[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
Prologue 001-002 Chap 1 003-005 Chap 2 006 Chap 3 007-008
Chap 4 009-010 Chap 5 011-013 Chap 6 014-017 Chap 7 018-019
Chap 8 020-023 Chap 9 024-027 Chap 10 028-031 Chap 11 032-041
Chap 12 042-048 Chap 13 049-055 Chap 14 056-063 Chap 15 064-074
Chap 16 075-084 Chap 17 85-95
Revenge Should Have No Bounds (96-110)
Chapter 18: Arrest
Early Monday morning on January the nineteenth Michelle goes to the bus station located some thirty-five blocks from Aspasia’s and places a coin call to Mazarine’s second cell phone. Mazarine has slept little, and is already awake.
“Yes?” she answers breathlessly.
“Honey, listen. I’m hoping they don’t know about your secret cell, but in case, here it is, quick and dirty. The DA is going to indict you for murder this morning.”
“What?” Mazarine shrieks. “All I did was give them some hair, for God’s sake.”
“Apparently it was enough.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“I’m with you, Mazarine. So are most of the girls. Moneywise and otherwise. I’ve called around, and you’ve got one of the best criminal attorneys in the city. And even better, she’s not connected. Her name’s Natalie Siu. Around forty, Chinese. She’s a junior partner at Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar. They’re the absolutely best.”
“Now, get dressed and pack some things. Toothbrush, pads, that kind of stuff. Some reading material. And be sure to bring your passport and your income tax returns for the last three years. In forty-five minutes – that’s about six-thirty – wait in the lobby downstairs. Natalie will pick you up in a yellow and take you to her office. Tell her everything!”
“There’s nothing to tell! I hardly know this Trinh woman!”
“Doesn’t matter. Trust Natalie. At nine she’ll march you into the police station and surrender you. That’s part of her strategy. Trust her, Mazarine. She’s all that stands between you and … and probably … some serious time.”
“This is insane! Absolutely insane!”
“I know, honey. I don’t believe you did it. Somebody hates you, because it looks like a real good frame. The D.A. smells blood, and he thinks he’s got you. You’ve seen the press coverage this thing has generated already. He can’t help himself, the little prick.”
“I know. I know. Now hustle. Do what I told you. And don’t say anything to anyone but Natalie or unless she’s present. I’ve pulled in a lot of favors and cashed a lot of chips on this one. Believe me, I’m on your side. But it is serious. Now rush!”
“Uh … thanks, Michelle. I can’t …”
“I know, honey. Save all that for later. Now do!”
The phone goes dead and Mazarine is staring at. Then she tosses it on the bed in frightened disgust, as if it were the head of venomous snake. She jumps in the shower and is out in a few minutes. She throws some personal stuff in a plain tote bag, including the documents Michelle had mentioned, as well as some Ovid. No makeup, plain clothes, simple and very, very non-provocative. At six-twenty she is hiding behind one of the palm stands in the lobby of the apartment house, and five minutes later a yellow pulls up. A Chinese woman steps out of the cab. Mazarine rushes towards her and is met with a comforting smile.
She motions to Mazarine with her hand. “Quick, quick, into the back.”
In less than a minute they’re speeding off downtown towards the center of the city.
As Mazarine started to throw questions at Natalie, the woman placed a long index finger vertically across her lips and, with the other hand, pointed at the taxi driver, a hairy head with a thick beard. She shook her head. They continued on downtown into the Business Park, a recent real estate development consisting of glitzy high-rises, office spaces, and expensive apartment buildings. The streets were eerily uncrowded at this time of the morning, and they cruised through the blinking yellow stop lights. After about ten minutes they pull up in front of a gleaming façade whose glassy lintel bears four large block letters: W-H-B-B. Natalie drops a twenty in the money slot and the cabbie tips his finger against his forehead.
“What firm did you say you were with?” Mazarine asks.
Natalie points to the four massive letters. “Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar,” she says. “It’s a long story. But not now.”
She slides a plastic card through a slot attached to the front door and rapidly punches in an electronic code on the keypad that sits right next to it. The huge door hisses open, and they gain entrance into a glass-enclosed cubicle that is the size of Mazarine’s living room. The door whooshes closed behind them and they face an inner door on the other side of which two large guards with their hands on their side arms stand attentively. Natalie holds up an ID card for both of them to inspect.
“Raise your arms so they can tell you’re not holding a gun on me,” Natalie instructs smoothly. Mazarine does as she is told. The inner door now slides open and the two women march through, Natalie tossing a pleasant ‘good-morning’ to the guards and they in turn responding with a smiling, ‘Good morning, Ms. Siu.’ Natalie’s heels click rapidly across the vast lobby towards a bank of elevators, and she inserts a key into a small slot next to one elevator that has no floor-pad next to it. The door opens and they travel in silence up to the sixtieth floor. “We have floors fifty-six through sixty-five and long-term lease the rest.”
Mazarine is duly impressed.
Natalie uses another card and more punches on a keypad to allow them access to the offices of Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar. The central wall of the main entrance hall is hung with four large portraits of distinguished gentlemen dressed in the conservative style of a much earlier era. The two in the center are Asian, and the flankers are Caucasian. Misters Blair, Wu, Hsien and Balthazar, Mazarine assumes. “The firm is over a hundred years old,” Natalie explains as she notices her client staring at the paintings. “Here, let’s go into the conference room there and sit down and see where we are.” Natalie is very efficient, little wasted motion, confident, and, Mazarine observes, strikingly resembles the Chinese woman who played the reporter in one of her favorite films, ‘Year of the Dragon’.
“Now,” she says, fully in control, “let me explain what has happened and what is going to happen. You’ve been charged with the murder of Trinh Cao and asked to surrender yourself. If you haven’t done so by nine this morning, the D.A. will issue a warrant for your arrest. Believe me, the smartest thing to do here is to surrender yourself.”
Mazarine, a shocked look on her face, nods numbly. “How … how do you know all of this? I mean, it isn’t even seven in the morning.”
“Don’t worry about that. I just do. I … we … the firm has connections. Everywhere.”
“Is it legal?”
“Well, let’s just say say that tiān gāo huángdì yuǎn … or, heaven is high and the emperor is far away. Listen, Mazarine, we have more important things to concern ourselves with right now.”
“But I haven’t done anything? Doesn’t that matter?”
“Not really. That’s for a trial to sort out. Unless you plead guilty, of course.”
“Guilty?” She is almost screaming.
“All right, all right. I know this is frightening. And it is serious. But let me explain a few things to you.
“First, the D.A. would not be doing this if he weren’t pretty sure he has a makeable case. He does not want to end up with egg all over his face. And he’s a pit bull once he gets hold of you. I’ve been up against him in the past, and he was usually more than competent. In the past, as I say. I have no doubt he’s been seduced by the prospect of publicity this case is going to generate. It’s already gone international.
“Second, he has certain evidence that I think it will be difficult but not impossible to get around. We’ll get into that later.
“Third, the question of bail. According to Michelle, you’ve lived here a long time, went to school at the university, work here. Right?”
“That’s good. And your father is a plastic surgeon and an adjunct professor in the department of surgery at the university medical school. Right?”
“Bail is certainly not automatic. Especially in a high-profile case like this one. And it is a brutal murder, no question of that.”
“You mean I could sit in jail until the trial?” Mazarine was agahast.
“But I thought I was innocent until proven guilty. If that’s really true, wouldn’t I be in jail while I am innocent?”
“Sharp. Good for you. Yes, you could sit in jail till the trial. Yes, you are innocent until proven guilty. And, yes, you’d be one of many innocents in jail awaiting trial.”
“That makes no sense.”
“True. That’s American law for you. Supposedly that’s what bail is for. In theory. You’d think the Supreme Court would have addressed this particular bit of legal illogic, but it never has.”
“How much would my bail be?”
“That brings up another important point. What I do does not come cheap. A good murder defense will run at least a million dollars. A lot more if you lose and we have to go to appeal. Michelle and her organization have kicked in a retainer of a hundred thousand. Before I can come aboard full bore I need five hundred thousand from you for the firm and another five hundred to be held in escrow for future expenses.”
Mazarine’s mind is reeling. “Yes, yes. O.K. I can handle that without any problem. I’ll call to my broker before we leave here and arrange it.” She hesitates. “What are all these expense for aside from your fee?”
“Well, I’ll have a co-counsel from the firm. He’ll be with me in the court room. We’ll be using half a dozen attorneys doing research here at the firm and helping us prep the case. We hire publicists, people to go on the talk shows to put our spin on things, feed op-ed pieces to the press, update the weeklies. It’ll be months before we go to trial, and we want to keep the jury pool fully informed.” She smiles sardonically as she says this. “We need jury consultants, outside experts, maybe even other investigators than our in-house staff. We may need experts to testify at the trial. Believe me, it adds up fast. And it’s all essential. I really do know what I am doing. Think of it as a major film production, and I’m the director. I don’t want to have to limit my budget.”
“So, how much bail?”
“Hard to say. How much do you have left after the legal fees I’ve outlined?”
“I can probably put together another four million of my own. My parents would go to bat for me. Maybe they could scrape together another one or two more. That’s about it. Six million would be the absolute max.”
Natalie wears a thoughtful expression. “Well, if we’re lucky, we’ll get bail at, maybe, one million. You’ve got to understand the judge will have certain pressures on him not to seem lenient – if he grants bail at all, that is. The climate today is not kind to a liberal take on crime. And the city has a sizeable Asian population, and they vote. They are interested in this case, as you may imagine. The judge knows this.
“No,” she shakes her head, “I certainly can’t see bail going much lower than one million, but it could also be as high five million in a murder case like this.”
“Five million? That seems kind of high, doesn’t it?”
“It’s pretty much up to the judge. The Eighth Amendment of the Constitution says that bail shall not be ‘excessive’. But what does that mean? What does any adjective really mean? They’re all fuzzy sets, right? What is ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘fair’, ‘beautiful’, ‘excessive’? What appears plausible to the python often puzzles the pig.”
