Friday, May 10, 2013
Charles and Robert walked out of the jail together. Both wore sad faces as they stepped into the street to walk to the county parking garage. Robert’s normally athletic demeanor, tall and straight and with purpose, was hunched slightly as if he’d just thrown an interception in the big game. Except for the frown, Charles looked as he usually did, though there seemed to be a spark in his eyes as if he were thinking through some complex yet imminently solvable problem. He was just a little stooped over at the shoulders as overweight men often are. “So what’s next?” Robert asked as they walked.
“Becky’s filing my entry of appearance and preparing yours for you to sign. We’re both working this one. She also called the D.A.’s office to order the police reports. Someone had to point them in Job’s direction for them to get a warrant for his blood. That’s bothering me right now. No telling what surprises are in store for us.”
“You think he’s guilty?”
“Normally I’d say that’s not our job to decide. Ours is to make the State do its job and protect the client from himself. But I’ve known Job for years. He’s a good man. I’m afraid this may be the kind of case we defense attorney’s fear the most.”
“What’s that?” Robert asked as they entered the garage.
Charles stopped walking and turned to his grandson, looking him in the eye with an intensity Robert hadn’t seen before. He closed his eyes briefly and then opened them again, pressing his brows together as he said, “There’s a cliché in the defense bar that comes to mind. God save me from the innocent client.” He paused and looked away a moment, then back at his grandson. “Son, it’s easy to do our constitutional duty to make the State follow due process, honor a defendant’s Miranda and other constitutional rights, then have a judge convict your guilty client regardless. Most of them expect it and are grateful for whatever job you did helping them. Occasionally the guilty man gets another chance to live right. Those are the ones we fight for mostly. It’s rare that the State is so off base that it charges the wrong man for a crime, especially one as heinous as murder.”
Charles took off his tan Stetson and placed it over his heart, then looked intently in Robert’s eyes once again. “Imagine defending an innocent man for murder. Now imagine that man getting convicted and going to prison for the rest of his life. Imagine having to live with yourself after such an outcome.”
Robert’s shoulders slumped a little more as he nodded.
“We have a lot to do. I’m headed back to the office to draft the bond motion. I’ll need you there as soon as possible.”
They resumed their walk onto the first floor of the garage. “I’m going to Janie’s OB/Gyn first for the sonogram. Be there after.”
Charles smiled, the thrill of a new grandbaby joining them soon causing the cloud of darkness to lift if only for a moment. “That’s right,” he said, nodding, telling Robert nonverbally that the family’s patriarch had forgotten the joy their family was experiencing in this season of their lives. The spring returned to Charles’ steps as the thought of becoming a grandfather put a smile on his face just as they reached Robert’s compact sedan. He turned to his grandson and said, “You tell Janie I said hi and that Nancy and I send our love to her and that baby.”
Robert opened his door and turned back to Charles. “I’ll do that. See you soon.”
* * *
With that Robert slipped behind the wheel and left the garage. As he drove he was excited about seeing the black and white image of his first child in utero, but his thoughts were clouded with images of Job killing another man. A peaceful, loving Christian man was charged with killing another man. Job denied it, and Robert believed him. DNA? That type of evidence was unassailable, right? It meant that they had reason to suspect he had committed the crime first, then the resulting warrant for his blood revealed that his blood or some other DNA evidence was on the body or at the scene, or both. Unassailable. He remembered studying DNA evidence in law school. Sure, sometimes it could be corrupted, and such a situation might result in the evidence being suppressed. But everyone in the process, lawyers, judges, investigators, knew that it didn’t change the fact that the suspect was at the scene when the crime took place. He just might get away with it, that’s all. But Job? Robert couldn’t think of a more righteous man than him. A man after God’s own heart is the phrase he’d heard Pastor Rick use to describe Job on more than one occasion.
As he drove to the doctor’s office, he pulled his cell phone out of his suit jacket pocket and tapped speed dial three. It rang twice. “Hey, Robert.”
