CHAPTER 67: BUBBLE…AND SQUEAK AS MICHAEL CALLS JENNY
ALLEGHANY COURTHOUSE – TWENTY MINUTES LATER
INTERVIEW ROOM 2
“I’m going to tell you one more time. Sit down Novotny!”
He has been up and down like a fucking jack-in-the-box after what could only be described as an evisceration by Ephie! It was epic! Albert and Miles are smirking at his histrionics.
“Why didn’t you say something?!” He whirls round to look at Albert. “And don’t give me that bullshit about me being counsel. You are supposed to fucking help me!”
“What was there to say? It’s all in this evidence pack right here.” He taps the pack. “You see this unopened one?” I manage to stop the laughter starting to bubble up.
“You!” He shouts. Standing quickly he grabs the pack and throws it across the room.
In seconds, he’s whimpering and on the floor. Miles and I have him locked in the reverse hogtied position… his ankles and wrists cuffed above his back. Miles is holding his head still.
“I can’t breathe!” He whines.
“If you can talk you can breathe.” Miles hisses and I catch Albert’s eye. He looks as stunned as I feel.
This is Miles. He’s been a guard for over 15 years and he’s one of the calmest guys I’ve ever worked with… this side of him is unusual to say the least!
Two other guards come in and they look at Miles, then at me and I shrug. “Get him to the cooler.” I order.
“What’s the cooler?” He whines as he’s carried out. “I said what’s the cooler?!” He shouts as the door closes.
“He seems to be breathing fine.” Miles smirks and straightens himself out, then notices us staring at him. Sighing heavily he does the throat cutting motion and the recording light is switched off. I head to the window and do the double tap, which means get out. I watch them leave and then check the room and head back into the room.
“Vic Grassi was a good man. He was so proud of Michael and his store. If he saw how he turned out, he’d be ashamed and so very hurt.”
“How did you know Vic?” I ask.
“He’d come and talk to the prisoners with HIV; show them it’s not the death sentence that everyone thinks it is, I mean was. Never told a soul. And neither will you two.”
We both nod and I frown. “Miles…”
“My son. He’s doing really well. Viral load and T-Cell count are great. He was the first person that Vic spoke to. Blood transfusion.” He stands up and clears his throat. “Well I’m going to see if he’s cooled off in the cooler.”
He smiles shyly and heads out. “Well I’ll be damned.” Albert mutters.
“Not as much as Novotny is.” I snicker. “Part of me feels so sorry for the guy.”
Albert looks at me in surprise. “What on earth for? Quite frankly, he’s getting everything he deserves and more!”
“I know. But I know what it’s like to want something and not be able to have it.” I sigh. “Well not again anyway.”
“I was one of the no-repeats.” I stand up and smile at the memory. “And then everyone faded to black when Taylor came along.”
“Fuck me.” Albert chuckles and then pauses. “That was not an invitation, by the way. My wife would have a problem with that.”
I grin at him. “So would my husband.”
TREEHOUSE – THURSDAY PRE-DAWN
I’m fucking hungry. Correction, we are fucking hungry. It took ten minutes of gentle wriggling to get out of Faal’s arms without waking him up.
“Okay Bubble, now that we have some fucking privacy, let me show you what I’m good at.” I whisper to my girl. I take a breath and remember how Matt was. “Now although you have half your dad’s genetic make-up, you’re like your brother so you’ll tell me what you don’t like.”
I grab some bowls and look in the fridge. Then my eyes alight on the short rib and the chicken thighs. “So sweetie, by the way that’s what Auntie Ems, your godfather will call you sometimes, how about a short rib and chicken thighs with… I think I saw some ah yes some halloumi.”
Forty minutes later, thankfully the short ribs were already cooked, I am mixing the shredded short ribs, thighs and grated halloumi. I’ve let them set up and am about to start dredging when I realise I can’t fucking cook the damn things. Faal hates me using the fryer on my own.
“Fuck!” I gripe and start to clean up. “Little tip, Bubble, your dad is very protective. We’re going to have to eat something else.”
“Sit, you idiot.” Faal whispers and turns on the fryer. “When you get up, wake me up too no matter what. Every step of the way, understand?”