Mazarine manages a weak smile. “And if it’s higher? Say ten million?”
“Well, I suppose anything’s possible. Then, I’m sad to say, you’ll be spending the next months in jail until we go to trial, which will means this summer at the earliest.”
Mazarine’s shoulders collapse in on her chest, and the horrific reality of the nightmare in which she now stars begins to sink it.
“I’m sorry, Mazarine. I’m not going to lie to you about any of this. If it comes to that, you’re just going to have to tough it out.”
Natalie pauses and gets up to check the lobby.
“Staff starting to arrive,” she explains. “Now, here’s some good news.
“The D.A. – Jeff Kerzy is his name – hasn’t tried a case for years and is bound to be rusty on court room technique. Even his clever co-counsels won’t be able to keep him out of trouble. As for me, all I do is litigate criminal cases, and have been, with this firm, for fifteen years. By now I am very, very good at it. No false modesty. It’s just a fact. What’s more, as we Chinese say, bu xi huan dio lien. ‘I don’t like to lose face.’”
She smiled encouragingly at Mazarine.
“Although the firm is branching out into other areas, our bread and butter is still criminal law. We employ over three-hundred attorneys – that’s not counting junior and senior partners — working just in this office alone. We have our own limo service, air fleet, investigative staff, computer and Info Tech department, and they are all the best. Just like us. The senior partners know everybody who’s anybody, and that never hurts. The firm – Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar – has been doing business here over a century, as I told you. It is highly regarded, probably the best in the city for criminal defense work. The judges know this, and they take us seriously, and therefore also our clients seriously. It could help with bail.”
“Is that what we’ll be doing in court this morning?”
“Yes. The D.A. is not calling a grand jury on this one. He can make his own determination to charge you, and that’s what’s happening here. He wants to express-mail this whole thing. I suspect with the election coming up in November they want this over and done with by then, another notch in their get-tough-on-crime belt. I’m sure Kerzy has all kinds of pressure from the Rany machine.
“He’ll ask for no bail. I’ll go through the motions – useless, but still – and ask for O.R.”
“Yes, bailing you out on your own recognizance. O.R. Your word is your bond, so to speak. It’ll never happen, but it’s part of the dance.”
“You … you almost make this sound like some kind of … some kind of game.”
“Not entirely inaccurate. But it’s better than a bullet in the head this afternoon, which, I am sad to say, is the way it’s currently done in the land of my revered ancestors. I prefer the game. Makes it somewhat less arbitrary.”
Mazarine doesn’t know what to say and just shakes her head.
“Cheer up, Mazarine. You’re in the best possible hands. Mine and the firm’s. I will work very, very hard on your behalf. You must believe that.”
Mazarine made a note of this exhortation, and then said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Anything. We keep open the lines of communication. You’ll be in on all our strategy and will in fact have final say-so which fork to take in the road ahead. And there will several.”
“Do you think I murdered Trinh Cao?”
Natalie gets a distant look. She taps a couple of rapid staccati with her lacquered fingers on the darkly polished wood of the table and glances around the richly appointed conference room.
“Frankly, that’s of no relevance here. What I believe or don’t believe doesn’t figure in.”
“It does for me. I want an answer.”
Natalie hears the steel in the voice. That pleases her. For the record, she does not believe that Mazarine is the murderer. So she tells the one lie she will tell Mazarine during their entire time together.
“I just don’t know.”
“Fair enough. But I did not kill that woman. I did not.”
They both eye each other a long pulse, and the turn away with a nod.
A secretary comes in carrying coffee, cream, sugar, and orange juice, along with cloth napkins, cut crystal, porcelain cups and silver dispensers, all on a mahogany tray covered with an ironed cloth. “Good morning, Ms. Siu,” she says and leaves.
Natalie invites Mazarine to help herself, which she does. Coffee and cream, but no juice. The time is well past eight, and Mazarine pulls out her cell to call her broker. She explains the situation as Natalie listens to her side of the conversation and lays her card with address and phone numbers on the table in front of Mazarine. She punches out. “Two cashier’s checks for half a million each will be messengered over here on Thursday. I hope the money Michelle gave you will last until then.”
Natalie smiles and puts her hand on Mazarine’s arm. “That’s just fine. No problem.” She stands up. “Let me just check a few things with my secretary, and then we’ll have one of the limos take us over to the court house. Ten minutes.” She turns to Mazarine. “One more thing, Mazarine, and this is really important. You must absolutely say nothing – not even hello – nothing to anybody anywhere unless I am with you and say you can. This is crucial? Do you understand me?”
Mazarine affirms, “Yes, I do. And I won’t.” She pretends to pull a zipper across her lips.
She is left alone in the soft conference room, and takes a few minutes to dive into herself and prepare for the day to come. She is terrified, but Natalie is reassuring and she trusts the woman. What else, Mazarine asks herself, does she have at this point?
When they pull up in front of police headquarters at about fifteen before nine there is already a mob jostling on the steps. Somebody, Mazarine thinks, somebody – whether from the D.A.’s office or from Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar she has no idea – has been ever so busy, busy leaking. A group of police officers assigned to general security meets the Siu party, now augmented by co-counsel Danny Hochstel, and escorts them through the none too gentle mob of reporters and camera people screaming their inane questions. “Are you guilty?” “Did you do it?” “How are you going to plead?” Each is punctuated by a smiling “No comment at this time” from Natalie Siu.
They march straight up to the police desk and Mazarine formally surrenders herself.
“They’ll book you and then take you downstairs. We’ve called in some favors and you’ll get a holding cell all to yourself. I’m pretty sure they’re fast-tracking this morning’s operation, which means about eleven they’ll bring you into court for the arraignment and the bail hearing. I’ll be waiting for you there. With luck,” she crosses her finger and rubs the jade pendant nestled in the crisp white valleys of her blouse, “you’ll be out on your own this afternoon. Take care, and try not to worry too much.” She puts her head next to Michelle’s and whispers in her ear, “Be strong, honey!”
Mazarine tries to go on automatic for the next few hours. Of all the unmentionable indignities to which the state subjects her, a person still innocent in the eyes of the law, none disturbs her more profoundly than the clanking, wailing and moaning of the unhappy denizens inhabiting these modern catacombs of the American judicial system. She thinks, inevitably, of the hopeless throngs with their unheard pleas in Book 6 of the Aeneid – and looks in vain for some guiding Sibyl to emerge from the stygian gloom. Clad in orange jail-house garb that hangs loosely from her frame she sits on an uncomfortable steel bed with a lumpy mattress and stares at the walls: how much human misery, how much pain have they been silent witness to?
Shortly before eleven a matron comes and escorts her up to the court house. It is standing room only and the presiding judge has allowed every photo-bug in the city access to today’s preliminary proceedings. When Natalie sees Mazarine in the orange jumpsuit her face turns dark and she shoots a dirty look at the smirking D.A. – who winks at her.
A clerk reads the information the D.A. has brought. Mazarine Cape is formally charged with murder in the first degree.
“Good morning,” the judge says from his lofty aerie.
“Jeff Kerzy for the people, Your Honor. My co-counsels are,” here he turns a quarter turn to the left and right indicating each of them standing next to him, “Ms. Buzulethi Rowan and Mr. Jin-Sook Yook.”
“Good morning, Ms. Rowan, Mr. Yook.”
“Your Honor,” they each say.
The judge turns to the defense table.
“Your Honor, Natalie Siu of Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar for the defense. My co-counsel is Danny Hochstel.” She turns her head.
“Ms. Siu, Mr. Hochstel,” the judge intones. “Good morning.”
“How does your client plead to the charge, Ms. Siu?”
“Not guilty, Your Honor.”
“The clerk of court shall so enter the plea,” he says.
He has been leafing through the material in front of him and flipping through pages. He asserts that he has received and studied a number of affidavits, memoranda and other documentation from both parties. He finds motive and opportunity sufficiently compelling that he will bind the defendant over for trial.
“Your Honor, if I may,” Natalie says, standing up. “As we have indicated in the documentation before you, we feel that the means put forth by the prosecution are flimsy at best and that there is no real case here. We respectfully request a summary dismissal of all charges.”
The judges eyebrows elevate. “Mr. Kerzy?”
“The people would be utterly opposed to such a course of action. It should be up to a jury and not Ms. Siu to determine the probative value of the means the state proffers. We believe we have a strong case and enough physical evidence to indicate that the defendant had the means to commit this heinous crime. Not to mention the motive and opportunity, as Your Honor has indicated himself.”
The judge does not hesitate. “The defendant is bound over for trial.” He checks a register. “It looks like Monday, July nineteenth is a reasonable date. That gives each of you exactly six months to prepare your cases.” And then he adds, “In the court of judge Bernard Fathom. The clerk of court shall so note.”
At the mention of the name of this popular client of hers Mazarine registers no external sign of recognition but makes a hurried note on her yellow pad. This she must take up with Natalie later, but for now keeps her counsel.
“And,” the judge drones on, “I expect there will be full coöperation between the parties in the matter of complete sharing of evidence, witness lists, discoveries and other pertinent documentation. Are we agreed?”
He lowers his head and looks down on the two attorneys over the glasses riding low on the bridge of his nose.
“Yes, Your Honor,” they both quickly agree.
The judge puts a huge pile of documents off to one side and replaces it with another that he stacks in front of him, again turning some pages and scanning them.
“Now, let us on to the matter of possible bail. Mr. Kerzy?”
“Your Honor, the people are unalterably opposed to any release on bail here. This is a brutal murder, driven by uncontrollable passion …”
“Your Honor, if I may?”
Kerzy turns and looks at Natalie with a surprised expression. His co-counsels are not happy and attempt, with little success, to hide this fact.
“Your Honor, our distinguished district attorney has apparently been away from the trenches so long that he has forgotten that the only purpose of a bail hearing is to make a determination if the defendant will, one, be likely to flee the jurisdiction, and, two, pose any risk to the community. Such alleged,” and here she puts strong emphasis on the attributive, “matters of fact as jealousy or whatever have absolutely no bearing in this hearing.”
