By A.H. Watson
Once again, this story is placed in that peaceful town that resides in most men's minds as a place we were from, or at times - wish to be. The greater parts of this piece are true. In fact, each spring or fall, as teenagers are faced with similar choices between values and personal wishes - you see and read of this type of situation more than any Christian would hope, or even believe, could happen, The Judge struck close to the bone when he told Henny at the conclusion of this trial? "You know, Henry, in all my years on the bench and the many threats; I have never once been threatened to - do something right." "At least until you came along - my quirky old friend."
Once again, this story is placed in that peaceful town that resides in most men's minds as a place we were from, or at times - wish to be.
The greater parts of this piece are true. In fact, each spring or fall, as teenagers are faced with similar choices between values and personal wishes - you see and read of this type of situation more than any Christian would hope, or even believe, could happen,
The Judge struck close to the bone when he told Henny at the conclusion of this trial?
"You know, Henry, in all my years on the bench and the many threats; I have never once been threatened to - do something right." "At least until you came along - my quirky old friend."
I have always marveled at northerners ? no, not Yankees, they have always resided some where on the outskirts of hell ? but northerners. People such as those that live around the lakes or close to the wafting rotten smell drifting down from Canada ? a nation that has seemed to reach hell even before our own ship has sailed.
Particularly, I was thinking of Minnesota. A band of hearty souls if one ever existed; oh I know, there is Alaska ? but have you ever looked an Alaskan in the eye?
No? I mean deeply.
Fly to Nome ? go in a bar ? grab a beer - and sit at the first table you come to with a single soul sitting there ? Eskimo, white, Inuit. Whatever ? what do you see in the depth of their eye? Is it like your Father, Brother - or even the last person with whom you had serious words?
Or, is there a dim film over those depths, a thin barrier containing, with much effort, the horrible remembrances of times in another place - or the continued fight against the drive to repeat some evil?
A bloody murder of an entire family on a distant Cooperstown farm ? a bed, left empty, in some snug, comfortable town in Massachusetts ? or, perhaps, hundreds of financially broken families in New York ? the result of some complex stock swindle?
As a Psychiatric doctor once told me over the bridge table.
"You know Hen when I look in a patients eyes - deep down, I can see the snakes. Hell, I could even warn you or the police about them - were it legal - but it isn't, and that's a good thing - I guess.
"Seeing the snakes is one thing ? identifying them or deciding the depth of their danger is the task, one, I am sad to say, we often are unable to fathom - or even name."
"No? Alaska is different than our northern states, Bubba. Ever hear of anyone you know, other than a fisherman, going to Alaska - then coming home?"
With those profound words Doctor Brown turned back to his bridge game and - as I remember - promptly went down two tricks on a hand that should have been a lay down at four spades; but, then he had stopped at four diamonds (damn his sorry hide!) - which had been nothing but a cue bid by his partner.
If you remember nothing else ? remember that you will never go broke betting against anyone in the medical profession - if you can catch him out of his medical specialty. There is a sound reason for this truism ? but later.
Northerners are tough old birds. Seven months of frigid days, and for many, frigid nights as well; days cast over, cloudy with snow and ice; leave a body open to many dangers. Northerners gut through it, year after year, with few of the pathologies that seem to leave Yankees gnawing at each other, much like out-house rats.
Northerners are hard working ? industrious ? reasonably smart. You see - this is what the entire prologue is about.
Southerners are seen as less productive ? less intelligent ? less caring than Northerners; both of those conceptions are more a result of weather and latitude ? not genes.
If Northerners don't work hard in the summer ? they will surly die come winter. Homes and barns must be tight to the elements. Yards and farms must be well organized, or items will be lost to the snow and wind.
Southerners have no winter - just good "bird hunting weather," weather made for college football and barelegged cheerleaders. Ever looked closely at a Green Bay cheerleader in mid-December? It is not a pretty sight. If southerners work hard in the summer ? they die.
The average temperature on a farm in Minnesota in June is LOWER that that of a high-rise office in Atlanta or Charlotte. If southerners are considered to be lazy in winter ? the north considers them downright indolent come summer - when greeting such as "Madam" or "Misses Lucy" are shortened to "Mam" and "Miz." to save energy
Industriousness and intelligence may be harder to quantify and perhaps more easily explained by example.
A New York Jewish plastic surgeon is no doubt smart, as well as, wealthy. He has been smart enough to pick, not only a division of medicine that pays well - but one that requires no overtime. He would be the first to tell you that in fifty years in New York, not once had he been shortchanged in subway tokens, or double counted** by a cross-town taxi.
How then does one explain a fat, redneck, 'good old boy,' in his Sears suit, standing next to the Armani suit one fine fall afternoon - up to their ankles in coastal mud - up to their ears in mosquitoes and "no see'ems' ? discussing if the fat man can coax his cousin Horace to sell, pointing at "that there acre", to the good Doctor for $950,000 of Washington's best.
