The Little Pipsqueak
© 2012 Matthew Templar
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyrighted by Matthew Templar, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
From Chapter Eighteen
"I, um, need to study this a bit more before we proceed, in my chambers. If you will, bailiff."
Immediately, the judge rose as did the bailiff who addressed the assembly.
The door slammed but I could hear the judge say as he closed the door, "You are not going to believe this. It's worse than what you thought. He thinks . . ."
We began to look at one another wondering what was going on. Cybill looked back at me with sadness in her eyes. I know it was because the young boy sitting next to her didn't believe he deserved a trial and certainly not freedom.
After about five minutes of quiet whispering among ourselves and me holding AJ back from going up to Jeffy, we heard a loud guffaw come from the judge's chambers. AJ and I looked at one another in awe. Then AJ mouthed,
But right then we heard a buzz at the bailiff's desk to which he immediately rose and announced, "All rise. This court is now, uh, still in session. The honorable . . ."
"Oh, they know who I am, George," said the judge as he stepped up to his bench and sat down. "Let's get on with this. Bailiff, introduce the case."
The bailiff read the name of the accused, Daniel Jeffrey Connors, and that of the prosecution, the county, and sat down.
"Who is representing the county in this matter?" asked the judge.
"I am, your Honor, Elizabeth Madden and my colleague, Keith Breyson, Assistant District Attorneys for the county."
"Assistant District Attorney Madden, this is a pretty serious case, is it not?"
"Oh, yes sir, very serious indeed."
"Yes, so tell me then, where is your boss? Shouldn't he be running this show?"
"Well, sir, we had no idea that we'd be called to a hearing so soon, let alone these proceedings before he returned from an, um, business meeting in Las Vegas. As you know, we are usually the ones to call for . . ."
"Yes, yes. I'm well aware of the procedure, but thank you for the instruction."
A light tittering was heard throughout the small crowd and the cheeks of Ms. Madden began to turn pink.
"And tell me in your own estimation, Ms. Madden, how long does it usually take to bring an accused to such a proceeding as this, to hear the charges and set bail, when someone that is accused of a crime in this county?"
"Oh, sir, you have to realize this is a very special case. Why, we've never . . ." She was obviously getting a little flustered. She'd look at her colleague once in a while but he didn't seem to be doing much better, not by the look of his sweaty shirt collar.
"Ms. Madden, I didn't ask you to elaborate on anything. Please just answer my question to the best of your ability. Just an average will do."
She immediately looked at her colleague as if he knew. Then she looked up at the judge with a blank stare.
"Um, um, I . . ."
"Thank you, Ms. Madden. Sit down until I call on you again. You might work on the little assignment I just gave you in the meantime."
Her blush was crimson. As soon as she'd sat down again she hit the other district attorney and glared at him. The crowd laughed out loud.
"Quiet!" said the judge, waving the gavel he just used to get their attention. "Who is representing the defendant, one Daniel Jeffrey Connors?"
Cybill rose with her sister, who stood on the other side of Jeffy.
"Sir, if it pleases the court, in the absence of my boss, Mr. Patterson, I've asked my sister, Lenore Dexter, who is a board certified attorney in this state, to assist, well, to take on the case of the county versus my client, I mean, the defendant, Daniel Jeffrey Connors."
I could see that she was somewhat nervous, though nowhere near what I would have been up there, especially with the mood of the judge, set in by the last attorney to address him.
"Ms. Hawthorne, is it? What is your background and your interest in the case?" asked the judge in a tone that we hadn't heard up until then. He was soft-spoken and even smiled a bit.
"Sir, I'm a paralegal in Mr. Patterson's law firm. I have about one year until my boards. I've read through the discovery and everything I could get my hands on, sir. I want to help young Mr. Connors in any way I can. I'm sorry if I sound a little nervous."
