Cryo Is The New Black

Discussion in 'The Big Bookshelf (Library)' started by minus269, Oct 7, 2018.

  1. minus269 Certified and licensed mad scientist [__________]

    Blog Posts:
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    I've been having an absolute blast working with @findingmywayforever - first on a customized 3d character, Brooke Burbank; then on some individual images; and now on some stories. This piece will be a narrative with in-line images, posted in several parts, and Brooke Burbank is clearly the star of the show. :D There's also a significant guest appearance by my friend and collaborator Victorian Demimonde's OC Ming-Siu Chai, who has turned up in a number of my images elsewhere.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
  2. minus269 Certified and licensed mad scientist [__________]

    Blog Posts:
    2
    ONE: THE MORNING AFTER

    Brooke Burbank squinted against the morning sun shining off the pier. Her mouth tasted like motor oil smelled, and the last 24 hours would have been a haze even if she wasn’t hung-over. It was a quick stroll from the yacht where she had been staying – courtesy of another client of her very expensive attorney – to pick up the morning’s LA Times…

    “Ms. Burbank! Ms. Burbank! Any comments regarding the charges against you?!”

    “Brooke, how do you feel about the District Attorney’s Office calling you ‘the poster child for Hollywood arrogance’?”

    “Ms. Burbank, what’s your strategy for dealing with these charges?”

    “Brooke! Brooke! Who’s the designer for that bikini?”

    [​IMG]

    Brooke blinked. And blinked again, at the wave of klieg lights and flashes from the wall of reporters and paparazzi stood outside the marina’s iron gate. Good thing I have sunglasses on, she thought. She tried to put on a neutral-to-slightly-positive expression and hoped it wasn’t a grimace. With nothing but a brief nod to the reporters, she leaned over to collect one of the papers stacked near the gate, turned heel, and walked back down the pier as gracefully as she could manage. Thankfully, she didn’t stumble at the side of the yacht.

    “What’s that buzzing?” she grumbled.

    A friendly hand came to rest on her shoulder and steered her inside the main cabin. “Could be your head… or it could be another drone flying around. Studio Zone must really want some footage.”

    At least I still have friends, Brooke thought. “Thanks, Jules – now I’m thinking about drones,” she said with an eye roll.

    Jules was Brooke’s oldest friend who wasn’t technically an actor. She was a full-blown Instabook sensation now… and a writer… and a travel show host… and tall. Brooke only resented her height. She supposed that in a way, Jules was also responsible for her being in this mess, since Brooke wouldn’t have branched out into the influencer thing without Jules’ encouragement – but Brooke had made her own choices, and hadn’t argued with her manager’s decisions on the finances, and now here she was. And Jules was here, too, when a lot of other ‘friends’ were already disappearing.

    “I did tell you not to go out there,” Jules chided her.

    “I know. I’m in denial,” Brooke admitted.

    “That’s fair,” said Jules.

    Brooke started, “I just… I never meant to –“

    Jules slapped her hand over Brooke’s mouth. “Not a word. Drones. Not a word until your whole team is here. That’s what Brenda said, so that’s what you’re going to do, right?”

    So they sat there quietly, with music turned up loud, and waited. They couldn’t even lay out in the sun. Jules brought her an iced tea – and not the Long Island kind, because Brooke needed a clear head. She needed the clearest head she’d ever had, because things were bad. They were really bad, and she so needed some kind of a Plan B, because Plan A could be ten years wearing tacky orange jumpsuits and getting way too familiar with large women who didn’t shave. Brooke decided that was the last time she would give even a thought to Plan A.

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    Last edited: Oct 7, 2018
  3. minus269 Certified and licensed mad scientist [__________]

    Blog Posts:
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    TWO: LOOKING FOR A PLAN… ANY PLAN…

    “…Burbank, who entered a plea of not-guilty to several tax and fraud charges –“

    CLICK.

    “…what are the chances that Burbank will face Federal charges, Tom?”

    CLICK.

