30th July 2000
Fred stared at the clock on the wall as he sat down on his usual seat. He could hardly believe what he saw, even with the extra pair of lens in front of his deep blue eyes that were like bluish steel of the midwinter sky.
There was a loud sound of silence echoing across the room as everyone focused on the pieces of papers in front of them. One could even hear the sound of the clock ticking. It was that quiet.
Fred glanced at his reflection who sat beside him, staring at the same clock.
"James, stop staring at the time," Fred said. "Miss Hilson is looking at us."
James smiled and looked down at the paper on his desk. He picked up his pen and faked a confused student charade.
Fred chuckled under his breath and picked up his pen to follow his brother's footsteps, after all they were identical twins.
They remained in the same confused state until Miss Hilson told everyone to hand in their papers. One could notice the relief in the boys’ faces, as they returned their exam papers to the invigilator. They had completed their exam thirty minutes before the finish time, and had to bear the agony of waiting for other students to complete theirs.
"How was it, Fred?" James asked as he packed his bag.
"It was okay," Fred replied smiling.
"You never use the word easy. Okay, let me help you. It was easy," James said stressing the word easy.
Fred smiled and picked up his bag that was beside his desk. He placed his arm over his brother's shoulder as they walked towards the exit.
"Hey, wait up," Melanie called.
The two boys turned back in a heartbeat; it was as though the sound of her voice heightened their senses.
"How's the paper?" Fred asked.
Melanie gave a warm smile that stretched across her flushed cheeks. This in turn drove chills down the spines of both James and Fred. There was something about this girl that made the boys grow goosebumps, perhaps it was her long blonde hair that fell perfectly on her shoulders, or her warm bleached eyes that resembled the great sea, or even her perfectly modelled figure. One thing was for sure, Melanie Monroe was the center of their universe.
"It was okay, a bit tough, but okay," Melanie said, grinning. "I can't believe this is our last exam."
"Yeah, me neither," James said.
"So, where have you chosen?" Fred asked her.
"I'm not sure yet. I got a response from Stanford and Yale, so I'll be going to one of them. How about you Fred?"
"Harvard, Prinston and Cambridge in London," Fred replied.
She smiled and turned to glance at his brother for his answer.
"Same, except my overseas choice happens to be Imperial," James replied.
"That's amazing you two. I'm so happy for you," Melanie said.
"Thanks Mel, we're happy for you too," James replied.
Melanie smiled and hugged the boys.
"This year, I've decided whoever asks me first to Prom I'll accept," she said. "It's hard to say no to either of you, so I'll just say yes to the first person."
James looked at his brother, who in turn frowned.
"What's the matter?" Melanie asked.
"We won't be around for Prom night. Our grandfather's celebrating his birthday in Southampton, UK and we must be there," Fred said.
"Aw, what a pity. It's our last prom night, and you decide to move round the world for your Grandfather's birthday that's an annual tradition. Not fair at all," Melanie said. Her once smiley face turned to a sob as her flushed cheeks became pale.
"We're sorry, Mel, but we've already booked our tickets," James said in a low voice.
Melanie looked down at the floor and walked out of the boys' sight. She couldn't bear to look at their well sculptured faces. The thought of not staring into either James or Fred's lovely colored eyes drove coals down her spine. Her pulse jolted as she ran out of the exam hall. To her, the boys had just left her on the altar.
"I hate it when this happens," Fred said.
"What? When has this ever happened?" James said with raised eyebrows.
"Hmm, perhaps because it feels like dejavu," he replied.
"Oh well, we've booked our tickets. The worst aspect is that GrandPa's day coincidentally falls on the same day with our last Prom night as high school students," he said.
Fred shook his head in regret and walked to the exit of the building with his brother.
As they stepped outside the exam hall, Anton grabbed James by the arm and tried wrestling him. Sadly, James had more experience in that particular sport, plus his chiseled body gave him the upper hand. Anton was tall, dark and handsome. As for his physique, he was averagely built, like an athlete but not a wrestler.
"I give up," Anton screamed, as James wrapped his arm around Anton's head, in what seemed to be a head lock.
Meanwhile, Fred stood beside the two boys, laughing and shaking his head. He was the quiet and cool twin. Not that James wasn't cool, he just chose to exhibit his cool nature in a more aggressive form.
"Wow, you almost killed me," Anton moaned as he took deep breaths.
"I'm sorry," James replied, panting as well.
"How was your paper?" Fred asked.
"It was really easy," Anton replied.
Fred looked at his brother as he heard the word 'easy'.
"What? Did I say anything wrong?" Anton asked.
"Nah, you didn't say anything. Fred's just allergic to the word 'easy'," James said with a subtle smirk.
"Oh, yeah I forgot about that," Anton said. "You're a joker, Fred. You always say it's okay, but when your test results come out, you top the class, including your twin."