It was a half acre of swamp that sold as a part of a 20 acre tract his cousin Horace had picked up for back taxes totaling $ 112 dollars on the court house steps one fine Friday morning before Georgia beat Florida 33-12 ? 10 years before.
And then have the doctor not only? thank him?but send him a $2500 side by side double, as an act of deep friendship, for having swung the deal. Stranger still, an actual friendship may even blossom out of the transaction. As Eudora Welty said - there is no telling about the human heart.
As to intelligence - Call it what you may ?.I call it a push.
Why all this circumlocution? Why these boring asides? To get one to think about intelligence ? about decisions ? about morality - and what determines them.
Can there be different truths for similar facts? Does truth exist alone - above all else? Does it depend upon more than intelligence - more than race, religion and genetic coding?
Weather? Geography? Do they have standing in the process of serious decision making?
Could something as simple as where you were standing or what you believed at the time ? determine truth?
Can all, or even any, of these things come to bear in a small town such as Hennyville?
Friday night in the Fall ? 1999
"What brings you to my back door, you old man, you?"
"Careful - best you show some respect for the Judge you will be facing Monday for your finals. Besides I just came for a cup of that Big Bird scotch of yours ? I ran out."
"Well, the bird is a Grouse ? and you don't drink scotch you old fool. But if it will get you drunk enough to sleep in, and not call me a 5 am to go fishing, it will be cheap even at Grouse prices these days."
With this banter Henny and the Judge started what ended in a long, unimagined discussion, one that pushed at the very limits of a forty-year friendship.
"How about a Wild Turkey instead? I doubt that your body at your age could handle decent whiskey." Henny has spoken these words as he moved into the den toward the liquor bar.
With a slight rise in both volume and inflection the Judge answered. "Fine Hen, whatever is easiest for you."
Holding two tumblers of whiskey, neat, Henny returned to the kitchen table. Through the bay window Henny saw the evening descending upon things he held closest to his heart ?but it was not everything.
As in most small towns in the south, truly bad events are rare. Some are only read about as happening in other places ? places more violent, more unruly than Hennyville, or its fine citizens.
But not always - There had been no murder in Hennyville in several years. Not since the young boy killed several wives of neighbors and was then put down by his own father - much as one would a bird dog that continued to mouth the birds as he reluctantly returned them to his master. That is to say, with great sadness ? yet, a clear understanding of what must be done to save the breed - or in that case, society its self.
For two weeks the Judge had been hearing - and Henny defending, the case of two teenage lovers that killed a child the night before the big football dance & naming of the Queen.
In a large town the trial might have continued for a month or more, but in a small town there was simply no one left to fool or lie too - after two weeks. This fact, Henny, in his closing argument, intended to share with the jury on Monday morning.
"Judge, you shouldn't be here, we both know the rules. I should have just poured your liquor under the screen door."
"Henny, there are rules - then there are exceptions to those rules. Are you telling me I can't have a small libation with my closest friend? Hell, I know we can't talk about your case, thought for the life of me, in this case, I cannot see that it matters. I could see you if Moss Mosley were here. But, we both know his being here would make no difference, as I can hold his position better, no doubt, that Moss would? were he here."
Actually it was Mark, 'Moss' Molasky. His parents had been responsible for dumping the Polish handle, but Mark had earned the "Moss" through diligence and hard work, all by his lonesome.
At seventeen, Mark was 6'3" 225 lbs of weak kneed, weak bodied, weak-minded boy. As in most small schools, there is a dearth of large bodies capable or willing to play football. Hennyville was no different. Though the rebels (could it be any other name) had come in second in the state in 1-A football the year before. They had two all region, and one all state player, returning, but they had no large imposing player on the team.
Moss, aka "swish," up until the day he had been conned into a football uniform, looked mighty fine in his bright new uniform. It was at that point the team renamed Swish ? "Moss." Swish seeming to be somewhat lacking for the man that would be pictured on the program week after week.
Each week it was "Moss" that led the team ? breaking the paper sign held by the cheerleaders and led the team on to the field.
By God ? Thinking back, Henny mused - it was an impressive sight.
Remember, boys were smaller in those days, they ate less and worked harder after school than the present day crowd ? I mean how much weight can a gun and a beer actually add.
And here would come Moss, tall as an oak, wide as a trailer, through the deafening crowd, across the field to the end of the bench where he sat winded - fearful to his bones of the loud noise.
Mossy had no strong beliefs?hell, face it; he had no beliefs at all!In any contentious situation he would not only, not confront - he would simply disappear from the scene.
