At 9:45 AM in Hollywood, California, a man in his fifties and his son, twenty, approached the tall office building for the young man’s deposition at a busy intersection on Sunset Boulevard. Tall father in his blue pin striped suit, and muscular son, three inches shorter, in slacks and a sport shirt, strutted through a cross-walk. A crowd waited for a street musician to begin.
Father and son passed the gathering to a nine-story office building, through glass revolving doors, into the foyer over black granite tile to the elevators. A swift ride to the ninth floor took them to a snazzy law office where the defense lawyers rented space. They stepped out of the elevator on to dark oak floor that led to the reception area.“We are here for John Kelly’s deposition,” Matt Kelly said to the slender dark- haired receptionist. She wore a professional grey suit bearing a name tag, “Fran”.
She whisked them to the law library, where legal treatises ascended from floor to ceiling, and Joe Murphy, John’s attorney, closed the doors, “All the defense lawyers have read the hospital and psychiatric reports, and everyone wants to settle except the attorney for the driver of the Toyota who caused the accident without your deposition, John. She seems argumentative. The insurance lawyer is a professional and will begin the questioning. Just stick to the facts.”
They walked to the conference room. Joe opened the heavy oak doors and they entered. Set on red carpet, an oak table had nine empty captain’s chairs with a court reporter at the far end in a dark blue suit.
She had just placed new paper in her shorthand machine. A long glass window overlooked Sunset Boulevard to the east. They remained standing as the defense attorneys arrived. An obese female lawyer for the driver of the blue Toyota sauntered in with the insurance company’s lawyer, a husky red-haired attorney with a crew cut, Jack Levine. The reporter arose and pointing at the seat next to her said, “Would the deponent please sit here?” John took that seat, Joe sat adjacent, and Matt moved next to him.
“Mr. John Kelly, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” the court reporter said.
“Counsel may proceed.”
“Mr. Kelly, what time did you begin the trip in question?”asked Levine.
“About ten AM.”
“Where did you leave from?”
“542 Newton Avenue, San Fernando, California.”
“Who else joined you?”
“My wife Barbara.”
“What course of study were you engaged in at the time of the accident?”
“I was a Microbiology student at UCLA in my third year.”
“What speed were you going at the time of the collision?
“I used cruise control at 66 miles per hour.”
“Tell us how the accident occurred?”
“The defendant’s Toyota entered the freeway on my right at high speed. I tried to avoid the collision but was surrounded by trucks. I honked and moved over but her car slammed into mine sending it into a spin. My car crossed into oncoming traffic, a van broadsided me, and knocked me unconscious.”
“So you didn’t see the van coming ?
“No, everything went dark once the spin ended.”
“What do you recall next?”
“I awoke at the UCLA hospital in the ICU.”
“How long did you remain there?”
“Do you have any symptoms today?”
“Emotional distress from the loss of my wife, unable to finish my science major, and constant back pain.”
“Have you seen any medical professionals?”
Joe Murphy interposed, “May we take a break so I can discuss the medical records with counsel?”
“Off the record for a conference,” said the court reporter.
Joe whispered to John and Matt, “Why don’t you gentlemen go outside and relax. It’s a lovely day. I’ll get them back into settlement mode.” Joe took defense counsel through the medical records, hospital charges, and car repairs. John and Matt left.
“Dad, can you hear that saxophone around the corner?” John said.
“Yeah, that’s a Glenn Miller tune I played in high school. Let’s go listen.”
“That old music jumps and the sax wails.”
“That’s a mellow tone he must have amplified.”
Matt pulled out a five spot and handed it to John, “Toss it in the man’s hat.”John placed the bill in a red and white brocaded leather hat with the name “Zeke” embroidered in gold on one side. Zeke winked and nodded acknowledging the gift reeling, rollicking, and blowing on his mouthpiece. His cheeks puffed like balloons as he manipulated the sound. With fuzzy white-hair covering his chin, standing and rocking back and forth, he sound-sculptured “In the Mood” with melodious notes that wafted from his gold sax. A crowd of smiling pedestrians had gathered clapping their hands and moving their feet, heads bobbing, and fingers popping to Zeke’s music oblivious to the dust, smell of garbage, and clamor of the street. “My brother played that on sax and I played trumpet in high school.”
