One Fleeting GlancebyCromagnonman©
I had seen her every day for the last three weeks, her poise, and the confident way that everything she did reflected that self confidence, was evident to me and everyone else who saw her.
Our eyes met for the first time this morning. There would have been at least a dozen people between us on the train, but it felt as if we, in that one fleeting moment, were alone. There was a sense of familiarity in her eyes as they lingered briefly on mine and, with that one look she had me captive. I was in love.
We were part of the throng that got off at City Centre station. We were part of the throng that walked up Main Street. Over the past three weeks I had lost her in the throng about here, but not this morning, this morning was different because I made the decision, the very second our eyes met, that I would look out for her in the crowd and find out where she worked. So I followed her. I followed her into my building. I followed her into the elevator. She glanced briefly in my direction as I entered and moved to the back of the elevator car, there was no recognition in that glance. I followed her to her floor before realising that it was also my floor.
Intrigued I walked down the passage to the staff entrance of my office, noticing as I did that she headed in the opposite direction towards a rival Law Office. 'Very intriguing indeed, and well worth following up on.' I thought as I walked to my desk.
It was with difficulty that I dragged my attention from the vision of her to the brief in front of me. 'Get a grip.' I told myself, 'You have a court appearance in an hour and there is still work to be done.'
My phone buzzed to tell me that my client, Peter, was waiting in Reception for our final pre-trial conference. He was fighting a speed infringement notice where the police officer booked him for travelling at 94 km/h in an 80 zone.
"Now the officer will give his evidence first, and he will state, under oath, that he clocked you up until you hit 94 and then he locked his laser gun at that speed so that you wouldn't have to pay the higher fine if he had clocked you at 95. This he did so that you would think he was doing you a favour and not fight the infringement notice."
"Now this is where we challenge his evidence, the Prosecution isn't going to like it, but we have no choice, we have to establish doubt in the mind of the Magistrate."
"After he has given his evidence it is our turn and I will call you to the stand. Now your evidence is straight forward, you will swear that you, because of the steep slope and the fact that you were driving an automatic vehicle that has little, if any, engine braking available to it, accidentally allowed your speed to creep up, briefly, to 84 at the point where he would have checked your speed, at which time you applied the brakes and reduced your speed to below the speed limit. 84 is an acceptable speed due to instrument inaccuracy allowances in some cars."
"The prosecution will challenge your evidence and when it is their turn to sum up they will claim that it is a case of your word against that of a sworn officer of the law. What we are going to have to do is to convince the Magistrate otherwise, and this is where I play my trump card. I am confident we can beat this."
We left the office and walked the short distance to the court. After checking the list for the morning session, Peter and I sat on a bench outside waiting to be called. Time staggers by slowly in situations like this. Eventually the Clerk came out and called Peter's name. We went inside and to my shock, there she was, seated at the Prosecution table. She was a Junior Solicitor for the Prosecution.
A hint of recognition crossed her face when she looked at Peter and I as we took our positions. The Prosecutor called Senior Sergeant Gerard Thomas to the stand and he was duly sworn in. He was taken quickly and expertly through his testimony and turned over to me for cross-examination.
"Sergeant Thomas, you gave evidence that you turned your speed detection device, your laser gun, off so that my client would not face an even greater penalty, is that correct?"
"That is correct."
"Very magnanimous gesture, do you do it often?"
"Not often, no."
"But in this case you did?"
"That is correct."
"So your laser gun can be locked off at any time?"
"That is correct."
"How many bookings on that day, at that location, did you make where the speed was 94 kilometres per hour?"
"I didn't keep count, but not that many."
"Let me draw your attention to your booking sheet for that day and that location. Now, according to this you issued 35 infringement notices, not a bad haul I would suggest."
"It was a good day, yes."
"According to this sheet, some 22 of those bookings were for a speed of 94 kilometres per hour, now doesn't that seem a little strange to you?"
"I don't dictate how fast people drive."
