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On the way to the courthouse Kit couldn't help but think about Ted Fox. Where was he just now? Was he even alive?
Ever since he'd left Los Angeles, Kit had prayed for his return. But most of all, she'd prayed he'd open his heart to the truth. God's truth.
As Kit walked toward Temple Street by way of Spring, her cheviot walking dress swishing along the sidewalk and her large-brimmed Arlington hat shielding her from the oppressive sun, she wondered what Ted would think of this outrageous turn of events. Elinor Wynn suing Kit for alienation of his affection! What gall. Kit's face began to heat up like the sidewalk.
At the courthouse she found the predictable mob of curiosity seekers and reporters. This entire affair was a juicy social scandal. Kit pushed through without a word to anyone. She would do all her talking in the courtroom.
That courtroom belonged to Judge Franklin Adams. All she asked was that he be fair. An open-minded judge could never allow Elinor Wynn's ridiculous lawsuit to continue.
Yet there sat Elinor with her lawyer, Barker Wesley. Both of them had a look on their faces that Kit could only describe as smug. Wesley, a dapper man in a three-piece suit, casually fiddled with a gold watch fob as he waited for the judge to call the case.
What did he have up his sleeve? Kit's copious research had found no legal basis for Elinor's claim. How, then, could they appear so unconcerned?
Elinor Wynn, of course, was all dressed up for her moment in the sun. Her blue etamine gown, with two circular flounces terminating at each side, was something more befitting an evening at the opera. And the fullblouse waist trimmed with stitched bands and embroidered ornaments was something only a social peacock would wear to a proceeding like this. Topping it all off was the most ostentatious hat Kit had ever seena blue silk affair virtually exploding with ostrich plumes.
The picture of lawyer and client was one of supreme confidence. Kit felt tendrils of anxiety creeping around her. Earl Rogers, who had offered to defend Kit for no fee, had told her that a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. She had refused, confident the judge would throw this lawsuit out. So why was she feeling foolish all of a sudden?
Judge Adams took the bench. He was an intelligent-looking man in his fifties, with short-cropped black hair. He rapped once with his gavel and said in a clear, no-nonsense voice, "Wynn versus Shannon. We are here on a motion to dismiss the case brought by the respondent. Is the respondent ready to bring her argument?"
Kit stood. "I am, Your Honor."
"Your Honor," she said, "the court must dismiss this case for one simple reason. There is no cause of action under law, either civil or common. What is being foisted upon this court is a waste of time."
Kit strode to the center of the courtroom to address the judge directly. He did not indicate anything by his expression.
"The tort of alienation of affection, Your Honor, was first recognized in New York in 1866. The case is Heermance v. James, and I note that it was not cited by my learned adversary." Kit nodded at Barker Wesley. He smiled.
"This cause of action actually began, that court notes, as a property right. A master had the right at common law to bring action when someone enticed his servant away, thus depriving him of services. Under early common law, since a wife was seen as a servant of the husband, this tort of alienation was gradually recognized."
The words almost stuck in Kit's throat. The idea of a wife as property, still rippling through the law, appalled her. But this outrage was, ironically, the strength of her argument.
"There is no such action recognized for a wife, Your Honor. While many of us might take issue with the view that a woman can ever be owned by her husband, there is as yet no basis for a wife to sue for alienation of affection."
Kit paused and glanced at Elinor Wynn. She was looking straight ahead.
"Even if there were," Kit continued, "the fact is there was no marriage here. Miss Wynn and Mr. Fox were engaged to be married. They had not yet entered into a recognized union. If, for example, Mr. Fox were to bring an action for alienation, it would be thrown out on that same basis. In short, Your Honor, there is no cause of action here because there is no law to support it. I would therefore request Your Honor dismiss this case and assess the plaintiff with the sanction of paying my legal fee."
As Kit sat down Judge Adams said, "You may respond now, Mr. Wesley."
The well-appointed lawyer stood. "Your Honor, my worthy opponent has actually outlined our argument for us. I believe she just said there is not yet a basis for a wife to sue for alienation of affection. Miss Shannon, being the shining example of progressive womanhood that she is, would like, I am sure, to see that very thing remedied."
With a polished smile, Wesley bowed toward Kit. A few titters arose from the gallery.
