Revenge Should Have No Bounds – Chapter 20 (124-131)

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

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        Chap 19  111-123

Revenge Should Have No Bounds
Chapter 20 (124-131): Trial – Phase Two

At dawn Mazarine readies herself and cabs it over to Natalie’s offices.  Her lawyer wants them all to arrive at the court at the same time in a black, shining Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar limousine.  If it is possible to imagine, the crowds on the steps are even larger this morning and they are energized in a jittery way that alarms Mazarine.  It is as though they can’t wait to hear all the prurient details of Yukiko’s testimony, and they are not willing to be disappointed.  The headline in one of the sleazier dailies had trumpeted an invitation to today’s trial with the words, MISTRESS OF MISTRESS TO TESTIFY TODAY.

Wonderful.

The court stalwarts escort the defense team up through the rowdy throng.  Natalie no longer deigns even to say “No comment.”

“The prosecution,” Kerzy announces theatrically when asked by Lombard-Golde to call his next witness, “calls Yukiko Darling.”

Every head in the excited courtroom twists to the door in the back of the room.  Yukiko makes a splash.  She is a very attractive woman and she has done it up to the nines this morning. She saunters down the aisle toward the well of the courtroom, ostentatiously opens the swinging door in the balustrade just behind the lawyers, and sashays up to the witness box.  She raises an immaculate hand and swears in a throaty voice Mazarine knows not to be natural that she will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  In this story she makes herself, beyond any question, the central character, and she tacitly commands a commensurate attention.  The latter is forthcoming from the audience before her.

Yukiko’s body language in the chair is laid-back, lounging, insouciant, and her face projects an indolent hauteur.  She gazes lazily at the rapt spectators beholding her with undisguised interest.  Mazarine marvels at the sheer theatricality of this woman she thought she knew so well, for whom she had once had – and perhaps still did have – passionate feelings.  It is almost as though she does not even know this exquisite woman who is now the undisputed cynosure of the morning’s session and basking in the consequent adulation.  Yes, the thought flashes ironically through Mazarine’s mind, a physically beautiful person can get away with just about anything and people will be eager to help her do it.

“Good morning, Ms. Darling,” Kerzy says expansively.  It is embarrassingly obvious that he is enormously pleased to be even a minor moon circling in the orbit of this heavenly body as the pool cameras spin on and immortalize him.  In his head he can already see the clip on that evening’s news.

Yukiko gives him an almost insolent nod but says nothing.  She looks the jurors in the eye and then lets her gaze wander to the lawyers and the audience beyond.  She is in full control of herself and utterly relaxed.  For a second Mazarine wonders if she’s stoked up on valium or prozac or something like that.  Possible, but, as Mazarine knows only too well, Yukiko can be iron encased in steel when she needs to be.

“Ms. Darling,” he begins, smiling broadly at Yukiko, “do you know the defendant,” he swivels on the spot and points at the defense table, “Mazarine Cape?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Can you please tell us in what capacity?”

Yukiko gets a snide look on her face.  “We were lovers.”

Although every person in the room has read the furtive hints and sly insinuations in the press and is quite familiar with the nature of this relationship, the fulfillment of prurient expectations thrills.  Natalie can sense Kerzy straining at the bit to hammer away at the defendant’s lesbian orientation.  But she knows he realizes that if he goes after Mazarine he will also be impugning his own witness.  Even a lawyer can’t heat just one side of a coin.

“Lovers?”

“Yes.”

“Did you live together?”

“No.”

“How … where … did you … when you …” Kerzy blushes as he stumbles around in foreign territory.  A ripple of titters runs though the room.  Lombard-Golde looks up and the chuckles die.  Yukiko is enjoying herself, and after waiting a beat that nobody in the room could miss comes mercifully to his rescue.

“We met in a hotel.”

“Let me move on,” he says.  He walks over to the prosecution table and is handed a yellow pad by Buzulethi.  Placing himself in front of the witness again, he asks, “How many months were you … um … together?”

“Five.”
“So you would say that you know the defendant pretty well, then?”

“Yes.”

“You talked about things?”

“Yes.”

Natalie can tell that Kerzy is starting to get a bit rattled.  He is having to work very hard to get anything out of his own witness, which does not look good to the jury.  Natalie sits back and although she is tense she tries to look relaxed and quite unconcerned.

“Can you tell us what sorts of things?”

“Work, friends, ourselves.  Girl stuff.  That kind of thing.”

“I see.”  He dons a thoughtful mien.  “When you talked about yourselves, what kinds of things came up?”

“Parents.  Schooling.  Men. Pretty much what you’d expect.”

“You both dated men?”

“Of course.”

“Other women?”

“No.”

“An exclusive relationship, then?”

“As far as women were concerned, yes.”

“But not as far as men were concerned?”

“Ms. Cape is an escort.”

“That didn’t bother you?”

“No.”

“Didn’t your ex-husband see her?”

“Yes.”

“And this didn’t bother you?”

“No.”

“That’s a bit hard to understand.  Why not?”

“It was a long time ago.  Long before I met her.  Years before.  It was water over the dam as far as I was concerned.”

“Are you still … seeing Ms. Cape?”

“No.”

“What happened?”

“We broke up.”

“Why was that?”

“She became impossible.”

In spite of herself, Mazarine sits up straighter and goes rigid.  Natalie puts a hand on her knee under the table and gives a gentle squeeze.  “Show nothing,” she whispers out of the side of her mouth.  “Stay cool.”

“Impossible, how?”

“Well, first there was the jealousy.  By and by I discovered she was a very jealous type of person.”

“Of whom?”

“Phantoms.”

“Phantoms?”  Kerzy turns toward the jury.