"Whatever you say, Anton," he said.
"Yeah, and I say you're a joker," Anton repeated. "Also, I saw Mel crying as she stormed out of the hall. Do you guys have anything to do with it?"
"Kinda," James said.
"We told her about our trip to Britain, and how it clashed with Prom night," Fred added.
"Oh, that's pretty bad," Anton said.
"Yeah, we know. We wish we could change the date of the Prom, but we can't," Fred said.
Just then, James nudged Anton on his shoulder.
"Are you still travelling with us?" he asked.
"Yup, I've booked my ticket online. There's no way I'd go to Prom without my wing men," Anton replied. "This time around, we're going to celebrate our Prom with British girls ."
"Oh really?" James asked in a somewhat British accent.
The boys laughed, as they strolled to the parking lot. James kept looking around; he couldn't believe he was leaving his alma mater so soon.
"I'm going to miss this place," he said.
"Yeah, me too," Anton agreed.
Fred remained quiet, savoring the moment as it went by. He wasn't a guy of too many words. His hand reached for the keys in his pocket and drew them out as the other two boys talked about what they were going to miss about the high school.
"Well, see you soon Anton," James said.
"Yeah, I'll come over to the house during the weekend, so we can discuss about our overseas escapade," he said as he strolled towards his car.
It was their last day at high school, but the three boys weren't sad that they were leaving high school. To them, they had more challenges to conquer, which in Anton's case meant ladies. In all, they were happy to move on to the next level, though sad they were going to leave Melanie. She was the only girl they ever liked, at least during their four years at high school.
Twelve years later
The warm arms of silence wrapped across Fred's body as he vegged out in his study; his legs placed on his desk, and his eyes fixed to the ceiling. He loved hearing himself think, this way he could judge his thoughts.
Still vegging out, he heard a knock on his door.
"Come in," he said.
The door was pushed open and in walked James, holding a piece of chicken in his hand.
"Still thinking about that case?" James asked as he paced round the room.
"Nah, I was just trying to have a quiet moment," Fred replied. "How's yours going?"
"Couldn't be better, bro. They just assigned me a new partner."
"Oh really, who could that be?" Fred said, pondering.
"Seriously? I mean, are they going nuts?" Fred asked.
"Why? What do you mean?" his twin brother asked.
"Assigning a beautiful lady like Danielle will only slow down the progress of your case, never speed it up."
"You underestimate me sometimes, lil' bro," he said.
"Perhaps, I'll stop when you prove me wrong," Fred replied, and the twins laughed.
"Hmm, what's this?" James asked as he took a book from his brother's desk. "The Jury?"
"Yeah, I'm prepping for an assault case and I want to win it by all means necessary," Fred said.
"Hmm, what's it about?"
"Torture," he replied.
"Huh?" James asked with raised eyebrows
"My client broke a lady's arm in the process of locating the whereabouts of a known suspect, who happened to be her boyfriend," Fred said.
"So what you pleading?"
"Not guilty, I would think," Fred said.
The brothers laughed at his sarcastic comment for a long minute, until there was a knock on the door of Fred's study.
"It's open," Fred said.
Anton pushed the door open and strode into the room, wearing a long white overall; a pair of stethoscope hung around his neck as he strolled to meet James.
"Going to work again?" James asked.
"Yeah, a brother can't get some sleep around here," Anton replied.
"Well, it says it all in your payslip," James said.
Anton stifled a chuckle.
"Yeah, you got that right," he said. Glancing at the book in James' hand, he added, "The Jury?"
"Don't ask," James said. "Fred's working on a serious case and needs all the help he can get, thus this book over here."
"Oh, I see," Anton replied. "Well, good luck with that, Freddie boy. As for moi, I need to attend to my patient. I hear she's got a baby who needs to be out and alive before the next 24 hours, and she needs a doctor who's going to save her baby's life."
"Hurry then, Dr. Special Doctor," James said, and the three boys laughed.
"I'll try to make it for the get together tomorrow, and oh yes, where exactly are we hosting it," Anton asked.
"In the main reception room, I guess," James said.
"Oh splendid, my section of the house is quite unpleasant for visitors. It kinda smells like a hospital to be honest," Anton said.
"Yeah, we'll have to do something about that," Fred said. "I'll get someone to clean it up sometime during the week."
"Oh, that'll be perfect. I'm tired of taking prospective brides to a hotel," he said, and they all laughed again.
"Well, see you two sometime tomorrow, and good luck with the case, Fred," Anton said.
"What about me? I'm investigating a murder case, don't I get good luck as well," James moaned.
"No one wished me good luck with my pregnant woman, but you don't see me wining like a little baby," he said, strolling towards the door.
Fred laughed as he leaned back on his soft leather chair.
"Nice one, I'll give you that, but remember, the person who laughs last..."
"Didn't get the joke at first," Anton interrupted, and the three men laughed - again.