    “…yet another fallen child star, this time it’s Brooke Burbank. Burbank, who starred in two popular shows for tweens and teens and more recently has been considered an Instabook star, joins several other Trickster for Teens starlets who’ve ended up in trouble with the law… but this isn’t the usual flurry of booze, drugs and debauchery. Burbank has been charged with several counts of tax and securities fraud, and could face up to fifteen years behind bars – and that’s before any Federal charges that might be added. Is this a story of astonishing greed? Or is this just another clueless youngster mislead for years by financial advisors? The truth may fall somewhere in between, according to some who know the troubled twenty-something. With more, here’s UBC’s Kelli Daniels –“

    CLICK.

    “Brooke…”

    CLICK.

    “Brooke!”

    Brooke dropped the remote. “Whaa…? Oh, sorry, I just… yeah…”

    Jules sighed,“Enough – watching that isn’t doing you any good."

    Brenda Harriman sternly eyed everyone else in the yacht's living area. Brooke thought Brenda did just about everything sternly - even her hair - but she was very good at her job according to everyone who knew anything about good lawyers. “Well, at least we know some of our contacts with the networks are doing their job,” she announced. “The best place to start is by seeding some doubt through the major news outlets. We need to paint the best possible picture of you, and of what’s happened here.”

    [​IMG]

    “That might be the only good news we have,” Liz Styles sighed. Liz had been Brooke’s agent for her second show on Trickster – after Brooke had cut out the family friend who arranged her first show contract and arranged for Brooke to not see very much in the way of earnings.

    Brooke steeled herself. “Okay, let me have it. Who’s running away?” she asked.

    Liz frowned. “Who isn’t? The hair deal, gone. Makeup sponsor, gone. Clothes? I hope you’re happy with the current wardrobe, honey, because gone, gone, and gone. And White Horse? I hope they choke on their damn energy drinks. They’re trying to claim they didn’t have an actual contract with you in the first place. That’s ass-covering of the highest order, and in this case, you’ve got the paper to prove it.”

    “They’re trying to stay clear of any responsibility relating to the fraud charges. That’s not happening,” Brenda growled.

    “Tread carefully. Brooke’s gotta eat when this is all over, and people have long memories,” Liz warned.

    Brooke rubbed at her forehead, as if that was going to make her headache or anything else go away. “So everybody’s bailed out. I guess that’s not a surprise. What else?” she asked, even though she really didn’t want an answer.

    “Well… here’s the thing…” Liz waffled.

    Brooke went very still. “What? What’s the thing?”

    “The agency… they want to drop you, too,” Liz admitted.

    “Merde,” Jules said.

    “I understand, Liz… and I… I appreciate everything that… yeah… look, I appreciate it…” Brooke managed to say.

    Liz said dismissively, “Meh. I’m not going anywhere, honey. I’ve invested too many years to just walk. Besides, what would that say to my other clients? Liz is great until things turn to shit, and then she leaves. I’m thinking the agency really doesn’t want me taking a few dozen clients with me when I walk out of their door. They’ll bitch about it, but things will blow over.”

    “Thank you! Thank you!” Brooke burst out.

    Liz raised an eyebrow and said flatly, “Don’t grovel, dear. Pretty girls don’t grovel.” Brooke snorted at that. Jules let out a chortle that somehow still met Liz’s ‘pretty’ test. It was really hard for Brooke not to resent Jules sometimes.

    “So… where’s Danny?” Brooke asked.

    “As far from here as he could get,” Liz said.

    “Somewhere without extradition, I imagine,” Brenda grumbled. “You’re in a tough spot, Brooke – I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Your signature is on some pretty damaging documents. But your former financial manager set up everything. He’s up to his eyeballs in all but one charge, and he knows it. I tried to get to him before he did anything stupid, but he’s gone, and that’s bad for us.”

    “Could you explain that?” Jules asked; “If he’s at the center of everything, and he’s running for it, isn’t that good? Can’t you… you know… pin it on him?”

