[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 Chap 18 96-110
Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 19 (111-123): Trial – Phase One
Since the nineteenth the adversaries in State vs. Mazarine Cape had fought sharply and at times bitterly to seat a jury that each could live with. Neither was entirely happy, but each had its triumphs. Twelve good citizens were now in for the ride of their lives and their fifteen minutes of global fame – seven women and five men, ages twenty-one to seventy-three, two Asians, two Blacks and eight Caucasians. The six alternates consisted of three men and three women, ages twenty-six to fifty-nine, one Asian, two Blacks and three Caucasians.
And now Wednesday the twenty-eighth of July dawned bright, brilliant and burning hot. Even before the sun rose over the court house roof at Algernon and Crest opposite police headquarters the press had begun to set up. All available parking meters on the whole block had been sequestered for the innumerable support vehicles servicing the equipment and power needs of television, radio, and print media. Shortly after the murder of Trinh Cao had been formally entered on the police blotter back in mid-January the case had begun to germinate a life of its own, and now, nurtured during these long months of winter and spring, it was reaching the end of its gestation period. An enterprising police reporter had scented something special about this one and started sniffing around. What otherwise would in all likelihood have remained just one more routine murder among the two-hundred or so other ones that the city took for granted each year had turned into an unstoppable juggernaut.
Several things had conspired to this end.
First, the globalization of media. Starting as a bit of local titillation, the Trinh Triangle Murder – as one clever phrase monger had dubbed it – had quickly gone national and, finally, international. With little evidence and compensatory dollops of imagination the ‘responsible’ press – the tabloid press was of course a different order of reality entirely – had mapped this sad death onto the age-old structure of the erotic triangle and added a few twists acknowledging modern sensibility. Thus, dark intimations of a lesbian apex somewhere on this triangle had inflamed popular passions for ‘more information’ and the ‘right of the people to know’, and all civic-minded media obligingly complied.
Second, assorted crews of enraged ideologues had, early on, coöpted Trinh’s murder for their own murky purposes: every whacko splinter group in the city’s rich mosaic of ethnic communities had made Trinh their private icon of oppression. Her murder was living proof of white racism, of white indifference to the aggrieved, of white arrogance towards the yellow and brown and black races, of white sexism, of white police brutality, in short, of whiteness as evil incarnate. They colonized the talk shows and sound bites on the news programs like marauding grasshoppers, their masticating stridency stripping all discourse down to drab husks of meaninglessness.
Third, the press from dozens of xenophobic European countries, conveniently oblivious to French hatred of Arabs and Swedish loathing for Kurds and British disgust with Pakistanis and Spanish dread of Africans, gloated happily over this concrete display of American racism. From the other side of the globe the Chinese Xinhua news agency gleefully reported on the sad mistreatment of fellow Asians, carefully eschewing any mention of centuries of Chinese repression of their Vietnamese neighbors, not to mention current Tibetan adventures. Japan, with its inimitable record of pro-Asian concerns, had sent a team of reporters from the Kyodo agency to broadcast back to the home island outraged commentary about American apathy towards people of ethnic Asia. Last but certainly not least the Thông Tän Xã new agency of Communist Vietnam lamented loudly and tediously about the dreadful treatment of Vietnamese in America, somehow glossing over fundamental reasons why so many Vietnamese were in America to begin with.
It was this international media circus that Jeff Kerzy was thinking about, not without some nervousness, as, shaved and showered, he stood naked in front of the mirror in his bedroom, psyching himself up for the trial of his life that now lay only a few hours away. It would, ultimately, make or break his career. At close to fifty-five, he had almost become resigned to the dreary reality that the political preferments he had once hoped would follow from his zealous devotion to the duties of city DA were not likely ever to materialize. Almost. This trial would be his final chance. Colleagues had warned him against personally leading the prosecution; it had been too many years since he had done battle in court. He should graciously cede, they urged him, to younger, more battle-hardened court warriors on his staff. “Let your assistant DAs do the field work.” But, no, the publicity on this case, now gone international and ballistic, is too valuable to hand over to others, too seductive for his own long-thwarted ambitions. It may be just the fillip he needs to impress the party stalwarts that he is ready for higher things, a state senator, AG, maybe even a leading rôle on the stage national politics. Moreover, that his long-time political nemesis, Roy Rany, the mayor, appears somehow to be involved on the fuzzy fringes of this case is additional incentive to stay the course. Killing two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Kerzy, toweling off the last of the moisture, stares at himself staring back at himself. He is tall, in pretty good shape, if not exactly lean certainly not fat, and such adipose as pads the shiny convexity of his stomach his expensive suits will hide artfully. His face doesn’t look twenty, to be sure, but nor has the flesh started to sag. Indeed, its grooves and cross-scoring crevasses give him a certain craggy sexiness that women find irresistible. He will play to his strengths in the courtroom. Certainly this strategy worked twenty years ago when he strutted his stuff in front of the jury boxes of his youth and began building his enviable conviction record. He moisturizes his skin with aromatic emollients, dusts it with scented talcum powder, gels his still abundant hair that is now fringed with distinguished streaks of gray, and spritzes his face with a musky, masculine cologne.
It is time to dress.
What to wear, then? He always starts with the shirt, after underwear, of course, which comes on first. He enjoys good quality and is willing to pay for it, and J Press and Ascot Chang shirts are among his favorites. They’re generous with the cloth and wide with the cut, and the material they use holds the colors well through many laundering cycles. He likes wearing button-down collars, which are always non-starched, on monochrome or wide-striped shirts, but on those with white collars and colored body he prefers the collar a bit higher, what he thinks of as American Edwardian. Today’s damask white triggers the selection of a correct tie: a conservative, muted red-and-black striped affair. He loathes ties that try to be ‘funny’ since they are never ‘funny’ but simply silly. What is he, a clown? Cuff links are not a big deal with him – too fussy — but he’ll wear a simple tie clip on occasion and, with the right collar, judiciously, a collar pin — though, again, that borders on the fastidious.
Next socks, and slacks. Informally he favors Dockers or general chino or corduroy type pants, or, if he wants to be more up-scale, Cerruti or Ralph Lauren charcoal or light gray slacks. Possibly even Hugo Boss or Armani. But today it has to be pure power-dressing all the way: a Navy blue three-piece Brooks Brothers with suspenders of a subdued cast. A simple but authoritative belt suits him just fine, black, perhaps dark brown, but, in no way, that fake (or real) alligator schlock.
To be frank, he’s not all that interested in shoes, but realizes they’re part of the full package. Some of his favorite brands are Avventura, Mezlan and Cable, and they’re all very highly polished when he puts them on. He definitely wants them to squeak when he walks. Needless to say, today is not the occasion for a more loungy feel in footwear, and he pulls on knee-length black socks.
He does not ever wear rings or jewelry, of any kind at all. A small pocket in his vest holds a thin, golden pocket watch attached to a fob and chain sporting a polished Phi Beta Kappa key.
Depending on mood and weather, he’ll put on a hat, and prefers the formal kinds with a fairly wide brim all around, either light tan or black. It is July, and he will need no overcoat.
Bulging valise under his arms, he quickly gives himself a final once-over in the mirror and, yielding to that foolish vanity he consistently deludes himself into imaging he lacks, actually winks at himself. His feet do a quick shuffle of self-approbation as he says, softly, “cha-cha-cha.”
His transportation, a brand new Lincoln provided by the city’s grateful tax-payers, awaits him in front of a red fire hydrant at the entrance to his apartment. It is gleaming black, as is the chauffeur.
“Good morning, Mr. Kerzy, sir,” the driver says, touching the bill of his cap and holding the door open to the air-conditioned interior.
“Good morning, Bob,” the DA, egalitarian servant of the people, responds.
They quickly meld into the morning traffic and roll smoothly toward the court house.
Kerzy flips out his cell and calls the central security desk at his destination. It is a terse conversation, but he issues quite specific instructions for his imminent arrival, his entrance on the stage, as it were.
As the well-known Lincoln with plates DA-1 pulls up along the curb and Jeff Kerzy alights into the brutal heat, the mass of shouting reporters turns into an amoeboid blob, dribbles down the courthouse stairs and, putting forth its enveloping pseudopods, surrounds Jeff Kerzy in its digestive vacuole. Before he is egested, he is forced – lucky guy! – to hold an impromptu news conference that, he appreciates from the many foreign alphabets decorating some of the mikes now being thrust so rudely into his already perspiring face, will be satellited around the globe even before he can reach the trial chamber.
