The Bar Ch. 02byCorvecoupe©
Authors note: Okay so first I apologize for the long forward. I'd like to start by all thanking all of you for the comments you made, the votes you submitted and for just generally reading part one! It was a lot easier writing chapter two knowing you wanted more! (on that note i advise you read chapter 1)
Like before, it is a bit slow but it does pay off at the end!
Okay so something that should be noted for consistency: I was watching tv at 1:47 am the other night and a stroke of clarification hit me. The plot seemed to unfold before me and I have made a few minor changes (don't worry they're all for good!) the only thing that really needs be noted is that before case was set as being aggravated assault, however, I have since changed the charges to rape.
I should note, that this story will in no way whatsoever sexual the charge. Rape is a despicable crime and I will not degrade myself, yourselves, or anybody who has suffered at the hands of a sexual abuse (if you want that stuff go to that section of the site) I won't however hold back on the intimate moments between two consenting adults (see end of chapter!) :) Hope you enjoy!
The morning came far too quickly. I rolled over and hit snooze on the cheap alarm clock that I'd picked up for $10 at Target, wishing I could steal an extra half an hour.
"It's your own stupid fault," I mumbled as I stumbled half blind into the shower, letting the hot water splash over my body and inject some life into me, "you could have been an engineer, or a teacher, or taken a cushy job at Shell in their contracts department even; but no you have to be the big shot and sign up for some law firm in New York City."
I spent five minutes in front of the mirror, which was two minutes longer than I should have, determined to look perfect and not give Jennifer a single reason to dump me out of the case now. To this end, I decided upon a light charcoal grey suit complete with a checkered sky blue silk tie.
I grabbed my leather satchel on my way out the door, swinging the strap over my head so it crisscrossed my chest. It was a two minute walk from my flat to the subway and then a twenty minute ride to the station closest to work then another five minute walk, all in all a long time to think- and think I did.
I couldn't shake Gwen out of my mind the entire trip; the kiss from last night still haunted me. She was a friend and a colleague, true she was gorgeous beyond belief and never failed to make me laugh; but any fraternization would be the ultimate act of stupidity! Still there was that kiss...
I sat at my small cubicle flipping through the manila folder, my head spinning. The brief was over five hundred pages and that didn't include the several boxes of evidence that the DA had sent over. As far as I could figure the woman, Ms Harriet Slay, was alleging that she had met Jackson at a bar and they had it off. He bought her a drink and they talked for half an hour before he offered to drive her home. After Jackson drove her home, Ms Slay confesses she invited him in but then started feeling really weird and weak and passed out, around the time of 11 pm. The next morning, she woke up to find Jackson gone and that she was hurting below. Worried she went to the doctor who did blood tests and a rape kit, which evidence came back to the effect that she had indeed been subjected to fairly rough sexual intercourse and there were traces of flunitrazeam (which after a bit of googeling I found out was one of the chemical names for Rohypnol) in her bloodstream.
Jackson, on the other hand, was claiming that yes he had seen the girl but didn't leave with her and instead went home alone that night. The case was strong and at the moment our defense was weak, very weak.
"Eurgh," I groaned, rubbing my temples and shutting my eyes.
"Everything alright?" Gwen asked, popping her head up over the cubicle partition and giving me the shock of my life.
"Jesus! When did you get in?"
"About thirty seconds ago," She grinned, obviously enjoying the scare she'd given me, "Is that the case?"
"The case? Can you make it sound any more ominous?"
"The case of doom and desperation?"
"The one case to fool 'em all, the one case to prove to 'em, the one case to show them all, and in the courtroom move them!"
"Yeah, maybe leave the lyrical waxing up to those better suited,"
'Anytime,' I was so close to saying it, it was on the tip of my tongue before the smarter side of my brain intervened. Not only had I decided mere hours earlier that this was a bad idea, but I just can't go around saying stuff like that, I'm not that bad ass... or bad ass to any degree really.
"So?" She asked, after a pause during which I was trying, and failing, to say something witty.
"So, how is it?"
"The short answer: confusing," I responded, flicking closed the folder and showing her the thickness of the file.
"Yikes, that's a big file! And the long answer?"