In a word, Moss made a perfect government employee. As District Attorney, Moss was considered by most, to be - if not a tool of the Judge and the Sheriff ? then at a minimum - a ward of the state. Some local wags even referred to him as, "the Utility Pole."
While that reference will mean little to those that do not live in Hennyville, and simply be taken as a racist remark concerning Moss's heredity. There IS a light pole in Hennyville that carries a special meaning. It is the pole where our Sheriff was once taped with massive amounts of duct tape. The damn pole has become so famous that seldom does a day go by, that if you look long enough, you will not see a car with out of state plates stop and quickly take a picture of Pa Fricker or Ma - standing in front of that stupid pole.
No doubt when they get home, they show the picture to show how brave they were to enter the land of pellagra and bell the cat - so to speak.
"Henny, surely, of all people, you don't believe that the appearance of impropriety is the same as? being improper ? do you? Not after the life you have led; not after all the jams we have seen together. Completely right in our eyes - and in truth, yet at the time, seemingly improper by many in town."
"God Almighty man! Those children did nothing more that what society deems legal and allows done over a million times a year. They killed a fetus! I checked here, and in Athens. Three babies were killed that day - all legally.
Christ a mighty! One was breathing on the table and had its head crushed by some sum'bitch. And?and?and you never called one of those murdering adults to testify! You are letting those children be tried ?not society - the real murderer in this horrible affair.Nobody would find them guilty - had you dragged three surgeons up there and made them tell who they killed that day ? and for whom."
You could hear the creek outside drop from pool to pool; an owl's wings beat loudly against the dark evening. Other night sounds filtered through the room.
The loudest sound of all was - the stark quiet from the kitchen.
Henny stood his back to his friend of forty years. His head pressed against the cool glass of the window, warm air from an increased pulse spread in a fog across the pane of glass.
Slowly, quietly, at first - Henny's voice cut through the now silent night. Even the owls and creek knew better than to interfere.
"You foolish old man. You come here against all legal constructs and question my trial methods. You imply that I am incompetent to defend these two young people. You have had it your way so damn long you forget that this conversation is both illegal and a proper reason for a retrial - or, is that your goddamn purpose here; to drag me, and my clients, into some scheme you have to set things right ? to manipulate the scales of Justice to your will?
"This is me, John, "old Henry." If you go to the State about how I try this case, I will win a directed verdict?I will beat your ass on any point you name. Is that really what you wish? Is that how you want these kids to go through life ? innocent in the eyes of the law, but guilty, as they surely are, in their own minds and hearts?"
"What? ??.Am I pissed?" Henny snarled at his friend.
"Beyond anything that has ever touched my life..And it coming from you - is about more than I can handle tonight. I'm going to bed."
Henny turned at the hall door, and snarling again at his oldest friend, made one final remark.
"John I don't know where you get off coming in my house and discussing a case being tried by me? in front of you, as presiding Judge. Forgetting that breach of law for a moment, I need time to think about the best advantage for the children in this situation; I will say this: Moss is trying this case as a first degree because this town, this state indeed - believes abortion is murder, and perhaps it should be treated as such." "But John, that is not the law as it presently stands. Bringing in what most of the jury believes to be real murderers - and suggesting these children are the same - would, in the jury's eyes - be the end of my clients' chances."
"It would be as though they were standing there dripping blood as they admitted they had legally murdered three children that very same day that my clients were doing the same damn thing across town."
"Our jury can't do anything about the snide little Georgia bitch that kills her baby so she can get back in her tight skirts for fraternity rush week, or can they jail any of the other child killers you named."
"But John - they can do something about my clients, they have them well in hand and may damn will punish the remainder of society by killing these kids."
"That's not going to happen, John. If I have to destroy Moss, the Jury - even our deep and abiding friendship. These children are not going to play Joan of Arc to the Freudian guilt of the American corporate. I will not see them sacrificed to the guilt of those that know abortion is, in most cases, a horrible crime - but are to gutless to stop it."
"That is why you are on the bench? And I am making the big money defending stupid kids."
"I'm going to bed John." Henny had stopped at the stairs and turned to his friend once again ? "Take the Wild Turkey with you when you leave. I don't drink that shit anyway"
Have you ever found - the more tired you seem ? the harder it is to find sleep? The motor keeps running - images ?ideas ?flash unbidden, unstoppable?.
And in Henny's case, unwanted - yet, inescapable.
John had come to the house, in spite of the danger, and the unseemly aspects, if known by outsiders ? to help Henny, his clients, the two children, and their parents - friends to both Henny and the Judge. But there were at least two things about the case that the Judge didn't know ? or should he have known.
The morning - the early morning, would have to have to include a strong apology to his old friend. The Judge deserved to be privy to the facts, at least those facts that did not detrimentally affect his opinion of the children's fate.
And those facts - they were legion.
