Had Steven Crandall believed in omens he would have found the June rain ominous as he headed towards the first pre-trial in State vs. Shego. As a homeowner he simply enjoyed the fact he would not need to water his lawn that evening. He shook the rain off his umbrella when he got to the courthouse and, after passing through security, headed for Judge Leah Forest's chamber. He was about to knock on the door when he saw Alice Armstrong bustling towards him.
“I was afraid I was going to be late,” she puffed.
“What do you mean, late?”
“Didn't my office call yours? Adam is handling another project, I'm taking over the Shego case.”
“You damn well know your office didn't call mine,” Steven thought as the judge opened her door and motioned the pair inside. His mood wasn't helped as the two greeted each other with an embrace and kisses on the cheeks.
“Leafy! How are the kids?”
“The oldest starts his senior year in high school this fall.”
“I can't believe it! It seems like he was just in diapers.”
“Let me guess,” Steve asked dryly, “the Old Dykes Network.”
“Do you have a problem, Mr. Crandall?” Judge Forest asked.
“No, Your Honor, I simply feel at something of a disadvantage when the Judge and opposing counsel are clearly on friendly terms.”
“What do you think, Leafy, should we TL him?”
“We're an awfully accepting bunch. You didn't have the advantage of attending Middleton Law, you went to some piddling little law school back East, didn't you?”
“Well, we won't hold that against you. We give lawyers who missed out on a good education here at Middleton Law the chance to enroll in the Legal Lesbians. For twenty dollars a year you can become a Voluntary Lesbian -- you get the newsletter and your family is invited to the spring and fall picnics. Five bucks buys you the status of Temporary Lesbian. You get treated as a member for the duration of the trial.”
“You're kidding, right?”
“I'm not kidding.”
“What do I get?”
“First name basis with Judge in chambers and opposing counsel in the courtroom.”
Steven pulled out his billfold and looked for a five while Alice rummaged through her purse.
“Here,” he said, handing her a bill.
“Put this on your lapel,” she said, handing him a small pink pin with the letters TL on it.
“No, she's not,” Judge Forest said, “and we don't like outsiders calling it the Old Dykes Network. You might have avoided the pin if you hadn't said that.”
He put the pin on his lapel with obvious reluctance. The judge extended her hand to shake. “You can call me Leah, or Leafy, in here.”
“Thank you, Your… Leah. I think I feel more comfortable with that.”
Alice extended her hand, “Alice. What's your preference?”
“Steve is fine.”
The judge settled back in her chair, “That's quite a pile of paperwork your office sent over, Steve. Have you had any meetings with Alice about what can be settled?”
“No, Opposing… Alice sort of blindsided me this morning. I thought someone else in her firm had the case. I think they wanted to keep me in the dark as long as possible.”
“Well, when the State asked me to recuse myself they did it in the most insulting way they could.”
The judge tssked, “You know, when I was a new judge I received a lecture on keeping my temper.”
“And, damn it, that speech I always give is right. But I never claimed to be perfect.”
“Sorry, Steve,” the Judge apologized. “The State feels it has a strong case?”
“We should be able to prove most of the charges with no problem. The State is looking to request a sentence of fifty years after conviction. “
“Defense will probably plead guilty on the grand theft and burglary charges. We'll be pushing for probation.”
“No way, Alice,” Steve warned her.
“Just telling you what defense wants.”
“You're not going to get it.”
“Look, you two. The State and defense are too far apart this morning for the two of you to be wasting my time. If we have to argue every one of these charges in court the case is going to take three years to decide. Have a few meetings to see where you can agree. Let's pencil in an issues conference in two months to see where we are in the case, agreed?”
Alice and Steve both nodded their heads yes.
“I thought your client might be with you today,” Leah said.
“She's out of the country.”
“Oh, for God's sake!” Steve interrupted. “I told you she was a flight risk. You should have never let her have bail.”
“She's trying to clear up some minor charges against her in Europe. She really is trying to get her life back on track.” Alice addressed her last sentence as much to the Judge as to Opposing Counsel.
“Twenty bucks says you don't see her again.”
“I'll take that, Steve. Will you hold the bets, Leafy?”
The prosecutor's office and defense lawyer had met three times before they were ready to see the judge again.
At the first meeting Alice informed the assistant DA that Shego was back in the country. “But I haven't seen her,” Steve informed her. “You're giving me hearsay, I want evidence.”
At their third meeting he had asked if Alice's client was still in the country.
“She's down in Mexico doing a job.”
Steve snorted in disgust, “You really think you're going to see her?”
“I'll give you odds on a second bet. I'll put up twenty to your ten she's here for our next meeting.”
Shego met Alice in her law office before the two walked to the courthouse for the issues conference with the judge.
“You don't actually need to attend the issues conference,” Alice told Shego. “But if you really hope to become a lawyer it will be a good experience for you. Now, one rule today, you don't say ANYTHING except hello and goodbye unless I tell you to. Is that clear.”
