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I tried to keep this to one final part but it was impossible. For length of story purposes I didn’t object to everything both attorneys would have in real life or this would have gone on forever so bear with me. I’m not Jack McCoy and I could only bug my very fine legal team where I work only so often for help…Thank heaven for Google in some cases. I tried not to rehash what you’d already read and for time sake glossed over a lot of it but I couldn't eliminate to much without losing some of important scenes.
A true Friend un-bosom’s freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably… William Penn
The others left soon after and Roy stepped out on the deck to check on his partner. Johnny was still sleeping soundly on the chaise and the older man decided to leave him be for the moment. He came inside and sat at the table with Joanne.
“How is he?” She asked as she poured him another cup of coffee.
“Still asleep,” he said with a sigh. He looked across the table, his blue eyes locking with Jo’s. “I don’t know about this Jo? I don’t like putting him through this.”
“Two days ago you were angry with him for not wanting to do this.”
“I know. I was afraid for you and I still am but he’s been through so much the last few months…How much more can he take Jo? He’s so damn fragile sometimes…Vulnerable ya know?” He said in frustration.
“I know,” she whispered. “But as vulnerable as he is occasionally, he’s still strong, resilient, stubborn and determined and as long as he has you behind him he’ll bounce back.”
Roy nodded. “But I’ll tell you one thing Jo…I’ll talk him out of testifying in a heartbeat if they don’t agree to whatever Martha recommends.” Roy thought about it for a moment before standing abruptly.
“Where are you going?” Jo asked.
“Nowhere…I’m just gonna call Campbell and Waters and tell them so.”
“Mr. DeSoto, nice to hear from you,” Campbell said politely but the tone clearly told Roy he was worried about why he was calling. “Is everything alright with John?”
“Everything’s fine detective but I wanted you to know that John’s therapist is ah…Concerned about his testifying.”
“I thought we’d resolved this…?”
“Well there’ve been some developments.”
“Mr. DeSoto, let me get the DA on conference.” There was a brief pause before another voice came on the line. “Alright Mr. DeSoto…District Attorney Jeffrey Water’s is on the line with us.”
“Hello Mr. DeSoto. Doug says there might be a problem?” Water’s asked worriedly.
“What developments are we talking about?” Campbell questioned.
“John resigned from the department this morning.”
“Oh…I’m sorry,” Campbell said, truly saddened by that piece of information.
“They didn’t accept it and at least they know about him having Aspergers now.”
“Well that’s good,” Campbell said in relief.
“Yes but listen…John’s therapist is concerned about the pressure that you’re putting him under.”
“What sort of pressure Mr. DeSoto? He’s not going to lose his job and he’s testified before?”
“Not about his having Aspergers Disorder or that he was an abused child. That was a secret that was never brought out but now you’re planning to make this public knowledge…That’s a lot of pressure on John.”
“We’re not planning to make the abuse issue public since Miss Markson didn’t mention it and it has no bearing on this case… He agreed to testify,” Doug argued.
“And he still will as long as certain conditions are met.”
“Mr. DeSoto we can’t guarantee that the judge will allow us conditions.”
“He’d better…His therapist is planning to talk to the judge but I’m warning you…If he won’t agree and Johnny shows any sign of shutting down…I’ll shut him up and that’ll be the end of it.”
“You can’t do that,” Waters said angrily.
“You watch me,” Roy assured him.
Campbell sighed and spoke up. “Yeah he can Jeff…Gage is pretty stubborn but he values his partners opinion…John would listen to him.”
“Mr. DeSoto, this woman could walk if he backs down before we’re through. His entire testimony could be thrown out.”
“I’m aware of that but I won’t have John stressed and humiliated on the stand.”
“They’re going to do their best to do just that…To make him lose control. I can’t guarantee that they won’t upset him.”
“But you can make sure I’m at liberty to step in if I need to.”
“That might work,” Jeff said thoughtfully… “Especially if his therapist recommends it…Okay Mr. DeSoto, we’ll try it but that’s all I can promise.”
“Good enough…For now…”
Roy hung up. “Well?” Joanne asked in concern.
“They’re gonna try.”
Harrell wiped the sweat from his eyes as they led the beautiful blonde out of the interview room. He shuddered in fear of the insane look on the pretty face. She would be pleading temporary insanity, though he suspected she’d been quite insane for some time now. He planned to use John’s Neurological condition as a defense…Hoping to show the jury that he could be driven into a rage and that during that time might have attacked the poor girl but he still wasn’t sure how to discredit the testimony of two well respected fire fighters. He was hoping inspiration would come along as the trial progressed but having witnessed for himself the actions of the young woman who’d just left…He knew he had his work cut out for him.
Gayle sat in a jail cell in Fresno…Her violet eyes glassy as she rocked on her bunk. The two women locked up with her watched the woman warily as she muttered quietly to herself. She’d kill them all if she had too but no one would keep John from her. She’d been on the edge for days now but her Lawyer had been to see her today. She’d seen the frightened look in the man’s eyes as she’d talked obsessively about Johnny and sputtered out her rage and hatred for Roy and Joanne DeSoto and how they’d refused to let her have the handsome young fire fighter. She’d make them pay.
Gayle was well aware that the pudgy little man was terrified of her and that he thought she was crazy but she didn’t care. She had to have John and she would no matter what it took. He’d promised her that if she calmed down and hung on, that she’d see Johnny very soon.
The day before the trial, Johnny, Roy and Joanne drove to Fresno. Kel and Dixie followed in their own car. They had already dropped the kids off with Joanne’s sister Eileen on the way. Dr. Hightower would meet them there.
John was a nervous bundle of energy and after three hours trapped in the car with the talkative younger paramedic, Roy’s head was pounding. Joanne just grinned as he rattled on and on, well accustomed to spending the day with two talkative children…She’d long ago learned how to tune out the nonsense and still hear the important stuff.
Roy finally cracked. “Please Junior,” he complained. “My ears are tired…Give me a break huh?”
Roy saw the hurt pout that crossed John’s face but it only lasted a moment. “Sorry,” he said sheepishly.
“It’s okay partner.”
They found the hotel they were to stay at. Campbell and Water’s were waiting for them there. “Let’s all go in the conference room and we’ll let you know what you can expect.”
“Have you thought about what I told you?” Roy asked. Johnny cast a curious glance at his partner but Roy only smiled and nodded for him to precede him into the room. John frowned suspiciously but went inside.
“We do have an idea and since Dr. Hightower is here…She’ll be able to back it up.”
Roy nodded in appreciation of their efforts to protect Johnny and followed them into the room. Two hours later they emerged and made their way to their rooms. John was pale and silent.
Dr. Hightower closeted herself with Johnny, Roy and Joanne for another hour as she gathered every piece of information about Johnny’s childhood that they could give her. “Do you have to tell them everything?” John asked quietly.
“No John. We won’t mention the abuse you suffered as a child but I will need to explain exactly what Aspergers is and how you are affected by it.”
“I don’t understand…I didn’t do anything wrong…Why are they doing this to me?”
“You’re disability is her defense.”
“I don’t have a disability,” Johnny said defensively.
Martha grinned. “Oh yes you do…And we’re going to use that to our advantage to get exactly what we want from the judge…Regardless, they are going to try and paint you the bad guy that led that poor girl on and then attacked her…Dumped her and caused the poor, pathetic thing to go temporarily insane.”
“I never did that,” he protested. “And she was already insane long before I met her.”
“You’re the only one still alive to swear to it.”
“My whole life Roy,” he whispered forlornly as he raised his eyes to meet his friends. “They’re gonna lay it out for the whole world.”
“There’s still time to back out Junior, just say the word and we’re out of here.”
“Jo will never be safe if I don’t do this,” he breathed out softly.
Roy nodded in gratitude. “Thanks partner.”
An hour later Brackett and Martha joined Jeffrey Waters and the defense attorney Kevin Harrell in Judge Raymond Sheldon’s courtroom.
The judge shuffled the papers in front of him. “I’ve read all the reports you’ve submitted including the one from his partner…Roy DeSoto.” He looked at the two doctors. “I’m not sure I can go along with his partner being allowed to sit that close to him.”
Waters spoke up. “You Honor…California penal code 868.8 which sites that it is at the courts discretion to allow to be moved the judge, parties, witnesses, support persons and court personal to be relocated within the courtroom to facilitate a more comfortable and personal environment for a person with a disability. John Gage has such a disability and Roy DeSoto is a support person as stated by the law.”
“Objection your Honor…Roy DeSoto is just his partner in the fire department,” Harrell stated.
“Can you explain that support aspect?” Sheldon asked.
“John Gage could very well experience an episode of withdrawal if they overstress his emotional capabilities.”
“Can his partner keep that from happening?”
“Most of the time… if he can get to him quick enough…,” Martha assured him. “Roy has been trained by me to be a touch therapist specifically for John Gage.”
“A TOUCH therapist…?” Sheldon asked.
She nodded. “Yes sir…It relaxes John fairly quickly.” The Judges eyebrow rose curiously but he didn’t question the doctor any further.
“Your Honor…I object to this motion. That whole situation could generate sympathy with the jury,” Harrell complained.
“You’re the one who’s decided to put this young man’s disorder on trial here counselor at great cost to him, I might add,” Waters argued.
“Your Honor...Mr. Harrell is afraid of generating sympathy with the jury but I can promise you…If John Gage does retreat into himself…Roy would have to bring him out and I assure you…It would rip the jury’s heart out,” Martha advised.
“It’s quite gut wrenching to watch,” Kel added.
Sheldon looked between them…His lips pursed in indecision for a long moment. “The law states that I have that discretion Mr. Harrell and I’m going to use it.”
“But that’s not…,” He began to argue.
But Sheldon stopped him. “You brought this up and you’ll have to deal with the stipulations unless you choose to withdraw your intent to bring this condition up during the trial.”
“No sir…We believe that it’s what caused his attack on Miss Markson.”
“Then I’ll allow the prosecutions motion. I will explain to the jury why his partner is close by and that he can stop the proceedings anytime he feels his patient is in jeopardy.”
“Yes sir,” Harrell growled unhappily.
They left the courtroom a short while later and the three breathed a sigh of relief, knowing Roy would have carried through with his promise to talk John out of testifying if they lost this battle.
The first day of the trial, none of the witnesses would be allowed inside to watch the proceedings…Only Dr. Hightower and Brackett were seated in the gallery while the others waited in the hallway or stayed at the hotel.
Jeffrey Waters began with his opening remarks…”Good morning ladies and gentlemen…My name is Jeffrey Waters and I’m the District Attorney for the city of Fresno.” He smiled politely at each of them holding eye contact briefly. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said without preamble. “Gayle Markson is a kidnapper, a liar and a killer and we believe that the evidence in this case will prove that.” He told them of Gayle’s tragic past…The assault on her by her father’s partner. Telling them how the father had failed his daughter terribly in taking his friends side against his own child…Before bringing up their questionable deaths.
He brought up the last four postings and the same accusations of rape and the subsequent deaths of several young fire fighters all linked directly to Gayle Markson. “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury…In every instance her lies and accusations have left behind devastated marriages, adulterous affairs, destroyed partnerships…Friends and family torn apart…Her cry of rape pitting friend against friend.”
He smiled and wandered over to where Gayle sat. Her eyes glittered hatefully as he approached her… “But in the early days of July 1976 this lovely young woman finally made a mistake when she reached Carson. What was that mistake you might ask? She finally found a partnership she couldn’t destroy” he said, answering his own question. “A marriage she couldn’t separate…She met a united front in Roy DeSoto, his wife Joanne and their friend John Gage. A station crew that didn’t fall for her pretty face, her schemes or her lies…At least not for long…A group of people…A family if you will that knew their friend well enough to know he’d never do what he was accused of.”
He strolled back to the jury. “She tried seduction to lure John Gage to her side but that failed as well…He refused to turn against his friend not even to become her lover…” Gayle’s mouth tightened ominously as he continued. “When that failed she attacked the man in the locker room of the station…When he attempted to hold off the assault she accused him trying to rape her…The same accusation made against five…FIVE…other firemen.” He said holding up his splayed fingers for emphasis. Her accusations were duly reported and investigated by the department and were proved to be untrue and so when that tactic that had worked so well in the past failed…She tried something new.”
Once again he strolled to where Gayle was sitting and looking at him smugly. She had no doubt she’d sway this jury as she had all the others. She’d be free and John would be hers.
“She accused John Gage of having an affair with his partner’s wife Joanne. She even claimed she witnessed it herself.” Waters shook his head ruefully before smiling gleefully. “Ladies and Gentlemen…We will prove that what she witnessed was nothing more than a therapy session in progress. THERAPY…? What for you ask…?” He questioned dramatically.
He pointed at Harrell… “My colleague here will tell you that John Gage suffers from Autism…But that is NOT true. John Gage does have a very high functioning, mild case of Aspergers Syndrome Disorder and while related, they are very different. He’s gonna feed you a load of hog swallop that Gage was out of control, enraged and in the grip of some kind of autistic outburst. We’ll prove this is not only a lie but virtually impossible.”
“He’s going to tell you that it was a lover’s spat. That Gayle Markson and John Gage were in love…That Joanne DeSoto’s relationship with John is what brought on the attack in the locker room when she tried to confront him with it and beg him to end it. She went to Joanne in an attempt to break it up but it didn’t work…And why not? Because there was…no…affair,” he stressed. “Just a very close friendship…”
He moved back to the jury. “And when that attempt to destroy the relationship between this FAMILY failed…She tried one last ditch effort…Because somewhere in that very beautiful but very twisted young woman’s mind, she’d decided that she had to have John Gage…The one man she couldn’t entice…The one that didn’t want her. Gayle twitched angrily in her seat, her fingers gripping the table angrily to keep from leaping up to shout a denial at the man. Harrell gestured for her to calm herself and she sat slowly back but her eyes continued to bore holes in the prosecutor as he continued. “She decided that she was truly in love with John Gage… Poor John,” he quipped sarcastically. “And her obsession took a frightening new track.”
He paced before the jury box…”She kidnapped John and Joanne at gunpoint, severely wounding Gage as he tried to get Joanne DeSoto to safety. Her intent was twofold…To make Roy DeSoto believe that they had in fact run off together, proving her claims of an affair and to keep John Gage a prisoner for whatever sordid reasons only she can understand…But she failed at that too.”
Kel and Dr. Hightower nodded their heads. She hadn’t counted on Johnny’s determination to free Joanne. Kel admired his young friend’s fortitude and ingenuity. Martha admired his strength under pressure.
Water’s was finishing up. “Unfortunately for Miss Markson…Mr. Gage was committed to freeing his friend and once she’d fired the gun and wounded Mr. Gage…The evidence left behind would no longer bear her out. She had to change her plan quickly and despite John’s best efforts, she took Joanne DeSoto as a prisoner as well…Intending to kill her as soon as she no longer needed her to control John…”
He gazed sympathetically at Gayle. “Ladies and Gentlemen…She’s ill. We know that and we want to help her get the help she needs but don’t let that pretty face fool you. She’s a kidnapper, she physically abused the man she claims to love while he lay wounded, hand cuffed and suffering from blood loss and head trauma that she herself inflicted. She’s a cold blooded killer… Her father, his partner and how many others…? At least five…John may well have succumbed to his injuries had he not managed to help Joanne escape and go for help and I have no doubt that if Joanne DeSoto hadn’t been valuable in keeping John in line…She’d be dead as well.” He strolled back to the jury. “You may also ask when and how this trial turned into the prosecution of our innocent victim…You’ll have to ask my colleague here…Thank you.”