“Yes, she got it into her head that I was seeing other women and would fly into a rage about it.  Threaten me, threaten herself.  Rant and rave.”

“How did she threaten you?”

“She said she’d get even with me.  She said she’d kill herself and make it look like I had killed her.  She would throw things – pillows, a Kleenex box, books, a cup once, ”

“What was your reaction?”

“I was scared, of course.”  She put both hands across her chest and up against her chin.  She sat back artfully on her chair.  “I tried to placate her, to calm her down.”

Mazarine was scribbling madly on Natalie’s pad:  LIES LIES ALL LIES!!!  NEVER HAPPENED, NONE OF IT!!  Natalie nods her head and jots down an answer:  OK.  NOT TO WORRY!

“And this kind of thing took place more than once?”

“Oh, yes,” Yukiko said, eyes huge.

“And was there any reason for her jealousy?”

“No.  None whatsoever.  It was all in her head.  Maybe a projection of her own insecurities, somehow.”

“Objection, Your Honor.”  Natalie was standing, addressing the court.  “This witness has not been qualified as a psychiatric expert nor, I believe, is she a mind reader.”

“Sustained,” the judge intones.  “The jury,” she continues, turning towards the jury box, “will ignore the last comment made by the witness.”  And keep looking for the elephant in the courtroom.

Kerzy barely conceals his delight.

“So, Ms. Darling,” he smiles at Yukiko, “you were not being … unfaithful in this relationship.”

“No.  Not at all.”

“Did she ever make good on any of her threats?”

Yukiko gave the appearance of deep embarrassment.  “Not really.”

“But?”

“Well, she did slap me a couple of times and warned me not to do it again.  That is, go out with anybody but her.”

“I see.”  He paced back and forth in the well, deep in putative thought.  “Did you reciprocate?”

“Of course not.”  She was shocked.  “I abhor violence.”

“Yes, of course.  Now, Ms. Darling, you said the defendant’s violent outbursts of jealousy were one of the things that made her impossible.”

Natalie elected not to object to the compound characterization.

“Yes.”

“What else?”

“Well, she would become highly critical of me.  Everything I did was wrong.  She went out of her way to criticize me – my clothes, my make-up, the books I read, the food I ate.  Everything.  It was emotionally exhausting.  After a while I couldn’t take it any more.”  Yukiko expertly sheds a few tears that she subtly dabs at with her handkerchief.”

“Would you like to take a moment?” Kerzy asks solicitously.

“No,” Yukiko answers in a low, demure voice.  “I think I will be fine now.”

Mazarine can’t help but feel the waves of sympathy washing Yukiko’s way from the jury box.

“Very well.  Let me now ask you about the murdered woman, Trinh Cao.  Did you know her?”

“Yes.”  Meekly.

“How did that come about?”

“She was a friend of the defendant … of Ms. Cape.  She introduced us once.”

“Do you remember when that was?”

“Yes.  It was Friday evening on the ninth of January.  This year.”

“And where did this meeting take place?”

“In a hotel room in the Momiji.  Where Ms. Cape and I usually met.”

“What was the purpose of this meeting?”

“I thought she just wanted me to meet another Asian woman she knew.  But it turned out she wanted to do a threesome.”

A collective gasp is heard.

“People …” the judge admonishes.

“A threesome?”

“Yes.  You know,” she said, aversion written on her countenance, “she wanted the three of us to … to make love together.”

“And did you?”

“Absolutely not.  I was shocked.  I may have … have had a non-traditional lover, but I wasn’t into that kind of thing.  And neither was the woman. Trinh.  She was horrified too.  I was very upset.”

Mazarine again exercises the pad for Natalie’s benefit:  NOT TRUE  NOT TRUE.  IT WAS THE OTHER WAY AROUND.  Natalie inclines her head as a sign that she understands.

“And then what happened?”

“It was all very difficult.  We tried to talk, but it didn’t go anywhere.  Pretty soon Ms. Cape and her friend left the room.”

“Do you recall what time that was?”

“Not exactly, but probably about an hour after they arrived.  I’d estimate no later than seven-thirty.”

Kerzy turned to the jury and announced grandly, “No more questions, Your Honor.”

The judge looks up and says, “I think we have time for cross here before we adjourn for lunch.  Ms. Siu?”

Natalie and Danny had been holding a fast power conference behind Mazarine’s back and then came to a conclusion.

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Go ahead.”

Natalie marches up close to the witness box and stands there a minute longer than necessary before addressing a smiling, almost sneering Yukiko.

“Ms. Darling, you indicated in your earlier testimony that neither one of you dated other women, is that right?”

“Yes.”

“But you also implied that the defendant was seeing Trinh Cao?”

For the first time Yukiko looks not quite so confident.  Mazarine, who knows her intimately, recognizes that Yukiko, now under attack, has gone into a power defense mode:  the slight narrowing of the eyes, the thinning of the lips, the forward inclination of the body, the jaw muscles pulsing beneath that flawless skin.  As always, Yukiko is quick on her feet.

“That was different.  She,” and here she points dramatically at the defendant, “was seeing someone else.  Not me.”  She laughs light-heartedly.  “Perhaps I did not make a sufficient distinction on an inconsequential point.”

Natalie was milking the moment for the jury’s benefit, and after a short pause during which she stares intently at Yukiko, she says disbelievingly, “Perhaps.”  She paces in the well.  “Do you have any other recantations of your previous testimony?”

“Your Honor,” Buzulethi shoots up, “objection to the use of the word ‘recantations’.  Prejudicial.”

“Sustained.”  Lombard-Golde wags a finger at Natalie.  “Please rephrase that, Ms. Siu.”  And then admonishes the jury to forget about the huge pachyderm stomping around in the well.

“Thank you, Your Honor,” Natalie says contritely.

