1 WO DEPUTIES ESCORTED HIM INTO THE COURTROOM from a side door, away from the main hallway where the curious were known to lurk, but Slick Moeller anticipated this little maneuver and watched it all from behind a newspaper just a few feet away.
Reggie followed her client and the deputies. Glint waited outside. It was almost a quarter after noon, and the jungle of Juvenile Court had quieted a bit for lunch.
The courtroom was of a shape and design Mark had never seen on television. It was so small! And empty. There were no benches or seats for spectators. The judge sat behind an elevated structure between two flags with the wall just behind him. Two tables were in the center of the room, facing the judge, and one was already occupied with men in dark suits. To the judge's right was a tiny table where an older woman was nipping through a stack of papers, very bored with it all, it seemed, until he entered the room. A gorgeous young lady sat ready with a stenographic machine directly in front of the judge's bench. She wore a short skirt and her legs were attracting a lot of attention. She couldn't be older than sixteen, he thought as he followed Reggie to their table. A bailiff with a gun on his hip was the final actor in the play.
Mark took his seat, very much aware that everyone was staring at him. His two deputies left the room, and when the door closed behind them the judge picked up the file again and flipped through it. They had been waiting for the juvenile and his lawyer, and now it was time for everyone to wait for the judge again. Rules of courtroom etiquette must be followed.
Reggie pulled a single legal pad from her briefcase and began writing notes. She held a tissue in one hand, and dabbed her eyes with it. Mark stared at the table, eyes still wet but determined to suck it up and be tough through this ordeal. People were watching.
Fink and Ord stared at the court reporter's legs. The skirt was halfway between knee and hip. It was tight and seemed to slide upward just a fraction of an inch every minute or so. The tripod holding her recording machine sat firmly between her knees. In the coziness of Harry's courtroom, she was fewer than ten feet away, and the last thing they needed was a distraction. But they kept staring. There! It slipped upward another quarter of an inch.
Baxter L. McLemore, a young attorney fresh from law school, sat nervously at the table with Mr. Fink and Mr. Ord. He was a lowly assistant with the county attorney general's office, and it had fallen to his lot to prosecute on this day in Juvenile Court. This was certainly not the glamorous end of prosecution, but sitting next to George Ord was quite a thrill. He knew nothing about the Sway case, and Mr. Ord had explained in the hallway just minutes earlier that Mr. Fink would handle the hearing. With the court's permission, of course. Baxter was expected to sit there and look nice, and keep his mouth shut.
"Is the door locked?" the judge finally asked in the general direction of the bailiff.
"Yes sir." "Very well. I have reviewed the petition, and I am ready to proceed. For the record, I note the child is present along with counsel, and that the child's mother, who is alleged to be his custodial parent, was served with a copy of the petition and a summons this morning. However, the child's mother is not present in the courtroom, and this concerns me." Harry paused for a moment and seemed to read from the file.
Fink decided this was the appropriate time to establish himself in this matter, and he stood slowly, buttoning his jacket, and addressed the court. "Your Honor, if I may, for the record, I'm Thomas Fink, Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Louisiana." Harry's gaze slowly left the file and settled on Fink, who was standing stiff-backed, very formal, frowning intelligently as he spoke, still fiddling with the top button of his jacket.
Fink continued. "I am one of the petitioners in this matter, and, if I may, I would like to address the issue of the presence of the child's mother." Harry said nothing, just stared as if in disbelief. Reggie couldn't help but smile. She winked at Baxter McLemore.
Harry leaned forward, and rested on his elbows as if intrigued by these great words of wisdom flowing from this gifted legal mind.
Fink had found an audience. "Your Honor, it's our position, the position of the petitioners, that this matter is of a nature so urgent that this hearing must take place immediately. The child is represented by counsel, quite competent counsel I might add, and none of the child's legal rights will be prejudiced by the absence of his mother. From what we understand, the mother's presence is required by the bedside of her youngest son, and so, well, who knows when she might be able to attend a hearing. We just think it's important, Your Honor, to proceed immediately with this hearing." "You don't say?" Harry asked.