He is fuming but he knows when to fold. “I ask the court’s indulgence for my … for my misstatement.” He fidgets on his feet. “Nevertheless, Your Honor, we are opposed to any bail for this defendant.”
“Your Honor,” Natalie begins a reasoned presentation. “My client has roots in this community that go deep. She is a graduate of the university here, from which she has both a B.A. and an M.A. degree. Her parents have long lived in Akers Pond just north of the city, and her father is a distinguished surgeon who is an adjunct professor in the School of Medicine. She is gainfully employed in the community” – a ripple of laughter rolling across the crowded court room is immediately stilled by a disapproving scan on the part of the judge – “and pays her taxes. We have tax returns, state and federal, for the last three years. She also has her passport with her and is ready to surrender it. I should also note that she voluntarily turned herself in early this morning before a formal arrest warrant could be issued. These are not the indicia of a flight risk, Your Honor.
“As for her danger to the community. Well, we don’t know that she is guilty of anything yet, do we? The police have found no record of any kind, and that’s after checking their own data bases and those maintained by the F.B.I. There isn’t even a traffic ticket, Your Honor. Furthermore, if, as Mr. Kerzy suggested earlier, this is a murder that is part of some kind of love triangle, then the perpetrator is no danger to any other person in the community.
“We submit, Your Honor, that my client is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community. We ask for release on O.R.”
Kerzy shoots up. “You Honor, puh-lease!” He throws his arm wide and up as if to an uncaring God.
“That’ll do, Mr. Kerzy. There is no jury here, and hence no need for histrionics.”
This time the laughter in the courtroom is met by no stern look of disapproval from the judge.
“But O.R., Your Honor? Is Ms. Siu serious?”
“Yes. Nice try, Ms. Siu, but that’s not going to happen today.”
Natalie bows her head repentantly. “We ask for minimum bail, Your Honor.”
“The people are still opposed to bail, Your Honor.” Kerzy’s voice is loud with outrage.
“I believe the defense has made a case for bail,” he judge says, weighing his words carefully.
“The people request the highest possible bail. Cash, no bond, Your Honor.”
“Sit down, Mr. Kerzy. The court is aware of the people’s position and thanks them for their input.”
The D.A. sits down, his disgruntled face a clear sign of his feelings on the matter. Mazarine is walking on clouds and Natalie maintains a dispassionate expression. But she is thrilled.
And then the judge speaks again.
“I do find it appropriate in this case to order a pretrial release for the defendant. I believe she has indicated by her actions that she will appear on July nineteen and that she constitutes not threat to the community. But,” he goes on, and the little words looms huge and threatening in the now deathly silent court room, “this is, as the district attorney has pointed out, a heinous crime, and the bail should reflect that fact. Bail is herewith set at fifteen million dollars, in cash.”
There is a collective gasp in the room as neighbor turns to neighbor and, awed, murmurs, ‘fifteen million’. Mazarine falls through the rent in her cloud and Natalie has a difficult time restraining herself from screaming at the judge. Fifteen million? It is laughably obvious that this is a political ploy and not a juridical move. But she knows as well as the judge that he is under no obligation to justify to anyone the amount of bail he sets. It is his prerogative, and his alone.
The naked consternation at the defense table is matched by the smug satisfaction emanating from the prosecution. They are whispering delightedly among themselves.
“The defendant,” the judge says, “should see the clerk of court about payment and surrender her tax returns and passport.” He makes a move to bang his gavel. This business before the court is finished.
“Your Honor,” Natalie manages to squeeze out, “fifteen million dollars is far beyond the means of my client. I must respectfully add that the sum seems extraordinary under the circumstances.”
“You have my final word in the matter. If your client is unable to post bail, she will be remanded to custody at Women’s Correctional until the time of the trial. You are free to confer with her there and plan your defense.” He looks out over the agitated gallery. Lifting his gavel once more, he asks, “Is there any other business before this court?”
Natalie’s posture bears elegant witness to her view of things, and Mazarine has her head in her arms. The bailiffs are already moving in her direction, and the they have handcuffs at the ready. The minicams are rolling.
“If I may, Your Honor,” a crisply accented voice emerges from the restless crowd. All eyes — including those of the judge — and cameras turn to see a tall, lean man of dark complexion rise. He is dressed in high elegance in a Navy blue three-piece of conservative European cut. Another man of similar hue but somewhat shorter and stockier stands beside him and, from the valise chained to his left hand, appears to be an assistant or courier of some sort. “If I may ask the court’s indulgence for just one minute, Your Honor?”
The judge is giving him a hard look. “And who might you be, sir?”
“I am Agung,” he answers with an authoritative voice. “I am the owner and CEO of Java-Sultan Incorporated, a holding company based in Indonesia. Aurora-Vesper Imports in the Stoa Mall here in the city is one of our holdings.”
“And you have some business before this court?”
“I do, Your Honor. If the Court would kindly permit me a minute’s conference with the attorney for the defense, all will become clear.”
“Very well. The court has no objection.” The judge is puzzled, but he’s been on the bench many years and few things throw him. “One minute.”
“Thank you very much, Your Honor.”
The man walks lithely to the defense table, leans muscularly across the balustrade and holds a whispered conference with Natalie Siu – who is as astonished as everybody else in the room at this strange interruption. He exudes an unmistakable charisma. Women in the courtroom who are watching him part their lips and draw shallow breaths. Mazarine is crying openly now. My God, she thought, there really is a deus ex machina, and his name is Agung, the Sultan of Java. Good God! For she knows now to a certainty that today at least she will be walking out of this court room and not into some horrendous jail cell. The erstwhile jubilation at the prosecution table has suddenly morphed into a suspicious gloominess.
The tall man’s assistant unlocks his valise and pulls out several envelopes, one of which he selects and hands to his employer. He in turn opens it and pulls out a greenish-red document that he hands to Natalie Siu. Before withdrawing to his seat, he bends quickly towards Mazarine and speaks softly to her. “Do you remember my words to you the last time we … we met, di ajeng? ‘Don’t forget what I said, sweet Mazarine: I am a person you can always count on.’” And as he tells her this he unobtrusively presses a piece of paper into her hand. “This is a local telephone number. You can reach me here anytime. Do not forget this.” And then he swings around and disappears into the roiling crowd behind her.
Natalie now turns to address the court. For once she feels almost at a loss for words, a happy loss for words.
“Yes, Ms. Siu?” the judge prompts her.
“Your Honor … Your Honor, defendant is now prepared to post cash bail in the amount of fifteen million dollars. A cashier’s check drawn on our very own City Federal.”
Pandemonium breaks out in the hall. Reporters have turned on their cell phones and are punching in the numbers to the editorial desks as they rush for the hallway outside the courtroom. Voices are no longer restrained but burst forth in a sharp crescendo. It takes several loud raps of the judge’s gavel for the courtroom to calm down.
“Order in the court,” he yells, “order in the court.” He shakes his head, as much in anger at the unruly mob in his court as at the astonishing turn of events. “Another outburst like this, and I will have this room cleared immediately.”
The riotous hubbub subsides to a low-lever hum.
“Very well, Ms. Siu. Please see the clerk of court for payment. After that the defendant is released on bail. Now, let’s all go have some lunch and calm down.” He shakes his head again and swings the gavel. “This court is adjourned.”
This time it is the D.A. who is shooting Natalie a dirty look, and she smiles sweetly at her adversary, pompous little poseur that he is. “Kill the chicken, scare the monkey,” she says to him. And – she just can’t help herself — winks.
When Mazarine, dressed in her own clothes, emerged onto the courthouse steps with Natalie Siu some forty-five minutes later, Kerzy, flanked by his accolytes, was the self-important cynosure of the world’s media, holding forth at length on the people’s great victory. He was explaining that the high bail was itself an indication of the court’s dubious stance toward the defendant and assured the gathered horde that the people would, in the end, prevail and see this monstrous murderer locked up, where she belonged, to spend the rest of her life. When the reporters who were on the periphery trying to reach the center saw Natalie and Mazarine, they immediately flowed, blob-like, towards the two women and bombarded them with questions, one more inane than the next. Mazarine, mindful of her attorney’s earlier admonishment, kept her mouth resolutely shut and deferred to Natalie. She stonewalled with a dazzling smile.
“You may rest assured we are mounting a vigorous defense and will prove Ms. Cape’s innocence. That is all I have to say at this point.”
Somebody more impudent than the rest shoves a bulbous mike in Mazarine’s face. “Who was the bail money?” he snarled.
Natalie put her hand over the mike and gave it a firm and forceful shove. “We have no more comments at this time. Please let us through.”
They slowly worked their way past the throng, pointedly ignoring repeated requests for more information on the man who, out of the blue, had supplied fifteen million dollars worth of bail money. But they got nothing more from the attorney or her client, and soon the media people drifted off to the nearest restaurant bar.
Natalie and Mazarine drove off in the Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar limousine that had been waiting at the foot of the steps by the curb. On the floor stands a small suitcase. “You’ll be staying anonymously in one of suites the firm maintains at the Momiji for the next week or so. Try to stay inside as much as possible. Read, watch TV, use the gym. Whatever you do, if reporters glom on to you, just refer them to me. Don’t say anything, don’t offer any opinions about anything, and certainly not about your case. And,” here she puts her hand on Mazarine’s arm, “you’re not to work. Understand?”
“Once the interest dies down – and it will, until the trail — you can move back to your own apartment. For now it’s best to take this precaution.”
Mazarine is touched by her concern, even it if is strictly professional. “Thank you, Natalie. Thank you for everything,” she says.
Natalie smiles at her and suggests that in a couple of days after Mazarine has had a chance to deflate somewhat they will meet at her law offices. She will call to set up the first appointment and a limousine will pick Mazarine up. “In the meantime,” she urges, “I want you to think closely about your life and all the people in it for the last few years. One of the specific things I’d like you to be working on is a list of names and addresses of people who have been even remotely involved in your life. The more the better. And I’ll want to hear your thinking about who might be behind Trinh’s murder. Who could have done something like that and why? And you’ll definitely have to fill me in on the gentleman with the bail money. In general, you and I are going to be spending a lot of time going over your life and planning our legal strategy. By July nineteenth we are going to be ready and put this thing to bed for good.”