"Fucking confusing," I delighted in the short bark of laughter my comment elicited from her and immediately felt guilty. 'Dammit Mark she's your colleague!'
"How's your head?" I enquired, noticing her eyes were slightly bloodshot.
"Two sizes too big for my skull, thanks for asking. Listen... about last night-"
"Shit, what's the time?" I cut in, scrambling for my watch which I'd taken off, the implication of her just arriving finally hitting me.
"Just after nine, why? And Mark... I just wanted to say-"
"Dammit!" I said grabbing the folder in one hand and my jacket in the other, dashing out of the cubicle and heading to the elevator, "Sorry Gwen, I'm running late for Jenifer, we'll talk at lunch!"
I pummeled the button at the elevator, following in the footsteps of millions before who also thought that if they pressed hard and fast enough then maybe the lift would suddenly understand my need and come quicker.
When it finally did arrive, I impatiently waited for a flood of people to disembark before veritably jumping into the lift and struggling to slip on my jacket and hold the folder at the same time; somehow, and against all odds, I didn't drop the file and managed to exit on the 52nd floor dressed slightly more appropriately for a junior partner. I asked directions from Holly, the 52nd floor receptionist, and pounded my way to Jenny's office to find it thankfully empty.
"You're late," A young man, probably a year or two my junior, piped up from behind desk I'd barely noticed in my haste.
"Dammit, has she left?" I asked, turning to the guy who I assumed was her receptionist.
"Nah, she hasn't made it in yet," He said, looking up from the computer, "Ms Alswel doesn't tend to get in till quarter past."
"Then why did she ask me to get here at nine?"
"To screw with you, she seems to find it funny. I'm James by the way," he offered, extending a hand which I warmly grasped.
"Mark," I responded, "So is there anywhere to get a coffee on this floor?"
"Yeah the partner break room," he put his workstation to sleep and got up from the desk, "Black? White?"
"Oh, that's alright I'll get it," I responded, feeling bad for asking the guy to fetch me a coffee.
"Yeah... you don't have access to the partners break room," he gave me a sly smile, "Go in and take a seat, she'll be here in a couple of minutes."
I pushed through the frosted glass door with 'Jenifer Alswel, Junior Partner' etched into it and was immediately motivated to work harder. The vista was stunning, a skyline view of Manhattan is not something to be sneered at and if in a couple of years I could get one of my own? Well... that was definitely worth a couple extra hours put in here and there. I stood and stared through the floor to glass windows, engrossed by the city. I was so lost in my own little world I didn't even hear the door open and Jenifer join me.
"Beautiful isn't it?" Jenny asked, causing me to jump.
"Sorry," I responded sheepishly.
"Don't be, if I could get away with staring out at it all day I would."
"I don't know how you don't,"
"Why do you think my desk is position so my back is to it?" It was true, I had been so engaged by the view I had barely even noticed the rest of the room, "Take a seat."
I complied and settled into a leather chair positioned opposite her large mahogany desk, crossing my legs and folding my hands upon my knee, the image of professionalism, or so I hoped. I took a quick second to take in the room I'd been remiss in examining whilst she powered up her pc, filed away a few folders she pulled from an attaché and checked her emails.
The office was probably about twenty five square meters, which in itself was sickeningly large compared to my tiny, claustrophobic cubicle. Her large desk and the chair I occupied and its partner dominated half the room with a small coffee table and another four chairs occupying the other half. Against the interior wall furthest away from the door was a tall slim bookcase which housed everything from leather bound law books to a sleek stereo unit, from pictures of Jenny with suitably impressive political figures to phrenological bust.
"So what do you think?" It took me a second to realize she wasn't asking my opinion on her office, but rather was shifting the topic to the case.
"Well," I tried to get my thoughts straight, taking a second to collect my thoughts rather than jump in feet first, "I haven't had a chance to go through all state's evidence but it seems to me as if... well..."
"He's screwed?" She finished.
"In a word," I was interrupted by James who pushed in at that moment carrying two white coffees.
"Morning James," Jenny greeted.
"Ms Alswel," he responded, nodding his head and grinning as he placed one coffee in front of me and another in front of her, "Just letting you know that you're lunch has been pushed back to one and Carter has rescheduled this afternoon. I've managed to squeeze him in tomorrow at ten, down here at our offices."
