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 31 — Getting Ready for the Trial
“Well,” Mr. Williams said, using his ‘attorney’ voice, “I don’t see much downside to what you’re planning, other than contractual obligations and rights for the two of you, and more importantly the liability you might have for what’s done on the website. For example, how do you know that a person who signs up is who they say they are? How do you know that someone is the age they say they are?”
Tom and I looked at each other, and he shrugged his shoulders.
“I guess we don’t, positively,” I told Mr. Williams. “We’re going to require a picture ID, like what we have at Los Arcos. But they could be faked, I guess. That’s something that we have to figure out. Maybe Gary has some ideas about that. Can you help us figure out what our liabilities are and whether we’re covered, and to draw up the contract?”
“No, and no. The company needs a liability attorney who specializes in internet commerce. You need a commercial attorney who specializes in contract law who will represent the two of you. The company needs a general business attorney, a different attorney than the one you hire for yourselves.”
“is it okay for me and Curt to use the same contract law attorney, or is it better if we each have our own attorney? If we each have our own, can you represent one of us?”
“Tom, I’m not a contract law or commercial agreement attorney. You need someone who has that kind of practice. Each attorney you interview will tell you whether it would be a conflict of interest to represent each of you individually, both of you in a single agreement, or only one of you.”
“Wow, I didn’t know it could get this complicated,” I complained.
“It’s important that each of you is protected. That’s not complicated, it’s prudent. The liability attorney that the company will hire will determine what kind of liability insurance the company needs and that each of the principals’ needs.”
Tom looked confused. “Principals?”
“Principals are those of you who own the company, and those who are financing the company. There is separate liability protection needed for those who you hire to develop your website and application programs you will use and will interface with prospects and clients on a daily basis.”
Tom put his fingers in his ears. “TMI! TMI!”
Now Mr. Williams looked confused.
“TMI is IM and text message speak that means Too Much Information. Oh, and IM is instant messaging.” I grinned as I said this. “Any kid will know what Tom meant. Now I’ve dragged you kicking and screaming into the wonderful world of teenspeak!”
Mr. Williams laughed. “I’m not kicking and screaming, Curt. I’m not quite as old as you might think. Mentally, that is.”
“Ohhhh-kay, if you say so!”
“Don’t be a W-A-L-K, Curt.”
Now I was confused. “Uh, Mr. Williams, what’s a W-A-L-K?”
“Wise Ass Little Kid.”
Now that was funny! I started laughing.
“Okay, okay. But we’re still gonna keep you updated on teenspeak, Dad.”
“You do that, Tom. It’ll be part of my lifelong learning process. Remember, you always have to keep learning and about all sorts of subjects. That’s something you need to do on your own, voluntarily, as long as you live. Learning will make you a more interesting person and you’ll understand more about the world and where you live and how you fit in.”
“I like to learn,” Tom told Mr. Williams, “and so does Curt.”
“Well, unless you have something more to ask about your internet venture, I have some things to do for my meeting tomorrow morning.”
Tom nodded, “Yeah, there’s a couple things. Can I go along with Curt tomorrow morning?”
“As long as it’s okay with Curt. We’ll be leaving around eight forty-five.”
I nodded that it would be fine with me.
“Can I be in the court for the preliminary stuff?”
“Yes, unless the judge declares that witnesses cannot be present, or asks spectators to leave the courtroom.”
“Will I be called as a witness tomorrow?”
“I doubt it, Tom. It will take a full day or two at a minimum to get the preliminary stuff, as you called it, completed.”
“How should we dress for the trial tomorrow?” I asked. “Is what I wore for the bail hearing okay?”
“You need to look neat, and wear clean clothes. No jeans. Instead wear khakis with a belt, a solid color long sleeve shirt. No sneakers, nice shoes that match the color of your belt.”
“So, no suit and tie?”
“No. Looking neat, the way I described, will help you look like who you are, a teen. More correctly, you’ll look like a kid. You too, Tom. The same goes for Mark and Kyle. We want you to look like kids. A suit and tie, or even a sport jacket, will make you look older, less like a kid, less vulnerable. And Curt, don’t try to clean up your cast, either. It looks like you’ve been wearing it for a long time.”
“So so if I look like a kid and here’s this big hulk, a former football start at Duke University, who beats me up.” I grinned. “I like it!”
“I like it too,” Tom added, “but I’m a lot bigger than Curt so wouldn’t wearing a short sleeve shirt be better for me?”
