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BULAN: THE CASE OF THE PLAINTIFF PIRATE
DAVID BRUCE BOZARTH
Copyright © 2000
Years after a jungle island adventure Townsend J. Harper, Jr. and his lovely wife Virginia face the music in a most extraordinary fashion. One of those slice of life exposès that titillates, yet leaves one hanging. Read on to find out why!
Last Will and Testament
Virginia Harper, Jr.,
Ward 3, Room 5
Dictated for Signature
Witnessed by Undersigned
Addendum To Be Shown Only To
Direct Descendents of
Virginia Harper, Jr.
At Reading Of
Last Will and Testament
My Bulan celebrated his 100th birthday by signing another Defense Contract for vital parts manufactured for the Stealth series of combat aircraft used by the United States armed forces during the Gulf War. My husband lived to see the end of the conflict in the Middle East, which made for a mighty full lifetime together, considering we met on a jungle island in our early youth back in 1913.
I was the doting daughter of a mad scientist and he was a hideous monster with whom I fell madly in love. BulanTownsend J. Harper, Jr. that ishad, for a brief period of time, been presented to me as an artificial lifeform my father Professor Arthur Maxon had created in a series of numbered experiments in a small jungle island laboratory. Bulanas the natives of the South Seas called him, which means "white moon"was identified to me by the handsome, yet very insidious Carl Von Horn as experiment Number Thirteen, but that claim was made after I had fallen in love with the heart and soul of the powerful creature who had protected me from harm and worse at the hands of the vicious pirates which roamed the uncharted waters of those days. At the time I cared not that Bulan was a construct; yet, I would be untruthful if I did not say how relieved I was to learn Bulan's true identity and that he had merely suffered a lengthy period of amnesia during all that Number Thirteen business.
Bulan was not, of course, hideous. He was the most handsome man I have ever met and we made beautiful children together. He followed in his industrialist father's footsteps, eventually branching out into petroleum, pharmaceuticals, and military research and production. After our youngest fled the nest to take on the world by herself, I joined Bulan in business, though decidedly softer in tone by exploring the world of fashion and financeand yes, these industries do go together!
My dear children, you will read this after I am gone, and that time is near. Weep not for me for I dictate this letter on my 100th birthday and have had a happier life than most! I regret few things I have done in that time. Your father and I tried to raise you correctly, with good values and a strong sense of what it takes to not only make a place for yourself in the world, but to get AHEAD to wherever your dreams might take you.
We could not be more proud of your various successes and your fine matches and wonderful families!
The above is a secret of our early lives we never shared, for it was such a strange and confusing time. We did not reveal this family secret for two reasons. First, the notoriety and possible prosecutions which might have been brought upon my father. Secondly, your grandfather heartily and decisively turned his back upon that insane research. No man should challenge God in the creation of life! Because of that change of heart, and because he became the kind and good man that you remember with such affection, your father and I decided to wait until you were older to reveal this dark past. Now that you are 40 to 65 years of age and have seen so much science and technology, yet are well-founded in matters of the soul, I believe you are finally ready to read our memoirs. Ask Haynes for the document as it is in his safe-keeping. What Haynes has includes all that your father and I eventually learned from your grandfather about his work before he passed on and bears no resemblance to that popular fiction written some eight decades ago. This addendum to my will, given in the presence of my dear friends and trusted advisors, however, is not about that secret.
Sing Leehold my hand. Thank you. Your father was my best friend and protector. We loved him very much. When he returned with us to America and found your mother, we were so pleased to have herand youin our family. You have served me well, both as a son of my heart and as a man of immense skill as my secretary. Haynes, make a note, and this is an official declaration to my Last Will and Testament, dear Sing Lee II is to have upon my death, in addition to all else that has been previously specified in his behalf, the family cat. Sing Lee, will you please take care of Captain Carter for me?
Please record his response in this transcript for my signature and acceptance.
(Transcriber note: Sing Lee II replied affirmatively to Virginia Harper, Jr.'s request, Attorney Haynes witnessing and affirming amendment to existing Last Will and Testament.)
There is yet another a little secret we never told you, one that is all but forgotten and of which there is little record remaining since the one newspaper that covered the event you are about to read burned to the ground in the late 1950s. This secret came near to undoing our early lives. If things had gone differently I fear that this wonderful life we have had together might never have happened.
A kind gentleman your father knew, a businessman in California with a gift of gab, wrote down his impressions of the event shortly before he died in 1950. The few pages which follow are his words, but they are also the words of the trial court and what your father and I endured. I want you to have this part of our family history now because it will illustrate more strongly every lesson, every encouragement, and every determination we attempted to pass on to you.
