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 money laundering (Episode 6)
Letters : 51345 Words : 9306
A Chinese immigrant operating a dry cleaner shop is accused of money laundering for the organized crime. Everyone at R.K.D. is convinced it's a lost cause. Will Catherine and Susan find a way out ? What will be the repercussions to their lives ?
Susan and I had settled nicely into our new roles. Every morning, Susan stopped at the R.K.D. office to pick-up new files and drop reports to Nathalie, and wait for me in our spa.
We'd perform the morning briefing and planning session directly in the spa, sometimes with Eric silently by my side, but usually just the two of us. Rarely, I would arrive at the spa to find Susan already working on a case at her desk, usually indicating a rough day ahead of us.
Between 10 and 10h30, Eric would demonstrate either a new trick or a new handling for an old trick as a pause before the last stretch until diner.
Susan supplied the lunch every Tuesday and on alternate Fridays. The other Friday, Eric would simply order pizza or chicken from a nearby restaurant. In case you're wondering, Eric does dress back up to pick up the food. On the other days of the week, Eric prepares diner for the three of us.
Every few weeks, the routine is broken by a trial or a witness preparation which always occurs at the R.K.D. building. Every month, we also have a staff meeting in Peter Green's office instead of on the phone, but these usually last only an hour or two and are meant mainly to let us meet the rest of the team.
At first, a lot of the lawyers wondered why we worked externally, but word got around and within six months, everyone in the office knew that Susan and I worked without clothes while at my house.
There were a lot of jokes about installing a video camera conference system, but after careful consideration, we agreed to install it. Of course, the few times we did use it, Susan and I put clothes back on prior to the conference.
From time to time, Peter Green would ask us to turn on our monitor so he could demonstrate something without turning our camera on, but didn't abuse of it. To make sure the camera wasn't used against our consent, Eric place a wooden box on top of the camera, so that even if they remotely turned it on, it would only film the interior of the box.
Our success ratio was rather high and the senior partners of R.K.D. noticed it. Peter Green told us that the reputation of the firm had severely increased since I joined it, and that more and more clients were asking specifically for me to defend their case.
While Susan got two pay raises, I was told that I couldn't get a rate increase until I made it as a full partner. I did get more and more lucrative bonuses when winning a case, sometimes raising my rate significantly if I divided it by the number of hours billed.
In October, one of our clients was caught in a clear case of insider fraud, making over 5 million dollars on the back of his shareholders by selling his stocks to the board before announcing that a manufacturing defect practically bankrupted the company.
Susan and I worked hard knowing well that R.K.D. would only get paid should the client succeed in keeping the 5 million dollars.
It's the kind of risk that big law firms are willing to make, but sadly, when you lose too many in a row, it can bankrupt the firm.
I was entrusted with the counter-interrogations and the final deposition. It was clear we would not be able to win, so I decided, against the wishes of the client and of my superior, to go a more risky route of suggesting that the board of director was responsible in part for the bankruptcy due to its demands on our client to accelerate the development time and skip the extensive product testing our client wanted.
Well educated accountants would have seen it was completely ridiculous, but the people of the jury were ordinary people. The district attorney, as predicted, only bored them with details, while I presented a clear reasonable doubt thanks to Susan's charts and graphics.
The Jury ended up finding the client not guilty, purely on the fact there were a reasonable doubt that my theory was right : he sold not because he knew of the defect, but because he knew the board was against him and thus, he wanted to leave the company due to their incompetence.
Peter Green had almost eaten his tie during my closing statement, but I once more proved him I could control a jury.
As a bonus, I got statement of revenue from the accounting department for the amount of 42,000$. I didn't understand it until Peter Green announced that the check for the renovation of my house was now taken care of and was no longer an advance on my full partnership.
I needed to pay over 10,000$ in taxes for it, but Eric and I had plenty of money saved up from my last months of full time work for R.K.D.
My next case however, was the first case in the entire time where my morals and my work both aligned themselves perfectly.
It was the case of a Chinese immigrant, Mr Wong, who operated a dry cleaner in which the Chinese mafia (The Triad) laundered over 500,000$ in dirty money.
The way it worked was simple. The Chinese mafia had forced Mr Wong to give them 75% of his shares in the store by kidnapping his daughter. Once he agreed to their demands, they returned her unarmed and started to hire him to clean inexistent items.
He would produce a lot of invoices, sometimes totalling several thousand dollars per week, and give them 75% back as dividends from his company.
He was stuck with the corporate taxes and the accounting costs, but still made in profit from the arrangement more than four times his regular profit, so much that he slowly started refusing regular customers to focus only on the money laundering.
