Flash Fiction: Hits Different – Part 20

This entry is part 20 of 22 in the Flash Fiction: Hits Different

Written in 57 minutes.


“Why does anyone wear this crap?” Jason demanded, striding through the open bedroom door as Elizabeth stepped back from the closet, smoothing nervous hands down the skirt of her dark blue dress.  Jason was partially dressed in the suit Sonny had brought to the bar the night before, his dress shirt still unbuttoned down to his collarbone, and a silk tie in his hands.

Elizabeth managed a smile, crossed the room to her. “Because someone a long time ago decided that men needed to wear something around their neck to be considered properly dressed.” She took the tie and wound it around his neck, pausing to fasten the last few buttons.

“Stupid,” Jason muttered, but tipped his chin back so that she could finish looping the tie through, creating a perfect Windsor knot. “You did that fast. Did you always have to do this for me?”

“No. You never wore suits. That’s why there’s none here. Maybe you had them at the mansion.” Elizabeth smoothed the line of his shirt, then left her hands rest on his chest, pretending to adjust the buttons. “My father taught me. It was something I used to do for him when I was younger whenever he wore a suit. Glad I could do it. It’s been a while since he and my mother went abroad for Doctors Without Borders.” She patted his chest, stepped back. “All you need is your jacket and shoes.”

“Yeah, they’re out in the living room.” Jason watched as she went over to her dresser, sifted through her jewelry. When she reached for the ID bracelet she’d removed before            bed the night before, he went to her. “I’ll help with the clasp.”

“Thanks. I always have a hard time, and my fingers are shaking. I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” she admitted. “But it’s the first time I’ve seen any of the Quartermaines since, um, well, since you came to Luke’s.”

“First time I’ve seen them, too,” Jason muttered. “Justus told me I couldn’t go to the mansion and punch anyone, especially not the old man. I wasn’t going to, but once he said I couldn’t—” He paused. “The sooner today is over, the sooner we can get on to the next step.” And the sooner he’d be free to think about making Edward and Alan pay for what they’d done to him — to Elizabeth. “I don’t want them to be a part of my life.”

“Me either. Let’s hope Justus is as good as he says he is.”

The family court room wasn’t as as large as one used for criminal or civil court, but it was still an intimidating sight, Elizabeth thought, as she trailed in behind Jason and Justus. Edward and Alan were already at one table with their lawyer, and Edward sneered at Elizabeth when he saw her.

Alan made brief eye contact before looking at Jason, then down at the table. Elizabeth had always thought of all the Quartermaines, she’d had the best chance of getting Alan on his side. He always seemed slightly pained that he and Jason were at odds, but every time he’d wavered, Edward or Monica had said something that would tip him back the other way. He’d always struck her as a well-meaning but generally clueless father who had taken one too many steps back as Jason had grown up and didn’t know how to connect with anyone not in medicine.

“Don’t look at them,” Justus murmured as they took their seats. “Keep your attention on the judge. I’ll make my case, they’ll make theirs. The judge might have some questions for one or the both of you. With any luck, we’ll walk out of here with our injunction.”

Elizabeth clasped her hands tightly in her lap, managed a short nod, then looked at Jason, wondering what he was thinking.

Jason had avoided looking at Edward or Alan, not entirely trusting his impulse control. He’d had trouble with that since waking up, and this would be the wrong time to lose that fight. The judge needed to see Jason as completely in control—he had to question the use of a conservatorship.

The bailiff called the court to order, and a man in dark robes took a seat behind the high bench. He slid his glasses on. “Please be seated. Call the case.”

“Quartermaine vs. Quartermaine,” the clerk said handing up a file.

“Justus Ward for the respondent, on behalf of Elizabeth Quartermaine and Jason Quartermaine.”

“Your Honor, we object—”

“I’m just taking appearances,”  the judge said, interrupting the other lawyer as he leapt to his feet. “There’s no jury to impress.”