I sigh in relief and I pull the tray back out. “Balls or nuggets?”
“Balls, this is definitely a balls house.” He snickers.
Twenty minutes later, I’m sighing happily. “Oh fuck this may be hormones but oh this is so good.” I groan and feed Faal one.
“If you weren’t pregnant now, you would be after tonight.” He mumbles as he has another two at once. “Lig, exquisite.”
“It’s before four in the morning, they fucking better be!” Brian snarks as he comes in and takes one. I look at the empty space behind him and frown. “Recon.” He explains. “Justin!”
There’s a thunder of footsteps before he arrives. “Gimme.” He orders, taking one off of Brian’s plate and ignoring the stack in front of him.
“Okay I give up.” I grin. “Why Brian’s plate? The only time you don’t is in a restaurant, when we’re not in a private room. Why is it so magnetising to you?”
Silence but Brian has started to go pink.
“Spill Taylor-Kinney.” I order.
Sighing, he takes out a salt grinder. “It’s this.”
“Gimme.” I order and Brian smirks. “You won’t figure it out. Alice hasn’t and she’s been cooking for years.”
I sprinkle some into the plate and taste it and it’s fucking excellent! “Oh I’ve got it and you are so bad!”
“Come on then. Whisper-whisper.” He teases me but when I lean into his ear and cover my mouth his head whips round.
“I’m right, ain’t I?” He looks crestfallen. “You’re secret is safe with me.” I kiss his cheek and he smiles.
MASTER BEDROOM – AN HOUR LATER
“No. I promised Brian. And as much as I love you. I won’t tell you what but I will tell you why.”
“I’ll take it.” I scoop them back into my chest and kiss the back of her neck.
“Because Justin loves hot things. But he can’t eat the mainstream things because of his allergies… so if Brian puts the spice on his plate…”
“And makes a big song and dance about it…” I chuckle.
“Win-win.” I turn to face him. “Seriously, say nothing. Although I might actually have to have him knock up a batch for me, first time without fucking heartburn!”
CHASE, DONALDSON & DRAPER – LATE AFTERNOON
I can’t help but smile at Jenny’s reaction when she found out she’s to be a witness. She’s so looking forward to tomorrow. During the trial, the kids have been given special dispensation by their schools and are being privately tutored. Jenny and Gus are doing their work across the office from me. As much as we trust them, they’re teenagers so staying at home is not an option.
“Hey.” I look up at David’s voice and smile. “Shall we take them for lunch?”
“Is it that the time already?” I look at my watch in surprise. “Yeah they must be starving…”
“Yes we are.” Gus is at the door looking hopeful. “Can we go now?”
“Sure. So where do you guys want to go?” I gather my things and speak briefly to Sophie.
“Steelhead Brasserie please.”
Gus looks at Jenny in surprise. “Why there after the last time?”
“That’s exactly why. The burger was great, well what I had of it. And this time it’s people who we love and want to be with.” She states firmly and puts on her coat. “Shall we go then?”
ALLEGHANY HEALTH NETWORK – SAME TIME
I look at the screen and tell myself that I am not going to cry. Not in front of this male nurse anyway. There is a grey blob and the thrum of Bubble’s heartbeat is now my ringtone. I sniff and take the proffered tissue.
“You’d be made of stone if you didn’t.” The nurse smiles kindly. “Well she’s looking fine to me. Your next appointment is in a month.” He hands me the tissue to wipe Zee’s stomach and I grin at him. “So how many photos do I need to do?”
“Four.” Zee replies and I frown. “Jenny is scrap booking, Xanthe has sent her some books. Mom wants one as do Debs and Jen.”
I just stare at her for a few seconds before she realises and smiles sheepishly. “Sorry five uh six.”
“No problem. It happens all the time.” He chuckles and prints out the photos.
“Faal.” I put my hand out and he removes his gloves.
“Robert. Now Zee, have you sorted out your birth plan because we really need to discuss this too.”
“Ugh. Can I just turn up and push her out?”
“No!” We both retort.
“Sheesh no need to shout!” She giggles.
ALLEGHANY COURTHOUSE – FRIDAY MORNING
I’m surprised to see Brian and Justin in their seats when I come in. I am just about to sit down when Melville comes in.
