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The phone was ringing.
"Paw, get that, would you?"
He gave her a gentle prod in the ribs, and wished he hadn't. There were goosebumps there now, and her skin felt clammy, a far cry than the silken surface that he was sure he remembered from a few short hours ago.
When she didn't move, he shook her a bit more forcefully. "Paula. The phone."
She awoke from her dozing with a start, pulling the blankets up around her against the cool air streaming in from the open window. "Did I leave that open?"
"Paula, the phone?"
"Right." The phone was on the other side of the bed. She made as if to stretch over him, but hesitated.
Mikey rolled his eyes, and sat up, leaning forward. "You know after what we just did-"
"Shhh! Hello? Oh, ok, sure." She looked puzzled, and handed him the receiver. "It's for you."
"For me? But it's your...never mind," he shook his head, taking the phone from her, careful not to touch her. "Hello?"
Paula slid off the bed, gathering the sheets about her, like a shroud, and sloped off into the bath room, closing the door quietly behind her.

"Mike, it's Stan."
"Stan, how the hell did you know I was here?"
"C'mon, Mikey. Those receptionists'll tell ya anythin' if you push the right buttons."
"Yeah, right," he said, seriously doubting Stan's ability to see the buttons, never mind know which ones to press. "So, anyway, what's so up for you to be playing Private Dick?"
Mikey heard him draw in a serious breath before continuing. "It's not good news, Mike."
"What is these days?"
"Quite. Well, anyway I spoke to some people in the business about what you were after for your next role."
"And?" Just get on with it, Jackass.
"It's worse than people not going for the idea. Mike, we got serious problems. There's folks pulling the red carpet right from underneath us, over this whole mess. Projects that have had your name on them since conception, they're walking away, Mikey. No one wants to risk their own necks by assosiation. You gotta shake this story, Mike, or we're both out of a job here."
Mikey sighed, nodding. It was happening more quickly than he'd expected. Still, least you knew who your friends were, huh? "No such thing as loyalty in the Movies, Stanley. You know that. Look at it this way: I wanted out, right? They saved us a battle."
"You're taking this too well, Mike. What you up to?"
"Nothing, Stan. Listen," he stood, and crossed over to the closed door. She was running a bath. "My advice. get yourself a new Best Friend, cool? That way, if I go down, you ain't twiddling your thumbs."
"And, what if you don't? Mike?"
"Then, I'll be a free man, Stan"
He chuckled, and hung up.
He cast around for his clothes, finding his shorts nestled in the heap of red satin at the foot of the bed. He tugged them on.
Ah, shit. His robe was locked in the bath room, along with his room key which he'd left in the pocket.

"Hey, room service. Yeah, could you let me into my room, I seem to have misplaced my key."
"Of course, Mr. M."

Things had been quite frosty between them since Mikey had snuck out of Paula's room, that morning.
She hadn't even mentioned it, and Mikey, desperately needing to apologise, wasn't sure how to broach the subject, without drawing attention to his boyish behaviour.
His rented room had been a flurry of activity for days, what with the lawyers, and various witness testimonies to be pored over. Paula had popped in on occassion, but nowhere near as frequently as she had before that night.
Mikey wished that he could have just a few minutes, alone with her, to explain why he'd bolted the way he did, but she always managed to surround herself with people, creating a kind of living fortress that had the ability to deflect all attempts at proper communication.

It was mid evening, dark outside. His main defence lawyer, whom Mikey refered to mentally as Sharkie, having never bothered to learn his actual name, had stopped by again. He seemed a little worried for someone who was sure his case was 'in the bag'. He'd apparently drawn up some sort of attack plan to counter the fact that Prosecution were going to question him about the circumstances surrounding Jimmy.
It had been about that point that Mikey had switched off. Political hardball was just not his thing.
"I'm going to use the gym," he said, rising to change into a pair of sweat pants.
Sharkie looked horrified. "What? Now? With all respect Mr. Mackenzie, but we still have a case to work on here."
"Listen," Mikey layed his hands on the man's shoulders, in a gesture of alliance. "You sort out the Court Protocol bull shit, I'll stick to telling the truth on the day. Cool?"
"But, Mr. Mack, don't you want to be prepared?"
"Sharkie, Sharkie....that's your job. Right?"

Rain pummelled at the windows of the not quite state of the art gym. It was soothing, Mike thought. A fitting accompaniment to the intense workout he intended to put himself through.

Where's you're head at, Mike? *PUNCH* You giving up again?
Just *punch* getting *punch* ready, Bud.