Saturday morning - early
As a rule Judges do not receive early morning calls; the exception being calls from police officers concerning legal matters such as search warrants.
When the Judge's phone rang at 5 am, first he was pulled from a fitful sleep, then leaning across the double bed careful to avoid disturbing the spot where his wife had slept for some 35 years until her death a few years before, he answered.
Habits, even those no longer needed, stay in one's mind for years.
The Judge, grumpy about the time ? still greatly upset at Henny's wounding words the night before - and the sudden realization of his unnecessary long reach for the phone, fielded the call with a briskness of manor that would have caused the faint of heart to flee the field of battle.
"Christ Almighty Sam, can't you read a clock? Couldn't this call wait for a decent hour? Call me back?Henry? Is that you?"
"What the hell do you mean, ' the Moon is in the seventh house ? time to hit the bream beds?" I am not about to get in a small boat with you ? one of us just may not come back."
The Judge listened for a few moments, as Henny ate humble pie at his wayward treatment of the Judge the night before. He finally interrupted his friend, (as Henny didn't do humble well), saying?
"Well, Bubba does this mean I get to lead ? can I kiss you full on the lips? Mom will be so happy - you making a honest woman of me - at last."
"Errrrr?. You paddle, as well. Damn your hide!"
They had nodded to each other in the car, but otherwise they had been like a white boy in a colored roadhouse bar ?'just-a-grinning' and nodding?. But thinking ? "he had rather be home nailing his own feet to the floor with one-penny nails."
Finally, across the pond and situated abut the bream beds, Henny, without even a warm up word or two - squeaked. "Well Judge, I guess I owe you an explanation?'
For a few moments, that seemed to Henny move in slow motion - much as he envisioned the preludes to death ? you could hear nothing but the light metallic "tic" "tic" of the small waves against metal boat. A boat Henny hated with a passion.
"About now, A friend would have said,' forget it"?. Henny mumbled those words, as if speaking to the assembled fish.
Another eight beats in dead silence and Henny continued, "OK Judge - pout - see if I give a shit!"
Eight beats later, Henny started.
"Judge there are things you don't know about this case and frankly shouldn't. But seeing as how the case is over, but for Moss and my summations Monday, I am going to fill your sorry ass up to the brim. I am gonna make you cry Uncle. I am gonna make you say "tell me no more, my friend, I can't take it"?that's what I am gonna do!"
"You were wrong Judge. There were four abortions, not three, done that very same day that Cathy and Rob killed that "fetus," that "baby" ? or what have you.
Three were college gals wanting to go home to Ohio, or East Jesus - free from those nasty old results of a piggish number of sexual encounters over the summer solace."
"Ah, Johnny my boy, one of those baby killing bitches was, however, of a different cut."
"Remember in our first meeting? Moss Mosley demanding that the charge be first-degree murder? Remember him saying, society could not survive having its children kill its own children?"
"Remember my getting mad and threatening to pinch his head off; my saying, in response, that children have no evil intent, but rather a confused take on morality and reality?"
"That fool Mosley was not only wrong, but he was lying through his teeth. The day he filed for the death penalty trial his sister was having her little tykes head crushed in an abortion in Athens. Thirty-eight, a spinster, and a seven month fetus; the timing would suggest one too many over-night trips to the Library Association Meetings in Atlanta." And Hot ?damn, that moralistic son of a bitch stands there and gives ME lectures about his need to save society from its self. Damn his eyes, John, I am going to ruin that bastard when this is over.
"Me?" the judge had asked Henny quickly about saying the children being innocent, "I was just lying - normal procedure for a trial attorney," Henny had replied.
Henny then, with a rapid change in demeanor, looked straight at the Judge.
"John, we have know each other over fifty years - been close friends for most of those years ? Is there ever a situation, even to save my own life, say, where you believe I would lie to you just to win the day? No, Judge, Look at me. Can you, for a moment even, think I would?"
"Henry, when you are on a tear; when you are after something or someone, like say, when Wal-Mart tried to muscle you ? I can believe you would lie to gain your advantage or to even the playing field; But to me ?over something serious between us ? No, it would never enter my mind."
When Henny had been in the Judges chamber asking that the trials be split - that Cathy and Rob be tried separately, both the Judge and the district attorney had opposed the suggestion.
Henny felt that one of them alone was the cause of the death. But even if he had know that his ideas about the death of the baby could be proved ? still he could not give up a client to a mad ignorant, vindictive fool such as Moss.
But trials are much like chess games; sometimes a forgotten Bishop can come zooming out of the crowd and smite the mighty King. If justice were to prevail Henny would just have to employ that Bishop.
Smiling at himself at the time, Henny had hoped he knew how to find one.
