~ Thursday May 13
Alice had never been in a court of justice before, but she had read about them in books, and she was quite pleased to find that she knew the name of nearly everything there. “That’s the judge,” she said to herself...
7:00 a.m. “The condemned ate a big breakfast,” I told myself while I prepared a mushroom omelet. It tasted of England and made me think of Nigel and the fun times. A tear found its way into my left eye.
I washed down the last of the egg with strong coffee. “Here I come, Leslie.” I was wearing my black suit with pencil straight skirt, the collar of my gold satin blouse just showing at the neckline. My hair was pulled back in a serious black barrette and I kept my makeup to a minimum. I looked very lawyerly. I kissed a sleeping Lily and whispered “later” to Dana. I left to face Leslie and his goons knowing what had happened to Sunglasses could be my fate as well.
8:30 a.m. A power surge went through me when I entered the courtroom. Maybe it was the Xanax kicking in or was it the mushrooms in the omelet? I looked over my right shoulder at Leslie’s lawyers; they were edgy waiting for their boss to arrive.
The courtroom was larger than I expected. It was all polished wood and money-green carpet – a theater of theatrics. My table was on the left side of the room. Leslie’s gang had the table on the right.
Ron looked hunky as he carried my set of exhibit books and laid them down on our table. There were four evidence books from opposing counsel. Each book weighed at least fifteen pounds and was full of stuff and nonsense designed to overwhelm me with useless paper work. I was thankful for his moral support and grateful for his physical strength. I could never have carried the books from my car into the courtroom in one trip.
I smiled at Ron using the eye contact for an excuse to sneak another look at Leslie’s team. Opposing counsel's table was every bit as large as ours and crowded with disheveled lawyers. Yuck. Surely Leslie could have done better. His lead gun, Dallas Little, was the only one of the pack who dressed with any style.
George Glick was hired by Leslie to represent Algy Green. Glick weighed in at over three hundred pounds. His coat failed to button by at least a foot, and it was too short to cover his rump. Whenever he bent over, which was frequently, his trousers wedged into his butt cheeks.
“Glick is clueless. They call him Bubba,” Ron whispered to me.
Bubba? Marisol-of-the-gold-teeth dated a married lawyer called Bubba.
8:55 a.m. Leslie arrived, wearing a suit that must have cost ten-thousand dollars. He still looked awful. The jacket hung on his bony frame. Crime or Metamucil, something was draining him. He walked over to me. “I hear you’re without a lawyer,” he smirked.
I forced a confident smile. “I know what you did.”
Leslie blanched and turned away.
“What are they writing?” said Alice.
“Why they’re putting down their own names,
in case they forget them before the trial is over.”
9:00 a.m. A bell rang and Leslie moved to his seat. The bailiff called the Court to order and the judge entered. We all stood.
The judge was female, about fifty-five, with a stubby body. She wore a long white wig like the judge in Alice in Wonderland. Bum luck pulling a lady-judge. I’ve learned that women are usually less compassionate with other women. She wasn’t going to be sympathetic to my flights of fancy. The worst part was she was probably in Leslie’s pocket.
As I slipped into position at our table my straight skirt rose up my legs. I tugged at the hem catching my bracelet on my pantyhose at mid-thigh. I struggled to free the gold links from the tougher than steel fibers of my run-resistant hose. My every movement succeeded in tangling me with myself. My right wrist felt permanently attached to my right thigh eight inches short of being obscene.
As the true horror of my situation sank into my brain, I watched the lawyers take turns going up to the podium to announce their names and whom they represented. Dallas Little was attorney for Leslie Archer. Glick waddled up to the stand, “George Blackstone Glick for the plaintiff, Algernon Green” he said in a big, booming voice.
“And for the Defense?” the judge asked.
I was sweating. I couldn’t stay in my seat. You had to walk up and announce yourself. I edged out of the chair bent over, hobbling, wrist on thigh, and skirt way up where it shouldn’t have been. I tried to act as professional as I could under the circumstances. I flashed the judge a self-deprecating smile.
“Alice Harte. I am here today in my own defense, Your Honor. I am pro se.” I couldn’t reach the microphone on the podium, so I spoke as loudly as I could considering my face was on my stomach.
The courtroom was silent; you could have heard a lawyer drop.
The judge looked flabbergasted. “Are you mocking me?” she snapped.
“Your Honor I have a problem. May I go behind the bench?”
“The correct terminology is ‘May I approach the bench?’”
I hunched forward, pigeon stepping toward her. There were twitters of laughter in the courtroom. The judge banged her gavel. “Silence. Ms. Harte if you are attempting to make a mockery of this court, I will not take it lightly. Now straighten up.”
