The Guilty by Gabriel Boutros

Posted on Friday, August 16, 2013

For the first time, Perron’s voice began to rise, as he leaned even closer to Claire, his expression that of a father scolding a young child. “As a matter of fact, you didn’t say anything, did you, Miss Brockway? As a matter of fact you were perfectly happy to see that he was paying so much attention to you, that he was so clearly taken in by your beauty. As a matter of-”  

“I object, My Lord,” Dulude finally exclaimed, surprising Bratt who had almost forgotten her presence. “My colleague is badgering the witness, not questioning her.”

Dion’s expression let everyone know that he didn’t particularly like agreeing with her, and he slowly turned his eyes toward Perron.

“Perhaps you could rephrase your question,” he almost sighed, and then raised an irritated eyebrow in Dulude’s direction to see if this satisfied her.  

Bratt thought that if Dion had to hide his true feelings any longer he surely would have burst.

The prosecutor was barely seated when Perron took up right where he had left off.

“You really enjoyed his attention, didn’t you? You liked the way he looked at you.”

“What was I supposed to say?” Claire asked, frustrated. “I needed the job; I wasn’t going to piss him off.” She turned to the judge, trying to compose herself. “I’m sorry, sir...I wasn’t going to insult him in the middle of my job interview.”

Perron didn’t try to hide the sarcasm in his voice as he continued. “So you giggled like an innocent little schoolgirl, and blushed and said, ‘Oh my, you naughty man. You shouldn’t say such things.’”

“I never said ‘naughty,’” she snapped back, just as Jeannie’s clenched fist came down on Bratt’s knee. He gave a start, but realized that his daughter wasn’t even aware of what she had done. He could see by her intense expression how wrapped up she was in her friend’s interrogation. He also couldn’t ignore his own growing feelings of unease, although he tried his best to analyze the questions and answers objectively.

Bratt knew it wasn’t the lawyer’s fault that Claire was so easily goaded into losing her temper. As much as they had tried to prepare her ahead of time, she was making Perron’s job look easy. 

Bratt glanced at his watch, to see if Claire would be allowed a reprieve from Perron’s verbal assault any time soon. It was still going to be a while before the judge called a recess. In the meantime, she was just going to have to try her best to keep her composure, no matter how nasty or embarrassing Perron’s questions were. There were moments, Bratt thought as the time crawled slowly by, when nasty was the perfect word.

“Tell me, Miss Brockway, what’s your bra size?” Perron asked at one point.

This question caused several of the jurors to gasp audibly. They looked toward Judge Dion, as if expecting him to intervene and perhaps even chastise the impudent lawyer. The judge, said nothing, though, and the prosecutor made no move to object. Bratt had read Claire’s statement to the police, and he was aware of how pertinent that seemingly impertinent question was.

Claire’s eyes were cast down again as she answered. “I don’t think I need to tell you that.”

Perron opened his eyes wide in mock surprise. “Oh, since when are you so shy about your measurements? You didn’t hesitate to give them to Mr. Morris during your job interview, did you? Don’t worry, I won’t quote you here.”

“I was stupid,” Claire whispered, her voice so low now that people sitting behind her could hardly hear her.

“I’m sorry, did you say that you were stupid?”

“I should have walked out when he asked me that. He had gone way too far.”

Perron’s voice also dropped, until he almost sounded as if he sympathized with her.

“But you didn’t walk out, because you really wanted that job. Isn’t that right?”


“And his lewd remarks weren’t so bad, after all, as long as you got hired.”

“I figured I could live with them.”

“And the staring down your blouse. You could live with that too.”


“I understand that your financial situation at the time was quite precarious.”

“It wasn’t just that; it was a really good job. Something for the long term.”

“A really good job,” Perron repeated, walking slowly away from her and nodding his head to show that he was taking in the implications of everything she had said. He stood facing the jury, in a brief moment that Bratt recognized as pure theatre, then took in a deep breath and swung around brusquely to face the witness.

“Miss Brockway, you knew that your chances for getting hired would be improved immeasurably if you showed up in a very attractive outfit, didn’t you?”