"But your Superiors might take a dim view that instead of getting 320 dollars for each of those bookings they only got 160 dollars. That's a loss to them of three thousand fivr hundred and twenty dollars. I know that if you worked for me and gave away that amount of money I wouldn't be pleased." Sergeant Thomas stared at his feet.
"Could there be another explanation for this strange coincidence?"
"No further questions of this witness." As I sat down I glanced at her. She had smiling eyes, and they were smiling at me. My heart skipped a beat and I almost didn't here the Magistrate telling that it was my turn.
I took Peter through his evidence and then it was the Prosecutor's turn. Peter gave his answers in a confident manner that the Prosecutor couldn't shake. We lost nothing from this. Now it was time for our trump card.
"I call Mister Stephen Vickery." A tall thin man with long, receding hair and a permanent stoop entered the court. "Mister Vickery, would you state for the court your occupation."
"I am a Senior Instrument Technician for the Avionics Section of the Department of Science, Defence Technology."
"And what do your duties involve?"
"I manufacture and test a range of high tech instruments used in the aviation and aerospace industries."
"And does this involve speed measuring and tracking devices?"
"Yes it does."
"So you are familiar with the various speed measuring devices in use by the Police Force in this state?"
"Very much so."
"You sound as if you have some reservations about these instruments?"
"The latest ones are almost fool, and tamper proof."
"I have here a Laser Speed Measuring Device that is in every way identical to the one used by Sergeant Thomas on the day in question. I would like your assessment as to the reliability and accuracy of this particular model?"
"There were several problems identified in this particular machine, the most notable being is lack of accuracy in tracking the speed of vehicles that were travelling down a steep incline."
"As in this case?"
"And this particular device, has it been replaced by a better model?"
"Yes and no."
"Yes and no?"
"While it has been superseded some are still in operation."
"At the time of the incident in question, if you were a Police Officer who had concerns as to the accuracy of this instrument, given the availability of better models, and you were going to be checking the speed of vehicles travelling down a steep hill, would this be your instrument of choice?"
"The inaccuracy that you mentioned, does it give a reading higher or lower than the actual speed travelled?"
"And the Police are aware of this?"
"This machine, does it have a time and date stamp on the display?"
"And when the operator locks off the speed on the display, this stays until the display is reset, is this correct?"
"Yes, in fact I have heard of officers locking off their laser gun and using that speed to book several motorists."
"Objection!" The Prosecutor was on his feet in a flash. "This is hearsay."
The die had been cast. I moved on. "Mister Vickery, did you test the accuracy of the speedometer of my client's vehicle?"
"Yes, and I found it to be accurate to within 1 percentage point."
"So, if he, as he has stated, observed his speedometer indicating a speed of 84 kilometres per hour, what, when you tested his vehicle, was the actual speed?"
"83.6 Kilometres per hour."
"Less than the indicated speed?"
"Marginally less, yes"
"Not 94 kilometres per hour as Sergeant Thomas has testified?"
"No, it would not be possible for that difference to have occurred."
"And when did you test the vehicle?"
"On the same day of the infringement notice, within 2 hours of its issue in fact."
"That will be all, thank you."
"Mister Vickery," The Prosecutor was taking his time to frame his first question, the evidence given by Vickery had come out of left field, he hadn't been told of any problems with the laser gun. "The testing protocol used by you, is there any margin for error."
The look Vickery gave was pure incredulity, he couldn't believe that anyone would pose such a question. "The best way that I can answer that is to give you an example. Take, if you will, the situation in which one of our highly trained fighter pilots is travelling at Mach 2, that is twice the speed of sound, in an aeroplane that has cost this country some six and a half billion dollars to buy and equip. The instrumentation on that plane has to be accurate to a tolerance of one thousandth of one percent. If it isn't we are in great danger, in fact it would be a certainty, of losing not only a very expensive piece of technology, but the life of a highly trained pilot. We used the same testing protocol on the defendant's motor vehicle. There is no margin for error, unlike I suggest, the equipment used in this case by the police."
"Thank you, that will be all."