"Nonsense. You're doing fine. Ms. Dexter, I think we've met when I filled in for Judge Remington several years ago, if my memory serves me," he said in an almost friendly tone to Cybill's sister.
"Yes, sir. I'm delighted to be in your courtroom again. We needed your strengths then as much as we need them today, your Honor," Lenore said with a bright smile and her usual confidence.
"Well, luckily our strength will reside in the law of our fine county. I think it will suffice in this case as it did in that instance, don't you think?"
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'm going to ask you to sit down, Ms. Dexter, while your sister handles the case for young Connors here. I think she'll do a fine job, don't you?"
"Oh yes sir," beamed Cybill's sister as she turned to look at her sibling at their table. She looked like she couldn't have been prouder to be standing with her at that moment. Then she sat down.
"But, sir, I . . ."
"Ms. Hawthorne, you are doing just fine; be good practice for you too. Now, you dig into that vast wealth of knowledge that you've been developing since you started on your trek through the judicial training you've accumulated and let yourself enjoy the feel of a real courtroom and all of its proceedings in which you are a major contributor."
"Um, yes sir, I guess," said Cybill, but I could see the confidence slowly building in her, especially when she saw Judge Davenport's smile from the bench.
"Then tell us, Ms. Hawthorne, in your short span of experience either reading about or participating with your firm in such proceedings as this, what is the average length of time for similar proceedings?"
"Well, I think it should only be a day or two, a week at the most, before the charges are made against the defendant. In this case that would have been almost three weeks ago, except for the addition of one charge, which could have been made after the initial presentation, I'm sure."
"Bingo, Ms. Hawthorne. Did you hear that, Ms. Madden, Mr. Breyson? One or two days after charges were made. Does that ring a bell?"
Both of the attorneys nodded their heads, but their eyes were looking at the table in front of them.
"And what pray tell is that added charge of which you expect to convict the Connors boy? (Pause.) I'm sorry, I didn't hear you," he said after some mumbling was heard at the prosecutor's table.
"Um, yes sir, he was additionally charged with grand theft of his father's, um, stepfather's car, sir."
"WHAT?" yelled Jeffy. He was halfway standing when both Cybill and Lenore held his shoulders down until he returned to his seat. "Yeah, but he said I could . . ."
"Son, son, try to calm down. Everything will work out. I'm sorry for you to have to hear this in this way especially," said the judge, glaring at the prosecutors. "I suppose you have a reason why the boy wasn't told of this added charge, either of you?" Judge Davenport leaned forward with his chin resting on his hand as if he were about to hear an interesting folktale.
The two attorneys scrambled through the folders on their desk, looking for their way out of the corner their boss had just shoved them into.
"Sir, you'd have to ask District Attorney Thomas. I don't have any notes to tell me why."
"Oh, you don't, do you? Then let's just let that one drop until he gets here on Monday, shall we?"
"Oh, well, okay I guess," said Madden, looking from her peer to the judge. Breyson just shrugged his shoulders.
"And is that okay with your client, Ms. Hawthorne?"
"Yes sir!" said Cybill with great gusto, as though she'd won a round that she didn't even have to play in.
When Jeffy looked lost, she leaned down and whispered to him. His head sunk and he slowly shook his head. His tears dropped onto the table.
"Okay, Ms. Madden, what other charges do you have against the accused? I think we're on a roll. We may yet get out of here by lunch."
"Sir, the most serious charge is the three counts of attempted murder. That would mean . . ."
"Thank you, Ms. Madden. I know what that means. It means that he had the ability to shoot that gun at all three of the men standing there that day. Do you agree?"
"Why, yes, that's what the evidence will show, your honor," she said with a little bit more confidence in her voice while the judge seemed to be agreeing with her. "Especially with the loaded gun he was carrying."
"One moment, Ms. Madden, while I try to clear this up. Young Connors, young man, I need to ask you a question. Are you with me, Daniel?"
Before I could catch him, AJ stood up and said, "He likes to be called Jeffy, your honor, sir. All of his friends do it, you know."
