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***** Writer’s note: Chapter 23 and 24 are written to be a story of their own. Please read both. They are a complete substory of the bigger family drama! Enjoy!
INTO THE WOODS
TGIF! T-fucking-GIFF! Thank you, God, it’s Fucking Friday! Jack Grant sighed in relief, as Judge Jethro Jacobs vacated the bench and left the courtroom, ’cause this week has been one fucking ballbuster of a day-in-court!
Jack’s week had been mostly a workweek; but, work had been sheer pleasure compared to his personal day-to-day existence. Family life was not being kind to Jack Grant. Not only did his daughter ‘hate’ him; but, to make matters worse, he hadn’t been able to spend any time with Jessica.
Today, Friday, in particular, had been mostly one workday from hell—a culminating event. Several weeks of legal effort had been put to the test as the attorneys and their clients finally appeared in court.
All of Jack’s pretrial motions to have his client’s charges dismissed, because Traynor’s daughter was a consenting adult, were summarily denied after Jennifer pointed out to Judge Jacobs that the girl was living at home and still in high school, hence ‘un-emancipated’. Oregon law was pretty clear about eighteen-years-old being the age-of-majority, but less clear on set-age of emancipation. Legal issues arose when a child turned eighteen before they finished high school, but were still living under their father’s rules and in their father’s house.
Jennifer argued that living at home, still in high school, having no job, and no means of support until she finished high school meant the girl was, as yet, in point of law, un-emancipated. Un-emancipated equals ‘not an adult’.
Judge Jacobs agreed.
Spencer’s motion as drafted to release his defendant’s assets, taken under Civil Asset Forfeiture laws, was objected to by District Attorney Riley. Riley’s objection was sustained. Not entirely unexpected.
So, Jack Grant’s law firm then made a motion to withdraw, based on financial incapacity to defend the client. He suggested assigning the case to a firm with more financial-muscle, since the issue of asset forfeiture alone would require an appeal to a Federal District Court based on the judge’s ruling.
Judge Jacobs almost lost his temper; but, instead, brought the Deputy District Attorney Riley, Jack, and Jennifer up to the bench.
“Riley, do you want this conviction to stand?”
“Yes, Your Honor!”
“Then, he needs money to defend himself!” Jacobs replied, pointing out the obvious.
“We’ve seized his assets.”
“No shit, Riley! Why do you think I called you up here?” Jacobs turned his attention to Jennifer. “Ms. Grant, can you defend the girl’s rights? I mean, is there a financial hardship for your part of the firm?”
“We can defend. There’s no hardship.”
“Dr. Samantha Green and I have access to a foundation that covers costs for cases like this. It’ll cover modest attorney fees as well.”
Jacobs nodded his head. “Good. Thank you, Ms. Grant.” He paused for a few seconds, apparently weighing what he had heard so far, then focused on Jack. “That brings us to you, Counselor! What have you got to say about your firm’s financial hardship, regarding this case?”
Jack dug in his heels. “To defend this client, with anticipated appeals, will drive us into poverty. I would ask for the Court to appoint a Public Defender.”
“Is that a motion?” asked the judge.
“Denied! God damn it!”
Cocking an eyebrow, the judge swung back around to Riley. “Riley. I don’t like having my cases appealed on grounds, which I can prevent.”
“Are you going to release his assets?” That’s a fucking hint, Mr. Assistant District Attorney!
“Sir, I don’t think … “
Jacobs immediately cut him off. “What are the total assets in question?”
Riley thought and answered, “Approximately $531,098.75 dollars. That includes a house, two cars, a bank account with $43,200.15. It does not include a Public Employees Retirement Account worth approximately $387,285.00 at current value.
The judge turned to Jack. “Counselor, what are your firm’s approximate costs for representing Paul Traynor? Include filing costs, fees, support staffing, and modest attorney fees. Something approximately the same fees as … let’s say, Ms. Grant, here. Just for the trial in my court, so don’t include appeal-costs in your estimate. ‘Cause there ain’t gonna be no appeal!”
Jack thought for a moment. “Let’s say approximately $25,000 depending on how many days the trial takes. No more than that, in any case, for the local trial. Could be less.”
“Riley, god damn it!” Jacobs hissed. Wake the fuck up, Riley! It is good to know the law, it’s better to know the judge! Especially how he thinks.
Fed-up with Riley’s obstinacy, Jacobs decreed, “Jack, put your request before me again, with the cost-figure attached, as a motion to free pendik escort forfeited-monies.”
“Agreed!” Jack said quickly. “I make that exact motion.”
