“I object,” said Hugh raising his hand. “Just because they weren’t in a relationship publicly doesn’t prove they weren’t in love or they can’t get married.”
“That is true,” agreed Viscount North’s lawyer, “However, the question here is why did the defendants get married on the final day when one of the defendants were required to pay her debt to my client? Why not before, or after? One of the defendants, Lord Legarde, took over his wife’s debt and paid it off on the same day.”
“A husband doing what is right doesn’t—”
“No matter how close they were,” interrupted Viscount North’s lawyer, “Can you really say with conviction that they indeed married each other because they were friends or in love and not because of the debt?”
Before Hugh could respond, Viscount North’s lawyer picked up a document and handed it to the judge. “I submit the document proving that defendant Siana Legarde had a debt to repay to my client, which was transferred to Lord Legarde’s name, which was paid on the same day they got married.”
The judge took the document and looked through it. Siana squirmed in her chair. Alan squeezed her hand to comfort her.
“It will be alright, Sia,” said Alan, “It is still not over yet. We already anticipated that he would bring that anyway. Don’t worry.”
Siana nodded and tried her best to hide her mounting anxiety. Alan had already predicted Viscount North’s argument regarding the payment of debt on the same day they were married. That is why they had called Yulia and told her to bring the letter that Siana had written to her.
“The plaintiff argues that the defendants’ marriage was a transaction, but this is not true,” said Hugh, “Because they have cared about each other over the years, irrespective of the type of relationship they had. The marriage is natural. However, it is true that the plaintiff had blackmailed and forced defendant Siana Legarde to marry him on the pretext of repaying her debt.”
“Can that be proven?” asked the judge.
“Of course, Your Honor,” said Hugh, handing a document to the judge, “I submit the original letter that Siana Lagarde wrote to her friend Yulia Linen, concerning her situation at that time.”
The letter was handed to the judge. Viscount North showed no agitation and Siana was a bit disappointed. She had attached a copy of her letter in their response to his indictment, so he already knew the contents of it, but she had expected him to show worry, or nervousness to some extent. The letter was full of accusations against Viscount North’s conduct and behavior. It also contained her worries of being forced into a marriage she didn’t want.
When the correspondence was submitted to the judge, Siana expected him to squirm. But when she looked at him, he was smirking.
Why in hell is he smirking like that? Siana felt disgusted at him. She felt furious.
Viscount North’s lawyer got up and faced the judge. “Your Honor, the defendant’s letter cannot prove the claim made by Siana Legarde that my client forced her to marry him. It is just a letter that could have been written any time.”
“Does the plaintiff say this letter is the defendant’s one-sided claim?”
“Correct, Your Honor,” said Viscount North’s lawyer, “The validity cannot be proven. The one who received the letter, the witness, is the defendant’s friend. It is only natural to question the authenticity of the letter in such circumstance. The promissory note which illustrates the amount Siana Legarde was to pay Viscount North says nothing of such agreement. How can it be believed whether my client really forced her to marry him?”
The judge nodded. “It is difficult to establish only from this letter that the plaintiff was forceful regarding his marriage to the defendant. Mr. Veridian, can the authenticity of the letter be proven?”
“The witness who received the letter is —”
The judge interrupted Hugh. “I am not talking about the witness,” said the judge. “Is there any document, maybe the receive date that must have been stamped on the envelope, that can prove that the letter was written was sent when the defendant suffered the fate?”
Hugh turned to Yulia. She was in a panic; she had thrown away the envelop when she had received and opened the letter. Hugh realized that he had no proof he could provide regarding the date of the letter sent and received.
“Can you provide the stamped envelope?” asked the judge.
“Not that the present, Your Honor,” said Hugh.
Viscount North’s lawyer added triumphantly, “Your Honor, the letter states that Siana Legarde was going to escape the country because she felt that she had no way of repaying the debt. It is also important to note that there is no mention at all of Lord Legarde in the letter.”
Siana felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. They should really be worried now. It is going to be okay, she told herself, Hugh said that was irrelevant in the trial.
However, her uneasiness didn’t go away. She glared at Hugh while Viscount North’s lawyer continued, “If that letter is real, it only talks about the defendant trying to escape from her own incompetence and the situation she was in.”
“If the letter was mailed, there will be prove,” said the judge, “Presently the defendants cannot prove anything, so I shall send someone to the post office to investigate the authenticity of this letter. We shall resume the trial in four days.”
The judge dismissed the trial and walked out of the courtroom. Yulia was still at the witness’ seat and she was murmuring to herself. Hugh returned to his chair beside them.
“I am deeply sorry Lord Legarde, and Lady Legarde,” he said.
Siana could only hear him distantly. All she could think about was how Viscount North was sneering at her as he left the courtroom. The trial had not really gone their way.
