Ties That Bind 12 – Possibly the Most Worthless Human Being
The meeting with Ed Farley wasn't going so well. The man stubbornly refused to admit anything in Paul Drake's report was correct, denying the disturbing scene portrayed by young Jessica Gleason ever happened. He claimed his wife had been shy and awkward, a homebody prone to stubbing toes and closing fingers in drawers because she was scatterbrained. But she had been a good woman and he had loved her and their children. He wouldn't have and didn't hurt her and he was angry with the two attorneys for lending more credence to an 'unauthenticated death-bed statement' and the 'dramatics of a teenager' than to the truth being told by their client. His story remained that he and Regina had been arguing at the top of the stairs, she had taken a swing at him, lost her footing, and fallen. The car accident on the way to the hospital was caused by Regina grabbing the steering wheel and driving them into a tree.
Thirty minutes into the conference, Perry was nearing the point of officially cutting ties with Ed Farley as he and David had agreed if the man refused to confess or at minimum plead no contest, when an officer appeared in the doorway and beckoned toward them. David exchanged looks with Perry, stood, and followed the officer out of the room.
"They're probably discussing how the D.A. can't hold me due to lack of credible evidence," Ed Farley commented with oily smugness. He stood and stretched, whistling off-key. "It's distressing that a dolt like Lemuel Harris has a better handle on my case than the legal wizards I have defending me."
Perry, who until hearing Jessica Gleason's story had staunchly defended this man's rights in the face of the charges against him, suddenly saw what it was both Della and Kathy had been telling him. What had Della called him? Smarmy. "Sit down, Mr. Farley," he commanded, his voice deep and firm.
Ed Farley stopped whistling but didn't sit down. "I sit all day long, Mr. Mason, in a cell not fit for a human to occupy. I'd like to stretch my legs if you don't mind."
"I do mind," Perry returned in that same resonant tone. "Sit down. I have a few things to say to you."
Ed Farley thought about arguing further, but after a moment decided to do as the famous attorney commanded.
Perry placed his elbows on the conference table, clasped his hands, and rested his chin on them as he eyed his client soberly. "I'm not married, Mr. Farley."
"Present circumstances aside, I highly recommend it," Ed Farley returned earnestly, leaning forward slightly, voice suddenly a bit shaky. "The happiest years of my life were the years I was married to Regina."
"I'm not married," Perry continued, ignoring the obviously rehearsed declaration of David Spencer's client, "but there is a woman in my life."
"If it's serious, you should marry her," Ed rejoined, even more earnestly than before.
"I love her as I've never loved another human being and although she can frustrate the living daylights out of me and once or twice has legitimately made me angry, I've never once, not for one fleeting second, considered hitting her. And I assure you, Mr. Farley, I have a temper when provoked."
Ed Farley's eyes narrowed in suspicion that Perry Mason might be laying some sort of trap for him and decided not to say anything. No matter what he might say to the attorney's face, Ed Farley wasn't a total fool. He had to respect Perry Mason's reputation even if he didn't think it was warranted.
"I'm not married, Mr. Farley," Perry repeated. "I haven't stood before a minister or judge and vowed to love, honor, and cherish this woman, but I do. My every waking moment is spent loving and honoring and cherishing her."
"What are you getting at, Mr. Mason?" Ed Farley was getting uncomfortable. When would David Spencer return? He found him to be much less intimidating than the legendary Perry Mason, and felt a bond of brotherhood with him. This big-shot Los Angeles attorney was a stranger.
"You, Mr. Farley, made those vows and yet you broke them. You killed the woman you vowed to love, honor, and cherish, the mother of your children, a woman who by all accounts only wanted to please her husband. You belittled her, abused her emotionally and physically for years, and then you killed her with your bare hands. With her dying breath she told a room full of people what you did to her. What did she do that could possibly have made you do that to the woman you claim to love?"
"I didn't kill Regina," Ed Farley hissed. "I never laid a hand on her our entire marriage. It was an accident after she tried to hit me. She had a brain injury. You can't believe what someone with a brain injury says."
