Part 9: link
Aredian strides to the witness stand from the back of the courtroom, a thin, severe, imposing figure, all in black. Something about his demeanor makes everyone uncomfortable in his presence, like they’re afraid that he’s going to shoot lightning bolts from his fingertips and smite them just for breathing the same air.
“Good Lord, Arthur, where’d your father meet him?” Gwen whispers.
“I honestly have no idea. Some questions are better left unanswered,” he whispers back. He’s been enjoying whispering in her ear all afternoon, though he feels slightly guilty about his enjoyment, in light of the circumstances.
Leon stands after Aredian is sworn in.
“State your full name, please.”
Leon pauses a second. “All right,” he nods. “And what is your occupation, sir?”
“Can you explain to the court what that exactly means?”
“I know how mechanical things work. I diagnose problems and I fix them.”
“Is there anything you cannot fix?”
“I have yet to discover one.”
“Very good,” Leon says, clearing his throat. Clearly even he is a bit unnerved by his own witness. “A week ago Friday, you paid a visit to the warehouse at Alined Paper, is this correct?”
“And what were your findings?”
“My findings are on the report in your hands.”
Leon takes an almost imperceptible deep breath. “Yes, but as I do not have copies for everyone here, would you please summarize your findings? Exhibit A, your honor.” Leon hands the file to Judge Rodor.
“I found fifteen separate repairs in need of attention on a variety of machinery, as well as cracked cement, peeling paint, and a significant rodent problem.”
Gwen hears murmurs of agreement from the men seated directly behind her: Duncan, Ezra, and Percy. They know of these problems.
“Cracked cement and peeling paint?”
“Safety issues. Cracked cement can cause accidents. Men can trip, machinery can develop problems moving on an uneven surface. The paint to which I am referring is the bright yellow paint on beams and railings, designed to make them visible to workers driving forklift trucks to keep them from colliding into things.”
“And the rodents?”
“Illness and disease. Workers get sick, they cannot work.”
“You mentioned forklift trucks just a moment ago,” Leon says. What can you tell us about forklift #2?”
“That truck, in its current state, should be sidelined and used for parts. Had it been properly and routinely maintained, it would be fine. Mr. Johnson already described the issues that truck has. I do not need to re-state them.”
“So his statements were accurate? The… bad steering and brakes, bald tires, faulty hydraulics?”
“Yes. And it was also spewing black smoke from its exhaust.”
“Your honor, I should point out that Jack Aredian’s report of his findings is limited to just
the warehouse. He did not venture into the factory, though I would recommend he be allowed to do so in the near future.”
“Mmm,” Rodor answers noncommittally, still looking at the report.
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Aredian. I have nothing further,” Leon says. He sits and takes a long drink of his water.
“Mr. Boudreaux?” Rodor asks, lifting his eyes to where Aggy is sitting, looking somewhat uneasy. The judge looks over to see Aredian staring at Aggy. Just staring, not glaring or doing anything menacing.
But it even gives Judge Rodor the creeps. “Mr. Boudreaux, would you care to cross-examine?” he repeats, a little louder now.
“No,” Boudreaux squeaks.
Judge Rodor glances at the clock and sighs. “All right, folks. It’s Friday, and it’s past 4:30. Ain’t nothing goin’ to be done in the next half hour. We will adjourn for the weekend and reconvene Monday, nine a.m.”
“I think that went well,” Leon says, out in the corridor. “It was amusing to see that Aggy was not immune to Aredian’s particular charms.”
Arthur chuckles. “My dad is the only one who is.”
“I don’t know if that makes me like your father more or if that makes me a little afraid of him,” Gwen says. “That man was just creepy.”
“That he is,” Arthur agrees. “Are you hungry?”
“Sorry. Oh, hey, Elyan,” Arthur looks up to see Elyan approaching them.
“Arthur,” Elyan nods.
“Elyan, this is Leon Winters, Arthur’s associate. Leon, my brother Elyan.”
“Nice to meet you, Elyan,” Leon says, extending his hand.