Later the week of the arrest, after reading the various statements by both his clients and studying the statements of the detective and police officials from the so-called crime scene, Henny felt his ideas about the case had been true. Proving it in court would be a different matter; and, at that ? When - and how he proved it - was a matter of deep legal concern, as well.
The fish had been too active for Henny and the Judge to talk about the case and the coming Monday.
Back at the clubhouse, Henny fried up six of the bream ? In a separate pan, he fried green tomatoes slabed with mayonnaise and mustard and dredged in corn meal. Country grits with cheese - small individual omelets and strong coffee finished off the breakfast.
Then, the two old friends, talked.
While the Judge fussed with the first of - so he said, "only three bowls of pipe tobacco I allow myself" ? Henny brought him up to speed on the facts, as he understood them, concerning his clients case.
He reminded the Judge that, as attorney of record, he had requested separate trials for his clients; that the Judge, at the insistence of the District Attorney, had refused.
Interviewing both clients, Henny had noticed a noticeable undercurrent of difference in both response and evidence of feeling about the death of the fetus. A fetus that was far closer to a human than the five months the girl had insisted its age. When speaking Cathy's face showed little emotion other than when pointing out the difficulty and potential punishment their act presented to her future.
Rob? Rob on the other hand could barely speak above a whisper and often broke into deep sobs when discussing the crime. Yet, he seemed remote to the actual facts and in certain matters his testimony conflicted with that of Cathy's own statements to the authorities. Conflicts that were not major by any means?yet, troubling to a man far from convinced of any of the statements presented by - either his clients ? or Moss Mosley and his county detective.
As Henry saw it - Cathy was far too dispassionate ? Rob to vague ? and Moss and his investigator? far too sloppy.
Was it more that that? Henry T. Penny Esq. Atty. at Law - would just have to see.
Henny removed the dishes to the sink ? stopped for a moment ? then returned to the icebox and retrieved the V-8 juice.
Bloody Mary's in front of both, Henny smiled up at the Judge and said.
"John Jr., as you well know, there are many truths. Yet, some ARE more valid than others; some people take the easy way out by ascribing to "truths" that are easy to accept - and cost little to defend."
"Let me give but one example, one we deal with almost daily. It is my job to defend a client to the best of my ability; to protect his rights and see that the law is not unfairly used or applied to his case. But, as an officer of the court, it is further my duty to see that no lies or untruths are entered into the court records knowingly. Simply, I cannot lie or knowingly permit lies, in favor of my client."
John nodded slowly, " True my friend - A perfect answer in an imperfect world. We both know that this rule is followed more n the exception than the rule. Hell, Henry, half the lawyers in the land would be in jail or hoeing cotton, were that rule enforced!"
"Well, that's just perfect. Now you are trimming sails with the best of them. Hello in there?you home, John? This is me - Henny. You know I would lie with the best of them if I thought I was serving a larger truth. But damned if I am going to lie to protect a horrible decision by Moss, or you my, friend ?or ?or? a client I know to be a murderer!
I know what these children did is little different that those that legally kill their babies and therefore not worthy of a capital crime murder charge."
"But Judge, God as my witness, one of my clients ? is indeed - a cold bloodied murderer."
It had been mid morning of the day after the fetus had been found, that Henny had been asked to defend the two young people.Using his thirty years of friendship with Sam, the county Sheriff, Henny had obtained a copy of the District Attorney's list of those interviewed that were staying at the Motel - as well as the statements his clients had given to the detective earlier that morning.
Henny returned to the motel. He asked the owner to look at the list and tell him if any on the list were still registered. Looking at the list for a few moments, Mr. Boatright, the owner, looked slightly puzzled then stepped into his office. After shuffling around for a minute or so, he returned, smiled, and then, looking at Henny, spoke.
"I thought I was right?just wasn't sure. Damn if the government can get anything correct. I thought there was a name missing and I was right. Funny too?. considering Moss spent so much time, least it seemed, getting a statement from her. Right pretty thing too. A little age on her, but hell, I got a little on me too?Right Henry?"
Henny took the woman's name and tag number from the Motel registration. Ten minutes after that, Henny was speaking to a Miss Rachael Sams who resided in the small community of Climax, Pennsylvania.
Miss Sams had stayed in Hennyville because she couldn't get reservations in Athens; The Georgia - Auburn football game had seen to that. Hennyville was the closest motel room Miss Sams could find for that evening.
Unable to sleep, she had stepped outside to have a smoke around 2 am Saturday morning. Sitting quietly, about to re-enter her room, a door briefly startled her from across the courtyard ? light flashed across the yard - then darkness quickly returned. A single figure, though it was far too dark to see a face, moved with some speed to the large metal trash container at the side of the building. The Sams woman said she could see the side and front of the container. The woman had moved to the far side of the container but never raised the top to deposit any trash.