Kevin Harrell stood up and straightened his tie. “Thank you Mr. Waters for stating my case so eloquently…Maybe I should just go home?” He quipped snidely.
“We intend to show that Miss Markson is the innocent victim and not the horrible monster that she’s been presented as. She has never been convicted of any murder and suffered a temporary time of insanity when faced with the loss of the man she loved.”
Harrell paraded in front of the juror’s box… “Some people believe that being beautiful is a gift. It is in most cases but for Gayle…Being a beautiful woman in a predominately male career field has been a curse. At the very tender age of sixteen, she was raped by her father’s partner Matthew Oaks at the fire station where they both worked. Her own father took his partners side against her. This brotherhood of fireman extending even above family,” he bit out angrily. “They would like to prove that Gayle murdered Mr. Oaks and then her own father…An accusation they couldn’t prove six years ago and can’t prove now. In fact they believed then that Jeffrey Markson found out the truth…Shot his partner and took his own life in remorse.”
He returned to point at the beautiful blonde who threw him her most innocent smile. “They would have you believe that this delicate young woman murdered another young fireman in San Francisco and yet his PARTNER…sits in a San Francisco prison…Convicted of that very crime. In fact all of these cases were closed and Gayle was found innocent of any wrong doing. Now they have reopened these cases and they’re gonna parade Evan Wainrite into this courtroom and he’s gonna tell you how he’s innocent just like he did at his murder trial. He’s gonna tell you he doesn’t remember any of it but the blood of his partner was still on his hands and the gun beside him when the police found him.”He moved back to the jury. “Is Gayle Markson guilty of bad choices…? Yes. She’s chosen married men as her lovers…She has unfortunately caused a few problems between friends. She’s a beautiful woman and she draws men to her like moths to the light and sometimes that can cause jealousy between them,” he sighed…Obviously disgusted by the childish behavior of these men. “But that’s not her fault…It’s theirs.”
He returned to smile at Gayle. “She’s not to blame if they got angry that a friend won her attentions. She’s not to blame when those men got angry at her rejection and attacked her. They paint her the villainess in this last affair but ladies and gentlemen…We will show that she had a relationship with John Gage. That he led her to believe it was something special and that when she found out about his affair with his best friends wife…She was appalled and tried to break it off. He became enraged and in an outburst of anger attacked her. We will show that John Gage has Aspergers Syndrome and that sometimes people with this disorder have trouble controlling their tempers…They can have outbursts of anger…But we’ll let the evidence help you decide.”
He strolled back to the jury. “Gayle loved him…Even after the attack in the locker room she chose to not only not report him to the police but to forgive him. She felt alone and confused. The station crew…HIS friends took his side against her. She went to Joanne DeSoto to beg her to break off the affair…For selfish gain…? Undoubtedly…She was still in love and wanted him to come back to her.” He glanced toward Gayle in admiration. “She also felt the need to warn her about Mr. Gage’s temper and about what he’d done to her. John Gage used her and cast her aside for his married lover…She lost control and made a foolish mistake…YES…A mistake.”
He hung his head looking chagrined. “She kidnapped him. It was only supposed to be him…In order to make him see just how much she loved him but Joanne DeSoto returned and caught her there. Mr. Gage once again refused to leave his married lover and attacked her. She was frightened and in the struggle for the gun, Mr. Gage was accidently shot. She wasn’t thinking clearly and panicked…She took them both with her, allowing Mrs. DeSoto to treat him for a minor wound. She took her to help Mr. Gage...Not to kill Mrs. Desoto. Was she wrong to do this? Of course but it was done while she was in a time of great emotional upheaval…Unable to give up this man she’d come to love. She’s guilty of bad choices by reason of temporary insanity but not murder…attempted murder or kidnapping. She loved him and wanted him alive. Thank you so much for your time.” He returned to his seat.
The jury gazed at the stunning blonde with sympathetic eyes. The women with understanding of the young woman’s broken heart and the men horrified that a fireman had been so callous.
Sheldon waited for Harrell to be seated before nodding to the prosecutor…“Mr. Waters…Call your first witness.”
The prosecutor stood up. “The state calls Fire Chief Frank Murray.”
Frank Murray had been Gayle’s father’s captain at the time of the assault and over the next two days Water’s led a succession of firemen from five counties through their stories of Gayle’s time at their station. The testimony was the same time and time again. She had come into the station and left behind a trail of devastation…In every case one friend was dead and the other disgraced…Their families and friends having turned against them at the allegations lodged by this seemingly helpless, innocent and beautiful young woman.
In each case one or both partners had become her lover…The offer of being together permanently the goal but in each case, one was accused of assaulting her and the other defending her from their friend. “And where did this supposed assault take place?” Water’s asked each.
The answer was uniformly the same… “In the locker room…”
In the absence of living witnesses, Judge Sheldon allowed the statements of the deceased to be admitted as it was the only record for their defense. In every case they had expressed regret at turning on their friends and partners.
Harrell managed in each case to prove that these young men did in fact have a sexual relationship with Gayle Markson…Ending the cross by portraying Gayle as the betrayed and physically abused victim of these men’s lusts.
The jury had mixed reactions…Could this truly happen to this young woman this many times if she were innocent? But look at her…She was stunning and delicate and even if she had been sleeping with them they had no right to assault the poor girl for choosing one over the other. Waters was watching the jury worriedly…He long ago learned to read the faces of jury members and was hoping that the crew of station 51 would turn those sympathetic looks toward John Gage and away from this calculating young woman.
John had spent the morning wandering the hotel suite…Roy watched the nervous pacing anxiously…knowing the toll that this whole trial was taking on his young friend. “I’m getting real worried about this trial Jo…He’s so uptight about testifying. Maybe we should just tell them he’s not up to this.”
“Johnny’d never go for that Honey…He wants to do this and you know how stubborn he is when he’s determined to do something.”
“Believe me…I know but he’s worryin me a lot,” he added as his blue eyes followed his partner across the room once more. “What can we do to help him?” He asked his wife.
“Maybe if we take him out somewhere… Get his mind off this whole mess,” Jo suggested.
“Worth a try…Hey Junior,” Roy called softly. “Why don’t we take a walk,” he suggested.
John’s dark eyes turned to his friends, recognizing the anxiousness in the blue eyes of his best friend and knowing he was the cause of it. “I’m sorry Roy.”
“It’s okay Junior but I’m worried about you…So let’s just go for a walk, take a look around town or something okay?”
They left the hotel and stepped out on the sidewalk. They glanced around trying to decide which way to go. None of them noticed the small group of men who were clustered across the street. They picked a direction and moved at a good pace for a few minutes stopping to look in windows periodically. Joanne pointed out a dress in the window drawing a grin and a headshake from her husband but he let her lead him inside the store. John grinned and moved a few stores down to look at the display of sporting goods.
He was checking out a bowling ball in the window when a reflection of several men appeared behind him. John glanced at them and stiffened, realizing that they weren’t interested in the sports equipment. He spun around nervously as they closed around him. “You’re John Gage right?” One asked.
John nodded hesitantly. “Yes…What do you want?”
“I covered your kidnapping a couple of years ago…Mr. Gage can you tell me about the accusation of rape?”
John stepped back looking shocked. “What? I…I didn’t…I mean…I’m not supposed…I don’t think I’m supposed to be talking to you,” he stammered shakily.
The others began to hurl questions at the young paramedic as John started to back away. “Mr. Gage what about Aspergers Syndrome…Can you tell us about it?”
“Does it make you angry?”
“Did you attack Miss Markson or not?”
“Did you have an affair with your partner’s wife?” Cameras were clicking all around him.
John’s dark eyes were looking around frantically trying to find a way through the mob surrounding him. “I can’t talk…I…I don’t…I didn’t do anything wrong…J…Just leave me alone,” he stuttered desperately as he tried to push past the group but they crowded too close, pressing him back against the storefront. John’s breathing grew a bit labored…“ROY,” John shouted as they gathered closer.
Several of the men were suddenly shoved to the side as the blonde firefighter cleared a path to his partner’s side. “Back off,” he growled angrily. “Just get away from him,” he snarled as he grabbed John’s arm and pulled him through the group of men crowding him, not caring who he pushed from his path in his efforts to get his friend out of there.
Once free of the mob Roy quickly propelled John towards Joanne who stood a few feet away wringing her hands worriedly. She grabbed John’s hand and the two of them hustled the young, dark haired man back toward the hotel. The group of frustrated reporters followed but kept their distance from the angry blonde paramedic.
Once inside, they steered the shaky younger man into the elevator. “They think I tried to rape her,” he whispered. “They think I had an affair with Jo.”
“They’re just fishing Junior. They just want a story…Just relax okay.” Roy ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “God I’m sorry partner…I had no idea they were out there.”
Joanne squeezed his hand drawing the dark eyes toward her. “Are you okay Sweetheart?”
“Yeah, they just came up behind me and I…I c…couldn’t get away,” He said shakily.
Roy patted his shoulder gently. “It’s okay Junior. We’ll just be more careful in the future.”
They made it back to the suite and Johnny once again resumed the nervous pacing about the room. Roy glanced at his wife. “I hope this is over soon,” he said worriedly.
The crew of Station 51 were released from duty early to drive to Fresno to take their turn on the stand about the time Water’s was calling his final witness for the day…Evan Wainrite. He told Water’s he’d been a fool to fall for Gayle. He’d lost his wife, his children, his job and his freedom. The night Max had died…Gayle had convinced him to confront his friend. He’d gone to the house and they’d fought. Max told him Gayle had seduced him in the locker room and when they were done she’d torn her shirt…Attacked him in a hysterical frenzy. He’d only been protecting himself. She’d wept in Evan’s arms and accused his best friend of rape. He led them through the entire night when Max Tate had been murdered.
“Did you own a gun?”
“Did your partner?”
“Not that I’m aware of.”
“Where did it come from?” Water’s asked.
“I don’t know.”
Waters smirked triumphantly as he presented a new piece of evidence. “Would it surprise you to know it belonged to Miss Markson?”
Evans mouth dropped open and Harrell shot from his chair…“Objection…Stating facts not in evidence… That was never proven during the trial.”
Water’s waved the report. “Your Honor…This was received just last night from our forensic unit and we telexed the report to Harrell’s office immediately. The gun that was used to kill Maxwell Tate was recovered but the serial numbers had been scratched off. The lab sent the gun to Quantico and they used a method called electrochemical etching to pull the numbers up. The gun was purchased in San Francisco by Gayle Markson. We’d like to enter this as exhibit 14 AA.”
All eyes turned toward the girl but she smiled serenely as Harrell leaned toward her. He nodded his head and stood up. “I withdraw the objection Your Honor.” Jeff wondered what the girl was going to claim. He didn’t wait long.
Harrell’s cross was short and to the point. “Mr. Wainrite…Were you ever in Gayle Markson’s apartment?”
“Yes of course, we were lovers.”
“So you had access to her property.”
Gayle threw a smirk and a wink at Evan as he was led past her. Jeff sighed. He knew they’d claim Evan had stolen it but the fact that the gun was hers had still been placed in evidence. They recessed for the day.
Roy and Joanne were relieved to see the crew show up that night to help keep Johnny occupied but he was still apprehensive about what had happened earlier in the day. They were all tired and turned in early but John lay awake most of the night…In the other room Roy was having the same problem, trying to decide whether or not to talk Johnny out of testifying. The sun was coming up before both men finally fell asleep.
The two women sharing Gayle’s cell watched fearfully as the blonde sat on her bunk. Blood ran from her thigh as she used the sharpened end of a stolen spoon to carve John’s name into the once flawless, delicate skin. She smiled as if feeling nothing as she admired her handy work. “Soon my love,” she whispered softly.
“The State calls Dr. Martha Hightower…” She came forward and was sworn in. “Good morning Doctor.”
“Good morning Mr. Waters.”
“Dr. Hightower could you tell us your background please?”Jeff asked.
“I hold a PhD in Neurological Dysfunctions. I hold a Masters degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine, I hold an Honor’s degree in Psychology from Berkley and I have an Associate’s degree in massage therapy from Ashford.”
“Do you have a specialty?”
“I specialize in Aspergers Syndrome and Autistic Disorders in children and teenagers. I also frequently deal with Trauma Patients.”
“Emotional and Mental…”
“Okay… You said Autism and Aspergers? Aren’t they the same thing?”
“No…Some doctor’s frequently lump them all together in one group but I believe they are two distinct and different Neurological Disorders as do many of my colleagues.”
“I see…So for our purposes here could you explain the difference?”
“Autism disorder is a Neurological Disorder and covers a wide range of levels…It’s only recently become more closely looked at and was frequently misdiagnosed as a mental illness. Some of these children live almost constantly in a twilight world…Cut off completely from the world around them…That can range all the way up to High Functioning Autism in which they may overcome the worst of it as they grow to adulthood. They hold jobs…some raise families though that can be tough as relationship issues are one of the most difficult things to overcome. They frequently have learning disabilities…They’re cognitive skills are impaired…They suffer from obsessive tendencies and impaired motor skills. They have trouble forming relationships.”
“Well what about Aspergers? What’s the difference?”
“They share a lot of similarities but on a lesser scale. They generally have a normal early development and show no delay in language development. Sometimes they’re not even diagnosed until they reach adulthood. Mostly you’ll notice difficulties in behavior management, lack of eye contact, poor communication abilities but they generally develop their own way of coping with these deficiencies. Sometimes they recognize that they have a difference and they shy away from friendships. They have good jobs, some may be able to have successful relationships and get married. They can be extremely intelligent, sometimes at genius levels…In fact I tell people that some of the most intelligent people in our history have been diagnosed with AS.”
“Oh…Lewis Carroll, Mozart, David Orwell, Thomas Jefferson…I could go on.”
“That’s fine, thank you. What else?”
“They sometimes lack the ability to communicate their own emotional state. Sometimes they may say something offensive without realizing that it is. They may not understand our code of social behavior and they have trouble reading other peoples moods the way most of us do, which we call mind blindness. They have trouble understanding what to expect from others and what others expect from them. They sometimes are conceived as disrespectful or rude because they don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong by being brutally honest and inflexible in their points of view which can make them obsessive and indifferent to another person’s loss of interest in a subject. They have the gift of language and they frequently have a great command of jokes and puns. They have trouble dealing with excessive emotional strain which can lead them to retreat within themselves to find a safe, calm place…It’s what we call withdrawal.”
“Thank you. Let’s talk about our victim in this case. Is John Gage currently one of your therapy patients?”
“He did give you his permission to talk to us?”
“Does John Gage have Aspergers Syndrome Disorder?”
“Yes…A mild case of it.”
“Can you tell us a little about John’s background…?”
“Objection…Is giving us this man’s history relevant?” Harrell asked flippantly.
“Foundation…Dr. Hightower is John’s therapist…Defense will claim John has violent outbursts and anger issues…As his therapist and she’s best able to explain his condition, it’s symptoms and causes and his capabilities.” Water’s countered.
“John is a child of mixed parentage…His father was white…His mother was Native American. His father was an engineer on offshore oil rigs…He was away frequently. He was killed in a fire aboard one when John was eight. His mother didn’t like the traveling from place to place so she took him to live on the reservation with her family. Her family had been unhappy about her marriage to a white man which caused a home life laced with screaming fights, arguments and rejection for John. His family could only see the white half.”