With all my love,
(signed) Sing Lee, II, Family Secretary
(signed) D. Trump, Family Friend
(signed) G. H. Bush, Family Friend
(signed) Dr. D. Cooley, Family Physician
(signed) R. Haynes, Family Atty
(signed) Marjorie Evans, Notary
My Commission Expires JAN 1996
Handwritten across the bottom margin:
I had no idea she was doing so poorly. I was caught by surprise for I expected that grand old dame to live forever! Your mother passed away two hours after dictating this document. What a marvelous woman! Up until the last minute she directed things as she always had, her voice firm and her eyes clear. She went exactly the way she wanted: active and in control to the very end. Her second heart transplant simply stopped as she issued trading orders for one of the family stocks. Her previous instructions to the medical team were EXPLICIT. I know because I drafted them at her request last year. There was no extraordinary attempt to resuscitate your mother. I miss her!
Ithaca, NY, 1923
"O yez, o yez, o yez! All parties in the present action are to stand forward in the court of the Honorable O. J. Thompson! You there, put out that cigarette and stow that camera or be thrown out."
The reporter, Ed R. Burrows, scowled as he tossed and stamped on the cigarette and lowered his news camera.
The Honorable O. J. Thompson, clad in somber robes of black, entered the chamber and ascended the three steps to the bench. With a nod to the court clerk to seat the audience, Judge Thompson settled into the leather chair and faced the courtroom.
"If there are any outbursts or," he added with a stern brow towards the row of flushed reporters behind the bar, "shenanigans from the press I will order the courtroom cleared. Am I understood?"
The utter silence in the chamber was the reply. Thompson's baleful gaze seemed to address every face in the room. "Mr. Whilcut, you may begin."
Lanky Denny Whilcut, silver-haired and ramrod straight, rose from the plaintiff's table and approached the center aisle. "The Plaintiff will prove that Virginia Maxon knew"
"Objection!" roared the pint-sized defense attorney. Bob Wood, an animated ball of nerves and sinew sprang from his chair excitedly waving his hand. "There are no parties in this courtroom named Maxon!"
Judge Thompson leaned forward, his spectacles low on his aquiline nose. "Mr. Defense Attorney, I have read the papers. Is that young lady sitting at your table the daughter of Professor Arthur Maxon?"
Wood bowed graciously. "She is, Your Honor, but her name is not Virginia Maxon, it is Mrs. Townsend J. Harper, Jr. and we have records to prove that."
"Objection overruled. We will observe parentage and maiden names as well as names assumed through the rites of Holy Matrimony. The court recognizes that Virginia Maxon and Mrs. Townsend J. Harper, Jr. are one and the same. Proceed, Mr. Whilcut."
"Thank you, Your Honor. The Petitioner will prove that VirMrs. Townsend J. Harper, Jr., in the years before she was married to the codefendant, knew of her father's diabolical experiments and was party to his creation of artificial lifeforms abominations of the worst sort and those creatures caused damage and loss of income for the plaintiff, Sheik Muda Saffir."
Judge Thompson nodded as Denny Whilcut sat down. "Mr. Wood, your opening statement, please."
"Thank you, Your Honor. The defendants will show that the prosecutor's case is a pack of lies and that the plaintiff attempted murder upon her father and rape of herself, not once but upon several occasions. We"
Whilcut rose, shaking his head. "Your Honor, I must protest the language of the defendants' attorney. Rapethat is such a strong word and actually has no bearing..."
"Are you nuts?" Wood shouted. "Let's not sugar-coat this atrocity! Your client is a monster, a known pirate of the South Seas, a murderer and rapist and..."
Thompson's gavel banged rapidly, producing a stone-faced silence on the faces of both legal adversaries. "Mr. Wood, Sheik Muda Saffir's purported past life is not on trial here. You will refrain from commentary in this regard."
Wood's complexion crimsoned as he held a retort in view of the judge's ruling. A moment passed as he frantically formed a response. "Judge Thompson, it has been stated by my learned opponent that his client suffered lost income and inconvenience. May I ask the plaintiff's attorney what kind of business his client engages in?"
O. J. Thompson leaned back in his chair, making a steeple from clasped hands. "This seems a reasonable question, Mr. Whilcut. What is your client's occupation?"
With nary a moment of hesitation the regal Whilcut replied. "An independent shipping magnate operating in the South Seas, Your Honor. Sheik Muda Saffir has a variety of other interests in the same area, mainly gems, gold, and silks from the Orient."