The Magistrate sat and stared at Sergeant Thomas for several minutes before he began bringing down his verdict. "Sergeant Thomas, while the counsel for the Defendant stopped short of accusing you of using faulty equipment, knowing it to be faulty, for your own advantage, and that advantage was to increase the number of infringement notices that you issue. I am not going to be so cautious, Sergeant Thomas I am going to recommend to the Police Department that they examine the records of all officers who used that equipment, paying special attention to the locations where they were used, and if it is found that officers deliberately set up these speed traps in locations where there was a steep downhill slope, I will recommend that all of the infringement notices be cancelled, that fines be repaid, demerit points be re-instated and if a motorist has had his or her licence cancelled as a result of such infringement notice, especially if that person has lost employment as a result, that the licence be returned and compensation paid. I find that the defendant is not guilty of the infringement for which he has been charged. I also award costs against the Police Department. The gavel banged down on the bench. End of story.
Peter shook my hand and thanked me and, as we left I felt someone grab my sleeve. I turned to look into the most beautiful big blue eyes that I have ever seen. "Hi, Mister Staunton, I had to stop you to tell you that you were very impressive back there. You're the first person to successfully challenge a laser gun fine."
"Th-th-th-ank y-y-you." My knees had turned to jelly and my tongue to mush. With a superhuman effort I managed to stammer out, "Lunch, free are you?"
"Yes, I think I will, thank you. I'll be right back." She slipped back into the courtroom only to emerge a couple of minutes later with a bag over her shoulder. "By the way, I'm Emily Browning, and I don't know your first name."
"Sorry, it's Timothy, Tim for short."
We were a study in contrasts, she was exquisitely dressed in a dark pinstriped and well tailored suit with a white blouse that was buttoned down the front. She wore black stockings and black patent leather shoes with a three inch heel that brought her up to something like my height.
I on the other hand wore a crumpled dark grey suit that was shiny where my bum sat on enumerable chairs, my shirt was blue and where it could be seen, ironed, I didn't intend to take off my coat in public. There were three creases on my trousers running almost parallel to each other leading down to my shoes that I bought months ago and had yet to be introduced to boot polish.
Her hair was pulled back in a French roll and there was a black plastic clip holding it all together. My hair looked the same as it had done yesterday because I haven't brushed it since yesterday.
Her makeup looked as if it had been applied by a professional makeup Artiste, while my face was dominated by a two day old beard.
She allowed me to lead her to a café that I frequented infrequently but which I knew served good food. So it was that the Odd Couple were seated at the rear of the City Centre Café (Open 5 days, 9:00am to 5:00pm.) picking our way through a large calamari with fresh garden salad and washed down with a cup of coffee that was accompanied by a slice of homemade baked cheesecake.
"Do you catch that train every day?" She asked shortly after swallowing a mouthful of food.
"Yes, I guess that I'm a creature of habit when it comes to work. I like to be in my office early so that I can relax and prepare myself for the day ahead. There's nothing worse than having to rush for your first appointment, it puts you behind the eight ball for the rest of the day." I was prattling to hide my nervousness.
"I thought that I noticed you since I started catching that train about three weeks ago. I've just moved back in with my parents, temporarily until I get back on my feet."
"I saw you going into an office down the hall from mine this morning, you don't work there do you?"
"No. As you may have gathered, I work for the DPP's office. I just had to call in on my way to work to pick up some paperwork to do with my divorce." There was a note of sadness in her voice and she seemed to lose a little of her self confidence.
"You can't be getting a divorce, you're not even old enough to be married, surely."
"Aren't you sweet. I'm twenty-five and I was married for three years, it ended a little over a year ago."
"And who is this absolute idiot who doesn't want to stay married to you?"
"You're good you know. You are on a fishing expedition, trying to find out all the gory details about the end of my marriage. Well it is pretty boring and mundane really. We were married too young, too immature, and neither of us were really ready for the responsibility of cohabitation. So he left me and he's moved on. I stayed in our apartment for a while but then I found that I couldn't shake his memory completely, so I sold the place and moved back home. The paperwork is part of the property settlement."