“Lionel Barber, representing the conservators of Jason Quartermaine’s estate, Edward and Alan Quartermaine. Mr. Ward has no standing to appear on Jason’s behalf—”

“Well, why doesn’t Jason’s lawyer in the probate case appear?” Justus asked, and Barber glared at him. “You know, the one that is legally required to be assigned to my client. He should be here to make sure Jason’s interests are being represented—”

“That’s what I’m for—”

“That’s an excellent suggestion, Mr. Ward. Mr. Barber, who is the attorney assigned to Jason Quartermaine in the probate court?” The judge lifted his brows. “Surely you know that you cannot represent both the conservatorship and the conservatee.”

“Your Honor, that’s a matter for probate court—”

“Well, since you declined to bring Mr. Quartermaine’s attorney, I see no reason why I can’t at least entertain Mr. Ward. After all, if I’m not mistaken—” The judge looked over at their table, and Jason straightened, feeling the other man’s eyes on him. “And I wouldn’t be since I’ve known you since you were a small boy—you walked in on your own free will. Did you hire Mr. Ward?”

Jason cleared his throat, not prepared to be directly questioned already. “”Uh, yes. Sir,” he added. “I hired Mr. Ward.”

“And you can speak in full sentences, so that seems to be good enough for me. At least for the purposes of this hearing. And Mr. Barber, I’ll be expecting the name of Mr. Quartermaine’s probate attorney by end of business,” the judge said, switching his attention back to the other the table. “That shouldn’t be an issue?”

“Well—” Barber hesitated. “I don’t know—”

“It might be a small problem, Your Honor,” Justus said. He rose. “If I may? It’s part of my argument.”

“Might as well. You’re asking for an injunction?”

“Yes. If there is an attorney representing my client in probate, he’s doing so without Jason’s knowledge or participation. You see, Your Honor, my client was in complete ignorance about a number of facts up until a few weeks ago. Indeed, his entire family was, save for the men at the table over there. He did not know he was in a conservatorship, and he did not know he was married, much less that a divorce and eviction was being pursued on his behalf.”

The judge tipped his head. “What about the wife? She never said anything to this court about that—”

“While Elizabeth suspected Jason was in complete ignorance on this fact, she did not have access to him until after he’d left the Quartermaine estate.” Justus held up a folder. “I have affidavits from several members of the Quartermaine staff and family that Mrs. Quartermaine was denied access to her husband on at least two occasions. And I also have a copy of the power of attorney that Dr. Alan Quartermaine used to keep Elizabeth out of the ICU prior to her husband’s discharge. In short, your Honor, Jason did not know she existed or that he, legally speaking, under the control of his grandfather and father.”

“Hard to agree to a divorce if you don’t know there’s a wife,” the judge said. He looked at the other side. “What do you have to say to all that, Mr. Barber?”

“Your Honor, I’m not prepared to stipulate to Jason Quartermaine’s knowledge, or lack thereof, on any of these matters. At least until we can have a doctor to examine him to be sure—”

“Why don’t we put your clients on the stand and ask them if, as the conservators of this young man, they ever told him that? And asked if he wanted a divorce from his wife?” The judge leaned forward. “They can testify to that, can they not?”

“Your Honor—” Barber just grimaced. “I once again have to remind you that Mr. Ward has no right to speak on Mr. Quartermaine’s behalf. Whether Mr. Quartermaine hired him or not is not material — he is not legally able to agree to any such contract—”

“Oh, did you think because we’ve golfed together a time or to, Edward, that I’d ignore your grandson sitting over there, perfectly hale and whole?”

Edward scowled, opened his mouth but his lawyer held out a hand. “Your Honor, the law is clear—”

“Isn’t it funny how probate law and family law are two different branches with completely different rules legislating procedure?” The judge dismissed the other man, looked at Justus. “Why don’t we cut to the chase? Mr. Quartermaine, I’d like to ask you a few questions. Why don’t you come on up and take the oath, and we’ll get this settled?”

