Authors: Nikki McWatters
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
Linstead stood in front of her desk and smiled at Libby. The woman was in a pale blue suit and looked softer than she usually did. It was all theatre with these defence lawyers. Costumes to incite different attitudes. I’m sure the Magistrate was fully aware of all the tricks and decorative touches. Murphy was another one who liked to put on a stellar performance. He was almost Shakespearean when he got going.
‘Yes, I am,’ Libby answered for herself. ‘It was wrong of me and I shouldn’t have done it,’ said the young girl. ‘Make that claim I mean.’
Who was this kid and what did she do with Libby O’Neil? The girl was in a summery smock dress with lemons on it. Her hair had been pulled into two tiny pigtails on either side of her head like fluffy horns. She was devoid of make-up and looked even less than her sixteen years. She looked fresh and wholesome and childlike, except for the tell-tale bulge of a very rounded, protruding pregnant bump. She spoke with none of the spunk and bravado I’d heard before.
‘You were a virgin on the night that you attended the Drop Dead Gorgeous gig at the Sydney Entertainment Centre?’ The defence began, jumping straight into it.
‘With no significant experience with boys?’
‘Not really,’ the girl replied.
‘You did not meet with a roadie the day prior to the gig to arrange back stage passes in exchange for oral sex and the promise of drugs for the road-crew?’
‘No. Abigail made that up. She’s just lying to make herself look better!’ Libby said, a little of her fire flashing back for a moment.
Here Linstead looked up at Hallinan and explained that the question had been in defence of the shameful allegations made by Abigail Proudfoot in her witness statement. It did read pretty dirty. The blonde girl claimed that Libby had fronted up during a sound check and offered blow jobs for whoever could get her back-stage passes for after the concert. Of course it was just hearsay because Abigail wasn’t present and was simply reporting what Libby had claimed to her. Certainly no roadie had come forward and put his hand up. The friend had explained that Libby had stolen her ADHD medication, the speedy stuff, and handfuls of her mother’s anti-anxiety medication, sleeping pills and her father’s Viagra. The last one had been a joke just for a bit of fun.
‘So it was a surprise when a roadie invited you girls backstage?’ the defence asked the girl.
‘Totally,’ Libby nodded, her big green eyes, wide. ‘I’d never met him before.’
‘And then who invited you to the party?’
‘Chris Bergin,’ she replied, dropping her eyes as she said his name.
‘And whose room was the party in?’
‘Chris Bergin’s,’ she said demurely.
‘And at any time during that evening did Chris ask you to leave?’
‘No,’ the girl shook her head adamantly and I saw Chris Bergin slap his thighs and sigh loudly. The Magistrate looked his way and gave a cautionary frown.
‘Did you consider or hope that you might engage in sexual acts with Mr Bergin?’
‘Never,’ she shook her head. ‘I just wanted to meet him and see what he was like in real life but Abbie had said she’d like to seduce him and when she wanted a guy she usually got him.’
‘And that’s what transpired?’
‘More or less,’ she shrugged.
‘How did that make you feel?’ the lawyer asked her.
‘Uncomfortable. It was weird.’
‘So, I would like to point out the one thing that no-one has made an issue of, Your Honour,’ Linstead said in a razor-sharp voice. ‘If Abigail Proudfoot and Chris Bergin engaged in a consensual sexual act, they did so in front of an underage girl, exposing her to a graphic and very confronting act.’
She had a point, I guess. That was the thing with this case, there were so many things done wrong and it was such a mess. It really was. That night in the hotel room sounded like the most confusing set of situations. Drugs taken with and without consent. So you had date rape, you had underage sexual activity, you had coercion, you had so many things going on it was hard for the cold, hard reason of the law to unravel the chaos. And of course, everyone was lying to protect themselves and the Proudfoot girl might just be saying any old thing to make her own charge disappear.
‘And now we come to that film,’ Linstead went on. ‘Up until that time you had not had any sexual contact with Bergin? Physically?’
‘No,’ she said firmly. ‘Except for a bit of his groping and he got Abigail and I to kiss and touch each other’s boobs.’
‘Were you naked when you did that?’
‘No I was fully clothed but Abigail was naked,’ she frowned.
‘And of Abigail’s claim you offered to do more?’ came the next question.
