The Magic in our hearts EXCERPT
A MAGISTRATE'S JOB WAS never an easy one. Geoffrey's, it seemed, was going to become even more difficult with the case just handed to him. The message he received called him to preside over a hearing that involved two of the most influential people of the area.
"A sticky situation," he thought. "It would be good to have a little help on this one!"
The first person he thought of was his wife. "Char, I'm going to need your help on a case I've just been handed. You've the power to see th' truth, and that's just the thing we need here. Since the rulebook does not allow magic, we'll have to seat ye out of sight."
Charrie was more than happy to use her magic to help her husband. It was one of the things she could do to earn her keep in her new world.
"Alright, sweetheart. Even if I have to be out of the area I'll be able to follow along. Depending on the situation, I may be able to make an invisible window to watch through, or at least tap into the sound."
"Your uncle Jerry's lessons may be useful to ye today." He paused. "I'm glad ye're going to be a good sport about it. I was wondering if I should've asked ye to stay behind. I didn't want ye to be upset."
She blew him a kiss. "Now that would've bothered me!"
He told her something about the case as they rode there. "This town's pretty built up. One family owns most of th' developed real estate, th' other controls much o' th' farms and countryside. In this suit neither group's concerned about th' folk who rent their facilities. Th' council has voted to put up a new town hall on some previously uninhabited ground. Th' case involves th' construction, and which family should take it under its influence: th' structure party or that o' terra firma?"
"Sounds like a complicated situation."
"I've a hint it's worse than that. There are factions behind each family. Fer instance, various rental agents and farm machine dealers are competing with one another fer th' business." He paused. "Anyhow, we'll see what comes t' pass."
"It sounds like this may take some time."
"Does to me, too. Hope ye don't get bored."
"Oh no chance of that! I love to watch you work."
Unless he managed to arrive in the early morning, Geoffrey usually came to a district the day before he was to hear a case. He looked over the facilities, perhaps met the complainers or at least a town official. Sometimes he did some of his own research ahead of time using local archives. Because of the high level of these plaintiffs, Geoffrey preferred just to see the hearing room. Normally it was sealed at least the day prior to its formal use. He had to identify himself to gain access.
As usual, there was a special seat for him facing several others. His was either set on a raised platform or otherwise made more prestigious. In this case it was an old heavy chair that looked like it came from an ancient desk. The other chairs in the room were more modern folding ones. The rest of the room contained anything available that would hold spectators. These seats ranged from piano benches to various chairs, and even a number of sawhorses supporting thick boards. There was nowhere to put Charrie where she wouldn't be obvious.
She understood his assessment of the situation. "I can stand behind that door." She indicated a swinging door situated to one side of the contestants' chairs. "I can watch through the crack."
Geoffrey picked up a chair. "Ye can sit on this. No reason for ye t' be uncomfortable." He set it down behind the door. "I know we have plenty o' time left, but I don't like th' idea o'our strolling through th' town. Don't want anyone involved with th' case t' get too good a look at me. Let's go over t' th' inn. I hear there's an oasis inside with a fountain and a small wading area."
"Alright, let's spend the afternoon on a little vacation, it'll help you prepare for the work ahead. We can have lunch now, a snack later, and dinner this evening."
Geoffrey answered the suggestion with a sigh, he'd become used to her large appetite. She wasn't a good influence on the size of his waistline.
They greeted each other the next morning rested and refreshed. "I want t' arrive there early, especially t' get ye cozy before those concerned get here." When Charrie sat at her post Geoffrey handed her a parcel. "Here's a couple o' rolls t' keep ye from starving until we break for lunch."
She gave him a kiss. "How thoughtful of you!"
"Got t' go now. There's an exit door behind ye. Go out that way and I'll meet ye there after everyone's gone."
While waiting for the crowds, Geoffrey put on his insignias of office. They consisted of a badge pinned to a ribbon worn around his neck and a baldric hanging from one shoulder to his waist. That contained his royal insignia. Wearing them transformed his round, good-natured face into a serious one. The responsibilities made him hold his shoulders a little straighter.
Charrie made herself comfortable, moved her chair so her eyes easily met the crack between the door and its jamb. She watched the spectator section fill, and noticed that there was a tangible gap between the two sides of the hall. Evidently that represented the different factions of the argument. The people on the left side tried to ignore those on the right, pretending they weren't there and vice versa. Except that everyone was terribly serious, Charrie thought the whole thing was rather silly.
The two contestants entered and took their places. The spectators stopped rustling and started paying attention. Each side had an advocate who stated his case to the Magistrate. Afterwards they sat in the audience. They weren't allowed to act as lawyers; each plaintiff was to answer the judge's questions himself. Geoffrey asked this and that, clarifying things in his mind. The history of the situation wasn't clear from what he heard. He summoned a messenger boy and set him to the archives. Everyone waited, albeit not too patiently, while Geoffrey perused the results. He nodded to himself and Charrie almost heard people holding their breaths.