"She was the mother of your children," Perry went on, voice still deep and calm, disgusted at Ed Farley's attempt to portray Regina as the agressor. "She gave you precious gifts that you didn't deserve, and you failed them as a father. They're just babies. They need their mother, but you took her away from them."
"They'll have me when I get out of here, when I beat this murder charge." Ed Farley's excessive suavity returned. "I'm a good father. I provide for them very well."
"The only thing those children need is their mother who loved them, but because of you, you bastard, they won't even remember her. I suspect that you provided food, clothing, and shelter for your children, so if that's your definition of a good father, perhaps you were. But did you give them anything of yourself? Did you love them or were they nuisances who took too much of your wife's attention away from you? Would they eventually need to be put in their place the way you put Regina in her place?"
"Is it proper for an attorney to call his client names?"
"Technically, Mr. Farley, I'm not your attorney. I'm acting in an advisory capacity because David Spencer asked me to, so I can do whatever the hell I want."
Ed Farley flushed to the tips of his ears. "Then get out of here. Just because your advance billing claims you're the best attorney in the country doesn't mean I have to listen to any of this self-righteous malarkey, especially if you aren't technically my attorney. I'll report you to the Bar Association for threatening me. I was satisfied with David Spencer before you showed up on the scene, although his regard for you has me questioning my regard for him. "
"But David Spencer isn't satisfied with you, Ed." David closed the jail conference room door with a bang and advanced into the room. He tossed several pieces of paper at his fellow Rotarian with a flick of his wrist. "Based on Jessica Gleason's story and the word of several credible witnesses to your wife's last moments, I came here with Mr. Mason to convince you that the best thing for you and your children would be to plead no contest to a charge of second degree murder, which is acceptable to the District Attorney, and save this county the cost of a sensational trial. There's the possibility that Mr. Mason and I could review how you were arrested and charged and find an obscure technicality to build a tenuous case on, but the chances are slim to none we would find anything. And since you refuse to do what your attorney advises, I'm informing you that effective immediately I am no longer your attorney."
"You can't do that! You can't abandon me!" Ed Farley exploded, jumping to his feet and slamming his fist down on the table. "I didn't kill Regina! She fell and then she drove us into a tree."
David shoved his hands into his pockets, trying not to sigh as Ed continued to blame his wife for everything he had done to her. "I can do whatever the hell I want," he said nonchalantly, making it plain he had heard some of his client's exchange with Perry Mason. "Why don't you read that deposition, Ed. It's a real page-turner."
Ed Farley's anger was so intense that his hands shook uncontrollably; rattling the papers to the point he could not read the typed report.
Perry looked from David Spencer to Ed Farley as the accused man laid the papers back down on the table in front of him and took a long, shuddering breath.
"Another witness has come forward," David announced almost triumphantly, which was not exactly the proper tone for a defense attorney presenting evidence against his client. "Your former neighbor, Rosemary Neiman. Oh, I'm sorry Ed, did I ruin the deposition for you?"
Perry Mason and David Spencer watched in silence as Ed Farley took an inordinate amount of time to read the transcribed deposition of one Rosemary Neiman, a former neighbor who had actually been inside the Farley home on several occasions and recounted, in sickening detail, injuries that Regina Farley blamed on her own clumsiness. Until one day when she reached out for help because she was in the end stages of her second pregnancy and couldn't properly care for her toddler son, and admitted to Mrs. Neiman that Ed had actually caused the painful injuries to her feet that made it almost impossible to walk. Regina had cried and begged Rosemary Neiman not to do or say anything, because it had really been her own fault, another accident really – she had gotten in Ed's way and he'd stepped on her. It would be on Rosemary Neiman's conscience the rest of her life that she never said anything, and had in fact moved away two months following the incident and nearly forgotten about it until another former neighbor had contacted her with the news of Regina's death. That neighbor, a nurse at the hospital, had then contacted Dr. Kathy Spencer.
