Here's the next installment of our Metallum Nocturne story.  If you need to catch up on any of the previous episodes, click here.

Episode Thirty-One

The floral dress Claire bought at the thrift store didn't fit around the upper arms due to her bulging biceps, but she thought it would match Judge Ambersand's outdated expectations.  When Lamar spotted her in the hallway, he gave her an approving nod.

"You're starting to get it."

Claire tugged on the sleeves which felt like they were strangling her muscles. 

"I almost bought a parasol."

Lamar squeezed one eye half-shut.  "A good choice not to."  He checked his watch.  "We should get into the courtroom.  They're finishing up the case before ours."

The corners of her lips creased at the mention of 'our case'.  It was nice to have a team, even if it was small and out-gunned by the Block's high priced lawyers.  She spotted Elle in the packed reporter section wearing an orangish-red dress that looked like molten steel in the crucible.  Elle was scribbling in a matching notebook, but glanced up in time to give a smile in greeting, then after an appraising head tilt, offered a thumbs up for her fashion choice.

Not long after they arrived, they were called to the defendants’ seats opposite the Blocks and their lawyers.  Annette was dressed in a dark red form-fitting dress and wore a mask of indignation while her husband held her hand in solidarity wearing a matching tie.  They had three lawyers which made their half of the courtroom crowded.  Behind them in the general seating, there were three people around her age which Claire assumed were campaign staff, wearing t-shirts with their daughter's face and the slogan: Justice for Mara!  Lamar had warned her that this might happen and to ignore it, which was hard because she saw court photographers taking pictures of the Blocks which fixed the t-shirts in the background.  She could already see how it would look on the front page of the Herald of the Halls

Claire sat quietly and moved as little as possible while the lawyers and judge discussed a series of trial minutia.  Judge Ambersand winked at Claire at one point, which she forced herself to smile back at, despite the pit of revulsion in her stomach. 

"Mr. Jackson, you have some motions for the bench?" asked the judge.

Lamar rose. 

"Thank you, Your Honor.  I do indeed.  The first motion is to suppress the evidence taken from Metallum Nocturne regarding the sign in sheet for the foundry.  As I stated in my formal request, there was no chain of custody with the evidence, and we have not been given access to the original to determine if the paper has been modified in any way through sorcery or other ordinary means."

The judge nodded as he listened.  When Lamar was finished, Ambersand glanced with a smirk at the Block's side as if they were old friends. 

"Motion to suppress denied," said the judge.  "It's a critical piece of evidence and you're not a detective."

The pen in Claire's grip snapped, startling the entire courtroom.  She quickly dropped it on the floor, but the judge frowned in her direction.  She hadn't realized she'd been holding it. 

"Thank you, Your Honor.  My next motion is for a change of venue.  With the opposition’s high profile and political campaign, it's unfair to my client who doesn't have a PR team.  It would be best if we moved this trial to a venue outside the city of Invictus.  I've listed three candidate venues that would be acceptable to the defense."

Judge Ambersand leaned forward.  "Motion is also denied.  A change in venue would place an undue burden on the Blocks given their political campaign.  It's hard enough that they lost a daughter, but having to travel out of the city during this important time wouldn't be fair to them.  Any other motions, Mr. Jackson?"

"None at this time, Your Honor."

Lamar returned to his seat.  She sensed his unease.  He bristled with anger as his jaw pulsed, but she couldn't continue observing him as the judge addressed the other side.  Claire knew from the article she'd read that the Blocks lawyers were renown Vindicators—lawyers trained in magic at the Hundred Halls.  It was strange that she would hire them considering her position on the Halls and mages in general.

"Your Honor," said the lead lawyer, a handsome man in his thirties with a gentile Southern accent.  "First I'd like to compliment you on your tie."

The judge looked down as if he'd forgotten what he was wearing.  It was the same 'V' design that the lead lawyer wore.  Claire recognized it as a sigil of Vindicator Hall.

"It's quite nice, Councilor Jared.  You have a lovely tie yourself."