    Brenda gave first Jules and then Brooke a piercing look. She explained, “It’s bad because right now there haven’t been any Federal charges pressed. The District Attorney has decided to handle your case personally, Brooke. I haven’t seen her at an arraignment since she was an assistant DA. She’s ambitious, and very political. She had a news conference ten minutes after the arraignment, and almost none of what she had to say was about you. It was about the Hollywood culture, and permissiveness, and all the law-and-order words that get you elected Attorney General or Governor. That’s why the Feds are standing back, so far: because she wants them to stand back. The second the FBI starts looking for the idiot, all the jurisdictional crap is going to start. The DA, she’d rather be able to hang Federal charges over your head, and honestly that’s probably better for you. I don’t want to have to fight this in two directions, if we can avoid it.”

    “So… so what are we going to do? I mean… this doesn’t sound… it doesn’t sound like we have a lot of options…” Brooke stammered.

    “All we can do right now is decide how to put on a defense, and wait for the DA to come to us with an offer. Then we’ll know if she’s in this for the circus of a trial, or if she has something else in mind,” Brenda said.

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  4. minus269 Certified and licensed mad scientist [__________]

    Blog Posts:
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    THREE: BAD OPTICS

    There wasn’t much to do aboard Mr. I-Have-Nine-Houses’ yacht. After that first meeting, Liz’s people had some of their people set up jammers around the deck and on the pier. Brooke had watched with some satisfaction when a camera drone abruptly plummeted into the water. At least she could lay out in the sun, with no more bother than the usual long-lens paparazzi. Admittedly, the last time they were seriously interested in her, she had just traded Hello Kitty one-pieces for bikinis, but she hadn’t let cameras dictate her life before and she wasn’t going to start now.

    A white noise generator made life difficult for anyone with parabolic microphones; it also made the window glass vibrate ever so slightly, which foiled laser mics unless someone wanted to waste a lot of money processing the results. All this for a tiny sliver of almost-privacy, Brooke thought. It was cool to be alive as the middle of the 21st century approached, but if you really wanted to be alone and not spied upon by someone or another, north of the Arctic Circle was probably your best option.

    That didn’t keep her from taking advantage of the unseasonably warm September weather. There was a hearing scheduled to take place in early October, and Brenda strongly recommended that Brooke remain mostly out of sight for the moment. So she filled her days with sunshine and 370 streams of crappy movies and shows, and poring over years of paperwork in hopes of helping Brenda’s forensic accountants make sense of exactly what the hell had happened.

    [​IMG]


    Brooke was eight days into what she would have jokingly called “yacht arrest” if it was happening to someone else, when Liz came to visit unannounced. She threw on a robe and headed in from the deck; Brenda’s words about loose lips came to mind, although she wasn’t quite sure what that had to do with ships. Liz was already pouring a Scotch-and-soda.

    “Might as well start with the bad news… is there any good news in the world at all?” Brooke sighed.

    “It’s going to be 85 for the next three days… the Queen of England is pregnant… oh, and Becca Arnold’s new action thriller piece of crap? 14 on the Tomato-meter: proof that there is a God, or at least karma,” said Liz.

    “I don’t think that’s how karma works, Liz,” Brooke chided her. “You’re only of the bad these days, so hit me. I can take it. Well, not really, but… acting!”

    Liz’s face fell; she said, “Oh, Brooke… God, I’m so sorry about all of this. I feel like I should have done something, you know? I should have seen that Danny was a snake. Somebody should have –“

    Brooke cut her off, “My mother did, you know? I was going through a ‘back the hell off’ phase with her then. I… I think I thought she was trying to take control again, so I didn’t listen. I was doing whatever was the exact opposite of anything she said. But she knew he was trouble, and she told me that. She told me to read everything, and send him packing if anything smelled wrong, even if he was making me tons of money. So he made me tons of money… and I signed whatever he put in front of me, even if it didn’t smell right.”

    “Did she call?” Liz asked.

    “I called her,” Brooke said; “I had to. Even though Brenda’s warned me off of watching any news, I knew she had to have heard something by now. Somebody would have called her, if nothing else. So I called first.”

    “And…?”

    “Upset and judgmental,” said Brooke with a sniff. “It’s what I expected. She does care… I’m not stupid, you know. She asked if she should drop everything and come back. I didn’t know what to say, really.”

    “So what did you say?” Liz ventured.

