Curt's life takes a turn that he never expected, and he realizes that it's because he forgot something that didn't seem important at the time. He also discovers that others have forgotten things that are important and that turns out to both help him and hurt him.
Mature or distressing themes. This story deals with abuse.
Chapter 9 — Donís Bail Hearing Part 1
I had a hard time getting to sleep Sunday night. I kept thinking about being called as a witness at Don’s bail hearing. What questions would I be asked? Would I have to show my bruises in the courtroom or only to the judge in his chambers? Would Don get out on bail? Would Mr. Williams be able to get a restraining order against Don? Would Mom realize that Don was a sleazebag and dump him? As these things rattled around in my head I fell asleep.
I dreamt that I was in court and that I’d forgotten things that were very important. The judge kept asking me about the things I’d forgotten. He told me that unless I remembered he’d have to let Don out on bail and I’d have to move back home with him and Mom.
Don was in my bedroom beating on me with a bat, and Mom was standing in the door saying she couldn’t believe it was happening because she knew Don wouldn’t do anything like that to me. I kept yelling at her to look at me and see that Don was beating on me right now. She turned and went downstairs and Don yelled at me that I was a fucking faggot and if I thought my broken arm hurt he’d show me how much more two broken arms would hurt.
I was tied up, I yelled for Officer Brady but he didn’t come and Don kept laughing at me and beating on me with the bat. I was crying and Don was calling me a pansy and I should take my beating like a real man. I tried to roll under the bed where don’t couldn’t get to me, but I was tied to the bed and couldn’t roll no matter how hard I tried.
“Wake up, Curt! Wake up, man! You’re okay, you’re at home with me.”
I didn’t know who was talking to me, it was so dark. I kept trying to get away from Don.
“Come on, Curt, wake up and open your eyes. Everything is okay.”
I opened my eyes and blinked a couple of times. Everything was a blur. I closed my eyes tight and opened my left eye. I could see Tom. I opened the other eye. I felt myself trembling. It was cold and I was sweating, the sheet and blankets were wrapped around me so I couldn’t move.
“Here, let me help you get out of this mess you got yourself into.”
I turned my head. It was Tom again, and he was pulling the blankets off me. For some reason I wanted to keep them, so I tried to grab them and keep them from being pulled off.
“Come on Curt, don’t fight me. You’re all twisted up in your blankets. Let me straighten them out. Okay?”
I saw him smile. “Yeah, it’s Tom. Will you let me straighten your blankets?”
I stopped holding onto the blankets and sheet and let Tom pull them off.
“Curt, roll over to your right for a couple of seconds, okay?”
He pulled on the blankets and that was enough to get me started. I rolled onto my right side and all of a sudden I wasn’t tied up any more.
I woke up all the way, and rolled onto my back.
“Hi, Curt. You awake now?”
“Yeah. I had such awful nightmares. First I was in the court and I couldn’t remember things I needed to remember. Then I was at home and I was tied up and Don was beating on me with a bat. Mom acted like he wasn’t doing anything to me.”
Tom stuck out his hand. I grabbed it thinking he wanted to hold it for a little while to make me feel better. Instead he pulled me up.
“Come on, get up. You’re coming to bed with me. I’ll be there to keep you from having nightmares. I’ll hold you and keep you safe.”
For some reason that made me start crying. Just the tears kind of crying, no sobs or anything like that. Tom pulled me, helping me out of bed. He held me in a soft hug, rubbing my back. I relaxed, and after a few seconds he pulled back.
“Come on, let’s go to bed. In my bed.”
I nodded, and we walked to his bedroom and I got into his bed and laid on my right side. I felt him get in on the other side and scoot up and press his body against my back and butt and legs.
“Good night. Go to sleep, Curt.”
That’s what I did. No more nightmares. When I woke in the morning we were in the same positions. I could see the clock. It was exactly 7:45. I wiggled back to be even tighter against him, and I felt him put his arm around my chest and pull me into him so it felt like we were one. I felt warm and comfortable and completely safe. I went back to sleep until his clock radio came on at 8:00.
