Shootings (Part Ten)

Shootings (Part Ten)

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 | 10 | 11

Greg needed a restroom break, but he didn’t want to miss anything. He tried to think of something else while the opposing attorneys approached the bench to confer with the judge. His watch showed almost five o’clock. The attorneys turned after only a moment’s conversation and sat at their respective tables, the defender next to his client, the prosecutor all alone.

The judge announced that there would be a recess, and the trial would re-convene the following day. He smacked his gavel and stood.

The bailiff, seemingly caught off guard, coughed and ordered, “All rise.”

They all rose. The judge stepped down from the bench, robe flowing, and exited through a door in the back wall.

Thandle turned to his wizened attorney and they volleyed whispers. The prosecutor stood stoically, eyes straight ahead.

Greg had asked off for that day, but would miss the conclusion. How could he not be there to witness the fate of the man who had singlehandedly — specifically, with his trigger finger — generated more publicity for the Calendar Moms than he could have imagined?

“Loved your work for the calendar, Greg,” said a voice behind him.

He turned to see Millard Halston, and they shook hands. “Thanks, Milly,” Greg said, using a nickname that had stuck since grade school.

“‘Gregarious Productions,’ huh?” Milly said.

“That’s right. I found it catchy. So, is the bank interested this case, or are you here on a personal call?”

“My cousin runs the bail bonds place that put up Thandle’s bail. I have a stake in the business. He told me about the case, and it was more exciting than anything else going on right now. I saw you and got to thinking, we might need to talk again about that small business loan you wanted.”

“That was nearly 10 years ago, Milly, and there are plenty more who denied me. What makes you think I wouldn’t choose one of them?”

“I hoped since I was the first, I might hold a special place in your heart.”

Greg laughed, which reminded him he still needed that restroom. “You know, I really need to run, but it was nice seeing you,” he said.

“You, too,” Milly said. “Don’t forget to call if you’re interested.”

Apparently success, no matter how small, attracted money in a down economy. Greg smiled at that as he left the courtroom.

——-

Greg looked at Alex, who sat on a barstool at the kitchen island, his face resting in his hands. The boy stared down at a plate of chicken, broccoli, and cheese casserole.

“If I eat this, Daddy, can I have two pieces of candy?”

Opening the refrigerator for a soda, Greg said, “No, son, you don’t always get candy just because you ate supper.” He fished a Coke Zero from one of the crisper drawers.

“One piece?”

Greg opened the can and took a swig. “No, son, no candy. You may have some fruit.”

“Daddy, you’re being so rude to me!”

“You keep talking like that and you will go straight to bed after supper.”

“No, Daddy, if I don’t get candy, then I don’t eat supper and I don’t go straight to bed.”

“We’re not arguing about it. I told you what you can have. Ask for candy again and it’s straight to bed.”

Alex brooded a moment. “Fine!” he said and picked up his fork.

Greg poked his head into the master bedroom to wake Raelynn from a nap she had taken to stave off a headache. He had a feeling he had just experienced a sample of what caused it. “Babe, you want to come out and join us for dinner? I re-heated the leftovers from last night.”

She stirred enough to turn over and face him. Her eyes opened slowly. “So he’s actually eating it?”

“Don’t know. He seemed like he was going to, but, man, is he grumpy.”

“Now you see what I’ve been dealing with since I picked him up from school.”

Greg chuckled. “No doubt. Up at work I only have to tell Matt what to do, and he does what I say without any trouble. No backtalk, or at least much more respectful backtalk.”

“Right, but he has more to lose than a Jolly Rancher and a box of Nerds.”

Greg’s phone rang. He pulled it from the holster and looked at the display. Mayor. He answered, “This is Greg.”

“Hello, Greg. This is Susan Lancaster.”

“Well, Your Majesty. How can I help?” The title was something he had jokingly called her since he bobbled the greeting the first time they met.

“It’s about Matt Luker.”

“Ms. Mayor, can you hold on a minute?” Greg muted his phone’s mic and sat on his side of the bed. “You gotta be kidding me. Babe, can you go watch Alex? I need to take this.”

Raelynn looked at him with concern as she sat up and flung off the covers. “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know, but Matt’s involved. Ridiculous timing.”

She put her hands on his shoulders. “I’ll take care of Alex. Oh, and you have to tell me about the trial.” She got up and started for the door.

“Thanks, umm… puddin’ face?” Greg said.

Raelynn shook her head as she left the room.

——-

Martin sat in Rigoberto’s office, a place he hoped he could stop seeing soon. The walls were of dark, rich wood, interrupted only by laden bookshelves made of same. He was finished with formality for the day and just wanted to retreat to his home and watch TV, maybe play a little snooker.

Rigoberto walked over to a window and twisted open the wooden blinds. Streetlights outside were just getting warmed up as dusk settled in.

“I’ve decided you shouldn’t take the stand,” Rigoberto said.

Martin was confused. He needed to tell the jury his side of the story. “Why?”

Rigoberto continued staring out the window. “Colleen is desperate now, and she’ll try to shred you to pieces on cross examination.”

Martin shook his head. “She didn’t do so hot with that witness today.”

“She didn’t call her as a hostile witness, so it surprised her. You won’t. Trust me, she will be ready for you.”

“And you’ll prepare me for her. I won’t screw it up. I won’t get the yes-buts.”

Rigoberto turned from the window and ambled over to this desk. He set his hands on the high back of his executive chair, finally looking Martin in the eye. “Even if you control that, she could get you into trouble. Look, that Yeager lady actually helped your case. She got hurt — her kid got hurt — and she didn’t press charges. Then she all but comes out in support of you? That’s gold, kid. And no priors? You’re gonna to walk.”

“I don’t know, Rigo,” Martin said. “What about a plea deal?”

“Plea to what? Vandalism? You been watching too much TV. You shot at what amounts to a freakin’ balloon! They haven’t proven assault and battery, so they’re gonna lose.”

Martin wondered whether Old Lawyer Miralda would feel the same if he were the one on trial. “What does that even mean, anyway… assault and battery?”

“It’s a combination of two crimes: threat of violence and physical violence. In criminal court, though, they’re not really separated.”

“But I did that. Accidentally, but I did it.”

“The charge relies on intent, of which they have no proof. That’s the beauty here.”

So the plan was for Martin to go into court and not say a word. He saw nothing beautiful about the situation.

——-

“Greg,” Mayor Lancaster said, “You know that before Matt took his job with the City, he worked as a reporter for the Town Times.”

Through his discussions with Matt about the video, that had not crossed Greg’s mind. It had been at least a month since he had deleted it. Where was she going with this? His heart started thumping. He was afraid Raelynn might hear it. “Yes, ma’am. I remember.”

“The Times’ Managing Editor called me earlier this evening.”

(to be continued)

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