“What did that do to John?”
“He closed himself off from the world around him. He’d find a quiet spot and simply retreat into himself…A safe place within his own mind.”
“Did they cause him to have Aspergers?”
“No…That was something he was born with.” Waters nodded his understanding.
“Was there any normalcy for him?”
“Some…When his father was home…That changed when his father was killed of course. His mother struggled to raise him alone…Her family was bitter and resentful about having to help her with him and then she died when he was eleven…His whole foundation collapsed…The emotional pressure on a average child would have been tremendous but couple that with an neurological disorder like AS…It would have been devastating. John’s done extremely well to become a firefighter and a paramedic of his caliber…He’s amazing.”
“What about relationships?”
“John has trouble forming relationships. That stems from AS but also the loss of his parents at a young age and the rejection of his Mother’s family. John had absolutely no concept of what love and family was supposed to be. He’d shut himself off emotionally.”
“Has that changed?”
“Yes…And as much as I’d love to take credit for it either professionally or through my therapy…That really has to go to his friend Roy DeSoto.”
The jury was riveted to her testimony and leaned forward to listen to this new piece of the story…Their heart going out to this young man they hadn’t even met. Water’s eyes scanned the jury and he almost smiled at their reactions. John would have them completely enraptured.
“Why Roy DeSoto…?”
Roy DeSoto recognized very early on that John had some severe emotional issues and he never gave up trying to reach his partner and he finally did. Roy came to me for help and I trained him to be a touch therapist for John.”
“I thought it was only used on children and teenagers?”
“I made the exception for John…I’d been following his case for several years and when he’d reached a crisis point…Roy asked for help. I gave it.”
“Has it helped?”
“Dramatically…I watched a session just the other day…It was amazing.”
“What is trauma touch therapy?”
“It’s a type of therapy using light touches and massage techniques to relax a patient and allow them to reach deep inside themselves to explore feelings that they’ve buried due to trauma or in some cases Aspergers or Autism.”
“And Roy Desoto is a trained therapist?”
“Yes…As is his wife Joanne.”
“Who trained them?”
“To help John learn to trust their love and friendship…”
“Was John all for this therapy?”
“Good heavens no…He fought it at first…Almost bolted from the table in fact.”
“He was afraid. Most people with Aspergers don't like to be touched…It confuses them and sometimes frightens them. It can almost be torture for some of them…In fact I’m told the idea of a second session scared John so badly that he was quite sick. They pull away from intimacy and touch therapy can be very intimate.
That was the word Water’s was looking for and he grinned. He’d laid the foundation for what Gayle Markson had seen on that deck.
“Is he undressed?”
“Could it be misconstrued as such?”
“To those uneducated to touch therapy…Quite possibly...”
“And he allows Roy DeSoto to touch him?”
“Now…? Yes…Roy’s his best friend…He’s learned to trust him and that didn’t come easily for John. It’s taken years to build that relationship to that point.”
“In your opinion as an expert in Aspergers Dr. Hightower…Would John risk losing this very close relationship with his friend for any reason?”
“Objection…Speculation on the part of the witness.” Harrell said loudly.
“She’s John’s therapist your honor…And an expert in this field.”
“That friendship is extremely important to John. So much so that he allowed Roy to try this therapy even though it terrified him rather than risk losing it. It's unlikely he'd risk it for any reason.”
“One last question…You said it took years to build that relationship?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“How likely would it be for John to tell Gayle Markson he was in love with her after three days?”
“Someday maybe he’ll understand his own feelings that well but at this point in his therapy and as confused as he was by everything that was happening…Highly unlikely…”
“Water’s grinned… “Thank you.” He smiled at Martha and turned away. “Your witness...”
Gayle slapped the table angrily at the doctor’s closing remark and leaned toward Harrell to whisper angrily.
“Counselor…? Is there a problem?” Sheldon snapped in irritation.
“Yes there is,” Gayle railed. “She’s lying…He loved me…He said so.”
“We’ll ask him that Miss Markson…Now no more outbursts.
Harrell stood up and approached Martha. “Dr. Hightower…You said he’d be unlikely to develop a relationship in three days?”
“John doesn’t trust people easily…He doesn’t have emotional relationships with people he doesn’t know…He was also being torn by what he was being told by this young woman and what he knew in his heart was the truth. It would have taken a long time...Months maybe in that confused state for him to build up to that. To sort through his feelings and thoughts.”
“You’re saying he can’t have a relationship.”
“No I’m not…I never said he couldn’t have slept with the girl. John’s quite capable of a physical relationship with a woman.”
“But you just said…” he began.
“I said an emotional relationship…I’m afraid sex and emotions don’t always go hand in hand. The first time there’s a commitment wanted…Phew,” she gestured, showing how fast John Gage would be gone. Gayle was shooting dagger looks at Martha.
“So he’s incapable of falling in love?”
“Not at all… It would just take some time to develop a relationship to that point. He’s learned to love a few…very select people.”
“Such as his partner’s wife perhaps..?”
“Not the way I think you mean but yes…As well as their children, his partner, His friends at the station…His Aunt and a couple of other people that work with him at Rampart that he’s grown quite close to.”
“I see. You said he dislikes being touched by strangers so how can he be a paramedic? He handles people every day.”
“You’re not listening…It's not just a physical touch that he avoids though he used to shy away from those as well...It's an emotional resistance. There is no emotional bond with a victim Mr. Harrell. If you were lying on this floor bleeding…He would do whatever it takes to care for you…He’d be compassionate, gentle and efficient knowing he’d probably never lay eyes on you again. He’d hold your hand if you needed it and offer comfort because he has no involvement with you. He would escort you into a room at the hospital and his job is done. If you didn’t make it he’d be saddened but he’d move on without the emotional upheaval of losing someone he cares for. If you take emotions out of the equation John Gage is fearless.”
He raised a skeptical brow. “How do you figure?”
“I’m told that as a paramedic…He and his partner are frequently the first ones into a fire…Often ahead of the linemen. Buildings collapsing, explosions, fire with choking, blinding smoke, dizzying heights and cars teetering precariously on mountain sides have not slowed this man down. His job is to get you out and if it costs him his own life to do it…He’ll give it…Do you understand?”
Harrell backed down, knowing he was only giving the woman an opportunity to present the victim as even more of a hero rather than a villain. “Yes Ma’am.”
“Thank you doctor that was quite informative,” Sheldon said as he dismissed her. “I had no idea that a paramedics job was quite that dangerous myself…I guess I never thought of it.”
“I do…Now,” she agreed.
“Call your next witness.”
“The state calls Captain Henry Stanley,” Water’s said.
Hank recounted Gayle’s first shift at the station…”She was quite a hit with my men,” he explained.
“What about with John?”
“Oh he wasn’t there the first day.”
“He’d been very ill a couple of weeks prior to her start…He was still on sick leave.”
“What did he have?”
Water’s eyebrow climbed in surprise. “Where’d he get that?”
“A couple of years ago, we responded to a fire at a research lab. They had mosquito’s that were carrying it. They bit John. He was deathly ill from it.”
“Two years ago?”
“Malaria is recurrent…He carries it in his blood. It can reoccur months or even years later.”
“I see… So John was in the hospital when Gayle started?”
“No…He was recovering at his partner’s home.”
“That would be Roy DeSoto?”
“Does he do that often?”
“That he’s sick or that he stays at Roy’s home?”
“Both,” Water’s queried.
“Yes…he’s frequently at Roy’s and yes it’s often because he’s recovering from a sickness or an injury.”
“John doesn’t like hospitals and recovers faster at home and without as much complaining. His doctor usually throws him out as quickly as possible.”
There were several snickers and giggles around the room and Kel coughed into his hand to keep from laughing outright.
“Poor Mrs. DeSoto,” Waters said in amusement.
“Oh John doesn’t give her any lip…She’ll swat him and he knows it.” Again laughter erupted around the room.
“Objection,” Harrell said in irritation, knowing the Captain was winning people over with the humor. "Speculation…”
“Sustained,” Sheldon agreed but there was amusement in his tone as well.
“Is he afraid of her?” Waters asked with a grin.
“Withdrawn…Captain when you see them together…How does John treat Mrs. DeSoto?”
“Respectful...Kidding around...Like a big sister.”
He led Hank through their first shift and Gayle’s first meeting with John at the end of it but he explained that he really hadn’t been paying attention to her as much as to watching the interaction between John and Roy. “Why?”
“It was obvious something special was happening but none of us knew what at the time.”
“Did you find out later?”
“Yes…Roy and John were working on a new therapy program for John’s disorder.”
“So you knew about his disorder?”
“Did you tell your superiors?”
“No…” Hank said softly.
“John is an excellent paramedic and firefighter and I had no intention of losing him.”
“Roy and John are close?”
“Extremely…Their best friends…Partners…Brothers,” Hank said with a shrug.
“Did Gayle show an interest in Gage his first day back?”
“How about DeSoto…?”
“Did either of them show an interest in her?”
“Roy?” Cap scoffed. “Nah…He’s a happily married man.”
“He works with these men twenty four hours a day your Honor…”
“What about Gage?”
“Huh,” Cap chuckled. “Are you kidding? John Gage and a pretty girl…He’s always interested.”
Laughter erupted once again. Jeff grinned at him. “So tell us what happened the first day John came back.”
“I didn’t notice anything that day but Roy did explain to me that he and John were working on a new therapy program and that it was designed to help John become more in touch with his own feelings and learn to trust himself as well as Roy,” he explained in a reassertion of Dr. Hightower’s explanation.
“To be closer than they already were…?”
“And the next shift?”
Cap went through the next couple of shifts ending with Gayle’s accusation of attempted rape.
“Did you call the police?”
“I offered to but she refused.”
“REALLY…? She’s just accused a young man of trying to rape her but she doesn’t want you to call the police? Did that seem a little odd to you?”
“Yes it did.”
Waters led Hank through the interview with John in his office…The story John had told him was identical to several of the other fireman. The eyes of the jurors swiveled toward Gayle…The girl sat quietly wearing an eerie smirk of satisfaction.
“Did you believe him?” Waters asked?
“I’ve known this young man a long time Mr. Waters…He’d never hurt anyone…least of all a woman and he doesn’t lie.”
“Was John injured? Enough to be stunned I mean?”
“He had a good sized lump on the back of his head, yes.”
“And despite the fact that you believed him did you report the incident?”
“It’s part of my job…But it killed me to do it…They suspended him until they could investigate the accusation.”
“How’d he take that?”
“How do you think? He was hurt…Angry and upset. I’d just ruined his career.”
“How…? I mean if he was innocent.”
“If this had gotten out…How many people would have believed the worst? Maybe refused his aid because they thought he was guilty. His reputation as a firefighter…As a paramedic would have been compromised.”
Waters nodded understandingly. “You said he was angry?"
"Was he violent?"
"No of course not."
"No explosion of rage or emotional outburst?"
"No...John isn't violent.
"Thank you Captain. What happened then?”
“I called Gayle in and we talked about the incident.” He explained everything the girl had told him.
“Did you believe her?”
“Because everything she claimed was a complete contrast to John Gage’s personality. John has one of the most gentle spirits and the kindest heart I know. He’d never do what she accused him of.”
“In your opinion…?” Waters quickly interjected.
The judge shot the DA a warning glance. “Over ruled,” he added drily.
“I heard Roy yelling John’s name…”
“There had been some kind of altercation in the locker room…John was leaving and Roy was trying to get him to come back.”
“Do you know what the fight was about?”
“I didn’t at the time but yes I do now.”
“Who told you about it?”
“You didn’t hear the conversation?”
“No…I didn’t…I just saw Roy go after him.”
“To hit him again…? To continue the fight…?”
“Oh no…,” Hank corrected… “To apologize…Roy knew he hadn’t meant what he said ya know?”
“Did you see what happened then?”
“Yes…Roy grabbed John’s arm to stop him and he was trying to pull away but Roy recognized the warning signs.”
“That John was pulling into himself…They’re pretty distinctive.”
“Can you tell the court what those signs are?”
“Objection…Captain Stanley is not a therapist or a doctor,” Harrell said.
“Captain Stanley has obviously witnessed the symptoms and can recognize them,” Waters argued.
“I’ll allow it,” Sheldon agreed.
“John stutters…He uh won’t let anyone touch him…He won’t make eye contact and he gets a kinda empty, vague look in his eyes…Sorta like he’s focused on something only he can see,” Hank said with ‘I can’t explain it better shrug.’ “He’ll rock.” Cap demonstrated with the subtle forward and back motion. “And then he just slips into himself…Withdraws from what’s upsetting him.”
“Has he ever done this during a rescue?”
“No never…He’s very focused and professional…”
“Okay so what happened then?”
“Ahh…Roy kinda forced his head up…Made him look at him.”
“Because if he can catch him quick enough, sometimes he can get him to refocus on him and pull him back.”
“Did it work?”
“Yes. Roy just talked to him…Held him for a minute until he calmed down.”
“Held him?” Waters asked at the same moment Harrell sat up a little straighter a smug smile began to play around the man’s lips. They’d just handed him the weapon to destroy John Gage and Roy DeSoto’s credibility.
“Yeah…You know? Held him,” Hank said with a hugging motion. His eyes narrowed a bit. “Something wrong with that…?” He asked a bit huffily.
“I’m sorry…Not at all Captain… I’m just rather impressed by a bond that close. You just don’t always see it demonstrated.”
Hank shrugged. “Some people are a bit insecure about it I guess. Roy’s not one of them…If John needs him…He’ll be there and vice versa.”
“What happened then?”
“Once I was sure they were okay I went back inside…I found Gayle outside watching them and I confronted her. I told her I didn’t believe her story and that I was going to find out just what kind of game she was playing. I told her she’d experienced a trauma and to go home because I wanted her away from my crew at that point but she told me she wanted to stay. That she wanted to take John’s place.”
“She recovered pretty quickly from this terrible ordeal then?”
“Withdrawn…Did she appear to be alright at this point?”
“Yes…But Roy had come up behind her and heard the remark and he was pretty angry.”
“He told her she’d never be able to take John’s place anywhere in his life and then we went inside. My men asked if John was okay and Gayle went nuts.”
“Objection,” Harrell yelled coming to his feet.
“Sustained,” Sheldon replied.
“Did Miss Markson get angry Captain?” Jeff asked amused.
“Yes…She yelled at them for taking John’s side…She told Roy that he was just like her father and that he’d be sorry.” There were a few murmurs around the courtroom as the eyes turned to Gayle.
“She threatened Roy DeSoto?”
“What happened then?”
Hank explained their trip to San Francisco and Fresno and what they’d found out. Jeff pointed out the reports that the others had already handed in to the court during their own testimonies. Then he explained what happened when they returned including Johnny’s episode of withdrawal at Roy’s house. He finished with McConnikee’s appearance at the house and John’s reinstatement to full duty.
Harrell approached Hank with a no nonsense attitude. “Captain…Did you ever consider that your man might truly have attacked Gayle Markson?”
“Yes…For about two minutes.”
“That’s all…? Even though you saw the torn shirt…? The blood on his face…?”
“I didn’t know what happened and I chose to make no assumptions.”
“And after she told you what happened?”
“I knew she was lying.”