Jason reluctantly rose, and crossed the courtroom to sit in the witness stand, holding his hand up to swear to tell the truth. And then he was sitting down, facing the rest of the courtroom. Facing the men who had dragged him in here.

Who had been dragging Elizabeth through this mess for months. He turned away from them, focused on the judge.

“How are you feeling these days, Jason?”

“Uh, good?” Jason said, uncertainly. “Do you mean since the accident?”

“Sure. It was a bad one, I read in the papers they filed. But you look recovered well enough. Any lasting problems?”

“Uh, other than not remembering anything, no—” Jason winced. “I have a type of aphasia,” he said reluctantly. “Do you—should I explain it?”

“If you could, yes.”

Jason almost squirmed at the thought of talking about himself where people could see him, but he needed to get this over with. “The doctors said I had trouble with processing some types of visuals. Photographs aren’t too bad, but movies, television. Anything that moves—it’s hard. I have to focus and concentrate. There’s some types of letters—the really—” Jason made a gesture with his hand like a swirl. “Sometimes they’re difficult. But it’s better than it used to be.”

“Good. Good. Glad to see you’re doing well, and all things considered, it could have been much worse. So, your lawyer tells me you didn’t know about the conservatorship. Or about your wife. Is that correct?”

“Yes.” Jason glanced over at Elizabeth but she was staring down at the table. He looked at Edward and Alan, displeased to see the older man glaring in her direction. “Yes. I didn’t know about it until she—Elizabeth—told me.”

“When did she do that? Your lawyer says she was denied all access.”

“I…left. The mansion. Over a month ago. At first, I got a room at Kelly’s, but then Ruby Anderson said the Quartermaines told her I had to go. I stayed at Jake’s for a little while, but the owner said I couldn’t anymore. There were some warehouse jobs that stopped putting me on the schedule.” Jason flexed his hands in his lap, trying not to fist them, just thinking of how humiliating it had been to show up at the warehouse that last time only to be told he wasn’t wanted anymore. Or the way Ruby Anderson had avoided looking at him when she’d turned him out.

“Then Luke Spencer told me he had a job I could do. That the Quartermaines wouldn’t stop him from hiring him—”

“Objection—”

The judge waved off the lawyer’s words. “So you went to work at Luke’s. That’s the bar where your wife works?”

“Yes.” Jason shifted slightly. “His partner, Sonny, said I could have a room over the bar. I stayed there the first week. I met Elizabeth first night.”

“Did she tell you then?”

“No. Not that first day. She didn’t know I was going to be there. Luke and Sonny did that without telling her. It was the first time we’d seen each other.”

“But she did tell you eventually?”

“The next day. She told me that we’d…that we were married. That…we’d had a daughter. And when I asked why no one had told me and where’d she been, she brought me all the legal paperwork that explained it.”

“So you never met with a lawyer about your choices?” the judge asked. “No one told you that you couldn’t enter into a rooming contract or take a job without the permission of Edward Quartermaine?”

Jason clenched his jaw. “No. No one said anything. I thought I was losing all of that because they were making threats. But until Elizabeth told me, I never knew the court said they could do that.”

“Your lawyer has filed an injunction to stop the divorce from going ahead,” the judge continued. “If I deny his motion, do you know what happens?”

Jason furrowed his brow. “No, what?”

“I dismiss Mrs. Quartermaine’s objection to the divorce. You’re in a contested divorce, Mr. Quartermaine. Your wife has refused any property settlement, generous and not so generous ones. I’m unaware of an eviction,” the judge said, looking over at the Quartermaines’ table with narrowed eyes. “But I imagine if I went looked at the landlord tenant docket, I might find something.”

“I saw the paperwork for that,” Jason said. “So, yeah, that’s happening.”

