Title: Six Degrees of Mistrust
Pairing: none, gen!fic
Warnings: language, but milder than what you'd see on the show. Also unbetaed.
Disclaimer: I do not own "Suits" or any of the content affiliated with it.
Rolland Courtenay's daughter was not what Harvey had expected in an heiress to one of the most venerable military businesses in the US. In fact, she was not at all what he had expected after seeing the file Vanessa had managed to scrap together on her. The first 25 years of her life had been relatively easy for the investigator to put together and quite typical for a trust fund brat. She had been born with a golden spoon in her mouth and came from old money on both sides of the family. Her mother belonged from a dynasty of New York bankers and was Daughters of the American Revolution material. The Courtenays prenup, he had found in Darby's monumental files of the family's legal affairs, told a less idyllic story, albeit not a wholly unexpected one. The document was longer than most merger agreements Harvey had seen and more detailed than it was sane. The marriage was obviously just a business venture. Vanessa's discovery that Mrs. Courtenay had lived in the Hamptons for years, while her husband occupied his family Neo-baroque mansion in McLean, Virginia, solidified that idea.
Emmeline and her younger brother, currently executive VP of Courtenay Technologies Inc., the conglomerate their father was still chairman and CEO of, had spent their early childhood in Virginia. Then she had gone off to Institut Le Rosey in Switzerland, gotten an undergraduate degree in Law of all things from Cambridge and an MBA from London School of Economics. At 23 she had returned to the States to take on a VP position at her father's corporation. He clearly didn't believe in his children starting from the bottom and then climbing their way up the corporate ladder. Two years later the fairy tale ended with her parking a Ferrari at the bottom of a ditch just outside McLean. She had vanished shortly afterwards and Vanessa found out she had legally changed her illustrious name with the ludicrously common Smith right after she had signed off her inheritance. Then she left the country and for all her skill, his investigator was still trying to discover what his enigmatic witness had exactly been up to in the meantime.
The wealth of files he had received the day before, however, painted enough of a dark picture of Emmeline to discredit anything she said. But Harvey wasn't about to underestimate any witness Tanner would call, especially based on documents anonymously sent to his office. Vanessa had assured him of what he already knew: everything in the envelope looked authentic, albeit she wasn't the one to mail it to him. Moreover, she hadn't been able to find any of that herself, which meant odds were good he had the only exemplary in existence. And only someone close to the Courtenay family could have sent it.
What he felt tempted to do upon walking into Conference C first time Wednesday morning, was request a DNA test. Present day Emmeline looked very little like the socialite of thirteen years ago he had seen in the pictures of her Vanessa had provided him with. Her tastefully coiffed caramel tresses were gone, replaced by a natural, yet plain looking ash brown, shoulder-long hairdo. She even seemed less tall than in the photos, definitely thinner, and the meager make-up she wore did nothing to cover her pallor, the dark shades under her eyes or her unflattering sharp features.
The eyes were the only thing connecting the woman sitting at the conference room table across from him with the pictures of her past self. In them he had been struck by the utter confidence in those hazel depths. It was something he had only seen in Jessica Pearson before and all the more striking in someone, who had been in her early twenties at the times the photographs had been taken. But past Emmeline's eyes held something rare even in Jessica: a cold edge of danger, as if there was nothing alive with emotion past that unshakable confidence. Harvey had seen that edge before: in some of the most hardened criminals he had prosecuted. It bespoke of lack of empathy. That one always looked the same: in boardrooms as in jails. Tanner's cockiness did a poor job of concealing it and on occasion Harvey had glimpsed it behind Darby's polished affability, something rendered more disturbing by its absence in Daniel Hardman, despite the fact that he was a lying, manipulative slimeball.
