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Al's wife Sandra made a nice lunch for everyone, and Al, Melanie, Justin, and Brian all sat down at the Kurtzmans's dining room table and talked about how they would proceed with their case. It was quickly decided that they would not call Ben or Emmett as witnesses, since Michael had done an excellent job at impeaching himself as a witness the previous day. Melanie sent texts to both of the men, letting them know that they would not need to testify.

Once Al, Melanie, and Justin had returned to the courthouse and proceedings resumed, Melanie moved for Curtis's petition to be dismissed.

"Mr. Turner failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted," Melanie said to the judge. "He did not prove that there was any binding contract between his client and mine, and he also did not prove that his client would make a better parent than my client."

The judge shuffled through some papers in front of him. "Ms. Marcus, I see that you have subpoenaed several witnesses to testify, and I would hope that at least one of those witnesses could add something of value to this case. I don't want any possible evidence or testimony omitted. I think both sides can appreciate that I do not make child custody decisions lightly, since my decision ultimately affects the future and well being of a young life. Therefore, I deny the respondent's motion to dismiss. Ms. Marcus, you may proceed with your case."

Melanie nodded in understanding. "On behalf of my client and Mr. Kurtzman, we would like to thank you for taking a decision such as this so seriously."

She then began her opening statement, once again telling the judge that Justin only agreed to consent to Curtis adopting the child he conceived with Daphne with the understanding that both Curtis and Daphne would raise the child. She repeated her claim that Turner did not prove his case whatsoever. She assured the judge that she would prove that Justin, along with Brian, would be a better father for Keegan than Curtis and pressed the fact that Curtis worked too much to adequately raise Keegan as a single father.

Melanie continued, "Mr. Turner attempted to paint my client and his fiance Brian Kinney to be morally corrupt individuals who would be ill-suited to raise a child. He did a pretty poor job of it, in my opinion. I plan to call several witnesses who will prove my assertion that Dr. Anderson should not be given responsibility over the life of Keegan Mercury Taylor. One of those witnesses will be Dr. Anderson himself. I'll also call two witnesses who heard Daphne Anderson's dying wish for Mr. Taylor and Mr. Kinney to raise her son.

"I would also like to add that my two children, Gus and Jenny Rebecca who reside with Mr. Taylor, Mr. Kinney, and myself absolutely adore Keegan. They also love Justin and look up to him as a father figure-"

"Objection," Turner interrupted. "Your honor, Ms. Marcus is stating her own experience with her client, and she's only trying to toy with your emotions by bringing her young children into this."

The judge smiled in amusement. "Mr. Turner, you are aware that opening statements are not evidence, correct? Furthermore, I will decide whether Ms. Marcus is ‘toying with my emotions,' as you claimed. I will allow her to proceed."

Before Melanie could continue, Turner interrupted again. "Your honor, I move for Ms. Marcus to either recuse herself or be removed as counsel in this case, due to a clear conflict of interest. She is way too emotionally involved, which prevents her from competently representing her client."

"Mr. Turner, I'm sure you have been quite aware since the beginning of this trial of the close personal relationship between Ms. Marcus and her client," the judge said. "Why are you just now asking for her to be removed?"

Turner had to think about that for a moment. "I just now realized how emotionally invested Ms. Marcus really is."

"Must I remind you that you were the one who previously called not only the biological father of Ms. Marcus's daughter but also her estranged wife as witnesses in your case in chief?" the judge said in a slightly bitter tone. "Ms. Marcus maintained her composure throughout both of those testimonies, even after Ms. Peterson's emotional breakdown."

The judge turned to Melanie. "Ms. Marcus, would you like to recuse yourself from this case?"

"I would not," Melanie replied. "Yes, I am emotionally invested in the outcome of this case, but it does not cloud my ability to competently represent my client. I believe it's only strengthening me."

"Mr. Taylor, do you feel that Ms. Marcus is not able to adequately and competently represent you in this matter for any reason?" the judge then asked.

Justin looked at Melanie and smiled. "I believe she is doing a wonderful job, along with Mr. Kurtzman. I wouldn't want anyone else by my side while I fight for my son."

"Motion is denied," the judge said. "Please proceed, Ms. Marcus."

"Thank you, your honor," Melanie said, smirking at Turner. "As I was saying, my children love and adore both Mr. Taylor and his son Keegan. They consider Mr. Taylor a second father and Keegan to be their little brother.  

