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   Chapter 4 4

Wild Justice By Ruth M. Sprague Characters: 9246

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:06

The door to the hallway opened suddenly and Henry strode in. He looked at Diana Trenchant and gestured toward the hearing room. "We're ready for you now," he announced with all the smarmy triumph of an interrogator leading the way to the torture chamber.

The accused stood up. In silence, the seven witnesses grouped around hugging her and each other. The Vee watched, disgust thick as mildew around a neglected sauna, covering his face.

Disengaging, Trenchant started for the door.

"Here, take this with you just in case you lose your perspective and need to find it," urged James. He shoved an 8 x 10 inch piece of white cardboard into her hand.

On it, printed in large letters, was the legend: BEAM ME UP SCOTTY. THERE'S NO INTELLIGENT LIFE DOWN HERE!

The hearing room was about 30 feet square with no outside windows. The front, facing the hallway contained the door. The rest of the front wall was glass, similar to the neighboring witness room, but here the curtains were tightly closed as if the room was ashamed to reveal what was to take place inside.

A large table nearly filled the room, and seated along the far side of it, nearest the front of the room, sat four members of the hearing panel. At the head of the table, with his back to the blinded glass wall, Henry had enthroned himself.

Diana was curtly directed to a seat also on the far side of the table at the back of the room. There were several chairs between her and the panel.

Across the table from the panel sat Janet Parks, the court reporter, with her back to the door. She was accessorized with a recording machine beside her and a backup tape recorder on the table.

Janet, as her profession demanded, tended to fade into the woodwork. Dress and manner were subdued to the point where she became nearly invisible-but not to Diana. She saw kindly eyes surrounded by a round face that wanted to be jolly and laughing. She saw a possible relief from the dominant accusing eyes. Not an advocate perhaps, but at least neutrality.

An empty chair sat drawn up to the table beside Janet and there was another empty chair further down the table opposite Trenchant.

The entire setup of the room was intentionally choreographed to promote psychological terrorism. Diana Trenchant and her witnesses would be interrogated by the panel while sitting in the chair beside the court stenographer directly across from the panel.

The administration's accusers would sit in the chair which was directly across the table from Diana Trenchant. Except for when she would be testifying, Diana was seated at the place most distant from the door.


Diana Trenchant sat down in the assigned seat and arranged her note pad and documents for easy access. For the moment, the panel was huddled together whispering so she took the time to organize her thoughts and chill out the mounting apprehension.

Here she was, sixty years old, twenty five of those working at Belmont, with never even as much as a traffic ticket citation, facing a university hearing panel. Here she was-accused of forging seven student feedback forms. The lump in her stomach and the one in her throat were trying to join together and drag the rest of her down into a black, empty tunnel of fear. Resisting the pull, she looked around the hearing room and met the eyes of the stenographer who smiled at her encouragingly.

Janet Parks had attended many hearings. Her job was to faithfully record every spoken word on her transcription machine. Most of the time, she plied her trade in the courts but occasionally she was called out into the private sector. She had seen a lot of people on trial and her observant eyes took in every detail.

The configuration of the hearing room had not been lost on her so when she met the eyes of the accused, Diana Trenchant, she felt a tug of sympathy. She noted Diana's pale, drawn features and erect bearing. Here was a woman, thought Janet, who would never use makeup or any other cover up. She has such a direct, honest look it's hard to believe that she is the one in trouble here. As Diana's eyes returned to her notes, Janet looked at her more closely. Not terribly well groomed, she thought, noting the slacks with casual blouse and jacket. Janet recalled that Diana was wearing jogging shoes when she walked in. Obviously, she wore her cloths for comfort, not for adornment. Janet continued her inventory: mousy brown hair-no style, blue eyes. Tired blue eyes. Lots of wrinkles, those badges that life awarded to survivors. Must be pushing along into the sixties. Wonder what she sounds like. Hope she's

not one of those squeaky kind. Oh, oh, the head cheese is about to start-get ready.

Henry Tarbuck consulting his notes then stated that the dean had accused Diana Trenchant of creating and submitting fictitious student feedback forms.

"Responding to the dean's charge, this committee was formed and I will now introduce them. On the end is Mr. Frank Anuse, director of the Informational Studies Unit."

The Vee looked fondly at Frank who nodded his bald head in acknowledgement. A tall gangling bean-pole of a man. His head, devoid of any sort of demarcation between face and pate, appeared to float above his body like some sort of alien spacecraft.

They had gotten together over drinks the day before and decided that they would play good cop, bad cop at the hearing. He, as chair, would affect neutrality while Frank could go after Diana and her witnesses hammer and tongs.

If anyone on this hearing panel was more anxious than himself to smash this woman, it was Frank, mused Henry. He had good reason. It was about three years ago that....

Affirmative Action Officer, Kevin Goodman, sat in his office reading a letter that had just come in the campus mail.

Kevin, a black, realized that he had been awarded this position because of his permanent tan. He had thought when he agreed to take the office that he truly would be allowed to enforce federal mandates.

Now, two years into it, the bubble had long since burst. His office was there, it appeared, only to satisfy the law that such an office be maintained. However, deans and directors of departments seldom did as he directed and if he went to the Pope, well, he found out pretty quickly that did no good.

He was actively seeking another appointment at a more enlightened and humane university. Enough was enough, but while he was still here, he would do the best he could or was allowed to do.

He smoothed the pages of the letter flat and reached for the phone.

"Professor Anuse? Kevin Goodman here. Affirmative Action Office."

"Yes. What can I do for you?"

"I have a complaint regarding your hiring process that I'd like to discuss with you at your earliest convenience."

"Now's fine. What's the problem?"

"It's alleged that you will not interview or otherwise consider males for positions in your division," Kevin said, carefully.

"Can't interview or consider anyone who doesn't apply for a position, can I. Shit! Men just aren't interested in the jobs in my unit."

Kevin blinked and cleared his throat. "Ah, well, I called the personnel office and they informed me that they had sent you a file of a male for the last two positions you posted. I was told that you did not interview him."

"Could be, I suppose. Probably he didn't qualify."

"Personnel says that he is very well qualified."

Frank Anuse made a face at the telephone. The supercilious bastard, he thought. Who is he to check up on my hiring?

"They do, huh."

Frank's predilection for hiring only women, preferably young, was well known throughout Belmont. He laughingly referred to himself as the sheik and the girls as his harem in conversations with his male colleagues. His girls referred to him as Jack the Ripper. Turnover in his department, in all senses of the word, was active.

"Yes," Kevin continued. "In light of this complaint, my office will have to review the records of all of your hiring for the past two years. Would you please have this material ready for my assistant to pick up tomorrow?" Kevin spoke firmly, looking down at his crossed fingers.

"All those files? Christ, you think I've got nothing better to do than.... Who in the hell made this complaint, anyway?"

"The letter came from the chair of the Staff Association, Diana Trenchant. Evidently several complaints have been brought to her attention."

"She can go to Hell and you too, for that matter. What business is it of yours who I hire?"

"Federal law prohibits discriminatory hiring practices. This university has to comply to receive federal grants. My job is to see that the university is in compliance."

"Bull, everyone knows that just applies to women and spa...., er, minorities."

"That is incorrect, Mr. Anuse. Anti-discrimination laws apply to anyone who is being discriminated against. Please have those files ready for pick-up," said Kevin and firmly hung up the phone.

Frank looked at the phone for a beat and then walloped it to get a dial tone. He punched in the number for Mark Rogers, the university attorney.

Reaching his party, he said, "Mark, what do you know about the bitch chairing the Staff Association?"

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