The eyes of the woman before him told a radically different story: they were too wide in her narrow, vulnerable face, and red-rimmed, as if she hadn't slept in days or perhaps spent the previous night crying. There was no confidence in her posture or countenance. On the contrary, she looked apprehensive, tired and frail. Not even making an effort to hold it all in while in a room with three experienced corporate lawyer was not only a mistake, it went against self-preservation itself. Even Even Tanner's obnoxious self-assurance seemed toned down a bit by his witness' demeanor. It came as no surprise. The woman was bleeding in waters full of sharks.
To Harvey's own surprise, he wasn't entirely comfortable with the situation, either, though he did a better job at concealing it. For one terrible moment, as they were sitting down, he had even briefly speculated that Emmeline was maybe ill. But upon closer inspection, he had realized she was only sick with fear. It didn't help that Scottie, by his side, was positively ravenous. Her ego was clearly boosted by the contrast between her shining hair, her down pat make-up and tailored designer dress and the cheap, brown pants suit Emmeline was wearing.
Harvey felt unpleasantly tempted by his gentleman side to place himself between the two women and protect the obviously weak one. Too bad today it was his job to destroy her. At least, he would get to his Tanner's smirk blink out, while doing so.
"State your name for the record," Tanner prompted coolly.
"Emmeline Moretti," she replied in a vaguely melodic voice. It took Harvey a moment before realizing that came from a spec of a foreign accent that sounded as if she hadn't spoken English in a while.
"What is your relationship with the defendant?" Tanner wanted to know.
"He is my father."
"Would you describe him like a law-abiding citizen, Mrs. Moretti?"
"Strictly speaking, yes."
"Why only strictly speaking?"
She wrung her hands briefly before answering. She was wearing a wedding ring in the form of a modest sliver of yellow gold, but Vanessa hadn't mentioned any marriages.
"My father is very knowledgeable of the US as well as international law. He would never break it... if he wasn't absolutely sure he could get away with it."
"Objection," Scottie, who was first chair, interrupted. "The witness has no proof of that."
Emmeline turned her head so there would be no chance of her catching Scottie's eye and fixed the far wall with a more intense stare than it was warranted. In a flash of insight Harvey understood that the two women knew each other better than his colleague had let on. A bad feeling began forming in the pit of his stomach.
"No," she conceded mildly. "But ever since I remember, he told me to never do anything I couldn't get away with. Getting caught is the only boundary he has."
Harvey thought it strange that Tanner was suing the man. From the sound of it, they could be great friends.
"So your father has no moral qualms about breaking the law or say, stealing someone else's work?"
Harvey laughed out loud at Tanner's question. The other lawyer smirked again and Harvey noted with satisfaction the depth of the lines on his face. Donna was right. He had aged.
"My father has no moral qualms about anything, Mr. Tanner," Emmeline answered.
"What about you, Mrs. Moretti? Would you say you are a law-abiding citizen?" Harvey interfered, deciding this charade had been going on for long enough.
Scottie shot him a curt, warning look. He just ignored her.
"The witness' legal standing is not the subject of this deposition," Tanner objected.
"But her credibility is. You called her to testify about her father's character. You should've done your due diligence and made sure this isn't a case of the pot calling the cattle a patent thief."
"Harvey," Scottie cautioned briskly.
He couldn't be bothered. "Mrs. Moretti, to your knowledge, is usage of cocaine and driving under influence illegal in the state of Virginia?"
"Objection," Tanner countered. "Relevance?"
"And were you not driving with enough cocaine in your blood to open your own dealing business on the morning of April 5th, 2000, when you caused a car accident in the same state of Virginia? I'd also mention the level of alcohol in your system, but after the drugs, it would seem like an overkill, don't you think?" Harvey continued as if uninterrupted, while throwing on the table the file with the results of the medical tests performed on her, while she had been in the ER after the accident. Between her car swerving off the road at full speed and the drugs she was lucky to be alive at all.
She recoiled from his words, as if he had physically hit her, yet still nodded in confirmation.
"Was that you or not?" he drawled on. "I can't hear you."
