The Billionaire Professor (2015)
Since I formally accepted to try to establish a long-term relationship with Max, he decided, it was time I met his chauffeur. When he called for his limousine to take me home, he walked me through the lobby of the Plaza hotel and out to the limo.
The bright morning sun nearly blinded me. “Joel, this is Jazmin,” Max said formally and with much respect. “She will be a frequent visitor and it’s high time the two of you got to know each other.”
Max gave me a quick peck on the cheek. “Gotta get ready for class, darling,” he said.
Joel opened the car door for me and we were off. For the first few minutes, Joel was quiet. And me? Well, I was lost in a maze of thoughts of my own.
Joel finally broke the silence. “You probably don’t realize what that introduction that Max did back there meant, do you?”
Before I even answered, he continued, “It means that he cares about you much more than just as a sex partner. I’ve seen lots of women come and go. And never took the time to introduce them to me. You have got to be a special young lady.”
I walked into my apartment Carly immediately cornered me.
“Details!” she screamed. “I need all the details about the auction and especially where the hell you were all night!”
After I took a shower and got changed for classes. I began to tell her everything that happened to me. In the process I had to ‘fess up’ to the fact that I had spent most of the night with Max night before classes started.
She took it all in. In fact, from the look on her face, it almost appeared that she was proud of me. “Who knew there was a Mrs. Dr. Maxwell St. James?” Carly asked incredulously.
“Can you imagine how much money this man must have to be able to support, not one ex-wife, but four of them?” Carly asked.
“Judging by the amount of money she was throwing around, I don’t think any of them are living below the poverty line,” I ventured.
While I joked about it, I couldn’t help but think to myself about the amount of money Maxwell must have. Was that why when I first met him he didn’t tell me who he was?
The two of us had been sitting on the couch. The television was on to CNN cable news, but we weren’t paying much attention. Until . . .
There was a pause in our conversation at the very moment the news anchor started a story about an art collector and professor who had been arrested for murder. We were both attracted to the story at the same instant.
“That’s Max,” I cried, as I jumped up. “Max has been arrested for murder. And for theft of the Rubens he had been bidding on,”
“Evidently, he was busy,” Carly said.
I continued to listen intently to the news story. “No he couldn’t have done it,” cried out again, “he was with me. We were making omelets.”
The sound of the doorbell made both Carly and me jump. “Jesus!” Carly said, “Who in blue blazes could that be at this hour of the morning?”
The bell rang again, this time repeatedly. “Whoever it is certainly seems to need attention urgently,” I said.
Carly went to the door and opened it. I could tell by the look on her face she was shocked to see a man dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform.
Of course it was Joel. He looked right past Cary and at me. I was standing right behind her. “Ms. Donovan,” he said flatly, “Professor St. James requests your presence. While he didn’t explicitly say it, I’m sure it’s an urgent matter.”
“Joel, I saw the news just now,” I said. He looked relieved he didn’t need to explain anything further.”
“Let me grab my cell phone and my purse and we can leave.”
Carly followed me, leaving poor Joel stuck in the doorway alone. “Excuse me,” she said, “you know this guy by name?”
“Yeah. I was just formally introduced to him this morning. He drove me home.”
Alone in the limo, Joel and I were able to talk freely. “Joel, both you and I know that Max couldn’t have killed anyone. We both know where he was all night long.”
“I know, Jazmin, but he would never tell the court that. And I was willing to testify, but they didn’t want to hear it. I wasn’t actually in the room watching you guys.”
I laughed. “It actually was better off that way. No offense.”
“None taken, Jazmin,” he said laughingly. Then I turned the conversation back to the problem at hand. “So for that time period during which the murder occurred, he’s basically without an alibi.”
“Exactly,” Joel said, “but not only that the cops found his gun next to Daphne. He went to where he usually stores it and it was missing.”
“Does he have any idea who might have taken i?.”
Joel looked at me via the rear view mirror. “None at all.”
“So he needs me to testify on his behalf?” I asked.
