Chapter 16: Trial
The next day couldn't come early enough for anyone involved in the conspiracy. Those on the CATS side simply wanted the situation over with. Those on Miles Westin's side wanted to pull out their smoking gun as soon as possible. Finally, the day arrived where everyone was in Providence. The media was still surrounding the courthouse, but the gag order prevented them from going any further than the parking lot.
Doug Danson was outside on the clock, so he couldn't go in with the others. All he could do was share his wisdom with the rest of the group before they joined the others in the courtroom. “Harrington is pulling for you,” Doug explained while his media coworkers set up for as much coverage as they could hope to get from their position. “He can't throw the trial in your direction, but he wants you to win. He believes you.”
“I trust him,” Chuck replied to his friend. Miles was nudging his brother. The police officer at the front door was waving the group over, but Doug and Chuck seemed to be having a moment. Jamie found it disgusting and simply followed Miles and Drake Sarkassian, who had taken the lead into the building. Drake was wearing a sweater with a short-sleeved shirt over it. He seemed uncomfortable not wearing his clothes from the hospital.
Ashley, Michael Ross, and Gary soon began to follow. Chuck managed to pull himself away from Doug and join the others inside.
On the other side of the courtroom, the defense was making its way inside as well. Larry Burke was following Coretta closely as they entered through the double doors. The jury sat to the right. Miles couldn't call him Leisure Suit Larry anymore. Coretta forced him to wear a professional suit and tie to look presentable to the jury. Appearances played a major part in trial decisions.
The prosecuting team made their way into the room. Chuck Westin took the seat reserved for the prosecutor. Miles sat next to him and Ashley sat next to Miles. Jamie, Drake and Gary took the seats right behind the prosecuting table. The Devil chose to sit by himself further to the back. No one noticed immediately.
The bailiff, a stern-eyed black man with a muscular build, took his spot. “All rise for the honorable Judge Joseph Harrington.” Most everyone rose. Coretta literally had to yank Larry Burke into standing. Not showing respect to the man presiding over one's future could prove fatal. Michael Ross kept his seat as Joe Harrington came in and took his seat. “You may take you seats,” his voice boomed.
Harrington looked over everyone at the courtroom. Chuck Westin was sitting where the prosecutor should be. Was there no prosecutor willing to take the case? Well, even though the Westin's decision to prosecute themselves was likely not legal, Harrington made no motion to correct it, mainly because Coretta Smith made to motion to correct it, even though she knew perfectly well that it was illegal.
“Will a member of the prosecuting team give their opening statements?” Harrington requested.
Ashley tapped on Miles' shoulder and whispered something in his ear. Miles followed and whispered it to Chuck's ear. Chuck nodded and stood up to take his place in the center of the courtroom. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he began. Miles cringed at the generic statement and Coretta gave off a slight chuckle. Larry sighed. There was only one woman on the jury, so the term “ladies” in the plural form proved that Chuck's speech was canned and he didn't really pay attention. Why should we expect him to pay attention at any other point during the trial? He kept going. “The defendant, Larry Burke, is an agent for CATS. His lawyer Coretta Smith is also an agent for the same organization.”
“Objection,” Coretta said as she stood up. “I'm not the one on trial here.”
“Sustained,” Harrington replied. “Mr. Westin. Keep your comments focused on Mr. Burke.” Chuck nodded accordingly. “He and his cohorts in the organization worked tirelessly for years to the same end: to initiate the Polar Shift in an effort to end human life as we know it. I cannot tell you why he and his associates did this. All I can tell you is that he, beyond a shadow of a doubt, did in fact do this. Maybe he doesn't have a reason. Maybe he doesn't know the reason. Regardless, Larry Burke is a criminal and he should be locked in jail for the rest of his life.”
Chuck had a confident smile on his face as he sat back down. Miles dug his head in his face. He knew that plastering a smile on his face made him seem arrogant, not knowledgeable. The jury was already sympathizing with Coretta. She stood up and took her spot on the floor.
“Did any of you on the jury actually find any of that to be believable?”
“Objection!” Ashley stood up and yelled. “She's leading the jury. She shouldn't even be allowed to talk to the jury.”
Coretta defended her point. “It's a rhetorical question and Ashley Brock does not even have the authority to object since she's not in the prosecutor’s chair.” Ashley stood up and forcibly pulled Chuck Westin from the chair and placed herself in it. Still, Joe Harrington sided with Coretta. “The objection is overruled. You may continue Mrs. Smith.”
“In the next few days, you will see me bring forward a few suspects who will calmly and knowledgably deny the existence of CATS. Also in the next few days, you will see witnesses called to the stand who will crumble to my cross-examination because the only thing that's happened here is that the Westin brothers have created a lavish hoax and my client has been unfairly wrapped up in the middle of.”
