Other than the possible hassles with the courthouse security, Brenda had one other concern about her trip to Camden for the appeal hearing. In her months in Spearfish Lake, she hadn't run across even one reporter for another newspaper or media outlet. Somehow though, this story had leaked to the Camden Press – James D. Moore had to be behind that, she thought. That meant, most likely, there would be some reporter from the press at the hearing, probably some airheaded Barbie from State, she expected. Covering the hearing while wearing handcuffs was bound to draw some attention . . . and this wasn't attention she wanted.
Basically, she didn't want to give away her connection with Carole. Somehow, Carole had been working around Camden for the better part of five years while wearing the Soliels, without drawing one drop of ink in the Press. Somebody down there wasn't on the ball, she thought – well, that was no surprise, it was the Camden Press after all, and as a newspaper, it left something to be desired. Well, it left a lot to be desired, she now understood. Well, that's what they get for hiring airheaded Barbies from State, she thought, reporters more interested in their mirrors and their boyfriends than they were in getting out and pounding the bricks for stories.
But, even an airheaded Barbie might find herself taking notice of another reporter wearing handcuffs. The obvious excuse, that she was doing it for a story, really wouldn't wash with them. Worse, it might give away the story. In spite of everything, if she could help it, Brenda was not about to spend what might be months wearing the Soliels to have some airheaded Barbie reporter get wind of the story and beat her to it, doing a half-assed job along the way. At least, she had the letter from Psychological Consultants that she could use for a cover story if she had to, but any decent reporter, (if the Press had one) could track down the truth with one phone call if she had the ill luck to encounter one.
After all the worries with the courthouse security, it didn't prove to be any problem. Looking good didn't hurt, she realized, and she wore the fawn-colored outfit that she and Carole had gotten Saturday, looking professional as all get-out. There was a brand-new State Press Association photo ID press card clipped to the lapel of the jacket – she'd never needed one in Spearfish Lake – and she had her notepad stuffed in her purse. The purse was pretty new, too; she'd never used one before, but "before" included a period when she'd worn baggy jeans with lots of pockets, so the new accessory took some getting used to.
Judge Dieball had managed to talk to someone he knew in the security department in Camden, and the security guards at the front door had been alerted. She walked right up to the desk, and the older of the guards said, "Are you the Brenda Hodunk we've been expecting?"
"Yes," she said, rather professionally she thought.
"My God, Brenda! I didn't recognize you," the other guard said. He looked familiar . . . of course, Bob Parker! She'd gone to school at Ackerman with him. He was nothing special to her, she'd barely known him. "You've changed!"
"A little," she smiled. "How are you doing, Bob?"
"Oh, getting along," he smiled. "You look like you're doing all right."
"Oh, I'm getting along," she smiled. Bob hadn't been one of the real jerks, anyway, but he hadn't been one of the really smart guys, either – or else, what would he be doing in courthouse security?
"Uh, Miss Hodunk," the older guard said. "I can see it's kinda pointless for you to go through the metal detector, but I should go through your purse."
"Why, certainly, officer," she said sweetly.
It only took a moment; there wasn't the accumulation of crap that most women had in their purses. "OK, I've been told to tell you that if you have any problems, you're to call extension 6271," he said. "The staff has been alerted, however."
"How do I get to this room 502A?"
"I'll take you," Bob said. "I was just going on break. It'll give us a chance to catch up on old times."
"Thank you, Bob," she said, feeling as sophisticated as she felt she looked. "I'm afraid I don't have much contact with Ackerman people anymore."
"I still see a few," Bob said as he started to lead Brenda toward the elevator.
It was actually good to see someone she knew from the old days. Yes, she had changed quite a bit. Bob was no catch, never had been, but then, she hadn't been one, either. Now, she awed him. Even with the handcuffs . . . he apparently knew about the "psychological experiment" cover story that Judge Dieball had agreed to use as an explanation, but she brushed off his obvious question – "Something I'm doing for a friend," she said, without going into detail. The result, though, was that she attracted absolutely no notice in getting to the courtroom. Apparently, good-looking women in handcuffs being escorted by security guards were not an uncommon sight around this courthouse. Getting out again might be another story, but at least she'd made it to the hearing on time.