The limo pulls up at the Momiji. Natalie opens the small suitcase on the floor and pulls out a hat with side covers and some large sunglasses. She has Mazarine put these on before she exits the car. “Just go right on up to the suite,” she says and places a key-card in Mazarine’s hand. “Everything’s been taken care of. Try to relax and enjoy yourself. In a couple of days we’ll begin the really hard work.”
“Thanks again, Natalie. You’ve been absolutely wonderful.”
“Talk to you soon.” And the limo pulls out in traffic.
Mazarine spends the next two days just relaxing, and taking showers. She wants to wash off the adhesive stink of jail. A few times she breaks down crying when she realizes that she could be sitting in jail this very minute and every other minute between now and July nineteenth. As she looks around the luxurious suite with its kitchenette, bedroom and bath, and plush sitting room, and room service a phone call away, she offers up a silent thanks to whatever powers had brought Agung into that courtroom with a cashier’s check for fifteen million dollars. He disappeared as mysteriously as he came, and she has no idea how to get in touch with him except for the number he left in her hand. Or is even sure that she should – she has made a pact with herself to trust Natalie Siu implicitly and carry out her ‘suggestions’ punctiliously. She feels that Agung’s connection with her and the trial is not over, but it will be at his discretion and not hers that she will hear from him.
She has finished the Ovid material and wishes she had brought along some other classical reading material. But she’s sneaked down to the sundry shop off the lobby and bought some sleazy novels – thrillers, romances, but no murder mysteries – to keep her occupied. Some of them aren’t bad, she has to admit. Maybe not the best writing in the world, but certainly ingenious plotting with excellent pacing. Television she can take in small doses, mainly in the evenings when the networks run their weekly series and if the satellite channels have some movie she’s been meaning to see. In general, though, it still seems like that proverbial wasteland, and she finds herself turning the talk-shows off in mid-lament of the latest victim.
It is not unpleasant not to be working. There is no pressure to meet appointments and the solitude becomes her. Maybe it’s time to get out of the life. If – when – she is out from under this absurd trial, she will not need to work and will still have enough money to live, if not in great luxury, certainly in more comfort than most people her age. Maybe she should think about going back for a Ph.D., a thought that has been nagging at the back of her head. But wouldn’t that just be more of the M.A.? She doesn’t have to make up her mind now. Although a kind of low-level free-floating anxiety about the indeterminacy of her legal situation rides with her every day, it is not always there, and sometimes several hours will have passed without her once giving in to it. Perhaps this will improve with time. She likes to sit and look out over the city from the living area of her suite. From up here it is just an idealized picture and not a nasty urban reality. The twilights are especially attractive to her. She comes to appreciate how much this threshold period of the day appeals to her: it is no longer day but nor is it quite night either, just some brief, crepuscular interstice in the diurnal cycle. Maybe it reminds her of her own liminal status. Whatever! It is restful, almost soporific, soothing.
She nurses a chilled Stoli.
She has also begun to make a list of all the people she recalls having been in touch with over the past months. It soon grows to a length that astonishes her. She is unsure if she should be jotting down the names of clients, and will have to discuss this with Natalie. After all, one of the reasons they come to her, and Aspasia’s, is for the guaranteed anonymity. Mazarine is genuinely upset at the thought of possibly exposing them to the unforgiving light of a puritanical polity writhing with pleasure at such public humiliations. These are not evil men, just lonely ones.
What a mess.
* * * * *
Early Tuesday afternoon Kerzy finds the time to give Abernathy a call, on his private cell phone. He wants clarification about the last one.
After one ring Bob answers. “Yes?” There is much noise in the background: computer keys clicking, phones ringing, cross-talk, chatter, a vital sense of things happening.
“Bob, this is Kerzy.”
“Hello, Jeff. How are you? Say, that was a pretty good news conference yesterday.” Just a little twist of the blade.
“Yeah, well, it could have gone better.”
“We’re not happy she made bail.”
“You think I’m happy she made bail? How the fuck was I supposed to know that money guy would pop up out of the woodwork.”
“You should have. It’s your job to know things like that. To anticipate.”
“O.K., O.K. So it didn’t go exactly the way I wanted it to! No real harm done. She’s going down.”
“All right, spilt milk and all that. The main thing is Rany’s worried. She was one of his little chippies. I suppose you figured that out. He’s crawling all over my ass about this thing. Is she going to be a problem?”
“Well, she can talk all she wants, but without proof, or speaking under oath, it’s just words. Actionable slander, in fact. Why should anybody take her seriously? Has she got anything on Rany?”
“No, nothing specific.”
“Then don’t worry about it. It’s completely irrelevant to this murder thing. And her attorney’s not going to put her on the stand in a million years. It would allow the whole escort thing to come out in all its detailed ugliness, and Siu knows I’d milk it for all its worth. And no matter what any judge said to the jury afterwards, that life style would fatally prejudice a bunch of decent citizens against her. Siu is definitely not going to take that kind of chance just to embarrass some power people and then end up with a guilty verdict. Believe me. It’s water over the dam. Don’t worry about it, and tell Rany not to worry about it. Of course, it’d help if he could keep it zipped for the duration!”
“Yes,” Bob said slowly, obviously mollified. “If you say so. I’ll pass the word to His Honor. He’ll be relieved.”
“Now, you understand, Jeff,” Abernathy went on in a voice silky with contrition, “we’re not trying to influence this case in any way. That would be entirely unethical. I hope I haven’t given you any reason to feel I was, or that I’ve offended you. We’d just appreciate being kept apprised of developments. If that’s possible, of course.” He dangles the political cherry. “A lot of important people would be very grateful to you.”
“No offense taken, Bob. I understand, and I’ll be in touch. My regards to the mayor. He’s got my vote in November, and I’ll talk him up to people.” You prick, he adds in his head.
“He’ll be delighted to hear that, Jeff. I’ll pass the word. And thanks again.” He hangs up. “You prick,” he says softly to the noisy room.
* * * * *
On Thursday the twenty-second of January Mazarine is sitting in the luxurious foyer of the sixty-first floor of the Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar building, where Natalie Siu has her suite of offices. This floor, too, Mazarine notes, has four large paintings, slightly different from those on the floor below, of the venerable founders of the firm. She has a ten o’clock and precisely on time is ushered into Natalie’s plush domain.
Natalie’s co-counsel, Danny Hochstel, is standing next to her, and they both wear welcoming smiles. This is the first time Mazarine takes the time to give Danny a closer inspection. He is not pre-possessing. Caucasian, shorter than Natalie and somewhat chunky, he has a bland face, pale hair and light blue eyes. His hands, she notes, are beautiful, and beautifully manicured, but his dress, though a standard three-piece of good material, is nothing to write home about: it does not hang well on him. Hands aside, he gives off a rumpled impression. But, Mazarine figures, if he were not a first-rate lawyer he would not be working at Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar so closely with Natalie Siu. He indicates a comfortable easy chair for Mazarine in a small triangular grouping in one corner of the large reception area of the suite. From this height the view of the city spreading out far below catches in one’s throat. Coffee served, once again with real china and silver, Natalie settles back in relaxed fashion on her small sofa. Hochstel follows suit at the third apex.
“So,” she begins, setting her cup and saucer back on the low table of glass and tubular gleams that sits at the center of their gathering, “how are things going, Mazarine?”
“Now that I’m recovered from the nightmare in the courtroom, I’m starting to feel human again. Thank God for the bottom of the ninth.”
“Quite,” Natalie says. “In that connection, can you tell us a little more about the man with the money?”
Mazarine casts Danny Hochstel a questioning glance.
“That’s all right, Mazarine. Danny is part of our team and will be co-counsel throughout this whole thing. You can speak to him the way you would to me.”
Danny does not appear to be in the least offended.
“I’m … I’m sorry,” Mazarine says. “Well, it’s no secret what I do, what I did, for a living. He was one of my clients. His name is Agung, as you will recall, and he is obviously very rich. He has always been sweet to me. Many of the men I see tend to want to be very protective, and though a lot of them have made the point that they’d like to, what, take care of me, he’s the only one who ever came through in a big way.” She pauses a minute, and Natalie and Danny do not break in on her hesitation. “I have the distinct feeling that we haven’t heard the last from him.”
“What do you mean?” Natalie queries.
“Before this whole thing is over, I suspect you will get offers of help.”
“Not extra-legal ones,” I hope. There is a note of concern in Natalie’s voice and Danny’s forehead has grown a frown.
“No, nothing like that. I have no reason to believe that Agung is anything but an honorable and honest man.”
“How did you meet him?”
“We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend. We seemed to click.”
“I assume you mean … ah … professionally?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
Hochstel is taking copious notes as they go along. He leaves all the talking to Natalie but it is clear that he is listening very closely to everything that is being said.
“I see.” Natalie reaches around to a small side cabinet and pulls out a tape recorder. “I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to tape this session. It’s only for in-house purposes, and after we’ve extracted what we want, it will be destroyed. Is that O.K. with you?”
“Sure. Of course.”
Natalie starts the machine and puts in on the table.
“Did you get a chance to jot down any of those things we talked about earlier?” she asks.
“Yes, I did,” Mazarine replies and pulls out a notebook from her tote bag and hands it to the lawyer. “I was kind of amazed at how many names I came up with, and I have some problems with this.”
“Well, frankly, the men who see me have a sort of tacit understanding from the service I work for that they enjoy anonymity. I don’t know how much you know about Aspasia’s, but the clients are mostly so-called solid citizens, some of them quite prominent, and it would do them inestimable harm to be, how shall I put it, outed in this fashion.”
“Yes, I can see that that could be a problem. I’m obviously going to do all I can to minimize any risk that their names enter the public domain. But I can’t promise anything.”