The Marshall said, "I see that th' morning's passed. Let's have lunch. Be back here in two hours."
The people filed out of the room, each group claiming its plaintiff, and exited from different doors. Geoffrey waited until everyone was out of the room. He took off his official badges and put them in a special case. Then he followed Charrie out the back door.
They exchanged a kiss. "Whew, I thought the folk in the audience were going to come to blows!" Charrie exclaimed.
They walked towards their hotel. It was a place to eat where few townsfolk would go. "This is a tough one alright." Geoffrey agreed.
They sat down and ordered their food. "I always like both groups to shake hands and get along after my hearing, but there's so much dislike here I don't know if I can do it this time." Geoffrey thought about that for a moment, then said, "I don't like to talk about a case until after it ends, though I can tell you I doubt this'll be finished today. I'm awfully glad I was put through so many paces when I was learning this position, never more than now! Those instructors at th' castle knew what they were doing." The lunch was served and they started to eat. "How are ye back there?"
"Fine, I can hear perfectly and see pretty well," she smiled. "That roll disappeared a long time ago."
"Well let's be sure t' get a couple more for ye. Can't have ye being hungry!" Just to be certain Charrie would not be hungry, he asked the waitress to make a sandwich to take along. "It might be a long afternoon."
Geoffrey took his chair of office and reconvened the proceedings. Everyone was already there. Charrie came in her own entrance and sat down to watch. He asked more questions of each faction, based on what he'd read that morning. Because something was vague he called a witness from each side. The second one was just stepping down when Charrie ran into the room.
"NO!" She stood next to her husband and pointed into the audience. A man there became frozen like a statue. He was half raised with his hand over his head. In it was a wicked looking knife. It'd been aimed at the Marshall.
"Go for the police!" she said to the messenger boy. The boy sped out of the hall. Next she lifted her hands over Geoffrey for a minute or two, protecting him against any other attack. His face was rather grey.
"You're OK now. No one'll be able to get through to you," she whispered. She put her hand on his shoulder, magically helping him relax.
The boy returned with a couple of policemen. When they saw the state of the knife thrower, they figured out who Charrie was. She tersely told them she'd felt the malevolence and rushed up to deal with it. A policeman took the knife from the man's hand, then Charrie released him. He'd been quite aware what was going on and realized he'd been caught red-handed. The officer led him away. There was a short conference among the police. Several posted themselves around the room. Charrie didn't explain to them that she'd protected Geoffrey. She let the people feel intimidated from the presence of the officer instead.
It was quite a while before the Marshall was able to go on with the case. While he was pulling himself together one of the contestants said, "Yer Honour, I want ye t' know I had nothing t' do with Harry's actions."
The other man glared and said, "Well I wasn't involved. After all, Harry isn't lined up in my part o' this!"
"Since ye both say ye had nothing t' do with th' threat t' me, what do ye say t' shaking hands and continuing this like civilized people?"
The two turned to one another and continued to scowl.
Geoffrey tried another track. "How about taking a look at th' hostility between yer neighbours and then make up your minds?" He signalled them to turn around and look at the audience. The anger of one side to another hadn't abated with the knife scare. They looked positively murderous, every one of them. Charrie continued to stand behind the Magistrate.
Then Geoffrey asked, "What's going t' happen when there's no one t' stop this hate from taking another lethal turn? Is this what ye want yer town t' become?"
At that thought the plaintiffs' expressions softened. They knew they were the ones who could urge the antagonism on or break its hold. At last one of them extended his hand and the other took it. They shook them, and one said in a loud voice, "Look, we want everyone t' live together friendly like."
Still grasping hands the other said, "Ye hear? Let's stop this nonsense and be good neighbours again!"
The atmosphere in the hall palpably mellowed. Someone on the right side of the hall turned to speak to someone on the left. Pretty soon several were standing and mixing. The trial began to look like a social event. The Marshall let this go on for quite a while. Then he called the room back to order. Everyone sat down again, but this time there was no discernible pulling away from the center of the room. The police stayed at the perimeter but the atmosphere of the audience was more relaxed.
Now Geoffrey continued the case. With the hostility turned off he could ask for witnesses and be reasonably sure they'd tell the truth. Once he looked at Charrie to confirm that and she almost imperceptibly nodded her head. The case was concluded by dinnertime. Because of the new attitude, the Magistrate was able to get the sides to agree to a compromise. The next day, after they'd had time to digest the verdict, no one could decide which side 'won.' That was the best way to end a case.
This time husband and wife left the hall through the front door; the others stepped aside with deference to give them room. They'd accomplished what no one thought possible, they'd healed the growing cleft in the town.
Charrie and Geoffrey walked to the inn and went directly to their room. Once they were alone he sat on the bed and put his hands over his face. She put her arm around him and kissed his cheek. She rubbed some of the tension out of his shoulders. The magic she'd used to help him relax was wearing off and reaction moving in. By the time dinner rolled around he was feeling much better.
They'd released his distress using the tried and true method of couples in love.