17 December 2012

US Supreme Court, The Right to Confront & What the Heck?!?

Okay, I'm researching double jeopardy rules and I trip across Williams v. Illinois.  I don't know how I missed this when it came out, but here's my summary:
Williams v. Illinois, JUN12, USSC No. 10-8505: (1) FOUR JUSTICES ONLY: At least in bench trials, inadmissible out of court statements (DNA analysis) which an expert talks about in explaining the basis for his opinion are not offered for their truth and therefore are not subject to the confrontation clause. NOTE: This relies strongly on Federal Rule 703 which does not track with Virginia Rule 2:703(b). (2) FOUR JUSTICES ONLY: Statements which fall under the confrontation clause have two characteristics. (a) They involve out of court statements having a primary purpose of accusing a defendant of a crime. (b) They involve formalized statements such as affidavits, prior testimony, or confessions. (3)(a) A DNA report from before the offender is identified is non-testimonial because its primary purpose was not to obtain evidence for the trial of the offender, but to catch an offender. (b) DNA evidence is not inherently inculpatory; it exculpates everyone but the offender. (c) Requiring the technicians who worked on preparing a profile to testify is economically expensive and would discourage the use of DNA in favor of less reliable evidence. (d) The defendant is not prejudiced because he can subpoena the technicians who prepared the profile. (4) JUSTICE THOMAS ONLY, rejecting both above but concurring: (a) A rule of evidence does not trump the right to confront, especially one that was created contrary to the common law rule it replaced. (b) The confrontation clause regulates only those statements with indicia of solemnity so that they are formalized testimonial materials, including depositions, affidavits, prior testimony, or statements from formalized dialogue such as custodial interrogation.
Okay.  Now, in case any of you missed it, there are five votes against the two rationales that were announced for upholding the denial of the applicability of the right to confront by four of the five justices who upheld the trial and appellate courts. And then there's an opinion by one guy who doesn't agree with anybody, but determines the outcome of the case. Sometimes I wonder whether those folks in the big stone building in D.C. realize that the rest of us have to try to actually figure out how to apply the obtuse obfuscations they send down from the mount.

In Williams, there was an unidentified rapist.  A DNA sample taken from the victim was sent to a out of state lab.  When the result came back it was compared to DNA samples that the state had previously taken from convicts and analyzed at the state lab.  There was a match.  Illinois provided both the person who performed the test on the sample taken from Williams after the prior conviction and the person who compared the results, determining that they matched.  However, it did not call anyone from the out of state lab to testify about that sample.  Williams cried foul, claiming a violation of his right to confront the person who did the analysis in the out of state lab.

There's a very strong argument that Williams should be entitled to examine the analyst from the out of state lab under current constitutional jurisprudence.  The DNA analysis from the out of state lab is vital to the case and Williams would not have even been a suspect without it.  However, the above opinion holds otherwise.  Look, I'm a prosecutor and predisposed to the introduction of these forms, but those rationales are poor.  Mayhap, Oh Great Supreme Court Justices above us all, you might try a justification such as this:  (1) The analysis of the DNA is done by a machine.  (2) A machine cannot be examined or cross examined.  (3) The work done by a machine is not testimonial.  (4)  The technicians that put the item into the machine, take the item back from the machine, and get a copy of the result from the machine are merely extensions of the machine's workings. (5) The comparison of the two results from machines by a human being is testimonial and that person must testify.    

Yes, there are issues with (4), but there has to be a point where you draw a line.  There's always one more person down stream whom the prosecutor has not brought to court. If the prosecutor provides the analyst and the technician then the defendant can complain that the person who maintains the machine has not been called.  If the prosecution provides the analyst, technician, and maintenance man, then the defendant can complain that the person who designed the machine has not been called. et cetera. et cetera. et cetera.  A line has to be drawn somewhere and the technician / analyst line seems to be a logical place.  This, of course, does not address chain of custody issues - only the right to confront.