“What is this all for, anyway?”
“This is the start of our preparation for a defense. If you recall the judge’s charge to us and the prosecution, we have to share our information with each other. The whole process is called ‘discovery’ and involves finding out as much as possible about each other’s cases. Not the strategy, but the factual data: exhibits, financial data, witnesses, any kind of formal documentation that has bearing on the case. The idea is you can’t sandbag the other side. They have to know what you’re going to be using to present the case. How we – or they – do that is of course another matter. Now, what you’ve done here is start a witness list.”
“You mean you’re going to call all those people as witnesses?” Mazarine asked in horror.
“No,” Natalie smiled, looking at Danny who was also smiling, “not at all. Maybe none of them. The point is that we want to get as many names on there as possible. The prosecution won’t know which names, if any, we are going to call, but they will have been forewarned, so to speak. In effect, we have to let them know the names of any and all potential witness we might call, but we are not obligated to call any of them. It’s much more problematic to call a witness during the trial whom we did not have on the list at the start of the trial. Keep that in mind.”
“So, just make a lot of work for them. Or make so much work they won’t bother checking any of them? Something like that?”
“Yes. Exactly. Something like that.” She and Danny exchange quick glances. “That’s why I want you to keep working on this list. It doesn’t matter who, just get as many names down there as you can. We’re shooting for a long witness list.”
Natalie tears out the pages already filled with names and hands the rest of the notebook back to Mazarine, who stuffs it in the tote bag.
“There is one thing,” Mazarine begins while doing this, “that I wanted to ask you about.”
“That judge …”
“… at the bail hearing?”
“No, the other one. The one he said would be doing the actual trial. Bernard Fathom.”
Danny is leafing through a large loose-leaf binder he has in front of himself on the table. “Yes, here we are,” he chimes in, running his finger down a sheet. “Bernard Fathom.”
“What about him?” Natalie asks.
“Well, he’s … he’s one of my clients, and I’ve been seeing him fairly regularly for a number of years now.”
“Ah,” Natalie and Danny both say at the same time.
“Is that going to be a problem?”
“Certainly not for us,” Natalie Siu says. “But I imagine it will be quite a problem for Judge Fathom.” Both she and Danny chuckle.
“How do you mean, exactly?”
“Well, he can’t – given his relationship to you – he can’t sit as judge in this trial. He’s going to have to recuse himself. Step down and let some other judge handle it. But that’s going to raise some questions in some corners. Why is Judge Fathom recusing himself? I suppose he could have a cold or something, but people may well draw ugly inferences. He’s caught in a judicial pincer movement here. Not our worry.”
“Wouldn’t it be to our advantage to have him as the judge?”
“Yes and no. He might be prejudiced for you because he knows you, but he could also bend over backwards to show that he is not biased because he knows you. That would work against us. But, believe me, he will recuse himself. He has no choice. If he didn’t and it ever came out that he knew you, he’d be in really big trouble. And if we lost the case, that acquaintance would be an automatic basis for appeal. No, he’s not going to take that kind of chance, even if it has to come out that he … he has been your client.” Natalie sighs. “Frankly, I’d not like to be in his shoes right now. He must be pretty unhappy.”
Danny has handed her a sheaf of documents.
“Mazarine,” Natalie says, moving on to a new subject, “a partial basis for the indictment against you comes from a report submitted by Phoebe Light, the chief of homicide. It appears that she had an interview with a woman named Yukiko Darling that was highly damaging to you. Who exactly is this Yukiko Darling and what is your relationship to her?”
Mazarine is stunned upon hearing this. It takes her a minute to gather herself together. Then a small shiver runs through her. Could it possibly be Yukiko who was somehow behind this unbelievable mess she now found herself in? But if so, why? When she had given any thought to specific people who might be behind this massive frame that had been hung on her, she had thought Fabian Darling. She knew only too well how savagely he felt about her, blaming her for his demotion from elite detective to just another beat cop. But Yukiko — what had she ever done to Yukiko except play the submissive lover? Or did Yukiko in some strange way blame her for the breakup of their marriage, which came a couple of years after Fabian had first started seeing her on a more or less regular basis. But she’d stopped seeing Fabian almost four years ago? That was the time, she reminded herself, that Fabian had gotten involved with this Trinh girl who’d been murdered. Had Yukiko been jealous of Trinh? Had she twisted things around and in some way latched on to her, Mazarine, as the ultimate reason Fabian got involved with Trinh? See one whore, see another? Yukiko had certainly seemed friendly enough towards Trinh the few times the three of them had been together, but on other occasions she’d ranted and raved about ‘that woman’ who had stolen Fabian from her. Was ‘that woman’ Trinh, or was it Mazarine herself? Or someone else? It really did seem unreal that Yukiko, even in her most irrational outbursts, could have worked things so that Mazarine ended up looking like the suspect the police and the D.A. liked best as the murderer of Trinh. Think about this long enough and it turned into a tangled nightmare of inexplicable motivations and bizarre behaviors. Yukiko? No, no, no.
“Yukiko Darling?” Mazarine echoes Natalie’s question.
Both Natalie and Danny are staring at her, waiting for some kind of answer. They have sensed her hesitation, that she has been thrown by the question – they are, after all, experienced litigators and, as such, are, like sharks, by the very nature of their beings able to smell blood and sense the slightest thrashing at long distances.
“Yes, Yukiko Darling,” Natalie reiterates. “What can you tell us about her?”
“She and I are … were friends.”
“Friends?” Natalie sounds unconvinced. Her eyebrows shoot up in interrogatory puzzlement. “Just friends?”
“Well,” Mazarine says, “maybe more than friends. Like lovers, that’s probably more accurate.”
“Listen, Mazarine,” Natalie explains, “Danny and I are not here to make moral judgments about your life style, your life styles, professional or personal, but you have got to level with us and tell us the truth. All of it. We can’t defend you if we don’t know everything, especially things that it now seems the prosecution has learned from the police. This Yukiko could be very important. We need to know everything about her.”
Mazarine nods her head and makes a decision: hold nothing back. “All right,” she says softly, “I’ll tell you everything I know about Yukiko. We were lovers … I guess we still are, though we haven’t seen each other for several weeks now. Probably not since the first of the year, the first week of the year.”
“So you didn’t live together?”
“No. We each had our separate places, and when we … got together, it was at a hotel. The Momiji. Usually just for an afternoon, though some times we’d spend the night there. But always in room 1965.”
“Why 1965?” Natalie asked.
“It was the year she was born, and she thought it was suitable.”
“Who rented the room? In whose name was it?”
“In mine. Usually.” Danny turns to a new page in his notebook and makes a note of this piece of information – just as he has been writing everything else down that Mazarine was saying.
“But sometimes in hers, too?”
“Any pattern to that?”
“Not really, no.”
“O.K.,” Natalie continues.
“How did you two meet? How did it start between you?”
“She called Aspasia’s and made an appointment with me. It was the first time a woman had done that. I mean, with me. Aspasia’s caters to all tastes, and some of the … some of my colleagues have no problem doing women, but I’d never done it. Not my scene. At least I thought so. Anyway, Yukiko had asked especially for me and indicated she just wanted to talk to me. No sex.”
“Wasn’t that kind of unusual? Enough to make you suspicious?”
“No, not really. Believe it or not, not every guy who calls an escort service wants sex. Some of them really do just want an escort, to a play, to dinner, something like that. Others may just want a sympathetic woman to talk to, a good listener, you know. And some of them just want to see you naked, maybe touch you here and there. But, no, not everybody wants sex. So, yes, it was unusual in that she was a woman, but no, not that she wanted just to talk.”
“And that’s what happened?”
“Pretty much, yes. We met and we just talked.”
“Well, she said her original intention was to kill me!”
“Kill you?” Natalie was astonished.
“Yes, that, or to hurt me badly?”
“She said her ex-husband knew me.”
“And she said she was jealous of me since her husband – he was still her husband at the time – talked a lot about me.”
“Who was her husband?”
“She didn’t tell me that first time we met.”
“She got off on a long story about herself instead?”
“Do you recall any specifics of what she told you?”
“Sure. It was mostly about the time she had spent in Japan, in Osaka, at the university. And about a woman she had been involved with there. And all about herself. Endlessly about herself. She seemed to be her own favorite subject.”
“So she had a history of being with other women? And yet she was married?”
“She was bi-sexual. Like me, I guess. Though I would never have believed it if you’d told me before I ran into Yukiko.” Mazarine sighs. “But, yes, there was a strong attraction there, a mutual one. She really got to me.”
“So you saw her again?”
“Yes. Not through Aspasia’s, though. We just became friends and then lovers. I guess it took a few weeks, a month maybe, and then we were into it.”
“And when did you first meet her?” Natalie asks.
“Let’s see, it would have been some time last August.”
There is a sudden click from the table as the tape comes to an end. Natalie leans over and turns off the recorder. “Fine, I think we should take a little break here.” It is verging towards noon, and Natalie has arranged for lunch to be catered in her office. She addresses Danny and requests that he check with a secretary how they are coming with that. “We have our own kitchens and restaurant, for the firm, right here on the fifty-sixth floor, and I’ve taken the liberty of ordering something in for the three of us. I hope that’s agreeable to you.”
“Sounds appetizing,” Mazarine smiles. “I could do with something to eat about now.”
About ten minutes after Danny returns to the room a chef and waiter wheel in a large cart. The chef begins to prepare a cold salad of rare steak and romaine with tomatoes, green onions, croutons and a sesame-oil dressing. The waiter is laying a table over by one of the large bay-windows that look down on the city below; the place settings consist of heavy china and silver. A plate of freshly-baked rolls with scored balls of cold butter is placed at each setting, as are large water glasses and coffee cups. A beady pitcher of ice water and a silver coffee service are arranged one on each side of a tasteful flower arrangement in the middle of the table.
“Ms. Siu,” he chef says, bowing, when everything is ready.
“Thank you, Benjamin,” she says.