"Just so you know, Ed," David broke the silence, "Jessica Gleason is with the D.A. right now giving her formal deposition. She's pretty torn up that she didn't say anything when it could have helped Regina, but she'll be a great witness for the prosecution. You abused your wife and she protected you by convincing a scared teenager not to rat you out."
"No, Regina feared for her life, even back then." Perry's chin was still propped up by his clasped hands as he stared at possibly the most worthless human being he had ever met. "She probably feared for Jessica's safety as well."
The high color that had reached Ed Farley's ears faded to pasty white and his hands still shook despite his efforts to still them. He had read Rosemary Neiman's deposition twice while the two attorneys continued to insult and lecture him about the right thing to do and was half-way through it for a third time, stunned that his wife had betrayed the sanctity of their marriage with a teen-aged babysitter and a cigarette girl from Las Vegas. He hardly remembered this Neiman woman – she had lived next door to them for only a few months, having met and married Harry Neiman in Las Vegas and convinced him to move his accounting business there.
"I'm not the monster Jessica and Rosemary make me out to be," Ed Farley said defensively. But his voice was weak and trimmed with defeat. Without Jessica and Rosemary and especially his own attorney's wife meddling in his business, Regina's dying words might have been overcome due to her head trauma, but even he was beginning to see the futility of his situation, brought down by a teenager and a fading showgirl forced to peddle cigarettes for a living when her figure began to expand. Just like Regina.
"I think a man who beats his wife could easily be considered a monster, don't you agree Perry? Oh, by the way, in a couple of hours we'll have access to the depositions of everyone who saw Regina confirm it was Ed who hurt her."
Perry continued to stare at Ed Farley. He sensed the man was about to give up and the hair at the back of his neck prickled in anticipation. "I do," he said simply. "Do those words sound familiar, Mr. Farley?"
Ed Farley pushed Rosemary Neiman's deposition away from him and slumped in his chair, refusing to meet either attorney's eyes. "Regina admitted it – she got in the way. I told her she shouldn't have married me. But she did it anyway."
David Spencer clenched and unclenched his fists. If he thought he could get away with it he would pummel Ed Farley to within an inch of his life, allow Kathy to save his life, then repeat the pummeling so the monster would know firsthand what he had put his wife through. "Women do get in the way, but when you make the decision to get married, you make room for her. My wife took over the bathroom sink, she moved my clothes into the guestroom closet, and somehow a tube of lipstick wound up in my tackle box and melted all over my hand-tied flies. But I'll tell you this man-to-man: there is nothing, not one thing my wife could do that would make me hit her because even though she gets in the way, I love her, and you just don't hit someone you love."
There was a knock at the door and the same officer who had interrupted earlier poked his head into the room. "Mr. Spencer? I think you'd better come out here."
David sighed and heaved himself out of his chair. "If you don't accept the D.A.'s offer of pleading no contest in exchange for reduced charges, Mr. Mason and I will walk out of here and you'll have to find other representation. Mr. Mason and I both agree that the medical evidence, testimony of the attending ER doctor, several nurses, and that of Jessica Gleason and Rosemary Neiman is more than sufficient to convict you. Add to it that your wife's admission will probably be considered a deathbed confession, and I just don't see how you can avoid a conviction. We are unwilling to defend you based on a contention that Regina was the aggressor. You are free to pursue a trial with another attorney on that contention, but I'm here to tell you that you'd be stupid not to take the advice of someone of Mr. Mason's experience."
After David left the conference room for the second time, Perry Mason unclasped his hands so that one could drum on the wooden table top. Chin still held up by his other hand, he continued to stare at the man who had killed the mother of his children and would probably never suffer true remorse, even if he did offer a full confession. Della was right. He had seen it time and time again – murderers who felt justified in killing whoever 'got in their way' and who were remorseful only for themselves and the retribution they would face because they had been caught.
"David Spencer is a good man," Perry commented, in context to nothing. "He'll be successful in his private practice."
Ed Farley opened his mouth to speak but decided not to. He'd said enough. He'd said too much.
