Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of The OC. They all belong to Josh Schwartz.

A/N:Sequel to "A Bitter Pill": Bob Stankey, head of the group home Ryan stayed at for six months, is ready to stand trial for second-degree murder due to depraved indifference in the death of a teenage boy in his care. Ryan is set to take the stand and testify against Stankey, facing the man who abused him.

This story takes place three months after "A Bitter Pill" ends. Ryan and Luke are friends and attending the public school while Seth is attending Harbor. I'm taking some "liberties" with the time and understand that it would be more like a year or longer for any trial to begin. But, I didn't want to fast forward an entire year so, in this story, the legal justice system works at lightning speed. :-)

I know that the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility in Chino closed ten years ago (I think), but I believe it was still in operation when this show aired.

This chapter brings closure to the crimes that were committed against Ryan. Next chapter will be Ryan/Cohen-centric. :-)

Thank you for all the feedback and support. I really appreciate it! :-)

Chapter Ten

Sandy groans as he gingerly lifts himself out of bed. He didn't sleep at all, or when he did sleep, he had dreams. Exhausting dreams. Visions of Ryan in prison and Bob Stankey... a monster taunting the boy. Hurting the boy...

Sandy runs his hand over his face and sighs. He knows he has to keep his wits about him. He has to stay strong and alert.

Sandy dons his robe and pushes his feet into his plush, blue slippers. He slowly drags his feet down the hall to the kitchen, unable to stifle his yawn. Sandy enters the kitchen to find his wife and son both looking as tired and bewildered as he.

"Morning," Sandy greets, leaving out the word "good". He doesn't feel comfortable uttering the sentiment.

"I made you some coffee," Kirsten offers, not trying to hide the melancholy in her voice as she takes a coffee mug out of the cabinet.

"Thanks," Sandy says as he pours himself a cup of the hot brew. Sandy glances over at his son, sitting at the breakfast bar with slumped shoulders, mindlessly poking his spoon into his cereal bowl.

He wants to offer encouraging words, but he's exhausted. He hates not being in control of a case. Specifically, Ryan's case. But he knows he made the right decision to recluse himself from being the boy's lawyer. He feels too emotionally involved and he knows, from experience, emotions can cloud a person's judgement. Sandy just hopes and prays Sheriff Hicks will come through for them. For Ryan.

Sandy's cell phone rings. Immediately everyone perks up with anticipation. Sandy rushes over to answer his phone, praying it's Sheriff Hicks with good news.

"Hello?" Sandy answers.

"Sandy, Ray Hicks here."

"Sheriff Hicks," Sandy says, looking up at his wife and son and offering a hopeful smile. "Do you have any news? Please tell me you have something."

"The perjury charge against Ryan has been dropped."

"What? That's great!" Sandy exclaims.

"What's great?" both Seth and Kirsten ask in unison.

"The perjury charge has been dropped," Sandy tells his wife and son. Sandy immediately returns his attention to his call with Sheriff Hicks. "What happened? How did the charge get dropped?"

"It's been a very long night, but definitely worth it."

Sandy takes a sip of his coffee, eager to hear more.

"After I left your place yesterday afternoon, I came back to the station. Did a little digging on our wrist tattoo. Turns out that tattoo belongs to an inmate at the California Institution for Men in Chino."

"That's where Trey is doing time," Sandy says with slight concern.

"I can't divulge his name since this is an ongoing investigation, but he was more than willing to cooperate."

"What did he say?" Sandy asks.

"He's a twenty-year-old doing two years on a drug charge. Guess his sixteen-year-old brother was with him when the deal went south. Kid's doing a year in juvie."

"Go on..."

"Tattoo Man has nothing against Trey, but claims he was coerced."

"By whom?"

"The person who took the picture of him holding the shiv happens to also be a guard at the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility."

"A guard?" Sandy questions in disbelief as he runs his hand through his hair. But it shouldn't surprise him. He's heard his share of stories of the corruption and abuse at the Chino youth facility.

"Tattoo Man was trying to keep his younger brother safe. He had instructions to injure Trey if Ryan implicated Stankey in court and told the truth. If he didn't cooperate, his brother was going to have a very rough time of it in juvie."

"So this guard..."

"Had a nice long chat with him last evening. He's our man in the hoodie entering the school. He admitted to placing the photos in Ryan's book bog. He also fessed up to being the driver of the van."

"Did he say anything else?" Sandy asks.

"He told us Stankey secured a job as a guard at the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility."

"Where Ryan would have most likely ended up..."

"Exactly. Stankey's not dumb. He knew no judge would throw a sixteen-year-old into an adult prison for a nonviolent crime."

"My god, he would have had two years with Ryan..."

"Stankey would have had complete control over Ryan. Most likely would have made that boy's life a living hell."

"Did the guard implicate Stankey?" Sandy asks.

"He said Stankey hired a couple of thugs to 'rough' Ryan up."

"The two men who snatched Ryan in the parking lot..."

