Chapter 4- The hard questions
Joseph Trident was an experienced defender who was used to working cases for the FBI. Being told to go and help out on a non federal case was unusual but since the request had come from his director he could hardly refuse. Picking up his brief case he was making his was out of the Harris Foundation building when he was intercepted by former director John Tandy. You seem in a hurry Joe", John observed. "Yes, I have a new client to see", Joseph explained. "I hadn't heard about anything new, John noted out loud. Joseph did not see any reason not to tell Tandy what he was doing. "It is a special assignment from the director. I am meeting someone called Saunders", Joseph told him. John Tandy could feel his hands getting sweaty, "does his first name happen to be Simon", he asked. "yes, it does do you know him, Joseph replied. "We've met, replied Tandy in what Joseph detected as a distinctly sour tone. "Ah", Somehow Joe sensed that he did not really want to know more."I better get on as I was told it was urgent",he explained to John Tandy. Pushing past the man he hurried to the lift. John Tandy smiled, "I really hope Saunders is in some sort of trouble and that daddy dearest cannot dig him out of the hole", he told the lift doors. He resented the fact that Giles Mangan had taken his place as agency director and was looking for any weakness to exploit. His son Simon Saunders could well be that weakness. He'd be making discrete enquires as to exactly what Joseph Trident and Simon Saunders were up to.
"Director Harris said to tell you to be careful", Joseph relayed to the tall good looking man who shook his hand. He did not really understand why he was giving that message but did what he'd been ordered. He guessed from Tandy's comments that Saunders had been involved with the FBI before. Even though it was really none of his business he thought he would find out why at some stage. "It's not really me who has to be careful but I will bare that in mind", Simon replied.
He went on to explain Peters predicament. "I take it you believe without a doubt that your friend is innocent", Joseph asked when he had finished out lining what had happened. "I do", Simon replied firmly. "Do you have evidence of his innocence Mr Saunders or is it pure instinct", Joseph asked.
Simon was not about to divulge his method for determining innocence replying, "it is only pure instinct Mr Trident. You are just going to have to trust me when I tell you my instincts are usually right".
"Yes, that is what the director told me". Joseph evaluated him frankly curiouristy at its fullest peak. Then professional mode took over and he decided, " I am not going to bother wondering what makes a skating coach so wise I just want to see my client".
"Right, I'll take you to the station", Simon decided
About 20 minutes later Joseph was meeting Peter Belden for the first time. He observed that not only was the man in a mess he looked an emotional mess as well. This was the hardest type of client to work with.
But if he was going to make any progress he knew he had to get answers to three crucial points, details of his own baseball card collection, why Belden had been in the conference room and vitally why he had fired a gun.
He tried to start off with small talk but found it did absolutely nothing for making his client act like he was in control. Oh well he better just get the painful things out of the way. "Mr Belden, could you tell me about your own baseball card collection", he asked.
"It's been in the family for years Mr Trident having being passed down the family line", Peter explained.
He found it difficult to understand why this conversation was about the cards. "I inderstand it is not a complete collection", Joseph observed. "No unfortunately some of the cards were lost", Peter told him.
"Have you ever enquired about selling the cards Mr Belden", he asked. "Yes a few months ago I did ask for a estimate of the collections value", Peter admitted." I was thinking of taking the entire family for a holiday and thought that selling the card would be a good way of getting the funds."
"What did the assessor tell you Mr Belden" , Joseph wanted to know. "That the collection was not going to be as valuable because it was incomplete. The missing cards were some of the rarer ones available", Peter explained. In the end I decided not to sell." Joseph made a note of that knowing these facts would be used to make a case for the prosecution. Peter frowned, "why such a focus on the cards Mr Trident",he asked.
"Because the prosecution will claim that you tried to steal those cards to make your own collection complete and hence worth more when sold", Joseph told him.