    Brooke gave a wry smile. “I didn’t say anything. I let her talk herself out of it. She has a teaching contract at Lyon until December. And she’s gone goo-goo over Jean-Claude. Or Jean-Luc. Something like that. You know, she could have been talking about a dog, actually?… I didn’t ask. She sounded happy, or as happy as Mother gets, anyway. Besides, this isn’t getting settled tomorrow. Roger… you know, Brenda’s little accountant man?... he said these things can take months to go to trial after the first hearing, and then there are appeals and… yeah. So she talked herself out of coming back for now. She’ll see me at Christmas time.”

    “Did she rent out the house?” Liz asked?

    Brooke thought about that for a moment. “No, I don’t think so, not this time… why?”

    “Because we have to get you the hell out of here, before the Dragon Lady turns this into a P.R. disaster that you can’t recover from,” Liz returned.

    “The… wait… the who…? You didn’t just call someone that, Liz! Hello…? Welcome to 2038…?” Brooke spluttered.

    “Fine, fine, I’m talking about our nightmare district attorney: Ming-Siu Chai… I can call her a nightmare, right? She’s busy trying your case in the press already. It’s gotten so bad that Brenda’s buried the judge in gag order motions. Anyway, she’s been out-thinking us so far, and that’s gotta change. The optics of you hiding out on a yacht, especially Sheik Maserati’s yacht –“

    “Wait! Sheik WHO?”

    “Ohhh, I can’t pronounce his damn name, and he’s probably not a sheik, but he is from the Emirates. So staying at the marina, in a house that moves…? That could be in international waters in two hours...? You see the problem? Yeah, this is definitely not a good look for you,” Liz sighed.

    “Okay… so I can call Mother again. There’s a wall and a gate, and enough space to keep out the vampires,” Brooke thought aloud.

    “Technically they’re vultures, honey, and I’ll call your mother. I’ll rent the place from her. Everything needs to be on the up-and-up now, which means you’re not touching anything that wasn’t already in trust as of ’32. Optics, Brooke… optics,” Liz told her.

    Brooke ventured, “So let me ask you, since I know what Brenda thinks… and what Jules thinks… should I be skipping the news? Because it seems like I should know what this… Chai? She’s named after tea?... err… what this Chai is up to, what she’s saying about me.”

    Liz hesitated before she said, “I didn’t say this out loud, but you’re probably right. You may have done some stupid things, but you’re pretty sharp, and we need everyone’s eyes on the situation, I think. I’m going to call your mother. The remote’s hidden in the cookie jar on that side table.”

    “Already found it. I haven’t been avoiding the streams, just the news,” Brooke called after her.

    It didn’t take long for Brooke to find Ming-Siu Chai. Her first impression was that this woman was a performer. She might not have been in acting, but she was poised and controlled and controlling, with almost Shakespearean diction that hid just a faint trace of something other than English. She was short; the massive heels were a tell, but she had a petite woman’s proportions, too. She was attractive but not exceptionally so – enough to be a first-class professional and certainly enough to be a politician. Her face was clearly of Chinese heritage, and she had that sort of facial shape and skin that wouldn’t change much from 25 to 60; now that’s definitely worth resenting, Brooke thought.

    In two minutes, the DA managed to utterly trash Brooke without once saying her name. Fallen child star… product of the California entertainment culture… arrogant enough to believe she could do whatever she wanted with no consequences… and on and on and on. Brooke couldn’t remember the exact speech afterward, save for one line that she couldn’t eject from her head.

    “Make no mistake, the District Attorney’s office will pursue this with abandon – we will obtain the fullest possible measure of justice for these crimes,” Ming-Siu Chai said with a thoroughly snake-like smile.

    No shuddering, Brooke said to herself; I need to see this, I need to know what people are saying.

    And so Brooke kept watching, flipping from stream to stream and news program to talk show and some smedia trash while she was at it. The good news: not everyone hated her. The bad news: the DA had apparently been on every damn stream in Southern California already, and Brooke couldn’t say a word. She understood why, but it was galling.

