Chapter Twenty-Two


The Rainy Day Robber case brought Jennifer new headlines. The accused man had been called to her attention by Father Ryan.

"A friend of mine has a bit of a problem - " he began, and they both burst out laughing.

The friend turned out to be Paul Richards, a transient, accused of robbing a bank of a hundred and fifty thousand dollars. A robber had walked into the bank wearing a long black raincoat, under which was hidden a sawed-off shotgun. The collar of the raincoat was raised so that his face was partially hidden. Once inside the bank, the man had brandished the shotgun and forced a teller to hand over all his available cash. The robber had then fled in a waiting automobile. Several witnesses had seen the getaway car, a green sedan, but the license number had been covered with mud.

Since bank robberies were a federal offense, the FBI had entered the case. They had put the modus operandi into a central computer and it had come up with the name of Paul Richards.

Jennifer went to visit him at Riker's Island.

"I swear to God I didn't do it," Paul Richards said. He was in his fifties, a red-faced man with cherubic blue eyes, too old to be running around pulling bank robberies.

"I don't care whether you're innocent or guilty," Jennifer explained, "but I have one rule. I won't represent a client who lies to me."

"I swear on my mother's life I didn't do it."

Oaths had ceased to impress Jennifer long ago. Clients had sworn their innocence to her on the lives of their mothers, wives, sweethearts and children. If God had taken those oaths seriously, there would have been a serious decline in the population.

Jennifer asked, "Why do you think the FBI arrested you?"

Paul Richards answered without hesitation. "Because about ten years ago I pulled a bank job and was dumb enough to get caught."

"You used a sawed-off shotgun under a raincoat?"

"That's right. I waited until it was raining, and then hit a bank."

"But you didn't do this last job?"

"No. Some smart bastard copied my act."

The preliminary hearing was before Judge Fred Stevens, a strict disciplinarian. It was rumored that he was in favor of shipping all criminals off to some inaccessible island where they would stay for the rest of their lives. Judge Stevens believed that anyone caught stealing for the first time should have his right hand chopped off, and if caught again, should have his left hand chopped off, in ancient Islamic tradition. He was the worst judge Jennifer could have asked for. She sent for Ken Bailey.

"Ken, I want you to dig up everything you can on Judge Stevens."

"Judge Stevens? He's as straight as an arrow. He - "

"I know he is. Do it, please."

The federal prosecutor who was handling the case was an old pro named Carter Gifford.

"How are you going to plead him?" Gifford asked.

Jennifer gave him a look of innocent surprise. "Not guilty, of course."

He laughed sardonically. "Judge Stevens will get a kick out of that. I suppose you're going to move for a jury trial."

"No."

Gifford studied Jennifer suspiciously. "You mean you're going to put your client in the hands of the hanging judge?"

"That's right."

Gifford grinned. "I knew you'd go around the bend one day, Jennifer. I can't wait to see this."

"The United States of America versus Paul Richards. Is the defendant present?"

The court clerk said, "Yes, Your Honor."

"Would the attorneys please approach the bench and identify themselves?"

Jennifer and Carter Gifford moved toward Judge Stevens.

"Jennifer Parker representing the defendant"

"Carter Gifford representing the United States Government."

Judge Stevens turned to Jennifer and said brusquely, "I'm aware of your reputation, Miss Parker. So I'm going to tell you right now that I do not intend to waste this court's time. I will brook no delays in this case. I want to get on with this preliminary hearing and get the arraignment over with. I intend to set a trial date as speedily as possible. I presume you will want a jury trial and - "

"No, Your Honor."

Judge Stevens looked at her in surprise. "You're not asking for a jury trial?"

"I am not. Because I don't think there's going to be an arraignment."

Carter Gifford was staring at her. "What?"

"In my opinion, you don't have enough evidence to bring my client to trial."

Carter Gifford snapped, "You need another opinion!" He turned to Judge Stevens. "Your Honor, the government has a very strong case. The defendant has already been convicted of committing exactly the same crime in exactly the same manner. Our computer picked him out of over two thousand possible suspects. We have the guilty man right here in this courtroom, and the prosecution has no intention of dropping the case against him."

Judge Stevens turned to Jennifer. "It seems to the court that there is enough prima facie evidence here to have an arraignment and a trial. Do you have anything more to say?"

"I do, Your Honor. There is not one single witness who can positively identify Paul Richards. The FBI has been unable to find any of the stolen money. In fact, the only thing that links the defendant to this crime is the imagination of the prosecutor."

The judge stared down at Jennifer and said with ominous softness, "What about the computer that picked him out?"

Jennifer sighed. "That brings us to a problem, Your Honor."

Judge Stevens said grimly, "I imagine it does. It is easy to confuse a live witness, but it is difficult to confuse a computer."

Carter Gifford nodded smugly, "Exactly, Your Honor."

Jennifer turned to face Gifford. "The FBI used the IBM 370/168, didn't it?"

"That's right. It's the most sophisticated equipment in the world."

Judge Stevens asked Jennifer, "Does the defense intend to challenge the efficiency of that computer?"

"On the contrary, Your Honor. I have a computer expert here in court today who works for the company that manufactures the 370/168. He programmed the information that turned up the name of my client."

"Where is he?"

Jennifer turned and motioned to a tall, thin man seated on a bench. He nervously came forward.