“Like I told Mr. Waters…John would simply never hurt anyone…I’ve known him at his best and his worst and what she was telling me was completely contrary to John Gage’s personality. John would never hurt a woman and he certainly doesn’t need to rape one.”
“Have you met John?” Hank asked but moved on without waiting for an answer. “He’s an attractive young man and he draws women like a moth to a flame. He has more than enough willing female attention without having to resort to rape.”
Gayle shifted in her seat, glaring angrily at Hank. “He loves me,” she gritted out between clenched teeth but her attorney waved her silent before returning to Stanley.
“Captain…Does the fire department know about John Gages mental illness?”
“Objection…Assuming facts not in evidence…John Gage is not mentally ill,” Waters snapped angrily.
“Sustained…,” Sheldon replied.
“Let me rephrase…Are they aware of his disorder?”
Cap smiled smugly. “They are.”
Harrell stepped back in surprise. “They are?”
“For how long…?”
“Oh…About two weeks. John resigned when he found out you were planning this attack.”
“This is not an attack Captain?”
“Isn’t it…That’s funny because I thought John was the victim here,” Cap stated snidely.
“Is John Gage still with the fire department?” Harrell barked out in irritation.
“Yes…They refused to accept his resignation.”
“Because John Gage is a damn fine paramedic,” Hank snapped back.
“He’s never suffered from a withdrawal during a rescue?”
“Never….He’s a total professional. He keeps his mind on what he’s doing and he doesn’t let his emotions come into play. He gets the job done. John Gage has been a fireman for eight and a half years and his record is impeccable.”
“I believe he and his partner were accused of stealing five hundred dollars,” Harrell said smugly.
The eyes of the jury snapped back to Hank curiously.
“The charges were dropped,” he shot back in annoyance.
“Turned out to be a neighbor who’d stolen the money.”
“I see…," He'd already known that but it had been a way to at least foster some doubt for the two paramedics in the jury's mind. "Captain…? If you didn’t believe Miss Markson…Why did you report the incident?”
“I’m a Captain in the LA county fire department. What I believe sometimes has no bearing on what I have to do. It killed me to suspend John Gage when I knew he was innocent.”
“It’s been said repetitively that there’s a close bond between these two men.”
“Just how close?” He asked slyly.
There was a collective indrawn breath at the innuendo and Hanks eyes narrowed dangerously but he got his anger under control, refusing to be baited. “John’s like a little brother to Roy and Joanne…He was a lonely kid with a need that they filled.” Cap’s eyes were shooting daggers at the chubby defense attorney.
Harrell swallowed nervously at the anger in Hank’s eyes…“Thank you Captain.”
Water’s called Marco, Mike and Chet successively. He walked them through Gayle’s four shifts and the deliberate attempts to play them all against each other. What they had seen of the attack in the locker room…Their downcast expressions tore at the juries heart as they explained their betrayal of their friend even though it had only lasted a few moments…Of the fight between Roy and Gayle and then the one between Roy and John. They all told them of Roy’s apology in the parking lot. Chet explained that he’d even overheard her trying to get John to admit that Roy treated him like a servant but John hadn’t once given in…Defending his partner completely.
“They’ve said Mr. DeSoto would never tell anyone that John Gage had Aspergers Syndrome…Did Roy DeSoto tell you that John Gage had this disorder?”
“About five years ago.”
“Was Mr. Gage aware of that?”
“Yes sir…He felt it was only fair that we knew in case he ever had a problem with it on the job.”
“Have you ever seen that happen?”
“On the Job…No,” Chet said with a shake of his head.
“To your knowledge…Other than your crew, Joanne DeSoto and the medical team at Rampart….Did Roy ever tell anyone else about Mr. Gage’s problem?”
“No way man…He’d never do that?”
“It coulda ruined John’s career.”
“Do you believe Roy tells you everything John tells him?”
“Huh…No way…He’s more closed mouthed about John than John is.”
“Mr. Kelly, did you see Gayle Markson outside Captain Stanley’s door on John’s first day back?”
“Close enough for her to possibly hear what was being said inside?”
"Ever seen John Gage get angry?"
"Has he ever been violent?"
Chet almost laughed. "JOHNNY?" He asked incredulously. "NO."
Dixie was up long enough to testify about the conversation at the base station. “I asked him if she’d shot him down,” Dixie explained.
“Why?” Water’s asked.
“She’s a beautiful woman and John wasn’t chasing her…That’s pretty unusual.”
Jeff threw a glance at the heavyset, blonde defense attorney who’d made such an obvious innuendo with Hank. “John chases a lot of women?” He asked.
“Johnny chases anything under thirty in a size ten or less.”
The courtroom erupted into laughter at that comment. Waters grinned at the pretty blonde nurse. “A bit of a lady’s man…?” He asked drily.
“Absolutely…natural born,” Dixie affirmed negating Harrell’s inference…
“Did he tell you his reason for his lack of interest in Miss Markson?”
“He was concerned that she seemed interested in his Partner…That bothered him.”
“Did you observe her with the two men?”
“What did you see?”
“That John was right. She consistently made hand and body contact with both men…”
"Miss McCall...Have you ever seen John lose his temper?"
"Did he become violent?"
"Has he ever exploded in a rage?"
"No of course not."
“Thank you…Your witness.”
Harrell shot out of his chair. “Miss McCall…How long have you known John Gage?”
“Five and a half years.”
“Are you friends?”
“I think so…Yes.”
“Is it possible he was jealous that Miss Markson was chasing his friend?”
“He thought it was a bit strange for her to be hitting on both of them.”
“He sounds like he’s very personable? He draws people to him.”
Dixie looked at the man suspiciously. “Yes he does.”
“Why do you think?”
“It just the way he is. He’s honest, gentle, good natured, forgiving and straight forward. He is who he is without pretense. It makes him refreshing.”
“I see. Is it possible he uses that to win a lady’s affections?”
“You admit it?”
Dixie laughed. “Mr. Harrell…Johnny uses it without even trying. It’s him…It’s who he is. Johnny is Johnny. No games…No hidden agenda. He’s just ‘Hey here I am…Take it or leave it.”
“No you don’t…But you will,” Dixie added.
“Are you fond of John Gage?”
“I told you we’re friends.”
“But are you fond of him?”
Dixie sighed. “Look let’s just cut to the chase. Yes…I’m fond of him…Yes I love him…No…I’m not in love with him and I’m not one of the many nurses he’s dated. He looks at me as a friend and sometimes a big sister. Does that answer your question?” Kel was in the gallery with Martha… both were covering their mouth with their hands trying not to laugh at the straightforwardness of the blonde nurse.
Harrell’s mouth was set in a tight line. “Yes Ma’am,” he mumbled as he retreated. “Miss McCall…How long did you know Miss Markson?”
“About a week…”
“Were you jealous of her relationship with Mr. Gage?”
Dixie smiled tolerantly. “No and as far as I knew she didn’t have a relationship with Johnny…He wasn’t that interested.”
“That’s not true…,” Gayle growled angrily, her eyes shooting venom at the pretty blonde nurse..
“Miss Markson…I’m warning you,” Sheldon said pointing a finger in her direction. “Make no more comments or you’ll be removed.”
Harrell knew his client was on the edge and backed off…He had nothing more to gain from the blonde nurse anyway. “No further questions.”
They recessed for lunch and the crew along with Martha, Kel and Dixie headed for the hotel. Water’s planned to call Detective Campbell and the Detectives who’d investigated the other four incidents in the afternoon. He would finish the day with Dr. Halloran and his list of John Gage’s injuries when he was brought in.
Roy and Joanne had had a very long day trying to keep John occupied and both of them were grateful for the arrival of the others to help keep his mind from the trial but the young Paramedic was a bundle of raw nerves and paced the room anxiously as he’d been doing practically every waking moment since they’d arrived. Roy was exhausted just watching him.
The others sat down eyeing John in concern. Their eyes flicked to the obviously frustrated senior paramedic. “Has he been like this all day again?” Kel asked worriedly.
Roy nodded as Jeffrey Water’s arrived and joined them at the table. “We ran up and down the stairs, we went swimming and we walked this hotel from top to bottom trying to burn off some of that energy” he told them quietly.
“It didn’t work,” Jo added ruefully.
They called room service for lunch and John finally came over, wanting to hear every detail of the trial so far. The other’s filled them in but Hank left out Harrell’s rather rude innuendo hoping he’d diffused it and that it wouldn’t be mentioned to either of the two paramedics, knowing it would anger Roy and upset John.
The dark haired paramedic waved off eating and continued to pace restlessly, blowing out a periodic nervous breath. The others were growing more and more concerned as they watched. Kel almost offered a sedative. Roy finally stood up and moved to sit on the floor and dropped a pillow next to him. “Johnny?” He called softly.
“Hmmm,” the younger man grunted absently from the window.
“Here…Come here,” Roy repeated with a tolerant smile. John moved over to look at Roy. He was bouncing on the balls of his feet…His long, slender fingers were tapping against his legs nervously. “Sit,” Roy commanded gently, indicating the space next to him.
“Yes you can Junior. You’re makin everyone else nuts.”
He glanced at the others that were watching him worriedly…“Sorry,” he mumbled sheepishly.
“They’re not as used to you as Jo and I are.” John sat beside his friend, wrapping his arms around his drawn up knees but his foot continued a nervous shake and he chewed his lip distractedly. Roy sighed and reached over to lightly rest his hands on John’s shoulders. John’s head turned toward him, understanding what his friend was doing and after a moment’s hesitation he allowed Roy to lay him back with his head on the pillow. His fingers expertly soothed away the tension and John’s eyes drooped tiredly. Water’s watched in fascination.
“I see you found another new use for my therapy,” Martha teased the blonde paramedic.
Roy grinned. “This sedative doesn’t make him sick,” he replied as he turned back to Johnny. “Anything you wanna talk about Junior?” He murmured softly.
“Just nervous,” he mumbled.
“Me too but you just tell them the truth and you’ll be okay.”
“Johnny just remember….You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“No you didn’t. You’re the victim here no matter how much they try and twist the truth.”
“They’re gonna lie about me and Jo.”
“I know they’ll try…But the truth will always stay the same right?”
Roy finger’s swept the sable hair away from John’s forehead and the dark eyes closed in exhaustion. “Go to sleep Johnny.” The soft breathing a moment later told Roy his partner had complied.
“That was amazing,” Water’s said softly.
“Hey Roy…? Can you teach me to do that?” Chet said with a grin. “You know…So I can shut him up once in a while.”
“Only if I can teach the rest of the crew how to use it on you,” Roy shot back. They all laughed at the indignant look that crossed the Irishman’s face.
“Will you get to Johnny tomorrow?” Roy asked hopefully, wanting to get this over with and get his partner home and back on track as soon as possible. His fingers continued to absently sweep over John’s forehead.
“NO…I want him when the jury is fresh and intent on listening, same as you and Joanne. I’ll throw a couple of other witnesses on after you two to finish tomorrow and start with John the next morning. It could take a while and Harrell could be pretty rough on him. I don’t want him tired.”
“I don’t like this,” Roy murmured as he lightly brushed John’s cheek before moving to rest his hand on his friends shoulder. “They’re gonna try and upset him aren’t they?” He asked worriedly.
“Yes…And that’s why you’ll be right there next to him.” The blonde paramedic nodded. “Roy?”
“Yeah…” He glanced up at the attorney.
“Could you do that on the stand for like two or three minutes as a demonstration for the jury?”
“NO,” he said adamantly.
“Why? Does he have to be lying down or something?”
“No…I mean it’s possible to do it with him sitting up…I’ve done it before but Johnny would never let me do that in front of anyone.”
Water’s looked at him in surprise. “Roy…I know he’s pretty stubborn sometimes but I think John Gage would do pretty much anything you asked him too…Don’t you know that?”
Roy looked at the sleeping face of his partner and best friend and the sudden realization of just how much John had learned to trust him sank in. The weight of that responsibility was tremendous. They’d joked often about John being their third child but now it wasn’t so funny. His blue eyes sought out his wife and he knew from her look that she was thinking the same thing. John had finally dropped ALL of the walls and learned to trust them completely. Roy and Jo understood how fragile that new found emotion was for him. He glanced at Martha as she smiled back at him.
“I did tell you to be very sure how you felt about him before you took this course. He’s depending on you.”
“I won’t let him down,” Roy vowed quietly. His hand returned to smooth the dark hair back as Johnny stirred restlessly. “Can someone stay with him tomorrow while we’re in court? I don’t want to leave him alone.” Dixie, Kel and Martha volunteered. “I know he doesn’t need a babysitter but I’d feel better knowing he wasn’t sitting here alone and worried,” Roy added.
“I know and we understand,” Kel said with a grin.
“Besides,” Martha added. “I’d really love a chance to get to know him better.”
Jeff headed back to court and the others to their rooms while Roy managed to lead his still exhausted friend to his bed. John slid right back to sleep within minutes while his partner pulled the curtains and quietly closed the door.
Roy tugged his brown suit coat on the next morning. He’d considered wearing a tie but decided for comfort sake to discard it…It was gonna be a long day. He turned toward his partner who sat on the sofa of the hotel suite…His chocolate brown eyes watching him anxiously. Roy threw him a reassuring smile as he moved to his side. “Doctor Brackett and Dixie are gonna spend the day with ya Junior okay?”
“I’m okay Roy. I don’t need a babysitter ya know?” He protested a bit indignantly despite the anxiety that his friend clearly saw in his eyes.
Roy chuckled at the disgruntled look on his friends face…“I know that Johnny but it’ll be a long day without anyone to talk to and I don’t wanna take any chances of those reporters or someone else cornering you somewhere. I’d feel better knowing someone was with you.”
Johnny nodded in resignation, knowing Roy wouldn’t give in on this besides…He really didn’t like the idea of being alone all day either. Joanne came from the bedroom to join them. There was a knock on the door. “I’ll get it,” she volunteered as she headed over to open it.
John stood up as Martha, Dixie and Kel followed Joanne back into the room. “Good morning Johnny…Roy,” they greeted. The two paramedics nodded a greeting in return before turning back to each other.
Roy saw the apprehension clearly reflected in the dark eyes and reached out to curl his hand around the back of the younger man’s neck to pull him toward him until their foreheads were almost touching. “It’s gonna be alright. We’re almost done. Two more days and we’re outta here no matter what happens okay?”
John looked down worriedly. “Kay…,” he mumbled back as Roy’s chin rested briefly atop the sable hair. He gave his neck a final gentle squeeze before he pulled away and took Joanne’s hand.
“Thanks for keeping an eye out for him,” Roy murmured to their friends as they headed for the door.
“We’ll take good care of him Roy,” Martha assured him as the couple left. She turned back to Johnny as the door closed behind them. “Have you had breakfast yet John?” She questioned softly as Dixie and Kel headed for the small kitchen in the suite.
“No Ma’am,” John replied.
She offered her arm. “Good care to join us then?” She asked with a smile.
John smiled hesitantly back as he took her arm and escorted her after the others.
The state calls Joanne DeSoto.”
Jo came in and smiled at Hank and the crew as she walked to the stand. She looked lovely in a soft blue dress and could easily have been the object of John Gage’s interest. She was sworn in.
“State your name.”
“You’re married to Roy DeSoto is that correct?”
“For how long…?”
“What does he do?”
“He’s a fireman paramedic for Los Angeles County,” She said proudly.
