This new episode of Catherine Reynolds, after an 18 months hiatus, was partially written a year ago and tells the story of a case that Catherine really didn't want to take: defending a man accused of rape.
The case of the child abuse accusations (Episode 4)
Letters : 31784 Words : 5852
Lily has recovered and is back to school. Catherine is in love, and everything seems to be perfect. Or is it ? Will the problems lead to suffering, or just an even better life ?
Summer had finished with Lily's recovery. I was glad to see her go back home for once because she was leaving her cancer behind her.
Eric had also moved in with me in the beginning of August, so in a way, I was no longer entirely alone. Our relationship had quickly grown, in great part thanks to Eric's patience and the way he was able to spend time just listening to me.
I had a steady flow of small cases thanks to my notoriety from Cindy's acquittal [See The case of the stolen jewel], and with Eric's job, we were now in an even better financial condition, placing a lot of money aside for rainy days.
I had lived as a single for so many years I simply had forgotten how easier it was to arrive financially with two revenues. For example, feeding two mouths doesn't cost twice as much, and now, Eric no longer had to pay his rent.
In fact, it was even better since we in reality had 3 revenues since Eric made relatively stable amount of money from his magic shows.
At first, Eric had some problems adjusting to living at a Naturist Center. Fortunately, he spent a long time at work, where he wore clothes, but the week-ends were initially tough to adjust.
Like he said, spending a week-end at a naturist center is a vacation, but living in one is another ballpark. It meant deciding to spend all your week-ends at home without clothes. It meant that if one day, you feel blue and don't really want to met others, you need to either stay inside or be naked.
We compromised by going out most of the Saturdays for example, to see a movie. This made a clear break in the middle of the week-end for us to wear clothes together. I also never pressured him to ne naked inside my house, well, our house I should now say. At first, he took the opportunity, but he adjusted rather quickly.
He did admit that his biggest problem was that in a way, he was still clinging to his old life, that things were moving a little too fast for him, but that slowly, he was catching up on his new life and getting used to it. He said he loved waking up in the morning and just go outside without worrying what to wear.
The oddest thing according to him was that he now preferred showering outside. He had used poolside showers in the past to rinse chlorine, but he discovered that a morning shower in the rising sun was a lot more stimulating than between 3 walls and a glass door.
I couldn't really understand his opinion, being personally a bath taker, but I admitted that I loved taking my coffee outside while watching the sunrise, even if it was sometimes a little chilly to be naked outdoors.
He also liked the house, but like he said, the most important thing was that he loved me and wanted to share my life.
Slowly, as the labour day week-end arrived and went, I felt that everything was now not only getting in order, but also that it was a new much better order than anytime before, even when I was still with Billy.
Sadly, that well being emotion changed with a phone call from Sandra, who was crying and asking me to come to her house at once for a legal consultation. It was the Tuesday after labour day, which was the first day of class for both Sandra and her kids.
I had no idea what was happening, but as I got dressed and drove to the Langley's house a lot of ideas popped into my mind. Had Stephen been arrested ? If so, why ?
When I arrived, I found Stephen, Sandra and Lily in the living room, all clothed, with Lily slightly crying.
They invited me to sit down, and I asked what happened, taking out my notepad.
Sandra asked her daughter to start from the beginning. Lily explained that it was her time to explain what she did for the summer in front of the class.
"I stood up and went in front of the class. I explained that at the end of the year, I was very sick from an infection and that it took 2 weeks for the doctors to find what I had. When they did succeed in finding it, they gave me pills to make me better, but also told me I would spend most of the summer in the hospital. I told them : "You see, I did only three thing this summer. I found out I had cancer. I fought it, and I won". Then, I took out my wig to the surprised face of my teacher and all of the students of my class. Out of the blue, a few of the girls in my class stood up and hugged me. After a few minutes, we were all sitting on the floor, and I was talking about my treatments, explaining how I felt during the whole process. None of the others kids who had not yet spoken even got the chance to talk about their summer.
At some point, I mentioned I was about to hit bottom. I was depressed, my summer was going down and the only thing I was able to do is float in the pool. I said that one of my friends, Catherine, got me a private show with a magician I had seen at the beginning of the summer. I described the magic marker trick and how he gave me the card, which he never does usually. I continued my story and told them that when I learned of my recovery, summer was gone but I was relieved I was cured. Everyone was listening to me. It felt really great. I had my wig in my hands during the whole time.
Later during the day, during recess, most of the kids came to show testimonies of support. I am not sure how it would have gone in first grade, but in 3rd grade, not a single student really made fun of me.