Jennifer said, "This is Mr. Edward Monroe."

"If you've been tampering with my witness," the prosecuting attorney exploded, "I'll - "

"All I did was to request Mr. Monroe to ask the computer if there were other possible suspects. I selected ten people who had certain general characteristics similar to my client. For purposes of identification, Mr. Monroe programmed in statistics on age, height, weight, color of eyes, birthplace - the same kind of data that produced the name of my client."

Judge Stevens asked impatiently, "What is the point of all this, Miss Parker?"

"The point is that the computer identified one of the ten people as a prime suspect in the bank robbery."

Judge Stevens turned to Edward Monroe. "Is this true?"

"Yes, Your Honor." Edward Monroe opened his briefcase and pulled out a computer readout

The bailiff took it from Monroe and handed it to the judge. Judge Stevens glanced at it and his face became red.

He looked at Edward Monroe. "Is this some kind of joke?"

"No, sir."

"The computer picked me as a possible suspect?" Judge Stevens asked.

"Yes, sir, it did."

Jennifer explained, "The computer has no reasoning power, Your Honor. It can only respond to the information it is given. You and my client happen to be the same weight, height and age. You both drive green sedans, and you both come from the same state. That's really as much evidence as the prosecuting attorney has. The only other factor is the way in which the crime was done. When Paul Richards committed that bank robbery ten years ago, millions of people read about it. Any one of them could have imitated his modus operandi. Someone did." Jennifer indicated the piece of paper in Judge Stevens' hand. "That shows you how flimsy the State's case really is."

Carter Gifford sputtered, "Your Honor - " and stopped. He did not know what to say.

Judge Stevens looked again at the computer readout in his hand and then at Jennifer.

"What would you have done," he asked, "if the court had been a younger man, thinner than I, who drove a blue car?"

"The computer gave me ten other possible suspects," Jennifer said. "My next choice would have been New York District Attorney Robert Di Silva."

Jennifer was sitting in her office, reading the headlines, when Cynthia announced, "Mr. Paul Richards is here."

"Send him in, Cynthia."

He came into the office wearing a black raincoat and carrying a candy box tied with a red ribbon.

"I just wanted to tell you thanks."

"You see? Sometimes justice does triumph."

"I'm leaving town. I decided I need a little vacation." He handed Jennifer the candy box. "A little token of my appreciation."

"Thank you, Paul."

He looked at her admiringly. "I think you're terrific."

And he was gone.

Jennifer looked at the box of candy on her desk and smiled. She had received less for handling most of Father Ryan's friends. If she got fat, it would be Father Ryan's fault.

Jennifer untied the ribbon and opened the box. Inside was ten thousand dollars in used currency.

One afternoon as Jennifer was leaving the courthouse, she noticed a large, black, chauffeured Cadillac limousine at the curb. As she started to walk past it, Michael Moretti stepped out. "I've been waiting for you."

Close up, there was an electric vitality to the man that was almost overpowering.

"Get out of my way," Jennifer said. Her face was flushed and angry, and she was even more beautiful than Michael Moretti had remembered.

"Hey," he laughed, "cool down. All I want to do is talk to you. All you have to do is listen. I'll pay you for your time."

"You'll never have enough money."

She started to move past him. Michael Moretti put a conciliatory hand on her arm. Just touching her increased his excitement.

He turned on all of his charm. "Be reasonable. You won't know what you're turning down until you hear what I have to say. Ten minutes. That's all I want. I'll drop you off at your office. We can talk on the way."

Jennifer studied him a moment and said, "I'll go with you on one condition. I want the answer to a question."

Michael nodded. "Sure. Go ahead."

"Whose idea was it to frame me with the dead canary?"

He answered without hesitation. "Mine."

So now she knew. And she could have killed him. Grimly she stepped into the limousine and Michael Moretti moved in beside her. Jennifer noted that he gave the driver the address of her office building without asking.

As the limousine drove off, Michael Moretti said, "I'm glad about all the great things that are happening to you."

Jennifer did not bother to reply.

"I really mean that."

"You haven't told me what it is you want."

"I want to make you rich."

"Thanks. I'm rich enough." Her voice was filled with the contempt she felt toward him.

Michael Moretti's face flushed. "I'm trying to do you a favor and you keep fighting me."

Jennifer turned to look at him. "I don't want any favors from you."

He made his voice conciliatory. "Okay. Maybe I'm trying to make up a little for what I did to you. Look, I can send you a lot of clients. Important clients. Big money. You have no idea - "

Jennifer interrupted. "Mr. Moretti, do us both a favor. Don't say another word."

"But I can - "

"I don't want to represent you or any of your friends."

"Why not?"

"Because if I represented one of you, from then on you'd own me."

"You've got it all wrong," Michael protested. "My friends are in legitimate businesses. I mean banks, insurance companies - "

"Save your breath. My services aren't available to the Mafia."

"Who said anything about the Mafia?"

"Call it whatever you like. No one owns me but me. I intend to keep it that way."

The limousine stopped for a red light.

Jennifer said, "This is close enough. Thank you for the lift." She opened the door and stepped out.

Michael said, "When can I see you again?"

"Not ever, Mr. Moretti."

Michael watched her walk away.

My God, he thought, that's a woman! He suddenly became aware that he had an erection and smiled, because he knew that one way or another, he was going to have her.

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