"We had to cut a deal with the guard, Sandy."

"I understand," Sandy says, knowing exactly how the system works. "Please tell me you nailed those two thugs."

"Brought them in late last night. And boy, did they sing."

Sandy smiles. He knows how cops love it when their perps turn against one another. Makes their job so much easier.

"They said Stankey hired them to scare Ryan... rough him up. We're looking for the paper trail. Stankey left one. It's just a matter of time..."

"This is all good but I know, from being a lawyer, you can't present a case with just finger pointing," Sandy says as he runs his hand over his face and sighs. "Do you have any real evidence?"

"Glad you brought that up. Do you remember looking at the footage of the black van from the school's security?"

"Yes, but most of the footage was blurry."

"Not for my crime lab techs. They were able to trace the van for a few blocks using the traffic cameras at the intersections."

"And what did they find?" Sandy asks as he starts to pace around the kitchen with nervous energy.

"They zeroed in on the license plate. It was lifted off an old stolen SUV collecting dust in the impound lot."

"Switched license plates doesn't give us much..."

"Oh, there's more. We found something very interesting in the right hand corner of the windshield."

Sandy smiles. He knows he's going to like whatever he hears next.

"A sticker. More specifically, a sticker showing the van belongs to the Herman G. Stark Youth Correctional Facility."

"This is good... this is very good," Sandy says, his face now glowing with new found hope and encouragement.

"The van is used for deliveries, but it gets even better."

"I am all ears," Sandy states, unable to stop smiling. This day started off dreary but has now taken a most welcome turn.

"The back of the van is carpeted."

"Carpeted," Sandy repeats, not all that impressed.

"Forensic scientists love their DNA evidence. But they also love their carpet."

"Go on..."

"Carpet fibers. A mix of chemicals and debris. Ryan was either kneeling or sitting in the back of that van. Carpet fibers would have most likely been transferred and embedded into his clothing. Which brings me to the second reason I called. Please tell me no one has done laundry since Monday. More specifically, Ryan's laundry."

"Ryan insists on doing his own laundry," Sandy says. "He also helps with the dishes after dinner and cleans his bedroom." Sandy glances over at his son, wanting him to acknowledge the concept of "responsibility".

"Hey, I clean my bedroom," Seth pipes in.

"Your bedroom is full of clutter," Kirsten admonishes.

"Yeah, but it's clean clutter," Seth states in defense. "I have very clean clutter."

"Knowing Ryan, the boy didn't discard his clothing," Sandy tells the sheriff. "He either put it in the hamper or back in his dresser."

"A crime scene investigator is on his way to your place. He'll want access to Ryan's bedroom and bathroom."


"Now, I've got a date with Bob Stankey."

"Do not go easy on him," Sandy orders.

"The State Prosecutor has a deal laid out. The last thing he wants is to put Ryan through another trial. Stankey will do time, Sandy. I promise you that."

"Thank you, Sheriff Hicks," Sandy says. "Now I need to get myself showered and dressed, gather up some clean clothes for Ryan, and make my way to the courthouse jail. I'm going to bring Ryan home."

"Amen to that. I'll keep in touch."

Sandy ends his call and immediately turns to his wife and son. "Ryan's coming home!"

Kirsten rushes over to her husband and gives him a heartfelt hug. "Bring him home, Sandy," Kirsten says.

"I will," Sandy states. "Ryan will be home by dinnertime."

Ray Hicks peers through the one-way glass into the interrogation room. He sees Bob Stankey and his lawyer huddled close together, most likely whispering about what approach to take. He knows exactly what the lawyer is telling him to do.

"Stay quiet... don't say a word. You let me do the talking."

Ray smiles. He knows Stankey isn't dumb, but he is arrogant. And that arrogance will be his undoing.

"Thank you for waiting," Ray says, feigning actual gratitude as he steps into the small room and closes the door. One of the first things a cop learns about interrogating suspects is to never be on time. Make them wait. Let them stew for a bit and get a little impatient. Let them know who's in charge.

"Sheriff Hicks, what exactly are you charging my client with?" the defense attorney asks.

Ray looks at the woman with her glaring eyes and pursed lips as he turns on the recording device situated in the center of the table. He's not shaken in the least.

"Witness tampering, aggravated kidnapping..."

"Aggravated what?" Stankey shouts out in disbelief.

"Kidnapping," Ray states calmly, happy he's already getting under the man's skin. "Aggravated kidnapping because Ryan feared for his life. The thugs you hired had a gun, correct? Not good. Assaulting and making terroristic threats against a minor..."

"I never hired any thugs," Stankey scoffs while he folds his bulky arms across his chest.

"Bob, let me do the talking," the attorney instructs her client. "Sheriff, do you have any proof? Any actual evidence? If not, I think we're done here."

"Everyone seems to be pointing their fingers at you, Mr. Stankey," Ray says, ignoring the lawyer. "You're a really popular guy."