“If I deny this motion and dismiss the objection, I set a date for divorce to be finalized in thirty days. Now, despite what your family might want, I think Mrs. Quartermaine is owed some financial settlement, something exceeding what was on the table. So I can set this divorce to be finalized, and she won’t walk away empty-handed. But your lawyer says you don’t want that. Their lawyer—” The judge gestured towards them. “Says you do.”

“How would they know?” Jason said, almost darkly. “No one ever asked me.”

“Mr. Barber?” The judge straightened. “Care to comment on that?”

“Your Honor, as we’ve stated more than once, this divorce is not only desired by the conservators, but it was the intention of Jason Quartermaine prior to his tragic accident.”

Jason frowned, jerked his attention back to Justus who looked bewildered. Elizabeth had raised her head, her eyes wide.

“What? What does that mean?” Elizabeth demanded. “Justus—” Their lawyer held up a hand.

The judge didn’t look like it was news he’d heard before either. “I suppose you have paperwork or something to back that statement up—”

“A conversation that Mr. Quartermaine had with his mother prior to the accident—”

“Hearsay,” Justus snapped. “And not material to this proceeding. Whether Jason wanted a divorce then or not, he’s saying differently today.”

“But—” Elizabeth’s lips were parted. “He didn’t—”

“I see that this is news to Mrs. Quartermaine, too. And Mr. Quartermaine hasn’t told me differently yet.” The judge looked at him expectantly. “Well? Does it change your mind that it’s a possibility that you wanted a divorce before you lost your memory?”

“Why would I care about something I don’t remember?” Jason wanted to know. “All the Quartermaines have done is lie since I woke up. No, I don’t want a divorce. That should be enough.”

“Indeed. Thank you, Mr. Quartermaine. You can have a seat.”

Jason returned to the table, sat next to Elizabeth and reached for her hand. It was shaking, and he wondered what she was thinking, if she had any idea why the Quartermaine lawyer would have said such a thing.

“Your Honor,” Barber began.

“I know, Mr. Ward has no standing, and so on, but I think that there’s enough here to warrant an injunction. I will delay ruling on the finalization of the divorce pending the outcome of the petition that Mr. Ward has filed in probate court. Figure this out, folks, because a probate judge isn’t going to be amused by this story any more than I was.”

The gavel dropped then, echoing in the room like a gunshot.

Comments

  • Fantastic chapter. I’ve been looking forward to these courtroom scenes. Interesting that Jason told Monica he wanted a divorce or is that just Monica’s wishful thinking?

    According to nanci on February 7, 2024
  • sneaky Quartermaines
    I like that judge he gave them more time
    can’t wait until Liason talk about this and it gets hashed out.

    According to Pamela Hedstrom on February 7, 2024
  • I am so hoping you feel the need to write some of this story this weekend. I cannot wait to hear what comes next. I can’t decide if I think it was totally wishful thinking on Monica’s part or if Jason had actually said it because he convinced himself she would be better off without the family making her life worse and this was his way of trying to protect her.

    Thank you as always and I hope you sleep better the second half of the week.

    According to Living Liason on February 7, 2024
  • Jason did good. Can’t wait till we hear from you again.

    According to leasmom on February 8, 2024
  • Poor Elizabeth. The hits just keep coming.

    According to Stephanie on February 8, 2024
  • Thanks for the update. You are breaking my heart for what Liz is going through.

    According to Shelly Samuel on February 8, 2024
  • I’m glad the Judge was not amused with the Q’s. I wonder what Jason told Monica. I’m glad Elizabeth didn’t know anything about it.

    According to Carla P on February 8, 2024
  • Wow! What a chapter! Edward and Alan legally kept him from jobs and places to live. I can see Alan changing his mind on all of this but Edward won’t budge. I loved that the judge didn’t side with the Q’s because he knew them. Edward must be so mad. Did Jason really talk to Monica about a divorce? What went on in their marriage?

    According to arcoiris0502 on February 15, 2024