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"Yes. You are correct in assuming that I was at home."
"Thank you, Mrs. Ingles. Now, would you be so kind as to relate your knowledge of what happened in the residence next to yours, that is 12, Forest Way, the property rented by a Miss. Pamela Reynolds, on the day in question?"
"Certainly. All was pretty much normal on that particular morning, the child walking to school, and Miss. Reynolds went out to work at around eleven am. At around lunch time, twelve forty it would have been, young Master Reynolds came home from school-"
"If I may cut across you, Mrs. Ingles. How do you know these things?"
"I don't believe in television, Madam Prosecutor. I spend alot of time bird watching, which means looking out of windows, as I am not able to sit in the garden during the cold months."
"And, how is a woman, such as yourself, recall times so accurately? Are you absolutely certain that the times you've given could not be mistaken?"
"Absolutely, Dear. I am Chairperson of the local Neighbourhood Watch. It's part of my role to be able to recount events accurately." Sharkie seemed to be writing an essay rather than paying attention to the testimony. Mikey shrugged, blowing mental raspberries in the old bat's general direction.
"Thank you, Mrs. Ingles." The Lawyer Lady was evidently pleased with the way things were going. "You may, please, continue."
"Thank you, Dear. Young Ethan came home from school, he was running down the street at a frightful pace-"
"Could tell the court how you know he was returning from school, Mrs. Ingles?"
"He was wearing his uniform. A tatty second hand thing, button missing from the shirt, and patches on the trousers like you-"
Sharkie stood, abruptly. "Objection, your Honour!" He spoke as though he'd been itching to shout out since the woman had begun her testimony. "The apparent state of the child's clothing is not relevant to the case."
"Sustained," conceeded Judge Sour Face. "Mrs. Ingles, continue with your account, but try to stick to the relevant information."
Beatrice blushed a little. "Sorry, your Honour. Forgive a rambling old lady.
"Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Ethan had come home, and he left the house again, shortly after, having changed into casual clothing."
"And, did he have anyone with him when he left? Any sort of adult supervision?"
"No, he did not."
"Mrs. Ingles, Ethan Reynolds is but eleven years old. Did it not strike you as odd, that he would be coming home in the middle of the school day, to an empty house, and then leaving, as you say, shortly after with no sign of any adult intervention?"
"No, that in itself did not strike me as odd. Young Ethan would quite often return home to have lunch alone. I heard there was a spot of bullying going on-"

"Objection. Your Honour, I fail to see what the Child's lunch time routine has to do with this case."
Jessica frowned, disgruntled at the obvious attempt to discredit her witness. "I feel it necessary to establish the events of the day, within the parameters of the usual happenings of the house hold."
Lemon face conceeded, "Objection overruled."
"Thank you," said said, smugly. "What did strike you as odd on that particular lunch time, Mrs. Ingles?"
"Well, aside from the change of clothing, Ethan headed off in the opposite direction. Away from his school."
"Did not think to report the truancy?"
"I didn't want to be seen as an interfering busy body, Madam Prosecutor. And besides which, he may have simply been taking a stroll before heading back that way."
"A good point, Mrs. Ingles. Now, when did you next see the child, Ethan Reynolds, returning to his home?"
"At approximately a quarter to six."
"Do you believe that he may have been returning from school?"
"No, I don't. The local school finishes at quarter to four, and any extra curricula activities do, I believe, end approximately one hour later."
"Is there any way that the child may have attended one of these after school programs, and simply been making his way home from school."
"With all due respect, Madam Prosecutor, but even I couldn't make the walk from Bridgemary school to Forest Way last an hour. Ethan isn't very active outside of school hours, and is normally quite punctual, returning home at about four pm each day."
"Very well. And, was the child alone when he returned, so uncharacteristically late?"
"No, he wasn't."
"Who was with him, Mrs. Ingles?"
"A man. A stocky white male. Aside from that, I couldn't tell at that point, it being dark outside."
"U-huh. Now, had anyone else been to the house in the time between Ethan Reynolds' departure and his return with the unfamiliar male?"
"Yes. The baby sitter had stopped by, as was normal. She arrived at three thirty, and left minutes later."
"Okay. Now, did this, coupled with Ethan's mysterious lateness and his strange companion not give you any cause for concern?"
"It most certainly did. I called the police about it."
"You did? And, what were you told?"
"That, there could be any number of reasons for all those occurences. The boy may have had permission to be out of school. The man might have been a relative, who had been trusted with the boy's care, thus negating the need for the baby sitter to stay."
Jessica stroked her chin, contemplatively. "So, you reported your concerns, and were told what, Mrs. Ingles?"
"I was told to call back when I had more concrete evidence of foul play."
"So, then what happened?"

