Cold MemoryBy: Leslie A. Kelly
Extrasensory Agents Book 3
Thirteen Years Ago
Sitting in a courtroom, waiting for a stranger to decide his future, Michael Tanner—Mick to his friends, Monstrosity to the old man sitting across the aisle—forced himself to remain still.
He couldn’t give any of them any more ammunition. If the other side convinced the judge that Mick was unstable, he might very well end up in a mental hospital. Someone Mick hated would have complete control over his prospects, his plans, his dreams, and his life, for who knew how long.
He had to act normal. To be normal. Everything was riding on it.
That wouldn’t be easy considering the word normal wasn’t one he used to describe himself. He hadn’t been normal since he lost his parents in a house fire when he was five, and then became the subject of a bitter custody battle. But he could do it. He could convince them.
“You’re doing fine,” a voice whispered. “Just stay calm.”
Staying calm had never been his strength, as the man seated to his right knew. His Uncle Shane, who’d been a father to him during the first few years after his parents had been killed, was now his lawyer. Despite Shane’s loathing of his former profession, he’d donned a suit, covered his many tattoos, removed his piercings and shaved his long beard to be by Mick’s side.
Shane desperately wanted to keep the promise he’d made to his late sister and brother-in-law, and fulfill the wishes they’d expressed in their wills. He’d sworn to keep Mick out of the hands of his rich, paternal grandfather, who had failed at controlling his own son and was trying with the next generation.
Mick knew his uncle had done his best. Unfortunately, after years of legal battles, a gay lawyer who’d run away to join a carnival had been deemed an unsuitable guardian for the heir to the Tanner fortune. For some reason the court thought a sideshow wasn’t an appropriate place to bring up a child, though Mick had been very happy. No matter how Shane had fought, how he’d protested that Mick’s parents’ final wishes should be honored, they’d finally lost the fight.
Mick had been taken to live with the country club set in north Florida. Just him, his grandfather, a few servants, and lots of pain-filled hours.
It had nearly destroyed him.
“Mr. Tanner,” the judge said, addressing Mick directly at last. “Are you fully aware of the point of this hearing?”
He nodded. “Yes, your honor. My grandfather is trying to Baker Act me.”
“Well, I wouldn’t put it exactly that way. Your grandfather has petitioned the court to remand you to a state hospital for mental evaluation. Your uncle, meanwhile, is seeking temporary custody and family reunification. Do you understand all of this?”
Mick nodded. He got it. He’d gotten it since the day he’d overheard his grandfather on the phone with his lawyer, setting-up this shit-show. Thank God he had, otherwise there might not have been time to get his Uncle Shane here to fight for him.
As for the reason it was happening, well, he understood that, too. His grandfather was worried that with Mick growing up, he’d start fighting back against the abuse and the theft of Mick’s inheritance. Mick might be the beneficiary of a trust fund, but it was in Monty Tanner’s control until Mick turned twenty-one. And Monty would do whatever he could to make sure Mick never got that control. Even if it meant having him committed.
“Very well. We’ve heard from everyone….” Before continuing, the judge glanced at his grandfather, her gaze hard. Not for the first time, he got the impression she wasn’t entirely buying the story the old man was trying to sell. She looked back at Mick, offering him a faint smile. “Except you.”
Mick swallowed hard, knowing how much was riding on this moment.
“Michael, can you explain to the court why you’re wearing those gloves?”
It was the question he’d been dreading, but also expecting. And it was going to take every ounce of strength he possessed to convince her he wasn’t crazy.
“I can, your honor.”
Pausing, Mick lifted his gloved hands and began to unsheathe them. He started with the index finger on his right hand. Pulled it. Then the next. And the next. Until he was able to peel the soft, thin leather away from his skin, exposing it to the chilled air of the courtroom.