“Do you work?”
“Joanne, we already know the answer but I’m going to ask you anyway. Do you know John Gage?”
“Who is he?”
“My husband’s partner in the fire department…”
“He’s a paramedic as well then?”
“Yes…They’re the best team in LA,” she stated boldly.
“So I’ve been told,” Water’s said with a smile. “When did you first meet John?”
“About five years ago…It was two weeks after my husband signed him up for classes in the paramedic program.”
“What did you think of him?”
“I thought he was a sweet kid. A little shy and withdrawn maybe… Very polite and serious but he seemed to loosen up around Roy.”
“Now…?” She smiled. “Now he’s a free spirit.”
“What’s that mean exactly?”
“Johnny’s changed a lot. He has more energy than anyone I know. John doesn’t walk he bounces. He runs…He’s always in motion…His hands, his feet and God knows his mouth.”
The gallery erupted into laughter.
“You said he was quiet?”
“He was when I met him but like I said…Roy just seemed to draw him out.”
“When did he become your husband’s partner?”
“Right after he graduated from the paramedic course.”
“Luck of the draw?”
“No…Roy chose him.”
“So Roy took this kid under his wing so to speak?”
“Yes but don’t take that the wrong way.”
“What do you mean?”
“Johnny didn’t need help to be a good paramedic or fireman for that matter. He’s very good at what he does.”
“So it was the friendship you were referring to not the partnership?”
“So they hit off.”
“Well yes but it was more than that.”
“They seemed connected…Almost bonded. I didn’t like it much at first.”
“Honestly…I was a little jealous of the time they spent together and I thought Roy was crazy to take a child as his partner. I was worried about it. I even teased him about adopting John rather than partnering with him,” she admitted ruefully.
“That last long?”
“No…There’s no one I’d rather have watching my husband’s back than John Gage. I trust him with my husband’s life because I know no one will watch out for him better than Johnny.”
“You said they were bonded?”
“Two halves of a whole,” she said simply.
Water’s looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “That means?”
“They’re as opposite as night and day. John’s the wild, live life on the edge, slightly reckless side that Roy can’t be but he still…energizes him. Roy’s the calm, in control, think things through side that keeps Johnny grounded.” She intertwined her hands to demonstrate. “Opposite in everything and yet they mesh. They function best when they’re together.” She smiled. “Have you ever seen two dancers when they’ve been together a long time?” She asked.
“Yes.” Water’s replied.
“It’s like that…They move around each other like they just know where the other will be. What the other one is thinking. They communicate without speaking.”
“Explain that?” Water’s asked intrigued.
“When John was sick and too weak to talk, Roy always knew what he was trying to say, When we were in a plane crash John somehow found us and when Johnny disappeared eighteen months ago…We all thought he was dead…but not Roy…For five days he insisted John was still alive, even after they found his car with a burned body in it…He swore he could hear him calling him. It was amazing.”
“Where was John?”
“Objection,” Harrell said in irritation. “Relevance…?”
“I’m sorry your Honor…Curiosity was killing me,” Water’s quipped looking red faced. There were several muffled titters around the room.
“Over ruled…I’d like to hear that also?” Sheldon admitted.
“John had witnessed a robbery and the guy didn’t want him to testify so he took him into the mountains and shot him and left him to die. He stole John’s truck but he lost control of it and went off a cliff. We thought it was Johnny. In the meantime he managed to crawl off that mountain and he was rescued by a couple out rafting. Anyway…Roy had finally accepted that he was gone after the funeral but he’d been right all along. I don’t know how he knew but he did...The same way John did when we were missing.” Waters looked impressed.
“How do you feel about John now?”
“I love John.” She said honestly. Gayle’s eyes narrowed dangerously as she glared at Joanne.
“Explain your relationship with John please.”
“He’s a part of my family… A little brother…,” she hesitated remembering the night before. “A third child…My kids call him Uncle. He’s saved both of my children’s lives and my own as well as my husband’s on several occasions. He was at the hospital when my daughter was born. He’s saved the lives of several other’s present in this room today. He’s very special to me.”
“Joanne let’s go to three days before the abduction.”
“Was Gayle Markson at your house?”
Joanne explained the entire scene at the house…“She claimed she wanted to find a place to live in Carson.”
“How did she act at your home?”
“She kept touching my husband…Resting her hand on his arm, brushing up against him.”
“Did you say anything?”
“I trust my husband and it was obvious she was trying to provoke me and I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.”
Water’s grinned… “Did Roy tell you anything about John?”
“Yes…That he’d canceled his therapy session.”
“Did he say why?”
“Just that the guys had upset him by telling him that Gayle and Roy had discussed some kind of change and Roy was afraid Johnny thought that meant he wanted a new partner.”
“John can be pretty insecure can’t he?”
“Roy and John had an argument the next shift didn’t they?”
“Do they fight often?”
“They disagree frequently but it never lasts...They apologize and then get over it.”
"Does John become violent when he's angry?"
"Johnny? No...John doesn't have a violent bone in his whole body," she said with a laugh.
“Did they tell you what they fought about?”
“Joanne…The morning after they fought, did you and Roy conduct a touch therapy session with John?”
“Were you aware that your session was being observed?”
Jo’s blue eyes shot an angry glare at Gayle. “No I was not aware.”
“Joanne during this session were you alone with John at any time?”
“For how long…?”
“About five minutes.”
“What were you doing during those five minutes?”
“I set up the deck for the session…John had hurt his shoulder the afternoon before. It was stiff and sore so I was massaging liniment onto it before Roy came back. I was just starting the session when Roy came home.”
"What exactly were you doing?"
"I was massaging John's shoulders and back."
"Is that it?"
She shrugged. "That's it."
“Did he see you?”
“Was he upset?”
“Not at all…”
“Joanne…Did you kiss John?”
“Did you in any way touch him with the intent to seduce him?”
“You were all over him,” Gayle snarled as she shot to her feet. “I hate you.”
“Miss Markson…Do you wish to be removed from this court?” Sheldon barked angrily as the bailiff moved in behind the blonde woman. Gayle glared angrily at the judge for a moment before resuming her seat with a shake of her head. Harrell wiped the sweat from his from his forehead as the Judge turned his eyes on him. “Control your client Mr. Harrell.”
Waters turned back to Joanne with an apologetic smile… “Did he touch or kiss you?”
“If I understand your meaning then no…John would never do that.”
“I’ve kissed John many times and he’s kissed me…We touch each other often…We’re a family Mr. Waters and it wouldn’t cross our mind not to anymore than you would hesitate to touch your own sister but there’s nothing romantic about it…I’m a married woman and for John that means hands off.”
“You’re a beautiful woman Joanne…John’s been described as a bit of a lady’s man so why not?” He asked with a shrug.
Joanne smiled. “Thank you but Roy’s friendship means the world to John Gage…He’d never risk losing that…Not over a fling with me…”
“Forgive me Joanne but just to clarify…I have to ask. Was there anything remotely sexual in what you were doing with John?”
“Let’s move up to the day before the kidnapping.”
Joanne shifted uncomfortably. “Alright…”
“Does that bother you?”
“Because I hurt Johnny badly…”
Joanne explained the conversation with Gayle at her front door. She shook her head. “She showed me those bruises…Told me about how Roy had hit Johnny because he’d tried to rape her and then John showed up only seconds after she left.” Tears rolled down her face. “And for a few seconds I was afraid to be alone with him.”
Waters handed her a tissue. “What happened Joanne?”
“John saw the look on my face and he was so hurt. He backed away from me like I’d hit him with a baseball bat.” She sniffled miserably. “He was acting so strangely.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’d never seen Johnny withdraw and I didn’t know what was happening…I just remember trying to touch him but he put his hands up to keep me away.”
“Did he hit you?”
“No of course not…,” she scoffed. “He just…wouldn’t let me touch him.”
“What happened then?”
“Roy and the others got there.”
“Captain Stanley, Chet, Mike and Marco….”
“The station crew…The circle of friends…?” Jeff asked with a smile.
“Yes…But it was too late. Roy got to him as quick as possible but Johnny just slipped away…It was awful…I’d never seen that before.”
Joanne went through the entire episode in her living room…Her story almost a carbon copy of Hanks. “It was terrifying,” she finished.
“Was he violent?”
“No…He just wanted to be left alone…To make Roy let him go.”
“Did he finally calm down?”
“Yes and then Roy used touch therapy to help him relax and he went to sleep.”
“Then what happened?”
“Roy and Hank told us what they had found out in San Francisco and then Chief McConnikee showed up.”
“Who is that?”
“The district fire chief.”
“Why did he come there?”
“To tell John that they’d reinstated him to full duty and dropped the investigation…”
“Because of what Roy and Hank had found out during their trip.”
“Let’s go to the morning of the abduction…What happened?”
“Johnny had spent the night because Roy wanted to be sure he rested and he wanted a therapy session with him when he got home. I took the kids to a friend’s house because they were going to the zoo. When I got home Gayle Markson was there…She was holding Johnny at gunpoint.”
The lawyer’s eye brow climbed at the last words. “He was obviously not cooperating with Miss Markson?”
“No…When I walked in John lunged for her and yelled at me to run but she got away from him and shot at me. She told me she’d shoot John if kept going so I stopped.”
“And then what?”
“She was angry that he’d tried to help me escape and she hit Johnny across the head with the gun,” she explained pointing to the left side of her own head. The juror’s eyes turned toward the blonde woman whose violet eyes were glaring dagger looks at Joanne. “John fell…He was bleeding.”
“Did she show any sign of remorse that she’d hurt him?”
“None at all… She told me not to help him and then she told him not to do that again and he’d have to learn to obey her.
“She said that?”
“Yes and then Johnny managed to get back up. He told her she didn’t need to hurt anyone and that they needed to get out of there. That they could just tie me up and leave me behind and he’d go with her.”
“Joanne…Do you know why he would have made that offer?”
“Yes…To save me.”
“Do you believe he was serious when he made that offer?”
“Yes…He’d have willingly gone with her to save me…I was scared to death for him.”
“Did she go for it?”
“Are you kidding? When John turns those eyes on,” Jo said with a grin. “He’s hard to say no to…She was definitely going for it but then,” she shrugged. “She must have realized what he was up to and she told him he was a bad boy. She told me she was taking me too because I was her ticket to John’s good behavior.”
“Did you believe that?”
“Then what happened?”
“John shoved her and told me to run…I started to but then I heard a gunshot. Johnny fell and I…I couldn’t just leave him…I went back.”
Water’s held up the photos of John’s injuries. “Your Honor, these are photos of the injuries she caused John Gage during that assault. I’d like to enter them as exhibits 4E and 5E.”
Sheldon looked to Harrell who nodded his head. “So ordered…” Waters handed them to the jury who looked them over and passed them down the line…Their faces looking a little less sympathetic to the pretty blonde sitting there so calmly.
“She told me to handcuff him and help me get him in the car.”
“You’re telling us that she’s just shot the man she supposedly loves and can’t live without and she’s now telling you to handcuff him while he’s bleeding and helpless?” Jeff turned incredulous eyes on Gayle. She smiled serenely back at him. The juror’s shuddered slightly.
“Yes…I told her he needed a hospital but she wouldn’t listen…She said it was just a flesh wound.”
“Did he appear badly wounded to you or was it just a scrape?”
“Objection…Mrs. DeSoto is not a doctor and Gayle is a trained paramedic.”
“She can certainly tell if someone is bleeding badly or not.”
“It was a deep groove between his ribs. He was bleeding heavily…”
“Thank you…Go on.”
Joanne led him through the entire ordeal until she reached the part where they had entered the garage at Gayle’s home in Fresno. She explained that Johnny had gotten sick as they removed him from the rover. “I was trying to clean him up and he was upset and apologizing to me. I told him it was okay and I loved him. He said he loved me.”
Gayle’s hands hit the table with a loud thwack… “She called him sweetheart…baby,” she cooed snidely. “She told him she loved him…He was mine…She had no right,” Gayle yelled at her attorney.
“He’s not a possession Gayle and he was never yours,” Joanne shot back.
“Miss Markson one more outburst and you’ll be removed…Counselor control your client,” Sheldon barked angrily. Gayle slumped back in her chair glaring angrily at Joanne.
“Go on Joanne,” Water’s directed.
“When Johnny said he loved me…She went crazy…”
“Objection,” Harrell said a bit more quietly than usual, completely sure himself at this point that his client was completely insane.
“She got angry?” Jeff clarified.
“Yes…And she attacked Johnny. She hit him in the face and he fell. She was kicking him in the stomach and screaming at him that he wasn’t to ever say that again.”
“What happened then?”
Jo was crying now…“He was helpless and hurt and so I threw myself over him to protect him…I begged her to stop…I told her he didn’t mean it that way and then she told him he wasn’t to ever say that to me again…That he could only say it to her but John wouldn’t answer her and so she pointed the gun at me and told him she’d kill me.”
“Johnny promised he wouldn’t and we got him on his feet. He was so weak he could barely stand but we got him to her bedroom.” Joanne shot a look of disgust at Gayle as she told them of the entire humiliating scene. “She was all over him…John tried to get away from her and she started to hit him over and over and then she threatened to kill me if he did it again. It was awful,” she said plaintively.
“Was he still handcuffed? Bleeding?” Water’s asked.
“Yes and then she kissed him…Told him she was sorry she’d been so hard on him and she was rubbing his chest and stomach…It was disgusting.”
“So it was actually John Gage who was in danger of being raped?” Jeff asked pointedly.
Joanne blushed but nodded her head. “Yes.”
Jeff introduced the photos of those injuries as well. “Then what…?”
“She handcuffed him to the bed and then she took me to get a hammer and some nails to nail the window shut so I couldn’t get away and then she gave me a sheet and some water so I could take care of Johnny. She came back a while later and told us she was going to go get some food. She kissed John again and demanded that he tell her he loved her.”
“Not at first…He looked at me like he was going to be sick but then she threatened me again so he finally did.”
“How was he?”
“He was so humiliated…He looked like he wanted to cry. I knew it was tearing him up but that he was trying to protect me.”
Waters smiled at her knowing she was right and that her young friend would have done anything to save her. “Then what…?”
“She was trying to undo his belt,” she said flushing once again. “I asked her if she thought Johnny might be a little too sick for what she had in mind and she finally backed off and left him alone. He was so embarrassed…He was sick and hurting.”
“Then what happened?”
“After she left, he managed to get himself off the bed. He couldn’t reach the window so he dragged the bed over until he could. He dislocated his wrist doing it but God…He never gave up. Then he took the pillow case off the pillow and wrapped it around his hand and smashed the glass out of the window. He still cut himself pretty bad. He used a piece of glass to cut the ropes off my wrists. I didn’t want to leave him but he said he was helpless to defend himself as long as she had me and that he needed me to go for help.” She shrugged helplessly. “So I did.”
“What happened then Joanne?”
She explained her flight through the neighborhood that ended at the police station four blocks away and leading the police back to the house.
“Thank you Joanne. One final question…Did John recover in your home after he was released from the hospital?”
“Yes...He almost always does.”
Harrell threw Joanne a sympathetic smile as he approached the stand. “Good morning Mrs. DeSoto.”
“Good morning,” she returned politely.
“You’ve been through a harrowing ordeal and I’m very sorry,” he said disarmingly.
“But you do realize that it’s as much John Gage’s fault as Miss Markson’s?”
