Funny Business - Chapter 17, Breaking Ground
Samantha Michelle Davies (SamanthaMD)
Liz was totally surprised to see Charles Sr in front of her.
He came up and kissed her on both cheeks.
“What are you doing here?” she asked still stunned from seeing her ‘father in law to be’.
“My Son told me about your problem with being properly married. I remembered that this fine State allowed full marriage between same sex couples. I was on the Golf Course when one of my buddies mentioned they hadn’t seen Rick for a while. I put two and two together so I called him. We cooked up this little scheme and Charlie didn’t hesitate in agreeing to it all.”
“Then I decided that I’d like to see Rick again and give him a chance to beat me a Poker. So, here I am. I only got in from New York an hour ago”
“Well, it is nice to see you again” said Liz who was coming to regard Charles as the father she’d never really known.
“Same here” he replied as he hugged her.
He turned to look at his Son who was feeling a little bit left out of things.
He offered his hand.
They shook hands with the sort of shake that only close relatives can do without anyone feeling embarrassed.
“You are looking really well Son. I can see Liz here is looking after you very well”, he said with a grin on his face.
“Yes she is. She’s also teaching me to cook”
That caused him to laugh.
“That I must see. Charlie in the Kitchen. Your mother would have a fit”
“How is the old so-and-so?” asked Charlie.
“She’s the same as usual. Cantankerous and set in her ways”
“I’m glad to hear that. Is she still on the warpath for Liz?”
“I’m afraid so. But even some of her friends are starting to think she is more than a little bonkers”
“Ah well.” He replied shrugging his shoulder.
Rik returned with his wife Karen and introductions were made.
“If you lot have finished reminiscing, dinner is ready” she said quietly.
It was late in the evening before the party broke up. A great evening had been had by one and all. Charles Senior was staying with Rik and his wife Karen so Liz and Charlie returned to their Motel.
On the way back, Liz said,
“Did you know anything about your father visiting?”
“No. Well, not really. He said, see you soon when we spoke the other day”
“It was nice of him to come though”
“Yes. It was.”
Then he paused.
“Does he know the Judge is going to be bending the law a bit for us tomorrow”
“Yes. He sort of hinted that Rik had told him”
“As an officer of the Court, shouldn’t he be concerned?”
“As he’s retiring in six months he does not really care. Does it bother you?”
“I thought it would but now? Not really. We have so much going on in our lives that we haven’t really stopped and enjoyed ourselves doing nothing since Barbados. You know just do nothing for a week or so”
Charlie was a little stunned by this.
“Where did all this come from?”
“I don’t know really. I think I had sort of hoped that once the magazine was published, we could disappear into the shadows once again. But with everything with the tabloids and the land and the reservation, I think I given up hoping that we could just have a bit of time together doing nowt”
“Wow. I didn’t know you felt like that”
“Neither did I until a little while ago”
“Are you sure you didn’t drink a bit too much wine tonight?”
“No. I didn’t get pissed if that is what you are asking.”
“Ok. Just asking”
Liz put her hand on Charlie’s thigh.
“Don’t worry my love, I’m not cracking up just yet”
The following morning, they arrived at the Courthouse. This time however, they went into the courtroom and presented themselves before Judge McPhail.
Charlie’s father was there along with the Judge’s wife to be their witnesses.
Charlie whispered to his father,
“Are you happy at all this law bending?”
He smiled back and nodded his head.
Charlie shook his head and turned his attention to the Judge who called the court to order.
“We are gathered here to day to join these two people in marriage”
Less than 10 minutes later, Charlie and She-n-she Elizabeth left the court a properly married couple.
Liz walked arm in arm with Charlie with a huge grin on her face. The day she’d dreamed about as a spotty faced teenager had finally come true.
The Judge joined them outside the Courthouse and together they went to a nearby restaurant for Lunch after which, and once more back in his Chambers, the Judge formally changed Charlie’s name to Charles Hardcastle.
True to his promise, the Judge then signed the orders sealing the two name changes.
All too soon and with more than a tinge of regret, they said goodbye to Charlie’s father and they left the small town headed towards address of the contact that the Judge had given them at Lunch.
Charlie drove them North out of town and just over the State Line into Vermont where they turned off the main road and up a track into the dense Forest. Half a mile up the track, they came upon a small Sawmill in a clearing of the Forest.
He stopped the car and they both got out.
“Hello? Is there anyone here?” shouted Charlie.
