 80?” she yelled.
Jamar ignored her as he continued to drive. “Why are you getting off at the Big Town exit?” Taryn asked in a loud voice. Dear God, please let someone hear me!
“Shut up!” he shouted.
“All I want to know is why you’re getting off at Big Town, Jamar!”
“’Cause you and I are gonna see a movie.”
“The movie theater is closed, Jamar!” she yelled in exasperation.
“Shut the fuck up! If you say one more word, bitch, I’ll kill yo ass right here!” Jamar shouted as he pulled a gun out of his pocket and pointed it at her face. He then drove to the back of the vacant theater and turned off his lights.
Taryn wanted to scream. She was so scared she started shaking. She couldn’t believe what was happening. Her mouth wouldn’t open. She just stared at him absolutely speechless. Please hear me, Daddy.
Jamar circled the vacant parking lot several times before he parked the car and got out. When he walked around to the passenger side of the car, Taryn lunged into the driver’s seat, opened the car door, jumped out of the SUV, and ran as fast as she could. But Jamar was faster. He caught her by her ponytail and repeatedly threw punches to her upper body. Taryn slumped over and pretended she was losing consciousness. She just wanted him to stop hitting her. Thinking that he knocked her out, Jamar pushed her to the ground. He knelt over her, snatched her jacket apart, and yanked her blouse open. Then he pulled up her skirt, ripped off her panties, and spread her legs.