"Yes sir. This is our position." "Your position, Mr. Fink," Harry said very slowly and very loudly with a pointed finger, "is in that chair right there. Please sit, and listen to me very carefully, because I will say this only once. And if I have to say it again, I will do so as they are putting the handcuffs on you and taking you away for a night in our splendid jail." Fink fell into his chair, mouth open, gaping in disbelief.
Harry scowled over his reading glasses and looked straight down at Thomas Fink. "Listen to me, Mr. Fink. This is not some fancy courtroom in New Orleans, and I am not one of your federal judges. This is my little private courtroom, and I make the rules,-Mr. Fink. Rule number one is that you speak in my courtroom only when you are first spoken to by me. Rule number two is that you do not grace his honor with unsolicited speeches, comments, or remarks. Rule number three is that his honor does not like to hear the voices of lawyers. His honor has been hearing these voices for twenty years, and his honor knows how lawyers love to hear themselves talk. Rule number four is that you do not stand in my courtroom. You sit at that table and say as little as possible. Do you understand these rules, Mr. Fink?" Fink stared blankly at Harry and tried to nod.
Harry wasn't finished. "This is a tiny courtroom, Mr. Fink, designed by myself a long time ago for private hearings. We can all see and hear each other just fine, so just keep your mouth shut and your butt in your seat, and we'll get along fine." Fink was still trying to nod. He gripped the arms of the chair, determined never to rise again. Behind him, McThune, the lawyer hater, barely suppressed a smile.
"Mr. McLemore, I understand Mr. Fink wants to handle this case for the prosecution. Is this agreeable?" "Okay with me, Your Honor." "I'll allow it. But try and keep him in his seat." Mark was terrified. He had hoped for a kind, gentle old man with lots of love and sympathy. Not this. He glanced at Mr. Fink, whose neck was crimson and whose breathing was loud and heavy, and he almost felt sorry for him.
"Ms. Love," the judge said, suddenly very warm and compassionate, "I understand you may have an objection on behalf of the child." "Yes, Your Honor." She leaned forward and spoke deliberately in the direction of the court reporter. "We have several objections we'd like to make at this time, and I want them in the record." "Certainly," Harry said, as if Reggie Love could have anything she wanted. Fink sank lower and felt even dumber. So much for impressing the court with an initial burst of eloquence.
Reggie glanced at her notes. "Your Honor, I request the transcript of these proceedings be typed and prepared as soon as possible to facilitate an emergency appeal if necessary." "So ordered." "I object to this hearing on several grounds. First, inadequate notice has been given to the child, his mother, and to his lawyer. About three hours have passed since the petition was served upon the child's mother, and though I have represented the child for three days now, and everyone involved has known this, I was not notified of this hearing until seventy-five minutes ago. This is unfair, absurd, and an abuse of discretion by the court." "When would you like to have the hearing, Ms. Love?" Harry asked.
"Today's Thursday," she said. "What about Tuesday or Wednesday of next week?" "That's fine. Say Tuesday at nine." Harry looked at Fink, who still hadn't moved and was afraid to respond to this. "Of course, Ms. Love, the child will remain in custody until then." "The child does not belong in custody, Your Honor." "But I've signed a custody order, and I will not rescind it while we wait for a hearing. Our laws, Ms. Love, provide for the immediate taking of alleged delinquents, and your client is being treated no differently from others. Plus, there are other considerations for Mark Sway, and I'm sure these will be discussed shortly." "Then I cannot agree on a continuance if my client will remain in custody." "Very •well," his honor said properly. "Let the record reflect a continuance was offered by the court and declined by the child." "And let the record also reflect the child declined a continuance because the child does not wish to remain in the Juvenile Detention Center any longer than he has to." "So noted," Harry said with a slight grin. "Please proceed, Ms. Love." "We also object to this hearing because the child's mother is not present. Due to extreme circumstances, her presence is not possible at this time, and keep in mind, Your Honor, the poor woman was first notified barely three hours ago. The child here is eleven years old and deserves the assistance of his mother. As you know, Your Honor, our laws strongly favor the presence of the parents in these hearings, and to proceed without Mark's mother is unfair." "When can Ms. Sway be available?" "No one knows, Your Honor. She is literally confined to the hospital room with her son who's suffering from post-traumatic stress. Her doctor allows her out of the room only for minutes at a time. It could be weeks before she's available." "So you want to postpone this hearing indefinitely?" "Yes sir." "All right. You've got it. Of course, the child will remain in custody pending the hearing." "The child does not belong in custody. The child will make himself available any time the court wants. There's nothing to be gained by keeping the child locked up until a hearing." "There are complicating factors in this case, Ms. Love, and I'm not inclined to release this child before we have this hearing and it's determined how much he knows. It's that simple. I'm afraid to release him at this time. If I did so, and if something happened to him, I'd carry the guilt to my grave. Do you understand this, Ms. Love?" She understood, though she wouldn't admit it. "I'm afraid you're making this decision based on facts not in evidence." "Maybe so. But I have wide discretion in these matters, and until I hear the proof I'm not inclined to release him." "That'll look good on appeal," she snapped, and Harry didn't like it.