“Please, please,” he says, evoking high seriousness in the forward tilt of his body language as well as the gravity of facial gesture. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he pleads, feigning the chagrin of defeat despite his sternest efforts, “please!” Once he is bathed in the glare of a dozen television lights and assured that half of humanity is watching him, he says, with a quick smile “Let me make just one statement. That’s all.”
Then he orates.
“Today the people have serious business at this courthouse. We have an immigrant, a legal immigrant … ” he hastily adds, underscoring the magical adjective, only too aware of the public’s wearied outrage at the nation’s incompetent and corrupt policies for dealing with illegal immigration, “ … a legal immigrant from Viet Nam who has been brutally murdered in this city.” Not a precise statements of the facts of the case, but never mind. He sweeps on. “The people have a very strong case. We are confident that justice will be done and that we will be successful in gaining a conviction for first degree murder. These kinds of murders will not be tolerated in this city.” As opposed, one is perhaps meant to infer, the hundreds of others that never generate the current hysteria. “The murderer will be punished to the full extent of the law.” He cranes around, noting in his peripheral vision that courthouse security is starting down from the top of the long flight of stairs to liberate him. Right on cue. “Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.” His voice is still graciously modulated. “That is all I have to say.”
The jostling reporters seem to encircle him in an ever tightening ring that is not without a minatory glint.
“Now, please, please let me through. Please, ladies and gentlemen!” This time Kerzy means it.
He is now looking around desperately to see if he can locate where the security people might be.
The microphones are a nest of swaying cobras that insist on his full attention.
“Sir, can you tell us something about the evidence you have against Ms. Cape?”
“Sir, please, is there a love triangle at the bottom of this case?”
“Please, sir, who is Yukiko and what is her relationship to Ms. Case?”
“Sir, there are rumors that Trinh Cao was a lesbian. Any comment? Sir?”
“Who is Aspasia? Sir?”
Three burly security officers finally wade into the frenzied mob and, artfully employing elbows, body nudges, and dirty looks, silently escort the D.A. to safety and whisk him up the stairs into the cool halls where the people’s justice is to be done.
“Fuckin’ animals,” he mutters sotto voce about these quondam co-conspirators in his recent campaign of global self-promotion. He brushes imaginary dirt from his wilting suit and, his glistening face wreathed in disgust, heads straight for his office, where he goes and stands in front of an air conditioning vent and allows himself to be dried and otherwise cooled down.
It has not, he reflects disconsolately, been an auspicious beginning for his project to advance to higher things. Where the fuck did all those names pop up from all of a sudden? He’ll have the leaker or leakers skinned alive and served for breakfast. He breathes deeply and does his best to ignore the tiny tendrils of terror shooting up the limp stalk that only an hour ago was his unbounded self-confidence. He sits down at his desk and buzzes impatiently for his two much younger and infinitely more trial-savvy co-counsels, handsome Jin-Soon Yook, a Korean who has clerked for a state supreme court justice, and the statuesque Buzulethi Rowan, black, and editor her senior year of the Review at the University Law School.
“Well, shit,” Kerzy muses gratefully, “at least I’m covered ethnically.”
A large crowd, like souls of the damned, mills restlessly in the limbo of the hallway outside the courtroom, waiting for some surly guard to allow ingress to the great drama about to unfold in Judge Shawn Lombard-Golde’s assize. It is standing room only, every one of the available seats taken. Pool video equipment has been set up near the front of the chamber, and the lucky stringers have taken their places in the space reserved for the media. The members of the jury, already ensconced in their box, are chatting lightly among each other. The defense table seats Natalie Siu and Danny Hochstel, Mazarine sandwiched between them. The prosecution has just made its ostentatious entrance – the D.A. himself, Jeff Kerzy, flanked by his co-counsels, Jin-Soon Yook and Buzulethi Rowan accompanied by two officers from court security wheeling a large cart containing showy piles of boxes filled with paper and documents. There is an air of uncontainable excitement in the room.
“All rise for the Honorable Judge Shawn Lombard-Golde. This court is now in session.”
Everyone in the room rises as the diminutive judge with the stentorian voice enters from her chambers to the left and mounts the podium, adjusts her seat, and lightly taps the microphone. She makes sit-down flappings with her hands, and all noisily heed her invitation.
“Good morning,” she says in general. She turns to the prosecution table.
“Good morning, Your Honor. Jeff Kerzy for the People. These are my co-counsels,” he points to the left and right, “Buzulethi Rowan and Jin-Soon Yook.” They are both standing with the D.A. and nod at the judge.
“Good morning, lady and gentlemen,” she says.
She turns to the defense table.
“Good morning, Your Honor. Natalie Siu of Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar for the defense. My co-counsel,” she says, turning to Danny, “is Danny Hochstel.”
“Good morning to each of you.” She shuffles some piles on her desk. “At this point, before we get started, I would like to ask everybody in this courtroom to turn off electronic equipment, including cell phones, watches, tape recorders, camcorders, and any other similar devices.” She motions to the video crew. “The pool is of course excused from this request.” There is light laughter throughout the room, and some of the heavy tension in the air seems to bleed off. “I do not want to hear any beeps or pings or electronic noise of any kind. Such noise will be escorted immediately from the room by the bailiff. Are we understood?” There is further shuffling in the pews, among the jury and at the lawyers’ tables as people double check their equipment to make sure it is all turned off.” When these sounds of compliance subside, Lombard-Golde says, “Very well. Are the People prepared to begin?”
Kerzy stands up, proud and erect. He shoots his cuffs, twitches his neck in its collar, and buttons his coat over his vest. “The People are ready, Your Honor.”
“Is the defense ready?”
“We are, Your Honor,” Natalie answers in a clear and authoritative voice.
The pool video is running and dozens of pens are marching across acres of blank pages.
“Let us begin, then. Mr. Kerzy.” The judge gives the prosecution the nod.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he begins, his thumbs inserted in the scalloped armpits of his vest, his coat unbuttoned so as to give conspicuous prominence to the little gold chain with the key dangling from it. He rocks gently back on the soles of his squeaky shoes and pauses dramatically. “You have before you in the next few days the awesome responsibility of seeing to it that the savage murderer of an innocent, beautiful young woman is brought to justice. A woman who was an immigrant to our shores. A legal immigrant, a naturalized American, a contributing member to our society. This dead citizen can no longer speak for herself. That is your job, that is my job.”
Kerzy begins to step, slowly, along the jury box, the heads of the jurors moving, as if attached by invisible strings, in concert with his leisurely pace. “We will show in the course of these proceedings, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the person on trial for this heinous crime had motive: the people have witnesses who will testify to long-standing animosity, animosity arising out of sexual jealousy, between the victim and the defendant. We shall demonstrate, again beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mazarine Cape had opportunity: the people will supply other witnesses who will show that shortly before the victim was murdered she was seen in the company of the defendant. And, most important of all, we are going to present irrefutable physical evidence, once more without a reasonable doubt, that she had the means to commit this outrageous deed: hair found on the body of the dead woman will be an important element in our case.”
He stops about midway in front of the jury box and turns towards it, molding his immaculately groomed hands around the curvature of the balustrade and flexing his fingers. His face shapes itself into one of sorrowful gravity. “In this connection, we must not overlook the defendant’s … the defendant’s profession.” A murmur arises in the gallery but abates as soon as the judge looks up with a frown. “You will hear that she was a … a companion. What she was was a call girl, ladies and gentlemen.” He whirls and points at Mazarine, who stares straight ahead. The jurors follow his stretched out finger; some, mostly women, register distaste with a down-turned mouth, the men’s faces appear, for the most part, neutral. “As such, she had access to numerous … clients … clients of varied backgrounds and … abilities. Clients who could help her in numerous ways in her nefarious purposes.”
He resumes his measured pacing. “Does our community want a person on the street who is a criminal? Do we want a murderer roaming the street? ready to strike again? at any one of you?” He lets the questions hang in the air. “When we’re done here, ladies and gentlemen, I am confident you will do the right thing and find this defendant guilty of murder in the first degree. I thank you for your attention.”
He walks back to his chair and sits down.