Pamela Reynolds shifted on the stony bench outside of the courtroom. She was anxious to know what was being said about her, about her son. Bea Ingles could always be counted upon to give her complete opinion about everything. But still, Pam wondered what the strict regime of a court hearing was doing for that rambling tongue of hers.
She wondered about Ethan too. Her son had been escorted to a seperate room hours before, upon their arrival at the court, to be prepared to give his video testimony. She hoped he wasn't too worried. He'd made her smile earlier, they'd told him he could watch videos until it was time to deliver his statement, so he'd smuggled a couple of his favourites into the locked room, cleverly disguised inside Childrens' Classics cases. But now, well, the most she dared to wish was that his nerves were holding up better than hers, soothed by mushroom cloud explosions and swiss cheese plots.

The herculean black man on the other side of the room hall way was making her even more uneasy, and she crossed her legs prudishly.
She'd gone with the second hand, but still more than wearable, light grey pinstripe, which she had bought for her interview at The Manor, and not had cause to break out of the closet since.
The lining had been a little torn on the inside, and the waist coat had already undergone a button transplant, when she'd bought it. But a little tender loving care, along with a bit of sewing, and it was hardly noticable, and for a fiver the two you couldn't grumble. At least, Pamela couldn't, not in her finacial position.
She hadn't realised, however, just quite how short the skirt actually was until now. Either she'd grown a couple of inches, else the garment had shrunk on the hanger, but it was definately too far up her thigh than was good for any body.
The burlish oaf was-

Oh, God. Is he looking?

Pamela cleared her throat, loudly, hoping to alert the man to his invasive attentions, whilst trying not to draw awarenes to the fact that she was trying to inch the skirt down without actually touching it.
He looked up, smirking. "Excuse a connoisseur's wondering eye, Miss. Name's Nails."
He held out a hand, by way of introduction. Pamela stared at the mighty hammer, notches old and new giving it a rough hewn appearance, and then looked sceptically up into his brazen face. She curled her lip, animosity filling her lungs, "Nails?" She gave a distainful snarl. "Now, would that be because of those meat hooks, and what you do with them, or some other reason?"
He bellowed, deep braying laughter galloped up and down the hallway.

What's so funny? Pipe down, you Oaf. You're going to get us in trouble!

"Who knows, Lady. Who knows?" He sat for a few minutes, capturing his breath, still chuckling. "So, who y'in for, Miss. Doesn't Want To Tell Me Her Name?"
"I'm not sure," she replied, only just realising that she didn't know. "Mainly my Son. But possibly myself. Oh, and then theres that Mikey Mack guy."
"Huh! Yeah, me too. What can I say? Son' Bitch owes me money."
Pam blinked, not really accustomed to such direct language. Despite this, there was something statuesque about the man, a rhythmical quality to his booming voice. She relaxed a little in the face of his veracity.
"You know, that man probably has a very nice Mother, Mr. Nails."
He appeared to contemplate this for a while. "You know, you might be right. I never met the woman."

"Mrs. Ingles," Sharkie was in full flow by now. "How would you describe the divide between your house and that of Miss. Pamela Reynolds'?"
"I'm afraid I don't follow, Sonny."
He tapped his chin with his pencil, pacing before the witness box, stopping only to question her, as if the momentum helped him to digest her words.
"Forgive me, I'll rephrase. On occassion, have you not refered to the wall which is shared by the two houses as, and I quote 'paper thin'?"
"Yes."
"I see. To what are you refering when you make such a statement, Mrs. Ingles?"
"I simply mean to say that I can hear everything that goes on in that house. For better or worse."
"Everything, Mrs. Ingles? Every single thing? For instance, and I remind you that you are under oath, were you aware that my client, the Defendant, received a call on his mobile phone, on the night in question, whilst he was in that house?"
Her silver head wilted, "No, Sir. I did not."
"I put it to you then, Mrs. Ingles, that you can not, in fact, hear 'everything', merely noises and conversation pitched above the normal level of speech. Would you agree with that statement?"
"I'm not sure, Mr. Defender. I have never had cause to test it."
"Then," he said resolutely, returning to the defense table to collect a large red book. "Allow me to conduct a small simulation, Mrs. Ingles. This is an ordinary book. Approximately A4 sized, hard backed and cloth bound, with ordinary weighted paper. The spine," here he appeared to scrutinise, before taking the volume over to the witness box for Beatrice to more clearly inspect. "Would you agree that the spine was about an inch, that is, three centimeters in width."
"About that, yes."
"And, would you also agree, that in order to provide an adequate support to two semi-detatched houses, of the size in which you live, the dividing wall would have to be made of sturdier stuff than this book?"
"Yes. Of course I would."
"Then your Honour, Madam Prosecutor, would you please permit me to carry out a small experiement."
Sour Puss glanced expectantly over to the second attorney, who on cue said, "No objections, your Honour."
"Proceed, Mr. Baskin."
He strode back to the table, book in hand, and sat firmly on it. He carefully positioned the book, so that in concealled his face from the view of the Judge, the court reporter, and Mrs. Ingles, as well as half of the jury.
Mikey was intrigued, he'd not known about this bit, and was curious to see what was about to be proven, or disproven with the help of the strategically placed tome.
Baskin cleared his throat, then quite clearly, although without actually raising his voice any, said, "Do you hear me, Mrs. Ingles?"
Mikey peered around his lawyer. Bea Ingles didn't seem to have noticed that anything had happened, beyond the book being lifted. Nor did the furthest members of the jury. There was a murmur, as the rest of the gathered people discussed this with one another, as of course, they had heard, and had also noted that Bea hadn't. From the way Jessica Power Suit was shifting, she had heard too.
Sharkie Baskin lowered the book, addressing the Judge, and witness once more.
"For the benefit of the court records, please let it be noted that I asked Mrs. Ingles if she could hear me. Miss. Plimpton, would you be so kind as to confirm this?"
Power Suit Barbie nodded, grudgingly. "Yes. I can confirm that this was said."
"Mrs. Ingles clearly did not hear me ask," he held the book, again obscuring his face, and bellowed across the courtroom. "Did you, Mrs. Ingles?"
"No, but-" Her pale face had reddened. Baskin, satisfied that his pint was proven, came out from behind the book.
"So, Mrs. Ingles, a wall, like the one dividing the two houses which concern us today, would have to be thicker than this book." He slapped it firmly back on to the table, and began strutting back and forth in front of the stand again. "And, yet, you claim to be able to hear everything, your words I mark, through it. You didn't hear me through that one inch thickness of paper. Paper, Mrs. Ingles. And therefore, it stands to reason that your claims about the wall is simply not true, wouldn't you agree?"
"Maybe, I-"
"Please answer the question, Mrs. Ingles."
"But-"
"The question I asked, Mrs. Ingles."
"I know what I heard."
"That is enough," Judge Crab Apple knocked loudly with his hammer. "We don't want you held in contempt, now, Mrs. Ingles."