“Professor St. James would never ask you to do that,” Joel said. “That would be incriminating yourself and he has too much respect for you as a lady to do that.”
“But if I don’t all the circumstantial evidence points to him. The police won’t bother to look much farther for the real murderer with all the evidence they have already collected.”
“I know,” Joel said, “It’s not my place to advise you on something so personal. After all, I’m just a chauffeur. As far as I know, Professor St. James wants you in the courtroom for moral support.”
As he continued to drive, Joel called the courthouse to learn the time of Maxwell’s hearing. “it’s the first one up, Jazmin,” he told me. “Ten am.” The attorney assured me that we could have a few minutes alone with him before he faces the judge.
“So what exactly am I to do?”
Joel looked at me via the rear view mirror. “To be honest,” he said, “I don’t know. And even if I could give you some advice, do you think a chauffeur should be dealing out legal advice?”
His humor broke the tension – at least temporarily.
“I will do whatever it takes to get his name cleared. I hope he realizes that.”
“Trust me,” Joel assured me, “he really doesn’t expect you to give testimony to his whereabouts. I think he just wants you there for moral support.”
“But if I do testify, will it at least get him released for the moment? To get the police looking for the real killer?”
“Here again, you’re seeking legal advice from a chauffeur. I can’t say that for sure. His attorney seems to think so. But it would throw you into the national spotlight.”
Joel’s words rang true. Just walking into the courthouse abruptly threw me into the national spotlight. I walked up to the courthouse with Joel, but I was certainly unprepared for what I had encountered. The steps of the county building were flooded with photographers, broadcast journalists and videographers. I couldn’t believe that as I climbed the steps each of them was aiming their equipment at me.
A couple of them called to me. “Are you Jazmin Donovan? We understand you’re here to testify on behalf of St. James. Would you care to comment?”
I instinctively kept my down and shielded my eyes from the flashes. God, there were so many flashes. I kept my mouth shut. I had seen this scenario played out countless times on television and in the movies. But I never in a million years thought I would be in this position.
She walked into the courtroom, a pair of just-right tight jeans. A lovely blouse with the proper neckline cut to show off her bosom. She took a seat not far from me. Joel talked to the attorney to let him know she had arrived.
The attorney strode over to her and sat down. They conferred quietly for a few moments. Those moments were excruciating. I know I was the topic of conversation and I wasn’t used to not being in control. I wasn’t used to being the person needing help.
After a few moments, the attorney motioned for me to come over. I scrambled over and gave Jazmin a kiss on the cheek. Chills ran up my spine just doing that.
“Now, Maxwell,” the attorney said sternly, “I am your legal consultant and I would really appreciate it if you’d actually listened to me and take my advice. We’re talking about serious charges here and it’s no time for you to play attorney. Got it?”
I had never heard anyone talk to Max that way. “Jazmin and I have this under control,” he said. “We still have to depend on the leniency of the judge. But, given what we plan to do, I have a lot more confidence you won’t be spending the night in jail. And I can just about guarantee the police will start a real investigation.”
“No, I can’t let Jazmin do what I think you’re asking her to do.”
“Maxwell St. James,” I said. That was the first time I ever addressed him by his full name and for some odd reason, it excited me. “No one is asking me to do anything. I’m volunteering and I really don’t need your chivalrous thinking getting in the way.”
“Wow! You’re even more beautiful when you’re angry,” he said.
The attorney laughed uncontrollably. “Let’s focus a little here, shall we? ”he said.
“I am,” Maxwell said, almost wistfully. “I am.”
The judge entered the room. We stood. The judge called Max to the bench and in turn, his attorney motioned me to follow them.
“I understand that you’re charged with murder and with the theft of a multi-million dollar original masterpiece. A Rubens, wasn’t it, Professor St. James.”
The attorney quickly spoke for his client. “Yes, your honor, my client is charged with the murder of his ex-wife, Daphne St. James. And he understands he is charged with the theft of a Rubens. But since he did not steal it, he cannot testify to the exact painting which was taken.”