Just as Coretta Smith took her seat, Chuck stood up. “I'd like to call my first witness.”
“You do not get to decide that, Mr. Westin,” Harrington chided. “Please try to restrain yourself for a few more seconds. The prosecution may call their first witness.” Chuck stood in silence for a few seconds before leaning back in hopes of someone telling him who the first witness was going to be. Miles rolled his eyes, stood up, and began to walk over to the witness stand.
“I'm the first witness. Somehow, my brother forgot that even though I reminded him about five minutes ago.” The bailiff came over and swore Miles into the witness seat. Chuck approached his younger brother. The type of questions he asked was important, as well as how he asked them. On top of all that, his reaction needed to be precise, especially with a jury who already seem to be on Mrs. White's side, and had no media to confuse them.
“Miles Westin, where did you first meet the defendant?”
“I first meet Larry Burke at Hyde's Park High School a few days after the Polar Shift. He has never held a teaching position prior to the shift, so it's my opinion that his arrival at the school has a connection to the shift.”
“You were not asked your opinion, son,” Harrington reminded him. “Stick to the facts.”
Chuck lined up another question. “Is the school the only place you knew him, or is there any place else that you spoke to him?”
“At first it was only school. At first he was just a history teacher. Then I get a call from Drake Sarkassian telling me Leisure Suit Larry has been to the hospital, where the coma guy has been for the last few months.”
“And who is the coma guy?”
“The coma guy is Larry Burke's coworker from an organization known as CATS. Larry Burke himself revealed it to me. Their goal is was to initiate the shift. I have not yet discovered their motive. The coma guy, who was given the codename of Professor Plum, wanted to back out. Larry Burke also wanted to back out, but he didn't let his supervisor know. Plum initiated his own investigation on how to reverse the shift. He came to Hyde's Park to that end, but a car hit him, leading to his coma. Larry Burke came here to finish the job, which is why he paid visits to the coma guy after finding out where he was.”
“Is the coma guy still at the hospital?”
“Yes he is,” Miles replied. “But he won't be for long. I've recently learned that the new hospital administrator Robert Talsteed put an order in to have him transferred. This is just CATS trying to retrieve the body without suspicion.”
“Objection,” Coretta called. “He's accusing a doctor from Hyde's Park to be in league with his fictitious organization!”
“Unknowingly,” Miles retorted, “but yes. He is.”
Harrington though longer on his ruling for this one. “Overruled,” he finally said. Coretta seemed shocked at the ruling, but took her seat quietly. She would have her revenge when she came up to cross-examine Miles. Now was her time. Chuck finished his questioning and took a seat. Coretta didn't take notes. She had her questioned ready and lined up.
“Mr. Westin, remind the court again where you first met Larry Burke.”
“School,” he replied. Miles swiveled his head behind Coretta to see that Michael Ross was no longer in the courtroom. He paid it no mind.
“Have you always thought my client was a part of your conspiracy, or did it just turn out that way?”
“At first, I believed that he was only a regular history teacher. He raised suspicion when he came to the hospital twice insisting on taking the coma guy home with him. You can ask anyone. Drake was there. Jamie. Allison. Any of the employees on that floor.”
“No further questions.” Coretta took her seat. She didn't probe him for question. The jury must have been leaning on their side. Miles couldn't help but wonder what her plan was. He kept a close eye on her and he left the witness seat and took his chair back next to Chuck.
“Does the counsel have any other witnesses to present at this time?” Harrington inquired.
Up next was supposed to be Drake. Chuck stood up to announce it, but Miles stood up first and cut him off. “Not at this time, your honor. The prosecution rests for today and allows Coretta Smith to call her witness.”
Her expression on readiness hadn't changed. Harrington nodded and turned to the defense team. Does the defense team have a witness to call at this time?”
“Yes we do, your honor. The defense calls Drake Sarkassian to the stand.” The switch surprised everyone on the prosecution team. It was Miles' choice. Coretta knew it was Miles' choice. She noticed that he skipped his turn and now she was going to take advantage of it. Drake took the stand and Coretta began her questioning.
“Would you tell the court what you do for a living at this point and time?”
“Well I hold an internship for-”
“I didn't ask you that, Mr. Sarkassian. I asked what you currently do for a living.”
“Well, currently I am unemployed.”
“And what position did you hold prior to your unemployment?”
“I was dean of medicine at Hyde's Park General Hospital for three months following the departure of Robert Talsteed.”
“And could you tell the court the reason for your departure from the position?”
“Objection!” Allison called. “She's bullying the witness. This is completely pointless.”
