Part III

"You may proceed, counselor."

The city attorney, a short, thin man with thinning brown hair and an aura of having endured long years of tedium, began his opening statement with a surprising degree of energy. He told Judge Thornton of Buffy's history of violent incidents before coming to Sunnydale, drawing a thunderous objection from Kuzak, only to hear the mantra of a bench trial judge who doesn't want to be bothered with evidentiary niceties: "I'll let it in for what it's worth."

Smiling smugly, the city attorney continued, detailing incident after incident where varying kinds of property damage happened within the city limits of Sunnydale. He then stated that there were fully fifteen eyewitnesses who could finger Buffy as being the responsible party for the property damage. He finished by concluding that the city of Sunnydale had no desire to place a financial burden on such an obviously troubled young woman (Buffy, glaring at the city attorney with a look that should have withered him like a piece of straw in a volcano, started to stand at this comment, and Kuzak only just restrained her), but that the city had to insist that she cease and desist her destructive activities. Kuzak saw that the judge was nodding and taking notes, and realized that he was already in a deep hole. When the city attorney finished, Judge Thornton looked up at Kuzak coldly and asked, "Opening statement, Mr. Kuzak?", as if to imply that he was wasting his time. Undaunted, he stood and replied, "Yes, Your Honor. The evidence will show that Miss Summers has done nothing wrong, and is a fine and upstanding member of the community of Sunnydale." He sat, only to find Buffy looking at him in bewilderment. She hissed, "That was it? What kind of defense was that?"

Kuzak looked sympathetically at Buffy and replied, "Patience, Buffy. I still need to hear what these witnesses have to say. My opening leaves our options open, whatever we run into." She nodded, though still looking skeptical, as Judge Thornton called out, "Call your first witness, Mr. City Attorney."

The testimony of the witnesses was fairly straightforward: they saw Buffy at a scene where property damage was later discovered, and testified that they saw her cause the damage. The city attorney questioned them only long enough to establish the actions and to have the witnesses ID Buffy, then turned the witnesses over to Kuzak with a smile on his face.

Kuzak pulled out all of the stops, given the limits imposed by the necessity of keeping Buffy's situation secret. He had checked the almanac that he carried in his briefcase for the moon phases of all of the relevant dates, and was able to demonstrate that lighting conditions were awfully bad for some of the witnesses to be making positive ID's (of course, some of the witnesses were vampires and as such had excellent night vision, but they wouldn't testify to that in court, would they?). He was able to get the witnesses to admit that in every case, Buffy had been fighting someone who had also contributed to the property damage (of limited use, but perhaps he could exploit a self-defense angle). He did have the criminal records of some of the witnesses as part of the file (at least the lawyer that the Watchers' Council hired managed to be that competent) and used them to impeach the credibility of their testimony. But he knew that at best he was throwing up some dust; worse, Judge Thornton seemed completely unmoved by the hits he managed to score on the witnesses. . .Kuzak feared that he had already made up his mind. When the last witness for the city left the stand, Judge Thornton called for a fifteen-minute recess before the defense would present its case. The Judge sat in his chair, looking over his notes, while Kuzak walked over to where Buffy and her friends were waiting.

"What do you think?" Giles asked, speaking for the group. Kuzak looked to make sure no one else was in earshot, then replied, "It's not good, Giles. . .Buffy. I did what I could with those witnesses, but fifteen eyewitnesses is a lot to deal with, even scattered out over a number of incidents, and I think that the judge isn't buying my arguments. I think we may just have to make do with character witnesses-if that hanging judge over there even allows them-and hope against hope that he decides to be human to-" His eyes locked on the mirror that Cordelia had left on her seat when she retreated to the bathroom. He gestured to Buffy to look. . .it took a moment for her to realize what he was pointing out to her, and when she did she barely restrained herself from an explosive profanity. The others looked and quickly put on poker faces to hide their dismay. "Great," Buffy grumbled, "as if things weren't bad enough." She turned to see a wicked smile on Kuzak's face, and she was not pleased. "What's so damned funny? Are you thinking about your fees if I appeal?"