Sadly, this is how he got caught. During a tax audit, the IRS noticed that while his revenues were out of the ordinary for a dry cleaner, he had stopped buying supplies for his business, declaring only his rent as expenses.
When the agent came to do random visits, he discovered that nothing was being done and that all of the invoices were paid cash. The police arrested him a few days later after a small undercover investigation.
Mr Wong admitted under pressure from the police to the whole operation, but also declared the kidnapping of his daughter and the threats he frequently received. They tried to make him turn against the Triad, but he refused to cooperate, fearing for his life.
I truly believe Mr Wong is simply a victim of both the organized crime and the police. The organized crime forced him to break the law, but now, the police was refusing to bargain with him or even to restrict the charges to just what he was really guilty of.
Instead, they wanted to break him and force him to testify against an organization that was not afraid of anyone.
Susan, Bai Shen, one of the Chinese lawyers from R.K.D. and I visited a lot of Chinese shops in the area in the hope of finding witnesses.
At first, everyone was very happy to speak to us, until they learned that the Triad was involved. Then, we were always asked to leave immediately.
After three full days of rejection, we were approved by four heavily built man and forced to meet an elderly Chinese man who asked us who we were and why we were asking questions.
Bai Shen exchanged a long conversation in Mandarin with the man, not once translating to us parts of the conversation. The tone heightened at several point during the conversation, and one of the goons even took out his gun in anger.
The old man apparently ordered him to calm down, and the discussion continued for another full 30 minutes. Susan and I exchanged a few looks, but I think we were both too afraid to move.
Eventually, the old man turned to me and in broken English asked me for 10,000$. I asked him why he needed the money, and Bai Shen just told me to let it go and call Peter Green to get the money.
I explained I needed to speak to my supervisor and left the room to make the call. I explained him the situation and told him about the 10,000$ and the gun. Mr. Green gave me the instructions to reassure the old man that Bai Shen would give him the money before the sunset.
When I returned and confirmed it was done, Bai Shen was given the business card of a dry cleaner right in the middle of Chinatown and asked to be there at 7h00 with both of us.
In the car, Bai Shen explained that during the conversation, the man acknowledge that the Triad placed Mr Wong in a tough position where he could either die of old age in jail and be useless to the Triad or testify against them and die.
The old man agreed to let another dry cleaner testify in Mr Wong's defence against the sum of 10,000$, provided no details of the Triad itself leaked out during the trial.
We picked up the money from Peter Green's office and decided to leave it with Bai Shen until the meeting, for more safety.
Susan and I went back to our office, but ended up mostly relaxing in the sun, bathing in the pool and walking in the woods.
Eric prepared spaghetti for the three of us for supper, and listened closely as we told him about our exposure with the Chinese mafia. He wasn't sure it would be safe for us to return at 7h, but we told him he should still stay home, that if an uninvited man showed up, they might get scared.
At the Dry Cleaner, Susan and I arrived a little prior to the appointment and thus, stayed in my car until Bai Shen showed up.
The three of us entered the stores together, at the stroke of 7. A middle-aged Chinese lady was behind the counter and one of the goons from the afternoon was waiting for us in the small waiting room in front of the counter. He promptly left after Bai Shen gave him the money, leaving the three of us alone with the woman.
Tian Ao was a recent immigrant to the United States and had little experience here, but she lived both in Shanghai and here as a Dry Cleaner involved with the Triad against her wishes.
She had received instructions to testify on how little choices the Chinese immigrants had to make a living, and how the Triad was a partner whether you wanted it or not.
She was very explicit in their methods of operation, and her testimony closely matched the experience lived by Mr Wong, showing that the only option was to cooperate.
She told us in private that she didn't have a choice either with the testimony. She knew the Triad wanted her to exaggerate how dangerous they were, to scare other shop owners in submission.
We took her coordinates and thanked her for her collaboration, expressing regret on how she was treated.
Susan and I worked on our notes until 11 pm, when Eric came back from the restaurant for his Wednesday show. Seeing both of us still at work, he prepared for each of us a cup of coffee, but before it was ready, Susan and I decided to call it for the night.
Susan slept in our guess bedroom and shortly after she went to bed, Eric and I were also sound asleep.
The next morning, we prepared a report on the meeting and a strategy for the trial and met once more Peter Green for guidance. He commented that Susan was wearing the same clothes at the day before, and she admitted to sleeping at my place and not having had the time to change.