Peter paled, "I wouldn't steal those cards Mr Trident", he stated firmly. "I am just explaining what the prosecution will claim Mr Belden. They will probably even get that assessor to testify against you."
"That's horrible how something innocent can be twisted", Peter exclaimed. "Yes its horrible Mr Belden but it is what is going to happen. Any small misdemeanour or misplaced word can just add fuel to the fire. Nothing is out of bounds in a murder trial."
Peter had been trying not to think about the dead man but Joseph saying the word murder brought the images vividly back. "Did they find out who that poor man was", he asked shakily.
"I believe so Mr Belden", Joseph replied. "Since we are talking about the murder I should move on to the other areas the prosecution will focus on. "Now can you please explain why you told Mr Saunders you were going to the bathroom but ended up in that conference room instead".
Peter closed his eyes for a second, "I was going to the bathroom", he explained." I didn't like this whole VIP business I just wanted to sit in the stand like a regular person and watch the game. But the final was sold out and I could hardly say no when Simon gave me the VIP ticket. It was giving me a feeling of being out of place sitting in that stand. So I decided to go to the regular public bathroom using that fire door by the conference room as a way into the main area", Peter explained.
Joseph bit his lip,"hmm prosecution will wonder why you should feel so uncomfortable Mr Belden, you were there with friends", Trident observed.
Peter had an answer for that question. "it was the reporters Mr Trident. They were in that box interviewing Mr Morgan about the team. They were interested in anybody associated with Morgan and talked to both Simon and I. But they never wrote anything down once I told them I was just a banker from the small town of Sleepyside. It was like I did not even exist. I did not want to meet up with them again so made my way to the normal persons bathroom. As I was passing that conference room I heard what I thought was breaking glass and entered the room to investigate."
Joseph decided he could definetly 'sell' the idea of Belden as a regular person who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. A jury might just accept his explanation. But now came the hardest question of all, "why did you fire the gun Mr Belden", he asked.
"The gun", Peters mind had gone a sudden blank as the horrible shock of the whole incident came crashing in upon him. "Yes Mr Belden, the police undertook a gunshot residue test and found that you did fire the weapon that you held in your hand", Joseph explained as gently as possible.
He noted now that Peter Belden had gone incredibly pale and looked like he was actually going to pass out. "Relax and breath Peter", Joseph told him as he moved closer.
Peter felt tears falling again and was hugely embarrassed, weren't boys not supposed to cry. "Please I didn't do it", he sobbed
Joseph had of course heard that claim many times before. He had even defended people who he knew were actually guilty and got them off. But even though he should with years of experience been desensitised to peoples claims he found himself believing Peter Belden.
"I want to prove you didn't do it Peter",he stated passionately. But having a positive GSR test is major ammunition for the prosecution." You've got to give your version of events"".
Peter closed his eyes and forced his brain back to that moment, "I heard the glass break and opened the door. It was almost totally dark inside except for a small amount of light. He could see that darkness in his mind and feel that sensation of not being alone in the room. "
"There was someone there who I could not see clearly", he explained. "Alright continue, what happened", prompted Joseph.
The blackness was around him and it was almost too quiet. Then came the sound that told him someone was approaching, the soft squeaking of a rubber soled shoe. He remembered calling out "who's there" and getting no response. "I started to back away toward the door, not wanting to turn my back, then….",he broke off.
"Then what", Joseph asked quietly not wanting to shock Peter by using a louder voice. Peter swallowed and tried to think about what had happened next. But his mind would not engage, "then nothing", he stated sadly. "I cannot remember what happened", he put his head into his hands as something rather terrible occurred to him. " I keep saying I didn't do it but is it possible I did accidently shoot that guy. Maybe that why I can't remember. I had blood all over me and a gun in my hand and I can't remember…."
Peter could feel his panic rising. Joseph put his arm around Peters shoulder and tried to remain calm. But he was sure Peter might actually feel his own tremours as he realised that this might be a deeper and darker hole to climb out of than he'd thought.