#3 – Some Things Last Forever

January 19th, 2011

Emerald Heights CourtroomGiulia Pagani edged forward in her chair, leaning ever so slightly over her desk.  Had it not been there, she certainly would have fallen forward in anticipation of the exchange that was about to take place.  The gallery was sparse and the sound of each voice in the large chamber echoed which only added to the escalating drama.  Eve Nightingale, attorney at law, representative for Jordan Enterprises, was standing in front of the judge where she had come to a halt when the judge had commanded: “Enough!”

It was a very rare outburst for Judge Andrews to make.  Emerald Heights was no stranger to courtroom drama and this particular hearing was no exception.  But the judge could only take so much, “let me remind you of something you have plainly forgotten, Ms. Nightingale,” the judge began, between discreetly clenched teeth. He was a bald and gentlemanly judge whose patience had been tested by Nightingale’s attack on an elderly witness.  “This is a court of law. There are rules of conduct. Civility, manners – one doesn’t check common courtesy at the door of my courtroom.”

“Your honour, the witness is not being candid with the court,” Eve replied.  Her blonde ringlets bounced in defiance as she stood unwavering before the dais.

Giulia could have remained silent on the matter and no doubt the judge would have dealt with the matter, but Giulia had a history with this particular attorney.   The new D.A. had a point to make.

“If I may speak, Your Honour…” She interjected, after the judge solemn nod, Giulia continued, “Counsel should know courtroom decorum, this witness has not been hostile and has not been declared as such. Ms. Nightingale is incorrectly attempting to cast aspersions on the character of Mrs. Debs with no evidence or proof to back her up.”  She was very careful to use a measured tone, “The counsellor has repeatedly badgered the witness with the same question over and over in spite of the fact that we have established that she doesn’t know the whereabouts of the Cetor file.  The witness – the 73 year old witness – retired four years ago, if you recall.”

“With all due respect, Your Honour…”  Eve began.

Here we go again, Giulia thought.

“…Mrs. Debs was the records custodian at Wellroth Chemical for forty years.  She has proven that she can remember a number of details from her time with the company and has provided this court with any number of details – answering questions from both myself and my colleague,”  She paused and stared directly at the old woman, “And she remembers perfectly well what happened to the Cetor file!  I tell you, the witness is lying to the court!” Eve pointed angrily at Mrs. Debs, whose powdered skin turned deep pink.

“My heavens!” She exclaimed, her hand fluttered the pearls at her chest.  Mrs. Debs had a halo of fuzzy gray hair and a face as honest as any other grandmother “I wouldn’t…  I couldn’t…” the rest was inarticulate.

Giulia could see that Eve was circling another attack, so she jumped back to her feet and shouted, “This is outrageous, Your Honour!”  Giulia shouted, she had been in enough courtrooms to know that it was time to grandstand, “Ms. Nightingale’s conduct toward the witness is an outrage! An outrage!”  The small gallery was collectively leaning forward, listening to every word the city’s new District Attorney was shouting through the echoing chamber. “It is disgraceful to harangue this poor woman because her client has no other defence!”

As Giulia stopped speaking Eve Nightingale’s mouth opened as if to speak but she was quickly silenced by the raising of the hand of Judge Andrews.  The Judge touched his forehead and spoke.

“The court will recess and be joined again tomorrow morning, 10 am.” He banged his gavel to signal the finality of his decision.

He eased out of his chair and left the dais shaking his head.

Duncan MarshallDuncan Marshall looked at his watch.  Only two-thirty? He thought.  Christ, will this day never end? “Alright, let’s try it again.” For the thirty-fifth time.

Across from him, Eliza Golden carefully arranged her son’s hair, applying a dab of saliva to keep his cowlick down. “Now you sit still and let Mr. Marshall take your picture,” she admonished.

That would be a welcome change of pace, Duncan thought, centring the boy’s image in the viewfinder. “Alright, Joey, give me a big smile.” For some reason beyond imagining, the child finally cooperated, parting his lips wide. Surprised, but delighted, Duncan snapped the picture before whatever angel had possessed the boy departed.

“I think we got it that time,” he sighed in relief, hoping that Ms. Golden wouldn’t notice the frustration in his voice. If she did, she made no indication of it, prattling on about how Joey had recently done something precious as she made out the cheque. Duncan double-checked the amount before slipping it into the cash drawer and walking her to the door.