"His wife is quite accomplished. She's the ER attending physician at Community Hospital."
"She's the one who started this whole thing," Ed Farley spat, ultimately unable to keep quiet. "If she had minded her own business…"
"Dr. Spencer also happens to be my…the woman I told you about…Dr. Spencer is her best friend from childhood. I'm quite fond of both Dr. and Mr. Spencer."
"Bully for you, Mr. Mason. I'm glad to know you have friends. I was worried you might be lonely." A bit of his earlier bravado reappeared in Ed Farley.
"You'll be in prison a long time Mr. Farley. And I know neither you nor your wife have much family. Certainly no one who would take in two small children and raise them like they were their own. Not even your parents. We located them in Europe and they have refused to accept responsibility for the children or to testify on your behalf."
Ed Farley's response was to blink rapidly. "Aren't lawyers supposed to be good at getting to the point?"
"I'm sorry if you don't approve of my methods. I'm merely laying out facts so that you can comprehend what's going to happen for the rest of your life. You're…what…thirty-two? Assuming you behave yourself while incarcerated, you could conceivably be paroled when you're fifty. Of course, that depends on if the D.A. is amenable to our sentencing recommendation…"
"I don't frighten easily Mr. Mason, so don't waste your breath telling me about the horrors of prison. That is if I actually go to prison. I'm seriously considering retaining a better attorney."
"I'm talking about your children, you selfish, self-centered, son-of-a-bitch. Because of you they no longer have a mother. Who's going to take care of them while you're in prison?"
Ed Farley shrugged unconcernedly. "They're in a foster home now. Let our fair state take care of them for however long it takes a better attorney to get me acquitted."
"Do you really want them to have that kind of life? A life lived in limbo, not belonging to anyone but a man who killed their mother? Is that what Regina would have wanted for her children?"
"Regina paid too much attention to those kids. They sniffled and she rushed them to the doctor. I'd come home and there wouldn't be any dinner because the baby was fussy. I worked twelve hours a day to pay for her nice house and all her clothes and the toys!...toys everywhere! But she couldn't manage dinner because the baby didn't want to be put down when she was teething? Maybe if she had paid a little more attention to her responsibilities to me and my comfort - "
"Ed, shut up and listen to me." Perry lowered his voice ominously. "You have the power to do what's right and if you won't take my advice about accepting the D.A.'s offer, you should really take my advice in regard to those two babies you left motherless."
"Or you'll what, Mr. Mason? Is it wise for an attorney to threaten his client? I think I could convince the D.A. you and David Spencer tried to coerce me into confessing."
Perry was sitting on the edge of his patience with Ed Farley. He couldn't strike him, no matter how much he wanted to, because that would be lowering himself to his level, and if Della ever found out…well, he simply couldn't disappoint her that way. "I'm not threatening you, Mr. Farley. I'm leading a horse to water. It's your choice whether or not you drink. Sign your kids over to David and Kathy Spencer. They want them, and I assure you the kids will have a good life. A far better life than if you let them languish in the foster care system waiting for you to get out of prison, never having a sense of permanence or knowing the kind of love their mother had for them; forever stamped as the offspring of a murderer. Do the right thing, Mr. Farley."
"Say I do sign away my rights? What'll I get? I'll need something in exchange for them. You don't get something for nothing in this world."
Bile rose in Perry's throat. How could he and David not have seen what kind of a man Ed Farley really was? He would never, ever again question a woman's intuition. "Maybe we can convince the D.A. to recommend the lightest possible sentence," he replied tightly, appalled but not surprised that what should have been a selfless act was being turned into self-serving leverage to benefit a murderer.
"I'll think about it," Ed Farley said, looking bored. "My new attorney may advise me differently."
Perry wished he was anywhere but in a room with Ed Farley, but one of the pitfalls of being an attorney was that sometimes he had to do things he'd rather not. Where the hell was David?
As if on cue, the door swung open and a grim-faced David Spencer took two steps into the room. He was holding a folded newspaper. "Perry, would you please step out into the hall for a moment? You need to see something."