Kuzak shook his head, and looked at Giles, who seemed to be coming to a conclusion of his own. Kuzak nodded to him and whispered, "I think it's time for a change of approach. . .whatever I say, don't interfere." Concerned, Buffy nodded and watched as Kuzak scribbled on his notepad until the judge called the court back to order a few minutes later. He intoned, "Mr. Kuzak, you may proceed."

Kuzak stood and replied, "Thank you, Your Honor. At this time, the defense wishes to concede that Miss Summers was indeed involved with all of the property damage specified by the city of Sunnydale." Kuzak felt Buffy stiffen beside him, then relax as Giles leaned over to whisper to her. Judge Thornton smiled thinly and commented, "Mr. Kuzak, if you willing to do that, couldn't you have done it to begin with and saved us all of this time?" Loud snickers came from the back row of the courtroom, provoking the judge to bang his gavel to make it cease.

Kuzak replied, "Your Honor, at this time I would like to announce that the defense will be making an affirmative defense of justification; to be specific, that Miss Summers was compelled to perform the unfortunately destructive actions she is accused of in order to avert a greater evil, thereby excusing her from the consequences of her actions."

The city attorney leapt to his feet and shouted, "Your Honor, this is an outrage! The City did not receive notice of any such defense-" He was interrupted by the loud banging of the judge's gavel, and he looked up to see a truly epic glare being directed at him. "One more outburst like that, sir, and you will be arguing your cases from a jail cell for six months." The city attorney sat down looking green around the gills, and Judge Thornton looked at Kuzak with interest. "Well, Mr. Kuzak, you have succeeded in engaging my attention, if nothing else. Very well, make your case. . .but I'm sure you know that that is a difficult argument to make. Call your first witness."

Kuzak nodded and responded, "The one and only witness for the defense will be Buffy Summers." Buffy stood, a little shaky, and Kuzak whispered to her for about a minute. She nodded, then walked to the stand, where she was sworn in by the bailiff. Kuzak began slowly, establishing Buffy's personal information: name, age, how long she had lived in Sunnydale, and the fact that she had just graduated from high school. Judge Thornton was beginning to look bored again when Kuzak asked Buffy, "Miss Summers, are you responsible for the acts of property destruction set out by the city attorney?"

Buffy looked at the smug city attorney sitting there listening, and looked frantically at Kuzak: he nodded at her, and she replied in an even tone, "Yes, I am."

This provoked a loud murmuring from the crowd that Judge Thornton gaveled into silence. Kuzak continued by asking, "Miss Summers, is there a legitimate reason that has caused you to be involved in all of these incidents?" This time Buffy locked eyes with Giles: he hesitated for a long moment, then nodded. Buffy responded, "Yes, there is. In each of the incidents that he mentioned, I was trying to prevent vampires from killing people, and the damage occurred in the process of eliminating the vampires."

The murmuring was louder this time, and Kuzak turned to observe the effect on the crowd as the judge banged his gavel again. Buffy's friends (except Giles) looked startled, as if this was the last thing they expected Buffy to say. Kuzak looked at the other teenagers in the crowd: they also looked rather surprised, but not outright shocked. The vampires in the back row were openly snickering. Kuzak looked to the front of the courtroom: the court reporter looked as if she could not believe what she was putting down on paper, while the bailiff and Judge Thornton looked skeptical, to say the least. The judge looked down at Buffy and asked quietly, "Did you say vampires, Miss Summers?"

Buffy nodded, and Kuzak continued by asking, "So you caused the property damage because not to have done so would have meant that people would have died in each instance?" The city attorney, disgruntled by the turn of events, rose to object to the blatantly leading question, only to have the judge wave him back down. The judge turned to Buffy and intoned, "You may answer, miss." Buffy took a deep breath and answered, "Yes, that is true, Mr. Kuzak." Kuzak turned to the judge and stated, "No further questions, Your Honor." He walked back to his seat, saying to the unsettled city attorney, "Your witness, sir."

