The woods, p.17
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       The Woods, p.17

           Harlan Coben
 
Chapter 18

  I hadn't slept. Neither had Muse. I managed a quick electric shave. I smelled so bad I debated asking Horace Foley if I could borrow his cologne.

  "Get me that paperwork," I told Muse.

  "As soon as I can. "

  When the judge called us to order, I called a-gasp-surprise witness. "The People call Gerald Flynn. " Flynn had been the "nice" boy who'd invited Chamique Johnson to the party. He looked the part, too, what with his too-smooth skin, nicely parted blond locks, wide blue eyes that seemed to gaze at everything with naivete. Because there was a chance I would end my side of the case at any time, the defense had made sure Flynn was waiting. He was, after all, supposed to be their key witness.

  Flynn had steadfastly backed his fraternity brothers. But it was one thing to lie to the police and even in depositions. It was another to do it during "the show. " I looked back at Muse. She sat in the last row and tried to keep a straight face. The results were mixed. Muse would not be my first choice as a poker buddy.

  I asked him to say his name for the record.

  "Gerald Flynn. "

  "But you go by Jerry, isn't that correct?"

  Yes. "Fine, let's start from the beginning, shall we? When did you first meet the defendant, Ms. Chamique Johnson?"

  Chamique had come today. She was sitting near the center in the second to last row with Horace Foley. Interesting spot to sit. Like she didn't want to commit. I had heard some screaming in the corridors earlier in the morning. The Jenrette and Marantz families were not pleased with the last-minute snafu in their Chamique retraction. They had tried to nail it down, but it hadn't worked out. So we were starting late. Still they were ready. Their court faces, concerned, serious, engaged, were back in place.

  It was a temporary delay, they figured. Just a few more hours.

  "When she came to the fraternity house on October twelfth," he replied. "You remember the date?" "Yes. " I made a face like, My, my isn't that interesting, even though it wasn't.

  Sure, he would know the date. This was a part of his life now too.

  "Why was Ms. Johnson at your fraternity house?"

  "She was hired as an exotic dancer. "

  "Did you hire her?"

  "No. Well, I mean, the whole fraternity did. But I wasn't the one who made the booking or anything. "

  "I see. So she came to your fraternity house and performed an exotic dance?"

  "Yes. "

  "And you watched this dance?"

  "I did. "

  "What did you think of it?"

  Mort Pubin was up. "Objection!"

  The judge was already scowling in my direction. "Mr. Copeland?"

  "According to Ms. Johnson, Mr. Flynn here invited her to the party where the rape took place. I am trying to understand why he would do that. "

  "So ask him that," Pubin said.

  "Your Honor, may I please do this in my own way?"

  Judge Pierce said, "Try to rephrase. "

  I turned back to Flynn. "Did you think Ms. Johnson was a good exotic dancer?" I asked.

  "I guess. "

  "Yes or no?"

  "Not great. But yeah, I thought she was pretty good. "

  "Did you think she was attractive?"

  "Yeah, I mean, I guess so. "

  "Yes or no?"

  "Objection!" Pubin again. "He doesn't have to answer a question like that yes or no. Maybe he thought she was mildly attractive. It isn't always yes or no. "

  "I agree, Mort," I said, surprising him. "Let me rephrase, Mr.

  Flynn-how would you describe her attractiveness?"

  "Like on a one-to-ten scale?"

  "That would be splendid, Mr. Flynn. On a one-to-ten scale. "

  He thought about it. "Seven, maybe an eight. "

  "Fine, thank you. And at some point in the evening, did you talk to Ms. Johnson?"

  "Yes. "

  "What did you talk about?"

  "I don't know. "

  "Try to remember. "

  "I asked her where she lived. She said Irvington. I asked her if she went to school or if she had a boyfriend. That kinda thing. She told me about having a kid. She asked me what I was studying. I said I wanted to go to medical school. "

  "Anything else?"

  "It was like that. "

  "I see. How long would you say you talked with her?"

  "I don't know. "

  "Let me see if I can help you then. Was it more than five minutes?"

  "Yes. "

  "More than an hour?"

  "No, I don't think so. "

  "More than a half an hour?"

  "I'm not sure. "

  "More than ten minutes?"

  "I think so. "

  Judge Pierce interrupted, telling me that we got the point and that I should move it along.

  "How did Ms. Johnson depart that particular event, if you know?"

  "A car came and picked her up. "

  "Oh, was she the only exotic dancer there that evening?"

  "No. "

  "How many others were there?"

  "There were three altogether. "

  "Thank you. Did the other two leave with Ms. Johnson?"

  "Yes. "

  "Did you talk with either of them?"

  "Not really. Maybe a hello. "

  "Would it be fair to say that Chamique Johnson was the only one of the three exotic dancers you had a conversation with?"

  Pubin looked as though he wanted to object but then he decided to let it go.

  "Yes," Flynn said. "That would be fair. "

  Enough prelims. "Chamique Johnson testified that she made extra money by performing a sexual act on several of the young men at the party. Do you know if that's true?"

  "I don't know. "

  "Really? So you didn't engage her services?"

  "I did not. "

  "And you never heard a word mentioned by any of your fraternity brothers about Ms. Johnson performing acts of a sexual nature on them?"

  Flynn was trapped. He was either going to lie or admit an illegal activity was going on. He did the dumbest thing of all-he took the middle road. "I may have heard some whispers. "

  Nice and wishy-washy, making him look like a total liar.

  I put on my best incredulous tone. "May have heard some whispers?" "Yes. " "So you're not sure if you heard some whispers," I said, as if this was the most ridiculous thing I had ever heard in my life, "but you may have. You simply cannot remember if you heard whispers or not. Is that your testimony?"