    Liz’s laughter rang out from the other end of the yacht, which was most likely good news, Brooke thought… or at least what passed for good news. She flipped across four more streams until she found the local UBC newscast. Either they weren’t talking about her, or they were already done with it. Sure enough, the Queen of England was pregnant, and Becca Arnold’s people surely spent too much money on seeking good press because even a 60 second clip of her movie was god-awful… and it was going to be 85 for five days, not three. The UC-Calabasas football team still sucked, The Mouse was gobbling up a competing studio for about the fiftieth time, and Ronaldo Jr. scored a brace for L.A. against Chelsea. It was a normal week out there for most people, at least.

    She tuned out a flurry of violent crime stories – it was really sad how easy it was to do that. “Local reporters may not be vampires, but they’re ghouls,” she muttered.

    “Meanwhile, the California Department of Corrections is adding to their options for dealing with criminals overflowing from the state’s maximum security prisons. Clarion Rehabilitative Services, the state’s private vendor for expansion of the prison system, received FDA permission to expand use of California’s first-in-the-nation cryoprison. The Cryogenic Interment Unit at California State Penitentiary in Woodsboro has been limited to violent criminals with life sentences for its first four years in operation. Clarion CEO Bill Clutterback welcomed the decision, and announced that Clarion would be increasing the unit’s capacity tenfold by the end of the year. Cryogenic imprisonment, in which criminals are frozen to -190 Centigrade for the duration of their sentence, remains highly controvers —“

    CLICK.

    Liz set down the remote, which she had swiped from Brooke. “Well, there’s one more expensive bad idea… leave it to California, the most schizophrenic state in the Union,” she said; “Your mother says hello, by the way. Pack your stuff – we’re moving you home.”

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  5. minus269 Certified and licensed mad scientist [__________]

    Blog Posts:
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    FOUR: THE PEOPLE V. BURBANK

    The bailiff was a stereotype: a sheriff’s-deputy type who was closing in on retirement, with a shock of white hair and an ex-military demeanor. “All rise!” he announced.

    Brooke stood next to Brenda at one table, facing the judge’s podium. Ming-Siu Chai was at the adjacent table, in person and apparently ready for her cameo. She was immaculately dressed, wearing a white, heavily embroidered suit that Brooke would have expected at a gala, not in a courtroom. The District Attorney had to be at least in her 40s, Brooke figured, simply because of the job she held; from twenty feet away, she could easily have passed for a decade younger than that.

    There was a middle-aged man with her – another attorney, Brooke assumed. He had slicked-back hair and a rakish posture, and something that wasn’t quite a smirk on his face. And he keeps sneaking looks at me, too… MEN… the guy's standing here in a courtroom, and he can barely keep it in his pants, Brooke thought.

    Someone entered from the judge’s chambers. Brooke had expected to see a robe and the trappings of a judge. This man was about Brenda’s age, wearing a dark suit. He was balding and not very tall, but something about him practically shouted ‘no nonsense’.

    “The Superior Court is now in session, Judge Elliot presiding. Please be seated,” said the bailiff.

    Even before he was seated, Judge Elliot began, “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I see we’re joined by members of the press… not typical under the circumstances, but I have no reason to disallow it. Yet. One hint of disruption, and you’re out of here. That includes camera flashes, drones, visual or audio recordings, and a dozen other bits of trickery that both Bailiff Reynolds and I know how to spot – and seated means seated, I won’t have you clustering at the rail.”

    Once in his chair, he went on, “Calling the case of the People of the State of California versus Brooke E. Burbank. Ms. Burbank, for your benefit and for the benefit of our guests in the gallery, this is effectively going to be a pre-trial hearing today. While probable cause was determined by the preliminary hearing, this case involves a lot of complex financial transactions, and we’re going to have to sift through a number of evidentiary issues. So I will tell you all right now that I’ll be issuing a continuance after we get through the preliminaries. There is absolutely no chance we’re going to trial today. Now… are both sides ready to proceed?”

    “Ready for the People, Your Honor,” The District Attorney said.

    “Ready for the defense, Your Honor,” Brenda returned.

    “Very good. Ms. Chai, do you have any pre-trial matters?” the judge continued.

