~ Wednesday April 21
It’s obvious the accused is guilty.
Put aside the evidence and look at her face.
8:00 a.m. It had been over five weeks since Nigel disappeared and Leslie filed the lawsuit against me. My life looked very different. Instead of romantic, gourmet dinners with Nigel, it was usually supper from a can.
Instead of luxurious trips, it was driving from one temp job to another. I was desperate for money and Leslie was preventing me from working in real estate. I was completely boxed in. No income – all outgo.
Early the next morning, I walked into the offices of Katz, Pillar and Gross, properly attired in my best black suit. Ready for anything. Or so I thought.
Gross stepped toward me in his starched white shirt, black slacks and red suspenders. Marching in precise time to him was a twenty-something man.
“Ms. Harte,” Gross started over. “This is Aaron Stephens.”
Aaron Stephens nodded, puppy-like.
“Aaron will represent you this morning.” Gross said.
“Excuse me. What do you mean? You’re my lawyer.”
“Quite simply, you can’t afford me. I have filled Aaron in on the details of your case. He will do a fine job.” Gross looked like he was sniffing the air.
“You can’t do this. It is illegal, unethical, un-American...”
I complained until Gross was out of range.
“Ms. Harte?” young Aaron said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get you ready for your deposition. We only have thirty minutes before show time.”
“Is that what you call it? Show time?” I asked.
“Mr. Gross did tell you that your deposition is to be video taped?”
“What? Is Leslie nuts? I refuse.”
“It’s too late to refuse. You had ten days notice,” said Aaron.
“Mr. Gross did.”
“That two-timing, red suspendered twit. I’ve been shanghaied.”
9:00 a.m. We sat at the conference table facing two cameras and three lawyers. Young Aaron leaned over and said, “This is so exciting. Everyone is asking me if this is a murder case.”
I wanted to thump the kid on the head.
“Look this way, Ms. Harte,” the cameraman directed.
I thought sure they would call for “Makeup.” I knew my only way through this was to put on a brave front. So, fake it I did.
A short man with storm-trooper eyes and lacquered black hair strutted in. “That’s Dallas Little,” Aaron whispered to me. Great, my kid lawyer is in awe of opposing counsel.
Little and a lawyer named Funk sat side by side with a pile of books and papers between them. This was the first time I had seen Little up close. He smelled of dried blood and POLO.
“Ready, Missus Harte?” Little said, salivating.
“It’s Ms. Not missus. And no. You have no right to do this.”
“Ms. Harte, let me present you with a copy of the court order granting permission to video record your deposition.”
“I’ve never seen this before.”
“Well then that’s a problem between you and your attorney…isn’t it? If you refuse to cooperate you can and will be held in contempt of court. A warrant for your arrest will be issued. I suggest you cooperate.”
This was one of those dirty tricks I had heard about. I tried to remember what the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure said about notices of depositions. In my panic, I drew a blank. Little flashed me a nasty look. “Let’s begin, Ms. Harte.”
I didn’t want to be in contempt of court. Damn that Gross. He never warned me, he never argued for me against this lynch mob.
Little verified my name, address and employment situation.
“Ms. Harte, you’ve been married, why were you divorced?”
I leaned toward Aaron. “This has nothing to do with why we’re here. It’s irrelevant,” I whispered into his tender ear.
“Sir, that’s irrelevant,” Aaron said to Little.
The cameras whirred on.
“Did you ever lose a hat?” Little shoved the question at me. The lawyer at his side scribbled a note to him.
I flashed Little a look of disgust, knowing it would be caught on film. I’d be damned if I would buckle. He wanted tough? He was gonna get tough.
“Yes, I believe I may have lost a hat. I may have even lost two.”
Wherever Little was going with his stupid hat question, the point dissolved and he flushed. Score one for me.
We bounced ridiculous questions and answers back and forth. They were surprise questions designed to shake me. I answered sharply. My words calculated to underline the lunacy of this circus.
10:15 a.m. The video lights grew hotter. All I could see through the yellow glare were the black marble eyes of the rodent Leslie had set upon me. His questions grew sillier.
I laughed once or twice. Little became angry. “We’ve been at this for over an hour. Let’s take a break,” he said. “We’ll resume in ten minutes.”
He bared his teeth at me. Was he thinking of the blood coursing in my neck? “Be back here in ten minutes, Missus Harte,” he said.
“Sure, Miss Little,” I said.
Aaron ran to his office, and I hit the ladies’ room. I lingered, not wanting to be caught in an off-camera moment with Little and his associate. I waited ten minutes, popped half a Xanax, and headed back to the staging area.
I ran smack into Leslie leaving the men’s room.
“You look a little tired on camera, Alice,” he smirked, excited to have been watching me without my knowledge.
“You’re a sick man, Leslie.”
“Do you believe in evil?” he asked.
“Don’t flatter yourself. You are not anything as exotic as “evil.” You’re just a victim of Control Domination Response.”
Leslie’s pale eyes flashed red when he realized I knew about his CDR. Maris had betrayed his confidence.
“What you do to me doesn’t count a smidge.” I said. “All that matters in this glorious world is how I respond to your behavior.” I hugged myself and twirled away from him. “Besides, I know what you did.” I bluffed and blew him a kiss.
“Bitch.” he yelled after me.
“Dust mite.” I called back, maturely.
Young Aaron was atwitter when we finally sat back down. “This deposition is costing Archer over ten thousand dollars. He must want you very badly. I wish this was my case.”
Another four hours of nonsense questions and we were through. The camera men were sweating. Little’s tan suit was soaked in perspiration and his shirt collar bore makeup smudges.
I grossed out over imagining what Leslie would do with this video when he watched in a darkened room.