Peter Green destabilized us by asking Susan a very personal question. "Susan, you come by the office every morning to meet Nathalie and then go straight to Susan's house, where to remove your clothes for the day. You must have worn them for say, 1 hour ? Then, when you leave her house in those same clothes, I am guessing you change into something more comfortable at home, right ? So, do you wash your clothes every week if you wear them for just 1 or 2 hours per day ?"
But of us were surprised at the question, but Susan had clearly not thought about it, explaining she still washed at the end of the week everything she wore.
Mr Green then turned to me and asked me how often we did the laundry at my house and whether we even had a washer and dryer. I reassured him that we did have them, and that we did the laundry every week, like everyone else. After all, we still went to the grocery store, and Eric and I had to wear clothes for his shows or for my meetings here.
We were really puzzled, since Mr Green was usually so business-like and so detached from my lifestyle. I even asked him why the sudden interest.
"I don't know. My wife and I were wondering that last night while doing the laundry. I made the joke that you must have a lot less laundry than we do, but I guess I was wrong"
"Well, don't get me wrong", I added, "There isn't much to wash. There are days in a row where neither Eric or I wear clothes. But we do get out every week, usually several times."
The conversation then returned to business. Our plan was unfortunately too simple to work. Show that our client isn't alone with the new witness. Show that he was coerced into participating. Show that he was overwhelmed by invoices and payments, which is why he no longer had the time to actually do his job. Finally, show that he declared all of the income, and had no way to knowing the origin of the money.
It was too simple, it would most likely fail, but it was our best shot.
The trial itself occurred in November. While our part of the defence went well, the substitute to the district attorney was a lot more aggressive than normal. He kept seeing our tactic, pushing the fact while a crime committed until duress isn't really a crime, it was clear that Mr Wong had indeed been pressure into giving part of his business, but not to constantly launder more money and concentrate less on the actual cleaning. He showered the jury with fake receipts make with Mr Wong's handwriting over the course of several years. He flooded the court room with boxes of document to beat the jury into submission.
Tian Ao did a great job in explaining that the Triad works by making passive threats. That they never come to you directly to warn you to collaborate, it's all implied, and the violence you see against other store owners is served as a constant reminder to keep the line.
She explained at great lengths that the police is apparently incapable of even differencing two Chinese immigrant from one another, so they didn't expect them to see the difference between a victim of the Triad and a member of the Triad.
I believe we made a good impression on the jury to demonstrate the climate of fear the shop owners were generally living in, and that Mr Wong, who had his daughter abducted a few years earlier, knew not to question authority.
During my closing statement, I kept returning to the abduction as a motive to stay the line, and I added the fact that since the Triad owned 75% of his business, he was no longer in actual financial control of his company. I begged the jury to believe me there was indeed reasonable doubt that Mr Wong had no choice but obey or die. I reminded the jury that his only other choice was to go to a police which clearly was unable to help him.
The DA on the other hand, used and almost rhythmic formula to constantly repeat that there is overwhelming proof that Mr Wong did commit the crime, but no tangible proof that there was any threats. He even pushed the jury that not a single clear evidence of his daughter's kidnapping was offered. No police report, no testimony from his daughter.
It's only at that point that we realized we had failed to have her testify, but it was too late.
The jury was sent to deliberate, but quickly returned divided. The judge asked them to report later in the afternoon.
After the recess, Peter Green, Bai Shen, Susan and I were anxiously waiting for the jury to come back from their deliberation. They were supposed to update the judge at 3h30, and it was already 4h15. The judge was explaining to us that the deliberations would last another day when the jury came back to the court room.
The judge asked the Jury if they had reached a verdict, and the first jury member replied that they were still divided, and had a specific question for the judge. They wanted to know the exact definition of "reasonable doubt".
Peter Green placed his hand on my shoulder in a sign of support. Juries arguing on reasonable doubt were not usually on the verge of condemning a man.
The judge read the State's Instruction on reasonable doubt :
"The law presumes the defendant to be innocent of crime. Thus the defendant, although accused, begins the trial with a "clean slate"----with no evidence against him/her. And the law permits nothing but legal evidence presented before the jury to be considered in support of any charge against the accused. So the presumption of innocence alone is sufficient to acquit the defendant, unless the jurors are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt after careful and impartial consideration of all the evidence in the case.
It is not required that the state prove guilt beyond all possible doubt. The test is one of reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt based upon reason and common sense----the kind of doubt that would make a reasonable person hesitate to act. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt, therefore, must be proof of such a convincing character that a reasonable person would not hesitate to rely and act upon it.