“Hey, grandpa. I think we need to talk to Janet.”
“I agree. I already called her. Let’s meet at their house at five.”
They said bye and hung up. Surely his wife knows his heart. She’ll know if her husband is capable of murder.
* * *
“Not yet,” Janie begged the doctor and nurse as she sat on the examination table. “Robert will be here soon and it’s not time yet.”
“Okay. We’ll wait for a couple more minutes, but not a second after eleven. We’ve got a room full of expectant mothers out there who want to see their babies, too.” Doctor Brent Lancaster was in his early fifties and in fairly good shape. He even had all his hair, though it was mostly grey. He wore a white lab coat that had a name embroidered on the top of his left breast pocket, a name that made Janie laugh the first time she saw it. “Baby Doctor.” She recalled asking if it was a misprint, if it should have said, “Doctor Baby.” He snickered and replied at the time, “I don’t appreciate patients who tell funnier jokes than me. You keep that up and I’ll have to refer you to someone else, Doctor Cry Baby.” Thus, she knew he wouldn’t follow though with the threat to start the sonogram without the daddy.
Janie was very pretty, still in her twenties yet possessing a teenage girl quality, one that emanated innocence and purity. She had the visages of a well-proportioned figure disguised by the green hospital gown and a belly bulged to the fifth month of pregnancy. Despite her pregnant state, her blond hair was still long and feathered, indicating that she’d spent more than a few minutes getting ready for her doctor’s visit that morning. She also had a slight amount of makeup, her silky smooth, light colored and unblemished skin not needing any false covering to hide imperfections.
She heard a knock on the door.
“We don’t want any,” Dr. Lancaster replied then added, “We gave at the office.” He winced as he realized how absurd the answer was then chuckled as the door opened and in walked Robert. “It’s about time you showed up.”
Robert’s face flushed red.
“Ignore him,” Janie said as she reached out to her husband of a little more than five years. He shut the door behind him and quickly came to her side, kissing her gently on the lips.
Dr. Lancaster smirked and said, “I think we’ve had enough of that already. Give it another eighteen months before you get busy again. At least wait until I leave the room for goodness sakes.”
They all laughed as he turned on a monitor to the side and picked up a paddle from a machine underneath. He gently lifted the gown to reveal Janie’s belly, then squeezed some jelly out of a tube onto the paddle and placed it on her tummy. She shivered as he did. He looked at her and said, “Sorry. Should have told you that would be a little bit cold.”
He rubbed the paddle around her belly then exclaimed, “Wow, look at that. Amazes me every time I do one of these.”
Robert and Janie stared at the screen, mesmerized. It was a silhouette of a baby sucking its thumb. The doctor pointed to a spot between its legs. “See that?”
Both nodded in excitement.
“You know what that means?”
They shook their heads no.
“Congratulations. It’s a girl.”
* * *
Janet was sitting at her kitchen table eating a sandwich with an older woman, but not elderly by any means. It was her mom, Elizabeth. They were also eating sandwiches and chips. In addition to the food there were papers sitting in the middle of the table, bank statements, spreadsheets, checkbooks, and a few bills. Elizabeth said between bites, “It’s time to get practical, Janet. The police don’t arrest someone for no reason. They certainly won’t turn him lose until the process runs its course, so you need to take steps to protect yourself.”
Janet sat her sandwich down and looked at her. “Mom, this just happened. I’m not divorcing him before we even talk.”
“I know that, but I also know you’ve been having problems. Maybe he snapped. You need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Honey, I’m not a lawyer but I’m also not stupid. This man who was murdered probably had a family. If Job gets convicted they’ll come after your house, savings, everything. You need to separate yourself and Alice from him now. If he did this thing it’s not like you had anything to do with it.”
Until that moment Janet had been looking Elizabeth in the eyes. With the last comment she bowed her head to look at her plate then picked up her sandwich and took a big bite, one big enough that it would be awhile before she could chew it and swallow. Janet looked at her mom again, chewing very slowly, and nodded.