"You managed to get him to come down here? Remind me to give you a pay rise,"
"I do every day, but you never listen." James left us alone and as the door clinked shut behind him, Jenny turned her attention back to me once more.
"Yeah, I don't see a way out of this yet, but who knows maybe something'll come up. He's coming in at eleven for a debrief, we'll see what that turns up."
We discussed some of the particulars for nearly thirty minutes; despite the easy way we talked, I couldn't quite shake the feeling I was begin quizzed. She would sometimes ask a direct question on a point of law and at others 'forget' a presiding precedent or 'accidently' use one which did not apply, seeing if I picked up on the 'mistakes'.
"You did well," she commented when I corrected her on the differences in expressing consent with regards to lack of mental faculties. Jenny tried to mislead me with regards to the fact that since Jackson showed no bruises or other injuries that would have suggested reasonable resistance there was a chance that we could argue he had not been aware of her lack of consent, with the burden being on the prosecution that Ms Slay needed to express more than mere lack of acquisition. I rebutted the point explaining that since Jackson could reasonably be expected to know of her state of mind then even he if received consent it would still likely be considered rape due to her lack of full mental faculties, and the fact she was passed out.
"So you were testing me?"
"Yeahp," she smiled, "you didn't expect me to just go by what is written in your file did you?"
"I guess it depends on what's in my file," I rebutted, grinning back at her, pleased to have passed the test.
"Wouldn't you like to know? Unfortunately they're confidential,"
"Even to me?"
"Especially to you!" She laughed, "We don't want the associates knowing what we think of them! Them might resolve to work less hard!"
"Fair enough," I laughed with her for a few seconds before sobering up, "But isn't most of this moot? If Jackson either wasn't there or won't admit he was there, we can hardly argue it wasn't rape due to circumstances can we?"
"No, but maybe we can get the truth out of him,"
"So you he's lying to us?"
"You've read the evidence, don't you? I seriously doubt he's telling us the whole truth,"
"Yes," I agreed somberly, disheartened by the mounting challenges this case presented, "Why won't he admit it though? Does he know about the affidavit?"
"Not yet," she responded, "Hopefully that will get him to change his story to something closer to the truth. Goddammit I wish he would play straight with us!"
I wanted to ask why we were even taking the case if he wasn't 'playing straight' as she put it; surely the firm's reputation was more important than any money we would bring in on this one. To go with not guilty on a case which was quite frankly unwinnable would mark us as lacking integrity, not something you wanted paraded over you by your competitors.
"Anyway," She said glancing at the clock that hung along one wall of the office, "I've got a conference call at ten, so why don't you go down the conference room and prep for Jackson's arrival?"
"Sure, anything specific you want done?"
"Not really, grab some water and stuff but mainly just look over the case and try to come up with anything you can, any question you think we might need to ask. So far I'm just kind of hoping for a miracle on this one,"
"Like Jackson being caught on CCTV somewhere else at the time he was supposed to be at her place?"
"That'd do, but I'm hoping for something more along the lines of Ms Slay dropping the charges and defecting to Cuba to become Castro's personal masseuse,"
Jackson slumped in the office chair in the conference room, absently playing with a glass of water before him and pointedly ignoring me. In his designer jeans and popped-collared polo shirt he looked every inch the frat boy in trouble.
"Jackson," Jenny greeted, extending her hand as she pushed into the conference room.
"Jenifer," He responded sullenly, grasping her hand for barely a second before dropping it like it was material recovered from Chernobyl.
"So Jackson," Jenny took a chair on the opposite side of the table and motioned that I should sit next to her, "Why don't you tell us how you feel the trial will go?"
"Isn't that why I, oh sorry my Daddy," he sneered, "is paying you?"
"Yeahp, pretty much, but I want to know how you think it will go," Jenny was all sugar and smiles even in the face of his open contempt.
"Well, the bitch-"
"You might want to avoid that language in court"
"-is nothing but a lying whore and the jury will see that,"
"Uh huh," Jenny nodded and looked to me, "Mark how do you think the trial will go?"
"Jenny?" I clarified; she knew all too well how I thought the trial would turn out.
"Go on, tell Jackson,"
"Um, well," I started, "I think we're going to lose, and badly,"
"And would you care to inform Jackson as to why?"