Natalie Siu strides from the defense table and takes a relaxed stand in front of the jury. Mazarine admires professionally the subtle sway of her pelvis as the charcoal gray of the skirt whispers up and down the undulant thighs. The men on the jury can’t keep their eyes off her, which is good: they’ll give Natalie every benefit of the doubt. But the women are not quite so enthralled: Natalie Siu, beautiful, brainy, at five nine and probably one eighteen, is every rival who has ever stolen a boyfriend from them. Mazarine makes a mental note to herself to bring this up with Natalie. The trial won’t be over in a day, and she’ll suggest Natalie give some thought to the subliminal packaging she is presenting to the jury.
An anticipatory hush now hangs over the court room. Total attention is focused on the willowy figure of Natalie Siu.
She bows her head slightly and clasps her hands in front of her. She dips her knees slightly and then looks up at the jurors and very briefly holds the eyes of each one.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are all here for a serious purpose. A very serious purpose.” She begins pacing slowly before the jury box, forcing her audience to follow her with their heads. “The community has lost a vital and brilliant citizen. A beautiful young woman is dead. Not only dead, but brutally murdered. Trinh Cao has lost her life to unspeakable violence. Her parents have lost a daughter. Can any of us even begin to understand what it is to lose a child?” She shakes her head in sadness. “The prosecutor has told you the community needs justice; I agree. The prosecutor has told you this kind of … of senseless outrage must be prevented from ever happening again; I agree. The prosecutor has tried to make a case before you that my client,” here Natalie turns and points to Mazarine, who is sitting upright and emotionless at the defense table, “is guilty; here I respectfully disagree.”
She pauses to scan the faces of the jurors once more. She has their total attention.
“If she is judged guilty by you, the members of the jury, who now are our community, she should be punished with all the severity allowed by law. But at the end of the prosecutor’s case and our case, you must have no reasonable doubt about her guilt. Otherwise, if the evidence presented by the prosecutor does not persuade you of my client’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, you have no choice but to find her innocent and acquit. That is our system of justice. And it is my firm conviction that in the course of this trial we shall demonstrate that innocence far, far beyond any reasonable doubt.”
Natalie starts slowly to walk back to her table but stops and swivels in mid-stride. “And, yes, in this connection there are two other points I wish to ask your kind indulgence to allow me to bring up.
“First, the prosecution has made much of the fact that my client is a … works for an escort service. No, let’s not sugarcoat anything here. We are all adults and we know the world as well as the word. She is a prostitute. Pure and simple. And Mr. Kerzy very much wants you to keep thinking about this and drawing hateful inferences, to prejudice you. But I remind you that you have all sworn a solemn oath to follow only the evidence, the evidence that is presented to you in this court of law, right here in this room, and nothing else, in making your determination of guilt or innocence. Whether she drives little boys to soccer games or escorts grown men to other kinds of games has no bearing whatsoever on that guilt or innocence.” Here a titter in the court room brought a stern gaze from the judge, at both the gallery and the defense attorney, and it abated as rapidly as it had arisen. “We are here only to make a determination about her guilt or innocence in the murder of poor Trinh Cao. That, and nothing else, ladies and gentlemen.”
Natalie comes up close to the jury box and walks slowly along the dark cherry wood railing, her tapered fingers with their clear-polished nails massaging the smooth banister.
“And here is the second point. The prosecution asks you to find my client guilty and so prevent a monster from being let loose on our unsuspecting community. A very powerful point. In my turn, I shall ask you, for the sake of argument, just to make the assumption, just to assume for the moment, that my client is innocent, but you convict. Then there is still a monster out there somewhere in our city who will strike some other beautiful young woman who is also a daughter, a daughter of some other mother and father. But the police will not be looking for that individual – until after he has committed a second merciless murder. After all, they already have their killer, don’t they?”
She pauses to let her words slip into their awareness and begin to build a home.
“You must truly ask yourself at the end of this trial if my client really did have, as the prosecutor would have it, means, motive and opportunity to murder Trinh Cao. Beyond a reasonable doubt.
“Thank you very much for your careful attention, ladies and gentlemen.”
Natalie walks back in a slow loping gait to her place next to Mazarine and sits down.
The battle orders have been drawn, and there is an excited hubbub in the audience. People turn to each other and comment on the opening statements. Judge Lombard-Golde raps her gavel once. “Please, ladies and gentlemen, the only talking in this courtroom will be done by myself, the lawyers and witnesses. I ask the rest of you to restrain your verbal impulses. However, if you must talk, please leave the room quietly and go into the hallway,” she admonishes, and then adds pointedly, “and give up your seat to somebody else. I understand that there is a long line waiting outside.”
Nobody fails to catch the drift of her subtext and the din of voices is immediately hushed.
She addresses herself to the D.A. “Please call your first witness, Mr. Kerzy,” she says.
“The People call Officer Benny Jameson to the stand.”
All eyes turn around and watch the door from the hallway open as a police officer makes his way confidently down to the witness box, where he is sworn in by a court officer.
Kerzy marches up to him.
“Good morning, Officer Jameson,” he says, smiling, affable, relaxed.
“Good morning, sir,” Jameson responds and shifts his heft in the seat.
“I’d like you to tell us, please, as briefly as possible, what your duties as a police officer are.”
“Well,” Jameson says, clearing his throat and sitting forward, “I’m what’s called a beat cop. I walk the streets of my assigned beat, get to know the people who live there and the merchants who have businesses there. Part of my job is to be visible, sort of become familiar with the normal goings-on in the area, be alert to anything out of the ordinary. That kind of thing.”
“I see,” Kerzy said. His face takes on a serious look. “And how long have you been doing this?”
“About ten years.”
“Since the mid-nineties, then. Roughly speaking.”
“And have you had the same beat all this time?”
“So you must know this area quite well by now, as well as the people you see there.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“And where is this area that is your beat?”
“It’s the district around the major hotels uptown and the adjacent university area.”
“So the hotel Momiji is on your beat?”
“Yes, sir, it certainly is.”
Kerzy has been standing near the witness box, but now he turns and faces the jury while speaking to the officer.
“Now, Officer Jameson, I would like to call your attention to the afternoon of Friday the ninth of January. Were you on duty that day?”
“Yes, I was.”
“From when to when?”
“I worked noon to ten in the evening that day.”
“Now, I’m going to show you a couple of photos of a woman,” Kerzy says and motions to his co-counsels. Buzulethi pulls out a large placard with two photos of Trinh. One is a head shot and the other shows her full body in a relaxed sideways pose. She shows it to the defense, the judge, and the jury, and then hands it to her boss.
Kerzy holds in front of the witness. “I’d like to ask you if you remember seeing this woman on that day, Friday the ninth of January.”
Jameson looks intently at the placard. “Yes, I do.”
“And where was that, Officer?” Kerzy asks smoothly.
“It was right outside the main entrance to the Momiji hotel.”
“Do you recall what time that was?”
“Yes, it was around six thirty-five in the evening?”
“I see. Six thirty-five? How can you be so specific? I mean, this was over six months ago.”
“Well, the reason I remember it is that I’d been having something to eat in the coffee shop next to the hotel. I was sitting at a window stall and I remember seeing her come down the street, and I knew who she was.”
“Oh, you did?”
“My beat partner, Officer Fabian Darling, was romantically involved with her, and he had introduced me to her. I’d met her several times, and she wasn’t the kind of woman you’d forget.”
“Oh,” Kerzy feigned surprise, still facing the jury. The audience in the courtroom was now totally engrossed in the testimony. “Why was that?”
“Well, she was a very beautiful young woman. And … vital, I guess. She was very … very charming to me.” He said this as if somehow somebody like him didn’t deserve to be told the time of day by such a lovely creature.
“A very beautiful young woman, vital, charming.” Kerzy nodded his head slowly, as if letting this new information about the murder victim sink in. “I see,” he said softly. Then he began an unhurried pacing in front of the jury box. “Tell me, Officer, did you see her only from the vantage of the coffee shop?”
“No, sir. I had finished my meal, and I was supposed to be back on the street at six-thirty. I’d paid my bill and called in my reactivation code on my handheld radio, and had just come out on the street when she passed by and headed into the Momiji.”
“So you were very close to her when she walked by?”
“Yes, closer than you are, sir.”
“Where was she headed?”