The judge’s bench was a good three feet taller than my head. I waddled as close as I could and mouthed the words ‘Panty hose are stuck.’ She didn’t get it.
I figured if I could get behind the judicial platform I could take off my panty hose and roll them up with the bracelet and be done with it. The bailiff was one step behind me as I slipped around the bench and under the judge’s chair. I guessed he’d never seen anyone act that way in court before because he stood there dumbstruck and then broke into gales of laughter. The spectators joined him. The noise was so loud the judge’s gavel-banging couldn’t be heard. It was twenty minutes before they all got quiet and I felt secure enough to walk out from under the judge’s chair. I did so with all the dignity I could muster. I pretended I was Joan of Arc going to the stake.
“We will recess while the court regains its composure. Ms. Harte, I trust this is not a sign of things to come. I will not tolerate tomfoolery.”
I sat down next to Ron. “Ricky…”
“Welcome back, Lucy.”
The judge trounced back into her chambers with Dallas Little at her heels.
I turned to face a courtroom of laughing faces. The joke was on me. So far things were not going as smoothly as I had hoped.
10:00 a.m. Thirty minutes later the judge popped back in the courtroom with no further mention of my pantyhose debacle.
The roll call of witnesses was announced. My witness list was small. Ron would be my character witness. Salli would testify to Leslie’s style of doing business. My heart froze when I heard Nigel’s name pronounced. I held no hope for his appearance. The last name on the list was my own. I would have a chance to speak my mind and clear my name.
Glick placed a revised copy of their witness list in front of me.
“Elizabeth Channing? What does she have to do with this?” Her name was two lines down from the top of the page.
“Object,” Ron whispered.
“She could actually work in my favor. ‘The Mad Woman of the Mail Slot’ might ruin their case.”
Algy Green’s name was called out. I scanned the room to see if he was there. I was looking for super-glued ears and talcum powdered hair.
Glick jumped up. “Your Honor, Mr. Green is obviously the witness coming from the furthest distance since he is coming from London. If I may ask, Your Honor, if it is possible to work around his limited schedule?”
“Within reason, Mr. Glick, can you give me a time frame to work with?”
“Yes, Your Honor, he will be here at two this afternoon. He has to fly back to England on a four o’clock flight, Your Honor.”
“He’ll be on the stand for less than an hour? That’s perfect. Ms. Harte, do you have any objection to allowing Mr. Green’s testimony this afternoon?”
I composed myself and walked to the podium. “Your Honor, I do object. I haven’t been allowed to depose Mr. Green. I have no idea what his testimony will be. That’s not fair.”
“It’s much too late for fairness, Ms. Harte.” The judge smiled. “Discovery is over.”
“But I never had a chance. Dallas Little and Mr. Glick ignored my requests. I've filed a Motion to Dismiss because they – opposing counsel – won’t cooperate with me.”
“I haven’t seen your Motion to Dismiss.”
“Well, I filed it with the court, Your Honor,” I extended my arms palms up in the air and shrugged.
“Well, I can’t find it... dear,” the judge said sarcastically then turned to Bubba. “Mr. Glick, are you confident you can complete your questioning in that time?”
“I see no problem, Your Honor.”
“And what about Elizabeth Channing? At what time do you expect her?”
“I believe she will be arriving at the same time, Your Honor, but she is more flexible. She’ll be available all week.”
“Oh, great,” I whispered to Ron. “The stalking starts again.”
The judge smiled malevolently, overruled my objection and called for the first witness.
Little stood and cleared his throat. “We call Leslie Archer.”
Leslie walked to the witness stand looking like a salamander, his large pale eyes rotating in his skull. He was sworn in and we were underway.
“Explain your business with Alice Harte,” Little prompted.
“Alice Harte entered into a contract with Archer Resorts to sell golf course villas. She tried to walk away from our agreement.”
“And she is guilty of?”
“Alice Harte conspired with Nigel Channing, her boyfriend, to commit a fraud. She passed herself off as the owner of my property, Lizard Links, and sold it to Algernon Green. She kept the deposit money in the amount of five hundred thousand dollars.”
Dallas Little grasped his throat theatrically. “Five hundred thousand dollars.”
Leslie glared at me. “When this trial is over, I’m going to seek criminal charges against Ms. Harte.”
“Your witness, Ms. Harte,” Dallas Little said.
I rose and walked to the witness stand. Leslie tried to break me with his eyes. I stared back at him for all I was worth. I was a flower in the center of a hurricane. I felt strangely calm as if I’d taken one too many Xanax. I just didn’t give a fig anymore.