Elyan shakes it. “You’re doin’ a good job up there, as far as I can tell,” Elyan says, surprising them all.
“Could you tell that I was nervous questioning Mr. Aredian?” Leon asks.
“Nah, we was all
nervous when he went up there,” Elyan says. “They takin’ good care o’ you up there, Gwen?”
“Yes, Elyan, I’m fine. The worst part was listening to Ezra,” she says.
“Yeah, that was rough. Daddy would o’ been proud o’ him, though.”
Gwen nods. “He was there with us today,” she says, taking her brother’s hand and squeezing it. “Where were you?”
“In the back, o’ course. Sneaked in just before two.”
Gwen smirks at Arthur, who tactfully turns his head to hide his smile.
“All right, I know
what you smirkin’ at, girl.”
“Just be there earlier on Monday. I’d like it if you were sitting closer to me,” she says.
“Let’s go home,” Elyan says. “You got a car here?”
She glances at Arthur. “Um, no… Arthur gave me a lift…”
Elyan looks sideways at Arthur.
“Only because parking is terrible ’round here. No sense in bringin’ more cars over when it’s already bad.”
“Yeah, I’m two blocks over and one up,” Elyan allows, grudgingly. “Come on, you can cook me supper,” he says.
“I ain’t cookin’ you nothin’, Elyan Thomas,” Gwen snaps back as the four of them walk out of the courthouse. Arthur chuckles behind them. Even Leon can’t hide his smile at Gwen’s sassy demeanor with her brother.
Arthur is heading into Gwaine’s to meet Merlin for lunch Saturday when a commotion catches his eye a couple blocks away.
Police are outside the Woolworth’s, and as he looks, he sees about a half dozen young black men being escorted from the premises.
Not escorted, hauled.
He looks. Shit. Is that Elyan?
He starts walking over. Yes, it is. Shit, Elyan, what are you doing? I don’t need this. Guinevere doesn’t need this.
He recognizes the officer holding Elyan’s elbow and calls to him. “Steve! Hey, Steve!”
The officer stops. “Arthur!”
“What’s going on here?”
“Taking these boys to the station. Disorderly conduct.”
“Now hold on a minute there,” Arthur says. “I happen to be this young man’s lawyer.” He shoots Elyan a look that says Don’t you dare open your mouth.
“Can I have a word with my client, please?”
“Steve, I just want a word.”
“All right,” he says, holding his hand up to the other officers who are now taking an interest.
“Elyan what the hell are you doing?” Arthur asks, quietly but forcefully.
“We wasn’t doin’ nothin’, honest! We was just sittin’ in. Real peaceful, like. Wasn’t botherin’ no one!”
Arthur studies him a minute. “I wish Guinevere was here,” he mutters.
“She knows when you’re lyin’.”
“I ain’t lyin’ Arthur! We was just settin’.
On my Mama’s soul.” He moves his shoulders a minute. “I’d cross my heart if I had my hands.”
“All right, I believe you,” Arthur says, holding up his hands. “Let me talk to the cops.”
“Do not open your mouth,
” Arthur says sternly. “Hey, Steve,” Arthur says. “Disorderly conduct? Surely that’s a bit… trumped-up, don’t you think?”
“I just got a call from the Woolworth’s, Arthur…”
“Steve, Pete,” he addresses another policeman as well now, “these boys weren’t botherin’ anyone. They were bein’ peaceful.”
“They upset old Mrs. Nash.”
“Old Mrs. Nash is 112 if she’s a day. A goldfish would upset old Mrs. Nash,” Arthur sighs. He shoots a glare at Elyan as he bites back a snicker.
“Let ’em go, boys, come on. You got better things to be doin’ than chasin’ after some colored boys who weren’t doing anything besides maybe
“I don’t know…” Steve shifts his weight on his feet now, clearly considering it.
“You got bigger fish to fry, boys,” Arthur presses. “Like that kid who keeps knockin’ over gas stations. Or that moron who keeps showin’ his business to ladies down in the park.”
