A police car arrived just as a dining room chair broke through the window. Neighbors stood on the opposite side of the street watching. The weekly tirade had become part of the neighborhood ritual and the audience seemed to be growing.
“Bet they cuff one of them this time,” said one of the bystanders.
Another viewer pointed across the street. “Lookee, she opened the door for the cop.”
A few more shouts were heard coming through the broken window then all went silent. Finally, the officer and a young man left the small frame house, and all appeared to be quiet. Just as the crowd disbursed a blue sedan pulled up and a well-dressed woman got out and entered the house.
Minutes later Jackie Ellers and her two children came out and got into the backseat of the car. The second woman carried suitcases. Somewhere in the city Jackie and the kids would find temporary lodging in the women’s shelter.
Attorney Tyra Soren got a call the next morning. “Tyra, this is Leslie Collins, at the shelter. We admitted Jackie Ellers again last night. She says she wants to talk to you.”
Tyra looked at the stack of paperwork on her desk. “Pro bono, or is the agency putting up a fee?”
“Tyra, she really just needs to chat right now, I’ll work on the agency; but, my guess is if this goes forward it will fall under the normal fee structure.”
Tyra grinned. “Gee thanks.” The legal services agency which helped domestic violence cases had a standard fee schedule, which was a hundredth of the normal legal fee for divorce work. “Did he hit her; or the kids, this time?”
Leslie paused for a second, “I didn’t see any wounds, but emotional scars are hard to see.”
“Unfortunately, blood makes the case easier. But, it’s just a matter of time before he starts swinging again.” Tyra jotted notes on a pad and glanced at her day timer. “I’ll run down there at noon. No court today, so I’m just trying to catch up.”
“Good, I’ll tell her. We’ll expect you.”
Tyra hung up the phone and walked to her reception area. “Amy, pull the Ellers file, we started it, I believe, in July, 2001. The last time I added to it was this May.”
As the clock neared noon, Tyra grabbed her briefcase and drove to the community Women’s shelter.
Leslie greeted her. “Glad you got here, Tyra. She’s in the drawing room.”
Jackie didn’t look up when Tyra entered. “Hey, Jackie. Where’re the kids?”
Jackie turned her head. “In the playroom.”
“Okay, Jackie.” Tyra sat in a side chair. “Talk to me.”
“I bought some tennis shoes. If I hadn’t told him it’d be okay. I used the money mama sent me.”
“No, it’s not okay for him to treat you like this – the money has no part in the discussion.” Tyra leaned forward and touched the edge of the couch. “Did he ever go to the anger management classes that the judge ordered?”
Jackie shook her head.
“Well, he’s in contempt, but we have a larger issue. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Do you still love him enough to be continually treated this way? Aren't you ready to stop all this?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you talked to the folks from your church, like you told me this spring?”
Again, Jackie shook her head.
Tyra felt the frustration crawling up her neck. “Jackie, you have to tell me what you want me to do.” She took a deep breath. “I’m gonna go ahead and file the separation papers this afternoon, just sign and that part is done.” Tyra pulled the papers from her briefcase and made a light X where Jackie was to sign.
Leslie appeared in the doorway. “Tyra, you need to see this.”
“Sign this Jackie. I’ll be right back.” She stood and followed Leslie to where Billy Ellers was leaning against a wall.
Leslie lifted his shirt. The imprint of a belt or leather strap was visible above his waist line.
“I’ll get my camera,” said Tyra. She hurried out the door. When she returned Jackie was standing with her son. “No, we’re going back home.” She handed Tyra the papers.
Tyra shook her head. “Jackie, listen to me,” she urged, but her client walked away.
The next morning Tyra dropped her cup of coffee on the morning paper, the headline jumped off the page: “Murder/Suicide: Four Dead.”
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