I woke up and stretched. Shit! A cramp in my left calf. I tossed off the blankets, pulled away from Tom, jumped out of bed, and stood flexing my left leg.
Tom started to wake up. “Whaz wron, Curt?”
“Cramp. It’s gone now. God, I hate getting cramps.”
Tom stretched and yawned. “Yeah, me too. Gotta drink more water, Curt.” He turned his head, looked at me, and grinned. “Fucking clock radio. But we’d better get up. You’ve got a big day today.”
“Tell me about it.”
“Come on, get something on so your jewels aren’t hanging out for anyone to see, and hit the shower.”
That’s when I realized I didn’t have anything on. I was naked. And had morning wood. Tom was grinning and holding his hand over his eyes with his fingers spread open pretending that he couldn’t see me even though he could.
“Hurry up and put something on. The sight of you and your woodie is starting to rot my brain.” He started to laugh and that got me embarrassed. I grabbed my briefs, which were lying on the floor next to the bed, and put them on.
“I’ll get you for this, Thomas Williams!” I wanted to sound mad, but I was laughing too much.
I put on a baggie that protected my cast and took a careful shower, then got out and brushed my teeth and shaved. Tom had come in and was just finishing his shower as I put on clean boxers.
“While you were in the shower Dad came up. He said to go down for breakfast as soon as you were dressed.”
I went back to my room and put on a white undershirt, the kind with no sleeves, a black long sleeve shirt that I left unbuttoned with my cast inside, a pair of dark blue Dockers slacks, black socks, and black Rockport shoes that didn't have laces so were a bit casual but that’s all I had. Besides, there was no way I’d be able to tie laces with one hand.
I went downstairs to the kitchen. Mrs. Williams was fixing breakfast, and Mr. Williams was sitting at the kitchen table. I sat down, and Tom came down and joined us.
Mrs. Williams brought me a glass of orange juice. “Good morning, Curt. You look very nice. You should dress up like this more often.”
“How are you feeling this morning, Curt?” Mr. Williams asked.
“Okay. I didn’t sleep very well last night. It took a long time for me to fall asleep and then I had some nightmares. Tom came and woke me up and brought me into his room and we slept together. I fell asleep right away and didn’t wake up until the alarm at eight.”
“Well, this bail situation should be over by noon today. You can come back and catch up on your sleep.”
“I sure hope so. I was thinking about the alternatives, you know, what if he gets out on bail, what if I’m told I have to move back with my mom and Don. I won’t do that, you know.”
“Curt, you won’t have to do that. We’ve talked about it, and you will not go back to live in a house where Don is living. But don’t stress yourself. I think everything will turn out just fine for you. Now, I talked to Beth Wolman and she said Don’s bail hearing has been moved to ten-thirty. She wants to meet with us at ten. Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. I’d like to meet with her. I think seeing what Don did to me, in the flesh, will convince her to push for him not to get bail. Or make it so high he couldn’t aford it.”
“That’s a good idea. Seeing you is better than looking at pictures. It humanizes you as the victim. Beth told me that she has a bit of a surprise for the hearing. She wouldn’t tell me what it is, but she seemed very upbeat.”
“Let’s plan on leaving at 9:30. Parking at the courthouse is terrible, especially on Mondays when they are selecting jurors from the people who’ve been called for jury duty. Fortunately, I have a parking permit for the reserved section of the garage. But there will be a lot of traffic and we don’t want to be late.”
Mr. Williams grinned. “Curtis is a man of few words this morning, isn’t he Barbara?”
“Yes he is. And now that you’ve finished your discussion I need to ask him what he wants for breakfast.”
I looked at what Tom was scarfing down.
“I don’t want too much to eat. Maybe corn flakes and milk. Do you have a banana, or other fruit I could put on my cereal?”
“We have bananas, and some blueberries. You can have either or both.”
“That’s not much of a breakfast, Curt.”
“Since I’ll be in the courtroom I don’t want to have anything heavy to eat. Just cereal and fruit will be enough.”
She sighed. “Well, alright. Michael, if you go out for lunch I want you to take Curt somewhere nice that has healthy food. Not some greasy junk food place.”
