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The minutes slowly ticked by. Thankfully, there were a few chairs in the hall, so Abby could rest her feet every once in a while before resuming her place at the small window in the courtroom door. From her vantage, she couldn't see her father or Uncle Terry, but she did see Sheriff Peterson sitting a few rows behind Jake. She tried to correlate the expressions on his face to what she knew of Jake's past history, but was unable to make anything out of it. Fifteen minutes went by and then twenty. Abby waited for the thirty minute mark, for she knew that that was the time allowed for each witness. To her utter disappointment, however, the thirty minutes came and went, and Jake's head was still moving as though he were speaking. With a loud groan, Abby sat down and tried to practice patience.

Just then, a middle-aged man past his forties, walked down the hall to where she sat. For some reason, he looked strangely familiar, but Abby couldn't understand why.

"Excuse me," asked the stranger, "is this where the commission on prisoner abuse is being held?"

"Yes, it is," she replied.

"I don't suppose you know if Jake Murphy has testified yet, do you?" he asked.

"As a matter of fact, he should be done any minute now," said Abby. "I'm sorry, but is it possible that we've met, before?"

"I don't think so," grinned the man broadly. "I'd remember a pretty face like yours, Missy."

Abby shuddered at his grin. She was glad when he went into the courtroom, and away from her.

Forty-five minutes after being banished to the hallway, someone finally came to the door and said that she could come back inside. As Abby returned to her seat beside John and Terry, Jake glanced back at her. Abby's heart sank when she saw his pale face. Obviously, he had had a tough time. Soberly, the young woman looked to her father and noticed that there were tears in his eyes. Terry, who was also visibly shaken, was struggling to keep his composure. Unable to ask any questions of her father without attracting anymore attention to herself than she had already created, Abby sat quietly in her seat and waited for the ordeal to end.

One by one, the other three witnesses read their testimonies before the Commissioners. At noon, the man at the long table announced that they would break for lunch, and resume afterward with the next set of witnesses. The courtroom stirred with the sound of talking people, as everyone prepared to leave for lunch. Abby got up and made her way to the witness table, where Jake was still sitting. John and Terry followed, but hung back so Abby could have a few moments with him first. Jake looked up at her and smiled wearily.

"I'm sorry," he apologized, "I couldn't do it with you listening."

"You're not trying to keep something from me, are you?" she asked, folding her arms indignantly.

"You've been through enough because of me," replied Jake, standing up and collecting his written testimony. "I didn't want you to have to hear this. Please, don't be angry."

"I'm not angry," she sighed, as her friend tried to steady his trembling hands.

Dick approached AJ with the man who had been presiding over the hearing.

"Mr. Murphy," said the man, "that was the most compelling account I've ever heard. I want to personally thank you for coming down here today and sharing it with us. I understand it was done with some risk involved, and I commend your courage."

"Thank you," replied Jake, shaking the hand that was offered him.

To Abby's surprise, the man also shook her hand before turning to leave. Dick momentarily forgot himself, and clapped Jake on the back.

"You did good, Jake," he smiled proudly.
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