Instead we get the "because it passes Federal Rule of Evidence 703 it is constitutional, especially in front of a judge" argument.  That argument is pretty threadbare and Justice Thomas deals with it without breaking a sweat.  Virginia Practitioner's Note: Be advised that our Rule of Evidence 703(b) does not track with the federal rule; we stuck with the common law:
(b) Criminal cases. In criminal cases, the opinion of an expert is generally admissible if it is based upon facts personally known or observed by the expert, or based upon facts in evidence.
Therefore, in Virginia the expert cannot rely on inadmissible evidence and therefore could not talk about it in his explanation of the basis of his opinion.  Therefore, this should never be an available argument in Virginia.

As for the primary purpose test, (3)(a) above does make an arguable point as to the primary purpose of the of the analysis.  However, it's a microscopically thin hair they're splitting there.  Yes, the primary purpose was to catch the rapist, but the primary purpose of catching him is to prosecute him (this does not appear to be a serial rapist case with a desperate need to find the offender before he strikes again).  Catching the offender and prosecuting him are events of a continuing purpose and intimately intertwined.  It makes no sense to separate the two.

The rest of the Four's argument is specious.  Despite what (3)(b) states, if something exculpates everyone else it is clearly inculpatory evidence against anyone it does not exculpate.  The fact that a requirement will lead to increased cost, per (3)(c), does not mean that the constitutional requirement can be bypassed.  I'm fairly certain that if we took thieves out the back door of the courthouse and executed them the moment they were convicted it would be much cheaper than allowing them appeals and maintaining prisons to house them; nevertheless, we obey the constitutional mandates.  Arguing that the defendant's right to confront is okay as long as he could subpoena a person to court, as in (3)(d), would relieve the prosecution of any duty to provide anyone; after all, if the defense did not want the prosecution to be able to rely on the police report as proof of an illegal act, it could have subpoenaed the officer.

As for Justice Thomas' rationale for upholding the introduction of the DNA test results, I must admit that it has a superficial attraction.  At first it appears to be a more bright line rule.  However, after examining it a little more closely, I think there would be some problems.  The obvious one is the one Justice Kagan raises in her dissent: if statements can get in just because they are not formalized then law enforcement agencies, legislatures, and prosecutors are going to go out of their way to stop getting things formalized.  Whether a certificate of analysis from the state lab has an attestation on it is a formality only; presumptively, the lab will do the same work either way and it will carry much the same weight with the finder of facts.  Does anyone truly believe the jury goes back to deliberate and spends time examining the notarized seal on the report?

I'm also concerned as to what "statements from formalized dialogue" means exactly.  As "custodial interrogation" is pointed out, we know it is covered, but what about a 9-1-1 call?  Or even an interview of a witness?  Are they formalized because they are noted and reported?  Or are they lacking formality because they are not done in a custodial environment or in a particular fashion set forth by an agency policy?  That's a nest of vipers I don't particularly want to get thrown into.  In the end, Justice Thomas' solution seems too readily circumscribed and thus unworkable.

Here's the rule as I see it for those of us practicing in Virginia, applying the rule of the Four and the rule of Thomas and considering Virginia's Rule 703(b):
Rule of the case:  A non-formalized statement which has as its primary purpose the catching of an offender who has not been specifically identified when the testing is done can be admitted at trial.
If the statement makes it through all those hoops it has the support of five justices.  Mind you, this is tenuous as all get out.  A portion of the rule I just laid out is opposed by five justices.  The other portion seems to be opposed by eight.  Nevertheless, if you tack windward you have the number of votes needed to support the rule.

And, good luck explaining all this to your trial judge during a two minute bench conference in the middle of your next jury trial.  You can do it.  I have faith in you.

11 December 2012

Prosecutors in Korea

Here's what I know about what happens to you if you break the law in Korea: you either get prosecuted by an uber rich party girl who has a way overdeveloped, inappropriate  fashion sense or you get prosecuted by vampire.  Personally, I'm not sure which is worse.