Sharkie bowed slightly in the judge's direction. "Thank you, Your Honour. Mrs. Ingles, taking our little experiment into account, would you be willing to rethink your previous statement about the walls?"
"Yes."
"Thank you. Now, I refer to the statements given by you to my collegue, in this very court room earlier, when you said that you heard Miss. Reynolds shouting. Did you also hear another voice?"
"Yes."
"Could you describe the other voice?"
"It was a man. A male voice, with an accent."
"At what point did that voice come into the, we'll use the word conversation, shall we?"
"Well, I didn't hear him straight away. Just Pamela. She said something about Hollywood, and did he have to target her son. Then I heard the male voice disagreeing with her."
"You heard this?"
"Yes."
"When nobody else was involved, and when there was nothing to suggest to the two conversationalists that a third party may be listening?"
"Yes."
"Just out of interest, Mrs. Reynolds, did you begin hearing this 'male voice' before or after you hear the glass breaking?"
"After."
"Right. How long after, would you estimate?"
"Roughly between ten and fifteen minutes."
"What were you doing in that time, Mrs. Ingles?"
"Nothing. I was waiting to see if there was real cause for raising the alarm."
"And, when did you decide that this might be the case, and actually call the police, Mrs. Ingles?"
"After I heard Pamela Reynolds suggest that the male had taken advantage of Ethan."
He grinned, voraciously. "And, how long after that point did you call upon the Reynolds'?"
"I'm not entirely sure. Approximately twenty minutes."
"You're not sure. A little vague for someone with such recall skills as yourself. what had you been doing during this particular interval, Mrs. Ingles?"
"I was on the phone reporting the incident to the police."
"And, whilst you were 'reporting', did you hear any more raised voices, male or otherwise?"
"No."
"No voices after that point, People." He turned, gathering everyone present, to his point of view with a broad sweep of his arms. He charged at the box, without warning, his face mere inches from the humiliated Beatrice. "Mrs. Ingles. Why, in your opinion, would Miss Reynolds, a loving, hardworking mother, have lied to you about what happened, given that the deserted hall way would have been the perfect oppurtunity to request assistance, if she in fact suspected her son was in danger? Why would she have allowed the male to stay, as you say he did?"
"Objection, Your Honour. He's badgering my witness. Any answer to those questions would be pure speculation, on her part."
"Sustained. Mr. Baskin, please check yourself."

The Shark sailed back to the table, and retrieved a photograph. It had been closed inside a clear plastic bag.
"I'd like to draw everyones' attention to Exhibit A." He held it aloft, before handing it to bea, who took it in a shaky grasp. "Mrs. Ingles, could you please describe to the court room what is in that bag?"
"It's my photograph."
"Your photograph? Is it the one you yourself took and developed?"
She examined it closer. "No, it's a copy."
"An exact copy, Mrs. Ingles? We have to be sure."
"Yes. It's an exact replica of my photograph."
"Do you recognise the man pictured in it?" he took it from her momentarily, in order to pass it down the jury line.
"Yes," she said.
"And, is that man, the one in your picture, present here today, in this court room?"
"Yes, he is."
"Would you be so kind as to point him out, mentioning an item of his clothing?"

[b]Word Count:

39,240 [/b]


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

--Jasmine


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