“Have you thought about what you’ll do for a job? Even if Job gets out on bond, there’s no way they won’t fire him. The police think he’s a murderer, for goodness sakes.”
Janet shook her head no as she picked up and glass of milk to help her swallow the last bit of sandwich. She wished she had more food to eat so she didn’t have to actually say anything.
“What have the police told you?”
She sat down the glass and sat up straight. “I can’t say right now.”
“What do you mean?”
“Job’s attorneys are coming over to talk this evening. They told me not to talk to anyone about the case and that I don’t have to since I’m the wife.”
Her mom stood and pointed at her, right index finger stabbing the air violently. “I never liked that man. Always so judgmental about how I live my life. Look who’s the bad man now. Saint Job, right. Janet, I’m your mom. I never killed anyone. I might drink a little too much and I might have made some bad choices when you were little, but I’m still here for you. If you stand by that man’s side after what he’s done don’t count on me to help.”
Her ears rang as her mom’s threat reverberated in her head. Don’t count on me to help. She tried to think of when her mom was actually helped. She recalled the many nights when she was a little girl and couldn’t wake her mom up out of her drunken stupors to get her to make dinner, how many times she had to fend for herself.
Elizabeth started at Janet, furious eyes focused like lasers on hers, boring through the back of her head. Janet glanced to the side, out the window, as tears began rolling down her cheeks. Don’t count on me to help. For the first time in as long as she could remember, she wondered where her daddy was.
Elizabeth turned away and reached to the kitchen counter and grabbed her purse. As she walked toward the living room and front door, she said over her shoulder, “Call me and tell me what the lawyers say.” She didn’t stop walking before she made it to her car.
Moments later Janet was alone at the table with Alice still sleeping in the nursery. She clasped her hands together and nodded at the table, her lips began to move. It’s what Job would have done. That thought made her hesitate. She smirked and stopped praying, stood up and walked up to the island, then noticed that her mom left the present she’d brought, a bottle of red wine. She also left a bottle opener, likely knowing that Job wouldn’t have allowed either item in their home. Picked up the bottle and tore off the seal then inserted the corkscrew into the cork. She pressed the levers downward, feeling relief as the cork popped out. She didn’t bother getting a glass, just stuck the opening in her mouth and tilted the bottom to the sky.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Good news. We're through the second round of edits of Flashback and have started reviewing cover designs. No word on Prism's publication date yet, but I'll keep you posted.
Regarding Restored, I've finished my third rewrite and edit and the proposal and have even sent it off to a few publishers and one agent. I feel better about this project than any of the others so am optimistic. With God all things are possible.
Regarding Restored, I've finished my third rewrite and edit and the proposal and have even sent it off to a few publishers and one agent. I feel better about this project than any of the others so am optimistic. With God all things are possible.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
DONE!!!! Okay, I'm not really done, just through the 81k word first draft. This one's got many layers and lots of logic holes and gaps to fill so it will take awhile to whip the manuscript into shape. I will post the fifth and final blog-posted chapter in a couple of weeks so stay tuned. Sorry, but no more after that. There's gotta be some surprises left...
Robert Allen Baxter was taller and more imposing than most of his colleagues in the bar (law bar, that is). Six-foot-five, two-hundred-five pounds, with hands as strong as vice grips, and his rugged good looks matched his football quarterback build with firm chin complete with a slight dimple, well shaven and perfectly coifed brown hair thick enough to hold a quarter in the middle straight up. He also held a military bearing as he stood and walked despite the fact that he never served in the armed forces. He also wore very nice, conservative suits for one so young thanks to his lawyer grandfather who bought him a new wardrobe as part of his law school graduation present just two years before. Robert stood in stark contrast to his grandfather, Charles Fleming, who dressed as the small-town country lawyer would with khaki slacks, blue sport coat or leather jacket, exotic-skinned cowboy boots, and an assortment of felt Stetson cowboy hats. But there was one thing they shared, their height if not their girth. Charles was as tall as Robert though much fatter, and he was mostly bald by his sixty-fifth year.