The next morning, before going to breakfast, Miss Sams had mentioned that strange night trip, to the owner behind the desk.
Fearful that some guest had broken an item in the room, and as in many cases, was attempting to hide it until check out time, Mr. Boatright had immediately looked in the trash container. In the back, under old items from a room being upgraded ? he found an item far worse than any he could have ever imagined. The bloody fetus was located below a small door set in the backside of the garbage container.
Henny requested the Sams woman fax a letter containing all of the testimony she had given to the District Attorney. He had further suggested that, if she would but leave it in his good hands, he would do his best to see that she need not return to testify in the trial. He was, of course, careful not to state which trial.
Henny locked eyes with the Judge - opened his brief case and passed him several papers.
"John, If you will look at the time Miss Sams states on the registered letter, she estimates the time this happened to be approximately 2:15 am."
"On this page," Henny slid another item across the table to the Judge, "You will notice that the sales ticket on the items young Rob purchased in Athens, at the 24 hr. drug store, shows a time stamp of 2:20 am."
"If that isn't enough to tell you what happened - then do the time count Rob should have done before assuming that baby was his."The baby was around seven months and old. Rob has been dating Cathy only some five months."
"Were we ever that stupid John?"
"I am tempted to ask you why none of this was ever brought up in the trial Henny. But I think I know."
"Well, one, it would have convicted one of my clients - and that doesn't win you any fans in the criminal trade. Further, there is no assurance the jury would not go bananas - and convict me as well!"
"And lastly, dear friend, there are two people here that need some hard jail time. As for Rob ? what he needs is his bottom slapped hard and then the record purged - if he stays out of trouble."
"Why do you think I fixed you that fine breakfast and brought you all the way out here in the boonies?"
"To have your way with me? Let me warn you? you Ninny, I am a Judge, my virginity won't go with out a fight!""Well that is not what that sweet Mexican chick said in Cozumel."
"She was from New York"
"Whatever?now here is what we should do?." And Henny launched a plan with which he hoped the Judge would find favor, as it could not work without his approval and backing.
"You know, Henry, in all my years on the bench and the many threats; I have never once been threatened to - do something right."
"At least until you came along - my quirky old friend."
A short time later - after discussing, back and forth, how best to see justice done, Henny and the Judge rode back to town to await the coming Monday; eager to see if they could once again get events to bend to their will or be shot down in flames by the system.
Being an event that would never happen in their younger days, but that now ? tampering with justice - event to attempt real justice - could reach up and bite them in a sensitive location. As usual, neither the Judge, nor Henny, could help but attempt to bend the world around them - to a more perfect shape.
Sunday - God rested
Sunday was quiet. Though the Judge and Henny lived backyard-to-backyard, separated by a black water stream and Sam's bachelor Pad (made from a covered bridge spanning the two properties), neither saw the need of further discussion. The die had been cast.
The Judge had, however, spent several hours on the phone both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon with friends in the capitol city and even a few calls to other areas of the state.
Monday morning the Judge and Henny did not sit together at Rosie's Fine Food Café. Normally each morning the Judge, Henny, and Sam the Sheriff, held fort at the restaurant, over their morning coffee. On those court days Henny was to appear before the Court, they sat apart.
When Henny walked into the restaurant he noticed that Sam and the Judge were in some serious discussion. Patting Sam on the back the Judge arose and left the table looking not even once in Henny's direction.
What the hell is that all about? Crossed Henny's mind briefly; But the pressure of his upcoming defense summation soon drove the question from his mind.
Upon entering the Court House Henny had been immediately summoned to the Judges chamber.
"Sit down Henry, Moss has something to tell us." Then looking at Moss with some derision?"Well go on Moss, Henry is here now?out with it."
"Your Honor, I have been told that the two of you spent the weekend together discussing this case. My informant said you have decided the outcome already and will throw out the Murder One charge."
"I won't have it ? you hear me?"
"If Henry asked that it be dropped, I will have no choice but to go to the State and ask that your license be suspended. Judge I don't hold you personally responsible for this affair?I know how devious Penny is, and has been all his life - but you will leave me no choice."
Turning to "Mr. Penny" the Judge asked, "Well, Sir, do you have anything to say for yourself?"
"Would scared shitless be appropriate? Then turning to Moss?"
"Moss, I will do what I need to do to save my clients from your reckless misapplication of both the law and common sense ? you do what you feel you must."
"Don't say I didn't warn you, Mr. Fancy fellow. I know how you feel about me getting this job and you not."
"Moss, there is no way on earth for you to?to? to know how little I have, ever in my life, thought about you - up until this Mad House trial of yours. Try and fuck me over if you wish, but lets leave the children out of this?"
"Christ! - I sound like some ditsy housewife." With that Henny turned and left the chamber.
"Judge, are you going to let him get away with that!!"
