Shootings (Part Nine)

Shootings (Part Nine)

Shootings is a story about two men with completely different goals, and how their actions affect the same group of women. It will unfold here in serial format.

Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Sitting there watching Brenda walk down the aisle, Greg looked over at the defendant’s table. The accused — Martin Thandle, who was keeping an amazingly straight face — had to wonder exactly what she would say. She hadn’t pressed charges, but the State had. Nothing if not understanding and compassionate, Brenda was there as a witness, not the plaintiff.

Thandle showed a slight chink in his armor as Brenda walked past him. More than what Brenda was going to say, Greg wondered if he might be undergoing litigation had this Thandle guy not come along and pulled his little vandalism stunt. Before she took the stand and began telling her story, Greg’s mind wandered back to the day after he had pulled a stupid stunt of his own.

He waited until the garage door began sliding open slowly and deliberately, then checked to make sure nothing was in there waiting to be crushed. He turned into the driveway and made the final short climb to his car’s protected spot. As the sun gave way to the shady environs of the garage, Greg reached up to his visor and clicked the remote control to close the door behind him.

The laundry room door opened and out ran Alex. “Daddy!” he said through a big smile.

Greg smiled and muttered between clinched teeth, “I just need a minute, kiddo,” but it came out, “just need a ninnit.”

His first order of business was deleting that video from YouTube. The last thing he wanted was to test whether he would throw Matt to the wolves if given the chance. Sometimes, regardless of which option one chose in “fight or flight,” the easy if more cowardly solution was putting someone between oneself and the attacker.

“You don’t have to outrun the bear; you just have to outrun the other guy,” Greg said.

Alex opened the driver’s door and pulled it with both arms. “What, Daddy?” Alex said.

He lifted the boy and hugged him as he got up from his seat. “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about animals. Where’s your mom?” He set Alex down.

“She’s in the kitchen. She’s helping me with the glue on my school poster.”

Greg stopped in the living room. Raelynn set down a brown bottle of craft glue and wiped her fingers with a paper towel. “You guys keep working on that while I go take care of something I forgot to do at work this afternoon,” he said.

Raelynn looked up at him. “You have to do it right now?”

“Yep, but it shouldn’t take very long, babe,” Greg said.

“Just thought you might like to know how many calendar orders you got after we talked this morning.”

Greg stopped. This might change his plans. Just how much interest was the video generating?

“How many?” he said.

“More than 1,000,” she said.

He almost got dizzy. His eyes widened. “What? How?”

“Apparently during channel 8’s report this morning, while we were watching channel 5, they held up your calendar to show Brenda’s picture.”

“What angle did they use?” Greg said.

“It was pretty much a straight shot.”

“No, I mean –”

“I know, I know. You mean ‘sexy mama gets knocked to the ground at Ground Control’ or ‘fundraising mama has little success passing the cup around,’ right?”

Greg put his head in his hands. “Those are horrible. Been working on those all day, haven’t you?”

“Just a few minutes, actually,” Raelynn said. “They went mostly for the fundraising angle. Zoomed in on the website address on the back, too. I don’t know who started it, but a clip of it ended up all over my friends’ pages on Facebook.”

Greg turned to head down the hall to the guest room that doubled as an office. “That’s great. A little free publicity never hurt anyone. How is little Lawrence, anyway?”

“He’s fine. They released him at about noon.”

Greg logged into the YouTube account he had used to post the court video. He was relieved to see that there were no more comments than the bogus one he had added. Some marketing expert he turned out to be, getting trumped by a traditional newscast. He removed the video and canceled the accounts he had used, and hoped that would be the end of it.

Sitting in that courtroom now, listening to Brenda, he hoped the agony would stop soon for the stranger on trial. He felt sorry for him. Sure, Thandle had done something kind of nutty, but on a certain level Greg could relate; more than once he had fantasized about shooting a hole in one of those inflated advertising behemoths.

——-

“Then my son saw that big cup and just ran out after it. I chased him, because my husband and I always say that standing there yelling at a kid doesn’t do any good. They have to know that you’re going to do something besides just yell. Used to, if you got a good swat on their leg, that was enough. Can’t do that in public nowadays, though. Anyway, I was just about to catch up to him when that cup came down on us. It hit us so fast and hard that we both smacked the asphalt pretty good. We think little Lawrence — that’s my son — hit his head on the fan that keeps the thing inflated.”

Colleen smiled at Brenda and asked, “And where did you and your son spend that evening?”

“At the hospital. They said I was fine, but they needed to keep him just in case he hit his head too hard. Could have a concussion, they said. It was really the kind of bump any kid could have brought on themselves.”

Martin thought he saw Colleen wince a little at that. “What was your state of mind after the cup pinned you and your son to the ground?”

“We were both unconscious at first.”

“So it knocked you out?” Colleen said.

“Just for a little bit. Those baristas were real helpful and got us untangled pretty fast.”

“As you regained consciousness and they worked to free you, were you frightened?”

“A little, but mostly I hid it because Little Lawrence was crying. The last thing you want is to show your kid you’re freaked out.”

Martin winced at that. Rigoberto kicked him under the table.

“So, you were ‘freaked out’ by this?” Colleen said.

“Well, in the sense that it was unusual. I was no more scared than when my mother-in-law’s horse bucked me, or when my dog fell off the back of the boat… with my mother-in-law watching.”

A smattering of laughter spread through the audience.

“Oh, but she didn’t mean for those things to happen, just like I don’t think that man meant to hurt me and little Lawrence.”

Colleen became agitated. “He shot a gun at a large object, Mrs. Yeager. An object that then endangered you and your son. Do you agree that doesn’t qualify as the same thing?”

This definitely did not seem like the same woman Martin had exchanged flirtatious notes with back in English class. He was glad, however, that it also didn’t seem like the same confident litigator who had started this trial.

“I suppose. Say what you want,” Brenda said. “We’re fine now.”

“Were you aware, Mrs. Yeager, that when Mr. Thandle was apprehended by police, they found a calendar in his home turned to a picture of you?”

“Well, the accident was all over the news, and they showed the calendar on there. He probably had bought one to help our cause and looked me up after seeing me on TV.”

“So you spoke to Mr. Thandle prior to the incident?” Colleen said.

“No, I never met him.”

“So you don’t actually know for a fact why he possessed the calendar or why he was looking at your picture?”

“No, of course not.”

“No further questions, your honor,” Colleen said.

It seemed to Martin that the prosecution’s second star witness had not caused the damage Rigoberto had feared. Without a living, breathing, well-trained plaintiff, the case against him was weakened.

Now it was Rigoberto’s turn. Old Lawyer Miralda stood, and was going to shine. Going to poke holes in all the conjecture and hearsay. Going to —

“I have no questions for this witness, your honor,” Rigoberto said.

“What?” Martin heard himself say as he started to get up.

Rigoberto put a hand on Martin’s shoulder and pushed him back into his seat. “Stay with me, kid,” he whispered.

Frustrated and confused, Martin sat quietly. Brenda Yeager stood and stepped down from the witness stand. She seemed even more beautiful, and he held his breath so he would not smell her perfume again.

All the evidence had been presented, and all the witnesses had been called. Martin’s turn at the the stand was the last thing left before the closing statements.

(to be continued)

2 Replies to “Shootings (Part Nine)”

  1. I really bought into Brenda’s character there, Mark. Nicely done dialogue. Her use of “little Lawrence” helped personalize her right away.

    Does it now look like Greg and Martin might each get away with their little shenanigans?? Or will there be a TWIST?!?!