“Apologies ladies and gentlemen. Judge Paal will be delayed for another 40 minutes. It is unavoidable. Just to be sure, we will reconvene at 1100.”
Albert suddenly laughs while he and Tank exchange looks. Tank looks behind him and shakes his head. “Eyes front Novotny!” He orders and after the last time, I resentfully keep looking forward.
“Best be back by quarter to boys!” Ma calls out and I can feel my resentment bubble up as everyone laughs.
“Seriously is he really that good?” Albert asks.
I smirk and turn to him. “Brian and I…”
Tank laughs. “Yes he really was that good then but judging by the speed they left, he must have improved.”
What the fucking fuck?!
COURTROOM 1 – 1100 AM
Brian and Justin made it back about 2 minutes ago and Debs just shakes her head.
Meriam will be cross examining today. Charles is too close to Jenny and Ephie thought that Meriam would be a better choice. When we first got back, we were surprised to see Solomon and Menno had arrived. Under Solomon’s instruction, all the men are surrounding Jenny. Mel, Leda and Zee were pissed they were relegated to the third row but reluctantly admitted that the jury faced with two rows of burly men, including an Iron Man, shows how we are going to protect her.
Jenny wanted to be on the end of the row, claiming it would make it easier for her to come out but Solomon said no, he wants her between us. Meriam insisted that we sat on the end row though.
“All rise for Judge Paal.” Malcolm intones and then looks across at us. There is a ghost of a smile.
Judge Paal comes in and settles down, spreading her papers around. She’s frowning and shaking her head.
“You may sit.” She waits for everyone to settle before turning to Novotny. “Before we start, can the defense explain to me why you have called this particular witness?”
Novotny stands and sighs. “She’s a character witness your honour. And it will become clear…”
“Fine. Defense to begin.”
“I call to the stand…”
“Remember the name rule Mr Novotny.” Judge Paal warns.
He grimaces and then nods. “”Jenny Rebecca Marcus Bruckner-Smart.”
Every time I hear my name at the end of hers, I get a lump in my throat and I look down and sigh. “Papa, you doofus, I can’t get out with you in the way!” Jenny giggles in my ear.
“Sorry honey!” I leap out of the seat and let her out. When I turn round, he’s glowering at the Judge as she’s not done anything about the laughter.
Jenny makes her way across to the stand is sworn in by Malcolm and then sits down; we immediately spot the problem. This is an old fashioned court room and the seat in the stand is fixed and my daughter is a little bit short.
“I can stand up instead your honour.” She suggests.
“Are you sure? This might be a long session for you.”
“It’s fine your honour.”
“Okay. Proceed Mr Novotny.”
“Hi JR.” He pauses and waits for her to reply.
“My name, as you well know, is Jenny Rebecca Marcus Bruckner-Smart, not JR and definitely not Honeybun…”
“Jenny Rebecca then. How have you been?”
“I’ve been better. But not sure what that has to do with why I’m here.”
“Yeah me too. I’ve had better days.”
I look across at Meriam and she’s calm though I’m itching to scream relevance.
“And you’re at fault for you having a shit time and me being here. Sorry your honour, I mean…”
“It’s fine. The stenographer will strike that word.” She smiles at Jenny. “Mr Novotny, get to your questioning quickly.”
“Jenny Rebecca before the unpleasantness that lead to my ostracisation, how would you say our relationship was?”
“It was good until it wasn’t.” Jenny replies narrowing her eyes at him. “Let me clarify that. When we lived in Canada, it was great though there was a period when I was a brat towards Gus. I was jealous and would let you know whenever Gus was coming over so that I could come too or you would come over with Uncle Brian. But one time I pushed it too far and it all came out what was happening.”
He flounders as he clearly wasn’t expecting her to say that. “Right so um…”
Jenny looks across at us and Ben smiles at her and mouths well done.
“How was our relationship when you returned to Pittsburgh? Would you say I was a good father?”
“It was good for a bit. But you were more interested in Uncle Brian than us, especially Hunter, but dad more than made up for it.”
“That’s hardly fair.” He snaps.
“How many times did you come to see us when Uncle Brian wasn’t there?” She demands.