"You are right Moss ? I will speak to him about it."
"Well, I should hope so. At least one of you sees what damage I could cause."
"Yeah, I hate to see an officer of the court use poor language in the court house ?Henny should have never said "Christ"? and with that, John too, left his chambers and walked toward the courtroom.
The summations had been short; Moss because he thought he had won the day; Henny because all he felt he needed to do was point out that it was no murder. but only at worst, a case of manslaughter.
The Judge then in instructing the jury, established that the evidence supported no charge of murder or even showed it to have been attempted.
Those charges were thrown out.
He further stated that there was a dead baby; Yet, no evidence had been presented that showed it to be an unfortunate accident. (Remember, Henny knew the truth yet, could not in a responsible legal term, lie about the situation)
After an hour, while Moss continued to fume, the jury returned. Unnoticed, Sam and several Deputies stood along the back of the courtroom - one was even dispatched to cover the judge's exit.
In that hour the jury found that the death of the fetus/baby had been an illegal misadventure and called for the sanction of second-degree manslaughter.
Other than a snarling, "I warned you," from the prosecution table, the courtroom was quiet - many in relief, others in confused wonder why the decision had not been murder.
But, unlike the large cites of the land, people in the town trusted each other and knew that each jurist had given his best and voted his beliefs in the case presented ? not some hate filled, shameful decision such as in California with that snide, narcissist football player and his jury of stupidly evil black "peers."
When the crowd cleared, Sam, along with the two strangers in suits, moved down the isle, and spoke briefly with Moss. Looking over his shoulder at the Judge and Henry, Moss was led from the court.
As he looked at the scene, it came to Henny in a flash just how busy his friend must have been over the last weekend.
"Henry my man! That is more than a morning's heavy lifting. I believe I could eat a small horse - if you are buying."
"Well sure, you old scoundrel, but lets invite Sam if he is through, and get the skinny from him. If I can get him to play liars Poker** I can stick him for lunch, as well.
**This is a man's' bar game where one takes random one-dollar bills from one's pocket look at the serial number and bet in turn. The players can either bet or challenge the bet before him ? win you win all the other dollars, if no one over calls - lose and you pay each in the game a dollar?when playing for lunch it is only one round loser pays.
Henny of course goes to the bank and goes through the bills and picks unusual bills in order to give him a leg up on his buddy Sam.No it is not cheating as much as an attempt to keep a good friend flustered. Henny's winning streak is now at 12 straight and poor Sam just about eats the tablecloth with each new loss.
When they were alone Henny looked at his old friend. "You called the Attorney General this weekend didn't you?"
"And the Governor as well, Hen - Had to; Told Ralph first, that I was going to be forced to jail one of his boys. He told me that the Governor had almost forced him to pick Moss due to some political debt owed."
I told Ralph that I would leave it to his province with two agreements, one: That he pull Moss's ticket so he can't practice again. Two: That he get Moss out of the courtroom before my sentencing - and that both of them accept my sentence recommendation and see them followed."
The next afternoon the Judge pronounced his sentences for the two young people. John made no long-winded speech about the affair or his rulings in the matter. He only stated that, along with their lawyer, he would see each group separately in his chambers, for a short explanation - after sentencing.
Cathy's family had been first. Mad enough to be tied, her father all but threatened both the Judge and Henny. Henny, as well, had been surprised at the 12 years John had given Cathy for her part in the death. But from the distance of the next day he could see that her sentence was that she was the sole reason for the death of the fetus.
Remembering thoughts from the night he accepted the case Henny would have considered 12 years to be a victory ? but isn't that like most things - humans are never satisfied, once a certain safety had been reached. Guess it explains both - Las Vegas and hookers with golden hearts.
The Judge waited for all the animosity to reach a low simmer then forced Cathy to tell her family the truth, the hard, mean truth, not only about her baby's death, but her having roped poor Rob into thinking it was his baby. The real white trash father had laughed in her face, and moved with his real love ? his bike ? to Athens.
John went on to tell them that 12 years was the least time he wished to have on record for killing a baby, but that she would be released in 5 years if she continued her education in the minimum-security Estate where she would be kept. He went on to state if the family wished to ask for a reversal then there was sufficient eye witness accounts to see that their daughter was actually tried and convicted of murder the next time around.
Rob's family was happy with the sentence until John told them that Rob had not only nothing to do with the death of the child but that the child was not his ? Then?. they blew up. Blaming Henny for doing a lousy job for their son and threatening to ask for a re-trial as well as a return of the fee Henny had been paid.
Then the situation switched. The Judge looked at Henny when He had finished speaking, with a respect he always held for his friend - but like most things, a feeling that needs a re-nourishing from time to time.