“She went into the hotel and I saw her heading towards the elevators.”
“Did the young woman you knew as the girlfriend of Officer Darling see you?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Why don’t you think so, Officer?” Kerzy scanned the jury.
Natalie didn’t like this, but she was powerless to stop what was coming. A part of her admired the skillful way in which Kerzy had set this whole thing up.
“Well, she wasn’t looking in my direction. She was talking to her friend.”
“Her friend?” Kerzy wheeled towards the witness. “Her friend? She was with somebody else? Well, sir, did you get a good look at this friend?”
“Yes, sir, she was, and I did. Her head was turned in my direction and I saw her very clearly.”
“And do you see her here in this courtroom?”
“Yes, I do. She’s sitting right over there. At the defense table. She’s the one in the middle.”
“Let the record show that Officer Jameson is pointing at the defendant, Mazarine Cape.”
Mazarine looked straight ahead. Her attorneys busied themselves writing on their yellow legal pads.
“Officer, did you see these two women again later that evening, or later that weekend?”
“I did not, no.”
“Thank you, Office Jameson,” Kerzy said magnanimously. “No more questions of this witness, Your Honor.”
“Very well. Cross, Ms. Siu?”
There is hurried consultation between the two lawyers at the defense table, and they decide that what Jameson has said is straight-forward, factual, and not impeachable. “No cross, Your Honor,” she says.
Three heads at the prosecution table turn left with puzzled looks, and then go into their own mini-consultation.
“Your next witness, Mr. Kerzy!” the judge says.
The D.A. stands up. Your Honor, My co-counsel Mr. Yook will examine the next witness.
“The People call Mr. Gia-Phouc Cao.”
As if attached by a connecting rod every head in the room swivels collectively and focuses on the door to the hall. It opens and Mr. Cao makes his way self-consciously to the witness stand, where he is sworn in and seated.
Natalie appreciates the psychology of having Jin-Soon Yook be the one to ask questions of Mr. Cao.
“Good morning, sir,” Jin-Soon says as he approaches the box.
“Good morning, sir,” Mr. Cao counters.
“Sir, I would like to begin by conveying the People’s profound condolences to you and your wife on the great loss that you have suffered. It is to attempt to remedy, however inadequately, that loss that we have asked you to come here today.”
“You sent me a subpoena, sir,” Mr. Cao answered edgily. “I have no choice but to be here. You could have just asked me. I would of course have come voluntarily. I … we … my wife and I would do anything to find out who murdered my daughter and see that person punished.”
Natalie observes the jurors like a hawk. There is not the slightest question they are upset that the father of the murdered woman has been served a subpoena from the prosecution. They do not like it, and glare at the D.A., who is trying, unsuccessfully, to make himself small. Although delighted, Natalie, like Danny, reveals nothing by any gesture or mien.
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?”
“Good point, Danny,” she concedes. “Good point indeed.”
Natalie is not sure if anything will come of that observation, but Danny is right: a lot of people you’d expect to be here in fact are not. Interesting, at the least. And probably quite understandable.
At this point the jurors are being seated, and shortly the judge enters. All stand, and she waves her hand to seat everybody.
“You may call your next witness, Mr. Kerzy,” she instructs.
This time Kerzy will handle the questioning himself.
“The People call Barbara Purcell.”
She is sworn in and Kerzy goes right to work,
“Ms. Purcell, can you please tell the court what you do,” he directs her.
“I work for the police department here in the city and I’m what’s called a field tech.”
“A field tech? Just exactly what is that?”
“It means that I’m one of the first people on the scene of murders or other violent crimes. My team and I are tasked with helping to keep the affected area undisturbed. We are in charge of photographing the scene, doing any sketches, searching the locale for evidence, and in general supporting the detectives on the scene.”
“And how long have you been doing this?”
“About ten years now.”
“So it would be fair to say that you are pretty competent at your job.”
“I’d like to think so, yes.”
“Very well.” Kerzy now turns to face the jury and rocks a few times on his feet, hands again hooked into the arm opening of his vest, a somatic tick he has that indicates he is now getting to what he considers the meat of the testimony being elicited from this witness. “Do you recall a murder scene you investigated near Dust early in the morning on Monday the twelfth of January this year?”
“Yes, I do.”
“And what happened?”
“A hunter had stumbled over a body in a ditch and called it in to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Eaton of Swaithe County. They invited us in to help with the on-scene investigation. The body was that of an Asian woman, and she was frozen solid.”
The courtroom is now pin-dropping quiet.
“In the course of your investigation at the scene. Ms. Purcell, did you find anything out of the ordinary?”
“Objection, Your Honor. Leading the witness.” Natalie was on her feet like a spring popping off.
“Sustained. Please rephrase, Mr. Kerzy.”
“I apologize, Your Honor.” He nods deferentially to the judge, and then turns back to his witness. “Ms. Purcell, when you were loading this frozen corpse onto your cart, what did you find?”
“I found a piece of paper sticking out of the little coin-pocket in the jeans she was wearing.”
“Was there anything on this paper?”
“Yes. It was kind of stiff, as if it had been frozen. And it was smudged, presumably because it had gotten wet at some point. But you could make out some of the writing on it.”
“And what was that writing?”
“It spelled out m-a-z-a-r-i-n-e, Mazarine.”
The spectators can’t help themselves, but one look from the judge quiets them.
“As in the first name of the defendant, Mazarine Cape.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“And the other writing you mentioned?”
“It had been blurred, soaked too much, and we couldn’t tell what it was. Perhaps telephone numbers.”
“Objection, Your Honor.” Natalie was on her feet again. “This witness has not been qualified as either a lab tech or an expert on handwriting analysis.”
“Sustained.” The judge turns to the jury. “The members of the jury will disregard this last comment by the witness.”
The jurors look at each other in genuine puzzlement. Forget the elephant in the room?
“Your Honor,” Kerzy slides smoothly into the silent interstice, “the People would like to submit the following report from the lab analysis of the paper in question as part of the prosecution exhibit.” He walks over to the defense table and shows it to the two attorneys and then lets the judge see it before he turns it over to the clerk.
“No objections, Your Honor,” Natalie says.
“So marked,” the judge intones.
“This report corroborates that the slip of paper recovered from the body of the murdered woman does contain the name ‘Mazarine’ on it, as well as some further writing, which the lab is unable to identify.” Kerzy has been talking to the jury, and now turns once more to the witness. “And the body that you discovered that morning, on which you found that piece of paper, was the body of the woman subsequently identified as Trinh Cao, is that correct?”
“Yes, it is,” Barb Purcell said.
“No further questions for this witness, Your Honor.”
The judge addresses the defense table. “Any cross, Ms. Siu?”
“No, Your Honor, we have no further questions.”
The D.A. and his team appear perplexed, but for obvious reasons do not make a fuss. The judge looks at her watch and decides there is enough time for one more witness this afternoon.
“Your next witness, Mr. Kerzy.”
“Thank you, Your Honor. The People call Dr. Steven Wendell.”
Again, the new witness enters the courtroom, all eyes on him, and, oath administered, he gets settled into his box. Kerzy establishes his expertise and skillfully takes him through the autopsy report and, now that Jameson’s time line information has been fixed in the minds of the jurors, establishes that Trinh must have died sometime after six thirty-five on Friday the ninth of January.
“Now,” he bored in, “can you establish the latest time she could have died?”
“Not precisely, no. But I can approximate.”
“Please do, Doctor.”
He consulted his notes. “Let me conflate what we know with the results of the autopsy. The body was found by the hunter, Dexter Wright, just before seven. He states the snow had started at four fifteen that morning, and the body was covered with fresh snow. Therefore it must have been put there before four fifteen. The body was frozen solid when it arrived at pathology, and for that kind of deep freezing to take place under the conditions at the time, it must have taken somewhere between twenty-four and thirty-six hours.” The audience, like the jurors, drinking in the doctor’s dispassionate analysis was mesmerized. “That assumes of course that she was deposited in the ditch at … at room temperature, so to speak. If she had lain outside before being discarded in the country, she might have lain in the ditch a shorter time. But the best I can do, putting the external data and the autopsy data together, is to indicated that death took place some time between six thirty-five Friday – the last time she was seen, by Officer Jameson — and, perhaps, averaging the spread at the other end to thirty hours before discovery, about ten o’clock Saturday evening. A window of about twenty-seven hours or so.”
