Continued from Chapter 10.
“Susan, I have got two minutes to come up with something to save both of our asses,” said Charlie, standing over Susan Meyers, who continued to rearrange her clothing in an attempt to appear presentable. “When Kosmo finds out I pulled strings to bring that psycho friend of yours into his courtroom, he is going to make my life very miserable until he retires. Understand? What the fuck happened?”
“I’m not sure,” replied Susan, now somewhat covered up. “I was explaining the procedure to Clarence. I told him I arranged for an O.R. and he seemed fine, maybe a little depressed, well a lot depressed. I explained that even if he got O.R.d, he would have to go back to jail to be processed out and…he snapped. He started yelling not to send him back. He was afraid of some guy who kills people and killed a cop or something. I’m not sure, he was pretty incoherent. Then he just went nuts, the deputies jumped…”
“Wait a second,” Charlie’s mind had been working in overdrive on how to get out of this one, and the light just blazed on. While in the hall outside the courtroom, he had run into a couple of patrol officers who had given him the rundown on the Pete Castillo murder, including the information regarding the two other victims.
“Back up to the part about the guy who kills people and killed a cop,” continued Charlie.
“Clarence said some guy had been talking to him who said he killed people and killed a cop,” replied Susan.
The patrol officers had not mentioned anything about a suspect in custody, a fact they probably would not have omitted. Could the suspect in the Castillo murder already be in custody, picked up on an unrelated charge after the murder?
“Boy, this only happens in movies,” Charlie thought out loud, a smile spreading across his ruddy face and appearing through his walrus moustache.
Susan had almost been able to see the wheels turning in Charlie’s head, but had no clue as to what he was thinking.
“What are you talking about, Charlie?” she asked, composed now, but completely confused.
“Mr. Stevenson, Mr. Piedmont,” called the chief bailiff, “Judge Nicholas wants you in his chambers…Now.”
“After you, Mr. Piedmont,” said Charlie, smiling and motioning toward the door.
Duty Deputy Kenneth Piedmont started toward the door and then balked.
“Not on your life, Stevenson,” replied Piedmont, refusing to enter the door.
Charlie winked at Piedmont and turned toward Susan, “Shall we my dear?” shepherding Susan toward the door and toward Judge Nicholas’ chambers, followed by a hesitant and wary Kenneth Piedmont.
“Well Mr. Stevenson, I have always enjoyed your stories so much. Please, don’t let me down this time,” began Judge Nicholas after they had taken their seat in his tiny chambers. The Judge had strategically ordered two bailiffs to remain in chambers. They now stood by the door as if waiting to whisk Charlie and Susan off to jail should Charlie fail to satisfactorily entertain the judge.
Most judges personalize their chambers with photographs and mementos from their life. Judge Kosmo Nicholas was no different. An avid hunter and fisherman, a number of photos of the judge standing over dead game or holding a gaffed fish decorated the walls. A mounted tiger shark head, mouth wide, was directly behind his leather chair. A photograph of the judge standing on the deck of a boat, clad in swim trunks with a diving mask on top of his head was adjacent to the gaping maw of the shark. He stood over the huge beast holding a Hawaiian sling spear in one hand and a diving knife in the other, blood covering the deck. On the opposite wall hung the stuffed head of a huge Russian boar, its huge curling tusks still menacing even in death. The photo next to the head was again of the judge, this time decked out in camouflage, complete with face paint. He was kneeling next to the dead beast, holding a bloody survival spear.
On his desk, the traditional name plate read, “Judge Kosmo Nicholas” and then below, his own personal touch, “The only law West of the Pecos,” an obvious reference to the infamous Judge Roy Bean of the previous century. These were not comfortable quarters for any defense counsel, particularly those in the hot seat, where Charlie currently found himself.
“Well,” said the Judge, “let’s have it.”
Here goes nuthin’, thought Charlie, as he smiled and cleared his throat.
“Before we go any further, Your Honor, I will say nothing unless the District Attorney’s office dismisses all pending charges against my client.” Charlie paused. Judge Nicholas’ eyes narrowed, the death ray warming up. The mouths of Piedmont and Meyers dropped open.
Before he was interrupted, Charlie continued, “Of course the dismissal would be in exchange for information, which may, in all likelihood, lead to the apprehension of those responsible for the murder of Officer Peter Castillo and two other victims in the early hours of this morning.”
Silence. No one spoke. The statement fell like a sledge hammer.
Then Judge Nicholas spoke. “Stevenson, I know you pretty well, and I believe you would not have put this forward if you did not have something to back it with, but…” the Judge leaned forward menacingly,” …if this is some bullshit tactic…Need I say more?”
“Your Honor, I have spoken but briefly with my associate regarding this information,” said Charlie, nodding toward Susan. “As you saw from his behavior, Mr. Taylor is quite upset. What she tells me from her brief interview with Mr. Taylor, and what I have learned independently from other sources, is that he may know the identity of the murder suspect.”