“Ms. Darling, are you sure you don’t want to revise any of the answers you have given this morning?”

It was not what Yukiko was expecting, although now forewarned, and her mask of superior ennui dropped momentarily.  Before she can respond, Kerzy is on his feet.

“Your Honor, this whole line of questioning is outrageous!”  His indignation was not manufactured.

“That may be, sir, but the question is nonetheless permissible,” the judge answers.  “The witness will answer.”

“Certainly not,” Yukiko sneers, sitting farther forward and giving Natalie a dirty look that the jury sees.  Then, as if getting hold of herself, she sits back and assumes a sweet smile.

“The defense has no further questions for this witness at this time.  But we reserve the right to recall her at a later point.”

“Very well.  The witness is excused with instructions to remain available for further questioning by the defense.”  Her gavel is on its downward arc as she announces, “We are adjourned until two o’clock this afternoon.”

Mazarine perceives a queasy lurch in her stomach and does not feel like eating any of the delicacies that the kitchen at Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar are setting out on the table in the room the defense has commandeered in the courthouse for the duration of the trial.  She is deeply disturbed, both by the facile conviction with which Yukiko has poisoned the minds of the jurors against her and by the incomprehensible way she has inverted all the facts of their relationship and attacked her personally.  She even find herself more than a little miffed at Natalie, who acts as if their side doesn’t have a care in the world.

Mazarine is not sanguine about her prospects and keeps to herself while Danny and Natalie chat up the trial.

In the corridor outside the courtroom before the commencement of the afternoon session Mazarine and Yukiko periodically run into each other in the milling mass of lawyers, witnesses, personnel, media and court junkies.  Mazarine warily eyes her former lover;  Yukiko’s eyes are afloat with mockery and derision, and a cold smile plays around her mouth.

Next to the judge’s podium a bailiff announces that court is in session.  Everybody sits down and settles in, and the hubbub dies down.

“Mr. Kerzy, your next witness.”

Kerzy rises, shoots his cuffs and buttons and unbuttons his coat, and announces grandly, “The state rests, Your Honor.”

The room stirs.

“Ms. Siu?”

“Thank you, Your Honor.  We have one witness.”

“Please proceed.”

Mazarine happens to have turned her head to see if Yukiko is in the audience;  she sees her sitting about five or six rows back in an aisle seat.

“The defense calls Ms. Su Lien Rhaman,” Natalie says.

At the mention of this name people turn to each other with questioning looks and a subdued buzzing.  And a remarkable transformation comes over Yukiko’s face.  Her bright arrogance that had been on such conspicuous display all day vanishes like the sun behind a dark cloud;  Yukiko turns ashen, and her whole face seems to implode.  And then she makes a dreadful blunder.  Thoroughly unnerved by the wholly unexpected development now unfolding behind her as the new witness is let in at the back of the room, Yukiko gets up and proceeds to slip out.

Almost precisely at the point where Su Lien Rahman and Yukiko are about to pass each other, the judge booms out, “Bailiff, please escort Ms. Darling back to her seat and make sure that she remains in this court.  She is still a witness under oath, and may be recalled to the stand.”  A burly female bailiff makes a move towards Yukiko and motions for her to return to her seat.  By this time every eye is on the beautiful prosecution witness trying to sneak out of the courtroom like some furtive thief in the night, and she has called an unnecessary attention to herself that, to judge from the looks of incredulity on their faces, has done her little good with the jury.

In the meantime Su Lien Rahman has captivated the courtroom’s heart.  Her dusky beauty is of an exotic sort, enhanced by her colorful dress and willowy demureness.  Before she can be sworn in Kerzy is almost pounding his table and yelling, “Your Honor, Your Honor, the defense can’t spring a surprise witness on us at this late hour.  We are being bushwhacked.”

“Bushwhacked, Mr. Kerzy?” the judge asks, her brows raised in surprised interrogation.

“Yes, Your Honor.  Bushwhacked.  Blind-sided.”

“I don’t think so, sir.  Have you examined the witness list supplied by the defense during discovery?”

“Yes, we have.”  But he doesn’t sound quite so forceful.  “But, Your Honor, there were over six hundred names on that list,” he says petulantly.

“And?”

“Well … this witness … ”  Buzulethi is tugging at his sleeve and running a silvered nail beneath the name of the witness on page five of their list, “ … this witness is from … Sandakan.  In Malaysia.  We don’t have the resources to seek out a witness like that.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kerzy,” Lombard-Golde lied smoothly, “I see no procedural violations here.”

“Your Honor, I don’t even know where … where Sandakan is.”

Kerzy is listening to the hurried whisperings of his other co-counsel, Jin-Soon, and registers a look of disbelief.

“Your Honor,” he says with exasperation, “this is in North-East Borneo, for heaven’s sake!”

“Yes, Mr. Kerzy.  That is correct,” the judge says blithely.  “It seems Mr. Yook is quite up on his geography.”

Titters spool up.  This time the judge makes no effort to chastise the courtroom.

The cameras keep rolling.

Natalie has remained serenely aloof from this dirty dancing, smiling steadily at Su Lien Rahman.

Mazarine’s face is calmly non-committal, but inside she is thrilled beyond her wildest fanatsies.  At last she begins truly to think she may beat this false accusation.  And she offers up a silent prayer to Agung, the wonderful Sultan of Java, whose powerful hand she feels certain has pulled more than one string to launch this latest bombshell.  That must have been what the phone call Natalie got was all about.

“Clerk of court, please swear in this witness,”  the judge says.  The slope of Kerzy’s shoulders tell a tale of defeat.

Su Lien Rahman is preternaturally exquisite.  The courtroom has somehow a collective sense of this and with heightened expectations awaits her testimony.

