Terry and DavidbyDinsmore©
"What happened to Terry?"
"No one has a clue. She just sort of disappeared within days. If Gayle knows---which I have to believe she does as close as they were---she's not talking."
It had been something more than idle curiosity but certainly little more. He hoped she was okay and that life would be kind to her. She had been the first girl he'd ever 'sort of' had sex with and he had a fond remembrance of her but didn't sense that it was anything more than that. He doubted he'd ever see her again. In fact, he would end up never returning to that part of the world for the remainder of his life. His parents had moved soon after he finished high school. Any friends he had were scattered across the country.
David graduated with honors; the draft was still a reality and there was a war. He decided to go to law school if for no other reason than to keep his deferment. Maybe the war would be over by the time he got a law degree. At the time the military was desperate for lawyers and projecting a critical deficit in the next three years. One of the services approached him within weeks of his acceptance to law school. The financial incentives they offered were too good to pass up. He would receive a reserve commission and a generous stipend which essentially meant that he wouldn't have to take a job while studying the law. When he graduated he would immediately go on active duty and have a reasonable period of time to take and pass the bar exam. His three year commitment would begin the day he was admitted to the federal bar.
In those days, the old LLB or two year law degree was rapidly being replaced by the three year Juris Doctorate. He'd owe one year of active duty for each year of law school. He would enter service as an O3 or Lieutenant in the Navy and a Captain in the other services if he took the two year degree. His option would bring him on active duty as an O4 or Lieutenant Commander in the Navy and a Major in the other services.
He graduated near the top of his class and passed the bar on the first attempt with a very respectable score. He was assigned to a JAG office at a very large facility with a high ratio of junior enlisted---many very new to military life. After a three week course in how to be an officer---more or less---he spent six months learning the ins and outs of military justice. He then became a litigator specializing in prosecution rather than defense. He was an excellent trial attorney; he seldom if ever lost a case.
Two and a half years later he had not found military life all that unpleasant. His boss was a Colonel and a former line officer who had gone to law school after ten years in service. He knew the military and had served in combat; the commanders who brought court marshal offenses to him didn't intimidate him. They knew he'd been one of them and knew they couldn't bull shit him. The rules were simple: if the crime would result in hard time for a civilian---major felonies---general court marshal was appropriate.
Military crimes such as minor unexcused absences, late for formation or those "crimes" which were only crimes in the military should be handled with non-judicial punishment. Of course any service member had the right to refuse non-judicial punishment---Article 15--- and request a court marshal but the few that did had a change of heart once they found out how likely hard time in a federal disciplinary barracks could be in such cases.
The old man's message to the unit commanders was simple: you bring us solid cases worthy of a general court and we'll win those cases and put the bastards in stir. You bring me crap to bolster your ego or to demonstrate how tough you are and I'm going to throw it back in your face. As long as the JAG office won most of their cases---and every single one of the violent felonies---the unit commanders were happy. Winning the most egregious felony-type cases was David's primary responsibility and he was very good at it. He was also severely over-worked and short at least one litigator.
"David! Have you got a sec?" his boss said, sticking his head in David's office. Believe it or not, no good senior officer simply interrupts a subordinate and demands an audience. If David had said: "not really sir, I'm due in court in thirty minutes and this brief has to be completely reworked," the Colonel would have left him alone to do his job.
I remember during my military service when an old colonel stuck his head in my office and asked if I had a sec. I told him I had been trying to balance our unit budget for three hours and it had just come out correctly for the first time and I really wanted to be sure I had it right. He put his hand over his mouth, whispered, "sorry" and tiptoed away. I, of course, went to his office as soon as I was finished ten minutes later---and he apologized again for disturbing me when I was doing my job.
"Sure, sir. My trial has been delayed for half a day; it seems the judge forgot he had his annual physical scheduled. I'm just trying to take the unexpected break to sort out some case assignments. It's like trying to cover ten yards of woman with five yards of fabric."
"Perfect timing—you are about to get a new litigator."
"Sir, you mean I'm about to get a new JAG officer---just as dumb as I was a couple of years ago---in need of six months of training?"
There was no way in hell a trained trial lawyer was being transferred in; they didn't stay in uniform long enough to serve at more than one duty station.
"This one is a unique case. The officer in question has prior service---did four years as an enlisted paralegal. Made E6 which is almost unheard of in four years. Got a BS in night school and accepted the law school program---kind of like I did too many years ago to count. Has already passed the bar and probably knows the ins and outs of the military justice system better than you---or I do. Worked in litigation and wrote most of the briefs.
"Has a ton of Article 32 experience. She is a Captain and her name is...Oh damn! That's got to be a senior moment! No matter. She checked into the BOQ last night---two weeks early---and is headed over here right now."
"Yeah, she got screwed. When you signed up over five years ago, we were in a pickle and dangled everything we could think of in front of prospective law students. The war's winding down; we still are short of attorneys but Washington is getting cheap. Plus they figured they already had her hooked. You always had the option---no one's ever taken it----of returning the money and backing out of your contract. She was already on active duty and did not have that option.