Somehow, Netflix has decided that I am Korean and keeps recommending Korean TV series to me.  So far, I have only watched two, Prosecutor Princess and Vampire Prosecutor.  I'll let you figure out which one centers around a fashion maven and which one has a troubled stalker of the night fighting against his primal urge to snack on the people around him.  Well, okay, maybe I'll fill in a few details for those of you who can't figure it out on your own.

Prosecutor Princess starts out cute as we see the normally stoic, reserved and cookie cutter prosecutors having their lives disrupted by this out of control party girl who wears suits that each cost more than a prosecutor earns in a single year.  It develops into a decent drama involving the manipulation of this girl by outside forces using her as a pawn which becomes increasingly aware of her situation as things play out.

I have not finished Vampire Prosecutor yet, but it's about a guy who has been turned into a vampire and now uses his powers for good.  In some ways he's the typical modern tortured-soul vampire we've been seeing in modern TV at least since Angel in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  He fights off his urge to eat somebody in just about every other episode and he is haunted by something that happened in his past.  On the other hand, he doesn't seem to be affected by sunlight in the least and he has some nifty powers I've never seen in a vampire before.  He can come to a crime scene and just by looking see from the moment that the first drop of blood hit the ground to the moment that drop of blood left the body.  If he actually drinks some of the blood he can even see back further and gets glimpses of the perpetrator or other important bits of evidence.

To be honest, I enjoyed Prosecutor Princess more than Vampire Prosecutor - although that may be because I watched Princess a while back and have forgotten its flaws and I am currently working my way through Vampire.  Anyway, there seemed to be actual character development in Princess as the main character realizes there is more to life than fashion and then begins to realize even more.  In Vampire the only character who seems to grow is a female assistant prosecutor whose main purpose in many of the episodes is to run around filling in time with a fruitless investigation until Vampire Guy can swoop in to save the day.  Oh, and she's also one of the girls who gets tied up every second or third episode.  Koreans don't seem to be particularly shy about that sort of thing; it's almost like one of those old Detective Magazines.

Beyond the stories, we also get a glimpse of what being a "prosecutor" is like in Korea.  It seems quite different than what we have here in the States.  The prosecutors seem to be more along the line of investigators, calling in victims and suspects to question or even going to crime scenes to try to figure out what happened.  As a side note, it appears that defense attorneys are specifically disallowed while the prosecutor questions the suspect in Korea.  In fact, it appears that the prosecutor gathers all the evidence, makes a determination of the facts, and offers a disposition.  After that, if the defendant ne suspect rejects the deal he can have a defense attorney.  I'm not sure if I've gotten that exactly correct, but it appears to be the way the process works.

There does not seem to be a jury, although it appears that there are three judges in a trial.  I don't know if they rule by majority vote or whether unanimity is required.  In the shows the only person who talks much is the man I assume is the chief judge (the judge sitting in the center of the bench).  Other than that, the process seems to progress much as a bench trial might here.  However, there does not appear to be double jeopardy in Korea.  In at least one of the Vampire episodes a person is brought back before the judges more than once after they dismiss the charge.

All-in-all, the two series are worth taking the time to watch.  So far, Netflix has pointed me toward British and Korean lawyer dramas.  I wonder which ones it will pop up for me next.  Indian?  Brazilian?  Egyptian?

04 December 2012

An Ambush in Bartlette: 12

[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7] . . . [Chapter 8] . . . [Chapter 9] . . . [Chapter 10] . . . [Chapter 11]

If there was a Hell, the last month was surely its attempt to manifest itself in Bartlette County. And, much like one might expect from Hell, just as you started to have some hope that things were getting better that hope was snatched away and more pain was piled on. This week had been filled with shock and pain. It was eight on Friday evening when Yusif found himself mulling over these dark thoughts. He was still at the courthouse. He stared at the bricks in the wall of his office trying to process everything that had happened.