"Well," I was getting irritated at how I was being used as the go between, I mean I know I was only second chair but we were both his lawyers and pissing him off wasn't likely to yield too much, "the evidence against you is pretty solid-"
"I told you I didn't fucking do it! I didn't even leave the bar with her!" Jackson yelled, slamming the glass down and causing water to spill across the table top.
"Jackson, we have a signed affidavit from the valet stating that you both got into your car for god sake!" Jenny slapped the table hard, accentuating her point. There was a pause and I focused on Jackson's face, trying to read any emotion the sudden revelation might reveal. He didn't even so much as raise his eyebrows one iota; either he was a fantastic poker player, he'd seen this coming, or he had no idea what she was talking about.
"Yeah, well he's mistaken, how the hell he could remember everybody who he got cars for anyway!"
"You drive a Maserati Gran Turisomo, how many of those do you think are in the city? No he remembers pretty damn clearly,"
"Jesus, are you guys on my side or not?"
"We're the only ones on your side Jackson; nobody else is your corner on this one. Christ you're being charged for rape! Do you have any idea what the conviction rate is like for this? Throw into the mix your playboy lifestyle and you'll be hard pressed to even get the jurors to listen to all the evidence before condemning you!" Jenny pushed her chair back and stood, breathing hard she grabbed my arm and half dragged me out of my chair and to the door. We stood outside in silence for several moments, Jenny still fuming.
"Listen, we're getting nowhere in there," she finally confessed. I felt like saying: 'No shit? Yelling at him and treating him like a petulant child isn't working?' instead I settled for something slightly more tactful.
"He's angry and resents us, he resents the fact that he's being brought up on these charges at all and resents the fact that we don't believe him,"
"Very diplomatic, but he doesn't resent us, he resents me,"
"Can I ask you a question?" I was nervous but knew that if I was to be any good to her, aside from being a pretty face that is, I needed to know what was compelling her to do this.
"Okay, well, why are you taking this case? It's clear you aren't getting along with him; why not pawn it off on some other partner, or even another firm? Is the money really that good?" I mentally added 'and why doesn't he change counsel?'
"His father... he and I have... history. He wants me to do this as a personal favor,"
"Oh right," not the answer I was expecting, but it explained a lot.
"Listen, you're right, I'm getting nowhere with him. Why don't you see what you can do?"
"Me? But I've never... I mean..."
"What's the matter kid? Don't you like clowns?" She said with a demented grin on her face, the non-sequitur startling me enough to encourage a small giggle from my lips. I wish I could say it was something more manly like a chuckle but no, it was definitely a giggle.
"Really? The Devil's Rejects?" The joke put me more at ease and gave me the boost of confidence I sorely needed.
"Hey, if you know the reference you can't judge,"
"Gentlemen, let's do what God made us to do," I responded, admitting defeat.
"Get in there," she said with a laugh, pushing me towards the door. Despite my more relaxed state, I still stole a quick breath before re-entering the room.
"Mommy left the dirty work to you then did she?" Jackson sneered, playing with his smart phone.
"Mummy has to go shopping," I dryly replied, acting more confident than I was feeling. 'Two can play at this game.' I let the silence between us play out, just passively watching him play on his phone,
"Well aren't you going to ask me if I did it?" He asked eventually, metaphorically blinking first.
"Why, you already told me that you didn't," The ball was now in my court, time to see if I could prove myself useful to Jenny.
"Yeah but you don't believe me,"
"Why do you say that?"
"Nobody believes me. Most don't say as much, actually Jenifer is pretty unique in that, but you can see it in their eyes," He'd put down the phone now and looked at me for what felt like the first time.
"That must kinda suck,"
"Kinda? Everyone I know has walled themselves off from me, dad looks at me like I'm a cockroach, my friends avoid me like I'm radioactive, and my lawyer calls me a fucking idiot; so yeah I'd say it 'kinda sucks'"
"Well, looks like I'm the only one that's on your side in this then,"
"No you're not! You're with her, she doesn't believe me and neither do you!"
"Try me," I repeated, "You're so sure I don't, I won't, believe you, what's the harm in trying?"
"Why? You've already read all about it, what's the point?"