"Let the record reflect a continuance was offered to the child until his mother could be present, and the continuance was declined by the child." To which Reggie quickly responded, "And also let the record reflect the child declined the continuance because the child does not wish to remain in the Juvenile Detention Center any longer than he has to." "So noted, Ms. Love. Please continue." "The child moves this court to dismiss the petition filed against him on the grounds that the allegations are without merit and the petition has been filed in an effort to explore things the child might know. Trie petitioners, Fink and Foltrigg, are using this hearing as a fishing expedition for their desperate criminal investigation. Their petition is a hopeless mishmash of maybes and what-ifs, and filed under oath without the slightest hint of the real truth. They're desperate, Your Honor, and they're here shooting in the dark hoping they hit something. The petition should be dismissed, and we should all go home." Harry glared down at Fink, and said, "I'm inclined to agree with her, Mr. Fink. What about it?" Fink had settled into his chair and watched with comfort as Reggie's first two objections had been shot down by his honor. His breathing almost returned to normal and his face had gone from crimson to pink, when suddenly the judge was agreeing with her and staring at him.
Fink bolted to the edge of his chair, almost stood but caught himself, and started stuttering. "Well, uh, Your Honor, we, uh, can prove our allegations if given the chance. We, uh, believe what we've said in the petition-" "I certainly hope so," Harry sneered.
"Yes sir, and we know that this child is impeding an investigation. Yes sir, we are confident we can prove what we've alleged." "And if you can't?" "Well, I, uh, we, feel sure that-" "You realize, Mr. Fink, that if I hear the proof in this case and find you're playing games, I can hold you in contempt. And, knowing Ms. Love the way I do, I'm sure there will be retribution from the child." "We intend to file suit first thing in the morning, Your Honor," Reggie added helpfully. "Against both Mr. Fink and Roy Foltrigg. They're abusing this court and the juvenile laws of the state of Tennessee. My staff is working on the lawsuit right now." Her staff was sitting outside in the hallway eating a Snickers bar and sipping a diet cola. But the threat sounded ominous in the courtroom.
Fink glanced at George Ord, his co-counsel, who was sitting next to him making a list of things to do that afternoon, and nothing on the list had anything to do with Mark Sway or Roy Foltrigg. Ord superviseu twenty-eight lawyers working thousands of cases, and he just didn't care about Barry Muldanno and the body of Boyd Boyette. It wasn't in his jurisdiction. Ord was a busy man, too busy to waste valuable time playing gofer for Roy Foltrigg.
But Fink was no featherweight. He'd seen his share of nasty trials and hostile judges and skeptical juries. He was rallying quite nicely. "Your Honor, the petition is much like an indictment. Its truth cannot be ascertained without a hearing, and if we can get on with it we can prove our allegations." Harry turned to Reggie. "I'll take this motion to dismiss under advisement, and I'll hear the petitioners' proof. If it falls short, then I'll grant the motion and we'll go from there." Reggie shrugged as if she expected this.
"Anything else, Ms. Love?" "Not at this time." "Call your first witness, Mr. Fink," Harry said. "And make it brief. Get right to the point. If you waste time, I'll jump in with both feet and' speed things along." "Yes sir. Sergeant Milo Hardy of the Memphis police is our first witness." Mark had not moved during these preliminary skirmishes. He wasn't sure if Reggie had won them all, or lost them all, and for some reason he didn't care. There was something unfair about a system in which a little kid was brought into a courtroom and surrounded by lawyers arguing and sniping at each other under the scornful eye of a judge, the referee, and somehow in the midst of this barrage of laws and code sections and motions and legal talk the kid was supposed to know •what was happening to him. It was hopelessly unfair.