The two men roll out their cart and Natalie stands up and stretches. “Let’s eat,” she says cheerfully. “No business talk during lunch.”
Mazarine realizes that she is quite hungry, and the lunch is superb. They chat amiably about the latest plays and the show at the museum, and both Natalie and Danny seem especially interested in Mazarine’s informed comments about the art on display. When they are done, Natalie gives the secretary a buzz, and shortly thereafter a woman comes in, clears and cleans the table, and rolls everything back out.
“Now,” Natalie says as they are back at their little grouping, “let’s pick up where we left off.” She briefly consults Danny’s notebook as he puts a new tape in the recorder and starts the tape. Mazarine can see the little spindles turning. “Yes, you and Yukiko started seeing each other last August. So, what happened?”
“We never moved in with each other, but we were together a lot. And not just for sex. We went to museums, ate out at restaurants, took in films, shopped, walked, talked. We talked a great deal about ourselves, kind of bared our souls, so to speak. It seemed that we were meant for each other, and Yukiko was extremely solicitous of me. I know she didn’t exactly like what I did for a living, but she didn’t get on my case about it. At least at first. In fact, she was kind of curious about it, and wanted to know more about the men I saw. I never mentioned any names, except in the case of her former husband. She told me he was Fabian Darling, and she couldn’t get enough of me telling her about him when he was with me. Actually, he and I hadn’t gotten on too well. He once threatened me physically, and after I told Aspasia’s about it, he got blackballed and also ended up as a beat cop.”
Danny and Natalie shot each other knowing looks.
“He actually threatened you?” Danny asked.
“Yes, but he never did anything about it. I see him uptown from time to time, and he’s always kind of nasty. But I think he’s more talk than walk, if you know what I mean.”
“That may be,” Natalie said, “but that’s a good thing to know. When was that?”
“That would have been some time early in two thousand.”
“O.K., back to Yukiko then?”
“Well, after a while, maybe six or eight weeks or so, the relationship started to change. This was in late October or early November. She started to become very critical of me. First it was small things. Like, when did I take a shower last? Why did I always order bacon and eggs for breakfast? When was I going to lose weight? She got real bossy and controlling. It was like she was turning into a completely different kind of person.” She chuckled bitterly. “I mean, do I look like I’m too fat to you?
“And then on and on about everything and nothing. Criticizing just for the sake of criticizing. Even about what I read. She said it was silly for me to be reading the classical literature I like to read. I really think she was jealous that I knew some Latin and ancient Greek, and she didn’t. She’d always turn it around to the glory of Japanese. But it bugged her the Western classics were well over a thousand years older than the Japanese classics.
“The love-making changed to. She began getting a little rough, wanted me to do things I wasn’t really into, started ordering me around in bed. All of a sudden she’s jealous of all the men I see, and she accuses me of carrying on with other women. I mean, it was kind of nuts. She has a … how shall I put it … a large psychological presence. I didn’t like the feeling that she was sort of swallowing me. Then she’d fly into these rages. Rant and rave about everything and everybody, including the Japanese. Especially the Japanese men who, she felt, had insulted her when she was at Osaka University because they didn’t accept her as a ‘real’ Japanese. I tell you, it was kind of scary. I just let her blow off steam and stayed out of her way.”
“Are you still together?”
“No, not really. The last time I saw her was last weekend.”
“When?” both Danny and Natalie asked at the same time.
“A week ago Friday.”
“Yes, that sounds right.”
“At the Momiji. Our usual place.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“What was the occasion?”
“Yukiko had introduced me to Trinh …”
“The murdered woman?” Natalie raised her voice.
“Yes. She and Trinh had gotten to know each other. Odd, since Fabian and Trinh were an item, but it didn’t seem to bother Yukiko. Quite the opposite. They’d been friends for several years.”
“Yukiko?” Danny asks Natalie.
“Obviously!” Natalie says.
“What are you two saying?” Mazarine asks, her face incredulous. “You’re saying Yukiko killed Trinh?”
“It’s certainly a theory, isn’t it?”
“No, you don’t understand. Trinh and I left together after we’d seen Yukiko. Yukiko said she was tired and was going to stay the night at the hotel.”
Natalie and her co-counsel were intensely interested in what Mazarine was saying.
“What was the point of the meeting at the hotel?”
“To cut to the chase, Yukiko wanted a threesome. Trinh and I went up to the room together. It turns out Trinh wasn’t into that scene at all, and she was kind of offended when Yukiko broached it. But when she realized how Trinh felt about it, she backed off right away and made kind of a joke about it. Laughed about it. No big deal, just thought I’d ask, that kind of thing. But Trinh was upset. It was a side of Yukiko she hadn’t seen before, and it bothered her. I thought it was pretty tacky on Yukiko’s part, and I felt embarrassed. I hadn’t met Trinh a lot, but I liked her. She was a sweet lady, and she was very bright.”
“Do you think this had anything to do with the fact Yukiko’s ex and Trinh were seeing each other? Some kind of revenge thing?”
“I don’t know. I doubt it. I mean they’d know each other for several years at that point. Why wait till then?” Mazarine looked at each of them with concern. “Why is this such a big deal?”
“When you and Trinh left, you rode down together in the elevator and walked out of the hotel together?”
“Yes. That’s what I said. We left together.”
“And what time was this?”
“Maybe around six-thirty or seven or so.”
“And where did you go?”
“She was going in the opposite direction, so we split right outside the main entrance to the hotel. I turned left and she went off to the right. That was it. Now, again, what’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that you were the last person we know to have seen Trinh alive. That always interests the police. And the D.A. And, believe me, they will find this out. I think your friend Yukiko will be only to happy to let them know. If she hasn’t already. In theory at least we should get their discovery and find out exactly what they know from their witnesses. We do know Yukiko spoke at length to Phoebe Light, the homicide detective, and the D.A.’s office will undoubtedly take a formal deposition from her.
“And that won’t look good for you at all.”
“I’m not sure I understand this at all,” Mazarine says wearily.
“Look, let me tell you how this works,” Natalie says. “In a criminal trial each side develops a theory, a theory of the crime, a series of inferences that can be drawn from the physical evidence available and from the comments of witnesses. So each side in effect tells a story. They create a narrative of the crime. We have pieces of evidence A, B and C, and we have testimony X, Y and Z, and therefore the defendant must have done it – that’s the prosecution – or therefore the defendant couldn’t have done it – that’s the defense talking. Now, odd as it may seem, what actually happened isn’t as important as being able to persuade the jury that such and such did or did not happen. In some sense, a criminal trial is a deadly rhetorical exercise: who is most persuasive? The defense or the prosecution?
“In the present situation – and please don’t take offense, as I’m just laying it out the way it is – at least one person and, assuming no accomplices, at most two people know who is or who is not the murderer. If you did it, you know that you are the murderer and nobody else; if you did not do it, you know that you did not do it but that someone else did. But you don’t necessarily know who that someone else is.”
Mazarine started to protest, but Natalie cuts her off.
“No, let me finish. Now, the problem here is that only the murderer, and nobody else, knows with any kind of epistemological certainty who actually killed Trinh. This is an irreducible fact. So the prosecution will do all it can to make the jury believe its theory, its narrative, which says that you are that person. And we will do all we can to convince the jury of our theory, our narrative, that you are not that person. And the best way to do that is to point the finger at somebody else. If the jury can be made to believe that some other person did it or could have done it, then they have reasonable doubt that you did it. And have to acquit you.”
“And now you have at least two suspects you can throw in the jury’s face: Fabian and Yukiko. Especially Yukiko.”
“Bingo!” Natalie says. “Now you are starting to think like a defense lawyer.”
Mazarine is shaking her head.
“It seems … seems somehow such a … such a contingent way to deal with such important matters.”
“I can’t entirely disagree,” Natalie responds. “There’s more than a little Las Vegas in any trial. And what’s worse, in my personal opinion, is the importation of television into the court room. What already was a kind of circus has now become theater. And lawyers – on both sides – have turned into histrionic narcissists. As have the judges. And, I’m afraid, the jurors and the defendant too. Just dreadful.” She shakes her head, distaste clearly written on her face. “It’s not a healthy development, this televisionization if you will of justice. Not healthy at all.”
There is a somber lull in the conversation.
“But that’s the reality. And between now and the trial, we are going to be working full bore to make sure that we can line up things in such a way that the jury will believe our theory of the crime. It’s all this pre-trial stuff that takes place even before a jury is selected that can determine the outcome of the actual trial itself. We want all evidence and witness accounts ‘in’ that supports our version of reality and keep ‘out’ everything that doesn’t. And the defense will do the same to promote theirs. Most juries probably don’t realize that they’re being asked to make decisions with inadequate or circumscribed information, or at least pieces of information that bias one side or the other. And we want that bias to favor us.”
Mazarine sighs. She is bewildered. “So what do you want me to be doing?”
“I want you to have faith in yourself and in us. And to try to relax. Think of it as a forced vacation. Above all, don’t talk to anyone about any of this unless I am present, and don’t work. Got that!”
“Got it,” she says. She tries to sound enthusiastic, but she is listless.
“Mazarine, I’m going to order up a limo for you that will take you back to the hotel. Take a hot shower, order room service, try to have a relaxing evening. By next Monday we’ll be moving you back to your own apartment. If you need anything or can think of anything in connection with the case, be sure to call me or Danny right away. Any time of day.”
Natalie picks up a phone and punches in a button, asking the garage to have a limo waiting for Ms. Cape at the front of the building in ten minutes. She and Danny stand up and shake Mazarine’s hand and escort her to the door. Natalie continues with her to the elevator and gives her an encouraging smile.
Mazarine feels in a daze, all the questions and talk of the day spinning and tumbling in her head like wet laundry in a dryer. As she walks through the vast entry hall she sees the limo standing at the curb, and when she comes out of the building the liveried driver puts his hand to his cap and opens the door for her. It is around four and the day is starting to wane. The solid chunk of the car door closing behind her shuts out the cacophony of the street, and soon she is gently pushed back into the plush seat as the car pulls out into the traffic.