  Flair stood this time. "Your Honor?"

  The judge looked at him.

  "Is this a rape case or is Mr. Copeland now working vice?" He spread his hands. "Is his rape case so weak now, so far-fetched, that he is now fishing to indict these boys on soliciting a prostitute?"

  I said, "That's not what I'm after. "

  Flair smiled at me. "Then please ask this witness questions that concern this alleged assault. Don't ask him to recite every misbehavior he's ever seen a friend commit. "

  The judge said, "Let's move on, Mr. Copeland. "

  Friggin' Flair.

  "Did you ask Ms. Johnson for her phone number?"

  "Yes. "

  "Why?"

  "I thought I might call her. "

  "You liked her?"

  "I was attracted to her, yes. "

  "Because she was a seven, maybe an eight?" I waved before Pubin could move. "Withdrawn. Did there come a time when you called Ms.

  Johnson?"

  "Yes. "

  "Can you tell us when, and as best as you can, please tell us what was said in that conversation?"

  "Ten days later I called and asked her if she wanted to come to a party at the fraternity. " "Did you want her to dance exotically again?" "No," Flynn said. I saw him swallow and his eyes were a little wet now. "I asked her as a guest. "

  I let that sit. I looked at Jerry Flynn. I let the jury look at him. There was something in his face. Had he liked Chamique Johnson? I let the moment linger.
Because I was confused. I had thought that Jerry Flynn was part of it-that he had called Chamique and set her up. I tried to work it through in my head.

  The judge said, "Mr. Copeland. "

  "Did Ms. Johnson accept your invitation?"

  "Yes. "

  "When you say you invited her as your"-I made quote marks with my fingers-" 'guest,' do you really mean 'date'?"

  "Yes. "

  I followed him through meeting her and getting her punch.

  "Did you tell her it was spiked with alcohol?" I asked.

  "Yes. "

  It was a lie. And it looked like a lie, but I wanted to emphasize the ridiculousness of that claim.

  "Tell me how that conversation went," I said.

  "I don't understand the question. "

  "Did you ask Ms. Johnson if she wanted something to drink?"

  "Yes. "

  "And did she say yes?"

  "Yes. "

  "And then what did you say?"

  "I asked her if she wanted some punch. "

  "And what did she say?"

  "She said yes. "

  "And then what?"

  He shifted in his chair. "I said it was spiked. "

  I arched the eyebrow. "Just like that?"

  "Objection!" Pubin rose. "Just like what? He said it was spiked.

  Asked and answered. "

  He was right. Leave them with the obvious lie. I waved to the judge that I would let it go. I started walking him through the night. Flynn stuck to the story he'd already told, about how Chamique got drunk, how she started flirting with Edward Jenrette.

  "How did you react when that happened?"

  He shrugged. "Edward is a senior, I'm a freshman. It happens. "

  "So you think Chamique was impressed because Mr. Jenrette was older?"

  Again Pubin decided to not object.

  "I don't know," Flynn said. "Maybe. "

  "Oh, by the way, have you ever been in Mr. Marantz's and Mr. Jenrette's room?"

  "Sure. "

  "How many times?"

  "I don't know. A lot. "

  "Really? But you're just a freshman. "

  "They're still my friends. "

  I made my skeptical face. "Have you been in there more than once?"

  "Yes. "

  "More than ten times?"

  Yes. I made my face even more skeptical. "Okay then, tell me: What sort of stereo or music system do they have in the room?" Flynn answered it immediately. "They have a Bose speakers iPod system. "

  I knew that already. We had searched the room. We had pictures.

  "How about the television in their room? How big is it?"

  He smiled as if he'd seen my trap. "They don't have one. "

  "No television at all?"

  "None. "

  "Okay then, back to the night in question. . . "

  Flynn continued to weave his tale. He started partying with his friends. He saw Chamique start up the stairs holding hands with Jenrette. He didn't know what happened after that, of course. Then later that night, he met up with Chamique again and walked her to the bus stop.

  "Did she seem upset?" I asked. Flynn said no, just the opposite. Chamique was "smiling" and "happy" and light as air. His Pollyanna description was overkill.

  "So when Chamique Johnson talked about going out to the keg with you and then walking upstairs and being grabbed in the corridor," I said, "that was all a lie?"

  Flynn was smart enough not to bite. "I'm telling you what I saw. "

  "Do you know anyone named Cal or Jim?"

  He thought about it. "I know a couple of guys named Jim. I don't think I know any Cals. "

  "Are you aware that Ms. Johnson claimed the men who raped her were named"-I didn't want Flair objecting with his semantics game but I did roll my eyes a little when I said the word named-"Cal and Jim?"

  He was wondering how to handle that one. He went with the truth.

  "I heard that. "

  "Was there anyone named Cal or Jim at the party?"

  "Not that I'm aware of. "

  "I see. And would you know any reason why Mr. Jenrette and Mr. Marantz would call themselves that?"

  No. "Ever heard those two names together? I mean, before the alleged rape:

  "Not that I can recall. " "So you cant shine a light on why Ms. Johnson would testify that her attackers were named Cal and Jim?" Pubin shouted his objection. "How could he possibly know why this deranged, intoxicated woman would lie?" I kept my eyes on the witness. "Nothing comes to mind, Mr. Flynn?"

  "Nothing," he said firmly.

  I looked back at Loren Muse. Her head was down, fiddling with her Blackberry. She glanced up, met my eye, nodded once. "Your Honor," I said, "I have more questions for this witness but this might make a good place to break for lunch. "

  Judge Pierce agreed.

  I tried not to sprint over to Loren Muse.

  "We got it," she said with a grin. "The fax is in your office. "