Natalie Siu has stepped up towards the witness box but leaves considerable space between herself and the witness.  “Good afternoon, Ms. Rhaman,” she says.

“Good afternoon,” Su Like answers softly.

“Ms. Rahman,” the judge peers down at her, “please pull that microphone closer to your mouth and speak directly into it.”  She smiles encouragingly.

“Yes, ma’am, of course.”  She does as instructed.

“Now, Ms. Rahman, can you tell us if you know the defendant, Mazarine Cape.”

“No, I do not.”

“And you’ve never met her before?”

“No.  Never.”

“Do you know a woman named Yukiko Darling?”

“Yes.  But when I knew her the last name was Yukiko Mizushima.”

“How did you find out about this trial?”

“I was in Los Angeles briefly and a good friend of mine called my attention to an article about this trial in the paper.  Mr. Darling, her former husband, had been introduced to me in Japan when he visited Yukiko in Osaka.”

“And when was it that you knew Yukiko?”

“I knew her in the mid-eighties, in 1986 and 1987.”

“And where was that?”

“In Osaka, Japan.  We were both foreign students there.”

“What was your relationship to her?”

“We … we were roommates and … and lovers.”

This time the judge bangs her gavel when the courtroom is sparked to life at the prurient innuendo lurking in this salacious revelation.  “There will be order in this court.  If necessary, I will clear the room.”  She blares, leaving no room for doubt about the validity of her intentions.  “Counsel may continue,” she instructs Natalie.

“Thank you, Your Honor.”  She turns to face Su Lien.

“How long did the two of you live together?”

“About ten months or so.”

“Can you tell us, in your own words, something about this relationship.  Give us the flavor so to speak of your daily life together.”

“Your Honor,” Kerzy is desperate, and everybody hears it in the increasing nasality of his whine.  “You Honor, how is this kind of … of free-association narrative relevant testimony for the case at hand?”

“Sit down, Mr. Kerzy,” the judge says sternly.  “That is exactly what we are about to find out.”  She nods to the witness.  “You may answer the question.”

Su Lien Rahman begins to speak.  She has a low voice, but it carries in the courtroom.

“At first we were happy together.  Yukiko was very solicitous, very kind, very loving.  She made me feel wanted and I was comfortable with her.  It was probably the happiest few months of my life.

“But things changed.  She began to find fault with me, with everything I did.  She criticized my dress, my pronunciation of Japanese, my ignorance of mathematics, my inability to use makeup properly, any friendships I tried to start up with other Japanese students at the university.  She was even resentful of my association with other Malaysian students at Osaka University.  It was as though any other contact was a threat to her, a threat to her control and hold over me.  At first, she would merely comment on these involvements, no matter how innocent.  She belittled the people involved – for their looks, their intelligence, their lack of sophistication.  But when I persisted in seeing other people – again, all in innocence – Yukiko started ordering me not to see them.  She would say things like, ‘I don’t want you to be anywhere near those idiots,’ and ‘Don’t come back here if you spend time with undesirables like that.’  It was very cruel.”

She stops and pulls out a small handkerchief that she dabs against her eyes.  She takes a drink of water.  And she has the courtroom eating out of her lovely hand.

“Do you need to take a short break, Ms. Rahman?” the judge asks with concern.

“No, thank you Your Honor, I believe I am prepared to continue.”

“Whenever you’re ready.”

“Thank you.  She was very cruel.  Sometimes she would misplace assignments I had, lie that she hadn’t seen them, and then when I was beside myself she would pull them out from some hiding place.  And she laughed at my upset.  She would insist that the courses I was taking were a waste of time, or too easy, and only for dumb foreigners.

“But it is so odd.  After all, she was a foreigner, too.  An American.  It made her very mad if I pointed this out to her.  More than once she would scream at me, ‘I am not American.  I am Japanese.  Just look at my face!  Does it look Japanese or American to you?’  When she got into these moods it was impossible to argue with her.  She was irrational.”

The witness has a habit of punctuating what she deems important material with a slight ducking of the head and coming to a brief pause.  Most eloquent are her hands, elegant in their fluidity, with tapered tips of incarnadine nails and a graceful life of their own;  they move sinuously in front of her, emphasizing, describing, underscoring, a running commentary on the words she speaks.  One thinks of films about Balinese dancers performing traditional ballets.

“What brought you relationship to an end?” Natalie asks.

“She made a trip back to Los Angeles and stayed away for several months.  It was a hard time for me.  I missed her terribly.  I thought about her behavior, but it seemed less awful when she was gone.  Maybe I had been hasty, too judgmental.  I wanted her back.  And when she called and said she was returning, I moved right back together with her.  A great mistake, of course.  She was increasingly impossible, and nothing I did or said met with her approval.  At the end of the academic year I needed to return to my job in Malaysia.  I forced myself to pull away from her, and I think she did not care one way or the other at that point.”

She sighs loudly.

In the course of this recital Mazarine has snuck glances at Yukiko.  The old arrogance is creeping back in her posture and facial expression.  After all, here is just one more case of she-said-she-said.  But – and Mazarine knows her signals well enough to discern what most people could not – there is also a glimmer of anxiety, maybe even fear, floating in her dark eyes.  When their eyes make fleeting contact, she sees only icy hardness and an obdurate defiance in her face.

“She is not a nice person,” Su Lien concludes with an exasperated sigh.

“Objection, Your Honor.  Foundation?”

“That’s what the witness has just been laying, Mr. Kerzy,” the judge says with some irritation.  A few snickers are heard.  “Overruled!”

“I have nothing more for Ms. Rahman,” Natalie concludes.

“Mr. Kerzy?”