A few of the kids started asking me questions about the magic tricks, and one of the teachers watching the recess joined in, interested in my testimony.
One of the older boys, perhaps from 4th or 5th grade, kept asking about the magic marker trick, trying to figure it out. His comments were ridiculous and he kept finding a stupid explanation. At first, he thought the hearth had been drawn by him while we weren't looking. I explained there was no markers for him to draw. Slowly, we both became more and more furious, losing our temper. The guy was ruining my magic trick which saved my spirit! When he concluded that the marker was in his sleeve, I told him the magician has no sleeve. He said, then it was in his pockets, and I just blurted, he was naked for God's sakes, that there was no where to hide the marker.
I only realized I just spoke about naturism without explaining anything else. So I corrected myself and said he wasn't naked, that what I meant was that he was wearing a bathing suit, so he was almost naked.
But the teacher brought me to the principal's office, and explained I had assisted to a magician's show made by a naked man. The principal talked to me and I tried to explain it was a mistake, I didn't mean naked, I meant with only a bathing suit.
The teacher insisted I had said naked, implying there were no clothes where to hide the playing card at all, that if I had meant with a bathing suit, then it would have been possible for him to indeed hide the card in bathing suit.
The principal asked the teacher to leave, and called someone on his phone. He asked me a lot of questions, like, did the magician touch me under my underwear, did he kiss me. I explained that nothing wrong happened, that my parents were there, so everything was right.
But he still didn't seem to believe me. Eventually, Gregory arrived, and took me to another office in the school where I had to wait for a few minutes. When he finally arrived, he had two stupid hand puppets and played with them, asking me to reproduce what happened.
At some point, I grew tired of this, and asked him to just call my mom, that I wanted to get back to class. I had enough to fight cancer, I didn't want to sit down with them on a ridiculous witch hunt.
They did call my mom, but did not allow me to return to class. I had to draw pictures from the magic show with crayons. I decided to simply paint the magic show, but with everyone wearing clothes."
Sandra took the stand.
"I was in class when they called. I was told to come at once at my daughter's school to handle something important. My own principal found a substitute to replace me, and when I found my daughter's principal, and saw that Gregory Keynes was with him, I understood immediately the cause of the problem.
You see Catherine, he is the school district social worker responsible for child abuse and sexual education. He is a right wing born again Christian who believes in abstinence only education and tries to prevent teachers from teaching anything other than abstinence before marriage. Fortunately, his only job regarding sexual education is to answer the questions of the teachers, so he doesn't impose his views, but he sees something as simple as a parent kissing his child on the mouth as child abuse and reports it to the authorities.
I knew that somehow, naturism became an issue, but I had no idea how to diffuse this. Gregory would never let go. I asked the specifics, and when they told me about the nakedness of the magician, I reassured them that the magician was indeed wearing a bathing suit, that the magic show was done during a pool party, and that everyone was wearing a bathing suit. That Lily, still weak from her chemotherapy must have misspoken.
The principal was satisfied from the answer and for the moment, Gregory was too. They let me meet with Lily, and Gregory picked up her drawings. Unfortunately, when Lily drew the scenes, she did not draw them with us wearing bathing suits, she drew us with our street clothes on.
That little difference in my version and Lily's version caused Gregory to open a child abuse investigation with the police, and since I am a teacher in the school district, he opened one against me, which could cause me my job if it ever goes public."
"What happened next ? ", I asked.
"Lily and I both went back to our respective classes, but I know that in the few days, there is going to be a witch hunt."
I finished taking a few notes, and placed my notepad on the side.
"The first thing to do is not to panic. A social worker is not a police detective nor a district attorney. Even the child services of the state are not as closed minded as Gregory seem to be. Gregory is a school district employed social worker. He is not allowed to perform the investigation. He is just required to report suspect behaviours or comments. Same thing for the principal and the teacher who brought Lily to the principal. They are just doing their job, and the investigator who will be assigned on the issue will do his job, and in his case, he will most likely just drop the case. Naturism isn't illegal, inappropriate or deviant. I was present during the trick too, so I am guessing than Eric and I can explain what happened too. I don't foresee a problem."
"So, what do we do ?"
"We wait. It is entirely possible that the police or the social services will hear the facts and find Gregory totally irrational. Perhaps they will just place a phone call to ask you if anything wrong happened. They deal with so many real crimes and child abuse cases that something as vague as this will most likely be rejected. But if he act proactively, it might invoke suspicions. If you do get a phone call or a visit from someone not from the School District, be honest. Explain you are naturists and that the magic show occurred at a naturist center, but that you didn't want to explain it to the school because it might cause prejudice against your daughter or your employment. Tell them to call me, that not only did it occur in my backyard, but that in the mean time, the magician in question moved in with me. Give them my card. It is possible that seeing I am an attorney, they will either back down or trust me more."