The jury will remember that a defendant is never to be convicted on mere suspicion or conjecture.
The burden is always on the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden never shifts to a defendant, for the law never imposes upon a defendant in a criminal case the burden or duty of calling any witnesses or producing any evidence.
So, if the jury, after careful and impartial consideration of all of the evidence in the case, has a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the charge, it must acquit. If the jury views the evidence in the case as reasonably permitting either of two conclusions---one of innocence, the other of guilt---the jury should of course adopt the conclusion of innocence. "
The judge asked if the state's instructions provided more clarity. The Jury members looked at each other , several nodded, and the first juror thanked the judge, asking for a few minutes of deliberation.
6 minutes later, the jury was back with a verdict. The judge read the written verdict, and authorized the first Juror to announce it.
"The jury finds the defendant not-guilty of all charges"
The judge dismissed the audience, and once more, the press was waiting for us. After a brief interview, Peter Green announced me I had to return to R.K.D. for a small meeting, but told Susan she could go home.
Usually, after we won a difficult case, the group of lawyers, including the legal assistants, would go eat together at a restaurant to celebrate our victory. Why was Peter Green breaking the tradition ?
When we arrived in the office, we went straight to the top floor and then, to the main conference room where all of the full partners of R.K.D. were waiting for us with the three senior partners.
Mr Roberts addressed me directly, asking me to sit at the other end of the table.
"Mrs Reynolds, when Peter Green suggested we hire you directly as a junior partner and that we authorized you to work from your house to respect your lifestyle, we all thought he had lost his mind. Never had R.K.D. hired directly a lawyer as a partner. Never had a partner or any other employee been allowed to work with so little supervision, and never in the history of the company had a new lawyer incurred such high costs. But Peter Green was convinced you would be a crucial part of our defence team, and you proved him right.
A few months ago, Mr Wong was arrested, and it was clear that no one but you would be able to find a way to acquit him. The paper trail was so thick that not of us saw that the solution was to work another angle. You did. We don't know why or how, but every time you take a case, you find an hidden angle to work the jury to your client's advantage.
It doesn't always work, but the numbers speak for themselves. Your successes have attracted a lot of attention. I was told that the district attorney himself is afraid of you and won't handle a case personally if you have been assigned to it, out of fear it would hurt his chances at re-election.
So we all think that a promotion is overdue. As of now, Mrs Reynolds, you are a full partner of R.K.D. with full profit sharing benefits just like every other R.K.D. partner, with only 2 exceptions.
Partners need to work from the main office to keep their partnership. You will keep the same working arrangement as you have right now, but any trimester during which you do not bill at least 200 hours will be considered to be on sabbatical. Your actual hours will still be paid, but you will not get any profit sharing for that trimester. That way, you will still have all of the flexibility you still had, but with added revenues.
Your pleading rate has also been increased to 400$ per hour in court, and your research rate to 250$ per hour. Your assistant, Susan, will now work full time from your office, regardless of your occupation or workload. "
I thanked everyone. The partners all applauded me for my promotion, and I received a 89,000$ partnership bonus check.
When I finally returned home, Eric was already gone to the restaurant for his show, so I changed and joined him up.
At my arrival, Eric was already at a table entertaining his guests, but once he was done, I announced him the good news and showed him the check.
I told him I wanted to give him a real show with tickets and so on. We were both extremely happy !
Over the next week, during our free time, Eric and I visited various stages and picked the auditorium of one of the city colleges.
The room allowed for 2,000 spectators, including a balcony, and cost 12,000$ to rent for a Saturday night, in April.
The cost amounted to 6$ per ticket. Eric could either print his own tickets or use the college's ticket sales, which added a 1.50$ service charge plus 10% of the ticket cost.
A lightning technician, a sound technician and three ushers added around 1,000$ to the costs. We initially found them excessive, but this included the insurances and the preparation of the stage.
If we added about 1000$ in promotional material, including posters and free tickets for the radio stations to give their listeners as well as around 300$ in material for the show, the total of fixed costs was 14,300$, or 7.15$ per ticket.
We fixed the price of each ticket to 20$, with the addition of the 3.50$ in service charges, the tickets sold for a total of 23.50$ plus sale taxes.
If the show was sold out, we would make 25,700$ in profit, and we needed at least 715 sold tickets to break even.
R.K.D. bought 250 tickets for its employees and some of the clients. The naturist center visitors bought around 100 tickets, including the Langley family. Every week, at the restaurant, roughly 20 to 30 tickets were sold.
