Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Three Hundred and Eighty-eight: Friends

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CHAPTER THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-EIGHT

Tuesday morning — 10:10 A.M.
Denver, Colorado

Under Bestat’s watchful eye, the Defense Attorney buttoned his jacket and unconsciously licked his lips as he stood. The edges of Bestat’s mouth lifted in the kind of smile that one might see on a cat as a mouse peeked out from its safe hole. The smile, combined with Bestat’s large, unblinking dark eyes and flawless skin, gave her a look of immense power.

The Defense Attorney looked up at Bestat and swallowed hard. She raised her eyebrows in an affected “yes?”.

“Ms. Behur,” the Defense Attorney said. “Let me first how sorry we are at the loss of your child.”

“Yes,” Bestat’s smile became more predatory. “I felt your empathy when you forced me to share my medical records proving not only my pregnancy but also the miscarriage, and my doctor’s written assessment that the miscarriage was due to your client’s little event. I felt the well of your compassion as you argued that my doctor was fraudulent in her assessment.”

Bestat nodded her head and allowed her eyes an exaggerated blink. The Defense Attorney turned away from her.

“Thank you for your compassion,” Bestat said in a smooth voice.

The Defense Attorney looked over his shoulder at her before walking to the table. His assistant gave him a stack of pages. He gave his assistant a smug grin and a nod. His smug grin faded when he saw Bestat’s face. She raised her eyebrows again in “yes?”. This time, it was clear that the Defense Attorney had become the doomed mouse.

The power shift was not lost on the Defense Attorney. He dropped an eyebrow and walked toward the witness stand.

“You have testified to the horror of this little gathering of friends in City Park,” the Defense Attorney said.

“To rape, maim, and kill my dear Noelle and myself,” Bestat said.

Rather than engage her, the Defense Attorney pressed on. In this small gesture, the Defense Attorney acknowledged that Bestat Behur held the power in the courtroom. . The judge sat back in his seat.

“And you would know,” the Defense Attorney said. “Wouldn’t you, Ms. Behur?”

Bestat tilted her head in preparation for what the Defense Attorney clearly felt was his first attack.

“You were in Tehrir Square,” the Defense Attorney said.

He held up an image from a particularly violent protest in Tehrir Square during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Bestat could be seen standing on the edge of the square. Someone had circled her image with a red pen.

Bestat kept her face still. After she’d seen the image, the Defense Attorney gave the image to the bailiff, who passed it to the Judge. The judge took a look at the photo and set it down.

“And here you are again at the port of Suez,” the Defense Attorney said.

He held up another image of protesters fighting with security forces at the port city of Suez in 2011. Bestat was again standing on the edge of the melee. Her image was once again circled in red. The Defense Attorney gave this image to the bailiff, who passed it to the judge. The judge looked at the image and set it with the other.

“And here you are again,” the Defense Attorney said. He read the back of the picture. “This appears to be in…”

“Alexandria,” Bestat said. “In case it doesn’t say on the back of the photo — that was November 23, 2012.”

The Defense Attorney raised his eyebrows as if he were amused by her impudence. He gave the image to the bailiff and the image made its way into the stack on the judge’s desk.

“At least 846 people were killed during the so-called ‘Arab Spring,’” the Defense Attorney said.

“The Egyptian Revolution.” Bestat was so fast in correcting the Defense Attorney, that he looked up at her quickly. “The country of Egypt overthrew their government in 2011. It was a revolution. And yes, there were many who were killed and even more injured. Thousands still fight to recover today.”

The Defense Attorney shrugged at her with indifference.

“You were there,” the Defense Attorney said.

He held up a stack of images. With the flare of a magician, the Defense Attorney flipped through the pictures showing a red circle on each image.

“I was at those events and many others throughout my country,” Bestat said. “Big cities, smaller towns. Places you’ve never heard of or would think to go. I was there bearing witness to my fellow countrymen’s struggle.