    “May I make appearances?” the District Attorney began.

    “You may.”

    “Good morning, Your Honor. My name is Ming-Siu Chai, and together with Assistant District Attorneys Karla Adelson and Bradley Walters, I will be representing the state in this case. I am accompanied today by Thomas Kent, an attorney admitted to the Bar of the State of California, who may provide technical expertise if required,” said the DA.

    [​IMG]

    “You’re not an employee of the District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Kent?” the judge asked.

    “No, Your Honor,” Kent said.

    “Are you representing a third party in these proceedings?” pressed the judge.

    “No, Your Honor, not for the purposes of this hearing,” Kent responded.

    The judge frowned. “Well, we’re off to a great start. Mr. Kent, who is your employer?”

    “I’m employed by the California division of the Clarion Group, Your Honor,” Kent said after a noticeable pause.

    “Your Honor!” Brenda spat.

    “Approach… now,” snapped the judge.

    “Stay here,” Brenda hissed at Brooke.

    Brooke watched as the judge and the three attorneys growled at each other in low tones. After a couple of minutes, the DA managed to look abashed while at the same time projecting that she wasn’t a bit sorry about whatever the judge thought she had done. Brooke couldn’t help but be impressed by that, as one performer to another.

    The judge shooed them all back to their respective tables and ordered, “Mr. Kent, you will wait in my chambers until this proceeding is concluded. Get going. Now let's move on.”

    The next hour was a blur for Brooke: discussions about the complaint and answers to the complaint and stipulations and rules of evidence and a host of other things that she couldn’t completely follow. She certainly didn’t want to distract Brenda; Brooke’s role for the day was to remain poised and innocent...

    “…Your Honor, we also enter Exhibits 1672 through 1808 into evidence at this time,” said the DA.

    “Your Honor, if you’re waiting for the District Attorney to indicate a stipulation of waiver, you’ll be waiting a long time. My list from discovery ends with Exhibit 1671,” Brenda cut in.

    “As does mine. Ms. Chai, I can appreciate a sense of theater, but you realize the problem here?” The judge complained.

    “Apologies, Your Honor, but the witness associated with these exhibits only became available to us yesterday. Mr, Kent’s technical expertise may be relevant on this point,” the DA returned.

    “Approach!” the judge barked.

    After nearly five minutes, the judge crossed his arms and snapped, “This court is adjourned. We’ll announce a date and time for resumption through the appropriate channels. Bailiff, clear the room. Counselors and Ms. Burbank: follow me.”

    Bewildered, Brooke followed the judge and attorneys into the judge’s chambers – which were a small-ish but well appointed office that opened to the courtroom on one side, and to an administrative assistant’s office on the other. Mr. Kent was placidly sitting in a chair.

    The judge practically flounced to the chair behind his desk. As soon as everyone was seated, he waggled his finger at the District Attorney. “Ming-Siu… we’ve known each other for twenty-five years. You’re not some snot-nosed junior attorney, and this isn’t Perry fucking Mason. You can’t pull this kind of shit in an actual courtroom, and I shouldn’t have to say so. I have to assume whatever you’re doing is prelude to a plea deal somehow, because there’s a fair chance I’ll exclude this entire section of exhibits and the associated witness," he said.

    “Sir, we genuinely didn’t have opportunity to fully depose the witness until yesterday morning. As you know, he has been… indisposed. Mr. Kent’s people handled the extradition arrangements,” the DA told him.

    The judge waved to Brenda and said, “I imagine your client is completely lost at this point? I certainly wouldn’t blame her. Feel free to start correcting that.”

    Brenda said, “Thank you, Your Honor. Brooke, the FBI hasn’t been looking for Danny at all. He’s been in custody since a couple of days after you were arraigned.”

    “Not in our custody, certainly. It’s courtesy of Clarion Group that we were able to put the pieces together and repatriate Mr. Gleason from Bolivia,” the DA said waspishly.

    “How convenient for you,” Brenda sneered.

    “Clarion… wait, isn’t that the prison people?” Brooke asked.