And so he just sat and stared at the floor near the court reporter. His eyes were still wet and he couldn't make them stay dry.
The courtroom was silent as Sergeant Hardy was fetched. His honor relaxed in his chair and removed his reading glasses. "I want this on the record," he said. He glared at Fink again. "This is a private and confidential matter. This hearing is closed for a reason. I defy anyone to repeat any word uttered in this room today, or to discuss any aspect of this proceeding. Now, Mr. Fink, I realize you must report to the U. S. attorney in New Orleans, and I realize Mr. Foltrigg is a petitioner and has a right to know what happens here. And when you talk to him, please explain that I am very upset by his absence. He signed the petition, and he should be here. You may explain these proceedings to him, and only to him. No one else. And you are to tell him to keep his big mouth shut, do you understand, Mr. Fink?" "Yes, Your Honor." "Will you explain to Mr. Foltrigg that if I get wind of any breach in the confidentiality of these proceedings that I will issue a contempt order and attempt to have him jailed?" "Yes, Your Honor." He was suddenly staring at McThune and K. O. Lewis. They were seated immediately behind Fink and Ord.
"Mr. McThune and Mr. Lewis, you may now leave the courtroom," Harry said abrupdy. They grabbed the armrests as their feet hit the floor. Fink turned and stared at them, then looked at the judge.
"Uh, Your Honor, -would it be possible tor gentlemen to remain in the-" "I told them to leave, Mr. Fink," Harry said loudly. "If they're gonna be witnesses, we'll call them later. If they're not witnesses, they have no business here and they can wait in the hall with the rest of the herd. Now, move along, gentlemen." McThune was practically jogging for the door without the slightest hint of wounded pride, but K. O. Lewis was pissed. He buttoned his jacket and stared at his honor, but only for a second. No one had ever won a staring contest with Harry Roosevelt, and K. O. Lewis was not about to try. He strutted for the door, which was already open as McThune dashed through it.
Seconds later, Sergeant Hardy entered and sat in the witness chair. He was in full uniform. He shifted his wide ass in the padded seat, and waited. Fink was frozen, afraid to begin without being told to do so.
Judge Roosevelt rolled his chairto the end of the bench and peered down at Hardy. Something had caught his attention, and Hardy sat like a fat toad on a stool until he realized his honor was just inches away.
"Why are you wearing the gun?" Harry asked.
Hardy looked up', startled, then jerked his head to his right hip as if the gun were a complete surprise to him also. He stared at it as if the damned thing had somehow stuck itself to his body.
"Well, I - " "Are you on duty or off, Sergeant Hardy?" "Well, off." "Then why are you wearing a uniform, and why in the world are you wearing a gun in my courtroom?" Mark smiled for the first time in hours.
The bailiff had caught on and was rapidly approaching the witness stand as Hardy jerked at his belt and removed the holster. The bailiff carried it away as if it were a murder weapon.
"Have you ever testified in court?" Harry asked.
Hardy smiled like a child and said, "Yes sir, many times." "You have?" "Yes sir. Many times." "And how many times have you testified while wearing your gun?" "Sorry, Your Honor." Harry relaxed, looked at Fink, and waved at Hardy as if it were now permissible to get on with it. Fink had spent many hours in courtrooms during the past twenty years, and took great pride in his trial skills. His record was impressive. He was glib and smooth, quick on his feet.
But he was slow on his ass, and this sitting while interrogating a witness was such a radical way of finding truth. He almost stood again, caught himself again, and grabbed his legal pad. His frustration was apparent.
"Would you state your name for the record?" he asked in a short, rapid burst.