The black leather sack snapped back, and he hit it again, pain seering through his strapped up knuckles.
He envisioned all the confusion, and torment seeping out through his pores, leaving his entire state of mind free to concentrate on the fight ahead.
He'd forgotten how good it felt to completely vent his frustrations like this.
Of course, in the old days, it had been the head of a teacher, the local bully, the face of his next opponent, becoming bloodier, and more mushed up with each blow. Now, it was Sharkie, or Stan Piper, so much easier to take it out on them than some faceless old lady he'd never even met. Occasionally though, Paula appeared before him, smiling and laughing at him. When that happened, he dodged, skirting imaginary left hooks, dancing to keep himself from lashing out at a woman, even if it was his wife.
She had a lot to answer for, did Paula. She-

"Mike."
He turned, grabbing the punch bag as it came back towards him.
"Sorry, I didn't know anyone else was down here."
"Yeah, well. There is," he panted, still bouncing on the balls of his feet. Inwardly, he winced, he hadn't meant to be so short with her.
She snorted, haughtily, and he watched her stride over to the arm press.
The typical baby pink sports bra over the grey cotton t-shirt was a bit much for him to take seriously. It looked a more than a little strange on her, but Mikey had to admit that it did show her biceps much better than the stuff she normally wore. Certainly explained away a few of the bruises he'd been nursing these past weeks.
She sat down, hard, after adjusting the weights, whilst Mikey counted beneath his breath.

Wait for it, Mike. Wait...Now.

"You know what really annoys me, Mike?"
"No, but I get the impression that you think I should. Am I right?"
"Too damned right, Michel. Now, I realise things were a little awkward. You think I didn't feel strange waking up to you after so long? But, no. In typical Mike style, you have to be the only one suffering any, right?" It both puzzled and suprised him, that she could still give a lecture in between moving what had to be half of her own body weight.
"It wasn't like that, Paw."
"No? You ran again, Mike. You ran and hid in a hole, away from the responsibility again."
He huffed, it was just typical of her to have a point.
"Well, you-"
"Went to have a bath, whilst you were talking business, Michel. I didn't want to intrude, and it was my room we were in after all."
He slumped on the bench next to her, head bowed, elbows on his knees.
"Look, I was confused, Paw. It was...that is, I've not...You know, not since..."
She stopped pumping, "What? Never? Not at all?"
"Is it so hard to believe?"
"Yes," she laughed. "I mean, if you are saying you've not had sex in five years, Mike, than you have my extreme pity."
"No, I'm not saying that. Not really. Christ, what am I saying?"
"Okay, let me help you," She turned to face him fully. "An apology is normally appropriate, at this point."
"Jesus. Yes. I am sorry. Really. Erm, this isn't going well," he wiped the perspiration from his forehead, sullying up the tape. He took a deep breath before continuing. "Bear, you are my best friend. Really. And I know we've been blaming one another for-" The word got stuck on the way out.
"James."
"Thanks. yes, we've both been slinging mud at each other for Jimmy ever since it happened. And, I think we can get over that, be friends again. But-"
"I don't love you, Mike."
He blinked. "You don't?"
"Well, yes, but not as a wife. I know you too well to not love you at all. You're a great person, Mikey. You are. There isn't a malicious bone in your body, well apart from the one that sticks in your throat when ever I'm around."
He shook his head, smiling a little. "It wasn't there, was it?"
"No," she sighed. "I really wanted it to be, but no. I'm sorry."
"Hey," he nudged her. "I'm s'posed to be the one apologising here."
She gestured for him to continue, with a wave of her hand.
"Anyway, I guess the reason I left was, well, I didn't want to be the one to, you know, end it."
"You want a divorce, Michel?"
Did he? He did. "I do."
She nodded, smiling fully now. "Well done, Mr. Movie Star."
Paula Clarke hugged her husband for what they both knew was the last time.
"Now, let's go back upstairs, and talk out this Reynolds' thing."

The People Versus

Michel Mackenzie was staring at the ceiling, listening to the excited crowd of people gathering in the courtroom behind him.
He daren't look back there, his not so adoring public, turned out to see Mikey Mack's live premiere perfomance in the dock. He tugged nervously at the collar of his new blue shirt, trying to block out the feeling of dozens of eyes intent on the back of his head.

Mikey, you can do this. You can. Great case. Good witnesses. Plus the fact that you're innocent, right?
Yeah, as long as we can convince the slavering hyenas of the fact.

The Shark had informed him that he was to be sworn in first, after the prelim speeches of course, and then the witnesses would testify. Mikey detested public speaking. He'd rather have endured a Mikey Mack Movie Marathon than give evidence before the braying masses, only for it to be accounted in great detail to the highest bidding journalistic hack. Special Exclusive Inside The Mack Trial headlines scrolled across his inner eye.
Well, screw that.
Had not the armed police officer been sitting behind him, Mikey may have bolted there and then.

But, how guilty would that look, Mr. Genius?