‘Lies. Her whole thing was lies. She’s totally untrustworthy. I’m not a leso!’
At that point the Magistrate reminded the teenager where she was and asked her to be mindful of her language.
‘I’m sorry Your Honour,’ she said in voice that could melt butter.
‘Moving along,’ Linstead went on. ‘So Abigail and Bergin had sex. How many times?’
‘Was he always conscious?’
Libby shook her head.
‘No,’ she frowned. ‘No,’ she said. ‘He passed out pretty early but Abigail just kept it up.’
‘You have admitted to slipping a sexual performance enhancing drug into Bergin’s drink.’
‘Yes,’ she nodded. ‘But Abbie had told me to bring some so she could give it to whatever guy she picked up that night. I’d given her some before, when she was dating a football jock. Yeah, anyway, Abbie told me to put it in Chris’s drink while she was keeping him occupied and I didn’t give him her drugs. That was her. I didn’t have anything except the blue pills I took from my father. Abbie was carrying everything else.’
‘You did admit in a police statement that you gave him the detamphetamine.’
‘I was confused and scared and I got mixed up and said the wrong thing,’ Libby said softly. ‘I really am freaked out by all of this. I never meant it to get so out of hand. I only gave him the blue pill that I pinched from Dad’s medicine cabinet.’
I looked across at the father. I could see him stiffen if you’ll pardon the pun. The wife was just like a statue. Unmoving.
‘And then you thought you’d have a bit of fun with the rock star?’
The prosecutor leapt up and objected loudly.
‘Your Honour, we are talking about an aggravated sexual assault here, not a ‘bit of fun’ as the defence would like to suggest. We find that offensive and dismissive of the charge against the defendant.’
‘Would the defence please rephrase the question.’ Hallinan advised Linstead.
‘You tell us Libby.’ Linstead said soothingly, hypnotically. ‘What were you doing with Chris Bergin while he was asleep? Were you raping him?’
‘No,’ she said and dabbed at a dry eye. ‘I was caught up in the craziness of it all and Chris had given me champagne and offered me some cocaine so I wasn’t thinking straight…’
Again I saw Bergin shift uncomfortably in his chair and shake his head to no-one.
‘There’s something else you see….’ Libby began. ‘Something I haven’t told anyone else, like ever. I just decided I want to tell the truth. To explain it all.’
I could see Sheryl Linstead almost keel over from a stroke. The last thing a defence lawyer wants is a renegade defendant on the stand about to say something unrehearsed. Particularly when it is something that hasn’t even been discussed previously.
‘Let’s just stick to the questions, Libby!’ she frowned and her voice was low, a threatening growl.
‘No, I want to say this,’ the girl was firm.
‘You see,’ she began. ‘When I was little my father had an affair. He cheated on my mother. With a teenage girl.’
I heard the collective intake of breath in the room and saw Tom O’Neil grip his armrests. From where I sat, I could just see the trace of a stiff-lipped smirk on the mother’s lips.
‘Yes Libby that is in the report we gave the Magistrate. There’s no need to speak about this now. It’s not relevant to this …’
‘Oh but it is,’ Libby smiled an ice-box smile.
I felt a chill run down my spine. There was something about the look in the girl’s eyes. And then I sat back and listened to an extraordinary tale unfold.
‘Last year we studied a book at school for English,’ she began. ‘I left it on the kitchen table one day and when I went to get it before school, I saw my dad reading the back sleeve and he was crying. I was freaked out and waited until he had put it down and left the room.’
The father stood up and his wife dragged him by the sleeve back into his seat. He looked around like a trapped deer and I saw him shoot a look across at Bergin and back to his daughter.
‘Anyway,’ the girl continued, ignoring her lawyer’s attempts to interrupt. ‘I looked at the back sleeve and there was a picture of the author. When I Googled her I found out she was married to Chris Bergin!
Chris Bergin from
Drop Dead Gorgeous
. My favourite band.’
‘Relevance, Libby?’ the Magistrate whispered.
‘I snooped through my Dad’s computer and found that he had visited lots of sites about the author, Megan Perkins. Of course she kept her maiden name so that there was some distance between her and her famous husband. She was obviously trying not to look like she was cashing in on his fame but all the kids at school knew.’