Joanne looked at him incredulously…“How do you figure that?” She asked.
“Toying with women’s affections the way he does.”
“Objection,” Waters said as he shot from his chair. “Assuming facts not in evidence…No one’s testified to any such thing.”
“Mrs. DeSoto…Captain Hank Stanley testified that John has no problem getting dates…Do you agree that John dates a lot of women?”
“Yes he does.”
“But he never stays with one for long because of this supposed neurological condition?”
“Supposed condition? John Gage having Aspergers has been an established fact long before SHE came along,” Joanne answered smoothly, glancing at Gayle. “And yes that’s most likely why but it could be that he hasn’t fallen in love with any of them either.”
“Or maybe he just enjoys playing the field without having to make a commitment?”
“John’s not emotionally ready to settle down with anyone yet, though there were one or two he thought he might want to try with.”
"And who and what were those relationships?"
"The first one was Lily," she replied with a smile, remembering the beautiful Slavic woman.
"What happened to her?" He questioned, hoping it would be something he could pounce on.
"She turned out to be Princess Liliana Taralovna from Kharkiv," she replied.
"She didn't want him then?" He said smugly.
"Oh no...She wanted him alright but Johnny was very honest about it. He wasn't in love with her and he wouldn't marry a woman he didn't love," she explained. "Not to mention that the idea of being a Prince and having to move to Kharkiv just wasn't something John aspired to," she finished.
There were smatterings of chuckles around the room.
Harrell frowned...That hadn't been to helpful to his case. Not one to give up easily, he pushed on. "And the other?"
"The other was a young woman he met after she'd been hit by a car...He treated her on the scene.
“And what happened to that relationship?”
“She lied to him…John had a problem with that.”
“What did she lie about?”
“The three ill mannered kids she had at home. Johnny still, really wasn't ready to try being a husband…he certainly wasn’t prepared to become the instant father of three spoiled children.”
“We were told that he liked children?”
“He does…He’s excellent with children. He’s a big kid himself.”
“But not these children…? Why do you suppose that is Mrs. DeSoto? Maybe it was a good way of dumping this poor girl he’d been stringing along.”
“No Mr. Harrell…It was because the first time he met them…one of them bit a defenseless dog and then decided to do the same to John’s leg. One was rude enough to ask him how much money he made while the third was calling every man in sight dada…It made him a little uncomfortable.”
The people in the courtroom were howling with laughter by the time she finished and even the Judge was hiding a smirk behind his hand as he banged his gavel in an effort to get his courtroom back under control. Chet’s giggled vocalization of ‘Valerie’ was clearly heard.
“I see…How long did he know this woman before he decided to marry her?”
“About a week…”
Harrell pounced. “And John Gage was in love with this woman?”
Joanne smirked back. “He never said that but I’m sure he thought he was feeling something for her at the time," she shook her head. "He never mentioned the word love…He just thought he was getting older and that maybe it was time to try and settle down…Johnny doesn’t use the word 'love' lightly.”
Harrell frowned in annoyance and changed directions. “Mrs. DeSoto…You stated that you love John Gage?”
Joanne realized what he was up to…“Yes I do but I’m not in love with him,” she clarified.
“What’s the difference?”
She looked at him first in disbelief and then in amusement. “Uh…The intimacy level I’d say,” she replied sarcastically. “I love my children, my sister, my parents and John but I sleep with my husband and bore his children.”
“I’d say it was more than a little intimate to run your hands over John Gage’s half dressed body,” he snapped back.
Jo’s eyes narrowed angrily…“Yes it is but if my Mother, sister or my children required the same kind of therapy that John does I’d be that intimate with them as well.”
“They’re a blood relative,” he pointed out snidely.
“John may not be related to me and my husband by blood but he’s as close to us as if he were and I might remind you that my husband was present during most of that session.”
“Your husband doesn’t have a problem with you fondling his half naked friend?” He asked in snide disbelief.
“NO…I’ll tell you the same thing I told her…It’s not fondling…I was rubbing liniment on his shoulder and anything she saw beyond that was therapy Mr. Harrell and furthermore, I’ve cared for John Gage through sicknesses and injuries more times than I can count over the last five years…It was certainly not the first time I’ve had to touch Johnny while doing that. I’ve seen him in a number of stages of undress during that time… including having to bath him in his hospital bed while he delirious with a raging fever, never the less, he fought the idea that I be involved with his therapy tooth and nail the first time we suggested it because he was so embarrassed by the idea…He’s certainly not going to cheat with me…,” she finished triumphantly.
The heavyset man wiped his brow and moved on. “During that supposed therapy session you were alone with John Gage is that correct?” He asked consulting his notes.
“For all of about five minutes…”
“That’s long enough for some things,” he hinted rudely.
Water’s was just about to object but Joanne smiled wickedly. “Maybe for you Mr. Harrell but Johnny’s young and healthy and I imagine he’s quite capable of holding out longer than that, but that’s just supposition of course.”
The courtroom exploded with laughter as the man’s face turned scarlet once again.
“That…That’s not what I meant at all Mrs. DeSoto,” he sputtered as Sheldon’s gavel banged the base.
“Wasn't it? I’m sorry…What did you mean?”
“Never mind, let’s move on.”
“Certainly,” she agreed smugly.
“You told us he’s difficult to say no to when he turns those eyes on?” He asked her with a raised eyebrow. “Has he ever turned them on you?”
“Um…Not the way he was using them on Gayle but yes he has turned those eyes on me when he wants something…But I’m immune.”
“The same way I’m immune when my own children do it. If it’s something that’s not good for them then I won’t give in to them either and I assure you if he did what you’re suggesting it would be very bad for him…Roy would kill him.” There were several muffled giggles around the room.
Harrell heaved a sigh knowing that Joanne had the whole room on her side at this point. “Mrs. DeSoto…You’ve admitted that you love John Gage?”
“Yes…Again… He’s a sweet, special, gifted individual and he’s very easy to love.”
“But you still maintain that you’re not in love or having an affair with this sweet, special and gifted man that you have such intimate contact with and spend so much time alone with and who loves you in return?” He asked in disbelief.
“No I’m not…”
“And you expect us to believe that?”
“I really don’t care what your nasty little mind believes Mr. Harrell…That’s the truth,” she snapped back.
Harrell smiled thinking he’d finally rattled Joanne. “Do you call Mr. Gage sweetheart and baby?”
“Yes I do.”
“In front of Gayle…?”
“I’m sure I did…”
“To make her jealous…?”
“No…It’s a habit…,” she pointed out with a grin. “It’s the same…”
“Yes or no Mrs. DeSoto,” he snapped cutting her off.
“Yes,” she replied calmly.
“Because you knew it would make Gayle jealous?”
“I really didn’t care if Gayle was jealous…I knew Johnny was sick and in pain and I wanted to soothe him that’s all.”
“Not so sick that he couldn’t move a heavy bed, smash out a window and lift you over the sill. Is it possible that you were jealous?”
“Did Mr. Gage tell Miss Markson that he loved her?”
“Yes but only…”
“Yes or no is sufficient Mrs. DeSoto.”
“Yes…,”she snapped out.
“Mrs. DeSoto…I think you couldn’t stand to see her kissing him…Touching him…Hearing those words spoken to your rival…So much so you got between them repeatedly…Even risking injury to cover his body with your own.”
Joanne stared at him in dumfounded shock. “She beat him…He was wounded…She was practically raping him. You’re damn right I got between them and he moved that bed out of sheer willpower and determination. He dislocated his wrist, reopened the wound in his side, sliced his hand to ribbons and put his life on the line to get me out.”
“You told us when she was at your house that Gayle was touching your husband…Rubbing against him.”
“But you did nothing about it, yet when she threw herself at John Gage you became defensive.”
“I trust my husband besides Roy wasn’t chained to a bed. He doesn’t have Aspergers Syndrome and he wasn’t wounded, beaten and bleeding. If Johnny had shown any interest I would have wished them well and left them alone.”
Harrell was getting aggravated that he couldn’t get Joanne to slip. He tried a new tack, turning on the relationship between Roy and John. “Does it bother you that your husband and Mr. Gage are close?”
“No, of course not…”
“I think most women would resent the amount of time they spend together…,” he said musefully… “Do you?”
“I did at first…But then I realized they both needed each other. After that I encouraged it,” she said with a shrug.
“They’re very close aren’t they?”
“Just how close are they?” He hinted smugly.
Joanne looked as dangerously angry as Hank had at the subtle innuendo. “They’re like brothers Mr. Harrell…Best friends…partners. They hold each other's lives in their hands every shift. They are very close and my husband is secure enough not to let narrow minded people keep him from loving and caring about a vulnerable young man that desperately needed a strong friend to rely on,” she panted angrily. “And I applaud him for it.” Joanne finished as she sat back glaring at the red faced defense attorney.
“Thank you Mrs. Desoto,” he mumbled as he retreated to the table. Sheldon grinned from the bench as Waters hid his smirk of satisfaction behind a well timed cough.
“Redirect your honor?” Water’s said standing up.
“Go ahead,” Sheldon replied.
“Joanne…Why do you call John Sweetheart and Baby…?”
“It’s a term of endearment. It’s the same thing I call my children. Roy calls him Junior and John calls him pally. It’s just a nickname.”
“When John told Gayle he loved her what was she doing?”
“Pointing a gun at my head…”
“Joanne…If you weren’t married to Roy would you consider dating John Gage.”
“It would be like dating my little brother.”
“Thank you Joanne.
“You can step down Mrs. DeSoto.” The judge turned to the courtroom. “We’ll recess for lunch.”
Joanne and the others left the courtroom. “Disgusting little man,” she muttered as she wrapped her arms around her husband and cuddled against him.
“What happened?” Roy asked.
“That filthy minded jerk insinuated that not only were Johnny and I having an affair but that maybe you and Johnny were…were…well you know,” she said angrily.
“More than friends,” Chet finished for her.
Roy looked shocked for a moment and then grinned ruefully. “I suppose some people might see it that way. I’m not really surprised that someone that short sighted would wonder about it.”
“The ones that matter know you both too well and they know why you care about him,” Hank assured him. “You wouldn’t let that jerk change that would ya?” Cap asked worriedly.
Roy smiled calmly. “Johnny’s family Cap…That won’t ever change…He’s my little brother and I love him. I’m not ashamed of that.” He looked down at Joanne who reached up and kissed him tenderly. Any doubts that anyone leaving the courtroom might have had were swept away by the loving display.
Roy called the hotel. “Hey Doc…How’s Johnny holding up?”
“He’s fine Roy but Martha, Dixie and I may never be the same.”
Roy laughed. “He’s still bouncing off the walls I take it?”
“Stir crazy…? YES.”
“If the reporters aren’t still out there, why don’t you take him somewhere? The pool or the park and let him go…Let him run it off.”
“I may take you up on that, though Martha’s enjoyed talking with him this morning. She’s becoming quite fond of our young friend and quite impressed I might add.”
“Good…Joanne’s done for the day. I’m up next. Would you like her to come back and take over? She’s used to him.”
“No…We’ll handle it. He’s just got so much energy.”
“Okay Doc…You had your chance,” Roy laughed. “Seriously though Doc, just take him to the pool and wear him out and maybe he’ll sleep tonight. Tomorrow’s gonna be pretty rough on him.”
“I know. Martha and I have been pretty worried about that.”
“No more than I am Doc, especially with some of the questions this Harrell guy’s been asking.”
“Yes I know. He asked Hank about it yesterday. We were hoping he’d drop it. After what his Uncle did to him, John won’t handle that well at all. Let’s just hope it doesn’t make him back away from you out of fear that others will think it too.”
“It better not…I’d have a lot of ground to retake if he did.”
“Good luck Roy.”
“Thanks Doc.”Roy hung up with a worried look on his face.
“What’s wrong?” Hank asked.
“Brackett just brought up the possibility that Johnny might retreat from our friendship if Harrell insinuates that it’s more. He’d do it more to protect me than himself but still…I don’t want that to happen.”
“Just be sure he understands that your not worried about it before he goes in.”
Roy was the next on the stand. He threw a wink at his wife as he walked to the front of the courtroom. Waters gave him a smile after he was sworn in. “Good afternoon Roy.”
“Can you give us your name and age please?”
“Roy Michael DeSoto and I’m thirty.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a Firefighter Paramedic for Los Angeles County.”
“Nine years…Five and half as a paramedic.”
“Do you know Gayle Markson?”
“Yes…” The tone implied ‘unfortunately.’
“When did you meet her?”
“Her first day at station 51 was July 5th, 1976.”
Roy recounted her first day at the station including the rather personal questions and her habit of making intimate contact with him on several occasions. “I’m a married man…It made me uncomfortable,” he finished.
“Happily married?” Waters asked.
Roy’s blue eyes met Joanne’s and a smile crossed his face…“Very happily.” Joanne grinned back.
“Was she showing an interest in anyone else?”
“She was being real friendly with all of the guys to some degree but she wasn’t getting as personal with anyone else at that point…”
“When did that change?”
“Right after she met my partner…”
“Yes…He came into the station to drop off some food my wife had cooked for us. He introduced himself to her. She started asking some rather personal questions about him right after he left.”
“What kind of questions?”
“Was he married, were we close, did it bother me that he got hurt so often and would I consider another partner?”
“What did you tell her?”
“I told her he was single and that we were very close and that I had no intention of changing partner’s since there was nothing wrong with the one I had. I was kinda relieved that she seemed interested in Johnny…I figured he’d be quite happy to keep the girl occupied until she asked me if I’d change partners.”
“So she was interested in Johnny? Did that surprise you?”
Roy grinned. “Yes she was interested and no it didn’t really surprise me. Much to his delight, Johnny has that effect on women a lot.” There were several chuckles around the room at that comment.
“Was John interested in her?”
“Are you kidding? A pretty girl right under his nose…He was interested,” Roy said with certainty.
“Did that bother you?”
“Yes and no…Like I said…I was relieved.”
“Well what’s the no?” Water’s asked looking confused.
“It’s always amusing to watch him chase a girl but the no comes after, when I have to listen to what went wrong this time or what a catastrophe some girl turned out to be. Johnny’s gotten himself into a few predicaments and had some really tough dates,” he said ruefully. There was smothered laughter around the room once more.
“How long did his interest last?”
“One date…He caught on to her pretty fast,” he replied. Water’s raised his eyebrow
“Liar,” Gayle yelled from the defense table. “Johnny loved me…I could have had him but you spoiled everything.”
“Miss Markson,” Sheldon warned from the bench. “You’re very close to being removed from this court.” She folded her arms across her chest as sank back into her chair… Her jealousy and hatred for Roy clearly displayed in her eyes.
Waters turned back to Roy. “Did your relationship with John change after Miss Markson came into the station?”
“Yes…I mean Johnny and I are very close but he started to pull away from me. He seemed distracted…Hurt…Distrustful and he wouldn’t talk to me like he usually does.”
“You’d started a new therapy program with your partner just before Miss Markson came on at the station didn’t you?”
“In fact you had to take classes to learn how to use it specifically for your partner?”
“Yes I did.”
“My partner has Aspergers Syndrome…,” he said leaving out the need for the trauma side of it. “This therapy program was designed to help people like him. I wanted to use it to help him become closer to me…To trust me more so he could open up about himself and his feelings.”
“Was it working?”
“It was until she came along.”
“Were you comfortable using this on your partner?”