The two waited on the bench outside the judge's chambers until Steve arrived. “Glad you're wearing your TL pin,” Alice told him as she knocked on the door.
“I try to have respect for the rules.”
As Leah ushered them into her office Alice made brief introductions, “Shego, this is Judge Forest, you may call her Your Honor. Leafy, this is Shego.” The two shook hands. “Shego, this is Steve Crandall, he'll be presenting the State's evidence against you.” The two did not shake hands.
Steve and Alice took the large chairs in front of the judge's desk, and Shego took a smaller chair to the side.
“First things first,” the Judge announced, and handed forty dollars to Alice. There was a small delay as Steve took out his billfold and handed her another ten.
“A small side bet,” Alice explained.
The judge called the conference back on track, “Now, how are negotiations going? Are the State and defense any closer together?”
“We've done pretty well, Leah,” Steve told her. “Her client is willing to plead guilty on most of the felony burglary charges. The State is willing to drop the others; not enough evidence to make it worth our while to try and gain a conviction.”
“We're only willing to put in a guilty plea with a stipulation, we want the state to drop the robbery and assault charges. You're never going to be able to prove the robbery charges and I don't think you want to try the assault charges.”
“Steve, robbery first. There were two, weren't there?”
“Yeah. Night watchman knocked unconscious in one, two researchers locked in a closet in the other.”
“Was Shego seen in either robbery,” Alice asked.
“No, but they were both by Drakken's people and that makes her an accomplice and guilty.”
“Can the State prove Drakken's people were behind the robberies?”
“Not for sure, “ Steve admitted. “The night watchman didn't see who hit him, but Drakken stole a particle resonator a week later from the lab -- it's one of the burglaries they've agree to plead guilty on. We figure the first attempt was a botched heist by Drakken.”
“You really think you can win something with evidence that circumstantial?” Alice asked.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Steve admitted. “The two researchers who were locked in the closet saw a man dressed in red.”
“And so Shego should be convicted?”
“Hey, Drakken's henchmen always dressed in red.”
“Too thin, Steve, and you know it. I could probably beat you on half a dozen of those burglary charges my client is willing to plead guilty to. But we want the robbery and assault charges dropped.”
“The State sounds weak on the robbery charges, Steve,” the Judge told him. “I don't know why you are so interested in pursuing them. Are your assault cases any better?”
“Those are iron clad. We've got video tapes of a number of fights between Shego and Kim Possible.”
Shego shifted uncomfortably on her chair.
“You don't want to go there, Steve.” Alice warned him. “Kim is tremendously popular around this area. You don't want to put her on the stand.”
“Why the hell not? Your client beats on local hero, that should get an assault conviction easily in this town.”
“You do know that they are living together, right?”
“Yeah, in that big old house near the university. I think it's great that Kim and Randy, or whatever his name is, are keeping an eye on her.”
“I mean living together as in keeping each other warm in bed.”
The prosecutor's lower jaw dropped and he made an odd sort of gargling sound, “What? You're kidding, right?” He looked over at the pale woman, who was blushing.
“You put Kim on the stand and she will make an eloquent plea for Shego being forgiven. Kim's got a lot of people who love her in this town. And at least part of the town would resent the man who forced her out of the closet.”
“So, what exactly are you saying?”
“I'm saying, you don't call Kim or Ron Stoppable to the stand for the prosecution. I don't call them to the stand for the defense.”
“You won't call her for the defense?”
“She doesn't want people throwing eggs at her house or religious zealots picketing outside with signs saying she'll burn in hell. Kim wants a low profile, and given the crap I've put up with the last forty-five years I can't say I blame her. Now, the State has to decide, do you tear down a local hero in people's eyes and get her to put in a tearful plea for her lover's freedom, or does the State drop the charge and settle for the long list of grand theft charges we'll agree to?”
“I want to talk with Kim Possible,” Steve told the judge. “I'm willing to drop the charges if she wants me to drop them. But Shego is a threat; we all know that. She's been convicted of assault in Canada, and had a dozen assaults or robberies on her Federal rap sheet. She's a dangerous woman.”
“We're all dangerous Steve,” Alice interrupted, “you can't have been married very long or your wife would have taught you that. Yes, Shego has committed violent crimes in other states and countries. You aren't trying her for anything done anywhere else. You are only concerned with crimes she has committed here. You don't have the evidence to convict without making this a lot uglier than I think you want to deal with. Accept the guilty pleas we're offering.”
The Prosecutor thought for a minute. “Look, I can't promise anything, but I'll run your offer past my boss. With the guilty pleas you're accepting she will probably spend time in prison. But, I can tell you this: If the DA accepts your offer it only covers the robberies and assaults on this list. If we find any other violent crimes we're going after her. Your stipulation only covers the assaults and robberies on the initial indictment. Is that clear?”
The judge spoke, “Well, depending on the DA's decision it sounds like you two may be close on the plea, but miles away on sentencing. Assuming for a minute that Shego enters a guilty plea on these burglary charges and the State drops the robbery and assault charges how would the state like to proceed? Would you two rather throw it on my lap or have a jury for sentencing recommendations?”