As Jeffy turned to look at AJ with the only smile I'd seen on his face since the incident with Jarod against my AJ, the judge spoke to AJ.
"I see, and are you one of those friends of his, young man?"
AJ couldn't have looked prouder, nor been less intimidated and Jeffy couldn't have looked more surprised as my son answered the dignified man at the bench, way above everyone's head in that courtroom.
"Oh, yes sir. I hope he thinks I'm one of his best friends ever. I really do."
"Thank you. Well, son," he said, directing himself back to Jeffy, "Is Jeffy acceptable to you, Mr. Connors?"
"Mr. Connors? Um, Jeffy, will you please look at me?" asked the judge in a gentle tone of voice, almost soothing.
Evidently Jeffy heard the sincerity of the voice of someone in authority, someone that while they could send him away for a very long time, seemed to be trying to be his friend as well.
Jeffy looked up to see Judge Davenport smiling back at him.
"Jeffy, you've been through hell of late, haven't you?"
He looked down and nodded his head.
"Aw, aw, looking, looking, Jeffy, my boy. Up here," said the judge with what could be called a bit of laughter in his voice, like he was playing an innocent game with the boy.
We were all a little surprised, but none more than Jeffy. He really looked up, trying to see what this man was about.
"Do you remember that day, Jeffy? The day you drove over to Sergeant McGill's house in your stepfather's car with the gun in your pocket?"
Jeffy nodded but kept his eyes on his questioner.
"Son, do you remember the gun? Where'd you get it?"
"Your Honor!" interrupted Ms. Madden, jumping to her feet.
"Ms. Madden, first I asked you not to speak until spoken to. Now, I need you to let me ask a few questions. Isn't it our goal here for justice to be served in the case of, no, in the life of this young boy? Isn't that what we pledged to do so many years ago when we took our oath?"
Ms. Madden nodded and sat back down.
"Jeffy, you got the gun where?"
It was the first time I'd heard Jeffy speak in more than an outburst since we'd visited him in the detention center. This time he was as calm as I'd ever heard him.
"I . . . I, uh, it was my dad's; my real dad's gun. It was in his desk in the basement. I, uh, I remember because it didn't have any bullets in it. I didn't even know what I was looking for, but I found one in another drawer and put it in it before I took off."
There was a gasp of realization from the prosecutor's table and a big grin on Cybill's face as she looked around at me. She knew.
"One bullet, huh? And then what happened, Jeffy? Do you remember what happened next?"
"Sure, um, I got in the car . . . then . . . I drove . . ., no wait! I . . . um, I guess I don't remember what happened after that. I'm sorry," he said, nearly in tears, looking from the judge to Cybill, finally looking back at me and crying softly, "I'm so sorry. I just don't remember any of it."
"That's okay, Jeffy. Can you tell me the next thing you remember happening? Was it at the sergeant's house?"
"The next thing? Well, oh, yeah, we hit a bump. That's the next thing I remember." He looked a bit relieved that he had something to share.
"You mean you remember hitting a bump as you drove to the sergeant's house? Is that what you remember?"
I looked around and saw the look of disappointment on several people's faces. I felt the same way. I was hoping against hope that . . .
"Oh, no, sir. I remember hitting a bump when the cop, um, officer was driving into the station. I was in the back with those handcuffs on and almost hit my head on the ceiling of the car. He even apologized. Yeah, I remember him apologizing."
I could hear the relief in the room. I remember looking at the judge with his eyes closed when he'd asked Jeffy about the bump, knowing it was going to be bad news. Then the look on his face was hope. I know that had to be what he was thinking.
"Jeffy, do you remember being at the sergeant's house, with two officers and Sergeant McGill in the yard when you got out of your car and shot at the sergeant?"