“In fact, you are one of the few individuals who have remained on the diplomatic core of Egypt after this revolution,” the Defense Attorney said.

“My staff and I — that is correct,” Bestat said. “I have dedicated my entire life to the sovereign nation of Egypt. My staff and I work tirelessly to make Egypt a better country for every man, woman, and child.”

“In fact, you were asked to run for office,” the Defense Attorney said.

“My goodness! You have reviewed our diplomatic website,” Bestat said.

“Your honor, the Defense Attorney is rambling,” the District Attorney stood up from his seat to say.

“Get to the point,” the judge said.

“My point,” the Defense Attorney said with a sly grin. “Yes.”

He took a moment to walk toward the middle of the floor before turning suddenly toward Bestat.

“You admit to having been in the middle of some of the most violent uprisings in modern history,” the Defense Attorney said. “And yet, you claim that this small gathering of friends was so violent that you miscarried you child.”

The Defense Attorney gave her a sick smile and raised his eyebrows.

“I’m sorry,” Bestat said. She looked at the Defense Attorney before looking at the judge. “I am not sure what you’re asking.”

“Ask a question of this witness or I will release her,” the judge said.

“I guess the heart of the matter is very simply — I don’t believe you,” the Defense Attorney said. “We see image after image of you looking calm and collected while tremendous turmoil is happening around you. You expect us to believe that this gathering of friends disturbed you in anyway.”

“I don’t expect you to believe anything,” Bestat said.

“A question, counselor,” the judge said.

“Fine,” the Defense Attorney said. “In these situations, there were many, many more people and much more violence. And yet you look calm and confident. Why was this little gathering of friends so disturbing to you that you lost your child?”

“Oh I see,” Bestat said. “You’re asking why I felt threatened by the violent gathering of young men high on meth-amphetamines provided by your client to encourage them to rape and murder Noelle and myself. Is that correct?”

The Defense Attorney gave a little nod of his head.

“May I have the photos?” Bestat asked.

The judge gave her the stack of images. Bestat turned over the top picture.

“You will notice in this picture that I am wearing blue, the color of lapis lazuli,” Bestat held up the image. Her index finger pointed to the image of herself. “Our ancient Egyptian Gods are said to have lapis lazuli hair. Lapis lazuli is the color of our Gods. Do you see this?”

Bestat put her finger on a thread of gold on her clothing in the picture. A gold serpent’s head was visible on the forehead of Bestat’s head scarf. The tail appeared to wind down her back.

“This is the image of a gold serpent,” Bestat said. “I wouldn’t expect you to know this, but this blue color and symbol identify me as royalty from one of the ancient lines.”

“You expect us to believe…” the Defense Attorney started.

“I don’t expect you do anything,” Bestat said. “I’m telling you what is true. You will notice that the protesters are at least a foot away from me and my staff. MostEgyptian citizens give me a wide berth.”

Bestat held the image up to the courtroom and the jury before turning to the judge. He nodded his head.

“Do you see anyone else in this image wearing this same color and symbol?” Bestat asked.

She held up the image again.

“May I?” the judge asked for the image in her hand.

Bestat nodded. She picked up the next image. For the courtroom, she pointed to what she was wearing. When everyone seemed to have seen the image, she nodded to the audience.

“Gentlemen?” Bestat asked. Two men in the audience stood up. They were both wearing blue pants. Their blue shirt had a gold serpent on the pocket. “This is the uniform of my security core. You will see them in every image you’ve shared. I almost never go anywhere without them.”

“And they…” the Defense Attorney said.

“I’d like to finish if I may,” Bestat said.

Her words were laced with something that made the Defense Attorney step back. She looked up at the judge. She nodded to the audience, and her body guards sat down.

“Do I need to caution you, again, about badgering the prosecution witnesses?” the judge asked to the Defense Attorney.

“No, your honor,” the Defense Attorney said.

“Ms. Behur?” the judge asked.

