“No one,” Lucy lied.
“I would remind you, Ms. Atreides,” Erickson said ponderously, “that you are under oath.”
“Objection!” Larry thundered. “That is the oldest trick . . . “
“Sustained,” Picart ruled. “Take it easy, Mr. Glass, there is no jury here. I think you can trust me not to be so easily deceived. Ms Groff,” he went on, turning to Kelly, who had gotten up and was pacing nervously along the side wall, “Do you have an objection too? Otherwise, why aren’t you in your seat?”
“Sorry, your honor,” Kelly said. “I, uh, my back.”
Lucy shot Kelly a guilty look. She really wasn’t used to lying like this. Kelly looked so uncomfortable.
“Mr. Commissioner,” Erickson said unexpectedly, “the government would like to call a rebuttal witness.”
“Defense has not finished putting on its case,” Larry objected. “You can’t introduce a rebuttal witness in the middle of my case. You will have to wait your turn, Mr. Erickson. You don’t own this courtroom.”
He sure acted like he owned the courtroom, Lucy observed. She just wanted to get the lying part behind her. Weren’t they done yet?
“Mr. Commissioner,” Erickson continued, “We have special circumstances here. The witness cannot be away from home. He is tending a family member who is dangerously ill. The doctors say that her condition is worsening rapidly. He must be back tonight. If he cannot testify now, we might not be able to get him back for weeks. We have had him waiting in case defendant testified as she just has, to her chaste recent life.”
Could he possibly be talking about Arthur? Lucy asked herself. She turned around to look at the courtroom door.
“Mr. Erickson you may present your witness. But he must be able to stay long enough for Defendant to cross-examine. This is a court of law.”
Sure enough there he was, tall and vigorous as ever, striding into the courtroom as if he owned it. She hadn’t seen him since he pulled the tape off her mouth and told her he’d kill her mother if she disobeyed him again.
“I call Arthur Atreides,” Erickson said superfluously.
“Please have a seat in the witness chair,” the Commissioner said cordially.
Lucy stared at him from the defense table. Her heart was pounding so hard she could not believe she was still sitting upright in her chair. Why was he here? What was he going to do?
“I am sorry for your difficulties,” the Commissioner said. “Thank you for making time away from your sick –
“wife,” said Atreides, looking at Lucy.
“Wife,” repeated the Commissioner.
Sick wife, Lucy thought. Why, is she worse? Daniel and I thought she had at least a few good months left, with the new stem cell treatment.
“She was pretty sick,” Arthur continued ostensibly addressing the judge. “And when Lucy ran away, it certainly didn’t help. Then Virginia ordered her son – Daniel – into the state militia, what with all the disturbances around here, Virginia thought it should activate its reserves for a while anyway. So he’s away too.”
Daniel is away. Mom’s not getting the medicine. Did Arthur do this, Lucy wondered. Or it is true like Erickson said that matters are now being run out of the White House, and he’s just a poor guy who couldn’t control his own daughter? Hah! That would serve him right. But if Daniel is gone, then Mom . . .
“Look, your honor,” Erickson went on, taking a picture out of a folder. “Here is a picture of Mr. Atreides wife Clarissa. She’s reading today’s paper so you can see it’s recent.” He waved the picture generally in Lucy’s direction and set it down. Mom didn’t look too bad actually. No one in the Court seemed to think it weird that Arthur had brought a picture of his dying wife. But Lucy knew she was the real audience. She had told Erickson she had to see a picture, and here it was. So her threat to blow the whistle on Arthur was being taken seriously. Good. Blackmail could run both ways, it seemed.
“Mr. Commissioner,” Larry rose to object, “we don’t want to hold Mr. Atreides any longer than we need to and since I got no warning that he would be taking the stand, I may have to ask for him to spend the night to give me a chance to prepare my cross-examination. Can we get started?”
Arthur swore to tell the truth.
He told the court how long he had known Lucy and generally described the layout of the house they lived in together with her mother.
“So your bedroom and defendant’s bedroom are on the same side of the house,” Erickson concluded. “When you look out your bedroom window does that give you a view of her window?”
“No, Arthur answered. “But I can look down at the part of the property that leads from our side of the house to the garage. That’s how I saw her sneaking across the lawn to the rooms where my driver lives.”
“Evan?!” Lucy thought. “He’s going to testify about me and Evan.”
“When did you see her going across the yard toward the garage apartment?” Erickson stopped and looked behind him. Kelly was wandering around the lawyers’ tables, her heels making a clicking sound on the hard floor. “Can you please tell defendant’s counsel to SIT DOWN?” he asked in an annoyed tone. “Ms. Groff, can’t you show a little professionalism here? If your back is so bad, get someone else to take your place. And you know,” he added, zeroing in on her, “you can’t have your phone out in court.”
“Sorry, your honor,” Kelly said. “Larry, if you can spare me for a minute . . .”