The city attorney had begun to rise, unsure as how to proceed, when the judge waved him down, commenting, "Under the circumstances, counselor, perhaps I should question the witness for a moment." The city attorney opened his mouth to protest the unorthodox, though legal, methodology, only to find the judge giving him a glare that dropped him quivering into his seat. Judge Thornton turned to Buffy with a condescending smile, and began: "Now, Miss Summers. . .let me get this straight. . .you caused that damage in the course of killing . . .vampires?" Buffy nodded and stated, "Yes, Your Honor." The judge nodded and asked, "And killing them prevented deaths in all of the situations mentioned here today?" Buffy again answered, "Yes."

Judge Thornton actually smiled, and the effect was startling. After a moment, he turned to Kuzak and commented, "I have to admit, counselor, you've succeeded in laying out an excellent justification defense. . .I'd have no choice but to rule in your favor. . .except for the annoying little fact that THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS VAMPIRES!!" The sudden shout made everyone in the room lean back a few inches as the judge recovered from his evident anger. Visibly calming himself, he turned back to Buffy and asked quietly, "You do know that, Miss Summers, don't you?"

Buffy looked the ancient judge in the eyes and stated flatly, "No, Your Honor, I don't. I've seen vampires. . .I've fought them. . .I've killed over a hundred of them. . .they exist."

Judge Thornton looked at Buffy for a long moment with a disbelieving expression on his face, then commented, "Miss Summers, you seem like a nice young woman, in spite of the unfortunate things that the city attorney had to say about you. However, I must be guided by evidence, not simply your word, particularly when you are telling me of the existence of the supernatural. . .can you present me with any proof that what you say is true. . .that vampires truly exist?"

Buffy nodded and replied, "Yes, Your Honor, I can." Taken aback, the judge looked at Buffy and apparently had had enough. "All right, Miss Summers, then I order you to present that evidence to me, right this instant."

Buffy smiled coldly and asked politely, "Are you sure you want me to do that?" The vampires in the back row seemed restless, apparently wondering if the annoyed Slayer would charge at them.

The Judge scowled at her and snapped, "Yes, I am, and I order you again-present the evidence no-" The judge perceived a blur of motion beneath his chin, and felt a sharp pain in his chest. He looked down and saw Buffy withdrawing his gavel from where it had just pierced his robes and his heart. He glared at the defendant and managed to blurt out, "I find you in conte-" before bursting into dust. The bailiff leaped to restrain Buffy, only to take the gavel in the chest and burst into dust himself.

All hell broke loose in the courtroom. The dozen or so vampires in the back row leapt to their feet, apparently preparing to attack, only to find themselves faced with about one hundred angry teenagers with crosses, holy water, and BIC lighters jetting forth very long flames. As one, they turned and fled from the courtroom, with most of the teenagers in hot pursuit. The only occupants left in the room were Kuzak, Buffy and her friends, the shocked city attorney, the petrified court reporter, and a middle-aged man who had been sitting with the teenagers and who seemed to be watching the melee with a slight smile on his face.

Buffy got down from the witness stand and confiscated the transcription tape from the stunned court reporter, commenting, "I don't think you'll be needing this," She looked at the scene and asked, "Now what?" , as her friends moved over to her and the city attorney stood, staring at them.

"I think I can provide a solution," replied the middle-aged man, who had left his seat and walked quietly up to them. The city attorney gasped, "Judge Stevenson! I didn't know you were here, Your Honor." The jurist smiled grimly and replied, "I heard about this case and was interested. . .turns out my instincts were right." He looked at the two attorneys and commented, "Under the circumstances, and under the local rules of court, I believe I should take over for the. . .absent. . .Judge Thornton. Any objections?"

This time, Kuzak turned to Buffy, and she nodded in agreement. He replied, "No objection, Your Honor." The city attorney looked as if he wanted to object, but he had had the starch taken out of him in the last few minutes, and he meekly replied, "No objections."