“My step-son Theodore is positively enraptured with Noelle,” Bestat said. “You have met her here. I’m sure you can see why. This was my first chance to spend time with her alone. I did not want it to be sullied by bringing my bodyguards.”

Bestat sniffed and looked down for a moment.

“I have said that I overestimated our safety,” Bestat said in a soft voice. “I underestimated Noelle. I underestimated her friends — children who were willing to give up their lives and safety to protect us. I underestimated these young men from good homes in a wonderful city filled with opportunity and freedoms that my countrymen can only dream of — I underestimated what they would do.”

Bestat swallowed.

“I simply did not believe these men were a threat to us,” Bestat said. “I was wrong.”

Bestat sighed.

“I was wrong not to bring my security detail,” Bestat said. “After scolding me, the head of my security detail told me that this kind of error is common for people such as myself. I spend all day, every day, in the safety created by the men and women who protect me. I feel safe due to their efforts. Thus, I don’t recognize when I am unsafe because I’m simply never unsafe.”

She gave a soft smile.

“Just as your client does not feel unsafe,” Bestat said. “He is held in protective custody at the Denver Jail. Many sheriffs work to keep him safe and free from harm. I imagine he feels quite safe right now.”

She gave the defendant a chilling look.

“Of course, nothing could be further from the truth,” Bestat said.

“I object!” the Defense Attorney yelled. “She is threatening the defendant.”

“No, once again, I am simply stating a truth,” Bestat said.

“Sustained,” the judge said. “The jury will disregard the witnesses last statement.”

Bestat grinned at the defendant and he appeared terrified. The Defense Attorney looked from Bestat to his client. He scowled.

“So you want us to believe that you were in danger,” the Defense Attorney said.

“I was in danger,” Bestat said. “These young men were planning to rape and murder Noelle to send a message to Charlie to not testify. I wasn’t ancient royalty to them. I was a bystander, someone who got in the way of their desires and wrath.”

“You were responsible,” the Defense Attorney said. He pointed at her. “You put Noelle in danger.”

“I made an error in judgement,” Bestat said. “If the crime is going to a quiet park in a small city of Denver on a warm afternoon, then I am guilty. I went to the park with my step-son’s beloved. What happened there… was… horrifying.”

Bestat gave an unconscious nod.

“You bring up the Egyptian Revolution of 2011,” Bestat said. “People behaved savagely. But I can assure you, nothing is more horrifying than seeing young men from good homes become savage beasts. The very sight still haunts my dreams.

“How can we move forward to a world economy when people like your client create horror and violence in the most civilized corners of the world?”

Bestat locked eyes with the Defense Attorney and her question lingered in the silent courtroom. The Defense Attorney broke eye contact.

“I’d like to submit the images of Ms. Behur into evidence,” the Defense Attorney said.

“I’m going to call for a break for the jury to review the images,” the judge said. “Before we go, I’d like to thank Ms. Behur for coming to trial today, and for her work in the world.”

The judge nodded and Bestat smiled at him.

“You are dismissed,” the judge said to Bestat and she got up to go. “Court is adjourned. We’ll reconvene at one.”

Bestat was walking across the courtroom when the judge left. She caught the defendant’s eye. He yelped with terror. She gave the Defense Attorney a mild smile, before noticing Samantha Hargreaves. Bestat gave Samantha a warm smile.

“Do you have time for lunch?” Samantha asked.

In the face of Bestat’s overwhelming presence, Samantha’s usual ease slipped away. She felt like an insecure child.

“I’d love that,” Bestat said. She put her arm on Samantha’s and Samantha felt better. “Why don’t you join us? My security was just telling me about a fantastic restaurant in something called ‘LoDo’.”

“Lower Downtown,” Samantha said.

“You must speak with them,” Bestat said with a smile.

Bestat’s security surrounded them and they left for lunch.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon — 1:11 P.M.
New York City, New York

MJ had wheeled Honey into the elevator of the medical building and then stepped forward to press the button to the floor. Looking at his back, Honey panicked. Her heart pounded with terror. When the love of her life turned around, she pushed the panic away.