"Sergeant Milo Hardy, Memphis Police Department." "And what is your address?" Harry held up a hand to cut off Hardy. "Mr. Fink, why do you need to know where this man lives?" Fink stared in disbelief. "I guess, Your Honor, it's just a routine question." "Do you know how much I hate routine questions, Mr. Fink?" "I'm beginning to understand." "Routine questions lead us nownere, ivn... i...*"... Routine questions waste hours and hours of valuable time. I do not want to hear another routine question. Please."-"Yes, Your Honor. I'll try." "I know it's hard." Fink looked at Hardy and tried desperately to think of a brilliantly original question. "Last Monday, Sergeant, were you dispatched to the scene of a shoot-ing?" Harry held up his hand again, and Fink slumped in his seat. "Mr. Fink, I don't know how you folks do things in New Orleans, but here in Memphis we make our witnesses swear to tell the truth before they start testifying. It's called 'Placing them under oath. ' Does that sound familiar?" Fink rubbed his temples and said, "Yes sir. Could the witness please be sworn?" The elderly woman at the desk suddenly came to life. She sprang to her feet and yelled at Hardy, who was less than fifteen feet away. "Raise your right hand!" Hardy did this, and was sworn to tell the truth. She returned to her seat, and to her nap.
"Now, Mr. Fink, you may proceed," Harry said with a nasty little smile, very pleased that he'd caught Fink with his pants down. He relaxed in his massive seat, and listened intently to the rapid question and answer routine that followed.
Hardy spoke in a chatty voice, eager to help, full of little details. He described the scene of the suicide, the position of the body, the condition of the car. There were photographs, if his honor would like to see them. His honor declined. They were completely irrelevant. Hardy produced a typed transcript of the 911 call made by Mark, and offered to play the recording if his honor would like to hear it. No, his honor said.
Then Hardy explained with great joy the capture of young Mark in the woods near the scene, and of their ensuing conversations in his car, at the Sway trailer, en route to the hospital, and over dinner in the cafeteria. He described his gut feeling that young Mark was not telling the complete truth. The kid's story was flimsy, and through skillful interrogation with just the right touch of subtlety, he, Hardy, was able to poke all sorts of holes in it.
The lies were pathetic. The kid said he and his brother stumbled upon the car and the dead body; that they did not hear any gunshots; that they -were just a couple of kids playing in the woods, minding their own business, and somehow they found this body. Of course, none of Mark's story was true, and Hardy was quick to catch on.
With great detail, Hardy described the condition of Mark's face, the swollen eye and puffy lip, the blood around the mouth. Kid said he'd been in a fight at school. Another sad little lie.
After thirty minutes, Harry grew restless and Fink took the hint. Reggie had no cross-examination, and when Hardy stepped down and left the room there was no doubt that Mark Sway was a liar who'd tried to deceive the cops. Things would get worse.
When his honor had asked Reggie if she had any questions for Sergeant Hardy, she simply said, "I've had no time to prepare for this witness." McThune was called as the next witness. He gave his oath to tell the truth and sat in the witness chair. Reggie slowly reached into her briefcase and withdrew a cassette tape. She held it casually in ner uutuu, "~~ when McThune glanced at her she tapped it softly on her legal pad. He closed his eyes.
She carefully placed the tape on the pad, and began tracing its edges with her pen.
Fink was quick, to the point, and by now fairly adept at avoiding even vaguely routine questions. It was a new experience for him, this efficient use of •words, and the more he did it the more he liked it.
McThune was as dry as cornmeal. He explained the fingerprints they found all over the car, and on the gun and the bottle, and on the rear bumper. He speculated about the kids and the garden hose, and showed Harry the Virginia Slims cigarette butts found under the tree. He also showed Harry the suicide note left behind by Clifford, and again gave his thoughts about the additional words added by a different pen. He showed Harry the Bic pen found in the car, and said there was no doubt Mr. Clifford had used this pen to scrawl these words. He talked about the speck of blood found on Clifford's hand. It wasn't Clifford's blood, but was of the same type as Mark Sway's, who just happened to have a busted lip and a couple of wounds from the affair.
"You think Mr. Clifford struck the child at some point during all this?" Harry asked.
"I think so, Your Honor." McThune's thoughts and opinions and speculations were objectionable, but Reggie kept quiet. She'd been through many of these hearings with Harry, and she knew he would hear it all and decide what to believe. Objecting would do no good.
