Authors: Andrew Neiderman
Tags: #Fiction, #General
"Miss Wilson asked me to sit by her, and she told me she thought I was growing into a pretty girl, but there were things I should know about my body, things adults don't like to talk about." She paused and looked down.
"She said there were places that were special."
"And what did she want you to know about these places, Barbara?" Barbara shot a quick glance in Lois Wilson's direction and then turned back to Balm. "Barbara, what did she want you to know?" he repeated.
"That special things happen whenever . .. whenever anyone touches them."
"I see. And then what did she do?" He nodded to encourage her to continue.
"She showed me the places."
"Showed you? How?"
"She pointed to them, and then she asked me to let her touch them so I would understand."
"Did you let her, Barbara?"
Barbara pressed her lips together tightly and nodded.
"Where exactly did she touch you, Barbara?"
"Here and there," Barbara said, pointing to her chest and between her legs.
"Did she just touch you there, or did she do something more?"
Barbara bit her lower lip.
"This is hard, Barbara, we know. But we've got to ask you so that the right things can be done. You understand, right?" She nodded. "Okay, tell the court.
What else did Miss Wilson do?"
"She put her hand in here," she said, placing her own right hand between her legs, "and rubbed."
"Put her hand in there? You mean, in under your clothing?"
"Then what happened, Barbara?"
"She asked me if it felt special. I told her it just tickled, and she got annoyed and pulled her hand out. She said I wasn't ready to understand yet, but she would try again some other time."
"Not with me," Barbara said quickly.
"With friends of yours, other girls in the class?"
"And when you told them what Miss Wilson had done to you, they told you what she had done to them, correct?"
A low murmur trembled through the audience. The judge looked out with reproach, and everyone became quiet instantly.
"Then all of you told everything to Mr. Cornbleau?"
"Okay, Barbara. Mr. Taylor is going to ask you questions now, too. Just be as truthful with him as you have been with me," Martin Balm said and then turned toward Kevin and shook his head. He was capable of dramatics, too.
I've got to remember that one: just be as truthful
with him as you have been with me.
"Barbara," Kevin said before getting up. "Your full name is Barbara Elizabeth Stanley, right?" His tone of voice was light, friendly.
"There's another girl in your class named Barbara, too, isn't there, Barbara?"
She nodded, and Kevin stepped closer, still smiling.
"But her name is Barbara Louise Martin, and to differentiate, distinguish between the two of you, Miss Wilson called her Barbara Louise and you just Barbara, didn't she?"
"Do you like Barbara Louise?"
"Do you think Miss Wilson likes Barbara Louise better than she likes you?"
Barbara Stanley looked at Lois, her eyes growing smaller.
"Yes," she said.
"Because Barbara Louise does better in class?"
"I don't know."
"And because Barbara Louise never got in trouble for using bad language in class like you did?"
"I don't know."
"Did you try to get the other girls to dislike Barbara Louise?"
"Now, Barbara, the judge told you, you have to tell the truth when you testify in court. Are you telling the truth?"
"Did you pass notes to your friends making fun of Barbara Louise?
Barbara's lips trembled a bit.
"Didn't Miss Wilson catch you passing bad notes about her to other girls in class?"
he asked, nodding. Barbara looked at Lois Wilson and then out in the audience toward her parents. "Miss Wilson keeps good records of whatever goes on in her classroom," Kevin said, turning toward Cornbleau. "She saved the notes." Kevin unwrapped a piece of paper. " 'Let's call her Barbara Loser,' you wrote to somebody, and a number of other students started calling her that, right?" Barbara didn't reply.
"In fact, the other girls who claim Miss Wilson did things to them joined you in calling Barbara Louise 'Barbara Loser,' right?"
"Yes." Barbara was close to tears.
"So you just lied when I asked you if you tried to get the other girls to dislike Barbara Louise, didn't you?" he asked with a sudden harshness. Barbara Stanley bit down on her lower lip. "Didn't you?" he demanded. She nodded. "And maybe you're lying again about the things you just told Mr. Balm, huh?" She shook her head quickly.