“Yes, dear. We may have lunch with Beth Wolman. If so, she always wants to eat somewhere nice, no junk food. But we might be home for lunch. I’ll give you a call and let you know.”
After breakfast I sat in the family room and read the sports sections from the Times and the Chronicle. I hadn’t even finished the Times when Mr. Williams came in.
“Time to go, Curt.”
“Is Tom coming?”
“No. He said he wants to work on his website and will try to finish it while we’re in court.”
“Tom has a website?”
“Yes. He’s going to use it to post the pictures he’s been taking around here.”
“Tom is a photographer?”
Mr. Williams glanced at me. “Yes. You didn’t know that?”
“No. He never mentioned it.”
“Hmm. Maybe I let the cat out of the bag. Don’t tell him that I told you, okay?”
“Sure. I’ll keep it a secret. Maybe he wanted to surprise me.”
Recently I’ve learned something new about Tom every day. I’ll keep the photography thing in the back of my mind waiting for him to say something.
We got in Mr. Williams car at exactly 9:30. Turns out the drive to the courthouse was easy, and because the reserved floor of the garage was on level two, parking was no problem.
The courthouse was three blocks from the garage, and it was interesting to walk through the town because I’d never been to Martinez before.
When we arrived at the courthouse we went to the third floor to the office Beth Wolman used when she was assigned to a case.
“Hi, Michael. And this must be Curtis Fischer.”
“Do you prefer Curtis or Curt?”
“Curt. But if it’s something more formal, like this bail hearing, Curtis is okay.”
“Alright, Curt. Let me give you a rundown on what’s going to happen this morning. Donovan Clarey’s bail hearing is scheduled for 10:30. It could be later than that, but that would be unusual. It can’t be earlier otherwise it would have been officially scheduled earlier. I’ve talked to Judge Everingham. He’s a tough old bird who doesn’t much like letting miscreants out on bail. That’s good for us. By the way, Michael, Donovan Clarey’s attorney is Harvey Davidson.”
“Oh, my god!” Mr. Williams almost shouted.
“Uh, is that bad?” I asked.
“No,” Beth Wolman told me, “he’s… how can I say this… a good choice for our side.”
“Curt, I want you and Mr. Williams to sit behind the defendant’s table about halfway back. I don’t want him to see you without having to turn around and make it obvious that’s what he’s doing. Harvey Davidson filed a notice that he wants to call a witness, Otto Vanvelick. We interviewed Mr. Vanvelick and he made a statement that he didn’t know anything about Don beating Curt. This should be interesting.”
“I think I know what he might be here about. My friend Tom, Mr. William’s son, and I were shooting baskets in… in my mom’s driveway. Mr. Vanvelick was in his front yard across the street from our house. The ball got away from Tom and rolled across the street. Tom ran over to get it, and Vanvelick told Tom he should go back to the projects where he belongs, and he called Tom a nigger.” I looked at Mr. Williams, “Sorry about that but that’s what Tom told me he said. Anyway, Tom came back and was very unhappy about being called the N-word. He got so steamed I thought he might go across the street and get into it with Vanvelick, so I grabbed him to keep him from doing that. Later when Don came home Vanvelick talked to him in our driveway, Don was still in his car, and they were yelling and Vanvelick might have told him that Tom and I were hugging and must be gay. That last part’s my guess, but I think it fits because that’s just before Don started beating on me and called me a nigger loving faggot.”
“What you just told me is a summary of part of what was on the police report. But I’m glad you mentioned it.”
“Do you want to see the bruise on my chest?”
“No, that won’t be necessary. I’ve seen the color photos of your injuries the way they were when you were in the hospital. They are rather impressive, and very useful from the point of view of the prosecution. And that’s me.
“Alright, it’s ten after and I have other people to talk to before the hearing. Go on in and take your seats. Oh, and a reminder, no eating or drinking in the courtroom.”
The spectator’s area had an aisle that went from the doors up the center to a railing, just like on TV. There were about ten rows of seats with six seats across on each side. There were two tables on the other side of the railing with two chairs at each table facing the bench where the judge sits. Mr. Williams told me it’s called a bench, but it was a large chair and desk on a raised platform. To the right of the bench was the witness box.