While it was clear after only a few weeks that we would sell at least 715 tickets, we had no idea how to sell faster until finally, the radio shows started to promote the event. Eric and I went to a few of the morning shows and Eric performed some tricks with either the hosts or the audience.
Most of the hosts mentioned who I was, prompting more questions from the audience. One of the morning even improvised a "law clinic" in which I tried to answer some of the questions from the callers.
Three weeks before the show, over 1500 tickets were sold, for a profit so far of 15,700$. For the last stretch, Eric even had the audacity of renting a spot in one of the big shopping malls to perform magic for the shoppers, offering to sell the tickets on the spot. He managed to sell around 200 tickets this way, but with a cost of roughly 1000$.
It was still worth it, because it meant that on the night of the event, only 300 tickets would be up for grabs for late bookers, mostly on the balcony where the lack of guests didn't really show.
When the curtain finally lifted, only 200 seats were unoccupied, which didn't really matter, especially since Lily and Kyle were in the front row, along with Susan and most of my colleagues.
I'd love to tell you about the show and the audience's reaction, but I think I was too excited by our performances and by the amount of applause to remember most of it.
A lot of the spectators had seen our restaurant show, but for the night, Eric and I had prepared some really awesome tricks, including a few with flash paper which produced flames and smoke big enough for the people at the back of the room to see them.
Both of us travelled frequently in the room, talking volunteers across the auditorium, including twice on the balcony.
From the reaction of the crowd in general, and not just my colleagues and our friends, we knew it was a major success.
We left thanking everyone after 2 standing ovations and even took the time to talk to the people outside of the auditorium after the show. Peter Green presented us his lovely wife Gloria, and we got to see the husband and wives of most of the staff of R.K.D., including some of their kids.
Four other magicians had decided to come to the show, including Steven "Magneto" Vaughn, one of the area's most popular magicians. All of them congratulated us on our professionalism, and two proposed to exchange tricks with Eric, liking his own creations.
On the drive back home from the show, it was clear we had never felt as high together at the same time. Sure, I've had my own court victories, but this was a special achievement.
Eric was the primary architect of the night, but like he said, what made the show unique was my participation, otherwise, he would have been just another magician on stage.
At home, we couldn't sleep. Our hearts were still racing and pounding, so we talked. Really talked. We both realized it was time to tie the knot.
After talking a while about our plans, we finally fell asleep, only to continue the planning Sunday morning.
The wedding would happen at the Naturist center. Outside if it was sunny, in the community center if it was raining. The reception would be in the center whatever happened. We decided on a non-denominational Christian ceremony, basically picking any priest willing to celebrate the wedding.
We wrote a small invitation text with our names, the address, the date, and added at the bottom:
"The wedding will occur in a Naturist Center where clothing will be optional for the day of the event and many of the guest will be nude. Only the official photographer will be allowed to take pictures. "
I picked Sandra and Susan as bridesmaid, hoping that Susan would be willing to remain nude even if some of the guests were clothed. I also decided to talk to Eric about Julie.
"Who's Julie ?"
"Julie is my sister-in-law."
"Your brother's wife ?"
"No, my husband's sister"
"I am not sure how I feel about that."
"If we were divorced, I'd never ask that, but when Billy died, I grieved a few months with them in Arizona, and it really helped me. I kept in touch for a few months, but eventually, we stopped calling each other. Maybe they would like to share our joy ?"
"For a third bridesmaid, shouldn't you pick someone closer to you ? "
"Eric, you and I both know that most of our friends are either not-naturists or older people. I could pick Mrs Calloway, but she's 62. Julie is about my age. At worse, I'll stick with just Susan and Sandra."
"I guess I'll ask Stephen to be my best man then. Since I left my old job, most of the friends I've made and kept outside of the naturist center are clients. I'm not sure I want to invite M. Patulli to the wedding. He's been offering us work 3 nights per week for so long."
We decided not to invite any of Eric's clients since none of them knew about our lifestyle. For the same reason, from work, only Nathalie and Peter Green would be invited even if most of the employees now knew about naturism. Of course, this was provided Susan was comfortable with it.
I first called Sandra and announced her the good news. She accepted to be one of my bridesmaid on the spot, and Lily accepted to be our flower girl. Kyle would carry the rings. Even Stephen was really honoured to be chosen as best man.
Susan was equally high and assured me she wanted me to have my wedding day to be perfect, so she would follow my directions. She insisted to come shop with me for my dress. I reminded her I wouldn't wear one, but she insisted I needed a veil and a garter. I had not really thought about that, but I agreed to go shopping with her. The various stores were really nervous to see that we only wanted a veil and a garter, but we explained we already had the dress.