Today Robert was working traffic court for their small firm. He'd just walked through the metal detectors and retrieved his pens and briefcase and was walking toward the elevator banks of Sedgwick County District Courthouse. As he waited by the elevators for an up elevator to chime, he glanced down at his watch. Eight-thirty-five a.m. Five minutes late. Great, he sighed as he looked up to the arrows impatiently. "What are you in such a rush?" he heard from behind.
Robert looked back and saw a welcomed sight. He smiled and said, "Hi, Judge Adams. Guess I'm not late after all."
"Can't be late when the judge isn't in court. Looks like you're right on time."
Both laughed as the up arrow directly in front of them chimed and lit green. The doors opened and they stepped aboard, then turned to face the doors as litigants and another lawyer stepped in, too. The judge and lawyers nodded recognition. They just smiled at the plaintiffs and defendants. "Busy day?" Judge Adams asked Robert.
"Not really. Chuck just sent me over to take care of a couple of clients."
"The cost of being a legacy."
They laughed again as the elevator reached the fifth floor. The doors opened and everyone poured out, including Robert and Judge Adams. The other lawyers stepped off the fourth floor already. Judge waved goodbye and walked to his chambers across the hall from traffic court. Robert walked toward the DA's traffic office. Before he entered he looked around at the throngs of defendants standing in the narrow hallway and said, "Larry Clark?" A man stood. Robert motioned him back down. "Just making sure you're here. Lisa Brown?" A black woman stood. Again, he motioned her back down and said, "I'll talk to the prosecutor and see what we can do, okay?" Both nodded as Robert turned to the door on the right and entered, closing it from behind.
"Lovely," he said aloud as he was greeted with a room full of defense attorneys and just two prosecutors. "Looks like we're gonna be here awhile."
"Guess the QB'll have to wait his turn," a smiling, older lawyer said with a smile. Robert smiled back and said, "Hey, Grady. How are things?"
"Couldn't be better. How's Chuck?"
"He's got me covering traffic, so pretty good."
"True. Wish I had a young whipper snapper like you to throw the ball for me every now and then."
"Just let me know if you ever need some cover and I got it."
"I may take you up on that offer."
Robert indeed looked out of place. The room was filled with lawyers who obviously didn't spend near enough time or money on their wardrobes, and a couple had a look on their faces telling him they did not want to be there. It made Robert wonder if there was something wrong with him since he liked getting out among other lawyers and judges in traffic and municipal courts. It may only be traffic, but the men and women who practiced law here saw more of the courtroom in a month than most lawyers did in a lifetime. Even Charles liked coming around here every now and then, even though his reputation had long ago enabled him to stop nickel and diming for traffic fees. He still took traffic court appointments so he stayed humble and kept himself in circulation. All lawyers knew Chuck, young and old, and he wanted to keep it that way, he often told Robert.
While sarcastic comments flew back and forth among the defense lawyers and prosecutors, no one ever took it personal and all enjoyed each others company, not unlike the workers on the factory floor. Eventually, Robert's name was called. He made deals with the prosecutor and kept their clients out of jail, all in less than half-an-hour. Afterwards, he stood waiting for an elevator to take him back down to the first floor. He felt his cell phone vibrate and took it out of his coat pocket. It was Charles' cell number. He tapped the screen to answer and put it to his right ear. "Hey, gramps."
"Hey, boy. How did court go?"
"You calling me to check on how I handled traffic court? Wow."
"Actually, no. We have a new client that I'm on my way to visit in the jail. I'd like you there, too."
"What kind of case?"