Judge Stevenson smiled and commented, "Good." He took the bench while the others resumed their seats. He looked up and commented, "I've seen all of the evidence, counselors, and I am prepared to rule. Miss Summers has provided the evidence necessary to meet the burden for a justification defense, as per the request of Judge Thornton before his unscheduled departure. Therefore, I rule in favor of the defendant, with the further notation that with the mysterious disappearance of the transcript, no specific grounds for the justification shall be set down." He looked down at the court reporter and asked, "Is that clear, Mabel?" The harried court reporter looked up and replied, "Very clear, Your Honor," while warily looking at the other occupants of the room. The judge looked up and asked, "Does anyone else have any objections?" He was looking straight at the city attorney when he said it: the man sighed, clearly recognizing defeat as he whispered "No, Your Honor," gathered his papers, and left the courtroom at a brisk walking pace.

Buffy whooped, and gave Kuzak a big hug, which he returned. The others clustered around, giving congratulations, and Buffy was smiling broadly as the judge walked up to Buffy. She turned to him and stated softly, "Your Honor, I owe you a lot. If there's anything I can do for you. . ."

The judge smiled gently, and replied, "Now, now, Miss Summers. I made the correct ruling given the evidence . . .no need to thank me. Besides, I owed you more than a favor. . .I was at Graduation Day, as was my grandson Roger. You saved both of us, and a lot of others." He frowned and commented, "I was rather startled when Randolph turned out to be a vampire. . .and Adam the bailiff too." He shook his head and asked, "How did you know?"

Buffy smiled and nodded at Kuzak. "Michael saw that there was only one person reflected in Cordelia's mirror at the front of the courtroom-the court reporter. Lucky Cordy can't go five minutes without looking in the mirror." She turned to Giles, frowning: "Does this mean that they were vampires all along, Giles?" Giles shook his head and replied, "I saw Judge Thornton in broad daylight only two weeks ago. . .they must have recruited the judge and the bailiff just in time for them to manipulate the outcome. . .though as I recall, the judge wasn't being terribly helpful before that, anyway. The vampires may have lost the outcome they desired by failing to resist the temptation to tamper."

Buffy rolled her eyes at the lengthy analysis and commented, "Yada, yada, yada. . .whatever." She threw up her arms and shouted, "I'm going to Disneyland!" Seeing the looks she got from the others, she calmed down and commented, "Well, it seemed the thing to say." As Judge Stevenson left to a hail of thanks and friendly waves, she turned to her friends and attorney and shouted, "All right, who's for celebrating at the Bronze?!"


The next morning, Kuzak had packed his bags and was preparing to leave his motel room when he heard a knock. He tensed, but realized that the sun outside would be a deterrent to any vengeful vampires. He opened the door and found Buffy standing there smiling. He invited her in and they sat down across from each other on the twin beds. He asked, "So what's next for you, now that we've fought off the legal minions of darkness?"

She laughed, and replied, "The usual: preventing the depredations of the undead. . .plus orientation for UC Sunnydale in a couple of weeks." Her face turned serious, and she hesitated a moment before speaking: "Michael, I just wanted to say thanks. . .you did a great job, and you were able to deal with all of the weirdness, and even used it to help us win. I owe you, big time."

Kuzak smiled and replied, "All part of the job, Buffy. Just be glad you don't have to pay my bill." They laughed at that, and Buffy asked hesitatingly, "Michael, if you run into that mysterious benefactor. . .could you tell him thanks, and that I miss him and love him?"

Kuzak was taken aback for a moment, then the pieces came together. "Let me guess. . .tall, dark, handsome. . .and won't be visible in the mirrored cufflinks that I'm going to order when I get back home?" Buffy was startled, then laughed. "That's my Angel. . .was my Angel. Anyway, just pass it along if you get the chance, okay?" She hugged Kuzak, and got up to leave. "Call me if you're ever in these parts again. . .I can't have my lawyer becoming vampire bait." She left, and Kuzak watched her go with a mixture of awe and amusement.

He took his bags to the car, dropped off his room key, and drove off for home. Idly, he wondered if it would bring in new business if he added to his business card "Counsel for the Slayer and in other matters Supernatural." After a moment, he decided against it. After all, how likely was it that he would ever run into a case this weird again? He laughed at the thought and began dictating notes for his next case as he left Sunnydale.

All right, if you have any comments, praise, or references to a good mental health program, please feel free to pass them along. Also, I think I may eventually write a sequel to this, based in LA and involving another familiar face. . .