He nodded and she walked out. Maybe she was going to ask the court to let her go off the case, Lucy thought. Kelly had let her get away with a lie. Lawyers weren’t supposed to let you lie. That’s what Larry had said.
“I saw her about six weeks before she left,” Arthur answered. “And then again a week before she ran away. I remember the date, because I had just told her she had to ask permission if she wanted to leave the house.”
“Why didn’t you speak up sooner?” his lawyer asked.
“I didn’t want to leave my sick wife,” Arthur answered. “And I figured the DNA search would identify him. But apparently he’s not in the registry. That’s when Ted here called and asked if I knew anything about my stepdaughter’s sex life.”
“Well, where is he,” Commissioner Picart interrupted. “We have the baby’s DNA test; why don’t we just get his DNA and see if he’s the father?”
The baby, Lucy heard. She had maybe six weeks of her rapist’s cells inside her. For Picart it was a baby. Of course, not his baby.
“He’s gone,” Arthur answered. “He disappeared a few weeks after Lucy did. Looking back, we think he showed her how to get in touch with the criminals who are helping girls get abortions out of state and then he took off.”
“We’ll send a team down to get some DNA from his things,” the Commissioner looked puzzled. “If you had told Mr. Erickson sooner, we could have this all wrapped up already.”
“I don’t think you’re going to get anything,” Arthur answered. “We now think he must have been a spy. Those road people are getting pretty smart. His room looks like it’s been cleaned with a hose. Even the car is completely wiped off. But I’m telling you she was in there with him. More than once.”
“Lucy, “he said suddenly turning to her and addressing her directly. “Come home. You know Virginia welcomes all babies. Your mother is so sick. She really needs you to take care of her. Especially since Daniel isn’t there to help care for her,” he let his voice drift off. “She’s really taken a turn for the worse. Maybe if you came home, there wouldn’t be so much unrest and Daniel could come home from the Virginia National Guard. He was really upset when they came to get him, saying crazy things about Clarissa. And I need you too. You can stay as long as you want.”
So there it was, Lucy realized. Saying crazy things about Clarissa was code talk for Daniel having to go to Baltimore to get the drugs that were saving her life. She could go back and be a prisoner forever or she could have her mother’s blood on her hands.
“No further questions,” Erickson said.
“Your honor,” Larry began, “the prosecution has put on a complete surprise witness. We had no idea he was coming or what he would say. I need a day or two to prepare my cross-examination.”
“Commissioner Picard,” Erickson replied. “Arthur Atreides has a dying wife. He cannot be away for several days.”
“All right counselors,” Picard said. “I am going to give everyone the rest of the afternoon off. Keep your cell phones on. We may move the trial again to get away from those crazies. Mr. Glass, use the time to prepare your cross. Mr. Atreides, can you stay until tomorrow morning? We know this is hard on you.”
Magnanimously, Arthur nodded.
“You may step down,” the Commissioner allowed.
The courtroom door opened and Kelly’s heels clicked down the aisle between the seats to the counsel table. She held out her phone to Larry and whispered in his ear.
“Your honor,” Larry said, “we have a couple of questions to ask this witness right now.”
“What is with you,” Picard responded. “First you need more time, now you’re ready?”
“Bear with me, your honor,” Larry answered. “It won’t take five minutes.” He reached across the gap between the two lawyers’ tables and casually picked up the picture of Lucy’s mother.
“Mr. Atreides,” he asked. “Did you take the picture this morning before you left Richmond?”
“Yes,” Arthur answered, frowning quizzically.
“Defendant offers this picture into evidence as Exhibit Four,” Larry said calmly. Lucy looked mystified. Erickson obviously brought it because she demanded it. Why was it suddenly part of the lawsuit?
“I see the paper in this picture has today’s date on it,” Larry continued.
“I just said that,” Arthur responded pettishly.
Without waiting for an answer, Larry clicked on Kelly’s phone and held it out to the witness. “Then what,” he asked, “is this?”
“Objection!” Erickson shouted. “Let me see that! You can’t just offer a phone into evidence. What is going on here?”
“What is going on here,” Larry answered, handing Kelly’s phone to the judge, “is that the Richmond Times from today did not carry the headline in that picture. The Richmond Times with that headline is from last summer. It’s not record heat in Richmond today. In fact, it’s quite cool. The witness’s photograph has been doctored to make it look like defendant’s mother is still alive. Where is Clarissa Atreides sir? What have you done to your wife?”
She’s dead, Lucy answered silently. Otherwise why would have have to doctor a picture? “Huch,” she gasped, an ugly noise like an animal makes when the teeth of a trap close on its leg. Tears she’d been bottling up for about a thousand years flooded down her cheeks. Water stains began to spread on the front of her pink prison uniform. Dad. And now mom.
She ran away. Then they took Daniel away. Mom got cut off from the medicine he had been smuggling in for her. Had she killed her own mom?