Judge Nicholas did not have a reputation for charity in his courtroom. That aside, he was not detached from the real world. The dismissal of a DUI and some minor drug charges in exchange for a cop killer was a substantial bargain. He did not really care for Stevenson, the overweight latter day hippie sitting across from him, but he did respect him as a forthright attorney. What Stevenson had just proposed, as outlandish a prospect as it appeared, might have merit. And if Stevenson turned out to be misleading the Judge, he would have the pleasure of incarcerating his fat ass for contempt of court and reporting him to State Bar for discipline.
Judge Nicholas turned to Piedmont, who had yet to recover and close his mouth.
“Mr. Piedmont, the ball is in your court,” he said. “If you can manage to make speech come out of that fly trap, I might suggest you respond to Mr. Stevenson’s proposal.”
Kenneth Piedmont had been trained well to be a good civil servant. “I need to call my supervisor.” Thank God there is always someone higher up the ladder to make a decision.
“There’s the telephone. Would you like me to dial for you, or can you accomplish that task without a supervisor,” chided Judge Nicholas.
“Thank you, Your Honor,” replied Piedmont. “Uh, could I have some privacy?” he added as an afterthought.
“Certainly,” said the Judge. “Mr. Stevenson, Ms. Meyers, would you join me in the corridor?” he continued, motioning toward the door.
Once outside, Charlie said, “Your Honor, my client, Mr. Taylor, was quite upset.”
“Upset? Mr. Stevenson, your client is a raving lunatic,” interrupted the Judge.
“If it would not be an imposition, might Ms. Meyers and I have a few minutes alone with him to try to pull some of his facts together. Perhaps the jury room, if it would not be too much trouble?” asked Charlie.
“By all means, Mr. Stevenson,” replied the Judge in a mock conciliatory tone. “Deputy Carole, please accommodate Mr. Stevenson and his associate. Please bring Mr. Taylor to the jury room, but do not, I repeat, do not bring him back to my courtroom. Will there be anything else, Mr. Stevenson?”
“Thank you, Your Honor, no,” replied Charlie, as he ushered Susan into the empty jury room.
Deputy Marshall Carole brought a now near catatonic Clarence Edward Taylor, Jr., into the jury room. The room, a dingy yellow form years of unvented cigarette smoke, was lit by old overhead fluorescent lights, which flickered subtly. The light bouncing off the dirty asbestos tiles which covered the walls to sound-proof the room created an unfriendly, cold atmosphere.
Charlie and Susan sat next to each other in the ragged Naugahyde chairs at the far end of the room. A large conference table took up the major portion of the room, the veneer peeling off here and there, exposing the press board beneath.
Due to his outburst, Clarence had been shackled again by the deputies. He was hunched over and pale. He was not going to the gas chamber, but he certainly looked and felt like it. Charlie assisted him into a chair.
“Thank you deputy,” said Charlie dismissing Deputy Carole.
“I’ll be right outside the door, if he goes sideways again,” she replied as she closed the door behind her.
Charlie looked at Clarence for a moment, evaluating the young man.
Not a lot to work with here…, thought Charlie as he sighed.
“Clarence, Clarence…Clarence!” barked Charlie. “Look at me!”
Clarence responded obediently and robotically. His eyes were red and bloodshot. He had been unable to wipe his nose and a sheen of snot covered the space over his upper lip. “What’s going to happen to me?” he asked no one in particular, in a quiet trembling voice.
“That is entirely up to you m’boy. It depends on how well you can pull yourself together here and tell me about your friend in jail last night,” said Charlie in a serious voice.
“What friend?” asked Clarence.
“The guy you told me about. The one who killed a cop, Clarence,” Susan interrupted.
“Screwie? Are you talking about Screwie?” Clarence again asked, trembling as he thought of the little psychopath he had spent the evening with. “Screwie didn’t kill a cop.”
Charlie looked at Susan, raising an eyebrow in genuine concern. “Clarence, did you tell Susan this guy, Screwie, killed a cop and some other people?”
“No…yes…well I’m not sure exactly what I said,” responded Clarence. “He was real glad a cop had been killed.”
“So Screwie did not tell you he killed a cop?” Charlie asked. He envisioned his illustrious career taking flight as Judge Nicholas prepared to blow him out of the sky like some fat unsuspecting pheasant, winding up stuffed and mounted on the Judge’s wall.
“Screwie said he had some friends that were going to kill some people last night,” volunteered Clarence. “He said they were going to kill two snitches, but he got arrested for a warrant or something. He was really whacked out on crystal. He said he thought his friends would kill them anyway. Then they were going to bail him out. Please don’t put me back there with him.”
Charlie pondered this for a moment. It was a reach, but just maybe there was a way out of this yet.
“Clarence, is Screwie still in there?” asked Charlie.
“He was, when I left. I think he just crashed,” replied Clarence.
“OK, Susan,” said Charlie, formulating a plan as he spoke, “when we go back to the judge’s chambers they will have probably sent down some heavy hitter like Jake Edwards or Marney Phelps. I’ll handle them. First we have got to make sure they do not release this Screwie guy. Do you know his real name, Clarence?”
“I think it was Peter or Douglas, no it was…he had like a first name for his last name, I’m sorry, I can’t remember. What’s going to happen to me?” asked Clarence, rising enough from his depression to attempt to grasp what was happening.