Ray notices the man's sudden display of discomfort. He smiles then immediately becomes serious again. "The consensus seems to be that you're the one who instigated all of this. In other words, even though you may not have physically held the gun to Ryan's head and personally threatened him, you're just as guilty as your hired goons."

"Screw them!" Stankey shouts, pounding his fist on the table. "You can't charge me with nothing! I wasn't even in that fuckin' van!"

"Van? What van?" Ray asks, mustering up as much innocence as he can. "I never mentioned any van."

The defense attorney groans. If only her client would have listened to her and kept his mouth shut. She knows now they'll have to make a deal.

"How in the world would you know that those thugs were in a van when they abducted Ryan," Ray says. "You must be downright clairvoyant."

Bob Stankey sneers and curses under his breath. He immediately turns to his attorney for guidance but notices her demeanor has quickly changed.

"What's the deal," the defense attorney asks.

"Ten years for witness tampering," Ray states emphatically. "Let's slap on another twenty for aggravated kidnapping."

"Ten years," the defense attorney states, her voice jittery and weak. She knows her offer will never be accepted.

"Just so you're both aware of this, if you go to trial, the State Prosecutor will ask for twenty-five to life," Ray states. "Mike Nolan is very firm on his deal."

"Fifteen," the defense attorney counters warily.

"Thirty," Ray counters.

"Twenty," the defense attorney again offers.

"Wait just a fuckin' minute!" Stankey angrily yells. "I ain't doin' time!"

"I'm afraid you are, sir," Ray says, feigning politeness. "We'll settle for twenty-five. It's our final offer. Mr. Stankey will be out to see the sun at the ripe young age of seventy something..."

"This is an outrage!" Stankey yells, interrupting the smug sheriff. He now feels utter hatred and disdain for the man.

"And, of course, there is still the the second-degree murder charge due to depraved indifference..."

"That charge was dismissed," Stankey snarls at the sheriff.

"Dismissed, yes. But not tried. There is no double jeopardy," Ray instructs. "You were not tried and found guilty or innocent of that crime. You will pay the price for the death of Tyler Jansen."

"Do something, damn it!" Stankey yells to his lawyer. "That's what I'm paying you for!"

"If you had kept your mouth shut as I had asked, we wouldn't be in this situation," the defense attorney replies. "If this goes to trial, we will not win."

Bob Stankey snarls and lets out a disdainful huff. He hates losing. And he finds himself truly hating this sheriff.

Ray watches as Stankey leans into his defense attorney, listening to what she's whispering in his ear. Most likely "take the deal."

"Twenty-five," the defense attorney sighs.

"Deal," Ray states as he stands up, turns off the tape recorder and picks up the incriminating evidence. "Oh, and before I forget, Mr. Stankey, I just want to let you know that the perjury charge against Ryan has been dropped."

Bob Stankey sneers again, not liking how things have ended up.

"The boy will be back home tonight, surrounded by people who love and care about him," Ray says, enjoying every minute of making Bob Stankey an envious, snarling mess. "I can picture it now," Ray says, running his hand through the air to depict a pleasant scenario. "Ryan sitting by the pool after partaking in a delicious home-cooked meal... not a care in the world... knowing you'll be locked up, rotting away in a prison cell all because you're just one vicious, corrupt, amoral asshole."

"That kid will someday end up in prison," Stankey snarls. "He's a delinquent. Only good for one thing. And that's fighting. When he gets to prison, I'll be waiting for him."

"Well, don't hold your breath," Ray says as he begins to take his leave. "Ryan's a good kid."

"Good, my ass..."

"Ryan's smart and has his whole future ahead of him," Ray tells the defeated man as he begins to make his way out of the interrogation room. Ray Hicks turns around in the threshold of the doorway and looks Bob Stankey straight in the eye. "That kid is going to go places. I know it. And, you know it. Have a nice day."

Ray stands in the quiet hallway, takes in a deep breath and feels an overwhelming sense of relief. Another case solved and all because a teenage boy found the courage to face his abuser and tormentor in a court of law. He also had the help of a man who is not only a lawyer, but a father. For that, Ray will always be grateful.

Ray Hicks remembers when he first met Ryan Atwood. The boy was lying in a hospital bed, battered and bruised from being beaten and left for dead when the Newport Group's model house burned down. So many people were affected. So many lives were changed.

But Ryan is safe now, Ray thinks to himself as he makes his way back to his office. There is paperwork to complete. Phone calls to make. And, he needs to call Sandy Cohen...

"Mr. Cohen," Ray replies when Sandy answers his phone.

"Sheriff Hicks, I'm just on my way out to pick up Ryan. Did you nail Stankey? Please tell me he's going to go to prison."

"He accepted Mike Nolan's offer. Stankey will be serving twenty-five years at the California Institution for Men in Chino. He'll be in maximum security so he will not have access to Trey."

"Thank god. Is this nightmare truly over?"

"Yes it is. Ryan is safe now and you're bringing him home where he belongs," Ray says with confidence. "You and your family is safe now."