Revenge Should Have No Bounds 116

[If you have not already done so, you must
read the Introduction
before proceeding.]

For §§ 1-110 (Chapters 1-18), see here.

111    112     113     114    115

Revenge Should Have No Bounds  116

Chapter 19 (6 of 13): Trial – Phase One

Jin-Soon is momentarily thrown but, like the good litigator he is, quickly recovers and glosses over what he now realizes was a clumsy move on the part of the prosecution.

“We apologize for any inconvenience to you, sir, and will not keep you here long.  We have just a few questions.”  Mr. Cao nods curtly but says nothing.  “What I would like to know from you, sir, is when you last saw your daughter.”

“That is easy.  It was the Friday afternoon, the ninth of January, maybe around three or so.  She said she was on her way to the university to take care of some things.”

“I see.  And that is the last time you saw or heard from your daughter.”

Mr. Cao is looking into his lap and appears to be giving serious thought to the question.  “Yes, until I saw her corpse in the morgue on the next Tuesday,” he says.  The jury, who have been leaning forward to hear his every word, are shocked, and over half of them rock back on their seats as if slapped.  There is mumbling from spectators in the pews.  Jin-Sook wisely decides to cut his losses.

“Thank you, sir.  And, again, our condolences.”  He turns to the judge.  “The People have no more questions, Your Honor.”

Natalie considers this a plus for the defense.  The prosecution has clearly established the time-line necessary for their theory of the crime, but she wonders if it hasn’t just as clearly cost them more than it is worth.  After all, given the testimony of Officer Jameson, the only thing the prosecution has gained is the implied testimony that the Caos did not murder their daughter.  A pyrrhic victory at best.  Perhaps Mr. Cao has realized what the People were up to and did not take kindly to it.

“Cross, Ms. Siu?” the judge asks.

“The defense has no questions of this witness, but likewise extend our deepest sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Cao for their great loss.”

“The witness is excused,” the judge directs, and Mr. Cao leaves the box and the courtroom with measured poise.

“At this time,” she continues, “as I see we are fast approaching the noon hour, we will adjourn until two o’clock.”  She bangs her gavel, and all rise as she exits to her chambers.

Reporters are already scurrying out to the hall and punching in their speed dial numbers to report the events of the morning.  The defense retires to a room set aside for them in the courthouse, and shortly a light but tasty and nutritious repast prepared by the chefs at Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar is rolled in.  The same staff that had served lunch those many months ago in Natalie’s office are on hand to see that everything is de rigueur.  It is.

The three of them chat idly about this and that, and after the remnants of lunch have been cleared and carted off, one of the firm’s investigators comes in and has an intense sit-down with Natalie and Danny.

Mazarine lets her mind wander.  The last witness, Mr. Cao, had looked her straight in the eye when he left the witness stand, but she had discerned no hate, no ill will, no hostility whatsoever.  Perhaps she was simply not good at reading people in these circumstances, but it had surprised her.  Since she had little use for the lazy stereotype of the inscrutable Oriental, she was at a loss to explain it.  Her heart went out to the man and his wife, but publicly she could say no more than what Natalie already had.  She does have a sense that his testimony had not been a great coup for the prosecution;  it will balance the impact of the first witness, whose dispassionate recital of seeing her and Trinh established that, yes, she had been the last one to see Trinh alive.  Had established, yes, but for the wrong reason.  She and Trinh had gone up to see Yukiko and the two of them came back down together and then parted outside the hotel.  This, apparently, had been witnessed by nobody.  So, yes, she had apparently been the last person to see Trinh alive, but not at six thirty-five – more like seven-thirty or eight.  Not that this made a great deal of difference.  Where, she had asked herself endlessly, had Trinh gone after the two of them parted company?

“Listen,” Natalie interrupts her reverie.  The investigator has left the room already.  “We’ve just found out that your friend, the Indonesian gentleman with the bail money, has been in touch with my office and wants me to call him back.”  Mazarine is genuinely astonished.  “Do you have any idea at all what this might be about?”

“No, I don’t.  I really don’t.  But nothing surprises me about Agung – that’s his name, you may recall.  Agung.  He’s quite a remarkable human being.”

“Yes,” Natalie says pensively, “I’d have to go along with that.  I’ll have to get in touch with him later and see what all this is about.”  They all get up.  “It’s about time to be visiting the restrooms before we start up again.  See you all in court.”

The hallway is thronged, and no sooner have Natalie and Mazarine emerged from their room than they are set upon by reporters swarming like starved locusts.  Mazarine keeps her mouth sealed and Natalie only repeats her “No comments, let us through, please.”  Some burly members of courthouse security appear all of a sudden and plow a way to safety for them.  “Thank you,” Natalie says, gracing them with a dazzling smile.  “Any time,” one of them replies, touching his hand to his cap, and they all smile back at her.  “Any time, ma’am.”

They are back in court and the room is again filled to capacity.  The jury has not yet come in, and the judge’s seat is vacant.  People are talking freely, there is the occasional suppressed laughter, a muted shout here and a response there.  The general mood is one of heightened expectancy.

Danny leans behind Mazarine and addresses Natalie.  “Look around this courtroom.  What don’t you see?”

“What do you mean, what don’t I see?” Natalie asks.

“What is interesting here is not so much what is here but what is not here.  Come on, how many murder trials have you been at?”

“Quite a few, I guess.  Fifteen years of them.”

“And?”  Danny prompts.

She looks puzzled, gives the huge room another sweep.  And then it dawns on her.  “Ahh,” she says slyly.  “You mean the big boys?”

“Exactly!”  He sounds triumphant.  “The boys on the tenth floor are always dropping in on these affairs to see how things are going.  The mayor’s office likes to keep abreast of crime-in-the-street issues so he can get his sound bites in.  The classy criminal lawyers should be attracted to this kind of thing like flies to … well, you know what I mean.  So, I ask you, why are all these types so conspicuously absent?  Are they afraid of something rubbing off somehow?  Do they know our Mazarine,” here he covers his mouth with his hand and whispers, not wishing to embarrass their client, “in … uh … shall we say … the biblical sense and want to … uh … keep a low profile on this one?  I just wonder, don’t you?”

TO BE CONTINUED

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