The judge nodded his approval. “And this young lady with you attorney, is?” The attorney spoke before I was able to react. “Jazmin Donovan, your honor.”
“And her purpose here today?”
“She appears before the court today in order to testify on behalf of Professor St. James whereabouts the night and time of the murder.”
“Hmm. This is an interesting development. According to the police report, St. James said he was alone last night.”
“He wasn’t, though, your honor. He was trying to protect the identity of this young lady. He feared, and perhaps rightly so, that her name would be unfairly dragged through the mud if he admitted to being with her for a large portion of the evening, specifically the time of the murder and theft.”
I didn’t like the way the judge initially looked at Jazmin. He scanned her up and down as if he were trying to decide if she were a hooker, some paid prostitute. That was exactly what I wanted to save her from. Every fiber of my body shouted out to the judge, “She’s not a whore or a prostitute and don’t judge her by my overactive appetite for sex.”
The judge finally asked Jazmin to speak. “Please tell me in your own words, where you and Professor St. James were at the time of the murder of his ex-wife, Daphne.”
Jazmin looked at the attorney and he nodded his consent. “The two of us were in his penthouse the entire evening – from the end of the auction till about 7 a.m.” I paused. “We were both awake during the time period that Mrs. St. James was killed. Professor St. James couldn’t possibly have killed her or stolen the piece of art. There was no way he could ‘slip out’ of the room without my knowledge.”
The judge sighed. It was almost as if he were disappointed that I had an alibi. He paused for a long time. Far too long for my comfort. It made me worry. And I could tell by the look on my attorney’s face, he was a bit worried as well.
Finally he admitted. “Considering the new testimony I can’t recommend bail. Would the defending attorney and the prosecutor please step forward?” They did and conferred.
“Thank you.” The judge then said, “Ms. Prosecutor,” he said, “would you like to change your charge?”
District prosecuting attorney Eleanor McNeil gave what sounded like a sad whimper. I’ve known her for ages – and she has always wanted to nail me to the cross. She has wanted to arrest me for art theft and forgery for so long. But has been unable to.
“Based on this testimony, I must withdraw the charge of murder and grand theft at least temporarily. I would like to reserve the right to ask Professor St. James to stay in the country – ideally within the bounds of this county. And cooperate fully with the police and District Attorney’s department as this enquiry progresses.”
My attorney grabbed my shoulder. Apparently, he felt I was about to say something stupid. The truth be known, I probably would have if left to my own devices. “My client fully understands the terms of the dismissal and will not violate any of the orders of the court. Furthermore, he also fully realizes that he may be subject to occasional questioning and is still a ‘person of interest’ as this investigation continues.”
The judge banged his gavel. “Given all of this, Professor St. James, I am now releasing you. Please behave yourself.”
Thank you, your honor,” I said weakly.
As we turned to go, I wrapped my arm around Jazmin. I so wanted to take her right then and there. She sacrificed so much for me. As soon as we reached the threshold of the courtroom I paused and kissed her passionately on the lips. She responded in kind. We were so involved momentarily with each other that I didn’t realize at first that the entire waiting room was packed with students and other supporters cheering at our own personal celebration.
I held her at arm’s reach for a moment. “Did you bring all these people with you?” I asked her. She laughed. “No, I thought all these people came to see you.”
My attorney interrupted us for a moment. “Don’t get too jubilant,” he said. “You’re not really in the clear until they have arrested the real killer.”
Jazmin raised an eyebrow and whispered in my ear, “You know what that means?”
I pulled back and looked at her quizzically. “No, what does that mean?”
“We should probably start hunting for the person who killed Daphne St. James and stole the painting. They left your gun right there. They intended to frame you. I don’t know what kind of enemies you have Max, but I don’t think you’ll be in the clear until the real killer is in custody.”
I looked her squarely in the eyes. “We’ll discuss that later. In the meantime,” I told her, “let’s go home and play.”