“In other words,” Kerzy deftly summarizes, “it is your expert opinion that she died sometime that Friday evening or Saturday, the ninth and tenth of January?”
“Yes, that is my best estimate.”
“Doctor, was Trinh Cao alive when she was so brutally dumped in that ditch?”
There is a gasp from the spectators, and both judge and jurors look shaken.
“It is impossible to tell, of course, but I would think not.”
“Why is that, Doctor Wendell?”
“The head wound, a very blunt blow causing the trauma, showed very little external bleeding, bleeding out. That is, the fact that very little blood was found externally in the hair and on the scalp indicates that the heart had stopped pumping almost immediately after the blow was delivered. The scalp is richly vascularized, and if she’d been alive for any length of time I would have expected much more blood around the wound.”
A kind of collective sigh of relief is heard.
“I see,” Kerzy said, stroking his upper lip with an index finger and laying his thumb along his jaw. Once again he is rocking slowly on his feet. “This wound, this ‘blunt blow causing trauma’ is how I believe you just characterized it, what could have caused that?”
“There are a number of possibility. Possibly a solid rounded object, maybe like a bat. A hammer, maybe a hatchet, but wrapped in a plastic-covered cloth or pad. The head was hit by some soft edged or rounded object.”
“Would it have required someone powerful to cause such a wound, someone using great force?”
“Objection,” Natalie is on her feet. “Calls for a conclusion.”
“I think that’s within the range of the expertise of this witness. I’ll allow it. Overruled.” Judge Lombard-Golde says to the doctor, “You may answer the question, sir.”
“Not necessarily. That part of the skull is not the thickest.”
“But it was not a blow by a bare hammer or some such tool?”
“No, the trauma to the skull does not display the splintering fracture around the edges that such a blow would have caused. It is more a blunt kind of wound, with the bone caved in rather than sharply slivered.”
“But in your estimation it was the blow to the head that caused death? Immediate death?”
“Yes,” he says, consulting his own autopsy notes. “As my formal report states, the ‘immediate cause of death was massive intracranial exsanguination as result of epidural hematoma and subarachnoid hemorrage.’ In short, sustained internal bleeding of the brain within the skull sufficient to cause death.”
Kerzy walks over to his table and Buzulethi hands him a plastic specimen bag that appears to be empty. He makes a major production of walking back toward his witness and holding it up to the light, peering conspicuously at the invisible contents.
“Doctor,” he says, “I’d like to move on to another point, the physical evidence you found on the corpse. I am referring to the hairs you discovered.” He holds up the bag again and walks slowly along the jury box so they can now see from the closer distance that there are indeed hairs inside.
“Where did you find these hairs?”
“There were several hairs on the collar of the sweater the victim was wearing, and we also found more strands on other parts of the sweater.”
“Were these all the same hairs?”
“Objection, Your Honor. While we have the fullest confidence in Doctor Wendell’s medical skill and deep familiarity with forensic pathology, he has not been qualified here as an expert knowledgeable in the study and analysis of hairs and fibers.”
“Mr. Kerzy?” the judge asks.
“No matter, Your Honor, we have another witness who is so qualified and we will shortly call on his expertise.” He tried to make it sound as though this were no big deal. “We have no further questions of Dr. Wendell. Thank you, sir,” he says to the doctor. And struts back to his table.
“Does the defense wish to cross-examine this witness?” the judge asks.
“Yes, Your Honor, we do.”
“Very well, Ms. Siu, please carry on.”
“Thank you, Your Honor.” She walks up to the box and, yellow legal pad in one hand, stands at a respectful distance from the witness. “Doctor, you said in your previous testimony, and I cite you here, ‘the head was hit by some soft edged or rounded object’.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“Is it possible that rather than the head having been hit by such an object that the head fell against such an object, as in a person falling and hitting her head on a table or some other object?”
“Objection, Your Honor.” Kerzy is almost dancing at the prosecution table. “Asks for a conclusion?”
“He’s your own expert witness, Mr. Kerzy. You’ve opened this door very wide. Objection overruled!”
The D.A. is not happy, but he flops back in his chair.
“Doctor?” Natalie prompts.
“Yes, that is quite consistent with the nature of the trauma.”
“Thank you, Doctor. We have no further questions, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Kerzy, the People’s next witness?”
“Yes, Your Honor. The People call Joey Sung to the stand.”
Joey Sung enters the expectant courtroom and walks down to the witness stand. Here he is sworn in, and his specialized training and credentials as a hair and fibers technician in the city police lab are established.
“Good afternoon, sir,” Jeff Kerzy greets him. “The hour is getting late and we won’t keep you here long.”
“Fine,” Joey Sung answers.
The D.A. once more holds up the plastic bag of hair for all to see. “You examined all the hair samples that Dr. Wendell’s office sent from the victim’s autopsy to the police lab, is that correct?”
“Yes, sir, it is.”
“In your lab report, which I have here before me, and which you have a copy of,” he says, flipping through the pages, “you say that there were several different kinds of hair that were found on the external clothing of the body.
“Can you review that information for us, please?”
“Certainly.” Joey Sung sits forward on the edge of his chair. “They were all human hairs, and they were from both Caucasians and Asians. The Asian hair was found near the neck of the victim, who herself was Asian, and we assumed that these were just normal deposits from her own head. But there were also distinctly Caucasian strands of hair, and these we compared with samples supplied by one Fabian Darling and the defendant, Mazarine Cape.”
“And what did these comparative studies reveal?”
“”Well, they clearly eliminated Fabian Darling, but they were consistent with hair that was supplied by the defendant.”
The judge furiously gavels the room to silence as voices rise in consternation. “Any more outbursts, and I’ll clear the courtroom. I hope you believe me.” And she banged her gavel again.
“Thank you, Mr. Sung. That’s all I have, Your Honor.” Kerzy steps back lightheartedly to the prosecution table.
“Ms. Siu, cross?”
Natalie rises vigorously and her heels click on the courtroom floor as she strides firmly up to the witness stand. All eyes follow her willowy walk. She props herself on long legs and hesitates a long moment in front of the lab technician, who, having done his duty by Jeff Kerzy, now relaxes in his chair. She knows Joey Sung and she likes him. He’s not a bad sort. But this is a trial and she means to win.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Sung,” she smiles disarmingly at him.
“Hello,” he says, no less dazzled than anybody else in the room by this drop-dead gorgeous Chinese honey. He sits up a little straighter.
Natalie leafs through some sheets on her clipboard.
“How much are you being paid for you testimony here today?”
Jeff Kerzy, utterly astonished, inflates at the prosecution table. Did he hear that correctly? He knows exactly where Siu is going and he can’t believe his good luck. She wants to make the jury think Sung is saying what he says because he is being paid to do so. But of course he is not an expert witness pulled in from the outside at ludicrously astronomical fees. How can Siu have missed this one? It will backfire beautifully on her. Who would tell false tales for the nickels and dimes this lab tech earns? He is so busy gloating that for half a second he fails to realize that both Buzulethi and Jin-Soon have sproinged up like jacks-in-the-box and are almost shouting at the judge.
“Objection, Your Honor. Objection.” It is as though they had rehearsed this duet, each using exactly the same words.
Panicking, Jeff grabs each one by an arm and pulls them down to the level of his face. “What? Are you guys crazy?” he stage whispers. “Forget about it. She’s walked into her own trap. Withdraw the objection. I want him to answer her question.” His co-counsels shoot each other a furtive glance of frustration and roll their eyes.
“Sir,” Buzulethi gives it the old college try, “I think that would be a mistake.”
“A serious one,” Jin-Soon gravely backs up his colleague.
“Forget about it,” Jeff snorts. “I’ve been at this game a lot longer than you guys and I know what I’m doing here. Both of you, sit down. Right now.”
A light rustling flutters across the courtroom like a gust of wind over dry autumn leaves.
“Is there an objection before the court?” the judge asks dryly from her lofty aerie.
Kerzy stands up, buttons his coat and then unbuttons it, and smiles engagingly at the jury and the judge. “Your honor, the prosecution withdraws its objection. With an apology to the court.”
“Very well, Mr. Kerzy,” the judge says, making another notation. An inner smile never registers on her opprobrious lips. She turns to the witness. “You may answer the question, sir.”