"Someone pulled some strings and backdated her date of rank so she'll make O4 within two years. She spent some time working with THE JAG on a war crimes investigation---and he thinks she walks on water. He has a distinctly fatherly concern for her. In all my years in JAG the big guy has never called me personally to tout a new staff member. He credits her directly with winning the war crimes case."
"As they say in the military, 'out-fucking-standing,' sir! I can't wait...I'm barely treading water here."
Less than an hour later the Colonel again stuck his head in David's door to introduce the new addition. There really was no need. Amazingly she seemed to have grown a couple of inches. Her hair was fashionably cut in a short but quite comely style. She looked damned good in a military officer's uniform. She was every bit as taken aback as David was.
Military courtesy among JAG officers has never been rigid; JAGs don't tend to snap to attention and 'report for duty.' A hand shake might have been more appropriate; both decided that a hug was in order in spite of the protocols against signs of affection while in uniform---much to the amusement of the old Colonel.
"You two already seem to know each other."
David spoke first. "Terry played my daughter---Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House---in our high school senior class play. It has to be eight years ago?"
"Over seven since graduation...small world." Terry had poise and bearing and showed not a hint of her initial surprise.
"Well, fantastic! I'll leave you two to get acquainted and sing the old school fight song. Carry on."
"Terry, first let me say how sorry I am about your parents; I haven't been back in that neck of the woods but got the story...hell, it has to be five years ago. How's Gayle doing?"
"My sister---Miss had-to-take-Algebra-twice---just got her MS in accounting and her CPA; she works for the new—not so new now---paper plant as a controller. Did you know she got married?"
"I'd heard...Seth Abrams?"
"Yep! He just got his MBA---also works at the plant---and is an assistant plant manager. They just built a new house—I've never seen it---and they're both in career mode and holding off on starting a family."
"No family, no husbands past or present---no children. How about you?"
"None on all counts; no time..."
"I've never gone back, David; doubt that I ever will. That place is not who I am or ever want to be reminded of once being." She paused for just a second, fearful that she had left the wrong impression. "Present company accepted," she said, smiling and touching his arm. "I'm really glad to see you and excited about working with you. You don't bring back any unpleasant memories...far from it."
It had not been a flirtation; it had been a genuine sign of friendship, affection...something more? As he looked at her, David realized he had never had anything other than good feelings about Terry. He had thought about her off and on over the years...fondly. They were not the same people they had been then.
"My parents moved right after I graduated; never been back...probably never will go back."
"The military was just starting to take women in real jobs. I signed up within two or three days of...So give me the skinny on the boss and then put me to work! I gather you are a little short handed?"
Having spent almost four years in a JAG office much like the one she had just reported to, Terry needed very little time to get oriented. By the time David prepared to leave for trial, she had made the rounds and introduced herself, perused the relevant local SOPs and settled into the other desk in David's office which had only recently been vacated by another prosecutor who had moved on from the service.
"Do you want to come sit in on this one?"
"If you don't mind, I'd rather get up to speed here; can I take a rain check?"
"Sure...take a gander at this case file; it's my next big one. Serial rape---a real sadistic prick. Evidently his parents have some coin so they've hired a civilian shark to defend him along with the JAG appointed attorney. I know I'm rushing you but in view of your previous experience and my desperation---we need to throw you into the breech sooner rather than later."
Following opening arguments, the defense requested a recess; they wanted to deal. David knew the opposing council very well and respected him. He knew that his counterpart had tried to convince his young client that the odds were stacked against him in a general court but the kid had been obstinate. David had detailed the charges and the maximum penalties for each carefully in his opening statement.
The young man had committed a felony; he had assaulted a fellow soldier and beaten him quite severely. The event had been alcohol related. At the very least, he would be reduced in rank to the lowest grade, receive a less than desirable discharge and serve hard time. He was a mediocre performer at best with a history of getting into altercations but this time he had gone over the line. Somehow the stupid little prick believed he could escape a prison sentence for battering a colleague with a tire iron.
There were maximum and minimum sentencing recommendations for the crime. David had reviewed civilian penalties for the same offenses in the civilian world. Time served in a Federal Disciplinary Barracks was truly hard time. It essentially amounted to 24/7 basic training with no hope of a weekend pass. Prisoners who had served in such a facility would attest to the fact that one year in a DB was worse than four years in a civilian prison. Historical evidence indicated that recidivism was far below the national average for those incarcerated in a civilian facility.
He was asking for the maximum sentence possible for each separate crime committed to be served consecutively---not concurrently; it added up to almost twenty years. Even if he won the trial---which he most certainly would---no court would be that severe but he had every expectation of getting the max for the most serious crime with concurrent sentences for the other offenses. Seven years...if he was a perfect prisoner he'd be out in four. David doubted that the defendant would be a model prisoner. If they wanted to deal he would accept four with a dishonorable discharge, confident that the little prick would serve every day of it.
The kid somehow believed he could game the system and get out early---just over two years---for good behavior. David knew better. The deal was struck and the judge accepted it. The whole process had taken a little under three hours. After the court was dismissed the judge asked to see both lawyers in chambers. There would be an appeal; it was automatic in military justice. The punishment agreed to was well within historical norms.