It looked like Jeffy was going to lose it. His head went down and his shoulders started to shake. Cybill put her arm around him and he turned into her. I could hear him mumble something as she held him. She gently pulled him away from her and whispered something to him. He shook his head and she said a little louder,
"You need to tell the judge what you just said. That's exactly what he wants to hear."
"She's leading," said Ms. Madden, jumping to her feet.
"Oh, will you sit down? This is not a contest, Ms. Madden, to find out who won the blue ribbon in their law school. We're trying to save a life here. Do you understand?"
She kind of nodded her head, looked at her partner and sat down.
"Let me ask you again, Jeffy, do you remember being at the sergeant's house at all?"
Jeffy turned back to the judge, but wouldn't let Cybill take her arms away from him.
"I . . . I don't remember any of that, but some men came one night and told, well, kinda yelled at me what I'd done to that deputy guy. I'm so sorry. I didn't even wanna shoot anyone, especially not Sergeant. He was right all along. Everyone knows that. He saved his own skin and AJ's too. And . . . and AJ's about the neatest kid there is. I'm glad he didn't get hurt and I'm glad he found someone as neat as Sergeant McGill. I wish I . . ." He started to fade away, much as when he had entered the courtroom. "Well, anyway, I don't remember that stuff. And I'm just so sorry I killed that deputy. I didn't even know I pulled the trigger."
The gasp from everyone filled the room. Jeffy looked around in awe like he had said something in the worst way possible. To him, I'm sure, he was just stating what he knew to be fact.
"Jeffy?" called the judge, sitting straight up in his chair.
Jeffy immediately turned his attention back to the judge, the look of fear in his eyes like he knew it was all over.
"Jeffy, am I to assume you don't know the outcome of your actions that day in Sergeant McGill's front yard?"
"You . . . you mean what happened? Um, yes sir, I do," said Jeffy as quietly as possible, obviously afraid to say the wrong thing again. "Those men said that that deputy guy jumped in front of Sergeant and caught the bullet, the bullet I shot at Sergeant. So I killed him, right?"
The judge's head hung and it shook slowly back and forth.
"Right?" asked Jeffy looking first at Cybill then Lenore, then around her to me. He was lost.
"Ms. Madden, Mr. Breyson, stand up," commanded the judge, back to the voice of authority that caused the whole room to hush.
When they were on their feet, heads bowed, the judge continued, "Tell us all why the boy is here again? Is he being charged with murder? Was a death the result of the only bullet in the defendant's possession at the time of the shooting?"
He didn't even wait for them to answer.
"Then why wasn't this boy made aware of his charges? I guess what concerns me is that Ms. Hawthorne, after carefully going over every scrap of evidence and notes in the case that your office provided her, had no way of knowing what the boy was told, since the charges of attempted murder was filed. Is that right?"
"Well, you honor . . ."
"That's what I thought. Sit down. Now!"
He turned his head to Jeffy again, who was looking anxiously at everything going on, struggling to understand its meaning. He looked at Cybill who rubbed his arm and whispered to him. Jeffy turned his full attention to the judge.
"Jeffy, I am so sorry for what this county has put you through. There is no excuse for it." Then he turned to the bailiff. "Bailiff, have the deputy brought in."
The bailiff stood and called out, "Please have Deputy Sheriff Daniel Perkins brought into the courtroom."
At that a deputy by the door left the room.
Jeffy was still perplexed. He looked as confused as ever. If we'd known what he didn't know, I'm sure we could have saved the boy from some of the torment he'd been going through for weeks.
Almost immediately the doors swung open and Dan appeared in full dress uniform. He walked right up to the gate that separated the crowd from the court proceedings area and stood proudly. He turned to smile at us and then at the bewildered boy at the defense table.
"Son," said the judge, "This is Deputy Sheriff Daniel Perkins, the man you shot that day in Sergeant McGill's front yard when he jumped in between you and the sergeant."
Jeffy again looked lost. His head swung every which way to see if he could see some reaction from the others to tell him what he needed to understand.