Robert went silent. He knew his grandfather once handled such case all the time, and often got guilty clients off scott free. But he'd changed. He'd turned his life over to Christ and didn't deal with such questionable moral questions any more. If it was the sort of case that naturally led them to share the gospel, fine. But murder? "Really?" he finally replied.
"It's complicated. Pastor Rick asked me to help. It's someone from church and there may be more to it that the prosecutor thinks. The client needs us."
The down arrow dinged and lit red. "Okay. Stepping on the elevator right now. See you in the jail lobby."
"See you there."
He tapped on his phone's screen to hang up then stepped onto the elevator. He turned and pressed the first floor button and stood back, looking up and down between the floor numbers and door. He shook his head and closed his eyes. I should have asked him who it was. Faces of fellow church members flashed through his mind. The one button lit up and the door opened. He stepped out onto the busy floor, edging past lawyers, a judge, and a smorgasbord of litigants, some well dressed, some barely dressed, and a few wreaking with the smell of booze or marijuana. He walked through the back halls and past the guard station, then outside and all the way to the jail. During his walk yet more faces and names flashed into his mind. There was that family that lived in a run down trailer on the edge of town. The kids got into trouble a lot, mostly petty stuff, but there was a time or two when drugs were involved. Charles helped them those times, most resulting in dismissals. They got rowdy a few times at football games, but so what? Who didn't in Stonelee, Kansas. It's why he loved playing football so much back in the day; the games were great, but the after parties even better. It couldn't be them. There was also the middle-aged couple without kids who fought all the time. They'd been arrested for domestic violence a time or two, but that last occurrence was years ago, back when Robert was still in college. He recalled seeing them hand in hand at church the previous Sunday, smiling and behaving like a newlywed couple. Sure, DV cases tended to be the most violent and horrific, next to gang shootings, but not that couple. No way did one of them murder someone. He'd have read about it already. So who was it? He ran out of candidates by the time he arrived at the jail. He walked into the spartan waiting room with its plastic seats mounted to the floor with steal posts to see Charles chatting up the guard near the metal detector in front of the professional visitation elevator. Robert smiled as he saw him and walked to his grandfather's side, whose back was turned at the moment.
As he approached from behind the guard who seemed to be enjoying his conversation with Charles looked toward Robert and acknowledged him with a smile. Charles turned around and nodded with a smile and a wink. "Hey, son. You ready to head up?"
"Sure." He lifted up the folders and yellow notepad in his right hand.
"Let's do this."
The guard reached under his work station and pressed a button, at least that's what Robert guessed the guards did just moments before the elevator doors that took them to the pro visit area opened. On cue, the elevator dinged, doors slid open, and the two lawyers stepped inside.
They didn't bother turning to face the doors they entered since the pro visit entrance was on the other side of the elevator. Staring ahead awaiting the number above them to read "2," Robert said, "So who got in a jam." He winced a bit considering the depth of his understatement.
Charles hesitated and looked down to the ground. Robert sensed his angst and turned to face him. "What's the deal? You seem bothered."
Still facing his grandfather, Robert thought back at the revelation the old man had before he started college, that he was to use his law practice to evangelize clients. He knew it meant making less money, and the really bad cases, like murder and sex offenses, were no longer in his repertoire. Something about drawing the line somewhere now that his practice was more a ministry than a business. He could deal with sharing the gospel with drunks, drug addicts, and even the occasional wife or husband beater, but killers and rapists? Never. Indeed, while Charles had defended hundreds of violent offenders and many suspected murderers before his revelation, he hadn't taken on one in more than eight years. So why this one?
"Who's the client?" Robert insisted.
The elevator dinged and the doors slid open. Charles turned to Robert before stepping off, a very serious expression on his face. "Job, son. It's Job."