Later, I reached Julie after getting her new number from her parents, who were all really glad to hear back from me. I learned she was no longer living in a naturist center, her husband having received a promotion, but her parent still lived in the same house and were frequently visited by Julie and her family. She now had two girls, identical twins, who were four.
All six of them would gladly attend the wedding, and asked me to make a reservation for 2 cabins for their usage. Julie happily accepted my request to be my bridesmaid.
The biggest surprise to the announcement however, came from Peter Green. He knew we would eventually get married, and understood it would probably be a naturist wedding, but was nonetheless surprised to get invited with his wife to the event. After being reassured he would be able to keep his clothes, he agreed, provided his better half didn't forbid him.
Nathalie and her husband would be there, but would keep their son at home to have less questions to answer.
All of the residents of the naturist center were invited, but the toughest guests to call would be both our parents.
Eric's parent didn't even know he was a naturist. They lived across the country in Chicago and he had not seen them recently. My parents knew about naturism, but didn't really accept my lifestyle, claiming Billy had corrupted me and it wasn't the way I was raised. My brother had followed the same route, but was less convinced.
Sadly, this created a rift in the family.
Before deciding if we would invite uncles, aunts and cousins, we needed to know if our own parents accepted to come to the wedding.
We started by visiting my parents. They lived less than an hour drive away from the center, so we simply dropped by.
At first, they were really happy to meet Eric and discover that we would get married. My father made a lot of jokes, and Eric did a few small magic tricks to impress him. My mother was happy that I found someone handsome who seemed like a nice fellow to share my life. She had been really sad I became a widow, even if she had never liked the pervert I married.
Both the man fell silent, and I asked my mother what she meant.
"Well, you know. All that streaking."
"Mom, naturism is not about sex or exhibitionism. It's a fine lifestyle which I still embrace. In fact, Eric and I now live in a naturist center, and will get married in it. We'd like you to come to share you joy"
"And see the gross parts of my future son-in-law ? No thanks. I already need to handle your father's, I certainly won't go see you make a fool of yourself"
Eric and I simply decided to leave at that point. Later, my father called me to apologize for my mother's behaviour, but I knew he was just trying to leave a good impression, like he always did and not really trying to bring us closer.
My brother had probable been warned by our mother and decided to filter my calls. The few times I did call from another phone number, he simply pretended to be busy and hung up promptly.
That was a complete success, wasn't it ?
To meet Eric's family, we booked a round trip flight over the week-end to Chicago.
To celebrate our arrival, his family received us at a nice restaurant downtown with all of the immediate family, including Eric's brother, a widowed aunt and her daughter's family as well as one of Eric's cousin from his father's side.
Because we didn't want a scene in the restaurant, we decided to simply announce we were engaged and talked about our lives in general, avoiding the hot topic of naturism.
After the restaurant, we came back to his parent's house where they had offered their guest bedroom for us to stay. The relationship Eric had with his parents was a lot better than mine and his mother was almost in love with me, happy that Eric found someone as successful, charming and intelligent as I did.
Both his parents were proud he managed to follow his dream of becoming a magician.
Felling nervous, Eric talked about how he broke through, explaining that some of his best clients had been naturist centers. He explained what they were, how they worked, trying to dispel any pre-conceptions, but unlike my parents, they didn't react with prejudice.
Of course, at that moment, they only thought we was working there, not living the lifestyle, but perhaps this had been the best introduction. Get them to accept the lifestyle in itself in a non-personal way, as something some people do, and then, explain you do it. I went the other way around with my parents and it had been a train wreck.
Once he felt they were very accepting of naturism, he explained that it's after one of the shows that he met me. His father simply said : "So that means that you are a naturist, or did I get this wrong ? You spend your time naked ?"
I agreed with him, and he simply accepted the fact.
As Eric kept explaining his career and the restaurant gig, his father once more interrupted him to ask him : "But wait a minute, if you moved in with her, does that mean you are a naturist full time too now ?"
Eric replied very cautiously in the affirmative.
"Oh. Is that why you've been so careful telling us your story ?"
"Oh. Well, don't worry about that. You're way past 18. You live your life like you want to. Are you both happy ?"
We just nodded.
"Then we're happy, aren't we Marge ? "
His wife agreed and they both hugged us.
We gave them the invitation. When they got the reassurance they could keep their clothes, they confirmed they would be there, and that everyone in the family would be there and supportive of our lifestyle. My father in law would personally make sure of that.