Shortly, Anton left the house and drove to work in his Range Rover, leaving James and Fred in the huge mansion.
James had suggested they live in the same house when he became an FBI agent, and Anton became a licensed Gynaecologist. Already, at this time, Fred was named one of the most popular attorneys in Sloutenville, US by Times Magazine. Together, the three men decided to buy a house, which had fifteen rooms, and split the rooms equally between them. It was their perfect definition of a home, and face it, no one could argue with them.
"Anyways, I have a meeting with my new partner by 9, so I'll have to get ready," James said, as he strolled towards the exit of Fred's study.
"Isn't it too late to be going for an official meeting, J," Fred said.
"I never said it was official, Freddie boy," James replied with a wink, and strode out of the room.
"Uh." Fred sighed, and leaned back on his chair.
Shortly, the telephone on Fred's desk began to ring; he stared at the phone for a long minute before stretching his hand to pick it up. Who must this be? he thought.
"Hello, Fred," a man's voice said through the phone.
"Oh, Jerry, I thought it was... Never mind. Is there any problem?" Fred asked. He leaned back on his chair and stretched his legs on the table, which was made of rich oak wood.
"We're in desperate need of a brilliant attorney for a murder case, and the partners and I feel you should take this case. Do you mind popping over to the office?"
"Hmm, okay," Fred replied, glancing at the godfather clock in his study. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
"Alright, see you soon, Fred," Jerry said, and hung up the phone.
Fred stood up from his chair and picked up his car keys as he walked to the door. He reached for his jacket beside the door and left the mansion to his office. Shortly, Fred arrived at a tall building, which had the names 'Jerry, Fisher and Hilton' placed at the very top. He parked his car at his special spot and stepped out of it. The cool breeze of Sloutenville gusted over his jacket as he walked to the building. It was dark and the entire building was filled with lights; from the names on the top of the building to the steps leading to the reception door.
Fred entered the building and took the lift to the sixteenth floor, where he met Jerry and fellow senior partners of the firm in the conference room.
"Hey Fred, glad you could make it. Please, take a seat," Jerry said.
Fred smiled and reached for the seat next to his colleague, Amanda. As he removed his jacket, readying to sit down, she served him a glass of water.
"Why, thanks, Amanda," he said. No marriage still, but thanks, he thought.
"You're welcome," she replied, smiling.
After a few movements, Fred leaned forward to look at the people around the desk. He smiled at his wanna-be rival, Tom Lanks, who smirked back. Then he looked at Meryl Fisher, a senior partner of the firm, and she smiled at him. It was as though everyone knew something he didn’t.
“Fred, I’m sure your familiar with the McCarthy case?” Jerry asked.
“Yes, I am. I hear Billy and Stead represent the defendant," he said.
"Represented, Fred. There was a sad incident a few hours ago, and the defendant seeks a new lawyer. Will you be that lawyer?"
Fred took a deep breath.
"How long do I have to make my decision?" he asked.
"We want a response tomorrow morning, Fred," Scott said. He was one of the passive senior partners of the firm. He directed the company's paperwork.
"She's facing life or probably, even worse, the United State Supreme court," Jerry said. "We know this is really short notice, but something tells me you're the best man for the job."
Tom frowned as Jerry praised Fred. However, Fred was lost in the train of his thoughts. He couldn't be bothered about the facial expression of someone who wasn't relevant at that moment.
"Are you sure you're familiar with the case, Fred?" Meryl asked.
"Depends what you mean by familiar. You know all the cases I've handled, Meryl. So what are you saying?"
"I mean, the publicity and especially the background of the defendant," she replied.
"Again, I don't really pay attention to cases that aren't mine. I know what's it about and what she's been accused of, but that's it," he said.
Meryl took deep breaths. Her pulse surged as she reached for the folder in front of her. She passed it Amanda, who slid it towards Fred.
"What's this?" he asked.
"Everything you need to know about the case and the defendant,” Jerry said.
Fred smiled and looked down at the folder. As he opened it, his heart began racing. He could hardly breath as he gasped for air. His eyes were bulging out of their sockets; red and teary.
"Are you sure you want to take this case?" Jerry asked.
Fred raised his head and looked around the table. He noticed the pitiful look from most of the people, excluding Tom, who wore a smile that stretched across his cheeks. Then he closed the folder, carried it in his arms and stood up from his chair.
"I'll get back to you tomorrow morning. Have a nice rest," he said, as he walked out of the conference room.
Halfway towards his car, he stopped and opened the folder. His pulse surged as he saw the picture of the defendant. Melanie looked so gorgeous in the picture. Though she'd aged since the last time he saw her, she still had her perfect dimples and stunning blue eyes that first attracted him towards her. However, there was a huge difference. She was now accused of first degree murder, or at least Melanie McCathy was accused, not Melanie Monoroe - his high school crush.