"So, you think we'll be alright ?", Sandra asked.
"Absolutely. The social service investigators and the police are not stupid. They don't want to waste their time on a case which would get dropped rather quickly in front of a judge. If you were divorced and your husband was not a naturist and he was fighting you for custody, I would suggest talking to your custody lawyer, since then, the best interest of the child would prevail and it is possible you might lose. But this is not the case, the safety and well-being of the child are the only factors when both parents are together. Is Lily safe at a naturist center with her parents ? Yes. Is her well-being affected by the fact she is a naturist ? Well, it depends. Lily, do you feel like your parents are imposing this lifestyle on you ?"
"Not at all. I love naturism."
"Then, I don't foresee a problem".
Sandra wanted to invite me over for supper, but Eric and I already had plans, so I had to decline. To be honest, I wanted to talk to him about that as soon as possible, but we did have plans. Eric had to prepare a new magic routine for a new gig in a nice restaurant starting tomorrow and he needed my comments. This contract could be renewed if it worked well and could provide a stepping stone for him to become a full time magician.
Once home, I placed the supper in the oven, and waited for him in the living room. When he came in, he knew by the fact I was still wearing my work clothes that something was wrong.
I explained the whole issue with him, and he listened with shock and awe to the story of what he called a crazy sex obsessed social worker.
"In my opinion, the people most supportive of abstinence only sex education are those who would have benefitted the most from it. The people who either had a lot of sexual encounters and regret it, or the people who saw their friends and schoolmates having sex while they were still virgins. In both cases, it's not the well-being of the kids which is at stake. It's their regrets and their shame."
I pretty much agreed with him. It was certainly a potent argument. When supper was ready, we ate at the table still clothed, which was a big change of habits, but decided to strip naked and take a long walk to cool off from the accusations.
Eric did eventually show me his new routine but had to dress back in a nice tuxedo for it. I must admit it completely blew my mind, both the routine and seeing my man in such a nice outfit. His restaurant act was unique and interesting because he performed two acts in the same night.
He did 3 to 5 minutes acts table to table while people waited for their food, and every hour and a half, did a 10 minute show on stage. It was actually 2 alternating magic shows, so that people who arrived while he was doing one, would see the other when they were about to leave.
But the fascinating part was that the acts performed at individual tables were parts of the bigger on stage acts. He left cards and other gimmicks to some of the tables, and used them while on stage, creating a link between the two of them.
It's that duality which the restaurant liked most, since they thought it suited their style perfectly : on Saturdays, they had live bands or singers on stage who would also perform songs unplugged for individual tables, a little like mariachis, but with class. Well, I don't want to judge your tastes if you like mariachis, but I don't.
I had a table reservation for his premiere, but I couldn't afford to eat there every night. The saddest news is that if he does renew the contract, I will not see him on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings as well as missing him during the day for his day job. At some point, he would either lose the contract or stop working during the day, but that meant I only had my man 2 evenings per week and on the week-ends, and on a lot of week-ends, he had other shows.
At least, I had most of my days free, so when he would resign his day job, we would be together. I guess I shouldn't complain : a month ago, I was still a widow, and now, I was only a work widow some of the time.
We went to bed really late, looking at the stars appear in the sky, nude under a blanket. I think that at some point, he feel asleep, but eventually, we moved inside and were promptly visited by the sandman.
Eric's restaurant premiere was a resounding success. The restaurant had announce the new concept both with a poster near the entrance and in their newspaper and radio ads. The manager told us that while the night was slow compared to Thursdays and Fridays, they received 20% more customers than usual, proving their idea was right.
Eric had to quickly tweak his deposit of cards and gimmicks at the table, because most people didn't understand why he left them and discarded them. As such, he had to explain that he would be on stage, he would use them.
It ruined the surprise, but people didn't seem disappointed. When he first came on stage, everyone he had previously visited stopped eating and watched him. Most of the newcomers did the same, but some seemed bothered by the noise. I first guessed these were regulars who didn't care about magic, but when Eric went to see them, they liked the personal shows. Almost all of those who stayed until the next stage show did stop to watch it.
My guess is that his stage show seems to need the introduction made by the personal shows, otherwise, it comes too much as a distraction, kind of like hearing two friends sharing inside jokes about things you don't understand.
