The Summer Nanny 

EPILOGUE

Four Months Later

Tess looked across the courtroom, thinking Emily had no right to look as dignified as she did. She looked calm, despite being on trial for Chris’s murder. She sat in a wheelchair next to her defense attorney, her hands folded in her lap. Her auburn hair was pulled back into a sophisticated bun at the nape of her neck. 

The fall from her third-story balcony had left her unable to walk. Tess feared her disability would be a cause for sympathy from the jury. Emily had added to her unconscionable actions by pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. Tess could only hope the jury would be smart enough to see through her defense. 

It was only the first week of the trial, and Tess was ready for it to be over. Although she desperately wanted justice for her younger brother, it was agonizing having to relive the night he died by sitting through the trial. 

Nathan and Chloe sat to her right and Adams to her left. Since Adams was the lead investigator in Chris’s murder, he was obligated to be present at the trial. But Tess had to take vacation time in order to be there. 

Tess forced herself to look away from Emily, wishing Blake could’ve been there with her. He’d wanted to, but he wasn’t able to get the time off work. She’d attended a few trials in the ten months she’d been a homicide detective but being present at Chris’s trial was more painful than she had even imagined. She now had a deeper understanding of what victims' family members went through. She felt her eyes brim with tears. The prosecuting attorney stood from his chair, and she worked to blink them away. 

“The State would like to call its first witness, Bridgett Hammond, to the stand.”

Tess turned her head to the end of her row. Her eyes followed Chris’s girlfriend, who had been sitting between Paul and an older couple, as she walked to the witness stand.

 

                                                                                           ***

 

After swearing to tell the truth, Bridgett straightened the hem of her pencil skirt and stepped into the witness box. She locked eyes with her father as the prosecutor moved toward her. She hadn’t spoken to him for weeks after that horrible night and still hadn’t forgiven him.

When Bridgett finally confronted him about being Emily’s father, he’d been shocked to learn of Emily’s confession before admitting to having another child. Although his recollection was different from what Emily had told her. He claimed to have met Bridgett’s mom right after his divorce from Emily’s mother. Not long after getting full custody of Emily, her mother had moved across the country.

Bridgett recalled her father’s tear-streaked face as he told his side of the story months earlier, sitting across his kitchen table from her.

“For years, I called and sent letters, but they were never returned. Not long after we had you, my letters were returned to sender. Their phone number was disconnected, and I had no forwarding address.” A sob escaped her father’s throat as he looked down at his hands. “I know I should’ve tried harder, and there’s no excuse for that. Your mother and I were so happy…and I accepted that Emily’s mom wanted no part of me in her life.” After a moment of silence, he continued. “I didn’t learn that she’d died until nearly ten years later. And I didn’t know Emily was in the foster system.” A tear dripped off the side of his face onto the table. “I should’ve tried harder to find her. I never forgot her, and I’m so sorry for not telling you.”

“And mom knew?” Bridgett’s voice came out quiet.

He nodded. “We planned on telling you one day but…” His voice trailed off.

“But what?” she asked. What excuse could there be for not telling her she had a sister?

Bridgett forced her mind back to the present. Her father gave her a reassuring nod before she cut a glance at her older half-sister—Chris’s killer—who stared at her from her wheelchair behind the defense table.

The prosecutor cleared his throat. “Can you describe your relationship to Paul and Emily Cooper for the court?”

Bridgett braced herself to recount the worst night of her life. She turned away from Emily to face the jury. “I was their summer nanny.”

                                                                                          ***

Tess assessed the jury’s impression of the young nanny for the duration of Bridgett’s testimony. Bridgett held her composure throughout the defense attorney’s cross examination, and Tess could see why Chris liked her. Not only was she beautiful and smart, but her love for Chris was evident.

Tess swallowed as a lump formed in her throat. What a life they could’ve had.

When Bridgett stepped out of the witness box, Tess felt herself relax. She returned to her seat and Tess squeezed her older brother’s hand. For the first time that week, Tess was confident the truth would prevail.