“I’m back here in the shed” came a voice.
Together they went into the relative darkness of the workshop. They passed the big circular saw standing idle in its saw bench and entered a small office at the rear of the building.
“Hello. Can I help you?” said a short late middle-aged man who was sitting at a desk.
“Yes. Judge McPhail down in North Adams said you might be able to help us out”
He smiled and nodded his head at the mention of the Judge.
“I’m Troy Smith. Owner and sole employee of this fine establishment.”
“Hello. I’m Charles Hardcastle and this is my wife Liz”
“Pleased to meet you. What can I do for you?”
“We are in need of some lumber”
“Well, that’s what I do.
“We are building a house and want it to be timber framed. It needs to be really high quality hardwood though. I’d prefer it to be Oak”
Troy looked a bit sad.
“Why did come to me? There are plenty of places elsewhere in the area that will do the whole thing for you and at a fraction of the price that I could do it for. Those places are more like factories”
There was more than a tinge of regret in his voice.
“This is a somewhat unconventional house. It is based upon the Icelandic Turf Houses. By that I mean that the roof is covered in soil and turf as insulation”
“That is a little bit unusual”
“The inside is also very different. The main living area is octagonal in shape with a self-supporting roof. Much like a Tee-Pee. Actually the land where it is to be built is actually next door to a Reservation. The other complication is that it is in Nevada”
Troy shook his head in bewilderment.
“Do you want me to supply the raw unfinished Lumber or do you want it cut and finished?”
“Well, we were sort of hoping that you could do a little more than that if at all possible. The wood would also have to be green as it is going to be pinned together with dowels”
“Ah, a proper wooden building” replied Troy as his interest in the project noticeably increased.
“One that will move and creak as the thing settles down”
“I understand that the end result is much stronger that way?” Asked Charlie feigning ignorance.
“That is so very true.”
At this point Liz gracefully left the men alone. All these design details didn’t interest her in the slightest.
She returned to the Range Rover and got out her sketchpad and started drawing one of the landscapes they’d travelled through on their journey to North Adams.
Before she knew it, it was getting dark and Charlie was getting into the car.
“How did it go?” she asked as she put the pad away.
“Ok.” Said Charlie.
“Really Ok or so-so?”
“Ok. Actually it is rather more than ok. Troy is willing to supply the timber and machine the joints and stuff but he needs the accurate drawings. I’ll have to get Anders to do the calculations but we recon that it will all fit inside two 40ft containers. This will make shipping much easier”
“I get it. It is in kit form, a pre-fab”
“Yep. Kit form. Then we will have to assemble it on site.”
“What if we get it wrong?”
“We simply drill out the dowels and pull it all apart. Then we start putting it all together again”
Liz shook her head. She couldn’t quite grasp that sort of detail about the building. All she was really interested in was the finished article and how she was going to furnish it.
Once they we back in Nevada and had recovered from the events in Massachusetts, Charlie and Anders got down to the serious detail design of the house. Charlie rented a large A0 sized printer that was capable of printing all the myriad of drawings that detailed all the bits of the house and the outbuildings for their new home.
Liz occupied her time with making sketches of the interior and working the drawings she’d been making ever since they came ‘out west’.
Some of them were rapidly turning into some beautiful Landscape Paintings, which made her very proud. She started mentally hanging them on the walls of the new house.
Everyone was working so had and before they knew it, Christmas had come and gone and they were well into the New Year. All the design work on the house had been done, the details drawings sent back east, when one day in early January, a letter arrived.
“Hey Charlie, there is a letter from Elko County for you”
“I wonder what they want?”
He opened the letter and after a brief scan of it, he burst out laughing.
“In their great wisdom, they have declined our planning application”
“Oh, I’d forgotten all about that. I guess we don’t need it anymore?”
“That’s right. We don’t.”
“I think I’ll frame it and hang it on our wall” suggested Liz
“My I suggest that you hang it in the toilet?”
They both laughed.
“It is about time that we start getting the timber cut and all sorts of other things. I’m going to be pretty tied up for the foreseeable future. As soon as the weather clears and spring is around the corner, and the timber structure has been ordered, I think we should move on-site. There is a huge amount of Groundwork to be done before the frame arrives and there is a little matter of a trial we have to attend.”
“Where would we stay when we are there? I’m not spending months in the RV” protested Liz who had gotten used to the space their rented home provided.