“Thank you,” Mrs. Golden called as they exited. Duncan merely smiled and waved. After they had gone, his smile faded as he turned to Amy, his receptionist.

“What’s next on the docket?” he asked, and his large hand ran across the top of his bald head.

“Nothing, Mr. Marshall. The whole afternoon is free.”

“Take the afternoon off, Amy.” He said almost immediately, “We’ll be closing up shop early today,” he paused, seeing the odd expression on the teenager’s face, “with pay,” he added finally. The girl’s frown became a smile and she began closing procedures.

Within 15 minutes Duncan was in his car and headed towards home; Cassie wouldn’t be off until five, and it was another thirty minutes to the house from the caterers’; that left him plenty of time. In a flash of inspiration, he made a right onto South Street and headed downtown, loosening his tie as he went.

Giulia PaganiGiulia cleared her desk, quietly. These types of cases had become commonplace in Emerald Heights.  An aged city that was newly being invigorated by development meant that old sites that had been used for industrial purposes needed to be cleaned up, and Jordan Enterprises owned a massive amount of these sites.  This was Giulia’s first exposure to the Jordan defence tactic, but she was no litigation neophyte.

After leaving the courthouse Giulia walked the short walk back to her apartment. Soon she was staring at the old and charming building with its big windows and small flowery garden. She entered the lobby, the elderly doorman topped his hat to her; he handed her a stack of envelopes and greeted her by name.

The first was from her mother and found its way to the bottom of the pile, some bills and another that drew her attention immediately.  The elevator door opened and she entered and pressed the 5th floor button. A strange version of “Stairway to Heaven” was playing on the speakers and without noticing Giulia sang along.

At the second floor the tune changed and again the mail in her hand came to her attention, she drew her finger along the seal to the letter that was atop the stack and pulled out the enclosed note.

“Dear Gi,

I was very glad to hear that you moved from New York, I always knew that one day you would go back to Emerald Heights. I hope that this town brings you more happiness then it did to me. I’m having a great time in Italy, met Enrico’s sister, she wasn’t fond of me.

Best Wishes,


This was utterly typical, she thought.  She had received almost the exact same letter at least a dozen times before.  “Have fun, Mom,” she said out loud, “while it lasts.”

The P & QDuncan pulled into the small parking lot of The P & Q and went inside. The interior was dark, fairly busy, and smoke-filled, but to Duncan, it was a haven from the outside world. The low murmur of the patrons engaged in conversation, the sound of numerous televisions, and the constant clicking of ceramic pool balls was a soothing rush. The bartender greeted him warmly as he entered.

“Hey, Duncan! The usual?”

“Make it a double, Gordon,” Duncan responded, scoping out an open table.

He picked up his drink and made his way a table, where he sat down and propped his feet up on an empty chair. He took a sip, idly watching a dart game in progress. He had been sitting for about 15 minutes when a stranger approached the table and sat down.

“Can I help you?” Duncan asked, mildly annoyed.

“Duncan Marshall?”

“Yes, and you are?”

“Kevin Burgess. Police-detective Burgess,” the man replied, producing a badge from his pocket, “Los Angeles P.D. I’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind.”

Duncan breathed in sharply, his expression becoming serious. He removed his feet from the chair and sat up straight. “You’re a long way from home, detective.”

“Mr. Marshall, you spent some time in Los Angeles, didn’t you?”

“About five years ago. I was living there at the time.”

“You left rather suddenly.”

“My father died, I needed to come home.”

“But you never went back to L.A.”

“Plans change.”

Burgess frowned, “so much so that you would leave a fully-furnished apartment and all of your equipment there?”

“I had a friend close out the apartment and package my stuff and send it to me. Look, detective, what’s this all about?”

“Did you know a man by the name of Claudio Breza?”

Duncan thought a moment. “Fashion designer, I did a couple of shoots for him.”

“Were you close friends?”

“Not really, I did some work for him.”

“How about his wife? Did you know her?”

“I think I met her once, at a party he gave.”

“I see,” Burgess said, rising. “That’s all for now, Mr. Marshall. I’ll be in touch.”

“Yeah,” Duncan said quietly, “I guess you know where to find me.”

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