“Nah,” I said, “a short sleeve shirt will show off your big muscles and they’ll think you should have come over and beat up Don.”
“True that!” Tom started laughing, shook his head, and replied, “I’ll stick with the long sleeve shirt.”
“Good idea, Tom. Now, if there aren’t any more questions, I have work to do. Go find out from your mom what time she’ll want us for dinner and let me know, please.”
Tom and I got up and started to leave the office when Mr. Williams called us back.
“One last thing. Please don’t talk or whisper to each other or anyone else during the proceedings, okay?”
We told him “Okay,” and then left the office. Tom checked with his mom about dinner then went back to tell his dad. I sat down and turned on the TV to watch the news, but I got bored and started to channel surf. Tom came into the family room and sat down.
“Dinner will be at six thirty, that’s in about two hours. You want to shoot some hoops?”
“I don’t think so. I just want to sit until dinner. Maybe read.”
“Okay. I’ll watch TV.”
I went upstairs and got my laptop. I returned and sat on the sofa and thought about what I might read. I wanted something that would be easy, maybe a story with some humor in it. I opened the Kindle app and scanned through the long list of books, most of them for school or mysteries. I thought about getting back into the fantasy I’d been reading, Charles de Lint’s Spiritwalk, but I wanted something lighter and less intense. I finally found a story about kids starting a GSA club in their high school knowing that it wouldn’t be approved. The title describes how they did it, Geography Club. It’s what I needed, a short, fast, read. Oh, yeah, the kid who’s the protagonist is gay. That’s a good thing about a Kindle. There’s no book cover or blurb on the back to clue anyone looking over your shoulder to see what you’re reading. Cool.
After a few minutes Tom turned off the TV and moved to the sofa. He plopped down right next to me we pressed against each other.
He leaned over and looked at my screen. “What are ya reading?”
“A story about some high school kids trying to start a club at school.”
“What kind of club?”
“Gay Straight Alliance?”
“Sounds like a no-brainer to me. Just get a sponsor and start your GSA club.”
“Most kids at their high school are real homophobic. The gay kids don’t want to draw attention to themselves by starting a GSA club, so they call it the Geography Club. They figure no one will want to just walk in at the meetings of that kind of club. Or join. You know, totally boring. That way they can be selective about who they tell about the club.”
“What ends up happening?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ve just started reading the story.”
“Well, what’s happening now. In the story.”
“The protagonist, it’s written in first person, his name is Russel, goes on a gay chat site and finds a new chat room for gay people in his town. There’s one other person in that chat room. They chat for a while, and find out that they are both sophomores at the same high school. They don’t want to exchange names over the internet, so they agree to meet. They know each other from some of their classes. The biggie is that other guy is a starting player on the baseball team. They talked for about an hour about what it’s like to be gay, that sort of thing. I’m in chapter two. That’s as far as I’ve gotten.”
“I don’t think I’d go somewhere to meet a guy I just met on a chat room. He could be an old guy or something.”
“Well, they talked about teachers and classes and stuff only another kid in the same high school would know. They met at a play area in a park, so it’s a pretty open area and probably safe.”
“Still….” Tom sat and thought for a few seconds. “I don’t know, maybe it’s a good way for them to get together. I suppose to move the story along that’s the way the author had to write it.”
“I’m not sure about that. I’d think they’d get on the chat room for a few days to get more used to the idea about meeting. The story could have had parts about the protagonist trying to figure out who at school it might be that he’s chatting with.”
“Yeah, I suppose. But that’s not what happened, right?” Tom grinned.
I grinned back. “Right.”
“Funny, we’d never have to do that.”
“What, get on a chat room?”
“Right. We already know each other.”
I stared at Tom, started to smile, and ended up laughing. When I started laughing Tom joined in.
He poked me in the ribs with his elbow. “I guess we just came out to each other, right?”
I poked him back in his ribs. “Yeah, with none of the angst of wondering who you might be.”
“I don’t think we should be talking about this before the trial, Curt.”
“Hell of a time to tell me that now that we’re out to each other.”
“But we haven’t done anything yet. No harm, no foul.”
“You mean no fun, no foul.”
That got us laughing again. I slid away from him so I could turn and look at him. “I like looking at you, Mr. Thomas Williams. You’re hot. And handsome. And cute.”
“Same as about you, too. You are hot, and cute, and I love looking at you, Curt. Especially when you’re wearing my Speedo.” Tom grinned.
“We’re having hot weather now so we should start swimming more often, and I’ll have to wear your Speedo more often.”