"At the closing of my case in chief, I will ask that you deny Dr. Anderson's petition for sole legal and physical custody of Keegan Mercury Taylor. Keegan is exactly where he belongs, with the two men who have raised him for the past four months of his life and with his two older siblings who want to see him grow up. I believe that you will agree, your honor, that this is the best environment for Keegan to be raised in and rule in our favor."

Melanie's first witness was a human resources representative from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where Curtis was employed. The rep was called in order for Melanie to have Curtis's timesheets from the past five years entered as evidence, supporting her argument that Curtis was too busy to adequately raise a child as a single parent. The judge accepted the timesheets as evidence over Turner's objection.

Turner had no questions for the rep.

Next on the witness stand were the two emergency medical technicians who treated Daphne in the ambulance on the way to the small regional hospital. Each of them separately stated that they heard Daphne repeatedly say to Justin that she wanted him to raise her baby. One of the EMTs specifically remembered hearing Daphne say it, because she recalled tearing up.

"She knew she was going to die," the EMT said. "She was thinking about her baby's future, and that really touched me. I have three children and wouldn't want to imagine being in her position. Even with all the pain she was in and how scared she must have been for her own life, she was putting her baby first. I don't remember every patient I treat, but I'll always remember her."

Turner had no questions for either of the EMTs.

Melanie then informed the judge that she intended to call Curtis as her next witness. It was getting late in the afternoon, and she was concerned that there would not be enough time to complete her direct questioning of him.

The judge said that he would keep the court open as long as it took for her to question Curtis.

"I'll try my best to not keep us here past the first pitch of the Pirates game tonight, your honor," Melanie said after Curtis was sworn in and took his seat at the witness stand.

The judge chuckled, as his love for the city's baseball team was well known. "I appreciate that."

"May I treat the witness as hostile?" Melanie asked the judge.

"Yes, you may."

"Curtis... may I call you Curtis?," Melanie began, not bothering to say hello or waiting for his response. "Curtis, did you love your wife, Daphne?"

Curtis was clearly surprised that she was questioning him about his marriage so soon. "Yes, of course I did."

"Prior to Daphne's death, was it your intention to raise the child legally known as Keegan Mercury Taylor with her as your own son?"

"Yes. Daphne and I tried to conceive on our own for a year before we discovered that I'm sterile. We really wanted a child, or else we wouldn't have ever asked Justin to give us his sperm. I still want children."

"Could you please tell the court about the very last time you saw your wife?"

"Um..." Curtis said, looking nervous. "She said that she was going out, and she got in her car and left."

Melanie smiled. "Okay, obviously I was too vague, so I'll be more specific. Your last conversation with your wife was a very unpleasant one, correct?"

"Yes," Curtis admitted. "We had a huge fight."

"In fact, it ended with Daphne packing a bag and saying that she wanted a divorce, right?"

Curtis bowed his head. "Yes."

Melanie only knew about the suitcase in the trunk of Daphne's car; she didn't know for a fact that Daphne had requested a divorce, so she was quite pleased with herself for unearthing that.

"And the fight started when Daphne discovered that you had been cheating on her, is that correct?"

"No," Curtis claimed. "It started when Daphne found a Hangouts chat that I'd been having with an intern from the hospital. She'd been looking through my phone while I was in the shower, and she misconstrued the situation and accused me of cheating."

"That chat was with a student intern under your supervision named Amanda Crawford, right?" Melanie filled in.

"Yes," Curtis said, clearly annoyed by being asked about his mistress.

"What was the nature of that Hangouts chat?" Melanie asked, waiting to see how much Curtis would admit to.

"Amanda, uh, Miss Crawford, had been asking me homework questions... completely innocent. Daphne was always jealous. She knew that I work with several women, but she couldn't stand it. I wasn't allowed to have any female friends or talk to any of them outside of work, even if they were married or had boyfriends. I never acted that way about the men she worked with, because I trusted her."

"So, the chat that Daphne found on your phone was professional in nature?" Melanie asked, forcing herself maintain an indifferent facade. "It didn't contain anything that Daphne would have found inappropriate or offensive?"

"It was purely professional."

Melanie nodded, although she knew that Curtis was full of shit. "Was your relationship with Ms. Crawford platonic?"

"Of course it was," Curtis said. "I was a happily married man and I would never risk my career by having an inappropriate relationship with someone from the hospital, particularly a student under my instruction."

Melanie reached into a filing box that she had brought with her to court that day and pulled out a three-ring binder with a thick stack of papers inside. "Your honor, I'd like to introduce into evidence a printout of Google Hangouts instant messages, or ‘chats,' between Amanda Crawford and Curtis Anderson from October 2015 through April 2016."

