"B," who has contacts within both the defense and prosecution sides of the case, sits with me in Mezzaluna, next to the big table where Nicole had her last meal on June 12.
Sydney, Nicole's and O. J.'s 8-year-old, had just finished a dance recital and Nicole, nine family members and friends were celebrating.
O. J. had been at the recital but was not at Mezzaluna.
He went to McDonald's with Kato Kaelin instead. Kato ordered a fish sandwich. We do not know what O. J. ordered, but whatever it was, the prosecution will tell the jury, he could not stomach it.
All he could think about was Nicole at Mezzaluna, where Ron Goldman was waiting tables.
"Nicole knew how to push O. J.'s buttons," Dominick Dunne quotes a friend of the Simpsons as saying in the February Vanity Fair magazine. "When she didn't save a seat for O. J. at their daughter's dance recital that last afternoon, she knew how crazy that was going to make him, having to walk up and down the aisle looking for a place to sit. She knew that was the equivalent of giving him the middle finger."
Rage, the prosecution will tell the jury. Rage and jealousy and the knowledge that he could no longer control Nicole. Those, coupled with his long history of violent and abusive behavior, were enough to transform O. J. Simpson from the friendly, smiling person you see sitting in court day after day to the monster who slashed and cut and killed.
Nonsense. Utter nonsense.
That is what the defense will say. First, O. J. Simpson was invited to dinner at Mezzaluna, but he declined. Second, he had taken worse treatment from Nicole -- he once peeked through her window and watched her have sex with a man while his children slept upstairs -- but neither attacked Nicole nor the man afterward.
So why should he be moved to murder on this occasion? It is nonsense. The prosecution cannot present a real motive for O. J. to commit this act.
Nor can it present the means he used -- no one man could have committed such a violent double homicide and escaped in such good shape.
Nor can the prosecution demonstrate that O. J. had the opportunity. He could not have driven the two miles to Nicole's condominium, killed two people, gotten rid of his bloody clothes and bloody knife, driven two miles back home and caught the limousine ride to the airport.
"B" cuts into her wild mushroom pizza, a specialty of Mezzaluna.
"This is what Nicole ate on her last night alive," she says. "Of course, we don't really know what she had. The coroner's office threw out her stomach contents. They kept Ron Goldman's and threw away Nicole's. Incredible. Stomach contents are so important in fixing the time of death."
Keystone Kops. That is what the defense will tell the jury. This case, this celebrated, historic case, was booted and botched and bungled from the beginning.
We leave Mezzaluna shortly after 8:30 p.m., the same time Nicole left. I glance up the street to the Starbucks, where Nicole first met Ron Goldman. Nicole would stop there after running, meet Ron and sometimes they would work out at a gym together.
"That is what Brentwood women do," "A," who used to live a few blocks from here, says. "They are beautiful. They are blond. They have huge diamonds. They work out. That is what they do."
I get into my rental car and drive the few short blocks to Bundy, where the murders were committed. It is a dark street, a side street, but also a well-known short cut from San Vicente, where Mezzaluna is located, to a major expressway.
The entrance to Nicole's condominium is draped in shadows and partially hidden from the road by large plants and agapanthus bushes. But cars drive by all the time. And how could anybody risk slashing two people to death in an entrance way that is even semi-exposed to view from the street?
That is what rage does, the prosecution will argue. It clouds your judgment. Rage will make a killer risk anything to carry out his deed.
The tourists looking for Nicole's condominium and O. J.'s house have largely disappeared by now, much to the relief of the residents of this up-scale neighborhood. Roseanne Arnold lives in Brentwood. As does James Garner. As does the mayor of Los Angeles. As does Gil Garcetti, the district attorney who is attempting to send O. J. Simpson away.
It has one of the lowest crime rates in the city.
Studies have shown that trials are often won or lost in opening statements. But few trials last longer than a few days or a few weeks. The O. J. Simpson trial will almost certainly last for months.
So there is a real question of whether the jury will remember the opening statements when it comes time for them to deliberate. Yet each side considers today crucial.
The defense has decided to go for all or nothing: either an acquittal for murder or a conviction. It does not want the jury to convict on manslaughter as a compromise.
"This is a man on trial for his life," Johnnie Cochran told the jurors when they were being selected.