Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"Your monkeys are trashing my place." Harry was back from his month in Italy.

"They're not monkeys, they're Apes."

Harry looked at me. "Same thing."

"No, I think monkeys have tails. Apes are like chimpanzees and gorillas and shit."

Harry took a sip of scotch. We were sitting on his veranda, watching a thunderstorm roll across the desert.

"Apes, monkeys, who gives a shit? The point is, they’re making a mess of the place.”

“Yeah.” The storm was a good twenty miles out. It appeared to be heading our direction.

“Which wouldn’t be a problem, of course, if you hadn’t run off my maid.”

I shrugged.

“I told you not to fuck her. It was the one goddamned thing I asked of you.” He lit his pipe.

“I didn’t mean for that to happen,” I said. “It just did.”

“Tell me again why they have to stay here?”

“They’re still under bond conditions not to leave the county.” I took a drag on my longneck. “Besides, they don’t have any way to haul their equipment.”

“Because the banjo player ran off with the van,” Harry said. “And my foreman. And half my crew.”


“To find Whosits.”

“Yusuf Islam.”

“Cat Stevens.”

“His converted name.”

“Because the banjo kid discovered Allah after the lightening strike.”

“It wasn’t...”

“Goddamn it, I know it was a fire hose. I saw the whole thing on Olbermann while I was sitting in the airline lounge at DFW. One minute I’m sucking down a martini, the next I’m watching Carol Dodder’s blouse getting hosed off on national TV.”

“The fire hoses were an excessive response. It wasn’t really a riot.”

“So you told Olbermann.”

That part had been cool.

“So while you’re off doing the media circuit as the human interest flavor of the hour, my house nearly burns to the ground.”

“It was the peyote. You should keep that shit locked up in a safe or something.”

Harry looked at me for a long while. “Or maybe the friend to whom I entrusted the care of my home shouldn’t have fucked my maid, started a riot, brought teenage Neanderthals home or run off to New York City while said Neanderthals and my best ranch hands were pillaging my home after a peyote binge.”

“They’re good kids Harry. I’m their manager, it’s my job to promote them,” I said. “Besides, we got a record deal out of all that.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Harry? If you had been in my shoes, would you have done anything different?”

He lit his pipe again, puffing several smoke rings. The storm was veering north. The sun was exploding in a radiant desert sunset just below the storm clouds. Harry stared at the horizon for a good long time. After a while he drained his scotch and cleared his throat.

“No, not a thing.” The corners of his mouth crept upward into a bit of a grin. “Not a goddamn thing different.”

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Apes for Jesus played at the Fiction Town Fiesta last night.

They came on right after the square dancing exhibition by the Fiction County Horns & Heifers, a senior's group dedicated to preserving "Our Western Heritage." Apparently "Our Western Heritage" doesn't have anything to do with the Native Americans, the Mexicans or the Chinese, judging from the racial make-up of Horns & Heifers.

The square dancers were leaving the outdoor dance floor when Darren (Apes for Jesus' financier) started a rousing bluegrass version of Cotton-Eyed Joe. Several members of the square dancing crew decided to stay on the floor and formed the traditional line, gleefully cheering "Bullshit!" at all the right spots. The crowd also got into the spirit, clapping along to the banjo solo and yelling "Bullshit!" in unison with the dancers. What happened next was beyond the realm of their wildest, most terror-filled, imaginations.

The crowd had been oblivious to the fact that Darren, the banjo player, was not the only member of Apes for Jesus. They failed to notice guitars being plugged into amps and the growling faces of the young men who were about to sonically assault the crowd.

When the banjo solo hit the fourth instance of "Bullshit!" Darren suddenly stopped playing, yielding to the burst of death-metal guitar chords played by my former client, Nice Kid, and his two bandmates.

Death-metal is a form of music completely devoid of melody, designed to bypass human ears and cognitive thinking, the sound waves somehow blasting directly into the central nervous system.

Apes for Jesus lit out with their death-metal original, "Swallows Nine." The first verse goes like this:

Your Mama swallows nine!
Your Mama swallows nine!

I'm givin' her all I've got,
Cuz she's such a dirty slut!

Your Mama swallows nine!
Your Mama swallows nine!

Actually that's the only verse. Repeated twenty-three times for emphasis.

