Authors: Nikki McWatters
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
‘So you are not confessing to vaginal penetration and yet this girl is pregnant. That much has been confirmed.’
‘But they haven’t confirmed paternity. If it’s not mine, I’ll just deny everything. They won’t be able to prove anything. It’s not like the girls went straight to the police.’
‘I’ve been here before, Chris and I can tell you that while there is a test that can be done on an unborn foetus, it’s a risky procedure and no court will force it. Once the baby is born, the test is risk-free but these charges are not going to wait.’
‘I’m willing to offer her money. However much she wants, if she drops the charges.’
I nodded, figuring he’d take that line.. The girl might just have been a gold-digger. Or being put up to it by her parents. It happens.
‘I think our best bet is to admit your consensual act with the blonde…she’s of legal age and deny that you were involved with the complainant. We’ll stick with the version that makes her a spectator.’
‘The girls did have some…action…between them. They were so up for it.’
Chris put his head into his hands. This was going to be very hard on Megan and Olive and the band. It was going to get ugly. The mob of journos were already baying for blood on the street downstairs.
‘So the girls can be placed at the gig and the hotel party. There were plenty of witnesses that can testify that they went willingly with you to your room?’ I asked Chris, raising my eyebrows over my spectacles.
‘Clayton even came back to the room with us for a while but he was smart and left as soon as the blonde took her top off and started flashing her boobs around.’
‘Clayton Farrelly? Your drummer?’ I said, just for clarification because I knew Clay pretty well.
‘And best man,’ Chris groaned and leaned back in his chair.
‘I hope he and Julie have gone over to look after Meg and Olive,’ he said and then the tears came. ‘Do you think she’ll forgive me? Will she? I don’t want to lose my family.’
I had no answers for him. It was harder to think of a more challenging drama for a young family to deal with. It seemed better to say nothing. The room we were in was chilled and I made a mental note to ask them to turn up the heat a little. Although it was officially a non-smoking room, few enforced the rule and the place smelt of stale cigarettes.
‘I’ll look into the girl’s background,’ I nodded to Chris. ‘See if she had other boyfriends. Sometimes a false rape claim can hide a sexual encounter they are trying to cover up or feel guilty about and don’t want to shame their family.’
‘She’s not normal that girl,’ Chris said, looking up sharply. ‘She came to see me at home a week or so ago, with the blonde. In her school uniform. I offered her thousands and total support of the child pending DNA tests but she wanted my blood. The look in her eyes. There was no mention of rape then.’
I made a note of that. Any hint of prior mental health issues might work in our favour. A photograph was in the file. A fairly poor quality shot of Chris Bergin with the two girls in happier times. He had an arm around each and they all looked pretty sozzled. The dark girl had piercing eyes and a short dark bob of hair. She was attractive in a Gothic sort of way and did not look fifteen. The blonde looked even older and was stunning. They were girls clearly on the make and if it ever went as far as a jury trial, their wayward appearance would work in our favour. Not always fair, but a fact.
I looked at her again, peering closer. Elizabeth O’Neil, I wondered, what is your story? Who are you? She was a child. A woman-child with a very loud voice screaming
and as Chris Bergin was my client and a friend, that teenage girl had just become our number one enemy!
‘The first thing I am going to demand,’ I told Chris, ‘….is an independent psychological assessment of the girl from a clinical psychologist.’
‘Am I going to be locked up now or is there bail or something?’ Chris mumbled. ‘This is all new to me. They’ve taken photos and fingerprinted me…this is just surreal.’
‘Leave that to me. I’ll try to get you released at arraignment on your own recognizance. You pose little to no flight risk. But you may have to post a bond….we’ll see.’
‘That’s fine. Money’s not an issue,’ he sighed.
That was good to hear because if this thing went to trial, it was going to hurt his hip pocket and help mine. We were looking at, potentially, hundreds of thousands of dollars. It would be the most expensive sexual act he’d ever indulged in, that’s for sure. Regrets? He was going to have a few.