Harry asked how the FBI obtained a fingerprint from the child to match those found in the car. MeInune took a deep breath, and told about the Sprite can at the hospital, but was quick to point out that they were not investigating the child as a suspect when this happened, just as a witness, and so therefore they felt it was okay to lift the print. Harry didn't like this at all, but said nothing. McThune emphasized that if the child had been an actual suspect, they would never have dreamed of stealing a print. Never.
"Of course you wouldn't," Harry said with enough sarcasm to make McThune blush.
Fink walked him through the events of Tuesday, the day after the suicide, when young Mark hired a lawyer. They tried desperately to talk with him, then to his lawyer, and things just deteriorated.
McThune behaved himself and stuck to the facts. He left the room in a quick dash for the door, and he left behind the undeniable fact that young Mark was quite a liar.
From time to time, Harry watched Mark during the testimony of Hardy and McThune. The kid was impassive, hard to read, preoccupied with an invisible spot somewhere on the floor. He sat low in his seat and ignored Reggie for the most part. His eyes were wet, but he was not crying. He looked tired and sad, and occasionally glanced at the witness when his lies were emphasized.
Harry had watched Reggie many times under these circumstances, and she usually sat very close to her young clients and whispered to them as the hearings progressed. She would pat them, squeeze their arms, give reassurances, lecture them if necessary. Normally, she was in constant motion, protecting her clients from the harsh reality of a legal system run by adults. But not today. She glanced at her ciieni occasionally as if waiting for a signal, but he ignored her.
"Call your next witness," Harry said to Fink, who was resting on his elbows, trying not to stand. He looked at Ord for help, then at his honor.
"Well, Your Honor, this may sound a bit strange, but I'd like to testify next." Harry ripped off his reading glasses and glared at Fink. "You're confused, Mr. Fink. You're the lawyer, not a witness." "I know that, sir, but I'm also the petitioner, and, I know this may be a bit out of order, but I think my testimony could be important." "Thomas Fink, petitioner, lawyer, witness. You wanna play bailiff, Mr. Fink? Maybe take down a bit of stenography? Perhaps wear my robe for a while? This is not a courtroom, Mr. Fink, it's a theater. Why don't you just choose any role you like?" Fink stared blankly at the bench without making eye contact with his honor. "I can explain, sir," he said meekly.
"You don't have to explain, Mr. Fink. I'm not blind. You boys have rushed in here half-ass prepared. Mr. Foltrigg should be here, but he's not, and now you need him. You figured you could throw together a petition, bring in some FBI brass, hook in Mr. Ord here, and I'd be so impressed I'd just roll over and do anything you asked. Can I tell you something, Mr. Fink?" Fink nodded.
"I'm not impressed. I've seen better work at high school mock trial competitions. Half the first-year law students at Memphis State could kick your butt, and the other half could kick Mr. Foltrigg's." Fink was not agreeing, but he kept nodding for some reason. Ord slid his chair a few inches away from Fink's.
"What about it, Ms. Love?" Harry asked.
"Your Honor, our rules of procedure and ethics are quite clear. An attorney trying a case cannot participate in the same trial as a witness. It's simple." She sounded bored and frustrated, as if everyone should know this.
"Mr. Fink?" Fink was regaining himself. "Your Honor, I would like to tell the court, under oath, certain facts regarding Mr. Clifford's actions prior to the suicide. I apologize for this request, but under the circumstances it cannot be helped." There was a knock on the door, and the bailiff opened it slightly. Marcia entered carrying a plate covered with a thick roast beef sandwich and a tall plastic glass of iced tea. She sat it before his honor, who thanked her, and she was gone.
It was almost one o'clock, and suddenly everyone was starving. The roast beef and horseradish and pickles, and the side order of onion rings, emitted an appetizing aroma that wafted around the room. All eyes were on the kaiser roll, and as Harry picked it up to take a huge bite, he saw young Mark Sway watching his every move. He stopped the sandwich in midair, and noticed that Fink and Ord, and Reggie, and even the bailiff were staring in helpless anticipation.