I shot a look across to Bergin who looked dazed and confused.
‘I found an email in the drafts on his mail account…to Megan. He never sent it and had deleted it when I checked a few days later,’ the girl said, smiling like a wooden marionette.
She was enjoying herself immensely. My face prickled and I felt ill. Other eyes were sneaking up to Chris Bergin. Every-one’s except Tom O’Neil’s.
I looked back at Mrs O’Neil and she was staring straight ahead as if in a trance, the smile wiped from her face. Looking carefully at her, I could detect a tremor. She was sitting there, silently shivering with rage.
‘The letter showed that it had been
Megan, the writer, who had been the student he had the affair with so long ago. He was going to write to her to apologise. Bit late. I only knew about it because it was the only thing my mother ever talked about. It killed her. She stopped being a mother and became this victim of an affair.’
Bergin had his head in his hands and appeared to be hyperventilating. If it was true, he’d be processing some pretty shitty emotions.
‘It’s not true,’ Tom O’Neil stood up and yelled. ‘It’s preposterous.’
‘Sit and be quiet or I’ll have you in contempt of court,’ the Magistrate bellowed.
‘And when I saw Bergin there on the bed with Abigail, I remembered what his own wife had done to my family and I got mad. I did those things to him out of anger. I wanted to make him rape me so I could tell the world. So I could hurt Megan the way she hurt my family! I didn’t think I was raping him because in my mind he was raping me just like she had raped my family!’
The girl was shaking now. Almost violently. Really upset.
The mother looked from her husband to her daughter and back up to Chris Bergin. Her face was turning inside out with shock and horror. Bergin could not look up. Casey O’Neil’s former tightly-laced cool had been replaced with an unravelling confusion. It was clear that the identity of her husband’s former lover had come as a huge shock.
‘So you can see,’ the Linstead woman said, breaking the silence, ‘that this poor girl has been traumatised by another sexual discretion and misconduct that rendered her into a sudden state where she could not be held responsible for her actions…the impact of her parent’s…’
The Magistrate silenced her and banged his gavel on the bench.
First up, and not surprisingly he moved to sentence Libby to twenty hours of community service for the false allegation charge. This was of course, because she’d made a guilty plea to that charge.
And then we all held our breath, the whole room.
‘And in the case of the State against Elizabeth O’Neil, after considering all the evidence I have determined , that in my opinion, having regard to all the evidence before me, that there is a reasonable prospect that a reasonable jury, properly instructed, would convict you, Elizabeth O’Neil, of the indictable offense you have been charged with and I hereby commit this matter to be dealt with in the Supreme Court at a future date to be determined.’
The parents cried out and began talking loudly and the Magistrate had to shout and bang again for order. The girl was sobbing.
Elizabeth O’Neil was going to face a jury trial and it would be the first of its kind in this country, I believed. Possibly the first of its kind ever. I was pumping with adrenalin. This might just be the most ground-breaking case I would ever see in my entire career. My name would be in the history books as the arresting officer.
When I looked across, Chris Bergin had slipped out of the courtroom. His seat was empty.
I’d been so worried when I hadn’t heard from Chris by eight o’clock. I knew the court couldn’t remain open much past six. Surely. He wasn’t answering his phone. I rang Julie and Clay but they hadn’t seen or heard from him either.
I dearly wanted to down the entire bottle of Shiraz but alas couldn’t bring myself to go past the one glass. I was a breast-feeding mother and I was doing my best to get that all right. No spicy food and all that. Harry was tucked up in his crib and Olive had gone to bed early, knackered after netball.
By nine, I was panicking, thinking something had happened. I looked at the Herald news on the laptop to see if there had been any serious accidents or delays on Chris’s route home from the city. Nada. What I did see was the headline that Chris’s case was going to trial. It had been a victory for him and the various men’s groups who’d been behind him were being quoted as ‘relieved’ by the Magistrate’s decision to press forward with the charges against
So, there it was. The Magistrate had ruled that there was a good chance of conviction. I had continued to try to distance myself from the whole business. It made me sick to the stomach to hear about
. That night. I shut the laptop. I knew Chris would have been pleased with that outcome. It vindicated him a little, although not a lot in my eyes.