We ate some pie Marge had made while telling them a little more about naturism in general and our life in particular. They even offer us to remove our clothes, but we decided not to. Georges, who insisted I called him by his first name, told me they knew Eric was a little weird and they supported him. He told me that Eric started doing magic trick when he was 8, but he was so bad at it in the beginning that he dropped most of his props. But he got better. By the time he was a teenager, he was renown at "The Magician" in school and did a few shows at birthday parties for his friends.
They encouraged him as much as they could, so from accepting your son wouldn't have normal 9 to 5 career to accepting he was living in a naturist center, there wasn't that much of a big line.
His father became philosophical after a few glasses of wine.
"In life, you have two kinds of people. Those would follow the railroad, and those who cut through the forest. If you follow the railroad, you know where you will get, but if you cut though the forest, you might either fall on an angry bear, or find a beautiful explored lake to settle by. Son, you've find your lake and I couldn't be prouder of you"
Sunday morning, his brother came by with his wife, and they both agreed to come to the wedding, even if it was in a naturist center.
I was raised in a closed-minded family. One of the things that drew me to naturism when Billy wanted me to try it, was the open mind of his family and his naturist friends. I had never seen people as accepting of each other.
For years, the only open-minded people I met were naturist, so it became easy to draw a conclusion about the textiles. But now, I was meeting this family who would never embrace naturism, but still accepted it fully for us and were happy, not judgemental, for our own lives.
In the plane, I was already missing them and couldn't wait to see them again.
At home, the preparations went well. Susan cheated a little and took some of her working time to plan a few things. She notably booked from her own money a band who agreed to play nude at the wedding. She also found a caterer and even a baker with custom figurines to put on the cake so that in our case, the groom and the bride would be nude except for the veil, the bouquet and the garter for the bride, and a bow tie for the groom.
Sometimes, I wondered who was getting married, Susan or I !
One by one, the lots of the naturist center filled in. Sandra and her family had moved from their usual lot to the lot in front of our house, to be closer to us. Susan even rented the closest cabin, less than 200 feet from our house for the two weeks prior to the marriage.
Billy's parents, Jill and Kelsey arrived a week prior to the event, and Julie's family 3 days ahead of time, around the same time as Georges and Marge. Eric and Billy's family got along very well despite the different, well, dress code.
Eric's parents decided to stay in our guest bedroom, to get used to being around nude people. They received permission from the center to remain clothed at all time, but both were sad they were not allowed to wear a bathing suit in the pool or the lake.
They did use one in our spa a few times, but otherwise simply wore light clothes.
Susan also got the chance to get used around Georges, fighting her fears of voyeurs from her past. At first, she was nervous, but by the time of the practice supper, she was back to herself.
At the practice supper, which wasn't really a practice but rather just an excuse to meet everyone, I asked in private to Kelsey if he accepted to give me away since my father wouldn't be there. He was absolutely honoured.
Georges made a toast, as father of the groom and only textile, with his wife, present in the room. He even commented that tomorrow, during the ceremony, he would be nude under in clothes in support for our lifestyle. He even said he might be tempted to be a foot nudist for the day, in respect for our fine establishment.
He was funnier than I let on, since everyone laughed during his toast. He notably wished us a happy life, and a broken washing machine, which prompted a few laughs.
Everyone had a good time, and during the evening, a few of Eric's family members who stayed at a motel nearby came to visit us at the insistence of Georges, who wanted to be sure everyone would be comfortable for the big day.
The ceremony was scheduled for 2 PM. The priest arrived around 10 AM to sanctify the location. He had been warned that it was a naturist center, and I think he decided to perform his ritual twice rather than once because of it.
Peter Green and his wife Gloria arrived, a little nervous, at 12h30. She wore a nice dress while he wore a business suit despite the hot weather.
Susan was away for the moment, so Eric and I ended up welcoming him. At first, he really felt awkward at seeing me and Eric nude, but we both reassured them to simply look into our eyes and refrain from odd comments.
Gloria congratulated us in advance, and Peter asked if it was possible to see the office where Susan and I worked all day long.
I went with them to our house while Eric took care of the band who had arrived in the mean time.
Susan was at her desk on the phone with the caterer when Peter, Gloria and I came in. She was initially surprised to be caught nude by the man who basically approved her promotion, but she spent so long on the phone to handle the last minute details that by the time she hung up, she was used to it.
Susan and I did a tour of the expansion and later, of my house. Peter was relatively silent but Gloria commented me on the decoration. Peter was however very interested in Eric's office and his magical supplies, but I reminded him not to peek.