“Don’t worry about that my darling. I have a few ideas that I’m working on”
A couple of days later, Liz called Kat for one of their regular phone calls. During the conversation, she asked about Joe who was in the UK.
“How’s Joe getting on?”
Liz heard Kat laugh down the phone.
“He’s getting along fine. The people down at Headley Court have fitted him with a new pair of legs. He says they are really comfortable. He comes back here for the weekend. A few more sessions next week and he’ll be on the plane home. He’s made quite a few friends amongst the Squaddies at the Court. Apparently they’ve nick-named him ‘Friendly Fire’”
It was Liz’s turn to smile to herself. She wasn’t sure how he’d take that possible slight but she was prepared to give it a chance.
“That’s great Kat. Give my regards to him and tell him that there is a job waiting for him when he gets back”
“What sort of Job?” asked Kat.
“We need someone to organize the site. Charlie thinks it would be best if that someone is a local person. Billy told me that Joe knows who is good at what from a building point of view on the Reservation. Joe was a Sergeant in the Army so he should be able to organise the team of people we need to put to the house”
“Are you going to use the people from the Tribe to build your house?” asked a slightly puzzled Kat.
“Yes. Why not, they are right on the doorstep. Besides it is in the middle of nowhere and the travelling time from anywhere with a decent sized workforce is pretty long. That will restrict the choice of worker considerably.”
Kat was quiet for a moment.
“That wasn’t Liz speaking. That was Charlie. There was just too much logic in that for it to come from you”
“Yeah, he told me about his ideas. It sort of makes sense though. Besides the Lumber supplier will be coming out here to supervise the assembly. All we need is plenty of people to lend a hand”
Right on the day ringed in red on the plan, Liz and Charlie moved into one of the two mobile homes that Charlie had ordered to be delivered to the site. Anders and his family moved into another one. The homes were a good half a mile from the site of the house. This was to keep a much of the noise & dust from the building site away from their living quarters.
A third rented office was close to the site. This was to be the site office. Power and some temporary phone lines were soon installed a few days later.
On the 21st March, the spring equinox, the heavy plant arrived and after a simple ceremony presided over by Al and a few members of the tribe, the excavations began. There was going to be an awful lot of ‘stuff’ moved before this project was complete.
In all the confusion, Liz didn’t notice a rather shifty character on the edge of the crowd at the ceremony.
As the crowd dispersed, he came up to Liz and said
“Y… Not really”
“It doesn’t matter.” Said the man.
He thrust a wad of legal papers inside her jacket.
“Young Lady, consider yourself well and Truly SERVED”
Without waiting for an answer, he turned and left her alone, her mouth wide open in amazement.
After more than a few seconds, she came to life and looked around for Charlie. He was with Anders peering at a large drawing.
She literally ran over to them
“Charlie!” she cried urgently.
He smiled at her and said,
Liz thrust he wad of documents into his hand.
“I’ve just been SERVED” she said in desperation
The smile on Charlie’s face disappeared in an instance.
“Excuse me Anders, I’ll need to go and sort this out”
Anders waved them away.
Charlie took one look at the first bit of paper and said.
“This is not good. Not good at all”
Then he added,
“He’s suing you for Copyright Theft & Trademark Infringement and asking for punitive damages of a cool ten million dollars. Then he’s suing you for libel saying that everything you wrote was a complete fabrication.”
Then Charlie looked at the last document.
“He’s also reported you to the INS for green card violation and wants you deported immediately with along with the forfeiture of all your assets”
He could see that Liz was distressed.
Charlie held her tightly.
“Don’t worry my darling. This is nothing more than I’d anticipated”
After a few seconds, Liz broke free and said,
“You anticipated all this? Why the fuck didn’t you tell me?”
Charlie looked her in straight the eyes.
“Because my sweet innocent thing, you wouldn’t have dared write the story in the way you did. The theft charge does surprise me to some extent but the things we did in London after the show there was all to cover for this eventuality”
Liz thought back to the two days following the fashion show in London where they’d done things that she didn’t fully understand.
“You mean getting all those signatures & stuff with Bill and his friends?”
“Yes. Exactly that”.
“So what do we do next?” asked Liz seemingly once again back in control of her emotions.
“You do exactly nothing. Leave it to your legal team”
“My Legal team? What do you mean?”
“The whole team of lawyers back at the magazine with me helping out as well. That was all part of the original plan. Prepare for the worst and anything less is a bonus. This was all part of the original planning.”