Back in the quiet of her tasteful suite Mazarine does take a very long and hot shower. After using three nappy towels to dry off she puts on one of the heavy, comfortable bathrobes that hang in the bathroom. She calls room service and orders a small salad and a poached egg with toast and coffee, and throws in a bottle of Grand Marnier and two large snifters. She signs for everything, including the tip, and is at last alone. Her favorite time of day is here, and she chews thoughtfully on her food as she gazes out one of the large windows into the darkening evening and the light-studded city stretching out below her.
She tries to assimilate and organize the day’s experience at Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar.
First, what are the positive things in her current situation? She is reassured by having Natalie Siu and the backing of the large law firm in her corner. Natalie strikes her as supremely competent at what she does, and if anyone can help her, it is Natalie Siu and Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar. She has enough money to see this whole thing through and still have enough left to live a good life even if she decided not to go back to work. This also is reassuring. The sudden appearance of Agung lifted her spirits greatly, for several reasons. She knows that she has, as they say, “a thing” for him, and to see him coming to her rescue in the way that he did in that courtroom last Monday … it had given her goose bumps. Like a dark knight in shining armor. He had looked so delicious. And as she had pointed out to Natalie, she had a strong intimation that, as powerfully as he had already affected the course of events in this trial, he would somehow appear in the action in the not too distant future. She recalled the thrilling tale that her friend Chick had once told her about what he’d referred to as ‘The Wyang Caper’ – replete with the gathering of vast resources, the application of steely determination, and a goal-oriented intensity that had proved so dreadfully disastrous for the unfortunates who had tried to take advantage of Agung. It felt more than comforting to realize that this kind of power was massed on her side, however it might play out in her particular case.
Mazarine let her thoughts drift along. Also of great comfort to her was the extraordinary effort Michelle – and Aspasia’s – had made on her behalf, not only financially, but also in securing the services of Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar, and warning her early last Monday with that phone call. Indeed, it quite moved her. And her family had stood behind her solidly the last few days. Her younger sister, Dr. Valerie, the anesthesiologist in Oakland, had called several times and tried to raise her spirits. Crispin, her father, had a heavy operating schedule in Akers Pond, and had been able to come down only briefly one afternoon – Tuesday – to visit with her, but her mother had spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday with her in the suite. The three of them were planning to have dinner Saturday evening at the Moiji restaurant featuring sushi and teppanyaki-style steak; her parents had a reservation for their own room that evening, and they would join her baby-brother Craig and his wife Lucinda for brunch Sunday morning. Craig had called her several times and been strongly supportive. As a corporate attorney in the city he was thoroughly familiar with the legal climate and assured her that, although he had no personal knowledge of Natalie Siu, she could absolutely not have done better than Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar for the kind of legal talent that she currently needed. Even Lucinda had called once to chat with her, and had sounded very family! Mazarine was not sure if either of them really knew how she earned her living. She had never talked to him about it the way she had with her mother, but she had a general feeling Craig probably had some hazy notion of how it really was. He never mentioned it when he talked to her on the phone.
She had never been close to her brother, but she loved him, and his support the past few days had moved her deeply. What if she had gone to law school like Craig? She had thought about it, but it didn’t appeal to her at the time. Even less now. Craig had just made junior partner in a prestigious and stuffy firm that specialized in corporate law. He worked eighty-hour weeks. And Lucinda was a tax lawyer in another big firm, on the partnership track but not yet there, and she probably worked a hundred hours a week. They made the big bucks, for sure, but Craig had an incipient ulcer, Lucinda was shrill and on a hair-trigger, and they’d gone through five nannies in the last two years who could not cope with — or simply would not put up with — their boy, a six-year old tyrant rapidly morphing into a monster. No, Mazarine thought, I made the right educational choice.
Yes, Mazarine was grateful for her family and for all the other positives in her current predicament. She drained her snifter and opened the bottle of Grand Marnier to pour another shot.
Now, she thought, frowning, for the down side. The most obvious horror was the fact that she was staring into the frightening face of a first degree murder conviction. If she lost at this trial, she’d spend the rest of her life in prison. The idea numbed her. She could not in truth grasp the full implications of such a sentence. She was thirty-two, and she probably had a life expectancy of something like eighty or so. Say fifty years behind bars. It was, truly, inconceivable. The few hours she’d spent sitting in a cell Monday morning were chilling enough. But fifty years of that? Women – or men — subject to such draconian conditions must surely go mad long before they died. And Natalie’s hints about the way the justice system worked did not give Mazarine a great deal of confidence that her innocence would be something a jury would necessarily appreciate.
Like most people who never brushed up against the police and the criminal justice system in this country, she now realized that she had a kind of mindless junior-high civics-class view of criminal justice and its administration in the land of the brave and the home of the free. The reality, she was beginning to recognize, was the dark side of the moon by comparison. She knew, after all, with the kind of epistemological certainty – she smiled at the phrase – that Natalie had been talking about, that she did not murder Trinh. It was as simple as that: she just didn’t do it. Why couldn’t the world see that? The very fact that she was now viscously entangled in a murder rap was, in her own mind, itself a monstrous indictment of the American justice system. How could that happen to her? She was innocent! But, apparently, that didn’t matter all that much. If she were to believe Natalie, the only things that mattered here were, one, that the district attorney’s office had locked on like a heat-seeking missile to the unshakable belief that she had murdered Trinh, and, two, what the jury — without having all the facts — could be made to believe in the matter. Pure, unadulterated Kafka! Just call me Gregora Samsa, she thought wryly.
All right, she knew she hadn’t done it, but Trinh was dead, murdered. That means that somebody did murder her. But who? Who? Who could have done it? Who would want to get rid of Trinh and frame her, Mazarine kept asking herself. Or just frame her? Maybe the murder had nothing to do with Trinh as such – she was just a convenient vehicle for getting back at Mazarine. But did Mazarine know anybody who was that heartless, that indifferent to human life? Her initial thought had of course been Fabian Darling. There was no love lost there. But he was a policeman. True, police do commit murder. But she had been with him, and for all his surliness about sexual gratification, somehow she just didn’t see him as the killer. Besides, from what Yukiko had told her, and Trinh herself the few times they had met, he really did love Trinh, and – so she said – Trinh loved him. What possible reason would he have had to kill her. There was never any indication from either one of them of any kind of problem. Her parents weren’t thrilled about the boyfriend, true, but Trinh had loved her parents and they her. And they were not from one of those grotesque ‘honor-killing’ cultures. No, the parents were out. Weren’t they?
Could it have been Yukiko? But why? Mazarine knew from personal experience that Yukiko was not quite as tightly wrapped as she often gave people to believe who did not know her close up. There was an element of instability there, of an emotional iciness: her dealings with Mazarine herself, with the Malaysian woman Su Lien, with men in general, with the world. But did these … these idiosyncracies translate into murder? Mazarine did find that hard to believe, too. So, somebody none of them knew anything about? Somebody Trinh had known at the university? Was it, as in so many TV mysteries, the most obvious person of all, the person who was so obvious nobody would even have considered it? Who was the most obvious person in this instance? Somebody from her family. Could it be one of them? But what could the motive possibly have been? Out of the question. Absolutely. Well, then? Who? Who? Who?
Mazarine was growing woozy churning all of this in her head. She drained the last of the liqueur and headed into the bedroom. Letting the bathrobe fall on the floor she crawled naked in between the cool sheets of the huge bed and fell into the deep, dreamless sleep of an innocent.
By Tuesday, eight days after the bail hearing, Mazarine moves back to her own apartment. Natalie feels that the media will have moved on to other things by then, and will pretty much leave her alone until the trial starts in July. If she is contacted by anyone, she is to say nothing – only refer all calls to Natalie. Mazarine has an answering machine and uses it zealously to screen out all calls from reporters and television media requesting interviews, and since she answers none of them and returns no calls, soon even these stop. Natalie has arranged for an upscale grocery store to deliver necessities to Mazarine’s apartment, so she has no need to run a gauntlet of reporters potentially camping out by her apartment house. Even these hardy scoopers finally give up. In early February Natalie gives her the all clear, and she deems it safe for Mazarine, suitably attired, or disguised, to venture out for walks, coffee shops, and some of the less popular restaurants.
The days go by for her, sometimes too fast, sometimes too slow. January turns into February and winter turns into spring. There are periodic strategy meetings at Natalie’s office and many phone calls between the lawyers and Mazarine. Her team seems generally optimistic and talk encouragingly of the possibility for a verdict of not guilty. Mazarine maintains that fervent hope.
In the interstices of these lonely days Mazarine is drawn to old and comfortable friends, her collection of classical texts – the light blue Teubner editions and the navy blue volumes in the series of Oxford Classical Texts. She is delighted to recognize that she can still handle the Greek and reads desultorily in Homer’s Odyssey with all its complex themes of change and transformation. This in turn leads her to her favorite Roman poem, the Metamorphoses of Ovid, whose slick Latin is still easy on her eyes; these richly textured stories of erotic angst and psychic as well as physical conversions captivate her as they always have. She is brought finally to that masterful modern exploration of change, Die Verwandlung by Franz Kafka, and in her bilingual edition she can get through the German without difficulty. Homer, Ovid, Kafka: she immerses herself in these narratives, reads short sections and stops to contemplate their import, takes notes, and composes personalized critiques befitting her present predicament.