He strode up close to her again, all traces of his earlier sympathetic expression gone from his face. “In fact, your appearance was quite sexually provocative, wasn’t it?”

Claire seemed taken aback by his suddenly aggressive tone and posturing. “It…I guess it was…to him.”

“Yes, to him. And that certainly wasn’t accidental, was it?”

“No, I guess not.”

“And not only did you intentionally dress in this sexually provocative manner, but you went out of your way to be friendly with him, didn’t you?”

“I try to be friendly with everyone/”

“You smiled. You laughed.”

“Yes. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

“You flirted.”

“He was doing most of the flirting.”

“Miss Brockway, are you saying you didn’t flirt at all?”

Claire turned her head slightly toward the front row, looking for help, but Perron would have none of that.

“Miss Brockway, I’m over here,” he barked. “Could you please answer the question.”

“Yes, I flirted.”

“And I suppose your own flirtations simply slipped your mind when you made out your statement to the police.”

“I didn’t think it was that important.”

Perron raised his arms in another dramatic gesture, then let them flop back down to his sides. “You didn’t think it was important? You didn’t think it was important to tell the police the truth about what happened in Mr. Morris’s office?”

“I did tell the truth,” Claire insisted.

“Did you really? Did you tell them that you went there bound and determined to get that job by whatever means necessary? That you dressed in a way you knew would turn him on? That when you saw he was turned on you flirted shamelessly with him because you wanted to make sure he hired you? Did you tell them any of these things that we both know to be the truth?”

Claire said nothing for several seconds, keeping her eyes cast downward. Bratt felt Jeannie’s hand squeeze his as they waited for her to answer. He turned to look at his daughter and was surprised to see a tear rolling down her cheek.

Then he asked himself, Why should I be surprised? That’s her dearest friend getting kicked around up there and I’m sitting here rating the lawyer’s work. When did I become such a heartless shit?

He squeezed Jeannie’s hand in return and looked back at Claire. He wished that there had been some way he could have spared her this public humiliation, but it was what every witness had to expect when stepping into a courtroom.

Finally, Claire spoke. “I didn’t think…I didn’t realize that’s how it would seem.”

“How it would seem? Miss Brockway, I put it to you that you knew exactly what you were doing. You were perfectly happy to see that he was falling for you. It was exactly what you wanted, wasn’t it?”

“I never wanted that to happen.”

“Didn’t you? Were you really fighting so hard against it?” Perron sneered, even more sarcastically than before. “Tell the court the truth, Miss Brockway, did he seduce you or did you seduce him?”

Claire looked up brusquely, shocked at what Perron was insinuating. Her voice seemed to choke, as she whispered, “No, no.” Then her body began to shake as tears spilled from her eyes, and she sobbed, “Nobody seduced anybody! This wasn’t a fucking seduction!” 

The air in the courtroom was heavy with stunned silence. Bratt could see the jurors were sitting expectantly on the edge of their seats, seemingly fascinated and thrilled at the pitiful spectacle that was being put on for them. Even Judge Dion forgot to scold her for her foul language. The only word that came to Bratt’s mind as he looked at the staring faces around him was “bloodlust.”

Claire must have felt the weight of all those eyes upon her. Her legs gave out and she sat down hard on the small witness bench behind her. She buried her face in her hands, but couldn’t muffle the sound as her sobs burst out. 

Bratt looked away, wishing he were anywhere but there. Dulude reached out a sympathetic hand and squeezed Claire’s arm, looking toward the judge for some commiseration. Dion, however, simply dropped his pen onto his desk, folded his arms and sat back, rolling his eyes in exasperation.

Bratt couldn’t see the expression on Nate Morris’s face in the prisoner’s box at that point, but on Perron’s lips there was just a hint of a self-satisfied smirk. Bothered by the pleasure Perron was taking in his work, Bratt decided that the young lawyer had always been a bit too cocky for his taste.

Finally, Dulude stood to speak. “My Lord, I think this would be a good time for a recess.”