Sung is befuddled.
“Would you like the court reporter to read the question back to you?” the judge asks solicitously.
The witness shakes his head. “No, no, Your Honor.”
“Very well, proceed, please.”
Sung looks at Natalie, who, throughout this legal maneuvering, has not moved. “I’m not getting paid anything,” he answers. Simply, and still puzzled.
“Oh?” Natalie feigns surprised and turns her face to the jury. “Nothing? So you are here for free, is that your testimony?”
Sung wriggles in his chair.
“Well, no, that’s not exactly right.”
“I’m confused, Mr. Sung. You’re not getting paid. You are getting paid. Which is it?”
Jeff Kerzy is growing uneasy and fails to see his two young and inexperienced co-counsels once more rolling their eyes at the ceiling. Most of the jury catch them in half-roll, as it were.
“Of course I’m getting paid. I mean, I have a salary.”
“Ah, so you are being paid then. For being here today?’
“Well, of course I am.”
“I see.” She turns to face the jury and raises an elegant index finger tipped with glossy red to her crimson lips, which shape themselves softly into a small moue of mystification. “And who pays for this salary you have?” She is still facing the jury as she asks the question.
Kerzy finally gets it. But much too late to shunt the approaching train wreck to a safe siding. He wishes that a cavernous vastness might open under his chair and magically whisk him away from the horrible mortification that is coming and now unstoppable. Jin-Soon and Buzulethi stare rigidly straight ahead, their faces wiped of all expression. Only the sag in their shoulders tell of their enraged frustration.
“Well, the city does. I guess. Yeah, the city.”
“The taxpayers of this city. Is that what you are testifying?”
“Yes. Of course. I work for the city?”
“Yes, of course you do. You have a position in the police laboratory, don’t you?”
“Yes. I said so earlier. I’m a lab technician. Employed by the police department.”
“Is this the same police department that worked up the evidence sufficient to indict my client for murder and put her on trial?”
“I guess so.” He is now sullen.
“I guess so too, Mr. Sung. So both the police who gathered the evidence and you and your colleagues who interpreted this evidence have the same paymaster, don’t you? The people of the city?”
“Your honor,” Kerzy was standing, red in the face, “the prosecution gladly stipulates that Mr. Sung is on the city payroll.”
Lombard-Golde motions with her hand for the prosecutor to sit down. “Sit down, Mr. Kerzy. Let’s see where this goes.” She nods to Natalie Siu to continue.
“And the prosecutor, Mr. Kerzy, and his co-counsels, Mr. Yook and Ms. Rowan, are also on – as Mr. Kerzy himself just put it – the city payroll, aren’t they?”
“Yes, I think that’s the case.”
“Indeed it is.” She taps her finger against her lips. “So, Mr. Sung, just to be sure I’ve understood this matter, would the following be an accurate statement of the facts? Again, the police gather the evidence, you interpret that evidence, and the prosecution uses the same evidence in an effort to convict my client? And all of you are paid,” here she lets her eyes roam over the faces of the jurors, each of whom, she feels certain, has a basic sense of fairness, “by the same entity. The city. The people. Would you say that’s a pretty accurate statement?”
“Yes.” Very quietly.
“I beg your pardon, sir, I didn’t quite catch that.”
“Yes,” he said, strongly, his eyes shooting armed Exocets at the prosecutor.
Natalie Siu, the damage done, turns to walk back to her table. “Gee,” she says, as if to herself, but loud enough for the entire courtroom to hear clearly, “somehow that doesn’t really seem fair.”
“Your Honor,” Kerzy shrieks, pounding his table, “I object in strongest terms to this … this comment. I ask that defense’s characterization be struck from the record.”
“I withdraw the characterization of prosecutorial unfairness,” Natalie graciously offers while Kerzy turns a rich shade of plum purple. His co-counsels are trying to soothe him as Natalie turns to the judge and adds, shyly, “Your Honor, I apologize for my …”
“Yes,” the judge interrupts, barely concealing a smile, “yes, Ms. Siu. Fine. I think that will do for now.”
Indulging the meaningless ritual, she admonishes the jury to ignore the characterization of the issue just offered – and so precisely withdrawn — by the defense. “This is a good time to take a fifteen-minute break,” she says, rapping her dark gavel.
The press rush for the hallway where they can activate their cell phones.
The corridor is jammed with television cameras and instant experts holding forth about the trial and how things are going for each side. Reporters seem to be cornering anything that moves for some kind of comment, anything, anything they can put in the stories that are taking shape in their fertile imaginations. There is a constant milling and jostling and backing and filling as people try to secure what they believe to be the advantageous location of the moment. Nobody wants to miss out on anything, and the crowd is as restless and nervously aimless as a herd of zebras scenting lions on the wind.
When court is back in session, the judge reminds Joey Sung that he is still under oath.
“Now, Mr. Sung,” Natalie begins, “I’d like to turn to this hair evidence that you testified about earlier.”
“Fine,” he says tersely.
“You testified that the hairs sent to you for analysis in this case were of Asian and of Caucasian origin, correct?”
“And the hairs in the evidence bag that we have now all seen, were they of Asian or Caucasian origin?”
“Did you analyze the Asian hair?”
“No. There was no need to. It obviously came from the victim, who was Asian.”
“I see. So if, for example, you had a Caucasian corpse and you found Caucasian hair on that corpse you would not bother to examine it because you would assume it would obviously have had to come from the Caucasian victim? Is that correct?”
Sung was not good at hiding his feelings. He squirms in his seat. “Well, not necessarily,” he said lamely. Kerzy is not at all happy the way this is going, but he can do nothing to derail this train wreck his own expert witness is driving.
“How is that?”
“Uh … there are a lot of Caucasians in the city.”
“And not Asians?”
“I don’t know.”
Natalie approaches the judge. “Your Honor, the defense submits the attached data from the U.S. census bureau on the latest demographic breakdown for our city.” She hands a copy to the judge, who looks at it and hands it on to the clerk of court. Danny leans across the aisle and hands the prosecution its copy. Natalie continues with Sung. “Would it surprise you to know that there are approximately one hundred ninety thousand people of Asian origin in this city?”
“Yes, I guess it would.”
“But you assumed the Asian hair on the body belonged to the one Asian who happened to be the victim.”
“I guess I did.”
“You guess you assumed, or you did assume?”
“All right, I did assume that.”
“I see,” Natalie says and scratches something on her yellow pad. She walks back to the defense table and picks up a folder, and slouching back languidly towards the witness box she taps it lightly against her rippling thigh. She has the undivided attention of every person in the entire room.
“Let’s turn our attention to the Caucasian hair that you examined. You studied it under a microscope?”
“A comparison microscope?”
“And can you please tell us just what that is?”
“It’s a microscope that allows you to look at two specimens at the same time and in that way compare them visually.”
“And you determined that these Caucasian hairs, as you put it in your lab report,” here she opens the folder and leafs to a third page, running her finger across its mid-point, “‘are consistent with the samples gathered from Mazarine Cape’. Is that correct?”
“How did you get the hairs for comparison?”
“They were plucked from the defendant’s head.”
Now Natalie wheels and faces the jury while still addressing the witness. “Mr. Sung, what is the anagen phase of hair?”
Kerzy, bewildered, turns to his acolytes for answers. Where, his face says, is this coming from? They simply shake their heads and shrug their shoulders.
“That is the first, and longest, growth phase of a hair. In effect, it’s hair that is still anchored to the scalp.”
“And the telogen phase?”
“That’s an end phase, when the hairs are no longer firmly imbedded in the scalp, but can easily fall out.”
“Can you tell which phase the hairs you examined from the corpse were in?”
“Yes. In the telogen phase.”
“How can you tell?”
“The root of the hair has fallen out. That is typical of telogen phase hair.”
“And the comparison hair plucked from the defendant, what phase were they in?”
“Anagen. They did not fall out, but had to be yanked out.”
“What is the significance of that?”
Sung knows exactly where this is headed, and he would like to be helpful to the prosecution, but he is not a liar. He simply goes with the science. Let the lawyers sort it all out. “Anagen phase hair still has the root intact.”
“And the significance of that?”
“The cellular material in the root contains the person’s DNA.”
The first mention of this talismanic word sends a ripple of murmurs across the courtroom. Lombard-Golde looks up fiercely, and the noise dissipates.