“Objection, your honor!” Riley fired off immediately.
The judge leaned back. Then smiling, he stood up and walked from the bench towards his offices. “Play nice, boys and girls, I’ll be right back. I need to wash my hands.”
Riley spoke first, “Jack, you’re an asshole.” Riley’s voice was low, but the Court Reporter lifted her head and stopped her busy fingers. The transcription halted, but the small recorder kept recording.
Jack nodded, “Yes, I am. Look, Riley, the reason Spencer wanted this case, in the first place, was your use of ‘Civil Asset Forfeiture Law’. He believed, and I agree, it violates the ability of the client to be adequately represented. It denies him the right to an attorney. It makes a decent legal defense impossible!”
“I may lose the incest-abuse-child-abuse, whatever seamy things you choose to call this case,” he continued, “But, in every likelihood, we’ll prevail on the ‘Civil Asset Forfeiture’ piece in a higher court. That means, it’ll get bounced back for a new trial. And you’ll pay for the appeals, the bounce-back, and have to release monies for the next trial to whatever attorney who takes it. And you’ll be responsible for putting the issue, which you and other Oregon District Attorneys and County Sheriffs use to fund county Law Enforcement activities, in jeopardy by taking it to an appeals court.”
“Riley, you guys have already lost part of this power to the state initiative ‘Ballot Measure 3’, that the voters passed to handle the most egregious cases. Additionally, the state legislature acted as well with ‘SJR-18’, which became Measure 53. The remaining sliver of authority that you use, here in Oregon, is the money you get to keep. That’s the 80% of assets, when it’s a Federal charge. In this case, lets say, the charge of displaying his daughter on the internet on Skype. If the citizen, with assets, has done something arguably illegal, you may never even press charges; but, you still get to keep the money.”
“Jack, you’re a poor attorney,” Riley spat out.
In response, Jack merely chuckled. “If you mean I have no money, you’re right. If you mean I have a poor command of the law, then be my guest and refuse to release funds to my client.”
The judge returned, using a white-cotton towel to wipe his hands dry. “Well, did you all have a chance to talk while I was gone?”
Riley’s eyes lifted nervously. “Yes, we did.”
“I see. So then, Jack, regarding your motion … Let the record show that I ….”
Riley interjected, “If I may, Your Honor? Upon due deliberation, the county will release the bank account or, at least, an amount of $25,000 to the defendant for the express-purpose of retaining an attorney.”
“Well now, Mr. Grant, that seems to render your motion moot.”
“Yes, sir, it does.”
The Judge grinned and leaned back in his chair. “Seems to me that it also renders an appeal, based on lack of assets to retain counsel, moot!”
“Any other earthshaking motions before we start this circus?” Jacobs asked.
Jennifer spoke up, “Sir, I’d like to petition the court for a change in legal status for my client. I’d like the court to declare her emancipation and competency to make her own legal decisions.”
The judge studied her. Then he glanced at Riley, who nodded. He smiled. “With pleasure.”
“And”, she added, “support payments to Chelsea until she finishes high school.”
“Done.” He smiled again. “Anything else?”
Jennifer spoke right up, “We’d like Paul Traynor held without bail, until sentencing, this time.” Riley nodded.
Jack intervened, “Objection, Your Honor. My client, the accused, represents no flight danger. He’s not going anywhere; his family, home, assets, and community are all local.”
“He’s a continuing threat to Chelsea!” Jenn protested.
Jack turned on Jennifer. “No, he’s not. At least until the trial, she’s at a safe house. He doesn’t even know where she is. Jennifer, it’s my job to defend him. Denying him bail isn’t necessary; he’s a threat to no one.”
Jennifer turned away from Jack and faced the Judge, suggesting, “Bail at $250,000.”
Jack wasn’t surprised in the least. Yep, ten percent is $25,000! That’s all the money the firm would had gotten released from the Civil Asset Forfeiture for the cost of a defense. He’ll need every cent of the released-monies to pay the bondsman for the bail. We’re broke again.
“Done!” Judge Jacobs smiled. Jennifer smiled. Even Riley smiled. Jack just stood there, with his pants down around his ankles, metaphorically. Dear God, as an attorney that woman’s a ballbuster!
“Okay, final call at the bar,” Jacobs announced, “Anything else? No? Then how about we call it a day?” He raised the gavel.
“My defendant waives his right to a jury trial and asks, instead, for a bench maltepe escort trial.” Jack trotted out.
Even the Judge didn’t see that one coming? “What?”