The Cotton-Eyed Joe line froze in stunned bewilderment, making the first in a series of unfortunate bad-decisions by all who bore witness to Apes for Jesus' opening song. It turns out that Apes for Jesus has a relatively small, but very passionate, fan base, which had traveled to Fiction Town for the concert. In an instant the dance floor was swarmed with spiked hair, black makeup, and body-piercings. The death-metal kids quickly had the square dancers surrounded, forming a mosh pit in the area where the last chorus of "Bullshit!" had rang out.

As the body-slamming began, many of the square dancers hit the floor for cover. I saw Judge Dodder crawling out of the crowd on his hands and knees, apparently unaware (or uncaring) about the fate of his wife, Carol, who had been lifted off the flooor and was now crowd-surfing the head-bangers. She looked like she was enjoying herself. I assume she had never been felt up by so many young men in all her life.

The seniors who were fortunate enough to escape the crowd ambled off of the dance floor in a daze. Their eyes were locked in that thousand-yard stare of battle veterans who had seen some really bad shit on the front lines.

The Fiction Town teenagers, at first in awe of a spectacle they could not possibly have ever imagined, decided to join their Big City cousins in head-banging revelry. The second wave of dancers flooded the dance floor and I saw Prosecutor Dave going right in with them. He was lost in the mosh pit for a moment and when I next saw him he had a cut over his right eye. He caught sight of me and grinned as blood ran down his face.

Good for Dave. He was long overdue for an adventure.

Meanwhile in the pavillion, young mothers grabbed their young children and skedaddled to their minivans and SUVs, sprinting as if a sniper had opened fire on the Fiesta crowd. I swear I saw one of the mothers running a zig-zag pattern, a child in her arms and another on her hip. In their rush to leave the tent, the mothers had knocked over tables, spilling soda, beer and punch into the dirt.

In the wake of the evacuating mothers, I saw Prosecutor Bitchy at one of the few tables which had not been overturned. She raised her beer cup to me and smiled.

It was during the fifth verse of "Swallows Nine" that the Fiction County Sheriff's Posse, a group of overweight, middle-aged cop wannabes, arrived to impose order on the dancing melee. The Posse ran through the tent in their haste to make it to the dance floor, sloshing through the soda-beer-punch sludge which had now flooded the tent. One of the Posse members slipped in the mud and fell head-first into a table, knocking him out cold. The rest of the Posse managed to make it to the wooden dance floor but all would soon wish they hadn't.

Because the Posse are not real cops, they are not trusted with real guns, or real weapons of any kind for that matter. They were outnumbered and ill-prepared to deal with the throbbing throng of head-bangers. The Posse skittered and slid across the dance floor on muddy boots and were quickly descended upon by the frenzied crowd. After only fifteen seconds, one of the Posse was thrown out of the dancing crowd, wearing nothing but his J.C. Penney tightie -whiteys.

It was then that the Fiction Town Volunteer Fire Department arrived. George, the Assistant Captain, was in charge because Harold, the Captain, was the Posse member laid out unconscious in the muddy tent. George assessed the situation and made an Executive Decision. He ordered his men to hook up two firehoses in preparation for crowd control, Sixties-Style.

The first blast of water hit the band just as Darren, preparing for his second solo, was plugging his banjo into an amp. Darren was electrocuted in a spectacular burst of sparks and sizzle.

The second blast of water hit the crowd on the dance floor, the water pressure ripping Carol Dodder's blouse off. She had a remarkably impressive rack for an old broad.

It took me until 3:30 this morning to get the Apes bonded out of jail, where they had been booked for Inciting a Riot. Because I was their manager, the State Police had attempted to arrest me as well, but I kept screaming "First Amendment Violation!" and finally the District Commander ordered me uncuffed. I drove the boys over to the hospital in Darren's van. Darren was discharged to our care. Aside from blackened fingertips and a new Afro, he was relatively unscathed. His brains were scrambled a bit and he kept repeating "Fiction Town, population 7,126. Suh -Lute!"

I took the boys out to Harry's ranch and I let them smoke some of Harry's stash with the ranch hands. Technically they were in violation of their bond, but I figured they needed to decompress a bit.

I went into town around 6 to get the guys some doughnuts. I picked up the Sunday paper, where last night's concert was, of course, front-page news. The headline read:

Apes Arrested - Permanently Banned From Fiction Town

I can only wonder what the folks at PETA are going to think when this headline goes out over the wire service.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

"Prosecutor Bitchy says that if she doesn't have to send your shit to the lab to have it analyzed for DNA, she'll recommend a suspended sentence with probation." I was going over the prosecution's plea offer with my client, Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson is a retired attorney who moved to Fiction Town with his (now ex-) wife two years ago. Mr. Wilson is charged with breaking in to his ex-wife's home and taking a dump on her mahogany dining room table.