“That’s not relevant.” He rebukes her.
“Objection. It is relevant, she’s a character witness your honour.” Meriam stands.
“Sustained. Prosecution will repeat the question in cross, correct?”
“Yes your honour.”
“Continue Mr Novotny.”
“Would you say that our relationship and that between Uncle Brian and myself changed with arrival of Zaden Ugerstacht?”
“Can I answer that?” Jenny interrupts.
“If you wish.” Judge Paal looks wary but Jenny nods. “Overruled.”
We all look at Meriam and she shrugs.
“The relationship between us didn’t really change as you only ever bothered to visit when Uncle Brian did. But yes the relationship between you and Uncle Brian changed when Aunt Zee, I mean…”
“That’s fine, we know who you’re talking about. Please continue.” Judge Paal cuts her off and turns her chair to face her and the court goes quieter, if that was possible.
“Aunt Zee came along. She was a client at first but then she and Uncle Faal became friends with Uncle Brian and Uncle Justin because they treat them with honesty and respect. And she would always try and help where she could. If it wasn’t for her, we would have nowhere to live.” She pauses as if to gather her thoughts. “Aunt Zee let us stay in her Brownstone when we first came back. And when we had our problems with you, she helped us.”
He smirks. “How would you say she helped you? Isn’t it true that she made it so that we couldn’t fight back against her wealth and that’s why we lost?”
Jenny frowns and then glares at him. “No it’s not true! And we’re talking about your character, not hers. The same character that accused Hunter of almost killing dad because he caught pneumonia. But it wasn’t pneumonia; it was the pills that he was taking and you wouldn’t listen to Hunter. The same character that was supposed to repay the money to my college fund as promised but has not made a single attempt to repay one dime, but I hear your toy collection has expanded. The same character who asked to be let out of paying support but wanted to have a say in how I lived my life. The same character that threatened his mother saying that he would bar contact with me when you regained custody of me. The same character who came to Hunter’s first showing for laughs but suddenly became interested in Hunter when he got the finders’ fee for some art he found, not your best friend Lindsay who you say should’ve received a portion…”
“Uh Jenny you…”
“I’m not done Mr Novotny. You want me to talk about your character. Can you explain the jacket?”
“Jacket?” Novotny stammers and looks at Albert who shrugs.
“There is a jacket that was found in your garage. I remember seeing Uncle Brian wearing it once to Canada. It was just before we moved back to Pittsburgh. How was it there?”
“I’m asking the questions Jenny!” He snaps and crosses his arms.
Out of the side of my eye, I see Tank start to shift.
“The next time I saw that jacket was on Uncle Justin. It looked better on him. So…”
“JENNY REBECCA SHUT UP!” Novotny shouts.
“Hey! Step the fuck back Novotny! Right the fuck now!”
It isn’t until I feel a hand on my wrist that I realise I’m standing in the middle of the courtroom and Ben is pulling me back and Drew is in front of me.
“Papa! Papa please, just sit down. I’m fine!” Jenny calls out. “I’ve schooled him before and I’ll do it again.”
“Mr Bruckner-Smart, I would hate to have you removed but I will.” Judge Paal warns but I see understanding in her expression. “Will you sit?”
“Yes, yes your honour.” I take a breath and sit slowly down.
“You see what I mean your honour? I was being…” He wisely trails off in the face of the wrath on Judge Paal’s face.
“Continue and quickly Mr Novotny.” She almost growls.
“Your honour with regards to the jacket, can you advise the jury to disregard the comments about it and we will…”
“You must have stolen it.” Jenny interrupts him. “After you saw Uncle Justin in it.”
All colour leaves his face and his mouth opens and then closes before he whirls round to face Brian.
“I fucking bought that for you!” He snarls. “Not for you to give it to your fuck toy Boy Wonder!”
Brian just stares at him for a second before turning to kiss Justin, softly and sweetly. Then Justin takes his hand and they walk out without looking back.
I smile and think as a ‘fuck you’ that was impressive.
I watch my Uncles walk away and then turn to look at our side of the room and suddenly I want to cry. I can feel my bottom lip going and the tightness in my chest.
