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   Chapter 3 3

Wild Justice By Ruth M. Sprague Characters: 7303

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06

"The hearing? Oh yes, that is being held in this room right here," advised Lorraine Debeau, head custodian of Howard Hall.

Diana Trenchant and her witnesses had arrived early. One of the witnesses asked Lorraine where the group might wait.

"There are two rooms I was told to open. This is the best one right opposite the hearing room," she offered, walking ahead of them into the room, proud as a general leading the troops to battle. "I'll give you guys the best one since you are here first and because of what you are doing."

As she turned to leave the room, she put her hand on Trenchant's shoulder. "Hey, good luck. You know, you are the only person that ever tried to help us custodians get a fair shake. When you were head of the Staff Association, you made those guys in administration treat us decent."

The six witnesses and Trenchant spread themselves out comfortably on the plush sofas and soft rug as individual preference dictated. Good feelings washed over them, mixed with pride and determination. It was as if their cause, their righteous quest, had been anointed by a high priestess.

"It's nice to have friends in high places," commented Andrea, looking around appreciatively. They were in a large, rectangular room outfitted as a lounge. At the front facing the entrance hall, the walls gave way to glass, so it was something like being in a fish bowl. Someone suggested shutting the curtains but Helen objected.

"No, don't. I want to watch for them to come in. I'm going to take their pictures."

There was general laughter at this and Andrea slapped her on the back, "go gittum, Helen."

Roz advised the other witnesses not to be intimidated by the panel. "Hey, I've known most of them for years and they are no better than we are." She had held a full time job at Belmont for nearly two years. Roz had been around and was no spring chicken so the group nodded and took comfort from her.

She, like some of the other witnesses, was also taking courses in the nursing school. One of these courses was taught by Diana Trenchant.

"Look, here they come now," Helen yelled as a group of men came into the hall through the open front door. She grabbed her camera and shot out of the room.

One of the men broke from the group and came into the witness room saying loudly, "Who are you and what are you doing in here? This room is reserved."

"We were told this was a witness room and we are witnesses," said Roz, flatly. "Who are you?"

Glaring at Roz and throwing his entire body into an intimidating pose, the man said angrily, "I am the Academic Vice President, Henry Tarbuck, and I reserved this room for the university witnesses."

"That's OK then," said Roz cheerfully and completely unimpressed. "We are university witnesses."

Diana stepped forward. "Is there a problem?"

"Oh, it's you. You were supposed to go to a room upstairs."

"We asked and we were directed here," interjected Roz. Smiling up at Henry innocently, she continued in a child's sing-song voice, "finders, keepers."

"Well. We'll see about that," was the disgruntled, graceless retort.

As he turned to leave Trenchant stopped him. "I have requested an open hearing which you have denied me. I again ask that the hearing be open."

"No, absolutely not. The hearing is closed."

"A closed hearing is to protect the rights of the accused. As the accused, I waive that consideration and again request that the hearing be open and that any person who wishes may attend."

"No." The Vee closed the door of the witness room behind him with a indignant slam.

"Now there's a sweetheart," murmured Roz. "Hey, did you

guys notice we got our own phone in here?"

An obviously annoyed Henry Tarbuck sought out the custodian, Lorraine. "I ordered that downstairs room to be held for the university's witnesses," he barked at her.

"Not me, you didn't. I was told to open two rooms for the hearing witnesses. That's all." Lorraine, all four feet of her bristling, stood up on her toes and duplicated the Vee's tone, jaw to jaw.

Always outmatched when encountering any female who did not smile, cringe, grovel or otherwise conform to his 'typing', Henry turned away from her and fumed his way to the hall phone booth.

Reaching his secretary, his tone took on the whine of a young boy. "Lynn, something terrible has happened. That woman took the good room, the one with the good chairs and the telephone. I'm using the booth in the hall! How could this happen?"

"I don't know, Henry. I told the custodian over there to reserve the two rooms as you directed me. I don't recall that you gave me specific instructions as to which room was for which group."

"I assumed th...."

Henry broke off as he caught sight of the dean and two medical school faculty coming in the door. "I'll get back to you and get this straightened out. Got to go.

"Right this way, gentlemen. We've had a slight mix up in the waiting rooms and I apologize in advance for any inconvenience it may cause. I'm going to have a phone put in soonest and some decent chairs!" Still talking, Henry led the men upstairs.

Downstairs, Helen returned from a self appointed scouting mission, breathless and amused. "Oh," she panted, "you should see the room they have. It's a lecture hall-hard chairs and blackboards all around. We sure lucked out by getting here first."

"We sure did but our luck was in having Lorraine as custodian in charge. Obviously, we were supposed to get the upstairs one and I'll bet you dollars to donuts that it's been bugged," asserted Roz.

Helen had recovered her breath by now and readily agreed. "Yeah, I bet. You know that Vee, Jimbo, was so threatening. I took his picture and he came right up to me and demanded to know my name and what I was doing there and...."

"Oh, he's a pain in the ass all the time," Roz interrupted. "He was bad enough when he was chair of NERD but now that they kicked him up to a Vee, he's insufferable. Drinks like a fish. Did you tell him?"

Helen laughed. "No, I just yelled, 'Press', at him and got the hell out of there.

"Just a moment ago, outside, I got a good shot of three guys that were just coming in. I think one of them was Dean Broadhurst. One of the guys with him saw me and covered his face-just like you see the crooks do on TV when they're taken to court."

James, the one male witness, came in with Jean and Andrea. They were laden with Dunkin' Donut bags, coffee cups, milk and soda.

It was well past the time set for the commencement of the hearing and the six women and one man good naturedly sat down to await the pleasure of the Vee. Noblesse oblige never had functioned at Belmont and they didn't expect it to start now.

Upstairs, things were gradually getting sorted out. Harried custodians had removed or stacked most of the student chairs and brought in plush seats. A phone had been located trailing a long, snake-like extension cord that stretched out the door and back along the hall to the office it had been liberated from.

The university caterers had brought in a coffee, tea and Danish service which was in the process of being depleted by the administration's witnesses. Henry Tarbuck worked the room, spreading ersatz charm like a bee pollinating from flower to flower.

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