#6 – Successes and Failures

January 31st, 2011


Pinewood ManorLeticia had mixed feelings about the day almost as soon as she opened her eyes.  She had a meeting scheduled with Sarah to talk about the prospect of working for Price– for which she was excited.  On the other hand, her step-mother was in the house – for which she was furious.

When Clara and Richard McKinelle had been married Leticia was still in Grand City.  In fact she hadn’t even heard about it from her father, instead it was her sister who had called her to tell her of the impending nuptials.  Clara, Leticia had learned at the time, was half the age of her father – whose health was failing – she had been married several times before and she was planning to go on the marital honeymoon alone given her husband’s treatment schedule.

None of these things endeared the woman to Leticia; that had been almost a year ago.

When Leticia had returned to Emerald Heights to live with her father during his final months, Clara had made herself scarce by taking a trip to the French Riviera.  The two week vacation had turned into seven before Clara had finally mustered up the courage to return to Emerald Heights and face Leticia.

They had met only briefly at the wedding – which Leticia had attended with much reservation – and Leticia had spent the bulk of the event giving the Stare of Death to her new step-mother.  Leticia had not ever actually spoken a word to the woman until the day she returned home from the Riviera.

The house had a different feel to it that morning.  It felt foreign, it felt invaded.  Leticia could hear the invader speaking as she padded, still barefoot, out of her room and across the hall that overlooked the home’s great room.  From the kitchen Clara was having an argument with the cook, “I don’t care what she said,” Clara was screaming, “I gave you your orders.”

Leticia’s fists clenched as she took the first of the steps down toward the main floor.

“Madam,” the cook replied, “the doctor’s recommendation…”

“Listen to me, you import,” Clara smacked her hand, palm open, on the granite countertop.  “I gave you the breakfast order and you will fill it.” The last words were punctuated by angry, breathy pauses.

“Excuse me,” Leticia interjected with very controlled rage, “what did you just say to her?”

Clara wheeled around.  Leticia took a step closer and Clara flinched before holding her ground, Leticia noticed the flinch, “you do not talk to the staff like that.”  She glanced at the cook and jerked her head slightly to tell the cook that she was dismissed for the moment, “this staff has faithfully served my father and my family for years.”

Clara’s eyes narrowed as Leticia emphasized that they got there before she did.  “I am Richard’s wife!” She declared gripping the edge of the solid granite countertop hard as she spoke.

Leticia smiled and nodded slowly for a moment before she spoke, “yes, you are.”  She turned her head from side to side, looking over the familiar kitchen and taking in its sights, “and you can make all the decisions that his wife is entitled to make,” she took a step toward Clara, Clara stepped back.  “But my father’s doctor has decided what his diet should consist of – if you were here rather than spending his money you would have known that.”  She took another step forward and Clara skirted around the island and placed the bulk of the cabinet between herself and her step-daughter.  “The breakfast menu will stay; you, on the other hand, are welcome to go.”

Giulia PaganiThe courtroom that morning was packed.  The news of the previous day’s outburst must have circulated and drawn the looky-loos to the gallery; such was Emerald Heights.  The city was renowned for dramatic courtroom revelations and any decent publicity was bound to draw in the crowds that hoped that the morning’s proceedings would result in a return from the dead.

Today there would be no such revelation.

Giulia regarded her nemesis who sat behind the defence table.  On trial was the matter of The People v. Jordan Enterprises.  The testimony was over now.  The long list of witnesses, the weeks of defence delays, the fixation of the defence on the Cetor file which – it contended though could not prove – would exculpate Jordan Enterprises of any wrongdoing, had all drawn to a close.

It was time for closing arguments and so, Giulia rose: “Good afternoon,” she said addressing the judge, the jury and even the gallery.  “We have heard from more than 4 dozen witnesses over the course of this case; including eight industry and environmental experts.  We have examined evidence from more than 100 sources, and had twenty separate studies read into the record.”

She continued to explain how Wellroth Chemicals had poisoned the ground for decades and how, in spite of the fact that Jordan Enterprises didn’t own the company back then it was nonetheless responsible.  She explained to the jury how without the Cetor file it was not possible for them to take Jordan Enterprises’ word for its contents so no matter how much they claimed that the file contained information and reports that exculpated their liability no proof meant no proof.

When she was finished Giulia sat down confident that she had done the city’s work.  That she had ensured the taxpayers that they would not be responsible for the forty million dollar cleanup.  She assured them that Jordan Enterprises could afford the cleanup and it wouldn’t cost Emerald Heights any jobs.

She crossed her arms resolutely across her chest and waited for Eve to make her statement.

Eve stood, met the eyes of Giulia Pagani and began her statement.

Leticia McKinelle-GlendaleLeticia sat in the antechamber of the executive offices a Price.  There was a steady clickity-clack of typists fingers on keyboards that overlaid a gentile musical lyric; Leticia wracked her brain for any glimpse into what, exactly, there was to type about so furiously in a fashion enterprise.  Probably Twitter.  She smirked.