This made Liz very happy.
“I need to make some phone calls then I’ll have a better picture of things”
“How did they track us down?” asked Liz.
“That is what I’m not sure of. Phone records probably.”
“More than likely from the calls we made from rented house in Carson City. Not that hard to obtain with the greasing of a few palms.”
“But out here?” said Liz pointing at the vast empty spaces in this part of the state.
“Remember, we left a forwarding address with the letting agent. Again, a few dollars changing hands under the table can yield remarkable result. Not that hard really if you are prepared to pay for information.”
Liz nodded her understanding but clearly from her body language, she was not letting on all her concerns.
“Why don’t you take Billy off and look for that water you said was here. I’ll go back to the trailer and make those phone calls” suggested Charlie.
He kissed her gently and for a while at least, they went their separate ways.
While Liz was hopefully occupied with looking for the Water supply she’d promised was around, Charlie went back to the trailer to make some important phone calls. Calls he’d hoped that he’d not have to make.
His first call was to Jake. It was brief and to the point. Then he called the legal department at the magazine and spoke to one of his old colleagues.
“Hi John, it’s Charlie”
“Not bad. Not bad”
“No, I didn’t call you to pass the time of day. Can you find out what is happening with the DA and the case?”
“Why? Because Liz has been served. They are suing her for millions in punitive damages and have reported her to the INS.
“Yes. That is unfortunate. I’ll email copies of the writs and the subpoena”
“Yes. She’s will be hostile witness. Can you find out what the hell is the DA playing act? They were supposed to put Liz on their witness list. I just wonder if they felt that they had enough without Liz needing to appear.”
“If they did then they may well have played right into the hands of the defence. You know what will happen to Liz on the stand?”
“Yeah. I know it looks bad. Oh, they’ve managed to get the trial moved to early April”
“Yep. Right after the Easter recess. Not much time to prepare Liz. This is all part of their strategy I think”
“Yeah that’s right. Completely off guard.”
“Thanks. I’ll email the docs to you right away.”
He hung up the phone with a heavy heart. No one in the legal department at the magazine knew about the writs or the change in trial dates.
The last phone call was to his father. He hoped that he was not at home with his mother.
“Hi dad” he said when the call was answered.
“I’m fine. Liz is ok. Are you with Mom?”
“Ok. Call me when you can.”
Charles Sr was at home so couldn’t speak freely. His father would have to call back a bit later.
He set too and scanned the relevant parts of the legal papers that had been served on Liz less than an hour earlier. He sent them using his mobile phone data connection. It seemed unbearably slow to transfer the eight sheets. Then he thought that they were lucky to even have a signal where they were located.
When that was done, he sat down and tried to plan a strategy for the next few weeks. Everything they’d planned so carefully relating to the building was suddenly in total disarray. The change of date for the trial had totally screwed up their so carefully laid plans.
Before she would be called as a witness, Liz would need hours of preparation to appear in the witness box. As she was going to be called by the defence all the preparation work would have to be completely re-worked. A new plan on how she would deal with the expected inquisition into he past would have to be formulated.
The subpoena said that she had to appear at the court on the 4th April. That was just over two weeks away. Charlie knew that the defence council would try to totally discredit Liz. The added ammunition of the lawsuits was something that no one had even considered.
As he sat there looking out of the Trailer’s window at Ander’s son playing with a small ball in the dirt he wondered if their so ‘masterstroke’ could come back and backfire on them. The more he thought about it, the more he came to realize that it was the only strategy that would stop Liz from being ‘put to the sword’ on the Witness Stand.
He was still deep in thought when his phone rang.
He didn’t recognise the number even though it was a 212, New York area code.
“Yes that’s me. Who am I talking to?”
“Hello Mr Komarowski. What can I do for you?”
“Yes they did. It was a complete surprise I have to admit”
“I had thought we’d come at the end of the week. Liz will need time to be prepped”
“You can’t? Why?”
“Oh. I see. That is rather unfortunate. The change of dates does seem to have thrown several spanners into the works. I’ll have to find someone who can help her prepared. You wouldn’t happen to know of a good criminal lawyer do you? I’m afraid I’m more of a contracts man myself”
“Thanks for that. Please give them this number. Thank you. I’ll wait for a call”
He hung up the phone even more depressed than he had been. The DA was not going to be able to help Liz with her preparation. Something about other big cases needing all their attention. Hopeful a decent Criminal Lawyer would give him a call soon. Charlie waited nearly an hour before his phone rang again. He recognised his Father’s number.