“Look, Steve. If it’ll make you feel better, I’ll be responsible for Elyan here.”
Elyan is about to open his mouth to protest, but another glare from Arthur keeps his teeth together.
“If he so much as jaywalks, you can arrest me, too,” Arthur finishes.
Elyan is shocked. He would put his own neck on the line like that for me?
“Release them, boys,” Steve says to the other officers, and they go about unlocking handcuffs. “I will be keeping my eyes out for you, though,” he says to Elyan.
The policemen get in their cars and disperse, and Elyan turns to Arthur.
Elyan’s friends all stop and thank him as well. Arthur notices that Aaron is among them, too. He stops and shakes Arthur’s hand. “Thanks, man. Knew you had to be good people, since you’re Merlin’s friend.”
Arthur nods at Aaron, then turns to Elyan. “Don’t make a liar out of me, Elyan,” Arthur says tersely. “I don’t want to end up in jail any more’n you do.”
“Your sister doesn’t need you making trouble either, not now.” Arthur starts walking back to Gwaine’s, and Elyan follows.
“I know. I wasn’t tryin’ to make trouble. I said we was bein’ peaceful, and we was, but then that old biddy started in to fussin’, and ’fore we knew it, the fuzz was pullin’ up and slappin’ cuffs on us all without even askin’ us
what we was doin’.”
Arthur nods, then shakes his head. “That’s wrong. They shouldn’t be hasslin’ you and automatically assumin’ you’re trouble because of the color of your skin.”
Elyan looks at Arthur as if he’s never seen him before. “You really think that way, don’t you?”
“Like what Dr. King said. That people shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin. They should be judged by the…” he pauses, trying to remember the words.
“The content of their character, yes,” Arthur nods. “That is really the way I think.”
“You’re all right, Arthur,” Elyan says after a time.
“Even for a blonde Mr. Charlie?” Arthur asks, smirking.
“You’re all right as a man,
“Thank you, Elyan. So are you, my friend.”
Sunday, halftime of the St. Louis – Minnesota game, and Arthur’s phone rings.
“You’re lucky it’s halftime,” is how he answers the phone.
“You think I would be callin’ anyone while the game was on, Arthur?” Gwen laughs.
“Oh, well, seein’ as how it’s you, then, no. Merlin isn’t as considerate. How are you, Guinevere?”
“Pretty good. Cardinals are kickin’ tails and takin’ names, so it’s a good day.”
“Can’t argue with that logic.”
“Elyan told me what you did yesterday,” she says.
“Oh. It wasn’t nothin’.”
“It was somethin’, Arthur. He really appreciates it. And so do I.”
“It really wasn’t a big deal. I just made the cops realize that they were overreacting, is all.”
“You put your own reputation on the line for my brother, Arthur. He told me what you said; about if Elyan gets in trouble again they can arrest you, too. He couldn’t believe you’d do that for him.”
“Elyan’s a good guy. I think he forgets that himself, sometimes. But I did it for you, too, Guinevere.”
“Well, yes. You don’t need him addin’ more stress to your life right now. I told him that, too. He loves you, Guinevere, and I don’t think he realized that his actions could have a negative affect on all the good you’re tryin’ to do with this trial.”
“Oh,” she says. “The trial, right.”
“Well, that’s not the only reason, but you won’t let me talk about that,” he says softly.
“You don’t need to impress me, Superman, you’ve already done that,” she admits.
“Um… oh! Did Elyan convince you to cook dinner for him on Friday?” he asks, changing the subject to hopefully a lighter topic. Ignore the elephant in the room.
“Nope,” she says, and he can hear her smile. “We stopped at the McDonald’s on Ridgeway and I made him buy me a cheeseburger.”
“Good for you,” Arthur chuckles. “I came home and had a bowl of cereal and some toast and ended up falling asleep on the couch. Woke up around 1:30 and then went to bed.”
Gwen laughs. “After supper we came home and I came straight up here and took a long, hot bubble bath.”