"I object to them, your honor," Turner said. "I was given those messages as part of discovery, and I find them completely irrelevant to this case. I also doubt their authenticity. My client denies that the Google account used by the person Ms. Crawford was chatting with was his. In fact, that account doesn't even exist anymore. I contacted Google and found that while the account cannot be recovered, the name of the person attached to that account was ‘Robert Chase.'"

"Your honor, these message are relevant to this case, and they can be used to impeach Dr. Anderson as a witness and greatly damage his character," Melanie argued. "I contend that ‘Robert Chase,' which was the name of a doctor on the TV show House MD, was an alias of Dr. Anderson's to keep his marital indiscretions separate from any real accounts under his name. Ms. Crawford calls ‘Robert' by the name of ‘Curtis' five times throughout the messages, and ‘Robert' tells her not to call him that three times. If you read these messages, you will see that a lot of their content matches facts about Dr. Anderson that have been garnered throughout this case. In earlier messages, you will see that ‘Robert' was married to a woman named ‘Daphne' who eventually died. The names ‘Daphne' and ‘Daph' are used fifty-six times throughout the messages. ‘Robert' was also expecting a child with ‘Daphne.'

"There are many references to this lawsuit in the last half or so of the messages, and you will see that the name ‘Justin' is used thirty-eight times, ‘Charlie,' as in Charles Turner, is used nineteen times, and ‘Brian' is used eight times. There are many references to the child at the heart of this case, with ‘Robert' often calling him ‘Junior.' You, Mr. Kurtzman, and I are also referenced, and not in a positive light. If you do decide to read them, I must warn you that a great deal of the messages are quite explicit, making it clear that the two people exchanging the messages were engaged in a sexual relationship."

"And I maintain that the person Ms. Crawford was chatting with in these messages is not Dr. Anderson," Turner insisted. "There is no way to prove that this ‘Robert Chase' has anything to do with my client. It could have been anyone."

The judge took several seconds to look through his paperwork. "Ms. Marcus, I see that you have Amanda Crawford on your witness list. Do you plan to call her to testify tomorrow?"

"Yes, I do," Melanie answered proudly.

"Do you plan to reference these instant messages during your questioning of Ms. Crawford?"

"I believe what she has to say stands on its own without the messages, if you reject them as evidence. Overall, the content of the messages are very damaging to Dr. Anderson's character, which is the main reason why I want to introduce them as evidence. If you recall, Mr. Turner spent a large portion of his case in chief attempting to damage the characters of my client and his fiance. If you agree that this so-called ‘Robert Chase' is in fact Curtis Anderson, you'll see Mr. Turner's client doing an excellent job of casting a dark shadow over himself."

The judge drummed his fingers on his chin as he thought about it. "I will allow the printout of the messages to be submitted... looks like I have some homework tonight."

Turner exhaled loudly, clearly angered by this decision. The bailiff took the binder from Melanie and gave it to the judge.

"Ms. Marcus, you may continue with your direct examination of Dr. Anderson," Judge Dennis said.

Melanie knew that Curtis would only continue to lie if she pressed him further about Amanda, so she changed topics.

She asked him how many times he had seen Keegan since he was born, and he said only once, on the day that Justin and Brian took Keegan from the hospital. When she asked him why he never visited Keegan before that day, Curtis claimed that he was mourning Daphne's death too deeply and that he wanted to avoid anything or anyone that reminded him of his dead wife. He confirmed that he didn't go to Daphne's funeral, saying that he couldn't bear to see her in a casket.

"If you don't want a reminder of Daphne, why do you want to raise her son?" Melanie asked, happy that he had set her up to ask that question.

"Because we were supposed to raise that baby together, and I want to honor her memory by raising her son right," Curtis said.

"What else do you intend to do if you are awarded custody?'"

He scoffed. "Well, if the court gives him to me, the first thing I'll do is change that stupid name that Justin gave him. Daphne knew that I wanted to name our son after myself."

"Okay," Melanie said. "What did you mean before when you said you would ‘raise him right?' Does that mean you think Justin and Brian will somehow raise Keegan wrong?"

"I meant that he won't be raised by a couple of cock sucking, fudge packing faggots, and I'll do whatever is necessary so that he doesn't grow up to be a disgusting faggot himself."

Everyone in the courtroom, including Turner, inhaled sharply at hearing Curtis's homophobic slur.

"It's bad enough that Daphne was friends with a bunch of fags and that I had to put up with them too, but that doesn't mean that her son should be raised around a bunch of them," Curtis continued, looking directly at Justin.