Harry placed the sandwich on the plate, and slid it to one side. "Mr. Fink," he said, jabbing a finger in Fink's direction, "stay where you are. Do you swear to tell the truth?" "I do." "You'd better. You're now under oaui. iuu ^^^ five minutes to tell me what's bugging you." "Yes, thank you, Your Honor." "You're so welcome." "You see, Jerome Clifford and I were in law school together, and we knew each other for many years. We had many cases together, always on opposite sides, of course." "Of course." "After Barry Muldanno was indicted, the pressure began to mount and Jerome began acting strange. Looking back, I think he was slowly cracking up, but at the time I didn't think much about it. I mean, you see, Jerome was always a strange one." "I see." "I was working on the case every day, many hours a day, and I talked to Jerome Clifford several times a week. We had preliminary motions and such, so I saw him in court occasionally. He looked awful. He gained a lot of weight, and was drinking too much. He was always late for meetings. Rarely bathed. Often, he failed to return phone calls, which was unusual for Jerome. About a week before he died he called me at home one night, really drunk, and rambled on for almost an hour. He was crazy. Then he called me at the office first thing the next morning and apologized. But he wouldn't get off the phone. He kept fishing around as if he were afraid he'd said too much the night before. At least twice he mentioned the Boyette body, and I became convinced Jerome knew where it was." Fink paused to allow this to sink in, but Harry was waiting impatiently.
"Well, he called me several times after that, kept talking about the body. I led him on. I implied that he'd said too much when he was drunk. I told him that we were considering an indictment against him for obstruction of justice." "Seems to be one of your favorites," Harry said dryly.
"Anyway, Jerome was drinking heavily and acting bizarre. I confessed to him that the FBI was trailing him around the clock, which was not altogether true, but he seemed to believe it. He grew very paranoid, and called me several times a day. He'd get drunk and call me late at night. He wanted to talk about the body, but was afraid to tell everything. During our last phone conversation, I suggested that maybe we could cut a deal. If he'd tell us where the body was, then we'd help him bail out with no record, no conviction, nothing. He was terrified of his client, and he never once denied knowing where the body •was." "Your Honor," Reggie interrupted, "this, of course, is pure hearsay and quite self-serving. There's no way to verify any of this." "You don't believe me?" Fink snapped at her.
"No, I don't." "I'm not sure I do either, Mr. Fink," Harry said. "Nor am I sure why any of this has any relevance to this hearing." "My point, Your Honor, is that Jerome Clifford knew about the body and he was talking about it. Plus, he was cracking up." "I'll say he cracked up, Mr. Fink. He put a gun in his mouth. Sounds crazy to me." Fink sort of hung in the air with his mouth open, uncertain if he should say anything else.
"Any more witnesses, Mr. Fink?" Harry asked.
"No sir. We do, however, Your Honor, feel that due to the unusual circumstances 01 tm:] t,d"]~, v,.^ - should take the stand and testify." Harry ripped off the reading glasses again and leaned toward Fink. If he could have reached him, he might have gone for his neck.
"You what!" "We, uh, feel that-" "Mr. Fink, have you studied the juvenile laws for this jurisdiction?" "I have." "Great. Will you please tell us, sir, under which code section the petitioner has the right to force the child to testify?" "I was merely stating our request." "That's great. Under which code section is the petitioner allowed to make such a request?" Fink dropped his head a few inches and found something on his legal pad to examine.
"This is not a kangaroo court, Mr. Fink. We do not create new rules as we go. The child cannot be forced to testify, same as any other criminal or Juvenile Court proceeding. Surely you understand this." Fink studied the legal pad with great intensity.
"Ten - minute recess!" his honor barked. "Everyone out of the courtroom except Ms. Love. Bailiff, take Mark to a witness room." Harry was standing as he growled these instructions.
Fink, afraid to stand but nonetheless trying, hesitated for a split second too long, and this upset the judge. "Out of here, Mr. Fink," he said rudely, pointing to the door.
Fink and Ord stumbled over each other as they clawed for the door. The court reporter and clerk followed them. The bailiff escorted Mark away, and when he closed the door Harry unzipped his robe and threw it on a table. He took his lunch and set it on the table before Reggie.
"Shall we dine?" he said, tearing the sandwich in two and placing half of it on a napkin for her. He slid the onion rings next to her legal pad. She took one and nibbled around the edges.