* * *
The three men sat in the tiny cell. On one side, away from the door, was a mousy-looking Job wearing a red jumpsuit, tan plastic flip flops on white socked feet, and brainy-looking wire-rimmed glasses, sitting in a flimsy plastic chair not connected to the floor. Yet, his hands and feet were shackled so he couldn't run or even walk very fast, the price of being booked for Murder. Someone, at least, thought he was dangerous. He was still clean shaven with barely a stubble showing so hadn't been in the jail for more than a day or so. But he didn't look like a killer. His small size was swallowed up by the humiliating two-sizes-too-large red jumpsuit he wore compliments of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Department. His look and demeanor contrasted sharply with the two lawyers facing him on the other side of the table, both big and tall and sitting up straight, confident that they would walk out of this jail without any resistance.
They had already shaken hands and said hello. They knew each other already. In fact, Charles led a Bible study that Job and his wife attended every week. Charles leaned forward on the table, pen perched on the edge of his yellow notepad. Robert sat back with his notepad and pen on his lap. "Job, why are you here?" Charles asked.
He looked down at the surface of the table and said, "They arrested me when I arrived at work yesterday. My boss had been killed three months before." His voice wavered, the waver that often preceded heart-felt crying. He looked up at Charles, then to Robert, looking them both intently in the eyes. "Jack was my friend, a good man. And he was good to all his employees."
"What does this have to do with you?"
He leaned forward as his eyes watered. "They say I killed him. But I didn't. He was my best friend. I would never do such a thing."
Robert sat mostly stone-faced, very stoic, as he listened during the initial consultation. He wrote down everything, both Charles' questions and Job's answers.
"Did the police every talk to you about the murder? They don't just arrest people for no reason."
Job sat back and looked up toward the ceiling, processing the question. Still looking up, he said, "Yes, about two months ago." He looked at Charles then as his eyes widened. "Yes, they asked me if knew anyone who hated Jack. They even asked if I had a beef with him. They got personal, too. They asked if I thought he might be seeing anyone's wife or girlfriend on the side."
"What did you say?"
"No, of course. Jack was an honorable man. He wouldn't do such a thing."
"Anything else unusual happen?"
He looked up again and closed his eyes, as if he were forcing out a thought. "There is one thing really weird, but I didn't think anything of it. I'm innocent, so why should I?"
Charles began to shake his head side to side. Robert glanced at him when he did. Charles' face turned grim as if he already knew the answer he was about to hear was the worse possible response. "What?"
"They had a warrant to draw my blood, so I let them."
Robert leaned forward as Charles wrote something on his notepad. DNA. Then he leaned back and wrote the same on his.
"Okay, we've got what we need right now, Job. I'll file a Motion to Set Bond tomorrow morning and try to get a special setting for Friday. No promises. Judges are reluctant to set makable bonds on murder cases. But we have to try. You've got lots of friends and you're a pillar in the community, so there's hope. With prayer they're is always hope. Probably won't have the reports until next week, but expect the D.A. to give us a peak into their case during the bond hearing. He'll have to state some grounds." He paused and sat back in his chair, the serious, attorney look dissolving into a grandfatherly demeanor. "How're Janet and Alice holding up?"
"I don't know. Janet hasn't been here to see me yet. It'll be tonight if she comes at all. But she's had a real rough time since Alice's birth. I think it's postpartum depression. It got real bad about the time Jack was killed."
"I'll have Nancy coordinate the ladies in the church for dinners and babysitting. Need to take care of her so she doesn't lose hope. You'll need her as much as you need us."
Charles leaned to his side and pulled something out of his brief case. It was a paperback Bible. He slid it across the table to Job. "You'll need this, too. Would you like to pray before we leave?"
The watering eyes burst their dams and tears rolled down his cheeks as he nodded. The men all leaned forward, clasped their hands together, and bowed. Charles prayed, "Dear Lord, we cannot know your plans. We are too small. We pray that you will give brother Job the faith and hope he needs to make it through this dark time. We also pray you'll be with Janet and Alice, and that you'll give me, Robert, and the judge the wisdom we need to accomplish your will in this case. Also, Lord, please put in a good word with the D.A. I know Job's heart. I know he didn't kill this man. Amen."