Mr. Wilson made a dismissive gesture. "She's bluffing. They don't have a fucking case against me. You tell that lady what she can do with her plea offer. I want to go to trial."

I knew better than to take Mr. Wilson on as a client. Attorneys make the worst clients.

"Taking a crap on someone's formal dining room table is a very personal act, something your average burglar doesn't do," I pointed out. "As Mrs. Wilson's ex, you were the prime suspect."

Mr. Wilson pulled out a flask and topped off his coffee cup. He offered me a pour. I declined. It was 8:30 in the morning. I guess when you're retired, the Noon Rule doesn't apply. Something to look forward to.

"Circumstantial. I have an alibi."

"Your alibi is being seen at the same bar Mrs. Wilson was at with her new boyfriend. You poured a drink over his head. Your so-called alibi witnesses say you left before they did."

"Little weasel. I bet she gives him head. I haven't had a good blowjob since Nixon was bombing Cambodia. She probably sucks off that convenience store magnate every night."

These were images I would have preferred not to think about. I tried to get Mr. Wilson to focus on his case, lest the images become seared into my brain forever.

"Your car was seen parked around the corner from Mrs. Wilson's house," I said. "After you left the bar."

"The witness didn't get the license plate. They can't prove that was my car," he argued.

"Mr. Wilson, you drive a bright red '63 Corvette Stingray. There aren't many of those in town. In fact, there are only two in the whole state and the other guy has his in the shop."

"Circumstantial. Maybe I was visiting a lady friend."

I flipped through the file. "The only item stolen from the house was a ceramic Buddha. The burglar ignored 3 flat screen televisions, a computer system, $100,000 worth of jewelry, two original O'Keeffes . . ."

"What's your point Counselor?"

"Your divorce was held up for five months while you and Mrs. Wilson litigated the sole issue of who would get the Buddha."

Mr. Wilson lit a cigar. "I like that little guy. We bought him in Bangkok when we were there for the Millennium. I hauled that fucker over 8000 miles, through four airports and Customs. He should have been mine."

I was tired of going back and forth. "You used a credit card receipt to wipe your ass. The receipt was found on the table, between the pile of crap and the bowl of oranges."

Mr. Wilson shrugged. "We were married. I'm sure there are a lot of my receipts lying around the house."

"The receipt was from that night. You used your card to pay your bar tab."

Mr. Wilson stood up and patted me on the shoulder. "You worry too much my boy. Don't forget, I know my way around a courtroom. I was a feared trial lawyer in my day." He had been a civil litigator in his pre-retirement life, which meant that he had gone to trial about once every seven years, maybe every five years if he was aggressive.

"About that. We need to talk about whether it's really a good idea for you to co-counsel in your own criminal trial."

He waved me off and opened the door. "We'll be a helluva team my boy. If it's a show they want, by God we'll put on a damned circus!"

He left.

I poured some bourbon. Screw the Noon Rule. I had known better than to take his case, I really had. Why on Earth didn't I listen when all those alarm bells went off at our first meeting?

As if to answer, my eyes were inadvertently drawn to my blue business account ledger. Oh yeah. The $50,000 retainer.

I'm such a whore.

Monday, May 09, 2005

[Authors note: Time to step out of character and live up to a commitment I made to Evan, at Notes From The (Legal) Underground. I have no idea what a 'meme' is, but I'll play along.]

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? What a bizarre question. My biggest fear is burning alive, so I would have the pick something that would not grab attention. I choose A detailed soil and land capability of a cacao area in Trinidad (Soil and land-use surveys). I feel pretty secure that I could avoid detection for a few decades.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
I suppose my first crush was on Tia, from Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key. I was 9, she was an older woman, you know how that goes.

My second crush was on Pussy Galore, the arch-heroine of Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger. I was 15. She was a lesbian. I can’t really explain it but for months, perhaps years, I constantly had Pussy on the brain.

These days I’m old, so I’m drawn to more earthy women like Angela Gennaro from Dennis Lehane’s excellent Patrick Kenzie/Angela Gennaro novels, set in Boston. Angela has to be the sexiest woman alive: she shoots, she’s smart, she’s funny, and I have no doubt she could kick my ass. Deep down, I think that’s what all men want in their women.

The last book you bought is:
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. As I get older, I want to know more about why I’m here. Seeing this book on the coffee table makes me feel smarter.

The last book you read: A Deadly Shade of Gold by John D. MacDonald. More about this below.