The silence on the other end of the line is deafening, and it is only then that Gwen realizes her mistake.
“Arthur?” she ventures cautiously.
“Sorry,” he croaks. “I’m here…”
“Um, the game is coming back on. I’ll let you go so we can both watch.”
“See you tomorrow morning,” she says.
“Okay. Goodbye, Guinevere,” he answers and hangs up the phone.
Arthur finds he has trouble concentrating on the second half of the game because his mind keeps drifting to thoughts of Guinevere, lying blissfully in a bathtub, her skin glistening, surrounded by piles of luxurious suds.
8:40 Monday morning finds Gwen waiting outside the courtroom with Arthur and Leon. Both lawyers seem excited about the day’s events. Percy is taking the stand today and they cannot wait.
“What if he chickens out?” Gwen asks.
“He won’t,” Arthur says. She doesn’t know the latest details, and he doesn’t have time to go into it all right now.
She smiles, and he knows that he’s gone all Superman on her again. “Oh, there he is,” she says.
Percy walks slowly over, joining the group. “Hey.”
“Percy, you look very dashing today,” Gwen says, looking up at him.
“Thanks. This is my one good suit,” he says. “I have trouble finding suits that fit me right, so I always have to have them made or tailored,” he explains.
“Well, if you were the size of a normal human man instead of a… a silverback gorilla, it wouldn’t be a problem, now, would it?” Arthur asks, smirking at the large man.
“That’s a new one,” Percy says, nodding appreciatively with a chuckle.
Gwen looks between Percy and Leon’s shoulders now, suddenly feeling very short, and sees Merlin and Gwaine walk in.
“Gwaine?” she says, furrowing her brows.
Arthur turns. “Merlin,” he nods. “Gwaine, this is a surprise.”
“Trial of the year, man, had to come. Miss Gwen, you look lovely, as always,” Gwaine holds his hand out, expecting Gwen to place her hand in his.
She looks at his hand and raises an eyebrow at him.
“This ain’t your pub, mate,” Merlin says, thumping him on the head. “Company manners.”
Gwen chuckles at Merlin as he chastises Gwaine like he is a disobedient child. She looks at the large clock on the wall. 8:50. “Ugh, time is crawlin’. Why were we here so early?”
“Gotta be here early. The courts frown on tardiness,” Leon says, looking at his watch. “Hey, Jim,” he says, greeting a police officer walking past.
“Jim!” Arthur calls, waving him back.
“Arthur, Leon,” the policeman says.
“Jim, this is Guinevere Thompson. The house that was vandalized by your new favorite guest was her house,” Arthur says. “Guinevere, police chief Jim Quigley.”
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” Gwen smiles. The chief offers his hand and she shakes it. “And thank you for your help.”
“Just doin’ my job, miss. And speaking of, I’d better get to it,” he nods. “Nice meeting you. Arthur, Leon, good luck today. Keep me posted.” He glances up at Percy and gives him a friendly nod.
“Of course,” Arthur answers.
As Jim steps away, Gwen sees him pause near Gwaine and mutters, “Mom says hello. And get a haircut.”
Gwaine snorts and slaps Jim affectionately on the arm as he walks away.
Gwen looks at Arthur, a question in her eyes. Arthur nods slightly, but puts his finger to his lips.
Well, I guess that explains how Gwaine’s tavern stays open.
“Let’s go inside,” Arthur says. “We don’t want to meet up with Aggy here in the hallway, do we?” As he leads the group inside, Gwen glances back to the doors and sees Elyan come skidding in.
Earlier than he was on Friday,
she thinks with a shrug.
“State your full name, please,” Leon starts out, leaning casually against the table where Arthur and Gwen sit.
“Percival Einar Andersen,” he says, clearly a man less than thrilled with the name his parents gave him.
“That’s quite a name,” Leon comments.
“Well, it’s not just you southerners that go in for family names, Mr. Winters.”
“Right. Where is it you hail from, then, Percy?”
“Sioux Falls, South Dakota, sir.”