“Why not ask him to play another?”John said.
“Zeke, can you play ‘Little Brown Jug?’”
“Sure can, friend,” Zeke said winking his eyes catching a sparkle from the sun. His gold-plated 1950 Selmer Alto spilled notes that affected the crowd who rocked, moved heads and shoulders, feet and hands, to his rhythms and riffs. Some danced to Zeke’s spicy improvisations as his fingers raced over the brass keys like a hummingbird’s wings. Time seemed to stand still for the Kellys relieving them of the morning’s tension and restoring balance.
After a half an hour Matt said, “How long will you be here?”
“Hell, I’ll stay here until 8 PM.”
“Do you play any Brubeck?” John asked.
“I’ll save 'Take Five' for you.”They went back to the office and sat in the reception room with a cup of coffee.
“Let’s get lunch” Joe said coming out of the conference room “and discuss settlement.” After ordering sandwiches they took a seat overlooking Sunset Boulevard.
Jack met them, “I’m sorry Joe, but Griselda insists on her opportunity to question John before she’ll agree to any contribution from her client.”
“Just like her. This’ll be over soon,” Matt said putting his arm on John’s shoulder.
The court reporter said, “Mr. Kelly you are still under the oath.”
The Insurance attorney, a woman in her thirties, blond-brown bouffant shooting skyward, large pointed nose piercing forward, started the attack with pursed lips and eyes glaring: “Mr. Kelly, why do you
expect our insurance company and my client to give you
any money for killing your wife with your reckless driving?”
“How dare you attack my son?” shouted Matt face red with rage. John’s pained expression looked as if he had just witnessed his wife's death. His eyes welled up and he slumped in his chair as if all the air went out of him.
Joe jumped up a little cooler and made his record: “Objection! Ms. Crass, your question assumes facts not in evidence, is argumentative, unethical, and unprofessional. You know the police cited your client for gross negligence and exonerated my client who has lost his young wife and had his dreams of a future crushed. You have interfered with the progress counsel, except you, have made toward resolving this matter. I shall file a complaint with the state bar against you for unethical misconduct. This transcript contains the evidence. The deposition is over.”
Matt and John arose and joined Joe as they walked into the reception area. They were followed by all the attorneys. Ms. Crass fumed from the accusation. She arose, pointed her nose skyward, and stomped out bouffant trailing. One could imagine smoke erupting from a train stack as she chugged out the door. The court reporter agreed to send the transcripts to counsel and be a witness in further proceedings.
“Don’t worry Joe, we’ll settle. Crass only represents the driver’s personal funds as a high school student. She’s been cited by the police and has a driving record that will follow her,” Jack said,
“I don’t want any money from the young girl,” blurted John.
“Good for you,” said Matt.
“The case ends when you sign the settlement agreement,” said Jack.
“I’ll send it to you tomorrow,” Joe said. Everyone shook hands and parted. John and Matt left the law office, took the elevator down to the first floor, walked into the foyer, and through the revolving doors. They heard a loud SCREECH and then a THUD. A leather hat lay in the crosswalk with a crowd of witnesses. A crumpled old white-haired man was ten feet in front of a black Cadillac Escalade with the tires on both sides of the crosswalk.
A policeman at the scene opened the door and out stepped Griselda Crass, screaming “That man darted in front of me. I couldn’t avoid him.”
“Tell it to the judge, lady. You’re under arrest,” said the policeman as he handcuffed her, while his partner started taking witness statements. An ambulance pulled up and immediately began treating Zeke who started breathing again.
“What happened?” Matt asked a pedestrian in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt.
“Zeke was halfway in the street when the SUV slammed him,” said a bystander.
“That driver was on a cell phone when she hit Zeke,” a woman of thirty said.
“What was the last song he played?” John asked the man with the drums.
“‘Time out’ by Brubeck.”