And, sure enough, there was a classic airheaded State Barbie reporter from the Camden Press in the courtroom, looking rather bored, chewing gum. Brenda could tell the type, as soon as she looked at her; she didn't even have to look at the notepad in her hand to identify her – the chest size and makeup sufficed. She was wearing designer blue jeans, with a couple of tasteful holes in them, and a loose sweatshirt. Rather sloppy, Brenda thought, ignoring how she would have looked two weeks before. Well, hell, at least I'd have tried to dress up a little for a court hearing down here, but God, that's sloppy for a basically good-looking girl like her . . . Wendy would throw a fit.
Without comment, Brenda walked partway down the aisle, and took a seat a couple of chairs in. She sat down, put her purse in the next seat, opened it, pulled out a notepad of her own, and pulled out a pen. Just as things seemed to be starting to get going, the airhead came down the aisle, and sat down in the end seat. She sat down, pulled out her own notepad, and after a moment, Brenda could hear a sharp intake of breath.
"Excuse me," the airhead said. "Are you here to cover this hearing?"
Brenda looked up, to see the airhead's eyes wide open, not quite believing what she saw. "Yes," she said in her most professional manner. "I'm from the Spearfish Lake Record-Herald."
It was several seconds before the airhead spoke again; "Are those really handcuffs?"
Well, you knew you were going to get stupid questions, Brenda thought. You really have to expect them from Barbies like this. "Of course," she replied casually. "If they weren't, I wouldn't be wearing them."
Out of the corner of her eye, Brenda could see the airhead sort of lean away a little, her eyes even wider. With just a little concern in her voice, the girl asked, "Uh, what are you doing here wearing handcuffs?"
Brenda smiled and shook her head. "This case is so insane they had to get someone qualified to cover it."
Well, that was true, she grinned mentally. Anissa was the only other person available, and she really wasn't qualified. But now, she could visibly see the airhead cringe and look scared.
It took the airhead a few seconds to work up the courage to ask the next question, looking pretty dubious. "Uhh, I don't think I've ever seen handcuffs like that before," she said uncertainly.
I really shouldn't say this, Brenda thought, but it's payback time. "Probably not," she said casually. "Cops don't use them. They were designed for use in mental institutions."
The courtroom doors were swinging an instant later as she thought that she wasn't going to have to worry about the Press beating her on this story . . .
Whenever Brenda thought about the incident on her way back to Spearfish Lake, she still broke out in the giggles. Wait till Wendy hears about this, she thought. She just about died laughing over that deal Saturday, and this was even better!
Brenda drove carefully, keeping her speed down, trying not to draw attention, especially from the cops. A couple of the counties she went through between Camden and Spearfish Lake had deputies with a reputation for being really arrogant jerks, and Brenda didn't want to get stopped, just in case some one of them wanted to make an asshole of himself.
While Carole had explained that there was no law against wearing handcuffs, some one of those doofuses might not see it that way. In theory, she knew she could get written up for something, maybe Operating With Ability Impaired, although she knew it was more aimed at drug users. She had more ability than a couple people she knew from Spearfish Lake, loggers who had arms amputated in accidents and still managed eighteen-wheelers, but, some one of those arrogant deputies might not see things her way . . . while she didn't really want to fight it, she knew if something like that happened, she would – and she knew what lawyer she'd call on: James D. Moore. What a jerk, but what balls he had . . .
She broke out in the giggles again. God, the look on that Barbie's face . . . there were probably some wild stories going around the newsroom at the Press right now, she imagined. Oh, well, I never wanted to work at the Press anyway, it's too close to home, but I'm going to have to tell Mike to be prepared for some really weird comments at the next state press association conference . . .
All the paper was being made up in the front office, since the advent of the digital full-page makeup. It had been just two weeks since Mike had ceremonially pulled the plug on the waxer back in the paste-up room; it now sat dark and empty, echoing; no one had reason to go in there anymore. Now, the hustle and bustle had been transferred to the front office, and it was busy.
"Well, what happened?" Mike said, looking up from the layout of the front page on the computer screen.
Brenda desperately wanted to tell Mike the funny story about the airheaded Barbie in the courtroom, but it would have to wait till later. Maybe tomorrow, in the mailroom . . . "Better clear some space," she said. "The ruling was overturned."
"Bad. No basketball till the board can prepare a plan to insure equal cheerleader coverage. The court has to approve it. The next court date is March 10."
"Ohhh, shit," Mike said. "That's after playoffs start."
"Yeah," Brenda said. "There was a brief filed by an amicus curiae. When I heard the letters 'ACLU' I knew the excrement had impacted the air circulation device. Look, I can write this quick, or I can write it long. In any case, I need to at least talk to Hekkinan, the super, and Anissa."