“Sorry about that. Bad news I’m afraid. Liz got Served. Well, more than that. She’s been subpoena’d to appear as a Defence Witness. Oh, and they’ve changed the trial date to the 4th on next month”
“Yeah. A hostile witness. She’s also been sued for millions in damages and reported to the INS”
“Yeah. Not a good day. It is a shame this happened on the day we broke ground on the house so everything was going well, then this…”
“Yeah, I phoned Jake and the legal team. Then I called the DA. Fat lot of good they are. Do you know any ‘hot-shot’ criminal lawyers who would be interested in prepping Liz for the trial?”
“Yeah, I know it is short notice but the change in date has really screwed everything up”
“Thanks Pops. I’ll talk soon”
He had hardly terminated the call before the phone rang again. It was the legal department at the magazine.
“Hi John. Did you get the email ok?”
“Great. What do you think?”
“That is good news. Well, that is one problem out of the way. Just let them try that one on in court.”
“Yeah. They are more of a problem. I think we should come East sooner rather than later. Probably no later than the weekend. My father is looking for a decent Criminal Lawyer to help with Liz’s briefing.”
“Yeah, we’ll need to get the documents returned from Bennett & Kowalski for the prep. I’ll arrange for the all the documentation to be sent over from London as soon as possible”
“Yeah, we broke ground today. All this happening at the same time is a real downer to put it bluntly”
“Speak soon John. Bye”
A slightly happier Charlie left the trailer home and made his way back to the building site. Liz was nowhere to be seen so he walked up to the top of a nearby rise to look for her.
He saw Liz & Billy almost half a mile away in the bed of a dried up stream. Billy was digging a hole.
With a slight smile on his face, he headed towards them.
He had only walked a few yards when he heard an ominuous rattling. He stopped and looked down. There was a rattlesnake sunning itself in the early spring sunshine. This brought home to Charlie that he was not in New York or even on Long Island any longer. Living out here was going to be a very new experience to him.
He eventually made his way to the streambed and walked up the dry wash to where the pair were peering into the hole.
“What’s up?” asked Charlie as he arrived.
They both turned to greet him with a smile on their faces.
“We found water” said Liz pointing into the hole.
He peered into the hole and could only see a slight dampening of the dirt.
“I don’t see any water”
Billy sighed and stepped into the hold and shovelled aside some loose dirt.
After some 10 seconds or so, a small puddle of muddy water appeared.
Billy covered it up.
“Is that enough?”
Charlie looked at him strangely.
“Out here Charlie this is a lot of water. It needs properly digging out but there should be more than enough for your home and animals” he paused slightly.
“Unless you are one of those people who just has to shower at least 5 times a day?”
Charlie was about to answer when he saw that Billy was joking. He realised that he didn’t really fit in with the rest. He was wearing a pair of neatly pressed Chinos and an equally pressed White Shirt. Liz was wearing a very well worn Denim skirt and a fairly old top. Billy wore faded denim jeans.
“Ok. Ok. I get the message.”
He decided to change the subject.
“I had a close call with a Rattler up on the ridge”
Bill gave a small laugh.
“There was really nothing to worry about. They are just waking up from hibernation. They need the Sun to warm their bodies. Then they need to feed. Only then will they become dangerous”
This was of little comfort to Charlie but he saw the reasoning in Billy’s argument.
Billy marked the spot of the water source and then filled the hole in once more.
“Was the water where you suspected it would be?” asked Charlie.
“Yes. Right where I predicted” Replied Liz with the emphasis on the word predicted.
“Well pretty close. We dug here as the soil was less rocky but the real well will need to be dug out with a JCB.” She added.
The two men looked at her strangely.
Then Liz realised what she had said.
“JCB is the English name for a Back-hoe digger. It is named after the company that makes them”
Everyone laughed as they walked back to the building site.
As they climbed out of the bed of the stream Billy said quietly to Charlie,
“Liz told me that she has been served with some legal papers and that she has to go to New York to give evidence at the trial. Is this true?”
“Yes I’m afraid. We will have to leave very soon”
Billy nodded his understanding.
Then he said
“All of us here will be rooting for you both and hoping that he gets found guilty and that both of you come back soon.”
[To be continued in part 18]
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