It started the Friday before because Father Tolton went to question the ambush victims who were in the hospital and he claimed that Mark Carr woke up and told him that Sergeant Ian Minor was involved in the ambush. Instead of coming to the Sheriff or Brad about this, Father Tolton had somehow gotten in contact with FBI agent investigating the attack. On Sunday, Dave Jordan, an Investigator for the Sheriff's Department and the Sheriff's stepson, drove to Roanoke and beat the living tar out of the attorney who had come to Bartlette and had that enigmatic conversation with Yusif. The photos showed a man who had his face beaten so badly his eyes were swollen shut and several teeth were gone. Monday Morning Squire died unexpectedly when something went wrong after his surgery. Later that day, Ed Boyd died less than an hour after the hospital unhooked him from life support. Meanwhile, both Brad and the Sheriff had gotten wind that something was going on between the Father Tolton, the FBI, and the State Police; however, neither of them could get answers from anyone about what was going on.

Tuesday morning they found out. Sometime between four and five in the morning a large number of State Police, FBI agents, and Federal Marshals arrived in Bartlette County with both search and arrest warrants. They arrested the other two investigators from the Sheriff's Department, Jeff Sanger and Ian Minor, as well as the Chief of Police for Yared and his two senior officers. They searched all of their houses, the houses of everyone caught in the ambush, the offices of the Yared Police Department (three rooms in the town hall), and the new Sheriff's Office which had been set up in the abandoned stores across from the courthouse. The initial warrants were federal, but State Police agents went to the magistrate's office that morning and got murder and drug distribution charges in Virginia as well. Everyone was in shock; even Brad had seemed at a loss as to what he should do. However, Brad never remained quiescent for long. By noon, he was calling people and demanding answers. When federal and state agents proved intransigent, Brad started calling political allies both in the Virginian and federal government. Yusif had known that Brad was politically well connected, but even he was surprised at the breadth of those connections. Before the day was out, Brad got a United States Senator to call the FBI and several Virginia Delegates and Senators to call both the Attorney General and State Police headquarters. Faced with this pressure, the agencies had agreed to brief Brad on what was happening, but they absolutely refused to bring the Sheriff into the loop; they even made Brad sign non-disclosure documents which forbade him from talking to anyone in general and specifically forbade him from talking to the Sheriff or anyone in law enforcement. Yusif knew this because when he pressed Brad to tell him what was going on Brad showed him the documents. Brad spent most of his Wednesday and Thursday out of the county, getting briefings. This left Yusif to handle court, help Paula prep for the hundreds of cases being presented to the next grand jury, answer the calls from upset citizens who did not understand what was going on, and fend off the press. The ambush and explosion had gotten national attention for a day or two, but Brad handled most of that. The story of lawmen killing lawmen and a county basically being invaded by federal agents made the press rabid. It seemed like every five minutes a different news agency was calling and one twenty-four hour channel even sent a team to ambush Yusif as he left his house Thursday morning.

On Thursday, Mark Carr died. Despite increased observation after Father Tolton talked to the FBI, the deputy never woke again. The only person who could confirm the Father's statement about what happened in the Veteran's Hospital was Andy Carr and he had dropped off the face of the Earth.

On Friday, the plan was to bring the accused lawmen to court for their pretrial hearing. Unlike other states Virginia does not do an early arraignment. However, defendants still have to be brought before a judge within a certain amount of time after they are charged so the judge can make sure they know what they were charged with, assign them attorneys if they cannot afford one, and perhaps adjust their bond. The State Police were going to bring the three investigators from the Sheriff's Department and the three officers from Yared one at a time to the courthouse from the various regional jails where they were stashed. None of them were being housed at local jails and no more than two were being kept at the same jail, segregated from each other even there. The State Police intended to bring the accused to court one at a time, staggered at hour intervals throughout the entire day. They would not even release a list of which defendant was coming to court at what time.

Things started falling apart immediately. At nine-fifteen three troopers showed up with Deputy Chief Haley from Yared and went to escort him in the side door through which prisoners always went. They found the door locked and a sign on it noting that entry through this doorway was limited to court security officers approved by the Sheriff. The troopers tried knocking on the door, but they got no answer. Then they took the prisoner around to the front door of the courthouse and found eight deputies waiting for them. The deputies informed them that because the Sheriff's Department was solely responsible for security at the courthouse only deputies were allowed in the courthouse under arms. The troopers refused to give up their firearms and after a short standoff returned to their cars. Of course, the entire thing was filmed by two different news channels and a bunch of people with cell phones. It was all over the internet within minutes.