"Get started," Mike told her glumly, knowing that this was just the beginning. "I guess I'd better figure on leading with it, so do it right. This's just going to plain pull the plug on the boys' basketball season, and it's really going to yank some chains around this town."
It was rare for Carole to be home on a Tuesday night; usually she stayed at her apartment in Camden, but she had an appointment over at Three Pines the first thing Wednesday morning, so it was closer to stay at home. It gave Brenda the fun of telling the story of the meeting with the airheaded blonde in the courtroom to both Carole and Wendy.
As expected, she had both of them rolling with laughter.
"Maybe the Starship Enterprise really does exist after all," Brenda laughed as she came up for air. "It sure beamed her up . . . "
"Oh, God, that is too cool," Carole said. "I'd have liked to have been there."
"Oh, she was grossed out enough as it was," Brenda laughed. "That would have really scared her."
Wendy was pounding her head against the pillow, she was laughing so hard. "Oh, God, that had to have been fun. Sort of makes it worth it, doesn't it?"
"Yeah," Brenda grinned. "The heck of it is that I told the truth, as far as it went. It was almost better than lying."
"That is fun," Carole said. "I don't to do things like that often enough. I've often thought it would be fun just to go someplace where no one knows me, and just have fun pulling legs."
Wendy was still laughing. "Oh, that would be fun," she said. "You know, I hadn't thought about it, but right now, it would be too good an opportunity to lose."
"I don't follow you," Brenda said.
"Oh, it'd be bad enough with one of you," Wendy said. "But . . . two of you? There's so much more you could do. Brenda, is there any chance you could get off work for a few days?"
"I suppose, but it'd depend on the timing," she said. "I still don't have any idea what you're talking about."
"Oh, it's very simple," Wendy laughed. It took her a while to get it out, since she broke up a couple times in the telling. "I just have the vision of the two of you lying on a beach at some big resort hotel, maybe down in Florida, wearing nothing but sunglasses and bikinis and your Soliels . . . and never telling the truth."
"Oh, God," Carole laughed, nearly in tears herself at the thought. "I've always wanted to do something like that, but you're right, the two of us playing off of each other would make it so much better. We could hit some clubs, too! That'd be just about as big a scream! Brenda, if we did it right, we could tell people almost anything and they'd believe it."
"Yeah," Brenda said, shaking her head with laughter. After today, the idea had its appeal. "It'd be kind of like Candid Camera without the camera."
"Exactly," Wendy laughed. "It'd even be neat to have the camera. I'd love to see that tape. You two are just going to have to tell me all the stories."
"I don't know about videotape," Brenda said thoughtfully; she knew now that Wendy really did vicariously enjoy the adventure stories she and her sister brought home. After all, she had to do something for fun, and if it involved living other people's adventures, well, Brenda was willing to contribute. "But it wouldn't be any trick to do an audio tape."
"That'd be almost as good," Wendy said, a huge grin on her face.
"Brenda," Carole said, with an evil grin in her eye. "Let's do it."
"Yessss . . ." Brenda said, mentally enjoying the possibilities. "Oh, it would be so much fun to do, but I blew my budget on clothes. I'd have a heck of a time covering a trip to Florida."
"Oh, hell, I'll cover it," Carole said. "It'll be worth it. I may never have the chance again to do it with someone who's worn Soliels long enough to be comfortable with them, and you're getting there. It wouldn't have to be a week, maybe just a long weekend. It'd be hard to pull it off for more than a couple days, anyway. Maybe we could go in a couple weeks, to celebrate your first month."
"Love to," Brenda said. Ohhhh, it sounded like fun! "Not a chance that weekend, though. That's Winter Festival weekend. Maybe we could hold it off a little, so when we're really bummed by winter, we could get away from it."
"We'll just have to check the calendar and find a date," Carole said. "I know I've got a couple things along in February that would keep me from going, but we should be able to work out something."
"We'll just have to make the chance," Brenda laughed. "It'll be good to get away anyway, but I can see, this could be so much fun . . ."
They talked about it some more and threw around some ideas of some of the things they might say to the stupid questions they could get, some of the things they could do to put people on. Yes, this was going to be fun . . . it wasn't until after Brenda finally got back to her apartment that evening that it struck her that doing this meant she was going to be wearing the Soliels for at least another month, probably more. Somehow, the thought didn't bother her as much as it would have a few days before. She knew she could handle it, now. If she had to, she had to, and it was clear it would be worth it. The thought didn't even surprise her.