It is against this backdrop of narratives of metamorphosis that she one day also takes percipient note of an important change in herself. She has always thought of herself as an easy-going person, the type who pretty much lives and lets live. She has never been one to harbor resentments or wasted much time in angry recriminations at real or imagined slights from others. But now, as the months go by and her reading deepens, she senses a growing anger within her, a rage even. Here she is, going about her business, providing important and powerful men what they want, paying all her taxes, harming no one, and suddenly she finds herself starring in a world-class media trial for a murder that she did not commit. Somebody has built a convincing frame. And as a result she may well end up spending the rest of her life in jail. As the spring wears on she moves beyond a concern with merely proving her own innocence. She wants to find out who is responsible for Trinh’s murder and for putting her, Mazarine, life in legal jeopardy. The more she mulls over her situation, the more she begins to think in terms of revenge and payback, feelings quite novel to her way of approaching life. She begins to contemplate ways in which, to put it crudely, she can get back. If, that is, she is acquitted, and has the freedom to go down that road. Or should she simply forget it? At first she vacillates, a bit frightened by the rage that powers her thinking, which she likens to a favorite pet suddenly turned wild animal and straining to throw off all restraints. But the more she contemplates what has happened to her, the more she allows herself to seethe and the more obdurate does her resolve to do something deeply vengeful about it become.
In late June she has an afternoon conference with Natalie and Danny. They want to discuss a deposition made by Yukiko and the matter of expert testimony regarding the physical evidence that lies at the heart of the case against her: Mazarine’s hair and the note found on Trinh’s corpse.
Mazarine is shocked to learn the content of Yukiko’s deposition.
“In effect,” Natalie states, “she claims that you are out of control. In fact, she characterizes you pretty much in terms similar to those you used about her when we talked about this back in January.”
“That’s crazy,” Mazarine said, her voice rising. “Specifically, what did she say?”
Natalie flipped through the pages of the deposition.
“Well, let’s see. She did admit the two of you had an affair. But she said you were the one who threatened to kill her. That you were insanely jealous of her because of Fabian, that you introduced her to Trinh and not the other way around, that you became extremely critical of her as your affair wore on, that she told you very little about her time in Osaka, that you bullied her.”
Mazarine’s mouth was open in disbelief.
“I … I just can’t believe it,” she said.
“So you’re sticking to your story of last January.”
“Yes, of course I am. That’s the way it was. The way she was.” She hook her head. “This is, uh, bizarre.”
“I have to tell you, she is very convincing. When we took the deposition she was relaxed and entirely accommodating, but as the session wore on she cried, had to take a break to gather herself together, but toughed it out. I have to admit that if I hadn’t heard your version first, I would have believed her totally.”
“And now? Do you believe her totally?”
“Again, Mazarine, it’s not what I or Danny believe that counts. It’s what the jury is going to believe. You can rest assured Kerzy is going to put her on the stand and milk every drop of venom from her. And if she is anywhere as compelling as she was when we talked to her, we’re going to be in trouble.”
“But what can we do?”
“I don’t suppose you had the foresight to make any tapes of these outburst and odd behaviors you allege she engaged in?”
“Alleged?” Mazarine was outraged.
“I’m trying to look at this dispassionately. I’m not saying I believe her.”
“But you’re not sure which one of us is telling the truth?”
“Instead of getting mad at me, look at it from the jury’s point of view. That’s all we should be concerned with at this point. It’s one of those classic cases where the only witnesses are the two people involved. In this one, it’s a she-said-she-said situation. How can you prove one is lying and the other telling the truth?” She paused for emphasis. “From an evidentiary point of view, you can’t. It’ll come down to whom the jury believes. And they will believe her.”
“Because we can’t put you on the stand to defend yourself.”
“What do you mean you can’t put me on the stand? I can be at least as convincing as she is. At least I could neutralize her position.”
“We can’t put you on the stand. Once we do, you are open to cross-examination by Kerzy and his team, and they’ll go straight to the heart of your prostitution and make you look like the slimiest person who ever walked the earth. That kind of prejudicial character assassination would be fatal to our case, and you’d get a guilty verdict for sure. Do you see what I’m saying?”
Mazarine was stunned. She was nodding her head, but she wasn’t really believing what she was hearing.
“So this woman can sit up there and tell all the lies about me she wants and I can’t even defend myself? That’s insane!”
“Yes, probably so. But if you refute her, everything else comes out, and even if the jury believes you over her they’ll hear everything about you that you don’t want them to. A Pyrrhic victory, and in the end you lose.”
Mazarine looked from Natalie to Danny and back to Natalie.
“So what are you suggesting?”
“Nothing at this point. This is a real problem for your defense, and we’ll be working on it. But for now …” Natalie threw her hands in the air. “You two are the only ones who witnessed these encounters, right?”
“Well, Trinh did, a few times, but of course that’s no help at all.”
Danny spoke up for the first time. “We considered the possibility that if Yukiko was lying about all of this, maybe she was somehow involved in Trinh’s murder. We sent several investigators with a photo of Trinh to ask the doormen on duty the ninth of January if any of them had maybe seen Trinh go back into the hotel to see Yukiko after you and she parted company. But,” he concluded unhappily, “no such luck.”
They sat silently in the office.
After a while Mazarine asks, “What about the experts thing?”
“We know the prosecution is relying heavily on the hair found on the body that did not belong to Trinh or Fabian. Their expert will say it was yours.”
“How is that possible?”
“I don’t know, but the lab report does state that this hair is consistent with yours.”
“Their expert will back this up?”
“Yes, the lab tech.”
“Can’t we get an expert to say the opposite?”
Danny and Natalie give each other one of those lawyer looks.
“We certainly can’t suborn perjury. And we won’t. As it turns out, hair is very slippery evidence, in ways that are both good and bad for us. We may be able to get around it. We’ve got several attorneys doing research on this question.
“As for our own expert? Yes, we could hire one, at considerable expense. But my experience is that the defense expert and the prosecution expert simply cancel each other out in the minds of the jury. They know each is being paid to say what they say. What are the jurors supposed to believe when one so-called expert says A is black and the other one says A is white. It’s obvious they can’t both be right. So the jury is likely to ignore that testimony entirely.
“But,” Natalie goes on, “what is truly powerful refutation of expert prosecution testimony is if we can get that expert to reverse himself – or herself. That is, the prosecution’s own expert ends up blunting or outright contradicting the point the prosecution is making. That, I can guarantee you, is something jurors put in the bank and let it grow interest.”
“And you can do this?”
“It’s a strategy Danny and I have been thinking seriously about. But it is obviously risky, and we want to run it by you before we proceed. If you are uncomfortable with that, we’ll go the traditional route and hire our own gun.”
“No,” Mazarine said slowly, thinking it through, “it makes a lot of sense. I like it, and I think you should go for it.”
But she couldn’t help appreciating the idiocy of the system. Of course a highly paid ‘expert’ would say what the paymaster wanted said. It was kind of like the practice in the courts in ancient Athens of torturing slaves who were witnesses to make sure they told the truth: they’d say anything if tortured. Just as idiotic, if infinitely more cruel!
“Great,” Natalie says. “We’re on it.” She and Danny are both delighted. “I do believe we are going to be ready in another three weeks, people!”
* * * * *
The fourth of July belongs to no politician. It is one of many days in the calendar on which the people own them. They must be seen, seen to eat hot dogs and baked beans at public barbecues; they must be heard, heard to give patriotic speeches in public parks. Especially is this true if they are running for office, or reëlection.
Roy Rany is trying to unwind inside the air-conditioned coolness of his limousine as he and Abernathy are shuttled from one tedious event to another, at all of which Rany must appear at ease, smiling, enjoying himself. A man of the people on the people’s day.
“God, I hate it, Bob,” he said.
“Goes with the territory, and you know it,” Abernathy consoles him.
“And that Trinh trial starts two weeks from tomorrow. I tell you, Bob, it makes me plenty nervous.”
“About what? You’re covered.”
“If even a hint came out that I was ever involved with that woman, with that Mazarine, it would be the end of me politically,” he said. “And marriage-wise too, for that matter,” he added glumly.
“Won’t happen. Can’t happen,” Bob assured him.
“How can you be so sure?”
“As I’ve already explained to you, Roy, the woman will never take the stand, never in a million years. It would guarantee her a guilty verdict. Citizens don’t like whores.”
“Yeah, that’s exactly my point. Not the men who go with them, either.”
“Well, you know Kerzy’s not going near it.”
“What about that defense lawyer? My people say she’s real sharp.”
“She is. And that’s why she would never bring it up either. Believe me, Roy,” Bob says soothingly, putting his hand on the mayor’s bare forearm, “the last thing she wants to remind those jurors of is that her client is a practicing prostitute. I predict she’ll mention it in her opening statement, just to take the wind out of any dirt Kerzy may try to throw in that direction, but after that she’s going to let it lie. Just like our esteemed D.A. She’s definitely not going to want to make a big deal out of it and skewer her own client.”
“I hope you’re right,” Rany mumbles. “Do we know if the Mazarine woman did it?”
“Doesn’t matter if she did or not,” Bob dismisses the question. “Kerzy’s bet she did, and he’s going for broke on this one.”
“And he can prove this?”
“So he tells me. Has a persuasive witness who’ll say she was insanely jealous of the murdered woman. A jealously thing. And he’s got hard evidence to back him up. He’s assured me this is not a circumstantial case He says he’s got the “i’s” dotted and the “t’s” crossed.”
“But he’s not going to go after any records at Aspasia’s, is he?” The strain in Rany’s voice caused a surprising ripple of Schadenfreude streak through Abernathy’s sensitive limbic system.
“No way,” he answered calmly. “He knows that would hurt a lot of people he doesn’t want to hurt. Believe me, Roy.”
“I suppose it would be best if she got convicted. I mean, for us.”
“No question about it,” Abernathy affirms.
“And if she doesn’t?”
“Well, that’s always possible, of course. Who ever knows with a jury? But I think she will be. And even if she isn’t? How does that involve you?”
Roy thought about that for a minute. “Yeah, I guess it doesn’t. Maybe I should just stop worrying about it.” But there wasn’t much conviction in his voice.
“Definitely,” Bob concurred.
The limo was slowing down as they approached the entrance to a large park festooned with red-white-and-blue bunting, crowds lining the driveway in, and everywhere waving flags and cheering crowds.
“Shit, here we go again,” Roy says as the limousine comes to a full halt. He steps out of the car, waving, shaking hands, and puts his capped teeth on dazzling display.
Fourth of July, the people’s day and the people’s mayor.
TO BE CONTINUED