“I just thought about something. You know my T that says ‘Your Boyfriend Thinks I’m Hot’? When I’m wearing it and you’re looking at it, what it says is true for us. I’m your boyfriend and I do think I’m hot. I’m hot for you. It’s gonna be tough waiting for this stupid trial to end.”
“I know, but we have to wait. That way I can answer ‘No’ to the question about ever having messed around with another guy and I wouldn’t be lying.”
“What if they ask if you’re gay?”
“I don’t know if I’m gay. I might be bi, or even straight. So I can say no, I’m not gay and again I wouldn’t be lying.”
“Cool. It’s a good thing they wouldn’t be asking me those questions.”
“You might not even be called to testify.”
“Aw, that would suck. I want to testify. I think it would be interesting.”
“You wouldn’t be nervous?”
“Hell no. I mean, what are they really going to ask me. Like two things, about the baseball bat and maybe about you holding me back when old man Vanvelick called me the N word. I wonder if they’ll call Vanvelick to testify.”
“I don’t know. I wonder if he’s on the witness list. I think I’ll find out in the morning when I meet with Beth Wolman.”
“What time is that?”
“Nine thirty. Your dad’s going to drop us off at nine near the courthouse where we can grab something quick to eat, like at one of the coffee places. He’s got a meeting with someone at nine.”
“Sounds good to me. I think this whole trial thing is going to be interesting. Maybe I should take some notes and use it to write a paper for my California History and Government class this fall.”
“That’s a good idea,” I told him. “I think I’ll do the same. Did you get your fall schedule yet?”
“Yeah, I printed a copy. Lemme go get it.”
I looked up my schedule on my laptop. I had California History and Government, C-H and G or c-hag as we called it, fourth period with Mr. Michaelson. Tom returned with his schedule.
“I have c-hag with Linder fifth period.”
“I it with have Michaelson fourth period. So we can use the same idea for our papers. We need to tell the teachers, though.”
“Why?” Tom asked.
“If they talk we don’t want them to think one of us just copied the other’s paper and moved things around.”
“I guess. But if our papers are different… oh, never mind, I see what you’re saying. We need to tell them that we were parties to the same court case.”
“You got it!” I said.
“Let’s see the rest of your schedule,” Tom said. “The only classes we have together are English 2 second period and Chemistry sixth period. Those and c-hag are the only classes we have in common. We can do our homework for those classes together. I can help you with Web Design; you can help me with Algebra 2 and Spanish 2. We should plan on doing our homework together just about every night.”
“I agree. We can also study for tests together in these three classes.”
We talked about the teachers we would have in the fall.
“You’ll like Mr. Wong for Web Design. He makes the class a lot of fun, he never talked down to us, and he always found nice things to say about everyone’s websites.”
“Where did you put your websites? On the school server?”
“Mr. Wong has a web server where we hosted our websites. It’s in the storage room in the computer room where the other school servers are located. But it’s completely separate from the school servers to keep the hackers amongst us from finding a way into the school files. You know, little things like grades and transcripts and stuff like that.” Tom grinned. “So don’t get any fancy ideas, Curt.”
“I know about that stuff. We also had a separate server for our Computer Technology and Advanced Computer Technology classes.”
Mrs. W walked into the family room.
“Dinner will be served in about fifteen minutes. Time for you two to wash your hands and do whatever else you need to do before six thirty.”
After dinner I headed upstairs to finish up my Algebra 2 homework, and posted it for Mrs. Gibbs. After that I cleaned up and hit the sack. Tomorrow would be a big day, the first day of the trial.
My alarm went off at seven thirty. I laid in bed for a few minutes then got up and grabbed clean boxer briefs and a white T and headed to the bathroom to shower and brush my teeth. I checked whether I needed to shave or not, and decided a quick pass with my electric razor would be a good idea. As I left the bathroom I heard Tom get up, so I opened his door and stuck my head in his bedroom.
“Time to get up, sleepyhead.”
“I know. I heard you get up and I’ve been lying here waiting for you to finish.”
“I’m going to dress and head downstairs. Your dad might have some last minute things to tell me about today’s proceedings.”
“Tell Mom I’ll be down in about a half hour, okay?”
Mrs. W insisted that I have more than just orange juice and toast. She fried a couple eggs and some bacon, and I had that in addition to my usual.
“Would you like some coffee, Curt?”