“I'll allow it,” Harrington said with conviction, “as long as Mrs. Smith gets on with her point. Answer the question, Mr. Sarkassian.”
“I do not currently hold the medical credentials necessary to hold the position. Robert Talsteed returned, and it was ruled that he should return to the position since I do not currently hold a valid medical degree.”
Coretta paused so she could glance at the jury, to see the expressions on their faces. The questions she asked were based completely on the reaction they gave off from the preceding questions, Miles noticed. She continued. “How did you meet Miles Westin?”
“About three months ago, Allison Dreary hit a man with her car. If the court allows it, I will not mention his name for personal reasons.” Harrington nodded. He found no harm in doing so. “Anyways, she and Miles came in with the coma guy. I took control of the situation and put him in a hospital room.”
“And what, according to them, made them believe that he has anything to do with the Polar Shift?”
“The man mentioned ending something in Hyde's Park. I was skeptical at first, but I did some more investigation and found his sister's phone number in his wallet and she confirmed it. He was, in fact, investigating the Polar Shift and everything we have done is simply a continuation of his work.”
“I knew all of that,” Coretta explained to the court. “This would be the part where I would logically call his sister to the stand to disprove her point. However, I came across a roadblock. Your coma guy does not have a sister. I did a little research and found that the man in that hospital room does not have any family in this area. No siblings either.”
“That's impossible,” Drake defended. “I spoke to her. She's real.”
“But she's not his sister,” Miles spoke up.
“Mr. Westin,” Harrington chided. “Remain in your seat or I will hold you in contempt of court.”
Miles took his seat Ashley leaned over to him, and asked him what he was going to say. Everyone else leaned in for the answer. “The woman we though was his sister must have been Miss Scarlet. Clever girl.”
Coretta continued her questioning. She had one more point to bring up so Drake's testimony would seem worthless. “You were skeptical, but you were still willing to call a number in his wallet instead of going through the proper preceding of contacting family members. Why? Why were you in such a rush to find out more about him?”
“I was curious because,” he paused. Coretta was giving him a fiery glare and the rest of the court was ogling him in anticipation. “I was curious because I had manifested precognitive abilities to sense danger after the Polar Shift went into effect.”
“No further questions,” Coretta said as she sat down.
Without even being invited (or allowed for that matter), Miles hopped up to begin his round of redeeming questions. Drake was their “expert witness” and he didn't need to court to think he was a melodramatic, unqualified, insane, space case. “Dr. Sarkassian, how would you describe Robert Talsteed?”
“She brought him up,” Miles correctly pointed out. “It must have been relevant to her.”
“Overruled,” Harrington told a disappointed Coretta Smith. Drake proceeded to answer the question. “Before the Polar Shift, I thought he was a wonderful doctor, but a terrible person. He always called me intern. He never bothered to remember my name. Now he's back and he's still a terrible person, but I have no respect for him as a doctor because he’s transferring the coma guy because he considers him a nuisance. The Talsteed I knew wouldn't care about that. Medicine always came first.”
“Do you think that Talsteed would be the one to come up with such a decision, or do you believe that someone else made the decision through Talsteed?”
“Objection,” she called again. She wasn't going to stop with that. “He's leading the witness.”
“I'll rephrase the question,” Miles told Harrington before he could rule in Coretta's favor. “Who do you believe came up with the order to transfer the coma guy to Maryland?”
“I believe that Robert Talsteed learned of the possibility of success in our investigation from one of the agents of CATS known as Colonel Mustard. He was offered something of value to him in exchange for simple cooperation. I believe Mustard made the decision and Talsteed in nothing more than his pawn.”
Miles looked at the jury. If there was anything he could learn from Coretta, it was how to read the jury, and their faces were saying that they felt Drake was an arrogant punk usurping Talsteed's job as dean of medicine. Miles needed to fix that immediately. “How did Talsteed transfer the position of dean of medicine to you?”
“Not that it was legal, but he singed it off on a napkin before leaving. I believe the napkin was put in evidence before the trial.”
“How did you feel about getting that job?”
“Terrible,” he answered honestly. “I didn't feel like I deserved it, but I was the only one willing to stay and keep the hospital running in the wake of impeding doom. No one with more experience than me stayed. I was the only choice.”
“And you kept that hospital running through hope and integrity?”
“No,” Drake answered honestly again. “If it wasn't for my newfound friends, I would never have gotten it. Allison Dreary gave me reason to keep working, Gary Derceto gave me a goal to work towards, and Jamie Reese gave me the ability to reach that goal.”
“You mentioned that you had visions that started after the Polar Shift. Could you describe them in detail for the court?”