Riley pounced on it. “Objection, Your Honor. I think the defendant has every right, a constitutional right, to a jury trial. In front of a dozen of his peers.” Riley was counting on a jury seeing the evidence and judging for themselves.
Jack instantly countered, “Your Honor, in view of the inflammatory nature of the evidence–the only evidence, I might add, that the District Attorney’s Office has been able to scrape together in its weeks of investigation–I think my client will stand a better chance of a fair trial with a judge. I believe his best defense is a legal defense before someone, who’s not swayed by the emotional baggage of this highly inflammatory evidence.”
Jennifer cut loose, “Jack, what the fuck are you doing? Objection, Your Honor!”
“God Damn It! Jack, I was looking forward to seeing the evidence tape,” the Judge spit out. “Shit!” I sit behind this bench watching traffic cam footage, or footage from a police chase, or surveillance camera footage. All major league boring shit. I finally get a decent amateur porn video and the fucking attorneys screw it up with their motions and pretrial maneuvering. Fucking lawyers! Could they make my job any more boring?!
Almost sulking, Judge Jacobs threw his pencil down on the yellow legal pad and sat back. “I’ll take that motion under advisement; but, I’m not ruling today. We have probably resolved enough for now. We ought to actually try some of this in court, not at the bench.”
“Let’s go back on the record then. Make your motions for the record.”
All the pretrial motions were duly entered in the court records. The only one left unanswered was Jack’s motion for have a bench trial for his client. In truth, he knew he’d have to convince Paul Traynor that his best interests were served by having the tape not be introduced into evidence in front of a jury.
Finally at about 4 p.m., the judge stood and recessed the case. He turned and left the court for his chambers, undoubtedly to wash his hands one more time.
Thank fucking God!
Their day’s work at the County Courthouse complete, Jack walked Jennifer and Dr. Sam to their Porsche.
“I’ll bring Nicole out first thing in the morning.”
They waved as they accelerated away. It was Friday evening and everyone was ready for this hell-week to be over.
The next morning, Saturday, was a glorious summer morning. It was 9 a.m. but, the air was fresh and cool, the sun just barely up. True to his promise to Jennifer, Jack was at the wheel of the jeep navigating the turns of the Salmon River Highway. Nikki was awake and quiet as the wind blew through the open Jeep and kept trying to mess-up her hair. Nicole was still mad at her father; nothing had made her forget the hurt of what he said to her.
Jack drove them across town and out into the country. They followed the north side of the Salmon River for a couple of miles before pulling into a driveway of a modest but very nice ranch-style home on the river’s bank.
Jack grabbed Nikki’s bag, walking her to the door. Dr. Samantha Green met them.
“Morning, Sam,” Jack greeted her.
“Jack, Nikki.” She extended her hand and welcomed them both. “Jenn will be right down. Or, Nikki, you can just go up the stairs. She’s on the balcony having coffee. I stay and talk with Jack.”
“Aren’t you coming in, Daddy?” Are you just going to leave me here? No, goodbye kiss? No, ‘I love you’?
“No, this weekend is for you and Jennifer. You and I will spend some family time, when you come home. We’ll talk then. Now, go enjoy your mom.” Go learn our secrets!
Jack bent forward and kissed her on top of her head. Then, he whispered into her ear, “I love you. Everything is going to be okay. I promise!”
Nikki was off.
Sam waited as Nikki ran for the stairs. Turning back to Jack, she observed, “She seems quiet. Didn’t she want to come?”
“No. Nikki met, Jessica, a couple of nights ago. It didn’t go well. I think she’s worried about me having someone else in my life.”
Dr. Samantha Greens eyes softened for Jack. “It is a phase, Jack. It will pass.”
Upstairs, Nicole found Jenn as she was just standing up from her coffee. “Mom!”
Jennifer scooped her up. “Nikki, wow! Look at you.” She took Nikki’s chin in her fingers, tilting her face up and gently kissed her on the lips. It lingered. They had lost time to make up for.
Dr. Sam rejoined them as the kiss was ending. They were a beautiful mother and daughter. Nikki stepped back and her mom carefully looked her over. Redhead? Braids and corn rolls with tiny beads on the end, and green eyes! Holy shit! Jack you might have mentioned the other small changes. I wonder if he even noticed? Men!
“Wow, again! A redhead with green eyes. I guess some things kartal escort have changed in the last few years; I remembered a daughter, who was a blond with blue eyes.”
“So, do you like it?” Nikki smiled, her eyes twinkling.
Samantha stood at the top of the stairs, not wanting to interrupt the moment.
