Originally published in the May 2001 issue of GQ. Reprinted here with the author's permission. His annotations appear throughout the story (click on the asterisk and wait a moment for his comment to appear). Illustration by Sam Woolley.
One by one, day by day, they'd glide to the witness stand, this procession of improbable women, a spangled harem of them, drifting into the courtroom and out again, leaving the scent of their perfume and the shadow of their glitter and the echo of their cool. Week in, week out, they never stopped coming.
That was the extraordinary thing. How many there were. The final count stopped short of thirty—that was the number of photographs of women Rae was said to keep in a box at home—but there were more than enough of them to make each and every morning worth my springing out of bed for, worth walking down to the courthouse for, worth getting frisked at the doorway for: in the hope that a new one might illuminate the somber courtroom with its smoked-glass view of the jailhouse across the street.
And sure enough, in the middle of a gray day of testimony filled with the babble of a psychologist or the grunt of a jail guard or the platitudes of a coach, out of the blue Rae's attorney would suddenly say, "The defense calls Dawnyle Willard," and next to me the TV guy would arch an eyebrow at the local columnist—who's this one? what's the angle? lover? friend? cleaned his apartment? helped him jump bail?—and they'd both shrug, because no one had heard of Dawnyle Willard.
Then everyone would turn to the back of the courtroom to get a look at the newest entrant, because we just knew she was going to be beautiful. And honestly, she just about always was.*