Flash fiction by Jessica Murphy
Prompt: She never misses at that distance
“Your friend Judge Daniels is finally retiring. Will you be attending her farewell soiree?” This was asked a bit facetiously, thought Tom, but he responded with his usual good humour.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he enthused. “And neither should you. The Bar Association dinners can be rather drab—or should I say tasteless?—affairs. But their cocktail parties are great. And Marjorie deserves a good send off. Are you ready to order?”
The two men were seated at a bistro patio table, well-shaded, and just breezy enough to be refreshing.
“Certainly. I’ll have the sandwich special and a beer. Beer was invented for the summer.”
“Or perhaps vice versa,” the older man grinned.
They ordered, and over a beer for Matt and an icy chardonnay for himself, Tom started to describe Marjorie Daniels.
“She was the brightest articling student we ever had. But some of the partners didn’t like her attitude. She wouldn’t come in on weekends, or stay late. Said she got all her work done during office hours, so why dawdle around just to look dedicated. And work she did.” Tom sighed. “She assisted me on some disputed contract cases. Her research was impeccable, her arguments cogent. She wasn’t one for using big legal words.” When he said ‘legal’ he made air quotes with his index fingers. “Especially when little ordinary ones worked just as well.”
Matt laughed. “Or maybe even better. Thank god we finally got past all that mumbo-jumbo and can now speak English.”
Tom leaned back, sipped his wine and continued. “She really shone in court. She looked so innocent, that blond hair that would never stay safely in a bun, those big blue eyes. She spoke softly which is what really sucked in most witnesses.”
Matt enjoyed Tom’s reminiscences. “I never saw her in court,” he said. “Other than as the judge, of course. How did she ‘shine’, as you say?”
“I remember one case. Way back, when marijuana was still illegal. Our client was charged with cultivation, had no money so none of our barristers wanted the case. We gave it to Marjorie. She thought she had won the lottery.”
“Anyway, our guy tells Marjorie that he had been growing. And bagging. And selling. But before the cops raided his place a friend had warned him, and he managed to get rid of his plants and inventory. But not all of his ‘paraphernalia for the purpose of cultivation’. Hence the cultivation charge. Now, Marjorie has an issue. She can’t put her client on the stand. If he tells the truth, he is in more trouble; if he lies Marjorie, knowingly allowing a witness to lie, has committed a crime.”
“On the classic horns of a dilemma,” murmured Matt.
“Precisely. All she has is her cross examination of the arresting officer. The Mountie testifies that he and his partner entered the accused’s premises, and conducted a search, etc. etc. All very by the book. He says they found no living plants but did find evidence of cultivation.
Marjorie jumps on him. “You found ‘no living plants’. By that I take you to mean, you found no living marijuana plants. Did you find any ‘nonliving’ marijuana plants or parts thereof?”
“Uh, no.” The witness looked as though a trusted kitten had just scratched him. But he plowed on.
“We did find holes in his garden. He had just dug something up.”
Marjorie again: “Just dug something up? Weeds? I mean, technical weeds, like pigweed? Or perhaps he was readying his garden for planting? Tomatoes, perhaps? Most people around here with gardens plant tomatoes.”
The Mountie manfully carried on. “We found evidence of cultivation. We found a bag of potting soil and a dozen peat pots in his closet.”
“Tomatoes, again Constable. Did you find any seed packages for tomatoes? Any other seed packages?”
“We didn’t look.”
“You didn’t look.”
“We did find a teapot, still full of cold tea.”
Now Marjorie walked slowly over to the witness box, and placed her hand delicately on the railing. The cop stared at her. She lowered her voice. “A teapot? With cold tea?”
The Mountie blustered on. “It is well known that cold tea is used to fertilize weed…uh, marijuana.”
Now she had him.
“Well known? By everyone, or only people well-versed in horticulture, as you appear to be, or you could not make your last statement.” She paused then went airily on. “Do you know, Officer, that cold tea is also used to help maintain the colour in African Violets? Those little purple or pink flowered house plants so beloved by elderly ladies? My mother has at least a dozen. ” The witness did not answer and Marjorie continued quietly. “So. A bag of potting soil, some peat pots, and a pot of cold tea. Not the best housekeeping perhaps, but hardly felonious.” She leaned close to the witness, and almost whispered, but one of those stage whispers even the back row can hear. “Constable, I will have to warn my mother to keep her teapot clean. In case you drop by.”
The courtroom erupted in laughter, the Crown closed his case, and when Marjorie rose to make her final submission, the judge, grinning, raised his hand to stop her, and summarily dismissed the charge.
Tom laughs. “I watched a lot of Marjorie’s trials. When she moved in close to the witness box, I would perk my ears, and get ready. At that distance, she never missed.”