“So did you test the DNA in these comparison hairs?”
“There was no point. Since we knew they came from the defendant, we did not need to test them.”
“But for comparison purposes?”
“Pointless. In telogen phase hair the root has shriveled or disappeared. In fact, that’s why telogen hair falls out of its own accord. It’s lost its anchor to the scalp. And without the root, you have no DNA.”
“The strand of hair has no DNA?”
“No, just the follicle, the root. And that was gone. So there was no way to make a comparison.”
“I’m confused, Mr. Sung. You just said you could not make a DNA comparison between the Caucasian hair found on the murder victim and the hair you plucked from the defendant, yet you’re telling us you know they’re the same. What am I missing?” Her face registers astonished bewilderment in front of the jury. They are as caught up in this forensic deconstruction as every other person in the room.
“I never said they’re the same.”
“Oh?” Natalie’s feigned astonishment is reflected in the genuine astonishment showing on the faces of the jurors.
“No, I said the hair found was consistent with the hair from the defendant.”
“I see,” Natalie says slowly. “Consistent with. Maybe I don’t see. What exactly does that mean?”
“Microscopic comparison of the evidentiary hair – that’s the hair found on the body – with the exemplar hair – that’s the hair taken from the defendant — indicated a great many similarities between the two sets. Things you can’t see with the naked eye. Things like shaft thickness, curliness, flaking, pigmentation, cuticles, nature of the medulla – the center of the hair — surface smoothness, artificial colorings, things like that.”
“And how accurate is this kind of analysis?”
“Oh, it’s pretty accurate,” Joey Sung says confidently.
“Pretty accurate? That’s pretty vague, isn’t it?” A wave of laughter rises and falls in the pews. “What are we talking about here? Ten percent accuracy, five percent, what?”
Sung gathers himself together on the edge of his seat and pulls the microphone closer to his mouth. “The error rate is something on the order of one in maybe five thousand.”
“One in five thousand? In other words, if you did five thousand analyses, only one would be wrong.”
“Yes, I see what you mean. One in five thousand – yes, that is pretty accurate, isn’t it.”
She begins to pace slowly back and forth along the jury box, her tapered fingers again trailing along the gently knurled cherry wood of the railing. The male jurors seem to fixate on the deep red of her nail polish.
“Yes, ma’am, it is.”
“Mr. Sung, do you know what the population of this city is?”
He is taken by surprise and, casting a quick glance at the prosecution table, shrugs his shoulders. “No, I don’t. Two million, maybe.”
“No, it’s actually closer to three point two million.” She addresses the judge. “Your Honor the data I previously submitted from the census bureau corroborate this point.”
“Very well. Let’s move along.”
“At this point I would like to call the court’s attention to the television monitors in the well. My co-counsel, Mr. Hochstel, has hooked up his laptop to the monitors so that you will be able to follow the simple arithmetic he is about to perform on a spread sheet.”
Technicians from Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar are working smoothly with court personnel to initiate the ELMO presentation system that allows the big-screen monitors to show everything that is on the computer screen. “Ready,” Danny says to Natalie, and punches a few keys. An empty spread sheet pops up on the monitors facing the pews, the jurors and the judge and witness.
“Let’s divide one by five thousand.” The number 1 is entered in cell C5 and 5000 in D5; an equal sign is entered in E5 and the formula =C5/D5 in cell F5. Danny leaves the formula in F5 long enough to be sure everyone sees it, and then punches the enter key. The answer pops up immediately in F5: 0.02%. “The accuracy of the identification method Mr. Sung has described to us is 99.98%. That is, in his words, pretty accurate. Now, let’s enter the population of the city, three point two million, in cell F7.” Danny does so and the monitors register his action. The audience, enchanted by the change of pace and an injection of more ‘technical’ and, subliminally as well as inferentially, more ‘real’ and ‘hard’ data from the computer, hang on every wavering flicker of the monitor screens. “And now in cell G8 let’s multiply F5, the percentage of error, by F7, the population of the city.” Danny enters the data and, once more, allows the figures in G8 to sit there long enough for everyone to see them. Then he hits enter and gets the answer: 640.
“Six-hundred-forty,” Natalie intones. She turns to the jury. “Now, the U.S. census data show that the Caucasian population of this city is approximately 68%, so let’s take 68% of 640.” Danny enters .68 in cell G9 and then in H9 multiplies this cell with cell G8. The answer is 435.2. “We’ll say it’s 435 people,” Natalie concedes magnanimously.
“Mr. Sung,” she says, turning her attention from the monitors to the witness, do you know how many people are in this courtroom.
Sung is again thrown, but glances around and after a moment says, “I don’t know, maybe a hundred?”
“Actually, there are 120 seats, maybe twenty people standing in the back, twelve jurors and six alternates, five lawyers, one judge, and, let’s say, a dozen court personnel.” She nods to Danny, who enters the figures and sums them: 176. “One hundred seventy six. In other words, Mr. Sung, given the identification error rate for microscopic hair analysis that you have testified to, the hair found on the body of the murdered woman could have come from two and half times the number of people in this courtroom. All right,” she hastily corrects herself, “making allowances for ethnic mix, roughly twice as many people as are in this room could possibly have been the source of the hair you are testifying is consistent with that of the defendant. Is that a fair statement?”
“Yes, but …”
“Thank you, Mr. Sung,” she cuts him off sharply at the knees. “A simple ‘yes’ will do just fine. Thank you.” Out of the corner of her eyes she sees Kerzy starting to rise with an objection half formulated on his lips, but then sit down again, dejectedly. The D.A., she thinks, arrogant and over-confident as usual, has not done is homework on this one, and neither have his co-counsels. Thank God for big favors!
“Now, Mr. Sung, just one more point and we’re all done here.”
He nods, wearied and beaten.
“These hairs that you got from the body, you said they were in telogen phase. Correct?”
“And according to your earlier testimony that is the phase of hair that is loosely attached to the scalp, and therefore easily falls out, right?”
“Is it known how much hair we lose in a day?”
“It’s been estimated that about one hundred strands fall out daily. From washing, combing, running your fingers through your hair, lying on a pillow.”
“On a pillow?”
“Yes. If you check your pillow in the morning when you get up, chances are you’ll find strands of your hair on it. All telogen phase, and that’s why they’ve fallen out.”
“I see. Thank you, Mr. Sung.” To the judge she says, “That’s all I have for this witness, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Kerzy, redirect?”
“No, Your Honor, no redirect.” The defeat in his tone says it all, and the jury members hear it loud and clear.
“As the hour is late, I suggest we conclude here today and begin again at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. Your final witness will be ready to go?”
“Yes, Your Honor,” Buzulethi Rowan answers. “The People are ready.” Kerzy is too shell-shocked to react and just sits, an unhappy lump, at his table. He sees his ‘sure’ conviction dribbling through his hands, his plans for a political career run over by the beating Sung has taken.
“Court is adjourned,” Lombard-Golde says with a hard bang of the gavel.
The usual frenzied rush for the corridor follows amid the usual voluble chatter.
After the defense team escapes into its private space under escort of five court officers, Natalie smiles for the first time. “That went very well,” she said. “I sense things are turning.” Danny is also excited, and the two of them comment enthusiastically on the afternoon’s cross-examination. Mazarine too senses that maybe there is hope here.
Natalie’s cell phone rings, and she answers. She says very little, but a slow smile spreads across her face. “Thank you so much,” she says and clicks off.
“What?” Mazarine asks.
Danny waits expectantly for an answer.
“Good news, guys. Really good news. But for now I’m going to sit on it.”
Mazarine and Danny look at each other, their faces question marks. But by now they trust Natalie, that she knows fully what she is doing.
“Let’s go get something to eat, people,” she says happily.
They seek out a popular steak place near the courthouse that is a regular with lawyers, judges and court groupies. There is a momentary hush and then increased conversation as they enter the cheery place and are immediately escorted by a maître d’ past the line of waiting customers to a table over in a corner where nobody sits behind them and they have an unobstructed view of the other diners.
“A call for reservations from Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar does wonders,” Natalie explains modestly as she unfurls a napkin in her lap and opens the heavy menu. After they place their orders they begin to talk trial again.