The manager frequently came to compliment me on his abilities, and when my check came, he took care of it personally, inviting me to come back the next day.
Eric rarely had time to come see me. He offered to do my own personal show, I was a customer after all, but I declined, telling him he should instead get as many people onboard as possible.
Over the night, in addition to his 200$ salary from the restaurant, Eric made over 300$ in tips. And this was a slow night !
If the night was any indication of future revenues and if he managed to keep the contract, we both wouldn't need to worry about money.
The next day, he decided to call in sick at this day job, and instead, spent the day working on new material and revising his original ideas. Don't worry, he did take care of me also.
I proposed help him with his show. I explained that the people least onboard were the people who had not seen him yet. I offered that if he gives me his route, I could check which customers who would not get visited in time for his next show and explain to them what they would be missing.
Eric thanked me, and about two hours later, I was in way over my head ! He taught me a small and simple magic trick that I, Catherine Reynolds, a boring attorney, would be doing to help with my introduction.
I had to shuffle a pack of 52 cards which contains 15 copies of the 3 of hearts with their back marked. I simply had to shuffle the pack of cards until I would see a marked card on top and show it to them. I then asked them to remember the card, but not tell me.
I would reshuffle it until I would not see a marked card on top, and give them the card, asking if it was the same one. They then told me it wasn't, so I asked them to keep it the one I showed them and remember their card, that the real magician would find it. I then noted the card I gave them on a piece of paper and give it to Eric.
When Eric would arrive at their table, he would first guess the card they had, then thru sleight of hand, replace it with the 3 of hearts.
He of course gave me a little speech to give to the people which best worked with his routine.
The night was an even bigger success. Eric make over 470$ in tips, which was more per person than the first time, even counting on the higher number of client.
Eric and the manager both complimented me on my evening dress which was really ravishing.
My meal was once again paid, and the manager commented that if the next night I joined Eric on stage as an assistant, he would also pay me 100$ for my efforts.
Can you guess what happened the next day ? Eric once again took the day off, and we worked on incorporating me in his routine. It was hard since Eric worked all of his life alone, but the applause we received that night (and the 600$ in tips plus the 300$ in salary) showed us it worked.
The manager then officially renewed the contract, at 350$ per night for the both of us, 3 nights per week, for 4 weeks. I explained I couldn't guarantee my presence because I might have a case, and he said that he would simply pay Eric 225$ when I am absent for the whole night. He also included a meal for both of us, but sadly, not in the dinning room, and we didn't get to really pick what.
Over the week-end, I purchased two more evening dresses, doubling my dress inventory, so that I could rotate between them.
On the next Monday, I received a call from Anna White from the social services who wanted to speak to me and Eric about the allegations of child abuse deposited by Gregory.
She told me that she just spoke to Sandra Langley and she mentioned that the alleged events occurred at my house. She asked me if I would agree to met with her and detective Parks from the police department.
I explained I was indeed willing to meet with them, provided my schedule allowed it. I explained that I could meet her with detective Parks at either one of their offices, or that they could come and visit my house, where Eric the magician was now also living. She told me she would prefer to visit the location to verify the facts for herself, and assumed that detective Parks would do the same.
I explained to her that my house was in a naturist center, and as such, normally, both Eric and I would be naked but that if she preferred, we could wear clothes for the meeting.
She told me it was not her first visit to a naturist center for official business and would not be offended at our nudity, but that she and detective Parks would of course remain clothed.
We setup and appointment for 6h00 that evening, and once I hung up, I called both Eric and Sandra to give them a report on my phone call.
Sandra confirmed to me that she explained to Mrs White that they were naturists and that Eric's nudity was normal for the location where we were. Mrs White had reassured her that naturism was indeed not against the law, but that she needed to pursue the matter nonetheless because of Mr Keynes report indicated possible sexual child abuse.
Eric came back home at 4h30 and we spent the next 90 minutes preparing for our interrogation, making sure our story was straight, frequently calling Sandra to confirm her own previous testimony.
Most people assume that when you testify, all you need to do is tell the truth. But the problem is more complex than that. Our memory is far from perfect. Between an alleged crime and the trial that follows it, often more than a year has elapsed during which details have been forgotten or worse, modified by a faulty memory. A light rain might be remembered as a downpour, or the exact sequence of events might be forgotten.
A few minutes before 6, our doorbell rang. In front of us was standing a conservatively dressed woman in her forties which I assumed was Mrs Anna White and a detective in civil clothes with a badge identifying as detective Parks.