She was a good girl. She did well in school. She remembered what life could be like. She, who had never gone anywhere on her own, had gotten herself out, outwitted the guy on the bridge, hidden from the dogs under the stream, thrown pepper sauce in the eyes of the Girl Catchers in the rib joint, and made herself the living symbol of the cause by showing her scars, but she could not save her mother in Richmond. She looked at the monster in the witness chair.
“Your honor,” Erickson interceded immediately, “the government requests a brief break. I need to speak to my witness.”
“Five minutes,” Picart agreed. “Mr. Atreides you may go to your lawyer for five minutes.” Arthur left the witness chair and walked toward the counsel table.
“You son of a bitch!” Lucy screamed, leaping out of her chair and hurling herself at him. The force of her attack pushed him backward, but he did not fall. As he righted himself she clutched his arm and with the vise like grip of someone possessed. “You killed my mom! You took Daniel away and she couldn’t get the medicine any more. I thought I could save her by being quiet. But you killed her anyway. You did it!! Tell them! You made me pregnant. It was you! Say it, say it.” Her secret exploded out of her with all the force she had used to push it down. “Rape, rape, rape,” she screamed louder and louder. She shook him, a small, slender girl with short white blond hair, hanging onto this grown man like a rabid dog, clinging, clinging to whatever she could grab, clawing at his hand, as the marshals finally pulled her away. Chased me to my room. While my mother slept,” she said, finally letting it out. “He said she would die if I said a word. And I didn’t. I left so he couldn’t threaten me with her. He was going to rape me or he was going to kill my Mom. I got away. And he killed her anyway.”
She looked down at her fingers. God knows what they would do to her now. At least she had drawn blood. Her hands were red with it.
The courthouse was mayhem, marshals pinning her arms, whipping out the handcuffs, Larry and Josh shouting at them, the judge and Erickson rushing over to where Arthur.
They ran to the door.
He was gone.
“Probably just went down to the men’s room to wash his hand,” Erickson said. “Looked like she scratched him pretty badly. I’ll go down.”
“Your honor,” Larry said.
“Not one word,” Picard answered. “Until the government’s lawyer comes back. You know better than that, counselor. I will deal with the witness if he perjured himself. I’m sure there’s an explanation for the picture. Maybe he just wanted to reassure Lucy. We don’t know that Clarissa Atreides is dead. And you’re going to have to control your client or I’ll have her shackled for the rest of the proceedings. If I let her come at all. If he raped her, she lied to the Court. Now she’s facing criminal charges for assault. And, if he didn’t rape her, she’s probably looking at defamation as well.”
Handcuffed to the arms of a chair and in leg irons, she sat against the courtroom wall numbly staring at the chaos. Kelly came over to her and knelt down.
“How did you know?” Lucy asked her. “Do you usually read the Richmond papers?”
“Of course not!” Kelly answered. “And it may not mean your mom is gone, sweetie. We don’t know what it means. But I saw the headline ‘Record Heat,’ and it just niggled at me. It’s not hot here. Why would it be hot a hundred miles away? Last summer was really hot! But it was hot all up and down the East Coast. I sneaked a picture of it with my phone and when you blow it up it’s obviously doctored. I’m sure he never thought anyone would take a close look.” She glanced over at Josh.
“Defamation?” Josh said as if to himself. “How could Atreides accuse Lucy of that? That would mean that Lucy soiled his character accusing him of rape. How much character did he have left, exactly? You can’t defame someone by saying something that’s true. All they have to do is compare his DNA . . . omigod.” He started for the door.
“He’s not there,” Erickson reported from the doorway. I called the phone number I have for him, but it’s going straight to voicemail. And his car and driver are not in the parking lot. He’s gone!”
“He’s your witness,” Picart said to Erickson, finally sounding a little annoyed at his famous visitor. “Get on the phone and find him.”
Josh was already madly jabbering into his phone. But he stopped when Kelly beckoned him to Lucy. She held Lucy’s arm, with its grisly burden, up to Josh.
Josh glanced at them and walked to the bench. Turning to the Court Reporter he gestured for her to start transcribing. “Commissioner Picart,” he said, “the defense requests you to summon an evidence technician to this courtroom right now. And no one is to touch the defendant until the technician arrives.”
“Your honor,” Larry said evenly, “may I confer with my co-counsel?”
“Three minutes,” Picart said. This circus has gone on long enough for one day.
“Josh,” Larry said, “What are you doing? If Atreides is the father, Lucy had every reason to try to get an abortion. You will be sealing her fate.”
“Larry,” Josh answered waving the phone, which had some legal text on it, “the fetus act is old. In order to pass it, the right to lifers had to compromise. There’s an exception for rape. And incest now that I think about it. Even if Lucy came here seeking an abortion, if Arthur Atreides is the father, the federal government cannot send her back.”