The state police tried to get someone to order the Sheriff to allow them into the courthouse with their pistols. By one in the afternoon Brad had refused to involve the Commonwealth Attorney's office in an argument between the state police and the Sheriff and Sheriff Minton had told the Virginia Attorney General that as a constitutional officer the Sheriff did not take orders from the him or anyone else in Richmond. A lawyer from the Attorney General's office in Abingdon was on his way and expected to be at the courthouse by two.

In the meantime, their carefully planned schedule fell apart. The back parking lot was filled with state police cars and the four with the defendants in them were purposefully parked so that they were in different parts of the lot. Thinking back on it, Yusif marveled that no one had thought to call the oncoming troopers and tell them to go back - or at least to divert to someplace secure. The back parking lot may have been reserved, but it was in no way secure. Two of its sides had woods right up to the pavement. On top of all that, newsmen and plain old regular citizens kept putting videos of the troopers back there on the news and internet. It was almost predictable that something would go wrong.

At around one-thirty it did. Andy Carr came out of the woods and unloaded a revolver into the front window of the nearest car with a prisoner in it. Most of the bullets were stopped by the window glass and the two that got through lodged in the empty driver's side seat. The prisoner in the back, Lieutenant Mickelson from the Yared police department, did not even have time to duck for cover before all the shots had been fired and Andy ran back into the woods with six troopers in pursuit. Ten minutes later they had him under arrest and took him off to jail to face attempted murder charges. Then, they also started driving the prisoners back to the jails.

By three some lady who was an assistant attorney general showed up and Judge Isom got her, the state police first sergeant, the Sheriff, and the county attorney in his chambers and the yelling was loud enough and the old walls thin enough that it could be heard out in the courtroom. The words were not quite discernible, but it was very clear that the judge was reading them all the riot act. When they came out of the judge's office all of the people who went in were steaming. The assistant attorney general and first sergeant went to one table in front of the bench; Sheriff Minton and the county attorney went to the other. Judge Isom went straight to his bench, sat down, and immediately announced his decision.

"This Court finds that the special circumstances in these cases merit the following special conditions and behaviors. At any time one of the following six defendants - Mike Haley, Oscar Mickelson, Charles Poplin, David Jordan, Ian Minor, or Jefferson Sanger - are in the courthouse the Bartlette County Sheriff's Department shall maintain its duty as the primary security force for the courthouse. However, the Virginia State Police shall maintain its self-imposed duty as the primary security force dealing with the prisoners. To achieve both of these missions, the Court hereby orders that on any date when any of these defendants are in the courtroom there shall be one bailiff from the Sheriff's Department and one bailiff from the State Police in the courtroom from eight a.m. until all of that day's cases are completed and the courthouse closed. As well, the front door of the courthouse shall be guarded by two deputies and two state policemen during that same period of time and whenever one of the defendants is brought into this courthouse or before this bench he shall be escorted by one deputy and one state trooper. At all times each deputy and state policeman who enters the courthouse or provides security at its front entrance shall be in uniform - not tactical gear or civilian clothes - and carry only a pistol and no other weapons. No other individuals, whether they are law enforcement or not, shall be allowed to enter this courthouse under arms. This Court also orders that the defendants be brought before the General District Court in the next two hours for their pretrial hearings."

With that Judge Isom stalked from the bench back to his chambers. He had never even allowed all the people in the courtroom who were ordered to their feet when the judge came in to sit down. Yusif was watching from the back of the courtroom and he was pretty sure that if the door to the judge's office had been without a spring the judge would have slammed it behind him.