He can’t wait to jump into the breach and tear this witness to shreds, and in his undisciplined zeal runs into a passive-aggressive buzz saw.  Natalie thought he would have realized this is not a witness that one should beat up on.  At some level he is no doubt aware of this, but he is desperate to neutralize the extensive damage she has caused to his own star witness by creating a strong reasonable doubt about the veracity of her entire testimony and therefore the putatively murderous personality of the defendant.  He thus commits the litigator’s cardinal sin of asking a question of the witness that he does not know the answer to.

“Yes, thank you, Your Honor.”  He marches with determination up as close to the jury box as he is allowed.  “Ms. Rahman, how much are you being paid to appear here?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?”

“Yes.”

You’re from Sandakan?”

“Yes.”

“Are you rich?”

“No.”

“And you can afford to fly all the way here and back?”

“No.  I am a stewardess for Asean Airlines and I fly for 5% of standard fare wherever I want.  My round trip costs me one hundred U.S. dollars.”

Kerzy knows he’s walked head first into a serious strategic blunder.  He must recoup!

“And your hotel bills?”

“I stay in a hotel associated with my airline, at the same premium.  My two nights in the city cost me thirty U.S. dollars.”

“I see,” the D.A. says, now considerably chastened.  The jury can see the wind petering out of his once taut sails.

“Why would you come ten-thousand miles to tell these lies about Ms. Darling?”

“First, they are not lies, sir.  Second, this woman is dangerous, and I do not believe that the defendant committed …”

“… Your Honor, please advise the witness to be more responsive.”  Kerzy rushes the words out before the witness can cause more damage than she already has.

“Ms. Rahman, you are not allowed to wander off the path.  Please just answer the question and stick to that.”  She fixes her gaze on Kerzy.  “And you, sir, should make your cross-examination less broad in scope.”

Su Lien nods in obedient acquiescence.

“No more questions for this witness.”  Kerzy is surly, and the jurors, like everybody else, knows he’s gotten a short end of a very long stick.  They do not admire his sour attitude.

The judge gives the nod to Natalie, who recalls Yukiko to the stand.

“Let me remind you, Ms. Darling, that you are still under oath.”

Yukiko says nothing but inclines her head in the judge’s direction.  She takes the stand once more, and Mazarine can tell that the woman’s supercilious condescension this time is more a matter of conscious contrivance than innate conviction.  Yukiko, to Mazarine’s trained eye, is booth angry and scared.  The soft languor on display during her previous appearance had now changed into a brittle edginess.  But if she behaves according to cool pattern, she will tough it out and perhaps not leave doubts in the minds of some on the jury as to the veracity of her former testimony.  All it takes, however, is one disbeliever to discredit her prevaricating characterization of Mazarine.

Natalie has, in effect, only one question for the witness.

“Ms. Darling, would like to amend any of your previous testimony regarding the defendant now?”

“I would not,” she say defiantly, sits back, and throws her arms around her chest in a classic display of hostility.  She packages the answer in a sneer sufficiently snide that few could have missed it.  Like most liars when caught out, Yukiko is her own worst advertisement, and the incredulous faces of the jury members telegraph their revised opinions of this haughty woman and, by implication, the defendant.

“Of course,” Natalie quips.  “We have no further use for this witness,” she says curtly and waves her hand dismissively.

Yukiko is dismissed and marches rapidly out of the courtroom, head held high and eyes glittering with rage.

“The people rest, Your Honor,” Natalie announces.

“Any rebuttal witnesses, Mr. Kerzy?” the judge asks.

“No, Your Honor.”

“Very well,” Lombard-Golde announces, we will have closing arguments first thing tomorrow morning.  This court is now adjourned.”  And once more she bangs her gavel and the courtroom is in motion.

In the corridor pool cameras and stringers from near and far try to get something out of Natalie and the defendant for an evening sound bite, but they walk tight-lipped and blank-faced to their room, all the while protected by a flanking rhomboid of courthouse security personnel.

Once inside this shelter from the media mob both Natalie and Danny high-five each other with demonstrative proclamations of ‘Yesss!’  Their enthusiasm rubs off on Mazarine, and she allows herself the first relaxed smile since her private nightmare began last January.

“So,” she queries, “what’s the story?”

“The story, my dear,” Natalie says triumphantly, “is looking very good now, with a better than even chance of a happy ending.  You have to understand that the prosecution has based its case on two foundations, the theory of your jealousy and violent temper, and the hair samples found on the body.  In the case of the latter, there is enough reasonable doubt to drive a Greyhound through.  The prosecution’s own expert witness pretty much demolished any trustworthiness in the accuracy of microscopic hair analysis – as far as the jury is concerned, they have to conclude that hair could have come from anybody.  And Su Lien’s testimony did a very satisfactory job of putting period to Yukiko’s fabrications about you.  I don’t think there was a person in the courtroom who believed her after that, and her own demeanor on recall didn’t do her any favors, that’s for sure.

“Between now and tomorrow morning, Danny and I are going to be working on our closing statement, and I’m hoping the jury will see it our way and you will be free by this time tomorrow.  No promises, but I have to admit I am confident here.”

“Piece of cake,” Danny chimes in fervently.

“And now, we’ve got the limousine waiting outside the courthouse to take us back to the office.  We’ll swing by your apartment and drop you off so you can get a good night’s rest.  Sound O.K. to you?”  Natalie is cranked up.

“Sounds just fine,” Mazarine counters.  She’s feeling pretty high herself.