Mr. Williams picked our seats, where Beth Wolman had suggested we sit.
A few other people came in and sat in the spectator area.
An older woman with white hair with a boy maybe thirteen years old came in and they sat on the other side in the front row next to the aisle.
A man in a uniform came in and sat in a chair that was at the left of the bench. Mr. Williams bent close to my ear and whispered, “That’s the Bailiff.”
Old man Vanvelick came in and sat in the center of the front row on our side. I leaned over to Mr. Williams and whispered “That’s Mr. Vanvelick.”
Beth Wolman came in with a woman about Mom’s age and a guy about my age. He turned and looked at me, then whispered something to the woman and they both looked at me and smiled. He looked very familiar. They sat in the center of the second row on our side. Damn, I knew that I’d seen him somewhere but I couldn’t place him. He turned around and looked right at me and smiled, then he gave a little wave. Someone waves at me I wave back, so that’s what I did.
The kid kept looking at me, so I whispered to Mr. Williams, “Do you know who that is?”
He shook his head and whispered, “No, do you?”
All of a sudden it came to me. He was the guy in that picture that Don has of his two kids from his former marriage. I’d completely forgotten about that. I smiled at him, and gave him a salute to tell him I knew who he was. He gave me a thumbs-up and turned back around.
I poked Mr. Williams and whispered to him, “That’s Don’s son from his former marriage. Mom said he never sees his kids.”
Mr. Williams whispered, “Do you know the woman he’s with?”
“No. It could be Don’s former wife, but I’ve never seen a picture of her so I don’t know.”
Beth Wolman sat at the table on the right side. A man came in with a stack of folders and sat next to her.
A really short, really fat middle-age man came running in and sat at the table on the left. He was sweating a lot, and he took out a big handkerchief and wiped his face and neck. Mr. Williams leaned over and whispered, “That’s Harvey Davidson, Don’s attorney.”
A few more people came in and sat down. One resembled a woman reporter on the channel 2 news. I leaned over to Mr. Williams and asked, “Is she the TV reporter on channel 2?” and he nodded.
My mom came in and sat in the first row next to the aisle on our side.
Two policemen walked in with Don from a door to the left of the table where Don’s attorney was sitting. He just stared ahead, not looking around, sat down at the table, stared at the bench, and began a whispered conversation with his attorney. He never turned around to see who was in the spectator section. That was fine with me. I would prefer if I never saw his ugly face again, ever.
After a few minutes the Bailiff stood and everyone in the courtroom stood except Don. His attorney had to poke him and motion that he had to stand. Then the Bailiff called out, “All rise. Hear ye, hear ye, the Superior Court for the County of Contra Costa is in session. The Honorable Judge Roy Everingham presiding. All having business before this court, give attention and you shall be heard. You may be seated.”
Everyone sat down. The judge banged his gavel.
“This is the bail hearing for Donovan Clarey. Most bail hearings are heard in a joint case session. But because of extraordinary circumstances, the bail hearing for Mr. Clarey has been given its own session in today’s court calendar.
“The representative of the District Attorney’s office may state the charges against Donovan Clarey.”
Beth Wolman stood. “Mr. Donovan Clarey is accused of physical abuse of a child, endangerment of a custodial child, gross battery upon a child, and resisting arrest. We plead the court to remand Mr. Clarey to the County Jail without possibility of bail until such time as his court case is held for him to answer these charges.”
“Thank you, Ms. Wolman. Will Mr. Clarey and his attorney please stand.”
Don stood. Then Harvey Davidson stood, and as he did so he knocked his chair so it was tipping backwards toward the rail. He turned to catch the chair and dropped the stack of papers he had been holding onto the floor. He and Don both bent over to pick up the papers and their heads banged together. Some people in the spectator’s area began laughing and the judge banged his gavel. It was just like one of those old Laurel and Hardy comedies they showed on cable. I bit my tongue so I wouldn’t laugh or smile.
I watched the judge. He seemed to be very pissed.