I welcomed them, re-offering to put clothes on if they so preferred.
Mrs White declined the invitation and sat on one of our sofas, while detective Parks placed a tape recorder on the living room table. Eric presented himself and we quickly sat next to each other on a towel on the other sofa.
Mrs White started the interrogation while detective Parks remained silent. In fact, during the whole time they were here, the only words he pronounced was when he thanked us at the end of the interview, just before leaving. Before that, it was clear he was present only to accompany Mrs White in what he judged to be a wild goose chase. He did smile to me or Eric a few times, but otherwise sounded uninterested in the process.
Mrs White, who insisted to be called by her last name, made us give us our recollection of the magic show, asking a few questions on whether Eric touched Lily or not, and whether they were alone together at any time that day or any other day.
Upon both of us giving the negative on all of these wild accusations, Mrs White stopped the tape recorder and explained to us that our lifestyle gives a lot of false ideas to people who doesn't understand it.
She told me she needed to keep the case open simply because there was simultaneous nudity of a young child and an unrelated adult male, but that it would end up with the same files of other similar cases in nudist or naturist settings.
She explained that the only reason they remained open was because of an old outdated procedure, but that if she closed it and later, it was discovered that either Eric or another adult molested the child in any way, the social service department might get sued for failure to keep an eye open.
Sadly, this meant that future inquiries on Eric or I about potential child abuse would turn up her report, possibly putting this case in the front line, but she re-assured us that her report would indicate clearly that no wrong doing occurred and that it was most likely a false accusation. The school and the social worker who reported the issue would simply be reassured that nothing happened, without the details.
Before they left, Mrs White asked Eric to perform the magic marker trick in the same way he had done for Lily that day, just so she can judge by herself the basis of the trick.
Mrs White drew in the air with an invisible marker a blue circle, and Eric's card in the envelop indeed had a blue circle drawn on it, and was the same card as the one Mrs White had previously selected. He did not leave her the card like he did for Lily, but the trick worked otherwise in the same way. The only difference was the complete lack of a reaction from Mrs White who clearly was only checking for potential signs of abuse and completely closing her mind on possibly being entertained. Detective Parks seemed more interested, but didn't say anything.
Mrs White insisted on a tour of the naturist center, which I gave while Eric accompanied detective Parks to their car.
Mrs White liked the facility and found it beautiful, especially the small artificial lake, but expressed regret that nudity was mandatory on location. I did explain she could come on some of our open days where visitors could remain clothed and even wear swimsuits provided they were invited by a resident. I assured her I could invite her, provided she let me call her Anna on her visits.
She declined to comment, but I doubt she'll take my offer.
Eric told me that he talked a lot with detective Parks who explained to him that he is tired of wasting time on baseless accusations while incestuous parents are never reported. Eric didn't want to share the stories the detective told him, but he assured me he would probably have nightmares about it.
As soon as we were back home, I called Sandra, but got Stephen on the phone. I gave him the good news. He also told me that the school district was waiting to see if accusations were deposited to decide on Sandra's employment, so it was quite possible that the lack of prosecution against Eric and Sandra would simply let the matter drop.
With that matter resolved let another bigger issue to tackle for my own life. Would Eric resign his full-time job and would I join him as an assistant ?
While redoing our budget with the new numbers, we discovered that our expenses were low enough to let him concentrate on his magician career for up to 6 months without any additional revenues, thanks to the current contract at the restaurant.
Then, any additional contracts or prolongations to the restaurant contract would in effect add time to those 6 months. Of course, any additional cases above my monthly average would also help us.
Eric made the decision the next morning: he would concentrate on his career and resign his full-time job. His primary motivation was to be able to spend more time during the day on both designing new tricks and with me.
I know it was a hard decision for him. This meant that instead of just spending evenings and nights at the naturist center, he would be in effect, spending almost all of his days here.
That day, he mentioned to his employer his interest in being a magician full time, with the support of his girlfriend. They had a long talk, and instead, he agreed to a up to a full year of unpaid leave. If he was unable to live from his craft within the first year, they would allow him to resume his job within a few weeks of notification. In return, all he had to do was be available in case of severe emergencies in which there wasn't enough employees to handle them.
When Eric got back, he was really in a nervous mood despite the good news that he now had a fallback plan. I soon learned why : a few minutes after he undressed, he got down on one knee and, offering me a ring, asked me to marry him, right here in our back yard.
It was rather fast since the beginning of our relationship, but I couldn't help but answer in the affirmative. I decided that indeed, I love him enough to marry him.