"Are you going to allow the kid to testify?" he asked -with a mouth full of roast beef.
"I don't know, Harry. What do you think?" "I think Fink's a dumbass, that's what I think." Reggie took a small bite of the sandwich and wiped her mouth.
"If you put him on," Harry said, crunching, "Fink'11 ask him some very pointed questions about what happened in the car with Clifford." "I know. That's what worries me." "How will the kid answer the questions?" "I honestly don't know. I've advised him fully. We've talked about it at length. And I have no idea what he'll do." Harry took a deep breath, and realized the iced tea was still on the bench. He took two paper cups from Fink's table and poured them full of tea.
"It's obvious, Reggie, that he knows something. Why did he tell so many lies?" "He's a kid, Harry. He was scared to death. He heard more than he should have. He saw Clifford blow his brains out. It scared him to death. Look at his poor little brother. It was a terrible thing to witness, and I think Mark initially thought he might get in trouble. So he lied." "I don't really blame him," Harry said, taking an onion ring. Reggie bit into a pickle.
"What are you thinking?" she asked.
He wiped his mouth, and thought about this for a long time. This child was now his, one of Harry's Kids, and each decision from now on would be based on what was best for Mark Sway.
"If I can assume the child knows something very relevant to the investigation in New Orleans, then several things might happen. First, if you put him on the stand and he gives the information Fink wants, then this matter is closed as far as my jurisdiction is concerned. The kid walks out of here, but he's in great danger. Second, if you put him on the stand, and he refuses to answer Fink's questions, then I will be forced to make him answer. If he refuses, he'll be in contempt. He cannot remain silent if he has crucial information. Either way,, if this hearing is concluded here today without satisfactory answers by the child, I strongly suspect Mr. Foltrigg will move quickly. He'll get a grand jury subpoena for Mark, and away you go to New Orleans. If he refuses to talk to the grand jury, he'll certainly be held in contempt by the federal judge, and I suspect he'll be incarcerated." Reggie nodded. She was in complete agreement. "So what do we do, Harry?" "If the kid goes to New Orleans, I lose control of him. I'd rather keep him here. If I were you, I'd put him on the stand and advise him not to answer the crucial questions. At least not for now. He can always do it later. He can do it tomorrow, or the next day. I'd advise him to withstand the pressure from the judge, and keep his mouth shut, at least for now. He'll go back to our Juvenile Detention Center, which is probably much safer than anything in New Orleans. By doing this, you protect the child from the New Orleans thugs, who scare even me, until the feds can arrange something better. And you buy yourself some time to see what Mr. Foltrigg will do in New Orleans." "You think he's in great danger?" "Yes, and even if I didn't, I wouldn't take chances. If he spills his guts now, he could get hurt. I'm not inclined to release him today, under any circumstances." "What if Mark refuses to talk, and Foltrigg presents him with a grand jury subpoena?" "I won't allow him to go." Reggie's appetite was gone. She sipped her tea from the paper cup and closed her eyes. "This is so unfair to this boy, Harry. He deserves more from the system." "I agree. I'm open to suggestions." "What if I don't put him on the stand?" "I'm not going to release him, Reggie. At least not today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe the next day. This is happening awfully fast, and I suggest we take the safest route and see what happens in New Orleans." "You didn't answer my question. What if I don't put him on the stand?" "Well, based on the proof I've heard, I'll have no choice but to find him to be a delinquent, and I'll send him back to Doreen. Of course, I could reverse myself tomorrow. Or the next day." "He's not a delinquent." "Maybe not. But if he knows something, and he refuses to tell, then he's obstructing justice." There was a long pause. "How much does he know, Reggie? If you'll tell me, I'll be in a better position to help him." "I can't tell you, Harry. It's privileged." "Of course it is," he said with a smile. DUL u. 3 rather obvious he knows plenty." "Yes, I guess it is." He leaned forward, and touched her arm. "Listen to me, dear. Our little pal is in a world of trouble. So let's get him out of it. I say we take it one day at a time, keep him in a safe place where we call the shots, and in the meantime start talking to the feds about their witness protection program. If that falls into place for the kid and his family, then he can tell these awful secrets and be protected." "I'll talk to him."