"No," the little girl said in a small voice. Kevin could feel the hateful glare of some members of the audience. A tear had broken free of Barbara's right eye and traveled unchecked down her cheek.
"You always wanted to be as popular with Miss Wilson as Barbara Louise is, didn't you, Barbara?"
"In fact, you always wanted to be the most popular girl in your class, popular with the boys as well as the girls, didn't you?"
"I don't know."
"You don't? Not lying again, are you?" He shot a glance at the jury. "You told Mary Lester that, right?" She started to shake her head. "I could ask Mary to come here, Barbara, so remember to tell the truth. Did you tell Mary you wished everyone hated Barbara Louise and everyone liked you more?" he asked, deepening his tone.
"So Barbara Louise is a popular girl, isn't she?"
"You'd like to be popular, too, right? Who wouldn't?" he said, nearly laughing.
Barbara didn't know whether she had to answer the question, but Kevin didn't need the answer. "Now, Barbara, you know that you and the other girls are accusing Miss Wilson of doing sexual things, bad sexual things to you. Right?"
Barbara nodded, her eyes a bit wider. Kevin held his gaze on her. "Yes," she finally said.
"Was this supposedly the first time sexual things were done to you or the first time you did something sexual, Barbara?" he asked quickly. There was an instant gasp from the audience and then an angry murmur. The judge rapped his gavel.
Barbara nodded slowly.
"Yes," she said.
"But what about the time you and Paula and Sara and Mary invited Gerald and Tony to your house one afternoon after school when your parents weren't home, when no one in your family was home?" Kevin asked quietly. Barbara's face reddened. She looked about helplessly for a moment. Kevin moved closer and, almost in a whisper, asked, "Did you know that Mary told Miss Wilson about that afternoon, Barbara?"
Barbara looked terrified. She shook her head quickly.
Kevin smiled. When he glanced at Martin Balm, he saw the look of confusion on his face. Kevin nodded and smirked at the jury.
"You haven't been doing very well in Miss Wilson's class, have you, Barbara?"
he asked, his tone becoming light and friendly once again. "
"No." Barbara wiped away a tear. "But it's not my fault," she added quickly, happy the questioning had taken a different direction.
Kevin paused as if he were through, but then turned back to her.
"Do you think Miss Wilson doesn't like you and makes it tough for you?"
"So you wouldn't want her as your teacher anymore, would you?"
Barbara couldn't pull her eyes from Lois's intense gaze. She shrugged.
"No? Yes?" Kevin prompted.
"I just want her to stop picking on me."
"I see. All right, Barbara. When did the incident between you and Miss Wilson supposedly happen? What was the date?"
"Objection, your honor," Balm said, rising quickly. "I don't think this little girl can be expected to remember dates."
"Your honor, the prosecution is presenting this little girl as one of its chief witnesses against my client. We can't pick and choose what she should and shouldn't remember about such an important allegation. If her testimony is inaccurate in any way . . ."
"All right, Mr. Taylor. You've made your point. Objection overruled. Ask your question, Mr. Taylor."
"Thank you, your honor. All right, Barbara, forget the date. Did it happen on a Monday, a Thursday?" Kevin asked quickly, practically leaping at the little girl.
"Um ... a Tuesday."
"Tuesday?" He took another step toward her.
"But you don't have special arts on Tuesday, Barbara," he said quickly, seizing on an unexpected piece of good luck: the girl's confusion.
She looked about helplessly. "Um, I meant Thursday."
"You meant Thursday. You sure it wasn't a Monday?" She shook her head.
"Because very often Miss Wilson goes to the faculty room when she has a break, and she wouldn't be in her room after the class left", Barbara just stared. "So it was a Thursday?"
"Yes," she said weakly.
"Didn't it supposedly happen to the other girls on a Thursday, too?" he asked, as if he were confused about the facts himself.