"And have you moved on?"
"If you mean do I have a boyfriend, or have I rejoined the social circuit of predatory single females looking to sink their talons into some poor unsuspecting male, no. And you, is there a Mrs Brilliant Solicitor lurking in the background?"
"Good Lord, no! I mean, who'd have me?" I was shamelessly fishing for compliments here.
"You want me to tell you that I'm flabbergasted that no-one has succumbed to your sophisticated charm, your boyish good looks and your obvious intelligence and is prepared to overlook the minor faults such as your grooming and the fact that you are wearing the same clothes that you wore yesterday, and the day before, you see I did notice you. Well I'm not going to tell you that."
"Changing the subject, why on earth are you working for the DPP? I would have thought that a young, drop dead gorgeous, talented and have I mentioned sophisticated, Solicitor such yourself would have had thousands of offers from randy Senior Partners of the top Law Practices offering you a job."
"You can blame my father for that. He is one of those randy Senior Partners of whom you speak, and he has decided that, before I can join his firm I have to do the hard yards, to cut my teeth in the real world, to experience the cut and thrust of the grass roots legal world. So I have to work for at least a year with the DPP to gain experience of the prosecution side of criminal law. Today I was observing traffic matters as part of that process."
"What did you learn?"
"I learned that I shouldn't assume that all police are honest. I learned that a good Prosecutor should look at all aspects of a case to try and predict the defence strategy, and if possible establish a case to negate that strategy. I also learned a few tricks about presenting a case before a Magistrate that is different to that where there is a jury. I liked the way that you stopped short of accusing the good Sergeant of dodgy practices in a way that made it perfectly clear to the Magistrate that it is exactly what he had been doing."
"One does learn the tricks of the trade when you have been at as long as I have."
"Oh, and how many thousand years have you been at it?"
"A little over a year, but then I'm a fast learner. Tell me, are you absolutely certain that you want to work for your father?"
"What do you have in mind?"
"I thought that you might be interested in what I do for a crust. I must warn you that if your motivation to practice law is to make a fortune mine is not the side of law to get into. How would you like to sit in on some of my cases, to observe life at the other end of the legal spectrum?"
"If what I saw today isn't your bread and butter, what is?"
"There's a minefield of white collar crime, where unscrupulous businesses rip off the little man, where multi national corporations run roughshod over their much smaller business rivals, even where government is not doing the right thing by it's constituents. I usually don't make much more than standard fees unless we win and get costs."
"I'd like that. I'll see if I can swing some leave, with pay of course. Give me your card and I'll call you when I have it sorted, actually better yet, why don't I drop by your office later and we can discuss this and maybe after that you can take me to dinner?"
"Is that a date?"
"I believe it is."
We finished our meal and, as we parted outside the Café she took my hand and kissed me. "See ya Timfashort." And she was gone. What a head-spin. I couldn't get cloud nine to work so I had to walk back to my office.
I have never had an afternoon that went by so slowly. Ten hours after I left her at 1:00pm the clock on my wall had only just clicked over to 5:00pm and, instead of the usual clamour of people rushing from their desks to get home or to the bar or wherever it was that people rushed to at this time, there was a deathly hush, except, in the distance and getting closer, was the sound of footsteps muffled by the carpet.
As she passed each cubicle there was an audible exhalation and the sound of someone getting up and peering at the back of Emily. Each person's brain clicked into gear and the same questions were asked; 'Who the fuck is that and who is the lucky bastard she is going to see.
It is a long walk to my tiny cubby hole of a cubicle and Emily was taking her time, savouring the attention she was getting. With each step my standing among the predominately male heterosexual population of the offices of Smythe, Branch and Branch, Barristers and Solicitors, rose dramatically to dizzying heights. Whereas my position was largely regarded as the person least likely to attract the attention of a member of the opposite sex apart from my mother, I could see that being elevated to a position close to that of the younger Branch, who was regarded by everyone as the major cocksman of the firm.