MJ was a soldier. He’d been in all kinds of serious situations. He knew real terror.

Her situation paled in comparison. She had no right to be afraid.

“What?” MJ said under his breath when he returned to the back of the elevator.

“Nothing,” Honey said with a smile.

“You’re so full of it,” MJ said.

She refused to respond. She was fine. This was merely a medical meeting. Her fear wasn’t real, especially compared to all the horrifying experiences MJ had had in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Knock it off,” MJ said as if he could read her thoughts. “Just stop. You have every right to feel whatever you feel.”

“But this isn’t a terrorist situation or a battlefield or an IED or…” Honey clamped her mouth closed. “I’m being dumb.”

MJ rolled his eyes and they continued in silence. The elevator door popped open without a ding and Honey looked up.

“The dinger is broken,” Honey said.

MJ followed her eyes and then looked at her.

“Should we trust this building?” Honey asked.

MJ laughed out loud.

“Come on, Diana Prince,” MJ said. “Let’s get this over with.”

Despite the fact that she hated being pushed, he got behind her wheelchair and negotiated her into the doctor’s office. At the door, he looked down at her.

“I didn’t want to spend the day on the elevator,” MJ said.

He winked at Honey and she laughed.

“Sergeant Scully,” the receptionist said. “You must be Honey.”

The receptionist came around to shake Honey’s hand.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Scully,” the receptionist said.

When the receptionist turned, Honey scowled. She hadn’t take MJ’s name because they were locked in a battle of wills about last names. MJ chuckled at her response.

“Mrs. Scully,” MJ said under his breath.

He pushed Honey in her wheelchair toward what looked like a conference room. There were doctors around the table already. Honey lit up when she saw that Nadia was there. At least she’d have someone other than MJ there. She looked at the other men and women. They were deep in conversation. Honey flushed.

They were talking about her!

Feeling incredibly small, she let MJ push her to the end of the table. She blushed her way through the introductions. Under the table, MJ grabbed her hand. Feeling his tight grip, she felt a well of gratitude for Jill who had asked the fairies to give her back movement in her hands.

She felt someone looking at her. When she looked up, she saw her lead doctor from Craig Hospital sitting across from her at the table. Honey’s mouth dropped open. Never one for formality, the doctor gave Honey a little wave.

“Here is the last one,” the receptionist said as she came in carrying a tablet. She set the tablet on the table. “This is Mrs. Scully’s caregiver.”

Honey gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Her Denver nurse, Steve Roper, came in to view on the screen.

“Hi Honey,” Steve said. “Everyone.”

“We can now get started,” the lead doctor said.

Honey sniffed back a tear and settled in to listen.

~~~~~~~~

Tuesday afternoon — 12:11 P.M.
Denver, Colorado

Jill was driving toward a client meeting when her cellphone rang.

“Call from the Marlowe School,” the electronic voice reported through the enormous SUVs console.

Jill clicked connect.

“Hello?” Jill asked into the air.

She grimaced. She always felt a little stupid talking into the dashboard of her vehicle.

“Jill?” a woman’s voice asked. “Mrs. Marlowe?”

“This is Jill Roper-Marlowe,” Jill said.

“This is Estelle,” the woman said. “From the Marlowe School. I’m the Vice Principal of Attendance.”

“Hi Estelle,” Jill said.

“Um, I’m calling because… um…”

“What’s wrong?” Jill asked.

“You wouldn’t have any idea where Katy might be, would you?” Estelle asked.

“Katy?” Jill asked.

Her heart began to beat a hundred miles a minute.

“You know we have all of this security at the new school,” Estelle said. “And I can assure you that no children have left the school.”

“Children?” Jill asked.

Jill pulled over so as not to drive while panicked.

“Paddie, you know, Patrick Hargreaves?” Estelle asked. “He’s gone, too.”

“Katy and Paddie are missing?” Jill asked.

“Yes.”

Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…

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