"And isn't that what the courts of justice are for, Your Honor? Where there is injustice they stand as shining beacons to the great, oppressed masses seeking only the redress of the grievous harms done to them."
The words ham actor raced into Kit's mind. But the judge was listening intently. He wasn't truly considering this, was he?
"This is 1904, Your Honor! Women like Miss Shannon have every right to practice law. How can we deny them the rights of the law itself?"
Kit felt her hands clenching. It was a powerful argument Wesley was making, and he was painting her into a corner. How could she stand and argue, in effect, against herself?
"I ask this court to recognize the social changes that are upon us at this moment in time and to consider the terrible loss my client has suffered because of the purposeful allurements of Miss Shannon. Were it not for her, my client would be happily married by now, even now perhaps bearing a child and contributing her part to ensure the survival of this continuing enterprise we call civilization."
Kit's head was starting to throb. Was it these overripe words or the fact that the judge was nodding his head?
Then the judge said, "Mr. Wesley, even if this court were to agree with you about a cause of action on behalf of a wife, is it not limited to one who is married?"
"I do not see why, Your Honor. In either case the damage is the samethe loss of the affection and companionship of that special person with whom one expects to spend the rest of one's life."
Nodding again, Judge Adams said, "Any response, Miss Shannon?"
What response could there be, other than the legal one? "Your Honor," she said, "no such right has ever been recognized. This is a matter for the legislature."
Scowling, the judge said, "Justice is always a matter for the courts, Miss Shannon. If this is a matter of common law, I can certainly look to see the intent of it and rule accordingly, is that not correct?"
"That is all I need to know. You agree on that point. And I am going to agree with Mr. Wesley. There is a cause of action here for a very real injury. It is not up to me, but to a jury, to assess fault and damages. So my ruling is that this matter may proceed to trial."
The audience whispered loudly. Elinor Wynn was looking at Kit now, her face the very picture of self-satisfaction.
It was all so ludicrous! How could the judge have possibly ruled this way? It was almost as if there had been a back-room deal between Adams and Wesley.
"Will there be anything else?" said the judge.
"Yes, Your Honor," Kit said. "I would like to amend my motion to make it one for summary judgment." A summary judgment argued that there were no facts sufficient to make any sort of case. Since her legal argument had failed, this was her last hope to get the case dismissed before a trial.
"It is my contention that even if the law is changedexcuse me, acceptedby this court as has been stated, there are no facts under which a cause of action may be sustained." Kit was not at all sure how this was being formed in her mind, but it sounded good and logical, and she felt inspired. "The plaintiff has not alleged the fundamental elements for a cause of action."
"We most certainly have, Your Honor," Wesley protested.
Seeming momentarily confused, the judge began looking at the copy of the complaint that lay before him. Kit took the opportunity to grab her own copy from her briefcase. "If I may," she said.
"Go on," said Judge Adams.
"The basis for liability is the intentional interference with a relationship, not merely negligent conduct. There are no facts in this complaint that establish intent."
With more consternation than anything else, Judge Adams looked at Wesley. "What say you to that, Mr. Wesley?"
"I ..." Wesley groped for words, then suddenly appeared to have an idea. "If Your Honor please, we can take care of that right now. I am willing to put Miss Wynn on the stand for the sole purpose of giving us the facts necessary to take this to a jury."
"I protest," Kit said. "The complaint is insufficient."
For some reason, Judge Adams looked relieved. "Miss Shannon, this court allowed you to amend your motion to one for summary judgment. Fairness requires that we allow Mr. Wesley to amend his complaint now by taking the statement of Miss Wynn. I will allow it. Miss Wynn, if you will please step forward and be sworn."
Her haughty smile still in place, Elinor Wynn stood up and began to glide, in perfect social form, toward the witness stand. In her bearing was the confidence of someone who considered herself better than most others, especially a common lawyeress who had grown up on the wrong side of any track worth mentioning. Even more troubling, Elinor Wynn seemed to possess some secret knowledge.
Kit watched helplessly as Elinor was sworn as a witness.
Angel of Mercy (SHANNON SAGA Book 3) by Tracie Peterson & James Scott Bell
Copyright © 2002, Tracie Peterson & James Scott Bell
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.