"Tom, your father and I were friends for twenty years. I hunted and fished with him most of that time. Since he died neither John nor myself have been allowed on any of those 20,000 acres of yours. Yet, the first sign of trouble, you come to me and ask that I defend your son against a charge of first-degree murder.
You said name my price ? and I did ? In addition to that, here in this room you have called me every name in the book, in front of my friend, and your wife and child.
I will, in time, forgive you for that? but the chance of my returning the fee for service is not - slim to none?it's flat none. The Judge was about to tell you the real sentence your son will serve - that is if I don't get too pissed and call the whole thing off."
"Rob helped hide a crime which makes it part of the crime. I preferred to consider it his being duped by a narcissist little slut. I am well willing to forget and see him tried again for murder, if you wish.
Rob needs not your protection, but your understanding and support while he gets his life back together. If you ask Rob I would bet he knows he needs to atone for his mistakes and if pushed will tell you returning to Hennyville High is not high on his present list of? "Things to do tomorrow."
Yesterday, I called the Attorney general and asked that he give special consideration to this case?I must have hit him just right as he laughed and said he would contact the Judge and discuss the situation."
John broke in on his long-winded friend, and said,
"Tom, I gave your son one year for his part in this mess. It is to be served in one of those military type programs and they will cut him some time to finish his schoolwork. If he finishes the work and grows more mature in his outlook he will be released in a year and all records redacted and removed from system..Even the FBI will not be able to find out about the year?.I, of course, can't swear about the democratic slime machine and the DNC.
You are lucky you have a decent son, you are even luckier to know people that give you a better shake - than you do them."
After Tom Duckworth and his family left, Henny turned to the Judge, "You had already talked to the Attorney General before, I called him ? hadn't you? I thought it funny when he mentioned that you certainly did have some peculiar friends."
"Of course, I had. I wasn't going to let Moss get our "tickets punched" and you lose your law license. But you my friend what were you doing going behind my back without telling me? Answer me that."
The Judge knew why Henny had gone directly to the Attorney General. It was to take the blame should anything go wrong. It was to protect the Judge and Sam and any others in the Court House complex from the wrath of the State should the game fail.
But none of this would ever be discussed in open ? never admitted.
That they cared enough to stand for the whole blame should things fall apart would only be approached much later - in the form of kidding or twisting the knife in each others ribs. This was the only form of love ever admitted by men. This is the one act seldom seen or understood by women ? even women close to men.
That night Henny broiled prime steaks ordered especially from a special Prime Beef shipper in the mid-west. After grilling Sam about Moss and his arrest, the only other talk concerning the trial or the outcome was one question to Henny from the Judge.
Henny, I have never seen Tom Duckworth so pissed. You must have socked him for way more than the $100,000 I expected you to charge?was it the Murder One charge that got him to pony up more, as tight as he is? Hell, I thought he would sell a child of his for $100,000 bucks."
"Yeah," Sam added to the mix. "How much did you skin off that rich little rat?"
Slowly, Henny reached for his wallet, dug around for a minute or so, mumbling about having lost the damn thing ? then produced a sheet of paper folded to a size fit for the wallet.
He tossed the paper to John and went to the bar for another Brandy.
John spread the single sheet of paper on his knee and found his glasses after a short search of his own. In Henny's handwriting, but notarized and witnessed by two people - one being the town clerk.Was the following remarkable document:
"Let it be know by all that this, tenth day of September, 1999, this paper represents and entire contract between Henry Penny and Tom Duckworth, to include his estate and heirs.
For services rendered by Mr. Penny in representing Rob Duckworth, son, in matters before the Courts of this state, Payment for these services shall be the unencumbered rights to the use of all lands owned or rented by the holdings of Tom Duckworth and his various company entities. This use shall consist primarily of hunting and fishing rights, but does not preclude other uses should they arise. This contract contemplates the same use being allowed to Judge John Strother and Sheriff Samuel Jones. These rights shall not be abused and no further rights may be extended. Additional persons may be included but ONLY in accompaniment of the above named parties.
"That's Mighty fine Henry, you thinking of Sam and myself like that?Mighty fine" Then cutting his eyes to Sam, the Judge went on, "but Bubba, what we both want to know is if you were offered $100,000 dollars to defend that boy?
"No Judge?I was of?"
The Judge, cutting off Henny, said, "See Sam, I told you it was just some foolish town gossip. That man is too cheap to spend that kind of money ? even on his son."
"Well, if you had let me finish, you old goat, I would have told you Tom did offer me that amount to serve as Rob's attorney. Then I showed him the contract that I just read to you two, and Duckworth raised the offer to $150,000."
"But I'm no fool; I wasn't going to let him screw me down like that!"
Henny, then, putting his feet on the desk; leaned back in his chair, lit a Cuban cigar he had been saving for months, and smiled the smile of the truly self-satisfied.