The State Police got the cars headed to the jails turned around and found an adequate number of troopers to set things up as the judge ordered. To make it work, the first sergeant actually served as the bailiff. By five, the defendants started being brought before Judge Fleming, who stayed late so that things could be done as Judge Isom had ordered. The troopers would drive one defendant into town, have his pretrial hearing, and then drive him out of town as the next defendant was being driven in. Yusif and Brad sat through every hearing and watched as a defense attorney stepped forward for each defendant and Yusif repeated by rote that the Commonwealth opposed any bond.

By six forty-five it was all done. Brad stepped out to talk to the media, giving some sort of general statement about how the citizens of Barnette County believed in law and order. As soon as the press dispersed Brad went straight to his car and left. Yusif stayed in the office, but he did not stay to do any work. He just sat there playing bloon tower defense on his computer and thinking dark thoughts until he was sure that everyone was gone. When he finally got up to leave he swore that he was going to leave this damned county and not return a second before he had to on Monday.

30 November 2012

November Novel: Chapter 11

[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7] . . . [Chapter 8] . . . [Chapter 9] . . . [Chapter 10]

When Brad got to work on Monday there was the normal pile of phone messages on his desk which Paula had gleaned from the weekend's voicemail. On top was the usual message from Marty Elkins. Norton High School's football team came to town last Friday and destroyed the Bartlette Unified Tritons. Marty would have complaints about the refs and be absolutely certain they were on the take. He had been the first quarterback at Bartlette Unified when the county's three high schools were merged into one and ten years later he stilled lived or died each week in accord with the Triton's latest game. For himself, Brad doubted the thirty-five to thirteen loss had much to do with anything other than the fact that eleven starters graduated last year and a third of this year's starters were sophomores.

He smiled. Paula purposefully put that one on top so his day would start with a bit of humor. She knew the problems he was having at home and was trying to help in what little ways she could.

Of course, after that first message, there were about twenty others which were not so much fun. Most of them were about the judges throwing every single case that came before them out of court. Each of the three judges decided that since the original paperwork was destroyed in the fire that the cases based upon that paperwork had to be dismissed. All Brad and Yusif could do was weather that storm and indict anyone with a serious charge. The next grand jury was scheduled for a week from Thursday and he had already told Judge Isom and the clerk of court that it would take at least two days because they had to re-indict everyone whose original indictment was destroyed in the fire and all the serious cases which had been dumped by the judges in the lower courts. In a normal month they indicted somewhere around thirty-five people. This month they would be indicting at least four hundred. Poor Paula would go nuts this week trying to get everything set up.

There were two messages from law enforcement officers. The first, received Saturday, was from Special Agent Mazzota of the FBI. Mazzota was the lead FBI agent for the federal team that showed up after the explosion. He had not been especially cooperative with the Sheriff's Department or even Brad's office and in the call at three in the afternoon on Saturday his message only stated that he wanted to speak to "the head prosecutor." Apparently, it was too much trouble to remember Brad's name or even look it up on the internet. The second message was from a Detective Barry Shifflet, a Roanoke officer. It was from earlier this morning and said it concerned an abduction.

In a fit of pique, Brad decided to call the detective in Roanoke first. If the FBI agent could not be bothered to remember Brad's name then Brad would not bother to give him top priority. However, Brad's pettiness was stymied when the number rang through to voice mail. He dutifully left his contact information and then hung up so that he could call Special Agent Mazzota.

Mazzota had left a cell number and it got answered before the second ring. "Mazzota here."

"Hi. This is Brad Dollerby, the Bartlette Commonwealth Attorney. You called my office over the weekend. I'm returning your call."

"Thank you for calling back, Mr. Dollerby. I was just trying to confirm the identity of a Father Jerome Tolton. He gave your name as someone who could verify his identity." The voice was coolly professional.

"Um, sure. Black guy. Skinny. Maybe mid-thirties. Priest. Presided over my wedding and he's some sort of trouble shooter for his Church. Also claims to be a lawyer, although I can't confirm that." Brad tried to match Mazzota's professional tone, but surprise, curiosity, and some anger tinged his words. "What has the Father gotten into now?"

"Thank you. We called Bishop Mannion after we could not contact you and he confirmed the identity of Father Tolton." The FBI agent pointedly did not answer the question. "I'll be sure to advise you if anything comes up involving your office. Thank you for your assistance."