“Yes and no…I’ve been treating my partner’s injuries for years so touching him wasn’t a problem but having to touch someone other than my wife or kids in an intimate fashion was a little uncomfortable for both of us the first time...Especially with it being another man.”
“But you did it?”
“Roy how long have you known John Gage?”
“Five and a half years.”
“What was he like when you first met him?”
“John was just barely more than a kid. He was very quiet, withdrawn almost...vulnerable. He hardly talked at all and almost never about himself. It was a real workout to get anything personal from him.”
“Why did you choose him to be your partner then?”
“Honestly? I think I just saw something special in him. He was a darn good fire fighter, totally fearless and sharp and it was kinda selfish in a way too...I mean, he was gonna be one of the best paramedics out there. He’d passed the training class at the top and I just felt there was a connection between us. We seemed to know what the other was thinking…It’s hard to explain. My wife says we’re two halves of a whole...Bonded...We talk without words.”
"Explain that," Waters asked looking intrigued.
"A look, a gesture or a touch on the hand or shoulder...Sometimes that's all we need," he finished with a smile. “And I guess I thought he needed me…It wasn’t until later that I understood that it went both ways, that I needed him too.” His wife and friends in the gallery smiled in understanding.
“And when did you find out he had Aspergers?”
“About seven months after we became partners…”
“How did that happen?”
Roy chewed his lip nervously for a moment. “We’d become pretty close friends at work and I’d finally gotten him to open up a little about himself.”
“What did he tell you?”
“Basically that he was an orphan…That he’d been raised on a reservation in Montana and that he'd been kinda bounced around a lot from family member to family member and that it hadnt been a happy childhood,” he explained, being careful not to mention the physical abuse he'd suffered.
“I’d bring him home with me for breakfast or invite him for dinner. Poor kid looked half starved most of the time but then I finally figured out that’s just how he’s built. He’s slender no matter how much you feed him.” Laughter broke out around the room. “Anyway…My wife and kids had adopted him into the family by then as well and Joanne kind of thought of him as a younger brother…Sorta like I did. Anyway…I uh…Overheard a piece of a conversation between him and my wife and I made a huge and incorrect assumption. We had a fight.”
The crew of station 51 sat up a bit straighter in their seats. They all knew that Roy had accused John of something he didn’t do but none of them had ever heard exactly what it was. They were listening intently.
Roy nodded, looking as if he’d like to cry. “Yeah…I beat the hell out of him…Told him to transfer…That I wanted nothing more to do with him.”
“Did John fight back?" Jeff questioned, wanting the jury to know that even under those circumstances, John was NOT violent.
"No...He just stood there and took it while I tore his life apart," he said self deprecatingly.
"How did he handle that?”
"He was confused and hurt. He didn’t have a clue what I was mad about.” Roy shook his head."God…What I did to that poor kid's head,” he whispered. “He was just beginning to learn to trust someone and then...," Roy trailed in disgust at himself and his actions, "And then I ruined it." Jeff nodded in understanding, knowing how close these two were and how hard it had to have been on both of them. "Anyway, he transferred to a station on the other side of town. They had a pretty rough crew there including someone that Johnny had trained with that ah…didn’t like the fact that John was half Indian. They were well known for their inability to keep anyone worth having there, ya know?”
Waters nodded understandingly. “Go on.”
“Anyway Johnny caught them stealing from their victims and they ganged up on him. Beat him up pretty bad and let him know if he said anything they’d make him pay. That went on for over a week. I guess they found out he was close to Dr. Kelly Brackett and decided they needed to get rid of him…Permanently.”
“What did they do?” Waters asked, looking concerned.
“They tried to kill him…” Roy explained the whole situation. “Rigged his safety belt to break so he’d fall… They brought him in to Rampart…He was in withdrawal at that point and they couldn’t touch him so they called me.”
“But I thought you weren’t friends anymore?”
“I’d found out that night what I’d really overheard and I was planning to find Johnny and apologize when this happened. Anyway I got there and he was pulled into himself…It took awhile but he finally let me close enough to touch him. He finally started to come out of it and I just held him in my arms and apologized to him for what I’d done. What I’d said. I promised him I’d never hurt him again and that I’d always be there for him.”
“Did you mean it?”
“Hell yes I meant it. He was my best friend and I’d played a part in driving him to this…That’s when the doctor told me that he suspected Johnny had Aspergers.”
“Can I ask what you accused him of?”
Roy shifted a bit uncomfortably. “Having an affair with my wife…”
The crew glanced at each other in shock. The courtroom was silent and Gayle turned in her seat to glare furiously at Joanne. Harrell looked smug.
“You were wrong in that assumption is that correct?”
“Yes…What I’d actually heard was my wife planning a surprise anniversary party. Johnny was helping her.”
Waters grinned. “John forgave you for all of that?"
“Yes he did and thankfully so did my wife. She was pretty mad,” he said drawing a grin from Jo.
“Ever have cause to doubt that decision? They do spend a lot of time together don’t they?”
“No never….Johnny and Joanne have become like brother and sister.”
“And you’ve grown very fond of him as well?”
Roy grinned. “Yes I’m very fond of him.”
“But he was pulling away from you after Gayle started?”
“Do you know why?”
“What happened?” Waters asked as he paced in front of the stand.
“His attitude started going downhill the first day he got back and it got worse after his date with Gayle and he’d canceled his therapy session…Then the next day he seemed angry with me over something she told him. I wanted to find out what, so I called her on it. She told me he’d discussed becoming partners with her and she accused me of being jealous. She threw herself into my arms and kissed me. Johnny walked in right then and caught her. He was upset…Mostly with me because he thought I was cheating on Jo and she played it up like I’d kissed her and I was jealous of their relationship.”
“We argued about it for a minute and I asked him if he’d talked to Gayle about being her partner.”
“He said he did but he was stuttering so I knew he was really upset.”
“When Johnny’s upset he has trouble vocalizing his thoughts…He stutters a bit.”
“I walked out and I went to talk to Captain Stanley. I asked him to call headquarters and transfer Gayle before she destroyed my relationship with my partner and my wife.”
“Did they transfer her?”
“No…They told us to hang on until our district chief got back in a couple of days but I did at least get to talk to Johnny that night.”
“What did he tell you?”
“That Gayle told him I wanted to get rid of him. That I wanted a new partner and I’d asked her to stay at 51’s.”
“Was any of that true?”
“No. He also told me that she said I told her that he had Aspergers Syndrome.”
“No…I would never have risked John’s career by telling someone I barely knew what he had. I mean I had no idea how the Department would react if they found out about it.”
“Do they know now?” Waters asked only to confirm Hank’s testimony.
“How did she find out?”
“We don’t know for sure. Chet saw her outside Captain Stanley’s office the day we talked about the new therapy program.” Roy shrugged.
“Objection,” Harrell protested. “Assuming facts not in evidence…”
“Sustained,” Sheldon replied.
“Did you believe his story?”
“Of course…Johnny doesn’t lie,” Roy stated matter of fact.
“Roy…You know your partner pretty well. Does John make a habit of lying to people?”
“No…No he doesn’t. As a matter of fact John’s adamant about honesty...He only stretches the truth when he has to or if he doesn't want me to worry about him when he's sick or something.”
"Explain that please?" Jeff asked.
"We may tell a patient something is routine even when it isn't ...Just so they won't get more stressed."
"I see and the other? Being sick or injured?"
"John grew up in an ancient culture of strong men. His grandfather raised him with the belief that admitting to sickness or injury was a weakness...John was told to simply keep his mouth shut and keep his feelings to himself. He wasn't 'allowed' to feel...to hurt...to cry. He had to just gut it out."
"Dear God," Jeff muttered. He hadn't heard this part himself.
Roy shrugged. "It was even worse for him because he was only half Indian... They saw John being dumped on them as a burden and the white half was just an added curse...something he needed to overcome to prove himself to them... and then to top it off he had Asperger's..That tends to make people brutally honest to start with."
"Did they know that?"
Roy shook his head. "No...It wasn't even called that back then and Autism wasn't even being diagnosed correctly most of the time."
"I see...So how did they react to that?"
Roy sighed. "They didn't understand it and they thought he was crazy. They were afraid and ashamed of him and made him ashamed of himself. They made him an outcast," he finished angrily. "So he learned to just keep everything bottled up and he won't tell me if he's sick or injured because he's afraid I'll see it as being weak too."
Jeff blinked, not wanting the jury to see his own emotions. He'd heard the basics from Dr. Hightower and they'd glossed over this during the initial interviews and depositions.
What a horrible way to grow up. No wonder the kid was so attached to this family...That they were so attached to him. They'd changed the young man's life completely. Taught him how to love again...How to feel something besides hatred and bitterness. Jeff felt a sudden urge to want to go to Montana and hit someone but he couldn't let it show. He brought the conversation back to the matter at hand.
“And because of that upbringing and having Asperers, he wouldn’t casually tell a girl he loved her to say...Get her into bed?”
“No…,” Roy said positively.
“Okay Roy, let’s talk about what happened the morning she accused him of attacking her in the locker room… Walk us through it.” Roy walked him through that morning in Hanks office and then what followed in the locker room. “So you didn’t believe Miss Markson’s accusation right from the beginning?”
“No I didn’t”
“I know my friend. I've seen Johnny display every emotion possible including anger and even then he doesn’t have a violent bone in his body. He’d never hurt anyone unless there was no other possible way around it.”
“You saw the bruises…The scratches…The torn clothes?”
“I did but I knew Johnny wouldn’t do what she claimed he did. It's just simply, NOT in his nature to be violent. There had to be another explanation and we’d already figured out that she’d been telling two different stories to each of us and none of it was the truth.”
“What happened then?” Roy continued with the story until he reached the point when he’d punched John. He hesitated not sure whether to open the door for Harrell’s innuendos about his relationship with Johnny but Waters pressed him to continue, hoping the jury would be touched by the relationship rather than think the worst...It was a fifty fifty risk but he figured it was worth it. “Go on,” he instructed gently.
“I went after him. I caught him in the parking lot but he was really upset. He was slipping away so I just made him look at me…Refocused his attention on me and I told him I was sorry.”
Waters interrupted him for a moment. “Roy…I’ve been around you and your partner for several days now and I’ve noticed that when you’re with Johnny you touch him a lot, especially his face. Why is that?” He asked looking at a smug Harrell.
“First of all …It’s a soothing touch…It calms him down. I do it to my kids when their upset or ill...It just seemed natural to use it on him when he was sick or injured. It's something his late father used to do for him when he was little as well. It seemed to help so I kept on with it even though he didn't like it much when he was heathy and aware...It embarrassed him."
Jeff smiled. "Because of his upbringing you mean?"
Roy nodded. "Yes and then when I found out he had Aspergers syndrome and went to Dr. Hightower for help, she told me to touch him...Often and to keep doing it until he learned to accept it and didn't shy away from it. She explained that touching him, especially on his face is intimate...It teaches him to be close to me, to trust me and then last, when he’s stressed and on the edge of withdrawal, it forces him to make eye contact and focus on me. It grounds him here rather than slipping away to that place in his own mind…So he understands that he’s safe with me.”
“So then what happened in the parking lot?”
“After I got him to look at me he settled down some. He told me was sorry for what he’d said and I apologized for hitting him. I held him for a minute and then sent him home.”
Roy looked at the man in front of him…His chin raised defiantly. “Because he was hurt and upset…He’s my best friend…He’s like my younger brother…I love him and I wanted to be sure he was alright and that he knew I wasn’t angry with him.”
Waters smiled at the blonde paramedic and glanced at the jury, hoping that Roy’s feelings for his young partner were very clear and were completely innocent. “What happened after that Roy?”
The younger man led him through the trip to San Francisco and Fresno, ending with their return home. “I saw Johnny leaving the house and I knew something was wrong. I tried to get to him in time but I was too late…He’d already slipped away.”
“What happened then?”
“We got him into the house and I just held him and let him fight until he just gave it up but he was still so tense I knew it wasn’t over so I decided to use touch therapy to relax him.”
“Did that work?”
“Yeah…I finally got him to relax and he went to sleep.”
“When he came out of it Roy, was he violent?”
“No of course not…”
“How was he?”
“Like he always is…Disoriented, confused and unable to remember what happened.”
“But he didn’t hit you or yell or anything like that?”
“Okay thank you. Let’s move on. Roy…? What happened the day of the kidnapping?”
The senior paramedic went through the mornings events. He told them about discovering the blood and police investigation into the disappearance of his wife and partner. He explained his suspicions that Gayle would take them back to the only refuge she had…Her home in Fresno. He told them how he’d found the house and his partner. “I stepped on the broken glass and realized that the window had been broken out so I shone the flashlight into the room and spotted Johnny. He was hanging by his left wrist from the bedpost. I managed to climb inside and I made sure he was alive and then I woke him up. I asked him where Joanne was and he told me she escaped. He was so smug,” Roy said drily. “I knew he was responsible for it.”
There was laughter in the courtroom once again. “What was John’s condition?” Waters asked.
“Um…He was bleeding from two separate wounds to the head. He was bleeding from a deep gash between his ribs and he had multiple bruises and lacerations as well as a dislocated left wrist.”
“Thank you…Go on,” Waters instructed.
“I got him back on the bed and I managed to get the handcuff off him but he was scared and he was telling me to get out.”
“He was afraid Gayle would come back and catch me there. He was afraid she’d kill me.”
“Was he asking you to get him out?”
“No…He said she wouldn’t kill him and his only concern was for me but there was no way I was leaving him behind. I just got the handcuff off him when she came back.”
“She told me she was going to kill me. Johnny offered to go with her if she'd leave me alone but she refused. She said it was because I wouldn’t let her keep Johnny…She was afraid I’d hunt her down to get him back.”
Waters looked shocked. “Keep him? You mean like a pet puppy?”
“Objection,” Harrell barked.
“Over ruled,” Sheldon replied.
“Yes…She was afraid I’d take him away from her.”
“Was she correct?”
“Absolutely…There was no way in hell I was gonna let her leave with him and I would have kept looking until I found him.”
Roy knew what he was fishing for and he gave it. “John’s my best friend, my partner, and he’s part of my family. I’d search for him just the same as if he were my son Chris or a brother if I had one. I love him…,” the blonde paramedic said firmly. “He's willingly put his life on the line for me and my family time and time again and he'd just offered to sacrifice himself for me and go with her...I couldn't let that go... I need him in my life.”
“Thank you. What then?”
“She pointed the gun at me. Johnny managed to somehow get on his feet just as we heard a gunshot. I heard Johnny yell and I was waiting to feel the pain but then Gayle suddenly fell and then Detective Campbell walked into the room.”
“The Detective shot Miss Markson?”
“Yes. Johnny was on the verge of passing out by then so I got him back on the bed and then the paramedics showed up and Joanne came running in. We got John to the hospital as quickly as possible.”
“Thank You Roy.” Waters had already covered this ground with the Doctors and didn’t feel the need to bore the jury with a rehash. He prayed Harrell wouldn’t make any further insinuations but that if he did, that the jury had already figured out that the friendship that existed between the two men was not only extremely close…It was also completely irreproachable. “Your witness…”
Harrell approached the blonde paramedic with an almost smug expression on his round face. He smoothed his thinning hair and tugged his black suit coat down. “Good afternoon Mr. DeSoto.”
“Good afternoon Mr. Harrell.”
