Shootings (Part Eight)

Shootings (Part Eight)

Shootings is a story about two men with completely different goals, and how their actions affect the same group of women. It will unfold here in serial format.

Parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Martin the defendant sat in the courtroom, staring straight ahead. “Poker face, but with a pleasant demeanor,” his attorney had instructed him. It wasn’t easy.

The lawyer his family hired, Rigoberto Miralda, had told him many things during their preparation sessions. Some of it was just like on TV, but most of it was not.

“If it’s appropriate, look sympathetic. But, not remorseful,” Rigoberto said.

Seated across from him now, Martin had a hard time taking this man seriously. He had grown up watching “Lawyer Miralda” get falling-down drunk on sailboats in his hometown’s local marina. His toupee had fallen in the water at least twice, so it was good to see he finally had given it up for a shaved head. It gave him the appearance of Ben Kingsley with a dash of Bruce Willis.

“Let’s try this again. Did you, Martin Thandle, purchase a pellet gun the morning of December 13?”

Martin crossed his arms “Yes, but — ”

“No. Don’t do that. Just say ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Let’s go to the next question. Did you use it to fire at the giant, inflated coffee cup outside the Ground Control coffee shop?”

“Yes, but — ”

“Stop,” Rigoberto said. “You have a bad case of the ‘yes buts.’ If they ask you something that can be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ then that’s all you say until they ask you something else. Remember, we know you didn’t mean to hurt anybody, and that’s what we want everyone else to believe, too. Don’t volunteer any information.”

Martin fidgeted in the fine but uncomfortable mahogany chair and crossed his arms. “You said this wouldn’t get past the grand jury. That there wasn’t enough evidence. What happened to that?”

“Let’s see, you drove away from the scene, practically announcing your license plate number, and you confessed when they hauled you in. Mainly, though, the prosecuting attorney is considering running for county judge. She can use all the publicity she can get.”

The police had informed him of his rights and he had admitted to shooting the cup, but insisted that he didn’t know it was going to collapse so fast. He thought if they knew it was an accident, it might help. So far, it had not, and he had been charged with assault and battery.

Now he sat helplessly in the courtroom and listened to the prosecution present its case.

Their representative, Colleen Willis, had been one of Martin’s high school classmates. In Advanced Placement English their junior year, they had passed notes back and forth to one another. He never had told her that he had a crush on her.

Like then, she had bobbed brown hair, but the similarity stopped there. Forty now, she possessed a more mature beauty, and she certainly dressed the part. She wore an expensive black pant suit with a burgundy blouse barely peeking out above the top button. Casting directors for legal dramas might be calling her soon. For a moment he wondered what might have been.

Then she went to work.

One witness testified that he saw Martin point “something” out the window of his car, and then drive away while everyone else stayed to watch what happened. The detectives presented records of Martin’s purchase at the sporting goods department. If only he hadn’t used a credit card, they might not have any physical evidence.

Or their first star witness, who took the stand next.

“Please state your name for the members of the jury,” Colleen said.

“Lucy Crowder.”

“Were you working at the sporting goods counter the morning of December 13?”

“No.”

Colleen looked confused for a moment, but composed herself. “Are you certain of that?”

The woman on the stand laughed nervously. “Oh, well, what I meant was I wasn’t there to work in sporting goods. They moved me to domestics last year. I just went over to help a gentleman who needed to make a purchase.”

“And that was on the morning of December 13?”

“Yes.”

“Do you see that gentleman in the courtroom today?”

She nodded, her eyes on Martin. “Yes, I sure do.”

“Please point him out.”

“That feller there,” she said and pointed.

Colleen smiled. “Thank you. Note for the record that the witness indicated the defendant.

“Now, Ms. Crowder. What did you sell to this man?”

“A pellet gun, and pellets.”

Colleen walked past the jury and then over to the defendant’s table. She raised her eyebrows at Martin and… was that a smirk? Apparently she didn’t harbor any romantic feelings for him after all those years.

She turned to the witness. “What did he ask you about this gun?”

“He wanted to know if it would kill varmints.”

Frustration flashing across her face, Colleen said, “Please, Ms. Crowder, exactly what did he ask you? Use his words.”

“He asked if it would penetrate skin, and if it would draw attention.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, he asked if there was a waiting period or a background check. There isn’t for those.”

Martin felt like ducking down in his chair. Colleen and that lady were making him out to be some kind of criminal. His impulsive actions had never caused him this much grief. High credit card balances, maybe, but nothing like this.

“So you got the feeling he was trying to do harm and to do it secretly?” Colleen said.

Rigoberto bolted from his chair. “Objection! We are not in court to hear about the witness’ feelings.”

“Sustained,” said the judge.

Ms. Crowder continued. “I reckoned he was just trying to get something his niece could shoot in the suburbs without anybody knowing about it. Said she was a tomboy, but we all know what that — ”

“No further questions your honor,” Colleen said.

“Does the defense have questions for this witness?” the judge asked.

“Yes, your honor,” Rigoberto said.

Old Lawyer Miralda calmly pushed his chair back and stood. With his left hand he put his thumb under his chin and his index finger under his bottom lip. He rubbed the stubble there and drew in a long breath through his mouth.

“Ms. Crowder,” Rigoberto said, “did my client — that’s Mr. Thandle — actually tell you he planned to shoot something?”

“No, I guess he didn’t.”

“I know you already told us, but for whom did he tell you he was buying it?”

“For his niece.”

Rigoberto moseyed over to the jury box. Facing the jury, he said, “Is it possible he asked you whether the pellet would penetrate skin because he was concerned it might not be safe for a child?”

“I suppose.”

He turned to face her. “Is it possible, yes or no?”

“Yes.”

“Has a family member’s birthday ever slipped your mind, Ms. Crowder?” Rigoberto said.

“Yes, I forget them all the time.”

“So, it’s possible that Mr. Thandle here had forgot his niece’s birthday until the last minute and that’s why he asked about the background check and the waiting period?”

“Yes, that makes sense.”

The prosecutor stood. “Your honor, I object. Can we please put an end to story time?”

“Over ruled,” the judge said.

Rigoberto turned from the witness to the judge and said, “Thank you, Ms. Crowder. No more questions.”

Martin cheered up a bit after that. His words didn’t seem so damning the way Old Lawyer Miralda had spun them. His mood turned dark again, however, when Colleen called the next witness.

“We would like to call Mrs. Brenda Yeager to the stand,” she said.

Everyone turned their heads to watch his alleged victim enter. Two uniformed officers opened the courtroom doors and in walked Ms. July from Martin’s calendar.

She wore a sky blue dress that hung to just below her knees. It had a conservative neckline but hugged her chest and her hips enough to make Martin marvel that she was anybody’s mother. She strode confidently down the aisle, her head and eyes straight forward.

Martin maintained his poker face and slowly turned back around, but almost lost it when she breezed past and he caught wind of her perfume. As she took the stand and was sworn in, he knew that condemnation never smelled so sweet.

(to be continued)

3 Replies to “Shootings (Part Eight)”

  1. Mark, your very last line in this one put me immediately in mind of a old timey detective story where the whiskey-swilling, cigarette smoking private dick takes a hard luck case from some dame who just mysteriously sashays into his office. It was a fun image to have conjured!