“I hope you don't take this personally, Leah, but I'm still a little nervous about your support group. I'd feel better if I can argue in front of a jury why she should spend time in prison.”
“Appreciate the honesty, Steve. You know I don't have the follow the recommendations exactly, but it does take some of the second-guessers off my back if I don't deviate too far from what the jury recommends. How about you, Alice? Do you have any objections to a jury for sentencing recommendations?”
“Actually, if Steve hadn't asked for it I think I would have requested it myself. I think we've got a list of character references that will sway the jury to give her probation.”
“Now you told me Kim and that --What was his name again? -- wouldn't be called. Correct?”
“I'll keep my word, Steve, assuming your boss accepts our offer.”
“I'll run it past him this afternoon. He might take it.”
“Now, Alice, before you left the case you had a trial date penciled in. Does that still work for you?”
“Works perfectly me for me. I'm teaching two classes this semester and I'd like it after fall semester ends and before the spring begins.”
“No, I don't like the time. But if she's teaching I understand why she needs it then. December is not a good month for prosecutors.”
Following the conference Shego and Alice had beers and burgers at the Open Court across from the courthouse.
“We're taking a gamble, Shego. We're giving him a lot. If he can find evidence for another robbery or assault you've committed he is going to push for it. Have you told me everything?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Good, let's hope this works.”
“Alice, what are the chances I won't go to prison? I want the truth.”
“I don't know,” Alice told her. “While a third of non-violent felons get probation instead of prison the number of your crimes would normally insure incarceration. But I've never seen a case where the criminal had made so much effort towards rehabilitation or had so many character references. I think you have a real chance for probation if you're telling me the truth.
The last week of August brought two welcome events, the end of a heat wave and the arrival of Kim's cousin Jocelyn to stay with her aunt and uncle. The move proved harder on Joss than expected. Jim and Tim tended to ignore her if they saw her in the school hallways, and the lack of friends left her depressed. Her parents had forbidden her from visiting Possible Manor for fear that Kim or Shego might somehow corrupt her, but James eventually convinced his big brother and his wife to allow her to visit -- Ron and Kim were the closest thing she had to friends.
Joss became something of a regular around the big house, which brought changes for the young girl. She had gotten over the small crush on Ron much earlier. But now in Middleton and lonely the blonde man's humor and support were giving birth to a larger crush. In hanging around at Kim's place Joss also necessarily came into contact with Bonnie.
“Look, Joss, I've got nothing against you. But why are you always over here? Aren't you in any after school activities? Don't you have any friends to hang around with?”
The auburn haired girl hung her head to hide the blush. She was over there to see Ron. But she could answer the second question, “No, I don't,” she said honestly.
Bonnie felt some sympathy and sat down with Joss, “I'm sorry. What's the problem?”
“Everyone treats me like I'm some kind'a hick. They make fun of how I dress an' how I talk. It's a mean place.”
Bonnie sighed, “Yeah. I know how it is. In high school I would have been one of the mean kids making fun of you.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel any better?”
“I'm just telling you the truth. I'd like to think I've grown since then. Can I offer some suggestions?”
“Are they gonna' hurt my feelings?”
“I'm going to try not to. You're a cute kid, but the way you sound people don't realize you're as smart as you are. And people probably think the way you dress is either an anti-social statement or a reflection of being clueless. You look like you just got off the bus from Hicksville.”
“I didn' take the bus. I flew out. You aren't a helpin' me feel any better.”
“Look, it takes time to make friends. And eventually people will learn who you are and stop judging you because you sound different. But a little change in fashion and a couple makeup tips and you can knock the people who just judge you by how you look.”
“Do I really care what people like that think?”
“I don't know if you should, but they can make it easy or hard for you to gain more friends. It's easier for you to change to meet other people's expectations than asking everyone else to change to meet yours. You're the one who wants things to be different.”
Joss thought of saying something about how shallow that sounded, but kept her mouth shut on that idea. “What do ya think I need to do?” she asked instead.
“Have you got some spending money?”
“Some, how much am I going to need?”
“Well, we'll probably spend most of it. You're going to Club Banana with Monique and me. With her employee discount we'll get you a nice wardrobe. I'll give you some makeup tips over the weekend. Next week you'll show them a new Joss Possible.”
“Do I have ta change who I am?”
“No, I'm just saying a lot of people may be ignoring you because of how you look. You're a good kid. Stay yourself. But you need some after school activities to help you meet people. Maybe you could consider cheerleading. Kim and I could give you some help. You might be ready to try out for the squad by basketball season.”
“I'm not sure I'm gonna be ready for that.”
Author's Note: At least one reviewer of Thanksgiving at the Big Table thought Joss wouldn't have kept a crush on Ron for a couple years. I already knew it was a new crush, the story simply hadn't been written yet. This chapter gives some of the background, there may be more later.