“Sounds like a good, honest, hard-working town.”
“It is, sir.”
“Do you miss it?” Leon asks, as if he is making conversation.
“Objection, your honor. This is irrelevant,” Aggy says, his tone irritated.
“Merely establishing my witness’s character, your honor,” Leon explains.
“Overruled. Continue,” Judge Rodor waves his hand.
“Do you miss South Dakota, Mr. Andersen?”
“Sometimes. Don’t miss the cold weather.”
There are scattered chuckles throughout the crowd at his answer. Arthur smiles a small smile. This is exactly what I was counting on. The man is a genuinely good person. They’ll see this.
“You are an Army veteran, is that correct?” Leon pushes himself away from the table and starts milling slowly about the front of the courtroom.
“Yes, sir. Was injured and honorably discharged.”
“Were you in Korea?”
“No, sir. Vietnam.”
“Oh, so very recently, then,” Leon continues as if he doesn’t know all the details.
“How is it you were in Vietman? The United States hasn’t sent any combat troops there yet.”
“Special Forces, sir. Confidential.”
“Ah, you could tell me, but then you’d have to kill me, is that correct?” Leon smiles.
“And why were you sent home?”
“Injury. I lost part of my leg, below the knee,” he says.
“And I trust that’s all the detail you can give, correct?”
“And you came home to find…”
“I came home to find that no one was able to give me a job. Or willing, more accurately. I’m built for physical work, Mr. Winters. No one wanted to hire a man with one-and-two-thirds legs, even if the rest of him is perfectly healthy,” he shrugs.
There are some mutterings in the crowd now, mutterings of understanding Percy’s plight, mutterings of scorn for the people who wouldn’t give him a job.
“So you return home, a war hero with significant scars to prove it, and no one would hire you.”
“So you picked up and came here?”
“Not exactly, sir. My mother made a call and… well, sir, she helped me get this job at Alined Paper, sir.”
“Yes, sir. Eugene Alined is her older brother.”
There is a collective gasp throughout the crowd. Percy’s secret is out. Arthur glances over to see Aggy Boudreaux scrambling through his notes, and he grins, poking Gwen on the arm and pointing.
Arthur leans over and whispers, “See? I told you. Pre-emptive strike. We let the cat out of the bag before Aggy does, disarming what was surely a key element of his defense.”
Gwen nods and smiles at him, finding her gaze lingering on his smiling face just a fraction too long. She drops her eyes and blushes slightly.
“So your mother called your uncle and asked him if he would give you a job,” Leon says.
“If Mr. Alined is your uncle, then why are you helping Miss Thompson with her case?” Leon asks the question that is now on everyone’s minds.
“I have no love for my uncle. I am grateful to him for the job, but I disagree with just about everything he stands for as a person.”
“You’ll be lookin’ for another job sooner’n you think, boy!” Alined shouts suddenly, his face red.
Aggy grabs his client’s arm and shushes him vehemently. “We do apologize for the outburst, your honor,” he sputters, squeezing Alined’s arm so hard his knuckles are white. “It won’t happen again.”
“It better not or I’ll find you in contempt of court,” the judge says.
“If you dislike your uncle so strongly, why did you accept the job?” Leon continues, asking the questions he knows Aggy would be asking, well aware that Arthur is now smiling rather smugly behind him.
“I was desperate for a job, sir. Some of you can understand this.” There are scattered nods throughout the crowd. “When you’re desperate, you’ll take whatever you can get, no matter the conditions. Even if it means moving far away.”
“Why did you need this job so badly, Percy?” Leon asks quietly.
“My father is dead. My mother can’t work. I’m her only son. I need to support her,” he answers, just as quietly. “My mom is… fragile. Simple, but sweet. She needs looking after. She has a friend that looks in on her, but we can’t expect her to take care of my mom financially.”
“You have no other family?”
“No, sir. Just me and my mom. And him,
I guess,” he says, nodding in Alined’s direction.
“So you send money home,” Leon says.