He really wanted to choke off that inner voice of his, sometimes. It mocked him far too often, than was good for it.
The Judge entered from his chambers, and indicated that all should stand.
Mikey half listened to the drabble, exchanges between the middle aged Judge Lemon face, and the two attorneys.
"...presiding over the case of David Michel Mackenzie versus The People, on behalf of the child Ethan Reynolds. You may sit."
Sharkie tried to whisper something conspiritorial to Mikey, but he didn't catch what it was.
The Judge was going on, addressing the gathered jury.
"The People believe that there is substantial evidence to suggest that the Defendant should be tried for the malicious Misleading of the child, Ethan Reynolds, with the Intent to Harm that child. It is, of course, up to your good selves to decide if this was indeed the case, and I urge you to take into account all of the evidence that you will see presented to you today. Attorney for the Prosecution, you may proceed."
The female sitting alone at the table next to Mikey rose. She was wearing one of those Power Suits, all sharp angles and precise cuts. Her hair was black, wavy, short, and she gesticulated whilst holding her sensible spectacles when she spoke.
Mikey cleared his throat, as quietly as he could, aware that he was actually supposed to listen.
"...that the Defendant actively lured an innocent child from his safe educational environment, and that the child, at the Defendant's request, and without parental consent, travelled into another town to meet up-"

She's lying, Asshole! Aren't you supposed to 'object' or something?

"We will also be addressing the second charge of Harmful Intent. Of course, this is a most difficult thing to prove, seeing as no actual harm has taken place, but we will be hearing the testimony of several witnesses, to not only uncover whether the Defendant might be capable of harm, but, whether the intent existed in this case."
She sat, delivering a kind of curtsey to the Judge, before turning to nod at both the jury, and the assembled public.

Mikey chanced a glimspe over his shoulder, and wished he hadn't. They looked impressed, as if their minds were already made up. At this point, it would have been reassuring to think about how he had complete faith in his defense lawyer, but, he didn't. On cue, Sharkie stood, and shuffled his papers, before laying them on the desk, and stepping out, to deliver a frontal address to the public gallery.
Mikey watched as the man inhaled, taking in the assembled people.
"We, the Defense, will be moving to disprove my client of all the charges that have been brought against him. We will put it to you that the Defendant in no way intended to either harn nor mislead the child, Ethan Reynolds' on the day in question, nor at any time before or after. We will be calling upon witnesses who both have first hand insight into the actual events of the day in question, and have had prolonged relationships with the Defendant, and therefore, a more accurate knowledge of his character. Thank you."
From his all seeing parapet, the Judge nodded. "Prosecution, you may call you first witness."
The Shark sat, giving Mikey a knowing wink.
Lawyer Lady stood again, to complete silence, so that her voice rang out, ominously over the court room. "Prosecution calls Mrs. Beatrice Ingles, Your Honour."
Mikey turned in his seat, as the double door were cracked open, and the much mentioned Bea Ingles hobbled in.
She had the look, Mike thought, of a geriatric vulture as she moved slowly towards the witness box, aided by a police officer and a zimmer frame. She had chosen an outfit, which unfortunately did nothing to lessen the mental picture; an antiquated grey cardigan, with an imitation fur collar which was balding in places, over a white blouse ruffled down the front, and a sensible ankle length grey skirt. Her specialist orthapedic shoes shuffled, squeekily, on the polished wooden floor.
She made a bit of a fuss getting up to the witness box, too, seemingly enjoying the attention. Mikey sneaked a look at his watch, thinking to himself of how Sharkie had said it'd be over quickly. Once the unfortunate officer had finally installed the woman in the seat provided her, she insisted on water, before being sworn in.
The Judge, "Do you, Beatrice Ingles, swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the trust, so help you God?"
"I do, Your Honour," she said, beaming.
The Prosecution moved in front of her table, and sat perched on its edge.
"Hello, Mrs. Ingles-"
"Hello, Dear."
The young woman smiled patiently. "Mrs. Ingles, would you mind answering a few questions for us today?"
"Not at all, Dear. I'd be happy to."
"Thank you. What do you do for a living, Mrs. Ingles?"
"Why? I'm retired, Dear. You don't think anyone would employ a decrepid old lady like me, do you?" A murmured giggle rippled across the room.
"Please, try to stick to answering the question, Mrs. Ingles."
She gave an ill-fitting look of apology to the Judge, and the lawyer, Jessica something or other if Mikey had heard correctly, continued, nodding.
"So, you're retired. Mrs. Ingles, where do you spend your days?"
"At my home, Dear."
"This is the residence at *14 Gobble Street*, correct?"
"Yes, Dear."
"And, you spend all of your time at this residence?"
"Yes, Dear. Even have to send someone to do my shopping. An aging widow like me doesn't get much call to leave the house. Even have my shopping delivered by those nice people at Tescos." Another titter crossed the room.
Jessica Something continued, apparently unaware of the batty impression her witness was giving. "Mrs. Ingles, on the day in question, November sixth, of this year, two thousand and three, am I correct therefore in asuming that you were at home?"
"Yes, Dear. I just told, I rarely leave the house."
"Rarely is not never, Mrs. Ingles."


Word Count:

36,295


------
It's not easy having a good time. Even smiling makes my face ache.- Frank N. Furter.

--Jasmine


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