That night she has trouble falling asleep.  She is tired but not sleepy.  For dinner she simply heated some soup and ate a few crackers with cheese, and then drank two cups of decaf.  She turns the lights out around eleven, but after trying fifty-eleven different positions in the next two hours she finally gets up, drapes herself in a bathrobe, and goes out into the sitting room.  The apartment is quiet but for the low insistent hum of air conditioning noises coming up through the heating ducts.  She pours herself a double shot of Grand Marnier in her favorite snifter and sits warming the liqueur in her hand, sloshing it back and forth slowly.  The familiar aroma soothes her, and she takes a sip, savoring the slight smoldering as it slips down smoothly and spreads a warmth in her belly.  The lights of the silent city below her twinkle in the night, and she lets her mind drift.

She floats back through the years and recalls games with dolls she and Valerie used to play, her best friend Nora from the third grade who was killed in a motorcycle accident in high school, an eight-armed boyfriend she’d had – for a short while — as a freshman in college, long walks with her grandfather in the forest behind their home, favorite books and favorite characters, stupid escapades she’d gotten involved in, some of the men she saw on a regular basis – in short, emotive vignettes from the earlier life of Mazarine Cape as recalled by same on a hot night in July before the day on which she might be convicted of first degree murder – or acquitted of all charges.

Après moi, le déluge.  An aleatory day, her Rubicon.  Et cetera.

Sometime towards four in the morning she wanders back to bed and falls into a restless sleep of disjointed dreams, and when the alarm propels her to an upright position her legs are snarled in the sheets and the thin summer blanket is heaped on the floor at the food of the bed.  Without thought she plunges into a long shower that she ends with fifteen seconds of icy spray.  After dressing her body and psyching her heart she takes the elevator down to the lobby where she waits for the long black limo.

As she stands she is surprised by the ringing of her cell phone.  It is Valerie.  Mazarine almost cries as she hears the soothing voice of her big sister calling from across the continent.

“My gosh, it must be around four thirty out there,” she says.

“Right, honey.  Very long night after a freeway pileup.  I’m just on my way home for a quick nap.  Just wanted to call and tell you I’m thinking about you.”

“Oh, Valerie,” she says and, in spite of herself, begins to cry.  “I can’t tell you how much this call means to me.  I love you so much.”

“Me too,” Valerie says, and Mazarine hears her choking up.  “Gotta run!”

The limo is pulling up and gliding to a stop in front of the door.  “Me too.  And thanks again.  I love you. Val!”

“Me too, honey.  Love you a lot.”  And she clicks off.

Mazarine takes a minute to catch her breath and get herself under control.  Thank goodness I left the mascara off this morning, she thinks en passant and rushes out to the car.

Natalie and Danny look fresh and alert, and, with little exchange of chitchat during the drive, each wrapped in private speculation, soon they are back in the relentless pressure of a ‘glamorous’ trial reaching its conclusion.

As per custom, the prosecution will begin the closing arguments.  Kerzy is dressed in a conservative three-piece summer suit from Brooks Brothers, replete with light blue shirt, dark tie striped in red, tie clasp and collar pin as well as cuff links, and solid brogues in black.  A gold bracelet shows discreetly below the right cuff, and the chain for a pocket watch parabolas down from a small slit pocket in the vest.  He exudes a brimming confidence as he holds court with swarms of visiting sycophants from the city’s vast legal establishment, rises for vigorous hand-shakes and cozy arm-holdings of dignitaries, chats laughingly with his appreciative co-counsels, waves to friends in the pews.

Natalie thinks he’s gone a little overboard on the jewelry.

The judge is announced, and all stand, eager to be getting on with the business of the day.  She rearranges her piles of papers and takes a sip of water.  She dips her head and peers out over her glasses at the hushed expectancy of the packed room.

“Are we ready for closing arguments this morning?” she asks.

“The people are ready, Your Honor,” Kerzy says, standing up and buttoning and unbuttoning his coat twice in the short time it takes him to enunciate his words.

“The defense is ready, Your Honor,” Natalie responds.

Both attorneys sit down.

Natalie is wearing a simple one-piece sheath of pure black that emphasizes her tall sleekness and the creamy off-white of her complexion.  She wears earrings of a faïence-like material glazed in brilliant red, and a broach in the shape of a dragon from the same red material rides high and sinuous between her breasts.  Mazarine is observing the jury, and the men are virtually dazed by Natalie’s dazzling appearance.

“Fine,” Lombard-Golde intones. “Mr. Kerzy?”

“Thank you, Your Honor,” he says, rising and positioning himself in front of the jury box.  He runs a hand against the hair above his right ear and begins.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we are almost at the end of this trial, and on behalf of the People I thank you for your patience and your attention.  There have been many efforts made here to confuse you about the issues at hand, efforts made to sow reasonable doubt in your minds, but I think you are too intelligent to allow yourself to have been led astray from the path that leads to the inevitable truth in this matter.

“The People have a theory of this crime, ladies and gentlemen.  Please give me your full attention one final time as I lay it out before you.

“Consider the defendant’s motives to commit murder.  She had plenty. Let us first of all not forget the unsavory detail of the defendant’s means of earning a living.   The boyfriend of the murdered woman, Officer Darling, had once been a client of the defendant;  this represented a loss of business.   But this jealousy was nothing compared to her jealousy over Yukiko Darling, whom you heard give lengthy testimony here about the unstable personality of the defendant.  She is the kind of person who would feel threatened when her former lover refused to engage in perversion of perversion with her new lover.  And when threatened, and thwarted, this type of personality lashes out in a rage that is as illogical as it is murderous and finds its object in the young woman who now, in the mind of the defendant, had come between her and her lover of long standing.

“Let us now consider the matter of means.  Think of the defendant’s means of livelihood.  I would imagine as you no doubt do yourselves that in such a … a job one runs into all kinds of rough characters, low characters led around by their lusts, who could easily be persuaded to become willing instruments of the defendant’s rage, executing as well as disposing of the victim, the inconvenient lover.

