SAIPAN–I thought I was done with covering the trial courts when I arrived on Saipan. I started writing for “the lighter side” of the paper, covering community events and doing feature stories for special issues. Three months later, Cherrie, our court beat/police reporter was assigned to Palau and her beat was assigned to me. Being a reporter, especially if you are new, is a job where you can’t say no, where you can’t file an emergency leave or take a leave of absence whenever you want to, unless you die and I was still alive.
The first weeks in court and the police beat were ‘bloody stressful.’ It was so different from covering the trial courts and the police beat in the Philippines but I slowly learned the ropes and tried to do the best I can every day to meet the four-stories a day quota, and the deadline.
One morning a year later, I was pacing back and forth at the second floor of the Supreme Court building in Susupe waiting to cover the bail hearing of a man accused of selling drugs. The hearing was already five minutes late, and I had another hearing to cover at the other end of the hall.
A girl in her late twenties with a little boy less than a year old strapped to her body was also in the hallway, obviously waiting for someone. Impatience was written all over my face. Peeking into my phone, I muttered loudly about what was taking them so long. Suddenly, the girl stopped in her tracks and looked at me, briefly then long and hard. I saw a flash of something which I interpreted as a flare of anger on her face and I raised an eyebrow. I didn’t know her and could not imagine any reason why she would be angry at me.
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The other woman
For the next seven minutes, she kept throwing furtive glances in my direction until finally she stood up and stared at me openly. She was clearly pissed off (by my face maybe? I couldn’t help her!) Below the stairs, I finally saw police officers escorting a man in orange overalls with handcuffs, and I sighed in relief. I stood up and studied the man in orange, curbing the urge to steal a few photos. Suddenly the girl approached me and boldly asked if the defendant was my boyfriend.
My jaws literally dropped as I understood the flare of anger in her eyes earlier but I barely had time to pick up my jaws. It dawned on me that the defendant was her boyfriend and the little boy was their child. She was thinking I was the other woman. Oh geez. I wanted to laugh but I didn’t have time to answer or clarify to her that I didn’t know the defendant, and she can have all of him.
I hurried to the courtroom and sat at the bench behind the defendant. The girl sat on the second seat at the other side and kept looking at me. She no longer looked angry. She looked furious.
The bail hearing began and I took my notebook out and started scribbling notes, all the while observing the girl who was also closely watching me. I could have made things straight outside but I was kind of angry that she should jump to conclusions and the devil in me tempted me to prolong her agony.
After the court was adjourned I I greeted some of the lawyers and the other reporters and rushed out of the courtroom, looking back to smile at the girl briefly (spell evil smile) that it dawned on her I was not a rival.
Funny things do happen at the courts!
Watch out for my next post and read how I turned a police investigator into a crime suspect.