“I got the first one the same ay that I met you and Allison. I say a lightning strike coming down, and I pushed Allison out of the way before it hit her. I received the second one a few weeks later. Someone had tampered with Gary Derceto’s brakes and I had a vision—this one of the past—saving his life.” Gary made a point to stand up and wave so everyone in the courtroom could know whom Drake was talking about. Jamie came over to him and forcibly pulled him back down to his seat. “I haven't had one since then,” Drake added.
“Do you believe you deserve the position of dean of medicine more than Robert Talsteed?”
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation.
“No more questions.”
Coretta stood up before Drake had even finished sitting down. “The defense calls Larry Burke to the stands, Your Honor.”
Already? Miles and the others on the prosecution team figured she would leave the smoking gun for the end. There had to be a reason for her madness. Larry sat down and was immediately sworn in. “Mr. Burke, tell the court who you are.”
Larry took a look at the prosecutor’s table. Miles was glaring at him. Chuck was looking at Jamie, who was looking at Drake. Gary was fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube. Ashley was trying to hide the fact that she was occasionally looking at Miles. Allison was falling asleep. Then he looked at Coretta. Her eyes were like burning stones. “My name is Larry Burke. I lived with my parents. I went to high school. I went to college. I earned a degree in History and Education. I worked in a museum for about ten years before the Polar Shift. Then I moved down her to Hyde's Park an became a teacher.”
“Objection,” Miles called. “He is lying.”
Coretta responded, “That is what where here to discern, sugar. If that were a fact, we wouldn't be here.” Miles sat back down before Harrington could order him to. Coretta continued. “Why did you become a teacher?”
“The museum closed after the Polar Shift came into effect. I've always wanted to teach, so I figured this was the perfect opportunity to do something I've always wanted to do.”
“How did you meet Miles Westin and Allison Dreary?”
“They are in my sixth period American History class. Miles is a star student. He comes almost every day, and has a 95 average in the class. Allison comes whenever she feels like it.”
There came a slight chuckle from the jury following this point. Allison was vehemently angered by their amusement, and gave them all a hard, cold glare. No one seemed to notice, or at least they did not care. “What are your sentiments about them, and the entire investigation in total?”
“Miles Westin and Allison Dreary have the grandiose belief that I am a member of CATS trying to destroy all of mankind. I'm not. They pursued me on it, and I quit my job in an effort to avoid them. They found me, and had their friend arrest me.”
“Yes. The chief of police in Hyde's Park is Gary Derceto. He's sixteen.” Not surprisingly, Gary did not feel the need to stand up this time. “That's all there is to it.” Coretta took her seat. Miles jumped out of his.
Questions would be futile. Larry Burke was a genius that knew exactly how to counteract any and all inquiries that came his way. Quite frankly, Miles didn't need the jury to lean to the defense any more than they already had. “Mr. Burke, do you remember how I described CATS?”
Larry shook his head no. “Allow me to remind you. CATS is an organization made of the brightest and most twisted minds in the world. Their leader is a man who goes by the pseudonym Mr. Boddy. As a matter of fact, all of the operatives are named after characters of the game Clue. You are Mr. Green. The coma guy is Professor Plum. Miss Scarlet is an omniscient assassin who is very likely in the audience right now. Ms. Peacock is named Meredith, but I haven't actually met her yet. Coretta Smith is Mrs. White.”
“None of that is true.”
“That brings me to my next question.” Miles dug into his left pocket and retrieved the photo of the man taken in Vienna. He held it directly at Larry Burke and asked. “Do you recognize this man?”
“Objection!” Coretta called. (Harrington was quite tired of hearing that word at this point). “That picture was not put into evidence. The prosecution cannot use it.”
Harrington agreed. “Mr. Westin, put the photo away or I am charging you with contempt of court. Mr. Burke, do not answer the question presented to you by the counsel.”
“Don't listen to him,” Miles ordered. “Answer the question.”
“Miles Westin, I find you in contempt of court. Fifty dollar fine.”
Ashley groaned. “I'll be paying for that. I'm sure.”
Harrington ordered again. “If you do not put the photo away, I will have you arrested, Mr. Westin.” Larry Burke still would not answer the question, and Miles was running out of time. Reluctantly, he pocketed the photo. He sat back down without another word.
“The court will recess for two days.” Harrington said glumly before pounding the gavel. He slinked up out of his chair and left the room. As soon as he left, Coretta and Larry were just about ready to leave as well. Miles turned to see that Michael Ross had returned. He was having him over.
“I got a tracer from Steven Alley. I put it on the lawyer's car. We're following. In case we get caught, we'll take Gary. Law enforcement can make an excuse.”
“I really want to point out how suspicious that sounds,” Miles said, “but I really don't care right now. Larry Burke still has a question to answer for me, and if he's not going to do it in the court room, he'll do it on our terms.”