"Gentleman, I'm confident justice was served---are you both okay with it?"
The two officers answered in the affirmative.
"David, is your boss going to be okay with it---not to mention the commander in question?"
"Yes, sir. In terms of the brigade commander in question, even he agreed that based on this kid's history he'll do the whole four. The victim has made a complete recovery and has been returned to duty following an extended and painful recovery. The Colonel and I are on the same page."
"Good work, gentleman; carry on."
The two young trial lawyers chatted as they walked back to their respective offices in the same building.
"Nice job, Phil; I wasn't sure he was going to take the deal."
"Shit, David! I had no defense. Your opening had him shaking in his boots and, with what I had to work with, mine was pretty weak. I was not looking forward to trying this case. I've accepted my lot in life; as the senior and most experienced defense council, I get the shitty cases which means I too often end up going up against you. What am I now...0 and 26?"
"You're a damn good lawyer, Phil, and an ardent and effective advocate."
"I understand you just got a new prosecutor---I met her very briefly---hot!"
"We went to high school together ...old friends. A former military para...honor graduate out of law school...top score on her bar. She grew up tough; Terry is no wilting violet...assertive and goes for what she wants. At least she was when I knew her in high school."
By the time David returned to the office, Terry was already organizing briefs on the upcoming case. She had outlined a trial strategy that was on the same page with David. She'd already researched and prepared key case cites. She was far more than three or four hours ahead of where he had left things...she was days ahead. She would sit as co-council on the case. She was going to be a huge addition to the office.
As they said their goodbyes well after the office closed, David thought about asking her to join him for a bite to eat but then thought better of it. He didn't want such a gesture to be misinterpreted. For both of them, it was as if that crazy night so many years ago had never happened. They were old friends who now worked together. Dating among officers only one grade apart was not against the rules but dating in a reporting relationship was. For at least six more months, he would be her boss. She returned to her single BOQ room; David returned to the empty house he had bought twenty minutes outside the gate.
Three days into what would probably be a four day court marshal their case was not going as well as it should have been going. The evidence was on their side; the civilian attorney was sharp and manipulative and continued to raise shadows of doubt and fluster their witnesses. It was as if the sadistic little prick on trial was just a misunderstood choir boy. A couple of the members of the court---the jury in a military trial---seemed weak and appeared to be buying into the defense's canard.
Terry and David huddled together with the Colonel late into the evening before the probable final day of court. The defense would put their client on the stand. Depending on how long that process took, the judge might hold off closing arguments to the following day. The Colonel had slipped into the court room several times to observe critical aspects of the trial. He knew his best prosecutor—probably the best one he had ever had the pleasure of serving with---was frustrated. They were in danger of losing a major felony case for which the ultimate penalty could by statute be death by firing squad although no one realistically expected that to occur in view of the times. The sadistic prick should spend the rest of his life in a DB with no possibility of parole. Now it appeared that he might get off or only serve a token sentence.
David had succeeded in pushing to the back of his brain the memory of how Terry had once asserted herself in his bedroom and taken charge---and taken his virginity...much to his pleasure. She was an amazingly bright young lawyer and had been an integral part of the prosecution. In all truth, her inputs had helped salvage what strengths they still had. When she spoke, that amazing night came back to him if just for a fleeting moment. She had a smile on her face but it was a grim, serious, determined and in charge smile. In spite of his efforts, he couldn't wipe the vision from his mind of the first---and last time he had seen that look.
"Let me do the cross."
David and the Colonel looked at her wordlessly; she'd never tried a felony case. The cross and then the close was all they had left in their arsenal.
"Gentlemen, he is a misogynistic little sadist. He gets off on the humiliation. He goes after very attractive, strong women in positions of authority. He's as cool as a cucumber right now...almost fearless. His team is going to attempt to extend the canard that he is a misunderstood and wrongly accused young man. There are at least two officers on the court that appear to be buying the whole 'consensual rough sex' ploy. I know the evidence inside and out: no matter how they try to gloss over the proof---I'm more than capable of countering it. More importantly, there is a chance---a damn good chance---that he will respond to me unlike the way he responds to you, David. I've seen him eyeballing me contemptuously. He'll break...I will break the little bastard."
There was silence; the Colonel spoke first, addressing David. "Terry just might have something there."
"Of course she does, sir...and it might just be the only thing we've got left to win with. I'm on board with it if you are, Colonel."
"Agreed," Terry spoke next.
"Any problem with me ever-so-slightly abusing the uniform standards for female officers?"
"What did you have in mind, Captain?"
"The shoes won't exactly be regulation style---or height. I'm pretty sure I just got a run in my last pair of hose and I have a little sewing to do on my class A's this evening---and don't either of you even think of commenting when I walk in here in the morning. You gentleman know this judge...will he get bent out of shape?"
"He's pretty damn sharp and he'll sniff it out but I've known him for ten years and I can see it in his eyes...I think he'll let it ride. The civilian doesn't know anything about military uniform regs...and Phil will bite his tongue. Let's all get some shut eye," the Colonel observed.