What are you currently reading?
A Tan and Sandy Silence, by John D. MacDonald. Perhaps the greatest crime fiction writer. Ever. As Carl Hiasson put it: "Most readers loved MacDonald's work because he told a rip-roaring yarn. I loved it because he was the first modern writer to nail Florida dead-center, to capture all its languid sleaze, racy sense of promise, and breath-grabbing beauty." Despite publication 40 years ago, you will not find better social commentary anywhere. No other author has ever pulled off objectifying, worshiping and respecting women all at the same time. Shakespeare came close. He would have been envious of MacDonald.

Five books you would take to a deserted island: The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert Parker. I’m drawn to the genesis of genius. William Goldman: Four Screenplays. Show me a writer who has ever written a better movie. I dare you. Lord Foul's Bane (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 1) by Stephen R. Donaldson. When I was in high school there was this bookstore that sold two things: porno mags and sci-fi books. Grabbing this book on the way to the counter along with the latest copies of Penthouse and Hustler made me look like less of a perv. Or so I thought. Bubble Gum and Kipling by Tom Mayer. Just trust me on this one. Finally, The Bible. Stranded on a desert island, it’s time to start believing in something. Don’t you think?

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons)? And Why? I’ll take Evan’s lead and solicit volunteers. You know what happens when you break the chain. Hell freezes over. The West Coast drops off into the Pacific. We’re all stuck in a river of piss without a tree to grab on to. You owe it to Humankind to volunteer.

[To everyone cruising over from Notes, take your time to check out a few of my favorite postings. If you want to see how many times slang for male genitalia can be mentioned in a story that has absolutely nothing to do with sex, click here. If you'd like to see how seriously some women take their football, click here. If you want a good cry, click here. Thanks for stopping by. I'm sorry about all the fish.]

Sunday, May 08, 2005

“Mr. Coyotelaw, could you please not use the word ‘cock.’ ‘Chicken’ or ‘rooster’ will suffice.” Judge Petty was not a Happy Camper. We were at a sidebar.

Cockfighting is legal in my state. My client is charged with Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon for attacking another cockfighter with a fighting cock. We are claiming self-defense.

“Your Honor, my client is a simple man.” That went without saying. You never see bankers or real estate developers engaged in cockfighting.

“The term he uses for his fighting rooster is ‘cock.’ If we try to censor his speech, his testimony will come across as unnatural. The jury may have a bad impression of his demeanor on the stand and it may affect their view of his credibility. In a self-defense case with no witnesses, credibility is critical.”

Judge Petty glared at me. His face was red and beads of sweat were breaking out across his brow. He was infuriated that this was going to trial, especially after learning that Prosecutor Bitchy had offered a deferred sentence with no jail time. The judge had tried to strong-arm us into accepting the plea, even after the jury was selected and opening statements delivered. I advised my client not to accept the offer. I felt we would win on self-defense.

Judge Petty hated to make any legal rulings in trial. He was deathly afraid of being overturned on appeal. I decided to up the stakes.

“My client would have an excellent appellate issue if the trial court prohibits him from presenting his legal defense in his own words.”

You could almost see the steam rising from his bald head.

“Very well then, use that term if you must.” Judge Petty hated giving in to me. “But I will warn Defense Counsel not to make a mockery of these proceedings!”

Mockery? Judge, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I returned to the podium to resume direct examination of my client.

“Mr. Schultz, we were at the point where your cock had lost.”

“Yes, he was a good fighter, he had a big heart, he was just no match.” His voice choked and his eyes teared.

“And what was your arrangement with Mr. Escobedo?” The prosecution was alleging that Victor Escobedo was the victim in this case. He lost an eye.

“We weren’t fighting for money. We had agreed to give up a cock if we lost.”

An embarrassed giggle from one of the jurors. Excellent. I had to bring out the humor in this situation to counteract the graphic and maudlin testimony about Mr. Escobedo’s injury. The eye-patch was a nice touch, Prosecutor Bitchy.

“Was there a problem?”

My client, Clyde, straightened up. “You bet there was. He went right over to the pens and grabbed my best cock.”

“What made that particular cock your best?”

“That was my prize cock. That cock was bigger and meaner than the rest. Everybody knows you don’t take a man's prize cock.”

“What did you do?”

“I said ‘Victor, you know damned good and well you can’t have that cock.’”

More titters from the jury.

“What happened next?”

“He wouldn’t turn my cock loose. I demanded that he put the cock down and get another.”

“What did he do?”