With that, the line went dead. Brad had dealt with federal agents before and you just had to accept a certain degree of sanctimony and self righteousness from them, but this jerk was just plain rude. More troubling was the refusal to tell him what Father Tolton had meddled in now. He also found himself mulling over the "advise you if anything comes up involving your office" line. There were all sorts of implications which could be read into that statement. Well, there was only one way to find out.

He pulled up a search engine on his computer and looked up Saint Berlinda's phone number. He called and the phone rang seven times before a man picked up. It was Lyle. Lyle was a retiree who volunteered at the church. Brad was uncertain what he did exactly, but he was always at Saint Berlinda.

"Hey, Lyle, it's Brad Dollerby. I'm looking for Father Tolton."

"Oh, he's on his way Mr. Dollerby. The troopers picked him up about thirty minutes back. They must have stopped for breakfast - otherwise they'd be at your office already."

Brad rolled with what felt like a body blow and kept his voice light. "Yeah, they must have. Do you know which troopers picked him up? I think maybe I ought to give them a call and hurry 'em up a little. You know how people can sit around at the Hardees all morning."

Lyle chuckled. He was one of the old men who sat around every morning at the Hardees talking politics and remembering how great things used to be. "Nope. Both of them were in suits and one didn't even come into the church. They weren't even in a gray car; it was just a white SUV. Only reason I know who they were is that I heard Father Jerome tell Father Gabe that he was 'leaving with the troopers.'"

"Okay. Well, I better get off the phone. I need to clean my office up a little bit before Father Jerome gets here." After a couple more words of goodbye Brad hung up the phone.

What was the priest doing now? It had to have something to do with the ambush and the FBI and state police were involved. He was not. He wondered if the Sheriff was cut out too. He called over to the Sheriff's Department, but the Sheriff was off at a prayer breakfast. So, he asked to speak to Jeff Sanger. The chief of investigations picked up on the second ring. They exchanged quick greetings and Jeff beat Brad to the punch.

"So, I guess you're either calling about Squire dying or Dave getting arrested."

Brad was startled by Jeff's abruptness and the unexpected topics stupefied him for several beats. Then it all came pouring out at once. "Wait, I thought Tolliver was supposed to be okay. What happened? And what do you mean Dave got arrested? Dave who? You arrested someone on this?"

"Something went wrong with Squire's surgery. He died this morning from complications - about six. And, no, we haven't arrested anybody on this yet. Dave Jordan got himself arrested yesterday in Roanoke."

"Dave Jordan? You mean your Dave Jordan?" The only Dave Jordan that Brad knew was Sergeant Dave Jordan, one of the investigators directly under Jeff's supervision.

"Yeah. Apparently, Dave found out who that guy was who spoke to Yusif last week - the one who wouldn't tell Yusif who he was. It was some lawyer out of Roanoke. Anyway, Dave drove to Roanoke yesterday without telling anyone here or contacting anyone there and found the guy. He arrested this lawyer, cuffed him, and started questioning him. Seems he got pretty rough and when local PD arrived on the scene they arrested him and charged Dave with abduction, malicious wounding, and two charges of using a firearm in a felony. I spoke to the detective assigned to the case and they are pissed. I don't know if the Sheriff and ya'll are going to be able to help him this time."

Brad was not particularly disposed to help Dave Jordan. The guy was a jerk and not quite half as clever as he thought he was. In an equitable world Jordan would have never risen above street patrol and probably not lasted too long as a deputy. In the real world, he was the Sheriff's step son and he had been promoted to someplace where no one thought he would do any harm. Brad knew that Jeff only gave Jordan the most basic assignments and even then kept a fairly close eye on his work. Even so, at its peak Jordan's work only occaisionally rose to the level of adequate. Brad would not be bothered a bit if Jordan was no longer working for the Sheriff's Department. Unfortunately, the Sheriff would not see it that way; he would want some help.

"Jeff, is the Roanoke detective a guy named Shifflet? I got a call from somebody by that name before I got to the office today."