“Tomorrow is going to be hard, in the morning. They’re going to put Yukiko Darling on the stand and her job will be to say the worst possible things she can about you. All the time prompted by the prosecution.”
“What can she say?”
“Whatever she wants. She’ll try to get the jury to see you as a manipulative, monstrous bitch who would have had no trouble at all killing Trinh. In the view of the jurors she knows you close up because the two of you were roommates for several months.”
“Lovers, not just roommates.”
“Yes, that’s something the D.A. will soft-pedal, but I’ll bring it out on cross. It may generate some prejudice against her, but it would of course do the same for you. A wash, maybe, but I do want to get it out there and on the record.”
“And she can lie and say anything about me she wants?”
“Yes. Who’s going to refute her?”
“I guess I’m naïve, but I thought you swore an oath to tell the truth.”
Both Danny and Natalie spit out an abrupt chortle.
“You’re right, it is naïve. The theory is that certainly one purpose of a trial is to discover the truth in a particular matter. I’m not into the current fashion that declares truth to be relative, but in the case of a trial, there are in fact many contradictory truths vying for pride of place: the defendant’s truth, the prosecutor’s truth, the truth of witnesses, the truth of the experts, of the police, and so forth. The truth pretty much is what the jury believes the truth to be.”
Plato, groaning, is turning over in his grave, Mazarine thinks in passing as she listens to her lawyer hold forth.
“People,” Natalie continues, “lie on the stand all the time, and, what’s worse, everybody knows that they do it. The lawyers know it, the judge knows it, and sometimes the jury thinks it. But the problem is that unless you can impugn that testimony with strong counter-testimony, it turns into – as we said earlier – a question of she-says-she-says. Whom to believe? Who is most credible? And you have a strong handicap in that to some extent you are already guilty in the minds of most jurors. Their thinking will be that if you weren’t, the D.A.’s office, with the help of the police, would not have charged you in the first place and put you on trial. Frequently this is a kind of tacit assumption on the part of the jury the defendant has to get out from under. That’s why it’s extremely important that when she goes to work on you tomorrow, you have to sit at our table demurely and show no emotion at all. It’s fine for you to look at the witness, but reveal nothing with your body language or on your face. The jury will be watching you as much as her.”
“It seems outrageous,” is all Mazarine can get out. “And you’re not going to put me up there on the stand to tell my story?”
“For reasons I’ve explained, no, that is something we are definitely not going to do.”
“Then how can you refute or neutralize what Yukiko says?”
“That’s what Danny and I will be working on tonight after we get back to the office. For you, go home and relax and get a good night’s sleep. You want to be rested and relaxed tomorrow. And you want to leave the worrying to us.”
Their dinners are served, and they turn their attention to this expensive pleasure. People keep coming up to the table to say hello to Natalie, congratulate her on the clever demolition she has engineered that afternoon, chat about friends, plan to do lunch, promise to call each other, squeeze arms. Danny and Mazarine say nothing in the presence of the courtiers.
After a while the stream of well-wishers and those needing to bask in Natalie’s reflected glory of the moment runs dry. She smiles at Mazarine. “It’s just part of the hustle,” she says. “I’ve done it myself.”
They cut into their bloody steaks and crunch croutons from the Caesar’s salad. They discuss the latest films, recent books, national politics, the local prospects for the November campaign.
“I don’t know him personally, but barring a wildcard,” Danny confidently predicts, “Rany’s a shoe-in for one more term. Then I hear he’s headed for the senate. That’s the United States senate, my friends.”
Natalie, who does not think of herself as politically involved, always marvels at Danny’s apparently insiderish knowledge of such matters. She knows he is active in Republican politics and has, perhaps, himself some future ambition in that direction. “I don’t know the man at all, but I think I may have shaken hands with him once at some bar function.”
Mazarine, who knows Rany quite well and has shaken more than his hand, keeps her counsel to herself, chews slowly, and nods politely as the political gossip bounces across the table. When they finish eating, they order coffee but no dessert, and allow the conversation to drift in desultory fashion. Danny and Natalie take a cab back to their offices and Mazarine gets one to take her home to the apartment.
She finishes a long shower and wraps herself in a thickly napped bathrobe. With a single candle lit on the small table by the sofa, she sinks onto a soft settee. A large brandy snifter holding two jiggers of Grand Marnier in her hand, she sits in the dark and gazes out over the city’s kaleidoscope of lights that spread out beneath her. She has always enjoyed solitude, and she does now. But at the same time she wishes that she had a close friend – the kind of friend she had once thought Yukiko was – with whom to talk, to share her feelings, to get some response from. She is not seeing any men these days, and in some strange way she misses that. Most of her clients are educated, accomplished people, and not all of them wanted only to have sex with her. She realizes, now that she hasn’t been active for half a year, how much she misses intelligent conversation. Her greatest pleasure from the dinner she has just had with Natalie and Danny derives from the talk that was not related to the legal matters and the trial. She is deeply impressed with Natalie as a lawyer, but it is clear that she knows more than just law, too. She has a life outside her job, and so, it seems, does Danny. If she just met the two of them and did not know they were lawyers, she imagines they might be quite interesting in their own right. And what limited experience she has had with lawyers leads her to conclude that most of them are no more interested in anything – televised sports aside — outside their very narrow bailiwick than a butcher or a candlestick maker is.
She passes the snifter slowly under her nose and inhales, holds it up to the dim light and observes the sloshing of the amber fluid. She takes a sip and rolls it back and forth over her tongue, savoring the distinctive flavor. She swallows the silky liquid and, opening her mouth, breathes in sharply to maximize the effect of the powerful aroma. She loves Grand Marnier.
Why doesn’t she have friends?
She has her mother, with whom she talks quite openly. Her mother is her friend, yes, but she is also her mother. She has never been close to her older sister, Valerie, even when they were children. And Valerie went full bore into medicine, which left little time for them together as adults. A telephone call now and then across the continent keeps them in touch, and she is glad Valerie has been supportive since her arrest. But no, she is not a close friend. She is not sure how much Valerie knows about her means of earning money, but is sure that she does not or would not approve. Some of the girls at Aspasia’s are good pals, but real friends? No, the fact, Mazarine is compelled to conclude, is that she has, in Horatian terms, no true animae dimidium meae. Not one other half of my soul.
She has never given this much thought before. She has remained steadfast in her unexamined conviction that all she requires is solitude. She has no need for people. Not for another soul. That has worked fine for her when everything was fine. But now they are not fine and she wishes that she had someone who could help her, at a personal level, to endure and sustain the burden she now carries. If she can ever get beyond the present nightmare, perhaps she should make something of an effort to find a real friend or two. And at the very moment that she thinks it she realizes that one doesn’t secure a true friend the way one does a handsome coat or an exciting car. Where is my silent Pylades, she wonder wryly and crinkles her nose.
There was a time last fall when she was into it with Yukiko in a big way that she had played around in her head with the idea that Yukiko might become, in addition to her passionate lover, her dearest and closest friend. By December that idea was on the trash heap with many others she had had, and events since January had certainly disabused her of any such final hope remaining. Indeed, she is deeply troubled by the implications of Natalie’s comments about Yukiko to the effect that she will attempt to destroy her on the stand tomorrow. It is true, as Natalie has pointed out, that only Yukiko and she know what went on in their relationship. Of course it had never occurred to her to tape their cozy and intimate moments together, but, in retrospect, she sees that perhaps she should have started doing so by November, when things started to fall apart. Largely, she feels, thinking about those months, because that was when Yukiko’s dark side began to dominate her personality. It had not been a pleasant time, until Mazarine simply put a firm end to the relationship and extricated herself from further involvement. Until that dreadful Friday in January when she had foolishly agreed to join Trinh in visiting Yukiko in room 1965 at the Momiji. If she had not left the room together with Trinh later that evening, she might well wonder what part Yukiko may have had in this murder with which she had been charged.
If the hairs, which seemed to be central the prosecution’s case, were in fact hers – though thank heaven Natalie had managed thoroughly to confuse that issue for the jurors – would it mean that Yukiko – who else? – had somehow been picking her hair off the pillows after their love-making and saving them? For what? For a frame? At some future date?
Mazarine shook here head and drained the last of her drink. No, that seemed to bizarre even for Yukiko. But who, then?
With this obdurate question spinning round and round in her head she drifts off into dreamless sleep.
TO BE CONTINUED