"Mr. Wood?" Judge Thompson raised an expressive brow.
"My opponent's client is not a manufacturer of goods, nor does he own the ships he operates in the South Seas. Acquisition of these ships was by force and murder."
Judge Thompson raised a hand when Whilcut drew breath to speak. "Let us continue testimony before I make a ruling in this regard. Mr. Whilcut, please call your first witness."
A swarthy gentleman in native costume, a turban wrapped tightly about his head, took the stand. As the clerk swore him in there was an amendment to the usual oath. "By Allah will I swear."
"Your Honor!" Wood rose. "The oath is sacred in law and..."
"The court recognizes that religions are fundamentally the same, and fundamentally different. The witness has been sworn in. The court will evaluate whether the spirit of the oath has been tarnished when the examination and cross-examination is complete. Proceed, Mr. Whilcut."
"Before I begin, I must apologize that I cannot say your name properly."
The native replied: "Me wifee, she no say namee rightee. Allays 'lazy bastard' she callee. So so?"
A twitter of laughter began, instantly silenced by O. J. Thompson's harsh gavel. Glaring at the audience the judge said, "Continue, Mr. Whilcut."
"You are a Lascar, correct?"
"Me Lascar. Get hire by Budadreen. Him mate big man. Sail on Maxon's Ithaca."
"You were a member of the crew that was hired to man Professor Maxon's yacht Ithaca?"
"I say. You no hear?"
Even Judge Thompson smiled at the response. His gavel was not so thunderous, but it did still the courtroom's amusement. Whilcut, just short of a blush, continued.
"Do you know the woman seated at the defense table?"
"Ginny Maxon! Look nice. Me look. Many time look."
Some voice in the court audience hooted, "She's a looker all right!" Many of the males in the gallery grinned, some applauded. Mrs. Harper, Jr. flushed as her angry husband half-rose to face the audience.
Thompson's gavel rapped sharply. "Any more outbursts from the gallery and I will have the courtroom cleared!" Judge Thompson waited until every smirk and smile had disappeared. "Continue, Mr. Whilcut."
"Yes," Whilcut proceeded immediately, "Mrs. Harper, Jr. is a very striking woman," he bowed toward the defendants' table, "but let us get on with the facts. Did you ever see Mrs. Harper, Jr.Virginia Maxonin the company of Professor Maxon's monster men?"
"Me see plenty! Maxon's demon want her in jungle. Carry off. Bulan kill that one..."
"Bulan? Will you please identify 'Bulan' to the court?"
"Him be BulanNumber Turteen." The Lascar's brown finger pointed directly to Virginia's husband Townsend J. Harper, Jr., son of the well known industrialist Townsend J. Harper. "Bad man. Kill lascars. Kill pirate men. Kill many natives. Budadreen no like him. I no like him. He..."
"I understand that, sir," Whilcut interjected, "but the question is, did you see Ginny Maxon working with her father?"
The Lascar scratched his thin beard. "She always with father man. Bring food, make words on paper, always by father man."
Whilcut nodded, looking to the jury. "Your witness, Mr. Wood."
Wood was already out of his chair and approaching the witness stand at a rapid pace. "Budadreen asked you to steal the professor's trunk. Right?"
"Take trunk, but we no..."
"Budadreen approached you about faking the kidnapping of Virginia Maxon."
"Objection, Your Honor! Leading the witness!"
Thompson scowled at Whilcut. "How a defense attorney can lead a plaintiff's witness escapes me. Objection overruled."
Wood pressed his attack. "Dr. Carl von Horn created the conspiracy to kidnap Mrs. Harper, Jr. and steal the trunk. Is that not correct?"
The Lascar wilted before the diminutive lawyer's forceful examination. "Von Horn want Ginny Maxon worst way. Makee deal with Budadreen. Budadreen makee deal with Muda Saffir..."
"Objection!" Whilcut said.
"What is your objection?" asked Judge Thompson.
"There is no connection between the witness and my client. No ground has been established."
"Mr. Wood?" Thompson pressed his spectacles upon the bridge of his nose and leaned forward.
"If I may be permitted, Your Honor, I believe my next question will clarify things."
"Did Budadreen tell you about the pirate Muda Saffir?"
"He know Muda Saffir. Bad things come soon. Von Horn bad man allee same as Muda Saffir. We help von Horn get girl we get trunk. Cross Muda Saffir."
"What happened that night during the storm?"
"Objection! No weather has been introduced."