“Mr. Davidson. You are disturbing the decorum of this court. Mr. Clarey, you have heard the charges against you. How do you plead?”
“Not guilty, your honor.”
“Mr. Clarey, you may sit down. Now, Mr. Davidson?”
Don’s attorney began speaking. His voice was soft and high pitched, so it was hard for me to hear him. I closed my eyes so all of my attention was on what he was saying.
“Your honor, Mr. Clarey is an upstanding member of the community. He is a highly valued employee of the Ensenal Corporation as a medical sales representative. He has no record of inflicting abuse on anyone, and plans to vigorously defend himself when his case comes to trial. The circumstances surrounding these false charges started as a simple misunderstanding that became out of control when his stepson attacked him. We ask for Mr. Clarey to be released on his own recognizance until such trial commences.”
“I understand that you have a witness who wishes to speak, Mr. Davidson?”
“Yes, your honor. Mr. Otto Vanvelick is a neighbor of Mr. Clarey and his family, and he lives directly across the street from the Clarey home. He was present when this altercation occurred and wishes to give his statement.”
“Alright. This is a bail hearing, not a civil or criminal case. There will be no cross examination by Ms. Wolman or by Mr. Davidson. Those whose names I’ve been given by Ms. Wolman and Mr. Davidson are the only persons who will be allowed to speak. I will be the only one giving cross examination. I will allow Ms. Wolman and Mr. Davidson the ability to have a witness who has made their own statement which can include information that supports or contradicts any prior sworn statement.
“Now, while this is not a civil or criminal case, all statements by any witness will be sworn, and the swearing in will be taken by the Bailiff.
“Ms. Wolman, do you understand and agree to abide by these rules for this hearing?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Mr. Davidson, do you understand and agree to abide by these rules for this hearing?”
“Uh, yes your honor, but I’d like…”
He was interrupted by the judge, “Mr. Davidson, there are NO buts. Do you understand and agree to abide by these rules for this hearing, yes or no?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, please stand and address the bench.”
Old man Vanvelick stood. The Bailiff motioned him to come forward to the bench, and he finally figured out what he was supposed to do, and stood in front of the bench facing the judge.
The Bailiff did the swearing in, just like they show on TV.
“Please state your full name, your age, and your address.”
“Uh, yes your honor. My name is Otto Rolf Vanvelick. I am sixty three years old. I live at 215 Pauley Court.”
“Please make your sworn statement.”
“I saw Don come home so I waved to him and he stopped. I told him I’d seen Curtis, his son, hugging and kissing another boy outside, in front of their house, in view of the entire neighborhood, and that I thought he should know about it. He was correctly upset that his son was a queer… uh… a homosexual, so we went into the house. He went upstairs to Curtis’s room and was attacked by Curtis. Don tried to protect himself and ran out of the room and Curtis fell down the stairs and broke his arm. I saw the whole thing.”
“I see that you made an official statement to the police that you hadn’t seen or heard anything about the altercation. Are you telling me that you made a false statement to the police?”
“No, your honor. I was confused about what the police were asking me.”
“Are you confused now?”
“Uh, no, your honor.”
“Is your statement today true to the best of your knowledge?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Were you present when the police arrived at the Clarey residence?”
“No, your honor.”
“So you left the house?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“When did you leave?”
“Some time before the police arrived.”
“How did you leave?”
“Through the back door, the same as I entered.”
“Why did you leave? You were a witness to what you’ve told us was an attack on Donovan Clarey. The law is very clear. If you see a crime you must report what you saw. Did you report what you saw?”
“No, your honor. I didn’t know I had to report anything.”
“Where were you when the altercation occurred?”
“In the kitchen.”
“This is the kitchen in the Clarey residence?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“How do you know that Donovan Clarey was attacked by his son?”
“Don told me.”
“So you didn’t see it happen?”
“No, your honor.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, in your statement you just said ‘I saw the whole thing.’ Was that incorrect?”
“Yes, your honor. Um… what I meant was that I saw Curt… uh… fall down the stairs. I didn’t see him attack Don. I wasn’t upstairs.”