“You’re stunning. You look like an elf. Almost … mischievous.” And she thought, a teenage version of Samantha. Jenn glanced up at Samantha, then at her daughter.
Sam just tilted her head slightly to one side for a sec, as if saying, Yeah, I know.
Samantha approached. Jennifer simply said, “Nikki, this is Sam. We’re … “
“I know, Jack told me. It’s cool.” She eyed Samantha. “She’s hot.” She’s totally fucking hot!
Dr. Sam noted the ‘Jack’ instead of ‘Daddy’. She just filed the info away. “Thank you. But, I think she was trying to tell you we’re married.”
Nikki stared at Samantha, then at her mom–then at their hands. They’re both wearing identical wedding bands.
Samantha took Nikki’s hand, leading her to a chair. “Sit. I’ll get you some coffee.” As she passed Jennifer, she kissed her. The kiss lingered, too. She went for the coffee.
Nikki sipped the brew. It was good, like her dad’s. She glanced over at the coffee bar, same equipment she had at home. Jenn offered an explanation. “Your dad makes the best coffee ever. We make it his way.”
Dr. Sam added, “It’s kind of an homage.”
Nikki’s eyes lifted from the coffee. “When did you two get married?”
“May of last year, when it became legal in Oregon.”
Nikki turned to Jennifer. “I don’t think dad knows.” There’s no way he knows! Did you guys not tell him? Is this another family secret?
“We were about to remedy that when he called about you. He said you might want to come out for a weekend with us. Look, Nikki, he’ll be fine about it. It’ll be a surprise; and, I know how much he hates all change, but he’ll be fine with it.” She reached over and took her daughter’s hand. “This weekend’s about us. You and me, mostly.”
“That’s cool,” Nikki acquiesced, nodding her head. Then she immediately turned to Sam. “So, what do I call you? Mom? Stepmother? Dad?”
Okay, this one says what she thinks, she doesn’t pull punches. “You can call me Sam, if you’re comfortable with that. Or, Samantha. If you want more distance, Dr. Green or somewhere in between Dr. Sam. ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are already spoken for in your life, I suspect. And, ‘stepmother’ has all those ‘wicked’ associations; so, no, definitely not ‘stepmother.'”
“What does mom call you?”
She laughed. “Sam, when she’s happy with me. Samantha, when she’s not sure.”
Jennifer casually observed two of the people she loved most in the world, sparring with one another. So far, it was gentle.
“Can I call you, Dr. Sam?”
“That would probably be about perfect for right now. What do you want me to call you?”
“Simple enough, Nicole it is.”
Watching the two of them in profile was enthralling for Jennifer. She wished she had a camera; but, no one would have understood and the camera couldn’t have caught something so fleeting and ephemeral. For those brief fleeting moments, they were just the two most beautiful women she’d ever seen. Their physical similarities were unsettling.
When you stare into the abyss, sometimes the abyss stares back. Two sets of stunning green eyes pulled her back from an edge.
“Mom, are you okay?”
“Earth calling Jennifer,” Sam prompted.
“Huh?” Jenn asked in surprise.
Jennifer raised her eyes to Sam, who spoke first, “For a moment there, you appeared to be literally ‘lost’ in thought.” She stood up. “Look, I’m gonna leave for awhile to give you and Nicole some time to catch up. Just yell, if either of you want me to be a part of these discussions. I’ll be around. I think I’ll take the girls for a swim.”
As soon as Sam walked out, Nikki asked, “Girls? What girls? Have you and Dr. Sam got guests this weekend?”
Jenn laughed. “No, not guests. Sam’s talking about our dogs. We have two Golden Retrievers named Ginger and Pepper. They love to swim and fetch sticks or balls in the river. It’s their thing.”
Nikki heard a short whistle from downstairs, an explosion of scratching paws across the floor below, and Sam’s voice. “You guys want to go swimming? Oh, you do!” Then a door slamming, followed by silence.
Alone at last, Jennifer and Nikki gazed across the table at one another. It was a difficult moment; both of them were thinking the same thing. How to begin?
Jennifer broke the ice. “I asked you out to the house, because your dad called. He thinks it’s time for us to have a ‘real’ talk. I know you think I abandoned you and your dad. NO, scratch that. What do you think about me and your dad and me and you?”
Nikki took a deep breath. Okay, here goes! “I don’t understand why you left. You went to see Grampa and you just never came back. I think dad understands, but he won’t tell me why. Daddy still loves you. He even still wears your wedding ring. I think that maybe, somehow, it was because of me. I don’t understand what I did. Or why you didn’t take me or, at least, take me part of the time. “
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