“Court is in recess for an hour. Jury you are dismissed. Please remove Mr Novotny immediately.” She bangs her gavel then covers her microphone and leans across. “Hold on Jenny, hold on.”
I can’t look up but I know she’s gone, then I feel a hand on my shoulder. “Hold Jenny.” Malcolm whispers.
For crying out fucking loud, get out quicker! Finally the last person leaves and immediately Steve has her in his arms and she’s sobbing her heart out. I remember the last time I saw her like this was also because of Novotny.
And like the last time, I walk out of the courtroom with tears in my eyes.
“Absolutely not. No cross.” Ben orders and Leda nods.
“We can’t not do it. Mel you know this.”
“She’s right Ben or her evidence is inadmissible and what she said about the jacket…”
“Hopefully Albert will step up.” Ephie sighs.
“We’ll know soon enough.”
COURTROOM 1 – AN HOUR LATER
We’re back and everyone seems to have calmed down. Jenny is back on the stand and the court is quiet.
“How are you Jenny?” Meriam asks.
“Objection! The health of this witness is of no importance.” Novotny sneers.
There is an astonished silence. “Overruled.” I shake my head in disbelief.
“As indicated by Judge Paal, there was a question asked by the defence that I wish to ask you again. Can you remember what it is?”
“Objection! It’s the prosecution’s job to…”
“Sit down.” Albert hisses and then stands. “Your honour, members of the jury and the court. I will be cross-examining from this point onwards.”
“No your honour.”
“I remember the question that I asked him.” Jenny’s voice is, thankfully, strong. “It was how many times did he visit us when Uncle Brian wasn’t there? And the answer was twice or maybe three times, but then we were going to be seeing Uncle Brian later so he came for the lift most likely. Aunt Zee always provided cars to ferry the entire family to whichever house we were going?”
“Thank you Jenny. Your witness.”
“Defense rests, your honour. No cross, the witness is excused.”
Meriam whips her head round. “What?”
“No cross, the witness is excused, your honour.”
“Uh, do you have any other witnesses to call, either of you?” I look at both teams in bewilderment. I get the same expression from the prosecution side whilst Novotny looks apoplectic.
“I have…” Novotny begins.
“DEFENSE RESTS YOUR HONOUR!” Albert bellows and stands.
I blink rapidly and bang my gavel. “Court is adjourned until 0930 on Monday morning! Counsel to my chambers immediately!”
“All rise.” Malcolm demands almost throws the jury out.
JUDGE PAAL’S CHAMBERS
“Okay what the fuck?!” I demand, pacing the room looking at Meriam, Charles and Ephraim.
“No idea.” Charles mumbles.
“Let’s wait until they get here before we jump to anything.” Ephraim suggests and right on cue the door opens.
“Before anybody says anything, we are waiting for one more person.” Albert says tonelessly and sits down.
Novotny flings himself into a seat and glowers at him, but with Tank in the room he keeps quiet.
Two minutes later, Supreme Court Justice Rausch comes in and I immediately give up my seat.
“Narda please sit.” He smiles at me. “May I have the paperwork please?” Malcolm hands over a raft of papers and he looks through them carefully.
“I see no problem with your request, Mr Thomas.” He scribbles on a piece of paper and my heart starts to race. You have got to be kidding?!
Albert leans his head back and sighs in relief. “Thank you Supreme Justice.”
“What’s going on?” Novotny whines.
“You’re on your own.” Albert turns to him. “I have recused myself. To watch you haul your daughter, emancipated or not, into court was shameful. And when you stepped towards her to tell her to shut up, you were lucky that Tank was there.”
Novotny looks him up and down in disgust. “I’ll just get another lawyer. I have the right to one.”
“No you won’t.” Supreme Justice Rausch replies. “You explicitly and voluntarily gave up your right to counsel and he volunteered to be your counsel. In order for you to get another attorney, one would have to volunteer and I suspect by the time Mr Thomas gets back, nobody will touch you.”
“That’s against my conjugal rights!” He hisses.
“Constitutional. There ain’t nobody in this room that wants to think about you and the word conjugal in any shape, way or form!” Ephie snipes.
“So on Monday when I call Brian, there’s nobody to stop me?” He smirks.
“That’s true.” Charles says. “But there’s nobody to stop us either.”