“Yes, every week. As much as I can spare.”
“You are a good son, Percy,” Leon nods. “And I believe you are a good man. Would you care to tell us why you chose to speak up about Mr. Thompson’s death?”
“Well, sir, a man was killed. A good man, with a family. His death could have been prevented. Should have been prevented. It was simply the right thing to do, sir.”
“Right,” Leon nods. “Your honor, I submit Exhibit B for your perusal,” Leon says, reaching for a thick folder of papers. “Copies of repair requests for several pieces of equipment. Requests that were never fulfilled.”
The judge takes the folder and flips through the contents. “I don’t suppose you have the originals?”
“Exhibit C, seized from Mr. Alined’s office,” Leon says with a smirk, handing him the second folder. “You’ll see they were never signed off.”
“How did you acquire these forms, Mr. Winters?” Judge Rodor asks, raising an eyebrow.
“His, um, ‘personal assistant,’ Mr. Dennis Trickler, is currently being held in County for vandalizing Miss Thompson’s home, along with several other charges that have come to light. Miss Thompson and her brother agreed to drop the vandalism charges if he would help us with one or two items pertaining to this case.”
Percy glances at Alined. His face is stony and blood-red. Aggy Boudreaux looks like he is going to be sick.
“I have nothing further at this time, your honor,” Leon says, nodding to the judge, and sitting.
Arthur nods at Leon, pleased. “Let’s see what he comes back with now.”
“Mr. Boudreaux,” Judge Rodor says, trying not to sigh.
“Thank you, your honor,” Aggy stands and immediately starts pacing and posturing, a fat peacock with his hands clasped behind his back.
“Mr. Andersen, you expect us to buy that you’d turn your back on your own kin for some negro who happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time?”
“Well, that’s a hell of an open,” Leon leans back and mutters to Arthur behind Gwen’s head. Arthur shushes him, but he’s smirking.
“I don’t expect everyone
to understand my motives, sir, no,” Percy says carefully. It’s fairly clear to the crowd to whom he was referring when he said “everyone.”
“What are your motives, then, son? Please enlighten us.”
“As I said, a man died that did not deserve to die.”
“Surely that happens all the time.”
“But it would have been prevented if other people had done their jobs, sir,” Percy says, glancing again at his uncle.
“So. You’re just a nice, honest, down-to-earth young man with a big heart, a decorated war hero that just wants people to treat each other with respect, is that it?”
“I guess you could say that, yes, sir.”
I love that he keeps ending his statements with “sir,”
“Mr. Andersen, according to my findings, your nickname in the army was ‘Sweet Pea,’ is that correct?”
Percy furrows his brows. “Um, yes, sir.”
“That’s an… interesting
nickname for a soldier, isn’t it?”
“Yes, sir,” Percy answers, glancing at Leon and Arthur, who look as confused as he is, but give him encouraging nods anyway. Keep being yourself!
“Now, Mr. Andersen, it makes me
no never mind, but surely homosexuals are not allowed in the military…”
“Objection, your honor!” Leon stands and yells. “This isn’t relevant, and he’s insulting my witness!”
“Merely establishing the witness’s character, your honor,” Aggy shoots back, using Leon’s earlier words against him now.
“Overruled… for the moment. Proceed carefully, Mr. Boudreaux.”
“Now, Mr. Andersen, would you care to explain how you kept this little secret from your commanding officer? Surely this fine, upstanding war hero wasn’t lyin’
to the U.S. Government…” he sneers, the implications plain in his voice.
“I am not a homosexual,” Percy states simply. Calmly. Arthur almost stands and cheers. He’s unflappable!
“Oh, you ain’t? Well, then, care to explain your little nickname, honey?”
“Objection!” Leon yells again.
“Sustained. Watch it, Boudreaux.”
“I’ll answer the question,” Percy offers, looking at the judge.
“If you’d like.”
“My initials are P.E.A. I made the mistake of writing them on my pack, and, well, you know how it is in the military…” Percy starts.