“But we do know that the defendant herself played an essential rôle in the final disposition of the life of Trinh Cao.  The presence of her hair on the corpse of the victim proves that.  It could only have gotten on Ms. Cao from close contact with the defendant shortly before Ms. Cao was murdered.  Finally, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there is that pesky little piece of paper found on the body of the murdered woman, the piece of paper that had the word ‘Mazarine’ written on it.  And we could perhaps draw the not unreasonable inference that the illegible part of that note contained a telephone number, possibly the defendant’s.  At the very least, the note cements the connection between the victim and the defendant.  There is lots of opportunity here, opportunity that is further corroborated by the fact that the defendant was the last person seen with Trinh Cao while she was still alive.”

Kerzy stops talking and heads for the prosecution table, where Jin-Soon has poured him a glass of water that he drinks down.  He walks purposefully over to the jury box and again commences his slow pacing back and forth in front of them.

“You heard the eloquent testimony of Yukiko Darling about the kind of hot-headed temperament, the kind of fickle personality that the defendant has.  Yes, she has been a model of demure behavior as she has sat in this courtroom.  You’ve seen this for yourselves.  But you did not see her when her sexual scheming was in jeopardy, when she did not get her way, when as a result she flew into a rage and decided to take matters into her own hands and plan the murder of an innocent young woman.  No, that ugliness has never come to light in this courtroom.

“But when you take into account all the evidence that has been presented here, I, speaking for the People, believe that you can come back after your deliberations with only one possible verdict, guilty of murder in the first degree.  I thank you for your attention.”

There is a certain spring of satisfaction in his gait as he takes his seat behind the defense table.  To judge from the cant of their shoulders and the forward tilt of their heads, his smug contentment over a job supposedly well done does not appear to be enthusiastically shared by Buzulethi Rowan and Jin-Soon Yook.  It puzzles Natalie, for she finds his closing argument perhaps the flimsiest she has ever heard, barely coherent and certainly not in the least persuasive.  But it is hard to judge from the lithic visages of the jury members what their take on this fragile fabrication has been.

“Ms. Siu,” the judge urges.

“Thank you, Your Honor,” Natalie says.  She stands in front of the jury and folds her hands over her stomach.  She lets a brief silence hang in the morning air.

“We too, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have a theory of this crime.  In fact, we have more than a theory.  We have some solid evidence to back up our theory.

“The prosecution speaks of jealousy as a motive.  Yes, jealousy may well have been a motive at some level of this crime, but whose jealousy?  against whom?  over whom?  If, on the theory proposed by the prosecution, the defendant were jealous, would it be of Trinh Cao who, according, again, to the prosecution, was willing to engage in group sex, or would it be of Yukiko Darling who, by her own testimony, was “shocked” to learn of the defendant’s triadic proclivities and wanted to have nothing to do with such matters?  Or is it possible that Yukiko Darling, outraged by what she saw as the young woman’s move on her former lover, the defendant, decided to teach that young woman a lesson?  Jealousy!  Yes, as you can clearly see, there was no doubt lots of jealousy involved here, but it certainly could not have been Ms. Cape’s jealousy of anybody.

“Next the prosecutor talks of means.  And the means he parades before you are, you have to admit, pretty far-fetched.  Nasty clients she seduced into committing murder in exchange for sex?  Come on, people, there are less risky ways to get sex.  Besides, what makes anyone think the defendant’s client list consists of so-called low-lifes?  Couldn’t they equally well, indeed more reasonably, be assumed to consist of – shall we say – the more respectable …”  — here Natalie makes quotation marks in the air with her two hands – “ … members of the community?  And they are hitmen?  Ladies and gentlemen, this kind of reaching is in the realm of fable.  Come to think of it, her assistants in this dark deed could just as well have been little green men from Mars, couldn’t they?”  There is appreciative laughter from the jury.  “And without proof of such outside help, how and where could my client have killed Trinh Cao?  Nobody has even tried to demonstrate this, for it can’t be demonstrated.  And how could Ms. Cape, who has no car, gotten the body up to the countryside near Dust?

“Our theory also finds laughable the notion that the defendant had opportunity.  Based on what?  A few strands of hair that the prosecution’s own expert witness had to admit could have come from more than twice as many people as are in this very courtroom?  that could perhaps have come from one of you?  You saw the math.  What the prosecution has done is attempt to make you believe that because the hair in question was ‘consistent with’ hair taken from my client that hair was my client’s.  That is an entirely unwarranted, indeed monstrous leap of faith.  All that ‘consistent with’ means is ‘could have been’ – and that is a long way from ‘must have been’.  After all, put in those terms, that hair ‘could have been’ yours, too.  I am sure you see the distinction here that Mr. Kerzy has worked so hard to blur.

“As to the fact that Trinh Cao was last seen in the company of Ms. Cape, well, we do know that a police witness, Officer Jameson, saw the two of them going towards an elevator bank at the hotel Momiji, and that the witness Yukiko Darling says they left together.  But do we know that?  No, we don’t.  We have only the word of a witness the truthfulness of whose poisonous declarations about the defendant’s character is powerfully undermined by the testimony of the woman Su Lien Rahman.  Indeed, we have here one of those cases of she-says-she-says, and only the people present know what really happened.  It is up to you, the members of the jury, to weight the words of both Yukiko Darling and Su Lien Rahman and decide which of the two makes more sense to you.  Do so, and you will surely find there is a strong possibility that the instability and volatile character imputed to the defendant is perhaps more accurately a projection of the witness herself, Yukiko Darling.”

Natalie takes a sip of water from the glass at her table.