“Evidently,” Dion grunted. He lifted his ponderous weight, as the bailiff hurriedly called out, “All rise.” The jurors quickly stood and began filing out of the courtroom, whispering excitedly among themselves. Dion strode down the stairs from his dais and out the back door.

Jeannie pushed past Bratt to rush to her friend’s side. Bratt also moved toward the anguished witness, then stopped, unsure if he should approach Claire or leave her with Jeannie. Just then Perron turned toward him and flashed a knowing smile at his mentor and fellow defense attorney. Bratt attempted to return the smile but couldn’t.

Claire took the time she needed to compose herself before the jury reentered, but it would make little difference in the end. Bratt found the rest of her testimony that afternoon to be anticlimactic. Although he could see by the expressions on the faces of several jurors that their sympathy for her was still there, he knew that Perron had managed to plant the seed of doubt in their minds.

When the questioning continued after the short recess Claire seemed to lose the will to fight back and was unable to defend herself against Perron’s allegations and insinuations. His questions led her where he wanted, and no matter what she answered Bratt was afraid the jury would end up thinking that she had gone to the job interview ready for some action and she had gotten what she came for.

He thought that people hadn’t changed much, twenty-first century or not. It was still too easy to believe that the woman was a slut and the man had simply done what any normal man in his position would have done.

Bratt knew that, especially with Claire and Nate, these propositions were as far from the truth as black is from white. But when it came to getting that message across in the courtroom there was nothing that he could do about it, and Jeannie should have known that.

He knew it was trite, but he didn’t make the rules, he just played by them. Perron, whatever she thought of him, had merely done the same. It was pointless for her to blame the lawyers. But, blame them she did.

When the afternoon session had finally ended, the jury had been left with a dozen questions that Claire could not answer. The questions had ranged from why she wore what she wore, to why she had waited two days before going to the police to lay charges against Morris. Despite his sudden dislike for Perron, Bratt knew these were perfectly fair questions, the kind every lawyer would ask. Last night, with Jeannie and Bratt in her apartment, Claire had been able to provide acceptable answers for all these questions and others too. But her apartment was a million miles away from the courtroom, and was but a distant memory to her that afternoon.

Judge Dion had barely left the courtroom at the end of the day when Claire had rushed out and headed for the nearest bathroom. Bratt tried to put his arm around Jeannie’s shoulders to comfort her as they walked out the courtroom’s double doors, and that was when she had turned and yelled at him.


Then she turned and ran down the hallway after her best friend.

Bratt was stunned at being blamed, although he knew all too well what Jeannie had meant. He’d had nothing to do with Claire’s mistreatment, yet he couldn’t shake the sense that he was as responsible as Perron.

He realized, with some embarrassment, that her loud voice had drawn some amused looks from several people who had been leaving the courtroom behind them. He was relieved that the one reporter covering the case had continued to follow Claire as she ran down the hallway, and so wasn’t able to record Jeannie’s words for posterity. Perron, of all people, had been nearby and had heard her, though, and he placed a hand in sympathy on Bratt’s back.

“That’s the problem with young girls, Bob,” he said. “They can’t control their emotions.”

Bratt glowered angrily, not particularly welcoming Perron’s commiseration just then. He had a strong urge to rip into him, but stopped short when he noticed the crowd that was gathering around the smiling lawyer, and the reporter rushing back to get some pithy comments from Perron for the next day’s papers. He suddenly didn’t have anything devastatingly clever to say.

“I gotta go, Tony,” was all he could mumble, and he pushed his way through Perron’s gathering admirers and strode quickly toward the nearest exit.

All that was left of the trial was Morris’s testimony, which would start the next morning. Having heard Morris testify with calm and false sincerity four years earlier, Bratt knew that he’d have no trouble getting the jurors on his side.

They would surely waste little time in acquitting him, Bratt thought, all the while clucking to themselves over the naïve young girl who had gotten in over her head and now was trying to hold the older man responsible.

He was as confident of the outcome as if he had pleaded the case himself.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – Courtroom Drama

Rating – R

More details about the author & the book

Connect with Gabriel Boutros on Facebook


Leave a response