The judge turned to Dan and said, "Deputy, can you show the boy, um, the defendant, Daniel Jeffrey Connors, the wound you incurred on that day?"
"Um, well, no sir, I mean, your Honor, I can't," replied my friend.
"Can't, Deputy?" asked the judge, knowing full well the reason.
"Yes sir, can't. There is no wound. As you know, I was a wearing a Kevlar vest which only allowed the bullet to bruise my sternum. It healed in a few days."
"HUH?" we all heard from Jeffy who was more confused than ever.
"If I may, sir," asked Dan of the judge, pointing to the boy.
Judge Davenport nodded with a smile and a push of his head to send the deputy over to the boy.
Dan went through the swinging gate and approached a crying boy who was trying to get to his feet.
"Son, it sure stung, but nothing came of it because of that vest. I guess you thought you did me in, huh? But you barely hurt me. After all, it was about the smallest bullet you could have used."
Jeffy started to collapse, weeping in huge sobs, just as Dan reached out and grabbed him into his arms. Through tears we heard the boy cry out his sorrow and apologize to the strong man who wasn't about to let him down.
"So you see, Jeffy, you didn't kill anyone. You hardly even hurt the man who's holding you and it doesn't look much like he hates you for it. Does it?" asked the judge.
Jeffy rubbed his head against a wet uniform and he shook his head into Dan's chest. Dan let out a laugh and a relieved crowd let out an audible sigh.
"Madden, Breyson, rise!"
Two distraught attorneys jumped to their feet.
"I'd like a few things to happen yet today, attorneys for the prosecution. One, I think we need to drop all charges, unless there is crime against testing Kevlar vests."
"HUH? But sir . . ."
"Enough. Your office has battered this boy, if not physically, then most assuredly, emotionally until his weak self-esteem has been shattered, hopefully, not irreparably. No one, especially one so young and vulnerable should have to go through what he has; no one. Given the set of circumstances that he was never made aware of his charges by the county as well as the reprehensible home life at the hands of his stepfather, I'm certain that the office of the District Attorney will see to it that this boy has full access to any and all counseling he should ever need. Do I make myself clear?"
"Second," the judge went on, "In order to save your jobs, I want you to make yourselves scarce from your office, hell, from the county if need be, until you present yourselves here on Monday next at 9 AM. I do not want you to see your boss until then. I also do not want you two to meet each other, have any contact whatsoever with anyone in your office or speak of these proceedings until we meet again Monday, except to clear the charges. Is that clear?"
"Oh, uh, yes sir, very clear."
"Then make it all happen, now! And if I hear that you have in anyway contacted or tried to contact your boss, Mr. Thomas, I'll have you brought up on contempt charges that will not only have you enjoying the paradise of our fine penal system but you will also realize how poor the job market is in this country, in the area of convenience store personnel, if I ever decide to let you out. Now, is that clear?"
"Damn straight, sir!" Breyson practically yelled. He even started to salute but quickly thought better of it.
"Oh brother! Case dismissed!" the judge shouted angrily, banging the gavel down in front of him.
"Now, both of you, get out of my courtroom. We'll talk about the history and future of your department at another, more convenient time, that is, more convenient for me and the county commissioners. Oh, one other thing. It looks like the District Attorney's office is going to spring for the dry cleaning of the deputy's dress uniform."
After dropping things and fumbling around long enough to cause some laughter from those around them, the two attorneys hurried from the courtroom.
"Bailiff, I want this courtroom cleared of everyone except the defendant's, no, make that ex-defendant's table, and these two people behind them," he said, pointing to AJ and me, "And, of course, Deputy Perkins."
AJ turned toward me to ask, "Me and you too?"
"I guess he must think you're pretty special, huh?" I said shrugging my shoulders.
"Wo-o-ow!" he mouthed at me before sitting up even straighter and looking back at everyone leaving.
End of Chapter Nineteen