by J. C. Conway
“Did an Emily Pearson work in that office with you?”
Sara leaned forward, but remained silent. It was not really an objectionable question. But what did it have to do with anything? Was Phil running out of questions already? If so, that was good.
She tried to get a view of his notes . . . whether there was much left on his outline. She couldn’t really tell, but she noticed her client shrug and nod his head.
“You have to answer out loud,” she reminded him. She’d been over the deposition protocol with him a dozen times. But still, witnesses always forgot that advice. “Otherwise the court reporter has nothing to put in the record.”
Wes Burlington nodded. “Yes. Yes she did.”
But he looked worried. What is this about, she wondered.
Phil followed up with an unusual question. “You knew her pretty well, didn’t you?” And he had that smirk on his face that he never knew he had.
The idiot should never play poker.
“I don’t know,” said Wes, noncommittally.
Sara’s skin tingled. This wasn’t right. She was missing something, and that was never good.
She sniffed a quick breath. “Where are you going with this?” she snapped, before Phil could ask his next question.
Phil’s smirk remained. It made her want to hit him. And worse, he completely ignored her question and leveled his zinger right at her witness. “Isn’t it true, Mr. Burlington, that you had a relationship with Ms. Pearson?”
Wes stiffened, drawing his head back like an offended British Nanny. “I don’t see how that’s any of your—”
Sara placed a hand on Wes’s arm. “Objection,” she interjected. “The question’s vague and ambiguous, leading, and irrelevant.”
She felt like squeezing her client’s arms and shaking him, screaming “What is he talking about? And why didn’t you tell me?” But that wasn’t really an option—at least not while they were still on the record, and not while anyone else could hear. So she chose the next best thing—a sophisticated strategy she’d spent years trying to develop—she engaged Phil in a stare down.
Annoyingly, Phil’s smirk grew. “It’s a simple enough question, and I think it’s highly relevant,” he said. Then he looked at Wes Burlington again. “You can answer the question.”
“Hold it,” said Sara, holding the moment tight. “What are you trying to pull, Phil?”
She was stalling for time. Sara knew exactly what Phil was trying to pull, and the he had every right to do it. It was a simple question, and if the answer was what she was afraid it was, it was going to make a difference.
Phil motioned with his hands to the witness—her client, the man whose neck she would be wringing at the next break—indicating he should respond. She saw Wes look back and forth between the two of them nervously a few times. He cleared his throat.
“I don’t understand what you mean,” he responded.
At least he’s smart enough to take a hint, Sara thought.
“I mean, did you have sexual relations with Emily Pearson?”
“Objection,” said Sara, striving to keep her tone low and abrupt. “You’re badgering the witness.”
Don’t sound hysterical, she reminded herself.
“He’s not answering the question.”
“He answered the question.”
“No, he didn’t. Did you Mr. Burlington?”
“I don’t know what you–”
“What are you getting at, Phil?” she said, interrupting her client.
“It’s just a question.”
“It’s ambiguous. It could mean a million different things.”
“Mr. Burlington, do you understand my question?”
“Hold on, Phil. If the question is ambiguous, a ‘yes’ answer to that question just means he doesn’t see the ambiguity. Why don’t you reword.”
Phil stared at Wes. “Go ahead,” he said, encouraging a response.
“Excuse me,” said Sara. “I can’t allow it.”
“Are you instructing your witness not to answer?” asked Phil.
Oh, great. Now he wants to make a record of an improper instruction.
She bristled. “He can’t answer that question. It doesn’t make sense.”
“Sure he can.” Phil turned again to Wes. “She can make her objections, and you can answer. What it means is something she can deal with later.”
“Don’t give advice to my witness.”
“I just want an answer.”
“You have to ask a proper question.”
Phil inhaled and locked Sara’s gaze. Thank God.
Their stare lasted seconds that felt like an eternity on the record. She wished she could read him–tell whether he’d lost focus. But she was aggravated. She could not trust her powers of observation.
Wes cleared his throat. “Is this a good time for a bathroom break.”
Phil blinked, and then smiled congenially. “Sure. Why not?”
Sara leaned back. With two hours remaining, this was going to be a long session. At least her witness was a good study. She would talk to him in the hall soon enough to regroup. But first, she needed to relax. She watched Phil remove his microphone and adjust his papers and she pictured twisting his head from his body in dramatic 180-degree turns … pop! … and then bouncing it on the conference room table a few times before flinging it through the wide window to land in a shower of glass thirty-seven stories below on the busy street.
Three … two … one.
Her focus returned. Now where was Wes?
Copyright (c) 2010-2014 J. C. Conway