* * *
The atmosphere in the carriage during the ride back was bleak. From the way it had gone today, nobody had any doubt who had won today. If it went in a similar fashion after four days, Viscount North would win.
“Hugh,” said Alan, “You did say the contents of the letter would not be a problem.”
“I sincerely apologize for it, Lord Legarde,” said Hugh, “I didn’t foresee that. It was carelessness on my part.”
“I wonder if I can trust you, Hugh,” said Alan, “From the way the trial went today, it leaves much to be desired on your part.”
“I absolutely understand,” said Hugh, “However, please give me a chance. We can still win this thing.”
“How?” asked Alan.
“If we can somehow prove that Viscount North made unreasonable demands,” said Hugh, “Then the letter Lady Legarde wrote to her friend will hold definite weight. It will add to the accusation if we can prove it.”
“An unreasonable demand…,” murmured Alan, “Hm…”
“Is there something more, Lord Legarde?”
Alan turned to Hugh. “Siana told me that when Viscount North tried to force her into marriage with him as repayment for the debt, “he said, “She tried to find jobs to earn some money so that she could pay him back and escape the marriage. But he prevented any way of her being able to secure a job for herself.”
“That is right,” said Siana.
Yulia let fly a slew of swear words when she heard that. Siana realized that she had never mentioned that to her friend. This was the first time Yulia was hearing about this.
“But it’s all in the pas—”
“It doesn’t matter even if it is in the past, Sia!” exclaimed Yulia, “It is not about that. It is about how low Viscount North can stoop to get what he wants. It is an affront to basic decency and humanity. That son of a bitch, that shitty piece of…”
Yulia was on a roll. Siana and Alan were used to her fits of temper. But Hugh looked aghast as he heard her spew such naughty curse words that his eyes went wide.
He soon regained his composure. “Anyway,” he said, “We can bring in the people that Lady Legarde knows or has interacted as witnesses if they consent to it. If we can prove that Viscount North had exhausted all options for Lady Legarde to get a job or to pay the debt in some other way and left her with no choice at all except to be forced into marriage with him, we can win this case.”
“I see,” said Alan, nodding, “If we can prove it, it makes sense that Siana had no choice at all except to run from the country.”
“Yes,” said Hugh, “If Lady Legarde can show us the people that might know about the situation, we might be able to persuade them to testify as witnesses.”
“Will that work?” asked Siana.
“I know that today, we almost lost the case due to my carelessness,” said Hugh, “But please believe me and give me another chance. If we can do this, it will not only invalidate Viscount North’s accusation towards us but also be a proof of his conduct and behavior. We can do this.”
It was difficult to trust him after what happened today but seeing him appear, so confidant gave Siana hope. Perhaps Alan was thinking the same. Yulia seemed to have thought the same thing as she nodded slowly looking at him.
To seal the decision, Siana spoke first and gave the names of all the people she had met. The buyers that she had met with when selling her house, the receptionists at the places where she had applied for a job and anyone who might know about her situation.
* * *
The first thing they did was visit the old Anetta mansion, where Siana had been born and raised. It was the closest and the first lead they had so they decided to pay a visit there. Siana asked Yulia of she needed to go back to her estate but Yulia only smiled and said it was absolutely fine if she remained here with them for a few days more. She probably didn’t want to leave Siana when her friend was in such trouble.
Siana was touched by her worry. Seeing Yulia by her side gave her more strength and motivation to try harder. The buyer might help me if I explain the situation to him, thought Siana, he was very kind at that time.
Unfortunately, when they reached the mansion, it was the butler who greeted them and informed them that his master was away and out of town and would only return after a month.
“It might be too late…,” Siana grumbled. Yulia nodded.
It was understandable. He wasn’t really someone with a title so he might have worked very hard to buy this mansion.
“Let’s leave him for now,” said Hugh, “We have the names of the shop owners and receptionists from the various places Lady Legarde applied for work. We can start with them first and see if we can convince them.”
Everyone nodded at Hugh’s rational words and headed to the Town Square. There were many who were eligible to stand as witnesses. But not a single person wanted to do it. It was useless to suggests that they would be doing the right thing if they came forward as witnesses. Some even told them to get out of their establishments.
Thus, they wandered around getting rejected, yelled at and thrown out of their shops. It confused them initially, because they would have been paid for their honesty so why were they so adamant to kick them out?
They came upon the last shop that Siana had applied in. The owner had informed Siana that it would be useless for her to apply for a job in this area because Viscount North had instructed everyone here to reject her application.
Siana had hopes that he might help them. When they entered his shop and Siana introduced Alan as her husband, he beamed.
“I always felt very bad on turning you away like that,” he said, “But I am glad everything turned out well for you.”