"Thank you, Your Honor.  The plaintiff files a motion to change the court date to two weeks from now.  May 15, 2019.  The plaintiff feels that due to the Blocks political campaign, it would be prudent to move up the case to allow voters to have a full reconning and also for the Blocks to have closure in this difficult time."  The lawyer turned and raised an eyebrow.  "There are also questions about the defendant’s ability to make a later trial given the recent events in the news.  The Blocks deserve their chance at justice."

The Blocks stared forward stoically as camera flashes filled the courtroom.  Lamar bumped her leg gently and made a face reminding her not to look angry, which was hard because she felt like an ant about to be crushed underfoot by a giant. 

"Your Honor," said Lamar rising from his chair and leaning on the defendant's table.  "The courts charge is justice, not politics.  I request this motion to be dismissed as it lacks legal grounds."

The judge pumped his bushy gray eyebrows.  "These are unusual times.  While I understand your concern, I'm approving this motion.  Before you argue further, Lamar, you should consider the grander impacts to our fair city.  As well, I believe two weeks should give you plenty of time to prepare a defense for this young lady.  Isn't that right, sweetie?"

The judge's condescending tone brought heat to her face.  She found it impossible not to react, especially as cameras were pointed in her direction.  Beneath the table, her hands were shaking. 

"Thank you, Your Honor," said Lamar in her place. 

The rest of the proceedings passed in a blur.  Her whole body was numb.  Then Lamar was leading her out of the courtroom while cameras filmed her every move.  She felt like an idiot.  A stooge.  She only wanted to be back at the foundry where she could at least believe she was in control.  But that illusion had been taken from her too with Mara's death.

Outside the courtroom, the reporters didn't have to stay quiet and she was assaulted by a continuous barrage of questions.  What was her relationship with the Terrors?  Why did they try to kill her in the church?  Did she feel bad for ruining the funeral?  Was she shot or was that staged?  Did she know Terrance Grant had a warrant for his arrest in Chicago?  Was she really a drug dealer?  Did she feel bad for putting a negative spotlight on the Hundred Halls and Metallum Nocturne for her poor decisions?

Lamar guided her away from the reporters, using a side hallway to bring them to another part of the courthouse where they couldn’t follow. 

"You okay?"


He put his hand on her shoulder.  "You did good, despite the circumstances.  I underestimated Judge Ambersand's consideration for the campaign and his sympathy for the Blocks."

"I thought judges were impartial?"

"That's the way it's supposed to work, but judges are people, and some are less partial than others.  The tie thing really bothers me.  That was clear coordination."

"Can we file to move to another judge because of his bias?"

"If we push that angle, it'll only infuriate him.  We're already in a bad way and I doubt it would work.  Our best bet is to continue forward..."

He paused, looking over her shoulder.  She turned to find Annette Block striding towards her, high heels ringing off the marble floors like hammer blows.  The woman was slightly taller given the shoes, which was unusual to Claire because she was usually the tallest woman in the room. 

"Mr. Jackson.  May I speak to your client?" asked Annette.

"That would be quite unusual.  I'm not sure I want to allow it."

Claire put her hand on his arm.  "I'll talk."

"Are you sure?"

She wanted to explain that talking to Annette rather than battling in the courtroom or in the court of public opinion would help her feel like she had a tiny bit of control over the situation.  She felt like a spark in the wind already. 

"I am."

Lamar checked both sides of the hallway.  "You should talk in the women's bathroom."

One of Annette's security detail confirmed the bathroom was empty.  Before the mayoral candidate could enter, Claire pushed through the door ahead of her.  It was a pointless gesture, but it eased the tightness in her chest.  Claire turned and crossed her arms as Annette followed.

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Thomas K. Carpenter

Thomas K. Carpenter is a full time contemporary fantasy author with over 50 independently published titles. His bestselling, multi-series universe, The Hundred Halls, has over 25 books and counting. His stories focus on fantastic families, magical academies, and epic adventures.

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