Trembling with great restraint, Wood straightened to his full five foot five inches and challenged the plaintiff's attorney. "Day or night, fair or foul, makes no difference! This man participated in a plot to deliver Virginia Harper, Jr. into the cruel grasp of Carl von Horn, a man long sought by the United States Navy for criminal activities!"
Ed R. Burrows' 4x5 camera flashed at that moment, transfixing forever on celluloid the figure of attorney Wood with arms akimbo as he stood before the cowering witness. Almost immediately there was a brief tussle as the court bailiff, at Judge Thompson's direction, ejected the reporter from the courtroom.
Wood, however, expressed his concerned opinion. "We cannot eject the press, Your Honor, for they chronicle the workings of law."
"I'll be the judge of that," said Judge Thompson. "Continue your questioning or release the witness."
"The witness has admitted to his collusion in a kidnapping plot instigated at the request of Carl von Horn, and knew that Sheik Muda Saffir had nefarious designs upon the person of Virginia Harper, Jr.Virginia Maxon," he added as Whilcut started to rise, "and has revealed the intent and malice of the plaintiff toward the defendants. I have no further questions."
"Your Honor! Regarded Counsel is making a summation!"
"Noted. Any re-direct, Mr. Whilcut?" Judge Thompson asked the plaintiff's attorney.
Whilcut firmed his lips into a thin line before responding. "No re-direct, Your Honor."
"Call your next witness."
Whilcut turned to the audience and called out, "The Plaintiff calls Edgar Rice Burroughs to the stand."
Wood shot upright, as if ejected from a cannon. "Objection! This witness is not on the list and has not been deposed by..."
The silver-haired attorney for the plaintiff spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "We only learned of this witness this morning, Your Honor. We believe his testimony has a great bearing upon this case."
Thompson narrowed his eyes toward Whilcut, deliberating for a long moment. "I will allow the witness, Mr. Whilcut, but I will also allow Mr. Wood great latitude in his questioning of the witness. Proceed."
Mr. Burroughs, a man just under six feet in height, approached the witness stand carrying a battered fedora in his large hands. Sworn, he settled into the witness chair and leaned back. He did not seem particularly pleased to be in the courtroom.
Whilcut stepped away from the plaintiff's table and greeted the witness with a congenial smile. "You are Edgar Rice Burroughs, the famous author, are you not?"
"Can you tell us what you know about the case at hand?"
Burroughs negligently adjusted the hat upon his crossed knee and began, "I got this story from one who had no business telling it to me. I"
Wood's complexion was just between red brick and open flame. "OBJECTION! Are we to hear third-party hearsay or direct evidence?"
Thompson twisted his swivel chair to face the witness with a contemplative expression. "A valid question, Mr. Wood. Mr. Burroughs, do you know the defendants?"
"Not personally, sir. I know of them by"
Judge Thompson quelled further reply with a dismissive wave of his hand. He asked another question. "Do you know the plaintiff, Muda Saffir?"
"Only by reputation from the same source, Your Honor."
"Is there any direct evidence you can bring to this court in this specific case?"
Burroughs grinned, shrugging his broad shoulders. "Only that the story I got regarding the brief interaction between the plaintiff and the defendants made me a pile of money a few years back. I tried to explain all that to Mr. Whilcut," Burroughs said, reaching to his inside jacket pocket to produce a folded paper, "when he issued a subpoena to me this morning."
"Is there anything you call tell this court that is first hand knowledge on your part?"
Burroughs tilted his head to one side, taking a breath before replying. "I have personally spoken to Lieutenant May of the United States Navy. He was a direct participant of some actions during that same time period."
Whilcut blinked several times, startled. "What do you know from Lieutenant Mayas direct conversation between the two of you?" he rushed to say when Wood became agitated.
Judge Thompson said quietly, "I will allow the question, Mr. Wood."
Burroughs cleared his thoat. "I met Lieutenant May three years after the events in question at a dinner in San Francisco. The USS New Mexico was in for refit and replenishment at the time. We struck up a conversation because I was intrigued after our introduction. 'Are you the Lieutenant May who finally located Dr. Carl Von Horn, late of the U.S. Navy?'
"'I am, sir,' he said. 'How did you know?' At which point I related the tale that I got from someone who should not have told it to me..."
Thompson's gavel seated Mr. Wood, who had started to rise. Burroughs ignored the interruption.
"'I am curious,' I asked. 'Did you see anything of the monster men?' May frowned, replying. 'There was some crazy native chatter about ogres or giants in the jungle, but we saw nothing to support it. The campong of Maxon on the small island had been nearly destroyed by a typhoon a short time before. They also reported pirate activity; an assault on the campong and the kidnapping of Virginia Maxon...'"