‘Now Chris. The court will set a date for a preliminary hearing, a committal hearing, to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed further. I’ll try to put that off for as long as possible because that is our most vital time to dig up enough evidence to put doubt in the Magistrate’s mind. We need to discredit these charges and now…’ I fumbled through the file. ‘…now we’ll have to submit to questioning. I’ll guide you. Just look to me before you answer. I think you should admit to consensual sex with the blonde…um,’ I looked for her name on the page before me, ‘Abigail Proudfoot. And when you talk about her…use her name it makes you sound more like a lover rather than rapist…’
I saw him flinch. Poor fellow.
‘Chris, you have to realise that
are going to be words that you hear a lot from here on in. The media will crucify you. It’s a fact. I’m sorry. I’ll do as much damage control as possible but we do not admit any sexual contact with the underage girl at this stage. You can say you don’t remember but until we can confirm that the baby is yours, I say, deny. Not guilty to both charges at present, okay?’
‘I trust you, Tim,’ he said. ‘Basically I’m putting my life in your hands.’
‘One potential major problem here,’ I said, tapping at the page, ‘…is that the girl’s claim they have a recording of you admitting it. They recorded your conversation when they visited you. I should be able to get that struck out because they recorded you without your permission…but again you must say you don’t remember and that you were confused by their accusations.’
‘Rape is such a horrible word,’ he said, tears appearing on his face again. ‘There was no rape. I know this sounds lame, Tim, but if anything I feel like those girls raped me. They’ve ripped my life apart and I don’t really remember….’ He began to shudder and sob. ‘I really don’t remember.’
‘I know, Chris,’ I said, trying to console him. ‘We’ll win this thing. We’ll turn it around. We’ll show the world that these girls were on the make and entrapped you, misrepresented themselves and deliberately set you up.’
I really felt sorry for the guy. He was a huge star. An international celebrity. And there were a lot of people out there ready to exploit that. These girls were groupies on the make. Groupies were after one thing. What girl goes back to a hotel room with a rock-star and doesn’t expect to get laid? Chris Bergin was a sweet guy. I’d met his family. I’d put money on the fact that he had not raped the girl. But he’d clearly been caught with his pants down and the public were an unforgiving mob.
‘I don’t want you making any statement to the public,’ I warned him. ‘Nothing. If you were to so much as hint that these girls were ‘asking for it’, you’ll be ruined.’
‘But what if this baby is mine? What then?’ he said, changing the subject. ‘I’m screwed. But I will want to know the child…but…oh..’ he was struggling to get the words out.
‘We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I’m going to get the girl, Elizabeth, a hasty psych evaluation. That’s a priority. If the Magistrate gets Patsy Weller, we’ll be in luck. She can smell bullshit a mile away.’
My first impression of Elizabeth O’Neil was that she was carrying some baggage. Secrets. That girl was somehow damaged. I wanted to know how. She intrigued me.
Fifteen. Pregnant. Defiant. Intelligent.
She was very pretty and wore the traditional
outfit. That’s slang for, or a derivative of, the word ‘emotional’ and describes youth who are characteristically sullen and wear dark colours and listen to sad music. Kind of like a subculture that grew out of the Goth thing. I kind of like it. It’s funky and cute. But some of these kids take it too far and convince themselves that depression is something to cultivate and wear like a badge. The more depressed or morose the better. I determined early on that Libby, as she liked to be called, was more of a fashion Emo than a lifestyle Emo.
The first time we met, Libby was wearing black tights and ankle boots, a short black skirt and a purple and black striped cardigan over a black band t-shirt. I was startled to see that it was a
Drop Dead Gorgeous
t-shirt, which was the band that her alleged rapist belonged to. That alarmed me.
‘So you’re a shrink, are you?’ she asked me.
‘I’m a clinical psychologist, Libby, appointed by the court to assess how this whole situation is affecting you. We just want to make sure you are coping,’ I explained and offered her a seat.
I had met the parents out in the foyer and exchanged some brief conversation. The mother seemed distant and stressed. The father kind of vague and dithery. Insipid.
‘How are things with your parents?’ I asked.
‘Okay,’ she shrugged. ‘Mum’s still pissed off and Dad doesn’t want to know. He seems to be totally avoiding me. Doesn’t even really talk to me. Mum wants to tear Chris Bergin to pieces and kind of blames me a bit for getting myself into…into that situation.’