“He was yelling at me saying he could have any cock he wanted.”

“What did you do?”

“I wrestled my cock out of his hands.” Giggles from the jury box.

“And then?”

“He picked up his own cock out of the ring and came at me.”

“Were you afraid?”


“Why is that?”

“Well he was charging me with that big cock stretched out. Anybody would have been afraid.”

“Did his cock have spurs?”

“Yes it did, sharp ones,” Clyde said.

“Could he have hurt you with the cock?”

“Oh yeah. His cock was fresh from the fight. It still had the taste of blood.”

“So what did you do?”

“Well I still had my cock in my hands,” Clyde began.

“Let me stop you right there. Whose cock was bigger?” Muffled laughter now. I didn’t dare look towards the bench.

Clyde considered. “Well my cock was bigger, of course.” Of course. “But like I said, his cock was all riled up.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I was able to dodge his cock at the last minute, and then by instinct I just jammed my cock up into his face. I didn’t really mean to hurt Victor, but the next thing I know he was screaming that my cock had scratched his eye.”

My client paused. “Everything was a mess. Victor had a lot of blood. We both dropped our cocks in the excitement. Our cocks were fighting while I’m holding a rag up against his eye. His cock got the better of mine of course. His cock had spurs and mine didn’t.”

“Mr. Schultz, were you intentionally trying to hurt Mr. Escobedo with your cock?”

“No sir, I was just defending myself. I would never use my cock as a weapon.”

Loud bursts of laughter came from the jury room during deliberation. Eventually the jury came in and rendered a not guilty verdict.

On the way out to my car, Clyde and Victor called over to me. They were drinking Grape Pucker schnapps over by Clyde’s ‘77 Chevy truck. They offered the bottle to me and I took a swig.

“We’re going out to my place for a fight, Mr. Coyotelaw. Want to come watch?”

“No thank you, boys. You all be careful. Those things can put an eye out.”

I started up my truck. I wondered if Gerry Spence ever had to argue self-defense for use of a cock.

I’m guessing no.

But I wouldn't bet my prize cock against it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Wife #2 called last night.

She calls sometimes when she's drunk.

"Why were you such a bastard to me?" Another Tanqueray night and from the sound of her, it was a doozy.

"Hello Cari. How's Oscar?" She had taken my Border Collie when she walked out on me.

"He's fine, I'm fine, we're all just Zippity-Fucking-Doo-Dah wonderful here!" I think she was being facetious. I decided not to point that out.

I heard her taking a drink. "I think you miss that damned dog more than you miss me."

"That's not true Cari , I miss you," I said. "A lot." Of all the women, before and since, Cari was the one I should have kept.

"Not enough to keep from fucking around on me." It was the gin talking.

"Cari, I'm sorry."

"You always said that. Every single time, 'I'm sorry, Cari.' 'It will never happen again Cari.' 'I can change, Cari.' But you never meant it." She was crying now.

I sighed. "Cari, I did mean it when I said it."

She laughed and cried in that drunken, sad way. "You still don't get it, do you, you bastard. I didn't give a rat's ass whether you meant it when you said it, I cared whether you meant it before you decided to stick your dick into the cunt of that fat cow real estate agent."

The C-word. Cari never used that word. I'm thinking six, maybe seven martinis. At a minimum. I decided it was best not to offer anything.

"Wasn't I good enough for you? Didn't I give you everything you asked for?" The crying again.

"Yes, Cari, you did."

Another drink, the sobs stopping long enough for a few gulps. "I know it wasn't my tits. You couldn't find better tits, no matter how many bitches you fucked."

That was true. Cari had a spectacular athletic body, the combination of a lifetime of playing tennis competitively and very good genes.

"You know I thought your breasts were phenomenal, Cari."

She laugh-cried again. "Know what, they still are. Full and round and perky. Not a sag to them. And you will never, ever see them again." She had a bout of hiccups.

"You know what I hate the most?" she continued. "I hate the fact that I still love you. After all the shit you put me through and the lousy way you treated me, I still love your sorry ass. I don't know why. It's not like I can't find anyone else. I've been dating a guy up here in Boston, he's got his own software company, a loft that overlooks the Common and he loves me. He's good looking, tall, great smile, no beer gut . . ."

Ouch, that wasn't necessary. I looked down at my stomach. Okay, maybe I deserved that.

She went on. " . . . and he worships me. He's everything you're not. He would never treat me like you did."