At this moment Mr. Whilcut, under the urgent prodding of his client, rose from the plaintiff's table. "I object, Your Honor. This is not direct evidence."
The lawyer's plea was weak because Judge O. J. Thompson's glare transfixed both him and Sheik Muda Saffir with dim view. "The witness is relating a direct conversation between himself and a person known to be on the scene at or near the same time the plaintiff indicates," Thompson ruled. "Please proceed, Mr. Burroughs."
"I allowed Lieutenant May to speak freely without questioning, other than to ask if he'd like another Scotch as the waiters passed through the dining hall. I wanted his version of what I had originally considered to be sheer fiction told to me by one who had no business telling it to me. It appears that Lieutenant May, in company of a score of sailors and marines from the New Mexico came across the headless corpse of Dr. Carl Von Horn, draped across a heavy trunk which apparently had been buried and recently unearthed."
Whilcut could not restrain himself. "How did this Lieutenant May know the body was that of Dr. Carl Von Horn if it was headless?"
Burroughs replied. "I asked the very same question. He said that all parties, nativeand apparently Professor Maxon and his daughter as wellindicated there were only three white males in the area. Maxon, young Harper, Jr. over there," he gestured to the defendants' table, "and Carl Von Horn. I am also under the impression that Mrs. Harper, Jr. was able to identify the body because of close and, to her sensitivities, objectionable intimacy by Von Horn."
Whilcut wilted, resuming his seat at the plaintiff's table. Muda Saffir, on the other hand, looked barely able to contain his rising emotions.
Judge Thompson leaned toward the witness. "Did Lieutenant May have anything further to say?"
Burroughs thought for a moment. "May indicated that the trunkProfessor Maxon's trunkcontained books and papers the professor wished destroyed as dead end research. As far as I know the trunk is buried with Von Horn's body on a remote islandan island that I regretfully did not ask the name of from Lieutenant May. Whatever more I might have learned from May vanished when a most handsome young lady invited the lieutenant to dance with her. I did not see him again that evening and have not spoken to him since."
Whilcut sat at the plaintiff's table, his silver-haired head bent low and cradled between both hands.
Judge Thompson's voice cut through the silence in the courtroom. "Do you have any questions of the witness, Mr. Wood?"
"Did you have any direct conversation with Lieutenant May regarding pirate activity or the so-called 'monster men' of the island?"
"Only what I have related to the court. Nothing more."
"Was Sheik Muda Saffir's name mentioned?"
"Not to me, but who else could it have been?"
Whilcut objected. "Speculation, Your Honor!"
"Objection sustained. Any further questions, Mr. Wood?"
It appeared obvious to the judge and gallery alike that Mr. Wood had a thousand questions to ask, but it was Virginia Harper, Jr.'s gentle hand on his arm that silenced the defendants' attorney. "None, Your Honor." Wood sat down, primarily propelled by Townsend J. Harper Jr.'s strong hand on his shoulder.
Judge Thompson said to the witness, "Thank you for your testimony, Mr. Burroughs. You are dismissed."
Burroughs stepped down from the stand. He jammed his hat on his head and returned to a seat in the rear gallery, this time behind the defendants' table.
Thompson looked to Whilcut. "Are there any more witnesses for the Plaintiff?"
Whilcut responded to protocol by rising and saying, "No, Your Honor." At the same time he batted away Muda Saffir's angry hand and ignored the low-voiced Pidgin English curses from the Sheik and the colorful back row of foreign nationals the Plaintiff had originally intended to present.
"Mr. Wood, does the defense wish to present witnesses?"
Wood, after a brief consultation with his clients, rose with a smug smile etched upon his face. He hitched up pants about to fall off his skinny frame and said, "We did, Your Honor, but see no reason to take up the court's valuable time. We do, however, request mercy for an immediate ruling."
Judge Thompson nodded. "I concur with the request." The man on the bench paused for a moment. He briefly examined notes made during the trial, then raised his noble head to address the court. "We find for the defendants. Mr. Whilcut, your client's case is dismissed."
Ed R. Burrow's newspaper report and exclusive pictures proclaimed in the late edition newspaper:
Legal Eagle Makes Sheik Shriek
Monster Claim Dismissed
Today, in the Honorable Judge O. J. Thompson's Municipal Court, Sheik Muda Saffir, a blood-thirsty pirate from the South Seas, was given a stunning defeat in a civil action to recover alleged losses...