“No. I don’t, as a matter of fact,” Aggy says, sounding like he’s proud of the fact that he never had to dirty his hands serving his country.
“I’m a Navy man, Mr. Andersen, so I understand completely,” the judge says. “But perhaps you can explain it to the defense attorney.”
“Well, all it takes is for one person to say something once, sir, and if it sticks, you’re stuck forever. And since I am, as you yourself said, a nice, honest, down-to-earth young man, someone started calling me ‘Sweet Pea.’ On account of the fact that I am how I am. Not queer, but quiet.”
Aggy seems to deflate like a balloon with a slow leak.
“You may think it an unfortunate nickname, but try telling that to my buddy Muttonhead,” Percival adds.
Arthur has to slap his hand over his mouth to stop his laughter. I love this guy.
“Quite,” is all that Boudreaux can manage. “So tell me, Mr. Andersen, why is it you felt it was necessary to make and keep copies of all these reports? Surely there is a better use of your time than pushing around papers?”
“Well, Mr. Boudreaux, my captain had a motto that he drilled into us. C.Y.A.”
“C… Y… A…” Aggy mulls over the three letters, as if tasting them. “Care to explain that?”
“Yes, sir. It stands for ‘Cover Your…’ um, rear end. Or very nearly close to that.”
“And how does this charming ‘motto’ pertain to your wasting company time and resources to make copies of reports?”
“Well, sir, the repairs weren’t getting done. So I started keeping copies of the requests just case there was an accident involving one of these pieces of machinery, and if someone got hurt or killed, we would know that we
at least tried
to keep our equipment operating properly,” Percy explains, speaking slowly and clearly, as if he is talking to a small child. “You will also notice that I re-used scrap pieces of paper to make the copies rather than, as you said, wasting
clean white paper,” he adds, just to further drive his point home.
Arthur reaches around Gwen and pokes Leon in the shoulder, who just nods. He glances at Gwen, who appears to be holding her breath.
“Breathe, Guinevere, it’s going to be fine,” he whispers to her, and she slowly releases her breath.
“Sounds to me like you have no confidence in your uncle,” Aggy says. He turns to the crowd “What kind of fine, upstanding young man turns his back on his kin like that, I ask you?”
He gets no response, only stony stares, so he spins quickly around to address Percy again. “You do not trust your uncle, son?”
“With due respect sir, I would ask that you please stop calling me ‘son.’ I am not your son. And no, I do not trust my uncle.”
“All right, Mr. Andersen,
why is this, pray tell?”
Percy looks at Alined a moment. It looks as though he has just swallowed a toad. “That is a matter of public record, sir. His past is well-documented in the state of South Dakota.”
“I didn’t find anything incriminating against Mr. Eugene Alined,” Aggy shrugs. “Exhibit, um, D, your honor.” He tosses a thin file on the judge’s desk, a report stating that Eugene Alined has no criminal record.
“Did you check under the name Herman Delaine, sir?”
“Who in the Sam Hill is Herman Delaine?”
“Eugene Alined, sir. His birth name.”
“You little bastard!” Alined leaps from his chair again, fuming.
“Mr. Boudreaux, restrain your client or I will have him restrained,” Judge Rodor shouts, banging his gavel. “Mr. Alined, you are fined $100 for contempt. I did warn you.”
“No further questions, your honor,” Aggy mumbles, pushing Alined back to his seat.
“I believe Mr. Andersen has said all he needs to say,” Leon drawls. “I’d like to call Eugene Alined… or Herman Delaine… to the stand. Whichever of you wants to come up. Don’t matter to me which.”
Percy gets down from the witness stand and makes his uneven way back to his seat. He pauses beside Gwen, and she smiles up at him, reaching her hand out a bit, then withdrawing it some, knowing that she shouldn’t. Percy reaches forward and clasps her hand anyway, squeezing it reassuringly between his large paws.
Gwen is surprised at the gentleness of his touch. “Thank you,” she whispers. He just nods and returns to his seat.
Part 11: link