“Let me just ask a few questions.”
Roy shrugged. “Alright…”
“You’re well aware that Miss Markson plans to tell the court that she saw your wife and your partner engaged in some sort of intimate contact.”
“Yes,” Roy replied with a sigh of disgust.
“Are you aware of your wife’s habit of using terms like sweetheart and baby when talking to your partner?’
“Of course I am.”
“Does it bother you?”
“No…Not at all.”
“I find that difficult to believe.”
Roy shrugged again. “Believe what you want,” he said indifferently.
“You sound annoyed Mr. DeSoto.”
“May I ask why?”
Because there are too many people who seem to want to read something sexual into every gesture of love and affection…The term sweetheart and baby that my wife uses with Johnny are the same terms that she uses with our children an I can assure you she’s not sleeping with them either.”
“She tells him she loves him. You can’t tell me that doesn’t annoy you?” Harrell prodded.
“NO…I know what she means when she says it so why should it bother me?” Roy snapped back. “Besides...I’ve told him that myself.”
The heavyset man smirked at him sickeningly and the blonde paramedic knew he hadn't understood a word he'd just said or was simply choosing to ignore it. Roy wanted to belt him. “I see,” Harrell gloated.
“No…You don’t,” Roy shot at him. “But I’ve learned to ignore closed minded people who think the worst,” he said calmly.
The smirk disappeared as grins broke out around the courtroom. The man’s blue eyes narrowed in annoyance. “Mr. DeSoto,” Harrell said curtly, dropping any pretense of friendliness. “You said you yourself accused your young partner of having an affair with your wife.”
“Yes I did and I told you I was mistaken.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am,” he growled at the man as he folded his arms across his chest and leaned back to glare at Harrell defiantly. "Because even if I didn't trust my wife or my partner, which I do...I also overheard a private conversation between them where they very openly discussed their feelings toward one another...They said that they felt like they were brother and sister," he shrugged. "I've never had cause to feel differently."
“Your wife said she’s taken care of John many times while he was recuperating in your home.”
“Yes she does.”
“In varying degrees of undress she said.”
“You don’t mind?”
“NO…It’s tough to take care of someone who’s sick or injured if they’re wrapped up like a mummy. Johnny’s usually in sweat pants when he’s at home but if I’m not there she’d still have to help him in and out of bed, change bandages…Things like that.”
“Doesn't that worry you?"
Roy sighed, the man was being deliberatly obtuse or he was deaf. “No…As a matter of fact when he was in the hospital with malaria she helped me with his care…Including bathing him and changing his hospital gown and his sheets when it was necessary...”
“Yes, she told us that...Are you telling us that didn’t bother you?”
“No…It didn't bother me at all…It had to be done and the nurses there had dropped the ball as far as I was concerned...Jo stepped in and got it done."
Harrell harrumphed in disbelief…“Were you upset to find your wife employing touch therapy on your partner without you?”
“No and you’re mistaken. She was actually massaging a shoulder injury by the time she actually started using therapy I was standing in the dining room but it wouldn’t have bothered me anyway…She’s a trained therapist the same as I am and like me she was trained to use it specifically on John.”
“Alone with your half naked partner…Running her hands over him. You can't possibly tell me that that you aren’t worried that he might become turned on by that?”
Roy’s blue eyes rolled in aggravation and then he grinned. “He’s more apt to run from it.”
“Really…? We’re being led to believe he’s quite the ladies man and your wife is quite beautiful.”
“Thank you…Yes she is,” Roy said winking at Joanne. “But as I told you, Johnny thinks of Joanne like a big sister…Sometimes a surrogate mom. Johnny would never betray me and neither would my wife.”
Harrell grunted in disbelief but let it go, finally figuring out that Roy wasn't going back down.
“So if she's like his mom, does that make you his father then?” Harrell asked snidely.
“Believe me…There are times when I feel like it along with being his partner, best friend, brother…Teacher. The same thing he is for me.”
“I see. Mr. DeSoto, you said Miss Markson showed an interest in you before your partner returned to work…”
"Yes she did."
“Well if you weren’t interested in return why did you invite her into your home?”
“I didn’t invite her, she asked if she could come over and I let her.”
“Why if you weren’t interested in her…?”
“I was hoping that she’d meet my wife and give up her interest in me.”
“You told us she was very intimate with you while she was there?”
“But you didn’t tell her to stop. Why is that?”
“I was afraid if I called attention to it that it would force my wife to confront her about it. I didn’t want to start trouble. I figured if I just ignored it she’d give it up.”
“You said she kissed you in the rec room?”
“Did you push her away?”
“Miss Markson will claim that your own partner will say he saw you embracing the woman. I think you were jealous of your partner’s attentions toward the girl and you wanted to break it up.”
“I did want to break it up but it wasn’t jealousy…He was at a vulnerable stage of his therapy and she was messing with John’s head…Upsetting him. I wanted her to stop.”
“Because you love your friend, don’t you?” Harrell asked sympathetically.
“Yes I do.”
“Is that the only reason?”
“Is it possible it’s because you were you were angry at losing her affections? She is quite beautiful.”
“Yes she is and no I wasn’t angry about that...I was angry at her for upsetting Johnny.”
“You expect us to believe that a beautiful young woman is throwing herself at you and you weren’t interested?”
Roy grinned. “Mr. Harrell…I have a beautiful young woman throwing herself at me every night and I’m very interested,” he replied smugly looking over at Joanne. She winked at him as several grins and snorts of laughter broke out around the courtroom.
“Or is it possible your interest lies elsewhere?” He said with a smirk on is round face.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Roy growled.
“You do spend an inordinate amount of time with your…Uh…Friend.” Roy almost shot from the chair to lay the heavyset man out on the floor but Waters beat him to it.
“Objection your honor…This line of questioning is disgusting and has absolutely no basis.”
“Your Honor…He’s admitted to holding his friend in his arms…Touching him during therapy…Intimately. He’s even claimed to love him.”
Waters started to argue that that wasn’t what Roy had meant and Harrell knew it but stopped as the blonde paramedic held his hand up. “I wanna answer him.”
Sheldon smiled, pretty sure where this was going…He nodded. “Go ahead Mr. DeSoto.”
Roy leaned forward and stared the pudgy lawyer in the eye…“Mr. Harrell…You’re absolutely correct… I’ve held my friend in my arms through bouts of withdrawal…When he was so distraught that his only relief was to pull into his own mind to escape the emotional pain. I’ve held him through injuries and sickness and begged him not to leave me…To take one more breath and then begged him to do it again a moment later…To live one more minute. I held him while he told me about the death of his parents and wept because he couldn’t even remember their funerals because he'd withdrawn,” he growled furiously. “I held him the day he was almost killed because I sent him away for something he didn’t even do and when he was lying in a coma with a machine breathing for him and I thought he was going to die. I’ve held him more times than I can even remember Mr. Harrell and I’m not ashamed of any one of them. They were all out of love for this special young man who needed someone to care enough to save him. He’s a gifted and unique individual and he’s filled so many parts of my life. He's my partner and he holds my life in his hands every tme we get called out. He's my best friend...My brother, my third child, my confidant and he's just... a part of my family that I don't want to live without...My wife holds my Body, soul and Spirit and the greatest part of my heart and my kids are my world but Johnny...? He holds a part of my soul that no one else ever will and not you or anyone else is gonna make me feel guilty or embarrassed to say that I need him and that I love him,” Roy finished his tirade, his blue eyes flashing with rage. John would be proud of him...He'd hardly even breathed.
Several people wiped a tear from their eyes while Joanne and the station crew grinned proudly at the usually cool headed senior paramedic as a red faced Harrell retreated to regroup. The angry eyes of the jury and most of the gallery watched him in disgust.
Harrell knew he’d made a mistake trying to rattle this man with this kind of attack…He returned to the stand and cleared his throat before changing the subject. “Mr. DeSoto…You said your partner isn’t capable of violence when he’s in this withdrawn state?”
“But you said he pushes or slaps your hands away.”
“Even that’s not violent Mr. Harrell…He simply resists the contact. If you don’t touch him, he won’t fight.”
“But if she’d tried to kiss him or put her arms around him.”
“He would have protected himself from her but that’s all.”
“But you said when he comes out of it he’s confused and disoriented.”
“You said when you first entered the locker room, he appeared to be confused and disoriented…Could he have been coming out of withdrawal as you call it?”
“No…He’d just been violently attacked by that woman and had his head slammed into a wall. He was concussed. He was not in withdrawal.”
“Are you sure?”
“Look Harrell…Johnny doesn’t just randomly drop in and out of that state. He has to be pushed to it. Exhausted, frustrated…extremely…Emotionally stressed and he wasn’t any of those things that morning.”
“Are you sure? Maybe this breakup with Gayle pushed him too far.”
“Mr. Harrell…He’d ended the relationship…He wasn't emotionally involved with her and he didn’t care about the breakup.”
Gayle suddenly shot to her feet, almost climbing over the defense table. “That’s a lie,” she shrieked hysterically. “You kept him from me…You and your whore.” There were gasps of shock all around as the crazed blonde continued to rant. “You were always getting in the way… He would have loved me,” she screamed as tears rolled down her cheeks. The Bailiff managed to get control of the woman even as she kicked out wildly, struggling against his hold.
“Officer Burns…Remove her from the courtroom. She can come back tomorrow if she calms down,” Sheldon directed the Bailiff. He clicked the cuffs around the blonde woman’s wrists and began to drag the crazed woman from the room. Her violet eyes shot venom at Joanne.
“You had to have them both,” she screeched angrily as she turned the glare on Roy. “You wouldn’t let me keep him. That’s all I wanted. He loved me…Where’s Johnny…He’ll tell you. JOHNNY…,” she wailed as the door swung shut behind her. The screams dwindled and the courtroom grew silent.
A flustered Harrell pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. He needed time to regroup. “Thank You Mr. DeSoto,” he said softly to Roy before turning to the judge. “Your honor, I’d like the right to recall this witness.”
“So noted Mr. Harrell… Mr. DeSoto, you can step down. Mr. Waters…Call your next witness.”
All eyes were on Roy as he went to join his wife and the crew. They stood up and headed for the door as Waters called Detective Richard Brandt to the stand. Dr. Halloran would follow. Johnny would be the first on the stand tomorrow and they were all worried about how he’d respond to the pressure and the stress.
The group headed for the hotel. “I can’t believe that disgusting little man,” Joanne railed.
“Me either…God I hope he doesn’t do that to Johnny. So help me, if he drives him over the edge…,” Roy let the statement hang.
“I was so proud of you Honey,” Joanne said as she kissed his cheek.
“You didn’t leave a dry eye in the place Pal,” Cap teased the younger man. “And you left Harrell looking pretty cheap for trying to use it as a defense.”
“Especially after we’ve already established that John is more than just a little interested in women,” Chet pointed out.”
“Good…He deserves to look cheap. He should have just had her plead guilty instead of continuing to try and ruin John’s life.”
“You made him look pretty stupid Roy so maybe he won’t go there with Johnny,” Mike added.
“Maybe we shouldn’t bring it up with Johnny either,” Marco suggested. “It’d just upset him.”
“I don’t want him blindsided by it either though,” Roy pointed out worriedly. They pushed open the door to the hotel room…Kel, Dixie and Martha sat at the table sipping coffee and playing cards. John lay sleeping on the couch.
“What’d ya do…Sedate him?” Chet asked in surprise. They grinned back at him and shook their heads.
“How’d you do that?” Roy asked quietly as he sat beside his partner. He gently ran his hand over Johnny’s forehead, smoothing the dark hair back and drawing grins from the others at the obvious paternal gesture.
“We snuck him out the back and took him to the park up the street. There was a group of college girls playing volleyball. We sat down to watch,” Kel explained.
“First thing we knew…Two of them were dragging him into the game,” Dixie said with a smirk, knowing the way the handsome, dark haired man drew women like a magnet.
“It was good for him,” Martha added. “Got him out of this stuffy hotel room and let him work off all that pent up energy.”
Johnny stirred restlessly under the blonde paramedic’s hand. “Roy,” he mumbled sleepily as the dark eyes fluttered open.
“Yeah Junior, I’m here.”
“What time is it?” Johnny asked fuzzily as he started to sit up…Roy pressed him back on the couch.
“About four… You just stay put for a while longer, you need the rest. We’re gonna order dinner before Water’s gets here to go over your testimony for tomorrow. You hungry…?”
“Starved,” he answered with a grin.
“What a surprise,” Chet muttered aside to the others.
“Oh shut up Chet,” Johnny growled irritably.
Roy patted John’s shoulder with a grin. “What do you want partner?”
“Whatever everyone else is having is fine.”
“Chinese sound good?” Roy suggested. There were nods all around. “Okay with you Junior?”
“Sure,” he replied as Roy stood up. John sat up and swung his feet off the couch to make room for everyone else to sit down.
Waters showed up at five thirty. Johnny was watching the television while Roy and the others sat with the prosecutor discussing the testimony of Dr. Halloran and Detective Brandt. John was half listening… knowing Waters would be calling him over soon to discuss tomorrow's testimony. The news caster was telling some amusing story and John’s attention wandered to the others for a moment. It snapped back abruptly with the next story.
“The trial of Gayle Markson, the woman accused of multiple murders as well as the kidnapping and attempted murder of Fireman Paramedic John Gage and his friend Joanne DeSoto…Took a bizarre turn this afternoon. While defense attorney Kevin Harrell alluded to a sexual relationship between Gage and his partner’s wife as the reason for Miss Markson’s temporary insanity plea right from the beginning, today’s cross examination turned scandalous.” Conversation in the other room stopped abruptly but John’s attention was now riveted on the TV. “Harry…” The picture switched to an interviewer on the courthouse steps. “Kevin Harrell has made several subtle innuendos of an illicit affair over the past two days of testimony. Subtlety ended today as he launched an attack on John Gage’s partner Roy DeSoto and his wife Joanne on the stand…Alluding to a relationship not only with his partner’s wife but also alleging to a possible one with the partner himself.”
John’s eyes widened in horror as his mouth dropped open in shock. There was a gasp and the scrape of a chair from behind him as Roy stood up and headed for the living room. The interview switched to an older woman who he’d caught as she exited the courtroom. “Can you tell us what you thought of those allegations?” He asked.
“What a disgusting human being,” she snapped angrily. “Attacking that young…,” The television snapped off and John turned stricken brown eyes to meet Roy’s angry blue.
“Oh…Oh m…my God,” he stuttered in dismay. “What have I d…done to you and J…Jo? I…I’m so s…sorry.” His eyes glanced toward the others, his face flushing in humiliation. John shot to his feet, swaying slightly as if in shock before he bolted for his room, slamming the door shut behind him. Roy was right on his heels.
“DAMN IT,” Martha growled as she slammed her hands on the table in frustration. “We should have warned him.”
“That woman’s reaction…Calling him disgusting,” Chet moaned.
“I think she was talking about Harrell Pal,” Cap pointed out as he and the others turned toward the other room.
They could all hear Roy pounding on John’s door. “Open the door Johnny…Right now Partner. C’mon Junior,” he yelled through the wood. The tone became more demanding a moment later. “John…Open the damn door before I kick it in.” The ensuing silence reassured them that Johnny had complied. Joanne stood and headed for the room, Kel followed.
TO BE CONTINUED: PART 7... END OF THE ROAD.
Published to Site 07/25/10
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