‘That situation? Can you explain that further?’ I prodded.
‘The…you know…rape and everything.’
‘Ah. The rape. Can you tell me about it? Just take your time. Tell me as much or as little as you want.’
‘Well, me and Abbie just wanted to hang with the band, you know. It was just so cool that we got invited backstage and then to the party. We were completely stoked and couldn’t wait to tell all the other kids at school on Monday.’
Her face lit up as she spoke. She looked about as traumatised as a the Queen of the Prom. She was a strange case. I could see that from the outset. Nothing was as it seemed with Libby. She was a complicated creature of contradictions.
‘You’ve been a fan of the band for a while, have you?’
‘Hell, yeah,’ she smiled. ‘We’re their biggest fans. I’ve got posters all over my room and I know all their songs. I’ve liked them since I was in primary school and had the biggest crush on Chris Bergin…but like…not any more of course.’
‘So you must have been overwhelmed when you met him in person?’ I nodded.
‘Not really. It was kind of like I already knew him. I’ve seen so many interviews with him and stuff. He seemed kind of just totally normal. Just like a normal dude.’
‘He was friendly?’ I asked.
‘Hmmm. Yeah. He invited us back to the hotel.’
‘And you both agreed to go?’
‘And he invited you to his hotel room?’ I pushed forward.
‘That’s where the party was. Just about ten or so people. Some of the band. Some other girls or ladies or whatever.’
‘And were there drugs and alcohol? I’ve heard about those rock and roll parties.’ I smiled, casually, not wanting to make too big a deal of it.
‘Yeah, some. I’d tried a little pot before but there was cocaine and lots of champagne and beer.’
‘Yes,’ I said, waiting for her to continue.
She was opening up very readily and I was surprised because usually it takes a while to build the sort of trust with an adolescent that helps them to share. Libby seemed to want to tell the story. In fact, she appeared to almost enjoy telling me. Her body language was engaged and open.
‘I had some champagne, no big deal. Mum and Dad let me drink wine at dinner. I wasn’t drunk or out of it. If you’re trying to make out that I was pissed or stoned, you’re wrong.’
A bit defensive. She was becoming more agitated.
‘Not at all, Libby. I’m not here to judge or to determine facts. I’m just here to listen to you. To chat with you and make sure everything is okay with you.’
‘Well I wasn’t wasted and I remember everything. He might be saying that he was off his face and can’t remember but that’s bullshit. He remembers he just won’t admit it.’
‘Admit?’ I encouraged.
‘To raping me! But hey, I’ve got the proof right here!’ she said, tapping her flat belly.
‘You weren’t happy to agree to the amniocentesis which would settle that debate once and for all?’
‘Too risky. The doctor said there was a chance I’d lose the baby and I didn’t want to do that.’
‘So you are already feeling very bonded and protective of this little person you are carrying. That’s very admirable,’ I smiled at her. ‘A baby is a beautiful and wondrous thing and you are a very brave girl to choose to give a life to your son or daughter.’
I was praising her to help her understand that I was on her side and to give her the freedom to continue to trust me. To be honest I personally thought it was a somewhat immature idea for a fifteen year old to choose to keep the child, a product of alleged rape. She was a girl from an upper middle-class family, a student at a prestigious private school. She did well at school and had aspirations of becoming an actress. I had read her file very thoroughly before our first session.
‘I read that you would like to pursue a career in acting?’ I smiled, changing the subject.
‘Yeah. I want to win an Academy Award one day,’ she grinned.
‘Lofty ambition,’ I laughed. ‘Good luck with that. It’s always good to aim high.’
‘Friends?’ I enquired. ‘You’re very close to Abigail Proudfoot. Do you have other friends? Boyfriend perhaps?’
‘Nah. There’s plenty of other kids who are like…just acquaintances but Abbie and I are tight. Besties. We’re like this unstoppable team. Us against the world,’ she laughed. ‘And boyfriends are nothing but trouble and they want to control you and keep you away from your friends. And anyway, all the guys at school are total dorks.’
‘Spotty, smelly, gangly fellows, hey?’ I smiled. ‘So you’ve never had a crush or liked a boy from school?’