"Objection, your honor. She hasn't been schooled in everyone's testimony."
"On the contrary," Kevin said, "it's my contention that she has."
"By whom?" Balm demanded indignantly.
"Gentlemen." The judge rapped his gavel. "The objection is sustained. Limit your questions to the testimony of this witness, Mr. Taylor."
"Fine, your honor. Barbara, when did you tell the other girls what had happened to you? Did you tell them right away?" Kevin asked before she could recover.
"Did you tell them at your house?"
"Was it the day you had that party with Gerald and Tony?"
The little girl bit down softly on her lower lip.
"That's when you told them, right? Was there some reason why you picked that afternoon? Did something happen that gave you the idea to tell that story?"
Barbara's tears began to flow harder. She shook her head.
"If you want people to believe the story you are telling about Miss Wilson, you're going to have to tell everything, Barbara. All the girls are going to have to tell everything," he added. "Why you talked about Miss Wilson that afternoon, what you and the boys did, all of it." The look of terror on Barbara's face amplified.
"Unless, of course, you made it all up and then had the girls make it all up," he added, offering her a quick out. "Did you make it all up, Barbara?"
She sat like stone, her lips trembling slightly. Barbara didn't reply.
"If you tell the truth now, this is where it will end," he promised. "No one has to know anything else," he added, almost in a whisper. The little girl looked stunned. "Barbara?"
"Your honor," Balm said, "Mr. Taylor is badgering the witness."
"I don't think so, Mr. Balm," the judge said. He leaned toward Barbara.
"Barbara, you have to answer the question."
"Did you lie to Mr. Cornbleau because you don't like Miss Wilson?" Kevin asked quickly. It was a great move; it assumed she had already answered in the positive. Out of the corner of his eye, Kevin saw eyebrows rise on members of the jury.
Barbara shook her head, but another tear escaped and then another as they started to trickle down her cheek.
"You know you could ruin Miss Wilson's career, Barbara?" Kevin said, stepping aside so that Lois Wilson could stare directly at the little girl. "This isn't a game, not like a game you play in your house, a game like 'Special Places,'
Kevin added in a loud whisper, and the little girl's face looked as if it had burst into flame. Her eyes widened. She looked frantically at the audience.
"If you didn't tell the whole truth before, it's better that you tell it now rather than keep telling the lies. Now, think and tell us the truth, Barbara," Kevin added, standing over her and glaring down with his eyes as wide as he could make them.
Kevin reached back like a prizefighter readying his knockout blow. "Miss Wilson never touched the other girls. They agreed to say it because of what they did at your house that afternoon, right? You said you would tell everyone if they didn't help."
Barbara's mouth opened wide. Her face was so flushed it looked as though all the blood in her body had been drawn into it. She looked widely at her parents.
Kevin shifted his feet so he could block out the district attorney from her view.
"We don't have to talk about what happened at your house," he said mercifully,
"but did you tell your friends what to say and how to say it? Barbara?" he pursued, hammering the answer he wanted into her. "When the other girls come up here, they will have to talk about the afternoon and the game, and they will have to tell the truth. But if you tell it now, we don't need to hear from them. Did you tell them what to say?"
"Yes," she muttered, grateful for the reprieve.
"Yes." She started to cry.
"So they told Mr. Cornbleau what you told them to tell him," he concluded, driving the point home. Then he turned from her and looked at the jury, his face a wonderful combination of anger and sorrow. All of them looked at the little girl and then back at Kevin.
"But I didn't lie about what I told him. I didn't!" Barbara shouted through her tears.
"Seems to me, Barbara, you've been telling a number of lies while you sat here."
He turned and shook his head at the district attorney. Barbara was crying hard and had to be taken off the stand and led out a side door.
Kevin strutted back to his seat, gazing out at the audience as he did so. Most of them looked shocked, confused. Mr. Cornbleau looked enraged, as did a number of other indignant citizens. The gentleman in the rear was smiling at him, but Miriam shook her head and wiped a tear away from her own cheek.