“And then there is the famous slip of paper with the name Mazarine.  Do we know how long it had been in that pocket of the murdered woman?  No.  How many times have  you yourselves put on a pair of pants or a coat that you haven’t worn for a while and found a note or a dollar bill or some other item that you then recall was put there ages ago?  The ‘Mazarine’ note could have been put in that pocket a long while back, it could have been put there the same day Trinh Cao was murdered.  Laboratory tests cannot decide the issue for us, and we shall in all likelihood never know for a certainty.  But in either case, the note is probative of nothing relating to the murder.  It only proves that at some point, somebody – yes, the block printing on the note makes it impossible to tell with certainly who even wrote the note – wrote the name ‘Mazarine’ and some other things on the note and Trinh put it in her pocket, or it was put in her pocket by somebody else.  A reminder of some sort perhaps?  a phone number maybe?  But by no means any kind of evidence for murder.  From just that piece of paper?  I know that you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have more sense than to make such a gratuitous leap of logic.  That piece of paper is, as they say, a wash.  Like the hair, it is a red herring that stinks to high heaven.

“Members of the jury, all that is required for an acquittal here is that you have reasonable doubt that the defendant committed this murder.  And given the quality of prosecution testimony and information presented in this trial in an attempt to show that my client is guilty, any reasonable person will have to entertain reasonable doubt that a case against her has in fact been made.  Thank you.”

The judge now addresses herself to the jury and issues her instructions, including a definition of what reasonable doubt means.  She asks them to appoint a foreperson and begin their deliberations after lunch, and to let her know through a court assistant when they have reached a unanimous verdict.  She wishes them God’s speed and adjourns the morning session.

There is the usual stampede for the exit so that cell phones can come into play and reports be filed for the early afternoon editions.  Hours of filmed reportage are sent to studios for editing into thirty-second sound bites to run every half hour between now and the time a verdict is announced.

The limousine from Wu, Hsien, Blair & Balthazar has picked the defense team up at a side-entrance to the court building so they could avoid all but the most persistently pesky reporters and TV crews, and they are whisked to the main office, where lunch awaits them in something less than the spartan surroundings of the dingy room they’ve had assigned to them in the court house.  Both Natalie and Danny are rather upbeat during the ride, but Mazarine is numb.  She realizes with a kind of panic choking her like a thick smoke about her heart that these could be her last hours of freedom for a great many years.  She concentrates on the people, the traffic, the buildings that whiz by – how long until she will be free to enjoy such sights again?  She feels queasy, and food, no matter how excellent, is the last thing on her mind.  She wants closure on this living nightmare she has starred in for the last six months.  Today she may get it.

She joins Danny and Natalie in a private dining room but only drinks Pepsi.  She is content to watch the other two satisfy their undiminished appetites.  Well, they are not the ones who’ll end up in an eight by ten cell if things don’t go right in the jury room.  It is truly monstrous to her that she should even be in this position:  she has done nothing, and certainly not murder.  What kind of country is she living in?  Will she be allowed to take any of the books from her library with her to prison?  Is it true what they say about the savagery of prison life, where physical strength is all?  She shudders as she goes down that path in her boiling imagination.

After lunch is cleared away Natalie and Danny invite her to relax in one of the easy chairs in the room while they go off to their offices to catch up on other matters.  Natalie assures her they will let her know the minute they hear that the jury has reached a verdict.  Natalie appears reasonably hopeful that it may come to that before the day is out.

At least she has the luxury of this plush waiting room, so to speak, whereas the others who attended the trial must perforce wait in the rowdy corridors of the court house, jostling with the media, avoiding the media, talking to the media.  On the way back to the offices of her lawyers she had caught sight of some of her clients, including Dr. Hoacman, Walter, Len B. Hooper and Nathan Hoe.  Michelle was there with some of her brood.  Both her parents had been there today, her father having put his surgeries on hold in order to support his daughter.  And, much to her surprise, Melissa Bee, the Latin professor she’d read Cicero with some ten years ago, had been in attendance and even flashed her a smile as she was leaving the courtroom.  As she sinks down into the too comfortable chair she begins to drift off and make up for the lost sleep during the last few nights.

When she is gently shaken awake, the light in the room has turned a dimmer shade.  Natalie is standing above her, her eyes aglitter.  “The jury’s back, honey.  The jury’s back!”

“That seems awfully fast, doesn’t it?”

“Yes.  I agree.  But by and large I believe it is good news for us.”  Mazarine is getting up from her comfortable position and stretching.  “Let’s go.  The limo is waiting for us downstairs.  The judge wants to wind this thing up before the weekend.”

Mazarine looks at her watch, and it is almost five o’clock.  She has slept almost four hours and feels refreshed.  And utterly terrified.

The stairs leading up to the entrance of the looming building is jammed with media, and it takes some time for a flying squadron of security people to escort the defense team through the screaming and pushing mob demanding attention.  Mazarine looks straight ahead, and neither lawyer says anything, not even ‘No Comment’.

If possible, the corridor is even more chaotic, and the courtroom itself is already packed.  In short order the doors are closed, the judge enters and all stand, she waves them down, and a bailiff announces that court is now in session.  The tension crackles in the room, palpable.  The air — indifferent to the slow whirring of fans in the ceiling — is heavy, oppressive, humid as if enveloping some tropical world.

But in the end, it is short and sweet.

“Madame Forewoman, has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, Your Honor.”

“And is your verdict unanimous?”

“It is, Your Honor.”

“Please hand the bailiff your verdict.”

The bailiff carries a folded piece of paper to the judge’s raised podium.  It is as though people have stopped breathing, all effort gone into looking at the mystical talisman the judge reads, without change of expression.

“How say you all?” she asks the forewoman, who has remained standing.

“In the matter of the People versus Mazarine Cape on the charge of murder in the first degree, we the jury find the defendant Not Guilty.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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