She was waiting for the job interview that Sarah Price had mentioned to her the night before.  Sarah had explained that Price was looking to redesign their exterior facades and reface the entire exterior of the main Price headquarters in Emerald Heights.

She had begun pawing at a magazine that she’d picked up from the pile beside her when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket.  “Pamela?” She asked answering the call; Pamela was her elder sister.

“Leticia, what the hell happened at the house today?”

Leticia shook her head, “that didn’t take long.  I just had to deal with our step-mother.”

“Don’t call her that.” Pamela said matter-of-factly, “but she’s pissed.  She was screaming on the phone with me probably minutes after you left the house.  She wants my support to fire the entire house staff.”

“Well, there’s no God damned way that’s going to happen.”  There was a lull in the typing and Leticia realized that her word had come out a little louder than she had intended.

“You don’t know this woman, Let.  Rich and I have been here, we have been living with this woman for a year.”

Leticia’s eyes narrowed, she didn’t need a lecture from her sister right now, “Pamela I am just about to go into a job interview.  I don’t have time for this. Let’s do lunch.”

Leticia pressed the end button on her phone when she saw Sarah emerge from her office without waiting for her sister to say another word.  She would explain the matter to her sister when she was through at Price.  “Sarah,” she said, standing and extending her hand.  “How are you?”

“I’m good,” she said, “is father not…?”  She realized that she wasn’t talking a receptionist and turned toward the typing pool, “someone, where is my father?”

As if on cue the elevator bank in the opposite wall dinged and the door slid open.  Victor Price, father of Sarah Price and the owner, operator and originator of Price stepped out.  “Leticia!” He said as he crossed the floor to the two women.  “You haven’t aged a day.”

It had been twenty years since she had seen Victor Price.

“Well, I don’t know about that, Mr. Price,” she replied, “but the years have done you well.”

“Surgeons have done me well, my dear,” he replied frankly, “but you are kind to say so.”  He paused for a moment, “Sarah tells me you’re coming to work with us.”

“If you have need of me, Sir,” she replied.

“Call me Victor.”

“Yes, of course, Sir,” Leticia replied.

“Daddy,” Sarah piped up, “Leticia is an architect and I think she would be great to help us redesign the store – all the stores – and even the building here.”

“Yes, yes,” he said, “Excellent.  Welcome aboard Leticia.”

Her fury from the morning’s row had abated; she was employed, she was working in her field.  Today was a successful day for Leticia McKinelle-Glendale.

Emerald Heights CourtroomEve’s closing statement had been a desperate last ditch attempt to scare the jury into believing that Jordan Enterprises, the so-called lifeblood of the city, would fold up and die if they had to pay for the cleanup.  She tried to claim that Oliver Jordan – Master of the Universe – was duped by William Wellroth when the buyout took place.  Giulia was confident that the jury had seen through the ruse.

The jewel in Eve’s crown was her final few statements; “Ms. Pagani would like to have us believe that this city would never make a decision that would green-light chemical dumping.  She would rather you believe that these companies are evil and that the city is pure.  But I ask you, how can you believe politicians over the man, Mr. Oliver Jordan, without whom we wouldn’t have a state-of-the-art cancer ward in our hospital, without whom thousands of Emerald Heights residents would be jobless.  But we know the truth.  The Cetor file holds the truth.  It would show you that the Mayor of Emerald Heights did know, did approve, did take responsibility for the dumping of these chemicals and did ensure Mr. Wellroth and Mr. Jordan that they would not be on the hook for the historical actions of the chemical company.  This truth is the only fact that matters in the whole course of this trial, ladies and gentlemen, and that fact makes your decision very easy.”

The jury had been in deliberations for only twenty minutes when the bailiff signalled to the judge that the court should reconvene.

Minutes later the jury was being ushered back into the room, the gallery was gavelled to silence and the judge entered.  All stood.  The judge took his place at the front of the room and caught the eye of each of the attorneys in turn.  “Mister Foreman, have you reached a verdict.”

“We have your honour,” the man replied.  The foreman reached out a small piece of paper to the bailiff and he carried it the short distance to Judge Andrews’ bench.  The judge regarded the slip of paper with a stoic face.  Giulia attempted to read him in spite of a confidence about the verdict, but she was unsuccessful.

He nodded to the foreman, “Mr. Foreman, what is your verdict?”  At this point the judge was just going through the motions of proper procedure.  His voice was automatic.

“We, the jury, in the matter of the People versus Jordan Enterprises, find the defendant not guilty on all counts.”

“What?” Giulia said out loud, but thankfully not loud enough to be heard by the judge.  There was an audible gasp from the gallery.

Maybe it was another one of those days in Emerald Heights jurisprudence.

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