    “We prefer to think of it as 'rehabilitative services',” Kent said with a smirk.

    Brenda glared at the DA and snapped, “So your private prison friends had Danny Gleason on ice in South America – literally! – until the moment you needed him… and that's in no way coincidental? Don’t try selling me that swampland, dearie –“

    The judge cut her off, “Save it for someone who wants to listen, both of you! Ming-Siu, it’s obvious you have something to offer the defendant. Brenda, let’s cut to the chase: you and I both know what hand you’ve been dealt here. So all of you, take it down the hall. Come back to me when there’s either a trial to schedule or a plea to accept. You have until Friday at 4:30 pm to work this out. Go!”

    A quick brisk walk took Brooke and the three attorneys to a very bland meeting room. Brenda nearly slammed her briefcase down, and tried to stare a hole through the District Attorney.

    “Well, this is tense, isn’t it?” Kent said.

    “I have no idea why you’re here. Sit down, shut up, and let the grown ups talk,” Brenda growled; “As for you… cut to the chase, Ming-Siu. What the hell are you trying to accomplish here? If you have an offer to make, this is not the way to go about it.”

    The DA lifted a well-groomed eyebrow and shrugged; she said, “I felt that it was best to make certain that your client knows just how much jeopardy she’s in, before we present her with options. It doesn’t matter if Gleason’s testimony or even related evidence gets excluded. Surely you can see why?”

    “Do you have an agreement in place the Justice Department?” Brenda asked.

    “In principle, yes. They’re not willing to use Gleason to flip your client, as you might imagine. In truth, they'd rather go the other way around on that. You could pursue cooperation with Justice, of course, and they might drop their charges… but the state charges alone will leave Ms. Burbank in prison until she’s my age, and you know I’ve got enough to prevail on most of them. So, our Federal friends are prepared to decline any additional charges, provided that your client accepts a plea bargain or is convicted at trial here,” the DA said.

    “Fine. What’s on the table?” Brenda asked.

    “If we go to trial, you’re looking at conviction on at least thirteen of seventeen charges, including nine felonies. I’ll be going after maximum sentences, you’ll be going after minimum. At best, we’ll end up splitting the difference, and frankly, I think I can do a better job of ruining your client’s reputation than you can do protecting it. You’ll go for a country club, I’ll go for a max, and she’ll end up in Simi Valley. That could be as much as twenty years... a very long stay, even in medium-security,” the DA started.

    “Thanks for the summary. I think we can do much better than that at trial, of course. So again, what’s on the table?”

    The DA lingered for a few moments before she began, “Ms. Burbank pleads to seven Tax Code charges and four Corporate Code charges; we drop three charges from each category, and we reduce five of the eleven to misdemeanors. Two sentencing options are on the table.”

    “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s Option A?” Brenda asked briskly.

    “Option A is ten years, good behavior likely gets you 8 years and 9 months. I'll budge on hard time, but minimum security is not on the table,” the DA returned.

    Brenda gave a curt nod; “Message received. I’m guessing we’re going to like Option B better?”

    Ming-Siu Chai allowed the corners of her mouth to curl up just-so. “Option B is five years, period – no early release, but no halfway houses, parole or monitoring afterward. Five years, and you’re done, Ms. Burbank. Option B is why I’ve brought Mr. Kent with me,” she said.

    Brenda sat back in her chair. “You’re generally a lot more subtle than this. So should I take a guess why this is so important to you, Senator Chai?”

    Ming-Siu Chai let out a genuine laugh. “Touché, Brenda… touché! As you know, Thomas is counsel for Clarion. The main part of his portfolio here in California is the penitentiary in Woodsboro. I’m sure you know what’s happening there. Thomas?”

    Kent sat up straight and rubbed his hands together – like some third rate B-movie villain, Brooke thought. He said, “Ahh, it’s my turn? Great! Brooke… may I call you Brooke? I imagine we’re going to be doing a lot of negotiating here, so we might as well be friendly, right? Well, Brooke, simply put: we want to freeze you and make a bit of a spectacle of the whole thing. How does that grab you?”

    Brooke spluttered, “You... you… freeze?what the hell…??

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