Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pro Bono 14

Chapter 14.

After the breakfast, I kiss Ben goodbye, "I'm anticipating a full day
ahead, hope you don't mind if I come home a bit later than usual, but I'll
call you as soon as I know what's going on, the outcome of the meetings
between ex-husband and ex-wife, father and son, is hanging in the balance,
wish me luck, Ben"

"I'll cross my fingers for you, don't worry about being late, I'm used to
waiting" he has a wicked smile on his face. I kiss him again, deeper this
time, pity, no time for a quickie.

John is waiting outside Travelodge when my car pulls up. After exchanges
of greetings, he asks "What is the plan for the day, Jamie? I'm all yours"

"After you left last night, I'd given some more thought about the meetings
for today, I think you should meet with your ex-wife first, it is important
to get her onside, be upfront with her. I'll call Roslyn to let her know
we are on our way, it will not be easy, her mental state is extremely
fragile, not helped by her alcohol and possibly some prescription drug
dependency, I'm sure you don't need my advice to tread this softly softly,
and forget any old animosities"

"I agree with you totally, James, no, I won't fight with her, I'll do
anything for the sake of Ross"

"Do you wish me to be present during the meeting? and the one with your

"No, I think I can handle both meetings alone"

I call Roslyn on my mobile, telling her we should be at her place within
twenty minutes. I have the impression that she is sober, good omen.

"James, from your observation by talking to Ross, do you think he is really
gay? or just a mix-up of feelings and confusion between parental love and

"I couldn't tell you John, I thought I was straight when I was Ross' age, I
only discovered my true sexuality when I was in my twenties. Ross will need
a lot of professional counselling after his ordeal. To sort out his
sexuality is just one of the items on the list, and the guilt of killing
the person he loved is another difficult one"

"To tell you the truth, even though I myself is gay, I wish him otherwise.
Being a teenager is hard enough, being a gay teenager is even harder"

"Well, at least he now has the chance to explore before entering into a
relationship that he might regret later".

"Like mine, you mean?" he chuckles, with some degree of bitterness.

As soon as my car stops outside her house, the door opens. For the first
time I notice how pretty she is, and I'm certain that she is sober.
Dressed in a white blouse and a pair of jeans, plus a small amount of
makeup, not a day over 30.

"I'll wait for you in the car, John, good luck"


I watch as they give each other a quick hug and light kisses on the cheeks,
good start. I sit in the car, turn on the radio, just in time for the 8
a.m. ABC morning news. Usual craps, violence and killings in Iraq,
popularity of President Bush nose diving, student riot in Paris over
Industrial Reform, warning on global warming, the price of oil, the stock
indices, just when I'm about to switch channel, the name of Father O'Connor
gets my full attention.

"This morning's newspaper reports on the murdered Catholic priest Father
O'Connor, revealed that while he was teaching at St. Paul Catholic Boys'
School almost 15 years ago, some parents complained to the school
authorities that O'Connor had indecently assaulted their children, but the
school authorities took no appropriate actions, instead, they transferred
him to St. Joseph Catholic Boys' school, when new complaints against
O'Connor surfaced in his second teaching position, he was once again
transferred, and this time, to become the ministering priest at the
St. Joseph Catholic Church in Paddington. During the period of his
priesthood, he formed a sexual relationship with a young boy, and ABC made
further enquiries which corroborated the newspapers' report. The young
boy, now a teenager, confessed to the killing. The motive of the killing
is unclear, the case is going before the Magistrate Court for preliminary
hearing early next week" Shit hits the fan. The thing that works to our
advantage is that the privacy of the Markeys' is well protected here, since
the sexual abuse happened when Ross was still an underage. It'll make life
hell for him and his family if his name and picture splashed across the
front page.

A bit over an hour, the door opens again. They appear together, more hugs,
and John holds both of Roslyn's hands, I vaguely hear him saying something
like "don't worry, we'll sort this thing out together" I could see both of
them have been crying.

"It went alright?"

"Yeah, she was in much better frame of mind than I had anticipated. We
talked about Ross mostly, about encouraging more contact between him and
me, about seeking help from psychologist, about his future education. What
surprised me was that she was most apologetic about her alcohol abuse, her
failure as a mother. The good news is that she has decided to kick her
drinking habit. At least something good comes out of this tragedy, it
brings out the good quality and hidden strength in all of us. I hope my
meeting with Ross will go as smoothly"

I ask for Det. Rogerson at the front desk, after the handshakes, I
introduce them to each other.