For a second she seemed to steel herself as if against an actual blow. It wasn't a pleasant sight to Harvey, who would have never hit a woman. He pushed down on the bludgeoning guilt and kept his hard gaze on her, not allowing for any respite.
"It's true," she finally said. "I had spent the night before in a club in Dupont Circle. I had been drinking and sniffing cocaine. In the morning I got into my car and drove back to McLean. I was almost there, when I couldn't control the car anymore and I crashed."
"So you are saying you can testify about your father's willingness to profit from someone else's work based on your own lack of respect for the lives of others? After all, you couldn't care less that you might hit somebody, when you got behind the wheel drunk and on drugs. In fact, it's a miracle you didn't."
"Objection, badgering," Tanner snapped. "How is something that happened thirteen years ago relevant here?"
"The same way this testimony is relevant to the current lawsuit," Scottie answered. "Mrs. Moretti isn't even registered as working for her father's company at the time the alleged patent infringement occurred."
"She doesn't make a very good character witness, either," Harvey said, leaning back in his chair. "Because it seems that no matter the time or place, she can't stay on the right side of ethics... or the law."
From the corner of his eye, he saw Scottie go absolutely still and knew he was onto something that would not only rid them of this suit but also had the potential to reveal him what she and Darby were hiding. Emmeline herself was staring poignantly at the table top, looking on the verge of tears. Tanner himself shifted in his chair, readying himself for the attack. He didn't know what Harvey had up his sleeve. The ball was entirely in his court. He spoke before Scottie had the time to fully open her mouth and stop him.
"Mrs. Moretti, where did you work up until two months ago?"
"I think we have enough on the witness' credibility," Scottie was quick to add. "This deposition is over." And with that she signaled to the stenographer.
"No arguments here." Tanner was not the one not to take an out, when he had no way of spinning the situation in his favour. "But don't kid yourselves that this is over."
Scottie smiled easily now. "I don't know about that. We would be filing for dismissal later today."
Tanner didn't seem surprised. "See you in court then, Hairdo. Mrs. Hairdo," he finished inclining his head at Scottie, whose smile vanished. Harvey gave it a 50-50 chance she would hit him. But the refined lady in her won and she didn't. The witness herself seemed not to hear them or at the very least, she didn't care about their dispute. Harvey assumed that from a certain distance, Tanner's vendetta against him was as petty as any other case of sore loser in the world.
~ * ~
Harvey strode away from the conference briskly, before Scottie could get a hold of him and demand to know why he hadn't told her about the dirt he had on Tanner's witness. But he didn't feel like sharing, when she was the one, who once again kept important facts from him. A picture was beginning to form in his mind, yet so many key-elements were missing.
It wasn't the first time since Mike's betrayal when he missed bouncing ideas off his former associate or their banter, but it was the first time he felt a craving for one of the kid's lectures on morals. He had only done his job in there and it wasn't as if Emmeline Moretti was innocent of the facts he had cited. He wasn't a stranger of witness intimidation, yet today's victory chafed at him. There was no glory in pounding someone, who didn't even defend herself, and admitted to everything while all but doubling in pain as if from actual blows.
He reminded himself again, as he approached Donna's cubicle, he would never really hit a woman. It didn't help. The odd guilt simmered on the surface of older and deeper wounds. It touched on his lost friendship with Mike and on the edges of the betrayals he had recently endured. Emmeline's face swam in his memory and he suddenly understood he had misread her fear. Something Vanessa had said the night before clicked in the place of one of the puzzle pieces. The police report of Emmeline's car accident had put the blame on the breaks. The medical file sent to him hadn't been there at all. It was though it never existed. And yet it did.
He faltered in his step when he glimpsed Donna's looking at him with concern. "Donna, let me see the subpoena Tanner brought on Monday."
She opened a file from her desk and handed it to him. "What are you looking for?"
"An address," he replied, communicating to her with a look that he was alright.
He now knew. Emmeline Moretti hadn't been afraid of them back there. She had been afraid of betraying someone she loved.