“No thanks, the OJ will be enough. I’ll get a latte at one of the coffee shops in Martinez before my nine thirty meeting with Beth Wolman.”
“Are you nervous, Curt?”
“No, not at all. I’ve been mentally preparing for the trial for a long time, and I know exactly what to say to any questions they might ask me, so I’m ready.”
“Well, I wish you luck. These attorneys can be vicious.”
She grinned. Mr. Williams walked into the kitchen. He kissed Mrs. W.
“And who is this who can be vicious? I sure you haven’t been disparaging members of the legal profession.”
“As if,” Tom said as he came in and sat down at the table.
“And exactly what does that mean, Thomas?” his mom asked, giving him a fake-mean stare.
“I rest my case,” Tom stated. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Bacon and eggs with toast. Is that alright?”
“All that, please. I’d like some OJ and a cup of coffee, too.”
“You can get that for yourself, Tom”
We ate breakfast and didn’t talk about the trial. Mrs. W had some questions about the website, and Tom and I answered them. Then Mr. Williams asked a question I’d been expecting.
“How are you planning to protect the client’s information?”
“Curt’s got a plan for how we can encrypt all of a user’s information. Right, Curt?”
“Yes, everything will be encrypted except the user’s handle.” I saw that Mrs. W probably didn’t understand. “Each user selects a pen name, a handle, that identifies them and only them. Everything else, including the user’s password for accessing the site, is encrypted. If someone hacks into the site files it will all be unintelligible.”
Tom continued, “If a hacker intercepts what’s being sent by the user to the site or by the site to the user, that’s all encrypted too. We’ll use a secure connection to the user’s browser, and it’s only at the user’s browser where the information is being displayed or entered that it’s not encrypted.”
“If someone has access to a user’s computer and used a keylogger or a screen scraper there’s nothing we can do. That’s true about any site anyone visits. But we will have the strongest encryption from that point on,” I added.
“Well, the proof will be in the pudding,” Mrs. W said, “and I’m sure your backers will be pleased that all of the information you collect is protected.”
Mr. Williams stood up. “It’s time we get ready to go, guys. Go do whatever you have to do. We have five minutes before we have to leave.”
Tom and I headed upstairs. “You should bring something to read, a book or three. We might be sitting doing nothing for a long time today. I’m taking my laptop.”
“I’ll bring some paperbacks. I have some good murder mysteries and sci-fi books,” Tom replied.
“Tom, can I ask you a question?” He nodded his head. “Why don’t you have a laptop?”
“I never wanted to carry one around with me. They’re like seven or eight pounds. Way to heavy. Dad keeps bugging me about it, but I have enough crap in my backpack when I go to school. I don’t need to add a heavy laptop.”
“You know that some of the laptops are only about three pounds. That’s less than half as heavy as my Algebra 2 workbook.”
“No, I’m serious. Don’t you ever go to BuyMart or one of the computer outlets?”
“No. I don’t have time.”
“Do you know about tablets?”
“Tablets? Paper?” Tom grinned.
“Dufus. You know what I’m talking about.”
“Yeah, there are lots of stories on the news about Apple and Android tablets. So I know something about them.”
“Well, some of the new tablets are under two hundred fifty dollars now, some are under two hundred. You can watch videos and TV shows, there are Kindle and nook apps, thousands of games. You should tell your dad you decided you want one.”
“Hmm… is there a BuyMart near here?”
“Yeah, in the Sun Valley mall.”
Tom smiled. “I think today’s going to be a lucky day, Curt. That I do.”
“Hey, you guys ready?” Mr. Williams called from downstairs.
“We’re on our way down,” Tom shouted.
Mr. Williams dropped us off in front of the Virginia Café, a coffee shop about three blocks from the courthouse. I ordered a triple mocha latte and Tom ordered a frozen thing with espresso, chocolate, caramel, and whipped cream. We walked to Beth Wolman’s office. We had to go through security.
The guard had me open my book bag and he saw my laptop.
“You’ll have to take your laptop out of your backpack and turn it on.”
“Okay.” I pulled out and opened the laptop, then pressed the power button. As it started up I asked the guard a question.
“Why are you making me turn on my laptop?”
“To make sure that it’s really a laptop and not a bomb.”
“Oh. Well, there it is, Windows 7 has loaded. Do you want me to enter my user ID and password?”
I did it and after about thirty seconds my desktop was open.
“No, you can return your laptop to your backpack and proceed.”
I left it turned on, shut the lid to put it in sleep mode, and put it back in my book bag. Tom sat on a bench, pretending to be asleep. I bumped his knee with my leg.