Maria sat up in bed next to me and lit a cigarette. She had started smoking this past week although I had warned her against it. The Zippo made a loud clink as she shut the lighter hard in the dark.

Cari went on, still crying. "And you know fucking what? Tonight he proposed to me."

Cari was a fine catch for any man.

"This is how fucking stupid I am. I turned him down. Can you believe that shit? You know why I turned this great guy down?"

I decided it was a rhetorical question and that a guess wouldn't help right now.

"I refused to marry this wonderful, wonderful man who thinks I'm a goddess because I don't love him. I'm still in love with you. He's not as funny as you, he's not as smart as you, he doesn't know how to dream like you do. And that's the fucking cruelest thing you've ever done to me. You made me love you forever, you piece of shit." Loud sobs now.

"I don't even know why I'm calling . . . you don't fucking care . . . you never cared . . ." and she hung up the phone.

I took a deep breath and placed the phone down. I lit my own cigarette.

"That was one of your wives?" Maria asked, a chill in her voice.

"Yes, it was Wife #2."

"It sounds like she still loves you very much. To call you at this hour when you are in bed with another lover."

"She's just drunk," I said.

"I am thinking this. I am thinking that maybe you still love her too." She elbowed me for emphasis. "Maybe you love her more than me, no?"

I recalled that I had used the L-word once or twice this past week, but only in the heat of climax. This was another of those questions that was best left unanswered. Lying would be wrong. The truth would get me slapped. I stayed quiet.

Maria stubbed out her smoke and rolled out of bed. "You sunuvabitch!" she yelled, slamming the bedroom door on her way back to her own room.

I finished my cigarette and lit another. I laid there, alone in the dark, listening to Maria's loud wailing from across Harry's sprawling home.

Sometimes I feel like such a shit.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"Mr. Coyotelaw, where's your client?" Judge Petty asked. The jury had reached a verdict.

"I don't know Your Honor, his mother told me that she went to wake him up this morning and he was gone."

Ralphie had also cleaned out the refrigerator, emptied his closet and had taken a backpack, a sleeping bag and $47 his mother kept hidden in a cookie jar. I wasn't going to offer that Ralphie appeared to be on the lam.

Ralphie had been charged with breaking into a food storage locker behind a local pizza place. He was found about a block away, gnawing on frozen chicken wings. The trial concluded yesterday and the judge had sent the jury home with instructions to return this morning for deliberations. It had only taken them five minutes to reach a verdict. They were waiting in the jury room right now until summonsed by the judge to return to the courtroom to announce its verdict.

Judge Petty frowned. "You told him to come back this morning?'

"Of course, Your Honor."

"I guess he wasn't too impressed with your closing argument," Judge Petty said. "I find that the defendant has voluntarily failed to return to the trial and we'll proceed without him. Bailiff, bring the jury in."

We all stood. The jury entered and all of them seemed puzzled by the fact that the guest of honor wasn't at my table.

"Mr. Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?"

The foreman was an old rancher. He stood and looked down at the verdict form, a crease forming across his brow. He seemed to be reconsidering.

"Yes we have Your Honor," he said tentatively.

"And what say you?"

"As to the charge of breaking and entering, we find the Defendant . . . " The foreman paused and looked at the empty chair next to me. " . . . er, not guilty." The foreman handed the verdict form to the bailiff.

The judge had a lousy poker face. His displeasure with the verdict was plain. He sighed. "Very well then, you are discharged. Thank you for your service."

After the jury had filed out the judge asked us if there was anything further that needed to be addressed.

Prosecutor Bitchy stood. "Your Honor, the State would ask you to issue a bench warrant for Defendant's failure to return to court." There you go Sweetie, pile it on. You're not by chance taking the verdict out on my client, are you?

I decided not to respond. There wasn't much to say and further questions might lead to me having to reveal the strong circumstantial evidence that Ralphie had no intention of returning to court.

Judge Petty pondered the request for a moment. Another deep sigh. "The Court is offended by Defendant's lack of respect for this Court's order to appear." Judge Petty liked to refer to himself with references to his position in the third person. "However, given the verdict of not guilty it would seem unfair to now have Defendant arrested. Your client caught a break this time Mr. Coyotelaw but you need to tell him that if he comes before my Court again, I will remember this. Case adjourned.

I would like to tell Ralphie the good news but his family has no clue where he might have fled to.

I can't help but chuckle a bit as I imagine Ralphie, twenty years from now, with a ZZ Top beard and tattered clothes, diving behind dumpsters every time he sees a patrol car drive past.

You should have had more faith in me Ralphie.

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