Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Deadly Drafts - Ch 6



Picture courtesy of Kreg Steppe
Bakersville Public Library Director Barbara Ann Leslie owned the witness chair. She sat spinestraight, dainty hands crossed on her lap. The grey houndstooth of her skirtsuit made her silver hair glow under the courtroom lights. Kavi, head throbbing from the defendants' table, could almost see a martini between her elegant fingers, hosting some fabulous party. 

"They've been flaunting library protocol for years," Miss Leslie said. "And their name, 'The Bakersville Irregulars?' It sounds like a constipation support group. Mrs. Adnan-Byrne is peerless at her job tending our IT infrastructure, I'd testify anywhere that she hasn't in her to harm a fly. But...I'm certain she's inserted a computer virus or bot into our meeting room scheduling software." 

"Objection!" The thin, shivery man beside Kavi shot from his seat. Big head on a pencil neck, it looked as if a Chihuahua had piddled on his family tree. 

"Yes, Mr. Penhale?" Judge Sebastian Highley, perched high atop his bench, twirled his moustache. Hunched in his robes and with a bushy white whiskers, he resembled Super Mario cosplaying Yoda. Wisps of white hair trailed behind with every swoop of his head. 

"Hearsay, your honor. As a non-expert, she can't possibly know what constitutes a computer virus, nor if my client is in any way involved." 

"It's not hearsay, Milo," Miss Leslie said. "Kavia's silly Bakersville Irregulars writing group meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the library's meeting room. Any library worker will attest that Tuesday at 7 p.m. happens to be the best time to hold meetings to maximize attendance. Therefore, I've made every attempt to book the Library Friends—our fundraising arm, the group who helps to keep our doors open—for Tuesdays at 7 p.m. Yet every time I log in, even if it's just a second after booking opens, the Irregulars have beat me to the punch. To beat me for almost five straight years? I can't speak to Mrs. Adnan-Byrne personally, in every other aspect, her work is peerless...but I'm certain she's using a computer trick or virus." 

The Irregulars' lawyer could only shrug. "It's still hearsay? Right?" 

The judge shook his head. "Mr. Penhale, how long have you been barred?" 

"Your honor?" 

"How long have you been practicing law, Milo?" 

"Uh…I just passed the bar a few months ago. Sixth try." 

"I'd keep that nugget of information to yourself in the future. This is a bail hearing. Hearsay evidence is allowed. Establishing character and flight risk would be almost impossible without hearsay." 

"Oh." Milo shrank. "Yes, yes, of course." 

"Now, if you don't have any more misplaced objections, can Miss Leslie please continue her character testimony?" 

"Uh...," Milo’s hound dog eyes searched for a lifeline. Finding none, he sat. "Of course, your honor." 

Kavia, Arthur and Harris shimmied uncomfortably in their seats beside Milo. Had Milo Penhale been specifically named in their "right to an attorney," the three likely would have shook their heads and asked for a do-over of their Miranda Rights. They sat shackled to the worst attorney in the county.  

The room's outdated wood veneer, bad taupe carpeting and faux granite décor made it seem perpetually in the year 1992. Even in chains, Harris couldn't restrain his fanboy urges.  

"Holy shit—doesn't it look like the bridge of the USS Enterprise in here? The NCC-1701-D, not the NCC-1701. We're a Klingon shy of being straight out of the 26th century." 

"Star Tracks," Arthur turned to Kavi and winked. "Is that the one with the laser swords?" 

Harris squirmed, bit his objecting tongue to blood—"Star Tracks?!"—as Miss Leslie continued her damning testimony. 

"In five years of their weekly meetings, Mr. Kagan and Mr. Kite have been nothing but rude to me. Just last night, I heard Mr. Kagan trying to cast spells…patron charms, he said." 

"Patron Charms?" Judge Highley twirled his moustache. 

"Yes. Mr. Kite then said something like, and you'll excuse me, 'demon-hers don't wear fuck-me pumps.'" 

"Oh come on!" Harris slapped the table. "You've got to throw this bullshit out. What kind of Library Director has never read Harry Potter? It's Patronus and Dementor." 

"And in my defense," Arthur said, "she really was wearing fuck-me pumps." 

Kavi's mouth lolled open. Her tongue, fuzzy and white, could only push out grunts. "I think I'm going to be sick." 

"What's her deal?" The judge banged his gavel, leveled it at Kavi. "What's her deal?" 

"Addict," Arthur said. 

"Addict?" Milo swooped Kavi's dossier page from the table and brought it to his nose. "Addict? Doesn't say anything in the file. It’s not coke, is it? Pot? Giggle Pig? Three Dollar Monkey?" 

"Coffee," Harris said. 

"Enough!" Judge Highley slammed his gavel to the bench, spittle flying from his lips. He leaned over a bent elbow and spoke to the pasty Bailiff. "Kids these days, Brent," he said, smoothing his bushy moustache with thumb and forefinger, "with their star-bucks and their mocha lattes. In my day, Brent, we drank coffee like men…" He sat straight and turned to Milo. "Mr. Penhale, I would advise your clients to keep their mouths shut. Judge Leppla's docket was supposed to be clear until 1 p.m. this afternoon. If I'd known I’d be babysitting newborn lawyers, I’d never switched. You know, Brent," The judge again leaned to his right, "I'm missing my morning talk shows." 

"We’re taping The People’s Court, your honor," Bailiff Brent said.  

"All for a lousy bail hearing…" The judge shook his head. "I should have just said to hell with it and put 'em on 10 grand each. Miss Leslie, if you have nothing else, you're excused. Thank you." 