"How's he coping? Detective?" I ask.

"Oh, considering the circumstances, he is doing OK, we are keeping a close
watch on him"

The door of the Interview room opens, Ross appears in the company of the
custody sergeant, gaunt and pale, the result of detention and mental
stress. His eyes light up when he sees the presence of his father, then
immediately casts his sight down toward the floor, ashamed? shy? shocked?

John walks straight up to him and hugs him tight, no words between them,
then come the muffled sounds of sobbing. I leave them to catch up with the
missing years.

"Detective, you have anything for me?"

"Yes, James, here's the disc downloaded with the files from both computers.
And these are the copies of letters from the principals of St. Paul and
St. Joseph, according to their staff record, Father O'Connor resigned from
his teaching posts with unblemished record, and he was well loved by his
students and peers, plus the one from the Archdiocese, more or less singing
the same tune. By the way, have you read this morning's paper yet? He is
front page news, and your name appeared in the article, somebody leaked the
information to the media. The case is set for next Tuesday, we are not
opposing bail. I've spoken to the Public Prosecutor's office, they're
happy to move the case to the top of their priority list, and they'll be
ready to go to trial within 6 weeks, would there be enough time for the
defense team? Do you wish to request for psychiatric assessment?"

"What defense team? I'm it, this is Legal Aid, Detective. No need for
psychiatric assessment just yet, perhaps later on, it all depends on the
progress of the trial. I think I'll be ready within 6 weeks' time, and
thanks for everything, Detective, you've been a great help, we don't
usuallly get such co-operation".

"Tell you the truth, James, between you and me", he whispers, "I was a
victim in similar circumstances, minus the killing of course. It took me
years to come out of depression. I did feel like killing the bastard at
the time though. So, you can say I'm biased". Life is full of surprises.

I knock on the door of the Inverview Room before open it, father and son
sitting side by side, reconnected, "mind if I come in?" I let them know
the case is set for next Tuesday, and the police and prosecutor are not
going to oppose bail, which means Ross will be out of detention immediately
after the hearing. With all probability, the trial should start 6 weeks
after that, subject to Court schedule.

"Sorry, Ross, I'm afraid it's time for us to go, I'll give you ten minutes
to say goodbye to your dad"

"How did it go?" I ask.

"It went well from the start, and as you told me last night, I told him the
truth. That I'm gay, that his mother was too ashamed to tell him the
truth, and I've never stopped thinking about him, and I'll always love him,
no matter what. It was very emotional, for both of us. I'll make
arrangement to come to stay in Sydney until the whole thing is resolved.
Thank you for arranging the meetings".

"If you can't find a place, you are welcome to the use of my flat, it'll
gives me a good excuse to move in with Benjamin, time for us to have a
'living together' trial"

"After all those years, you two still living separately?"

"Sure do, same old excuse, giving each other more space sort of thing, its
time for a rethink. Anyway, you'll let me know your decision about the
flat, won't you?"

"I'll take up your generous offer, please let me know the rental you wish
to charge. You've done enough for us, I won't take it unless you accept
payment" If you insist, John.

As soon as I walk in the office of Legal Aid, one of the trainees, Fiona,
rushes up to me with today's Telegraph, and a bundle of phone message

"Good morning Mr. Menzie, your name appeared in the front page of today's
Telegraph, and page 3 of the Morning Herald. The phone hasn't stopped
ringing since 9 o'clock this morning, all asking for you. I think most all
of them are either parents of the students, or the students themselves, who
attended the two schools mentioned in the paper". Good news indeed. I
have a quick read of the paper, yep, 'according to our source, the defense
team is headed by Mr. James Menzie from the Legal Aid'.

I pass the data disc, given to me by Rogergerson, to Fiona, "Finoa, could
please you upload the files from the disc into my computer? Please check if
any of the contents in the files are corrupted, thanks".

I'm exhausted after finished contacting all the names on the slips, it is
going to be a 'witnesses galore', everyone of them has a story to tell, and
with letters from the principals of the two schools as well. Then I call
the last one on my list, my dad. Usual stuff, he gets excited when my name
appeared on the front page, and a story of sex, lies, and murder. Then the
very very last one before lunch, I tell Ben about our new living
arrangement, I think he is a very happy man indeed. Next, time for lunch.

(To be continued.....)

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