“We are going to try make this all go away,” replied Charlie. “But you are going to have to pull yourself together and work with us, OK?”
“Susan, you get with Deputy Carole and make sure they hold this Screwie. You can tell her that some people may come to bail him out and they may want to hold them for the cops. Don’t go into specifics, basically because we don’t have any, but use your charm to convey how important this is. Got it?”
“I’ll do my best,” said Susan, as she began moving toward the jury room door.
“Do better than that, Sweetheart,” said Charlie, winking.
“Now Clarence, this is what is going on,” Charlie began preparing Clarence for the next act.
A few minutes later Charlie left Clarence, having arranged for him to be kept in the jury room rather than being returned to the jail holding tank.
He returned to Judge Nicholas’ chambers to find he had been wrong. The District Attorney’s Office had not sent Edwards or Phelps, it had sent both, plus two investigators and three other underlings. Piedmont was conspicuously absent from the team.
“Mr. Stevenson, you know Mr. Edwards and Ms. Phelps from the D.A.’s Office,” said Judge Nicholas.
“Hi Charlie,” said Jacob Edwards, his pleasant voice disguising his malevolence toward Charlie. Jacob “Jake” Edwards had worked his way through law school as a hod carrier on the docks in the Bay area. He looked more like a defensive line man than a trial attorney. The intimidation factor generally worked far better than his ability as a trial attorney. It was generally believed most juries convicted defendants in his cases more out of avoidance of Jake Edwards’ wrath than the facts. He had a very healthy conviction rate, and was feared, if not respected, by most defense counsel.
“Hello, Jake. Good morning, Marney,” replied Charlie nodding to both in turn.
“Good morning, Charlie,” said Marney Phelps in a cold monotone. Marney Phelps had been chief trial deputy for all child abuse and molestation cases until her recent Waterloo. She had pushed prosecution of a severely deformed man in a lengthy trial which had ended in a swift and unanimous not guilty verdict. Even local law enforcement had believed the defendant innocent and the object of unrealistic persecution. Marney had been reassigned, but was still a prosecutor with which to be reckoned. In her previous assignment, Marney had been required to meet with and hear the stories of the battered and sexually abused children of San Diego County. The assignment had taken its toll on her, physically and emotionally. At thirty five, she looked and acted much older. So much older, that one defense attorney remarked that she looked like the portrait of Dorian Grey, without the portrait.
“Well, Charlie, here’s the deal.” began Jake. “If your client’s information can lead to the suspect in last night’s murders, the office drops all pending charges. On the other hand, if this is all some sort of bullshit tactic on your part, no deals. Oh, and by the way, we file charges against you for filing a false report or something.”
“Or something,” smiled Charlie. He knew he might or might not have something, but they had nothing and were desperate, their facade notwithstanding.
“Before I discuss anything, I’m feeling a bit outnumbered here. Do you think we can even up the playing field?”
Jake Edwards dismissed the contingent with a nod of his flat-topped head.
“Mr. Piedmont tells us your client knows who murdered Officer Castillo last night. Is that correct, Charlie?” asked Marney.
God, thought Charlie, Could you be any less attractive?
“Here is what I have. My client spent the night next to another inmate who told my client that he was part of a conspiracy to kill two police informants. The problem is, this individual was arrested by the cops for a warrant before he was to meet up with his companions. Additionally, he expressed unbridled joy at the news of the murder of Officer Castillo.”
“That’s it?” said Jake rhetorically, feigning disinterest. “Does this person have a name?”
“My client said his name was “Screwie,” but was not sure of his true name. My associate, Ms. Meyers, is attempting to locate Screwie as we speak. ”
“Sounds like a humbug to me,” said Marney, looking more and more dour.
“Well, these co-conspirators are supposed to bail him out, if they haven’t already.”
“I’ll call the jail and tell them to find this guy and hold onto him,” said Jake.
“Done. I have taken the liberty of having Ms. Meyers tell the jail to hold on to him, if at all possible,” interjected Charlie as Jake helped himself to the judge’s telephone.
“You can use my clerk’s phone, Mr. Edwards,” said Judge Nicholas betraying his dislike of the deputy district attorney.
“Oh, of course, Your Honor, sorry,” said Jake as he moved to the door followed by Marney. “Maybe you have something, Charlie, if not…”
“Yes, I know. Your office will charge me with ‘something.’ You wouldn’t happen to know what code section the violation of ‘something’ is so I can prepare my defense? You know, just in case.”
Jake turned and glared at Charlie as he left the chambers.
“What an asshole,” said the judge, catching Charlie quite by surprise. “Well done, Mr. Stevenson. Come back anytime.”
“Why, thank you, Your Honor. Before I go, however, can we discuss Mr. Taylor’s situation?”
“O.R. granted. I’ll see that it is entered properly by my clerk. But he is not to come back in my courtroom.”
“Thank you again, Your Honor,” said Charlie as he bowed ever so slightly and left the room.
Now the real work begins, thought Charlie, as his blood pressure returned to his healthy 160/105. He knew for the time being he had successfully dodged another judicial bullet.
What he did not know, however, was that he was about to hand Fahey and Amadiana their first break.
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