“How do you know that Curtis Fischer fell down the stairs and broke his arm?”
“I saw him fall.”
“From where you were standing in the kitchen?”
“Mr. Vanvelick, answer my question. Did you see Curtis Fischer fall down the stairs from where you were standing in the kitchen?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Did you see Donovan Clarey at the top of the stairs?”
“Yes, your honor.”
“Did he push Curtis Fischer down the stairs?”
“No your honor, Curtis was running down the stairs and he tripped and fell.”
The judge opened a file folder.
“Mr. Vanvelick, I have here an architectural drawing of the kitchen on the first floor of the Clarey house. Please point to where you were standing in the kitchen.
“Mr. Vanvelick has pointed to a location about three feet from the door that leads from the kitchen into the dining room. Is that the correct information, Mr. Vanvelick?”
“Yes, your honor. That’s exactly where I was standing. At the edge of the kitchen counter.”
“Now, Mr. Vanvelick, here’s an architectural drawing of the entire first floor of the Clarey house. Please point to the stairs.
“Mr. Vanvelick has pointed to the stairs on the architectural drawing of the first floor of the Clarey house. Now, Mr. Vanvelick, here’s a photograph taken from the kitchen of the Clarey house, looking outward to the dining room. Please point to the stairs.”
“Something’s wrong with this photo. I don’t see the stairs.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, the stairs are there. The problem is that the stairs are not visible from the kitchen because there’s a wall that hides the view of the stairs from the kitchen. How do you explain your ability to see the stairs through a wall?”
“Mr. Vanvelick, I’m waiting. How did you see the stairs from the kitchen?”
“I must have walked into the dining room and seen them from there.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, the stairs are not visible from the dining room. It’s the wall in the dining room that hides the view of the stairs. Now, Mr. Vanvelick, before you get yourself in even more trouble, would you like to reconsider your statement?”
“Um… yes. Maybe I’d like to withdraw it?”
“Uh… no, not maybe. I’d like to withdraw my statement.”
“Mr. Vanvelick, I’m going to remand you for contempt of court. You, sir, have wasted over a quarter hour of this court’s time and I do not suffer fools in my court. Bailiff, please take Mr. Vanvelick in custody.”
“What? Why are you arresting me? I withdrew my statement!” He turned and looked at Don’s attorney. “You told me what to say!” He turned back to the judge as two police officers approached him. “Your honor, I was paid by Mr. Davidson to make this statement. He gave it to me. I have a copy right here in my pocket!”
“Thank you, Mr. Vanvelick. I’ll see you later in this court. In the meantime, someone from the District Attorney’s office will meet with you. Correct, Ms. Wolman?”
“Yes, your honor. I’d also like to request that Mr. Clarey be remanded without bail until his trial.”
“No, Ms. Wolman. Despite all the excitement in this court today we still have to consider whether Mr. Clarey should be granted bail or not. Mr. Clarey, do you want to retain new counsel or continue with Mr. Davidson?”
“What happens if I request new counsel?”
“You will remain in the County Jail until your new counsel requests a new bail hearing, and whether you are granted bail or continue to be held in the County Jail until your trial on the charges brought by the District Attorney. If you do not have an attorney one will be appointed to represent you at your cost. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed on a pro bono basis. What do you want to do, Mr. Clarey?”
“I think I’d better get a new attorney. I don’t know if I can be cleared if I don’t.”
The judge pounded his gavel. “This bail hearing for Mr. Donovan Clarey is suspended until such time that a new bail hearing is requested in this court by Mr. Donovan Clarey’s new attorney who will be presented to this court within three days. That is Thursday of this week.
“Mr. Davidson, your service as the attorney for Mr. Donovan Clarey is hereby rescinded by the request of Mr. Donovan Clarey. And Mr. Davidson, I want you to meet with me in my chambers right now.” Man, did the judge look pissed, even more than before.
Don was led off by the same two officers that had taken old man Vanvelick away. The Bailiff escorted Mr. Davidson to the judge's chambers, followed by the judge.
Thanks to Cole Parker for editing Forgetting Can Be a Big Mistake
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