Miss Leslie nodded to the judge and glided down from the stand. 

"What about you, District Attorney Anderson? Anything to add?" 

The attorney standing across the narrow aisle shot to his feet. He looked late 50's aiming for early 30’s, with peppered hair and a leathery face stretched as tight as his crocodile shoes. 

"Your honor, DA DA requests bail be rescinded."  

Kavi nudged her lawyer. "DA DA?" 

"District Attorney Dan Anderson," Milo whispered. "DA DA. Pompous prick talks in the third person." 

"Multiple witnesses place these criminals—the Bakersville Irregulars—at the jewelers and none has an alibi," DA DA said. "Sergeant Detective Dalkowski uncovered that Mrs. Andan-Byrne previously wrote a story which matches the crime almost note for note. Mr. Kite has admitted to owning a Glock 17 identical to the one used in the commission of the crime. Young Mr. Natze describes the orangutan as roughly Mr. Kagan's size. Mrs. Adnan-Byrne owns a vehicle identical to the getaway van. For public safety, the people of Bakersville recommend bail be revoked." 

"Objection!" Milo slapped the table. 

"We've been over this, Mr. Penhale." Judge Highley trailed into a sigh. "District Attorney, please continue." 

"Nothing further." DA DA adjusted a gaudy yellow-and-purple-striped tie. "Like you, I'm waiting with bated breath to hear what Mr. Penhale has to say." 

The judge twirled the curlicue of his moustache. "Okay, Penhale, hit us with your best shenanigans." 

"Thank you, Your Honor," Milo stood. "My clients are innocent citizens of modest means. Eyewitnesses are known to be unreliable. Unless forensics can supplant circumstance—" 

"Ballistics and fingerprints are forthcoming." 

Every head in the courtroom turned to the back bench. Beside Miss Leslie and Police Chief Hardcastle, Detective Dalkowski sat, arms crossed, a bored look on her face. "Sorry I'm late. My alarm didn't go off. Listen, we pulled whole prints from the jeweler's. They look like a match; we're just waiting for the computer to confirm it." 

"Shut up, Detective." Judge Highley banged his gavel. "If there's additional evidence, I invite the District Attorney to present it. Otherwise hold your tongue or be held in contempt. These damn kids, Brent. They suck up to the mayor, get one promotion and all of a sudden they're too big for their britches." 

Brent gave a slow, thoughtful nod. 

"Penhale?" The judge nodded to Milo. "Any other nuggets of wisdom?"  

"Yes," Milo cleared his throat. "The assailants wore costumes, and ownership of a gun or a Chevy van isn't as yet legislated as crime in this country. Nothing concretely places my clients at the crime scene. Nothing in their history indicates a flight risk. Mrs. Adnan-Byrne," Milo motioned down the table to Kavi, "is a family woman. We suggest…," he gulped and looked to his notes. They may as well have been in Klingon. All the letters melted into a gooey puddle of black. "Bail, ah… we'd like, um…ten-thousand?" 

"Is that a question, Mr. Penhale?" 

"No, Your Honor," Milo whimpered. "We request bail be set at… um, yes. Ten thousand. Ten thousand dollars for bail." 

The judge nodded. He sat in the silence, held the courtroom in the palm of his hand, again twirling the curlicues under his nose. Accused and accuser alike scooted to the edge of their seats, as if the whole room had been tilted toward the rear. Held breaths seemed to suck all sound from the room. 

"Like I said, Brent. Could have called this one in. Bail is fifty thousand dollars each." The judge banged his gavel to desk. "Now get me the hell home so I can watch my shows." 

"That's outrageous!" Alex again shot from her seat in the gallery. "There’s been a kid shot and you're letting them walk? At least give them bail equal to their crimes! Fifty thousand is a joke! It's got to be a hundred at least! A million!" 

"Brent," The judge turned his grey, hound dog eyes to his Bailiff. "Hold Sergeant Detective Dalkowski in contempt. One thousand dollars to the Legal Defense Fund." With a smile and a tip of a nonexistent hat, Judge Highley shuffled from his bench and disappeared out the rear door. 

"Wowee wow." Milo smiled down the table, tapping a drumroll against Formica. All three Irregulars sat with heads bowed, their backs curved and beaten. "This is good," he said. "Seriously, guys, this is good. The Judge could have revoked bail but he didn't. Plus, fifty grand is good." 

Kavi looked up, glassy-eyed. An ashy pallor washed her skin, caffeine withdrawal back with a pulsing vengeance. "James and I don't have fifty grand." 

Sergeant Detective Dalkowski approached the table, twirling a small ring of keys from her index finger. Arthur, usually posture-perfect, stood bow-backed. Harris had to brace himself against the table. 

"You actually only need ten percent for bond." Alex pulled at Kavi's wrists and worked a key into the handcuffs. "Either way, you don't need anything. The Clerk of Courts just texted. Your bail's been posted. As stupid as I think all this bull-hokey is, you're all free to go." 

The handcuffs fell from Kavi's arms with a sound like the tolling of wedding bells. Their weight gone, Kavi nearly floated up to Neverland and beyond. "Wait—what?" 

"You've been bonded." 

"By who? Vincent Plum?" Arthur rubbed the circles where the cuffs had been. "That was remarkably fast." 

"Potters Village Bail Bonds came in with a cashier's check," Alex paused as Harris' cuffs clanked to the table. "Of course, if you want, I can take you back to general holding. Rent's a real b-i-t-c-h, though."


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