San Mateo, California
Two years in the past
Thunk! The judge's gavel banged on its wood block. She shook it at him and said, "Quiet, or I'll hold you in contempt."
Family Court Judge Takeshita looked to the bailiff. A uniformed officer against the wall strode to the defendant's table.
The judge looked at the defendant again. "One more outburst from you, and I'll add thirty days in jail."
Fear held his tongue. The upper lid of his right eye twitched faster. They're insane. Everyone except me is insane. Even the judge can't follow simple logic. He dry swallowed. I shouldn't have raised my voice, but they wouldn't listen!
"Do you understand what I am saying?" the judge asked.
I have to get out of here. If I play along, she won't lock me up. He nodded.
The judge looked at the bailiff again, who motioned the uniformed officer to resume her post against the wall.
"This court, and your wife and children are not responsible for your bad judgment. Your reliance on the vague promises of a venture capitalist and company executives was foolish."
Takeshita is just like the rest, content in her misapprehension of reality.
"Your own risky behavior led to the IRS troubles and subsequent bankruptcy. It all could have been avoided if you had listened to the financial adviser your wife found. Your complaint against Mr. Tate, your former employer, is immaterial to these proceedings."
Now, even the judge is conspiring against me, just like the others.
"Child support rates are set by statute. I'm adding alimony. The combined amount will be four thousand seven hundred fifty dollars a month."
"But that's almost all of my take-home pay!" he protested.
"That is not the court's concern. If you do not pay, you may receive jail time. Do you understand?"
"Yes," he nodded. The rest of the hearing seemed a blur to him.
Judge Takeshita banged her gavel. "This court is adjourned."
"All rise," the Bailiff said, standing as the judge left through a rear door.
I'm screwed. He couldn't feel his hands as they stuffed paperwork into his backpack. Ignoring the startled people that he pushed through, he burst outside. He took two deep breaths, but they didn't calm him. He hurried to his car, without a clue where to go.
He started the car and drove. Anywhere was better than where he was: broke and about to be unemployed, with a huge alimony judgment fresh in his in-basket. Hills with traffic lights broke his stupor. He found himself in San Francisco's financial district.
Garry Tate's office is here. He destroyed us, and the company we worked for. He sold us out. Now our designs are owned by a company that won't give us an interview.
He parked, and entered the lobby of Tate's building, then scanned the directory for Tate Venture Capital.
He's a dead man. This time, I'm really going to kill him.
He stepped into the elevator and pressed eleven. In the hallway, he found the stairwell and descended one floor. He opened the door and peeked around the corner. Nobody was there.
He went to the suite door and tried it. It was unlocked. He entered, surprised that there was no receptionist. From the waiting room to the executive offices in the rear, every room was empty. Packing materials and empty boxes were stacked in neat piles near the front of the suite. The floor had been vacuumed and what furniture remained had been cleaned or polished.