Turner raised his hand. "Uh, your honor? May I have a word with my client?"

"No, you may not," the judge answered.

"Curtis-" Melanie began, but he cut her off.

"You know, there are a lot of studies that show-"

"Dr. Anderson!" the judge yelled over him. "Do not speak out of turn."

Instead of apologising for running his mouth, Curtis crossed his arms over his chest and puckered his lips while staring absently at the wall in front of him.

"Curtis," Melanie said again. "You knew that your wife had gay friends before you married her, namely her best friend Justin Taylor, right?"

Turner objected for irrelevance, but the judge overruled.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I like fags. I married Daphne despite her being a huge fag hag. She's dead now, so there's no reason why her son should be forced to be around a bunch of fags. They all just want to sweep us up in their gay agenda, because they hate straight people. They'd make every kid gay, if you'd let them. Justin probably wants to make that kid a big nelly fairy like him."

Justin was shocked at what he was hearing, as he had always thought that Curtis liked him and accepted his lifestyle. He could not count the number of times that Curtis had gone dancing with Daphne at Babylon, had gone for drinks and pool at Woody's, and celebrated holidays and events with the family over the years. He had even marched with the PFLAG group during the Pride Parade every year since he and Daphne had started seeing each other.

Melanie continued, "So, if you are successful in your suit and are awarded custody of Keegan, or ‘Curtis Junior' rather, do you plan to raise him to hate gay people?"

"Maybe not to hate them, but certainly not become one of them or ever associate with them." Curtis said.

"And if Curtis Junior came to you one day and said, ‘Dad, I'm gay,' what would you do?"

Curtis scoffed. "No son of mine would be gay; trust me, I'll make damn sure of that."

Melanie smiled. "No, of course not. Curtis, would you hire a nanny to raise your son if you're awarded custody?"

"Well yeah," he answered, his tone condescending. "You've hammered enough on the fact that I work a lot. Who else would take care of him while I work? I have to make a living. I have a very important job... much more important than drawing pictures all day, unlike some people."

Melanie looked over at Justin, who looked like he was about to blow a gasket. "Do you already have a nanny in mind... such as Amanda Crawford?"

"Why would I hire an surgical intern to be my nanny?" Curtis asked.

"Probably because you introduced Ms. Crawford as your nanny when the lady from social services, Charlotte Sanders, came to visit your home, remember?" Melanie answered.

"Your honor," Turner said. "She's arguing with my client."

"Do you have any other questions for your witness, Ms. Marcus?" the judge asked.

"No, I do not at this time," Melanie answered. "The witness is subject to be recalled, if necessary."

Judge Dennis told Curtis that he may step down, but Turner all but begged the judge to let him cross-examine his client before court was adjourned for the evening.

"Make it quick," the judge granted.

Turner got up and slowly walked over to his client. "Dr. Anderson... now, you don't actually hate gay people, do you?"

Curtis shrugged. "I don't necessarily hate them, but I wouldn't be sad if they all dropped off the face of the earth. What they do is disgusting and should not be tolerated. Whenever I had to spend any time with them, I always took a shower as soon as I got home. I just felt dirty, and any time Daphne had been anywhere near them, I would make sure she took a shower before I would touch her. She didn't know the real reason; she just thought that I liked everything to be very clean. I know from my medical training that it's nearly impossible to catch any diseases through casual contact, but still."

Turner cringed. "Curtis... Dr. Anderson..."

He then turned to the judge. "Your honor, I'd like to move for a mistrial."

"Why?" the judge asked impatiently.

"Quite frankly, Judge Dennis, I don't believe you will be able to make a fair ruling in this particular case, due to your bias towards the gay community."

The judge looked astounded. "My what?"

"You have run as a Democrat your entire judicial career, you officiated the first same-sex wedding in this county and many others, and I hear that you have a few gay friends," Turner said. "At the very least, I'd like you to recuse yourself from this case and have it transferred to another judge."

"Mr. Turner, I'll have you know that I have been married to two women in my life," the judge informed him sternly. "My current wife and I have been happily married for thirty-six years and have five children, all of whom are heterosexual. Couldn't a reasonable person claim that those facts make me biased towards the heterosexual community, too?"

Turner looked deflated. "I withdraw my motion."

The judge nodded. "Thought so. Do you have any more questions for your client, Mr. Turner?"

"No, your honor."

"Court is adjourned for the evening," the judge said. "Ms. Marcus, please be prepared to call your next witness at nine AM."

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