I had to go handle some of the last minute preparation, so I left Susan to show Peter and his wife around the resort. Later, Peter admitted it was a very nice settings and that had he seen it before hand, he might not have left us work from here out of fear we'd spend all day outside instead of working.
Around 1h30, the three maids of honours changed to their bridesmaids "uniform" which merely consisted of a corsage on their wrist and matching shoes, while I put on my veil, my garter and my flower bouquet.
I knew that in the mean time, Eric was putting on his neck tie. Both of us would be bare footed.
5 minutes before the wedding, Stephen dropped us Lily and Kyle. Kyle was naked except for his running shows, but Lily was wearing similar shoes to the bridesmaid and had flowers matching my bouquet in her hair.
Kelsey decided to remove his shoes to match my footwear and admitted I was just as beautiful as when I married his son, and was proud that I joined his lifestyle.
He held my arm as I marched down the aisle between the guests to an impatient groom. When I reached him, he took my hand and the bridesmaid spread between the two sides, Susan and Julie on my side, and Susan with her husband, the best man.
When I turned to face the guests, I noticed that almost all of the naturist members were present in the audience, and saw that Nathalie and her husband were sitting with Peter and Gloria. The four of them and Eric's family were the only guests wearing clothes, but George and Marge had removed their shoes, like George had offered at the practice supper. Of course, the priest was clothed, but we had found a naturist photographer for the wedding.
Everyone congratulated us, even those who had done so prior to the ceremony.
We had warned Georges not to give us a gift, since they were already paying for their plane flight, but he insisted to give me something to wear on our honeymoon, like he did for his other daughter-in-law.
I tried to tell him I wouldn't be wearing anything since we were going in a naturist resort in the Caribbean, but insisted I opened the gift : it was a beautiful pair of beach towels and a bag to carry them. I thanked him, even hugged him to his surprise, and we proceeded to the tables for the main meal.
Peter and Gloria gave me a wonderful, and most likely too expensive, tennis bracelet laced with diamonds. I thanked them saying it was too much, but they insisted. They also had a beautiful leather briefcase for Eric to carry some of his tricks. Nathalie and her husband Charlie gave us a crystal glass set.
Susan and told me her gift was more personal and a tribute to our friendship, so I would get it only when I got back from my honeymoon.
Sandra and Stephen offered us to use their RV outside of the summer season for a second honeymoon. I know they were a little financially tight, so this offer really touched me.
We had a lot of fun in the evening, but even though most of the guests went swimming in the pool, Eric and I decided to keep company with his family and my colleagues who couldn't benefit from the pool. Susan joined us.
This really gave me the chance to bond with Peter and his wife. At the office, he always was so straight and strict, so it was a nice change. Nathalie was a little shy, and her husband didn't even know us other than from our stage show, but they stayed until the end, possibly using all of their courage.
When Peter and his wife were about to leave, he joked that some of the reports Susan and I delivered to him should be given right here, by the pool instead of in a gray office. I invited him to do so, provided he respected the dress code.
Eric and I left for the airport the next morning. We decided not to even pack any briefcases for the 2 week vacation, since we wouldn't need clothes. We only brought our passport, digital camera and credit cards as well as a pair of sandals and a toothbrush each in the towel bag George had given us. As few other tourists were wondering about our lack of luggage, but we didn't say anything.
Upon arrival, we confirmed that rest of the material we needed such as soap, was already supplied by the resort and stored our clothes in the wardrobe of our room.
The resort was clearly meant for naturists since the door locks were operated by our fingerprints, eliminating the need for a key card.
The hotel was officially clothing optional, but like many of the guests, we only wore sandals and a smile during the entire two weeks of honeymoon.
The resort even planned a few expeditions without requiring us to dress back up, such as a beautiful catamaran sunset expedition in the ocean along with a 2 hours scuba diving opportunity. I must admit I was disappointed by the swiftness of the sunset this close to the equator, but the scuba diving was absolutely breath taking.
We came back from the vacation absolutely relaxed and ready to fight the world, me in the court room and Eric on a stage.
Hey, Eric even traded some magic tricks with one of the performers at the resort.
When we arrived, Susan announced that she had signed a year-long lease for cabin at the naturist center where she had stayed before the wedding, not far away from our house. She had moved out of her apartment during our trip. This was, in a way, her gift of friendship.
Susan and her family were also very happy to see us back, so that both us of felt loved and appreciated. Overall, it was not only a perfect wedding and a perfect honeymoon, but we realized that even back home, our friends were exceptional.