“Wake up, dufus.”
He opened his eyes and grinned. “Jeez, that took long enough. I thought your meeting would be over before you got through with the third degree. What did he think you had hidden in your laptop?”
“A bomb, as if! Anyway, it’s a safety precaution.”
“Oh. I guess that’s a good idea then. You know it’s already nine thirty. Isn’t that when you’re supposed to meet with Beth Wolman?”
“Yeah. Let’s head upstairs to her office.”
When we got there I walked up to the receptionist’s desk.
“Hi, I’m Curt Fischer. I have a nine thirty appointment with Beth Wolman.”
“Yes, Curt, you’re on her schedule. However, something came up and she’s in a meeting and will be a few minutes late. I see you two have something to drink, so if you’d like a donut there’s a box in the break room. The entrance is there to your left. Unfortunately, Beth brings in donuts from Johnny’s in Lafayette.”
“Because I can’t bypass Johnny’s donuts. But you two don’t have an avoirdupois problem so go, enjoy.”
“What’s avoirdupois mean?” Tom asked.
“It means I have excess weight. That comes with age, lack of exercise, and eating too many donuts. So beware, boys, beware!” She laughed and turned back to her computer.
Tom and I went in the break room. The box of donuts was about half full. I saw what I wanted, a maple old fashioned donut. Tom grabbed an all-chocolate cake donut. We went back to the reception area and sat down to wait for Beth Wolman to return.
After about five minutes Mr. Williams arrived. He chatted with the receptionist then came over and sat with us.
“Connie said Beth called and she’ll be here in about fifteen minutes.” He looked at his watch. “That means that we’ll meet with her at ten. We have to be in court just before ten thirty. I assume there won’t be much that she needs to talk to us about.”
“How long will this morning’s session last?” Tom asked.
Mr. Williams looked at him and shook his head. “What you’re asking is when we’ll get out for lunch, right?”
Tom grinned and nodded his head.
“Usually between noon and twelve-thirty.”
“Good. And we have to be back at what, two o’clock?”
Mr. Williams turned to me.
“Curt, are you okay about the trial today? Are you nervous?”
I grinned. “That’s exactly what Mrs. W asked me this morning. I’m not nervous, and I’m okay with the trial. I’ve been preparing for this since the day I moved in with you guys. By the way, I never say it enough so thanks so much for taking me in and becoming second parents for me. I love you guys.”
“Thanks, Curt. We think of you as a second son, and we love you too.”
I’m not sure why I got into the thank-you, but I realized that it turned out to be exactly the right thing to say at exactly the right time.
I felt Tom’s hand on my shoulder, and turned to my right and looked at him.
“Me too, Curt. I love you, man. You are like a brother and a lot more.”
I reached over and hugged him. Before I could say anything, Beth Wolman walked in.
“I’m sorry, I had a meeting on another matter that I couldn’t avoid. Why don’t the three of you come on in my office and we’ll have a very brief meeting.”
We all sat down, and Beth began.
“I don’t have anything specific to say, other than today will be made up of procedures and directions from the judge that the prosecution and defense must follow. Then there will probably be a number of preliminary motions from the defense and, perhaps, depending on what motions the defense makes, from the prosecution. Then we’ll start on the selections for the Judicial Panel that will rule in this case. That should take us to, and I assume it will be completed by, lunch.
“When we return at two o’clock the defendant will be bought into the court. The Judicial Panel will be introduced, then the charges will be read. The defendant will be asked how he pleads. I assume he will plead that he is innocent. There may be other motions by the defense, for example that the charges be dropped because the prosecution doesn’t have any evidence that the defendant committed the crimes for which he is charged and yada-yada-yada. The judge will ask the prosecution and the defense if they are ready to proceed. The defense might ask for a delay at that point. Assuming they don’t, the prosecution, that’s me, will state our case, followed by the defense stating their rebuttal. The judge will then ask the prosecution and then the defense if each list of witnesses is complete. I assume that no additional witnesses are to be added. That will probably take us to three thirty or four, and the judge will state that the trial will be continued to Wednesday morning at ten o’clock, and that court is dismissed. Be aware that there are many things that could extend today’s proceedings into tomorrow or even longer, and few that could shorten the proceedings
We didn’t have any questions.
“Alright, let’s go to court and get started.” Beth stood and we followed her out of her office and to the elevator to go down to the courtroom for Donovan Clarey’s trial.
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