"Yeah, that's him." Jeff paused for a moment. "I've got his info here . . . Lieutenant Barry Shifflet, Roanoke Police Department. You want his phone number?"

"No, I've already go that. I left him a voicemail a couple minutes ago. Is there any other news about the case? You heard anything from Father Tolton?"

"The priest? I got an email about him. Let me check." After about ten seconds Jeff continued. "Here it is. Apparently, last Thursday Father Tolton tried to talk to Bo about the incident, but Bo wouldn't talk about it without the Sheriff's permission. Bo sent an email to the Sheriff about it, who forwarded it to me and I sent an email back to the Sheriff saying I don't want information about the case being handed out to anyone while we're investigating. Heck, Brad, I know y'all are close to this priest, but we can't let somebody come in and mess around in this when we haven't even figured out who did it yet."

Brad knew he had to immediately squash that notion. "I don't want you to do anything for this man that you would not do for anybody else. My wife's the Catholic. I'm still a member of United Methodist here in Mount View. If he starts throwing my name around trying to get things, you let me know. The only reason I asked about Tolton was that the FBI called and asked about him. I thought maybe he'd gotten into something."

"The FBI hasn't said anything to me about him, but then the FBI pretty much hasn't said 'boo' to me since all this started. They don't seem to have any real interest in cooperating. And, I wouldn't worry about Tolton using your name to open doors. Best I can tell, he didn't try that and we all know that Bo wouldn't help someone who dropped your name anyway."

It was an ongoing joke. Bo "blamed" Brad for his marriage. After Bo waded into the Mahans at Brad and Maggie's wedding reception the Mahan women had targeted him. Brad was not sure why exactly; all he knew was that every time he brought the subject up with Maggie or Abby they chortled or grinned like cats that had eaten several canaries. After the reception and before they left town two women from Boston actually tracked Bo down and got him to exchange email addresses with them. Two others found him online within a week and Bo had a lively exchange with three women from Boston and one from New York over the next several months. Obviously, he thought nothing would come of it. After all, these were big city women who could not possibly want to live in the mountains of Virginia and they were hundreds of miles away. He was just having fun flirting with them. Then, Mary Elizabeth Mahan left Boston, moved to Bartlette, and put an end to all of that. Within four months Mary had shouldered aside both her local and internet competition and had a thoroughly bewildered Bo Ross in front of a priest saying wedding vows. However, this time the wedding and reception were in the next county over because Norton had both a larger Catholic church so that everyone could get in this time and a bigger hotel where the Mahans could have their monster reception in peace and not get Bo in trouble with his Sheriff. From that day on, Bo would gripe whenever he saw Brad that his carefree bachelor days ended because Brad brought Mahans to Bartlette County.

Brad gave the obligatory chuckle. "Watch yourself, Jeff. Today's not the day to get on my bad side. The Tritons lost on Friday so I've gotten a call from your favorite person, Mister Marty Elkins, with the usual complaints. I could decide that my office isn't equipped to investigate such an important allegation and refer him over to you. Maybe I'll be extra helpful and give him your direct number."

"Ug! I take it all back!" Both men chuckled this time. Marty's phone messages to the Sheriff's Department about the corruption in high school football tended to get lost somewhere between the receptionist's desk and Jeff's office. In fact, the non-responsiveness of the Sheriff's Department was the reason that Marty now called the Commonwealth Attorney instead.

With that, the conversation wound down. After hanging up the phone, Brad spent a couple seconds thinking how good it was that people were getting back to the point they could kid around again. Then he found his thoughts turning sour as he mulled over any possible meaning or connections between all the things going on. He still did not know what Tolton was up to, but the situation with Dave Jordan was even more troubling. Jordan was just dumb enough that it was believable that he would go cowboy and try a stupid stunt like going to Roanoke to make an illegal arrest. Yet, somehow it did not feel right. Things were going on that Brad did not have enough information to understand and he did not like that at all.

28 November 2012

November Novel: Chapter 10

[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7] . . . [Chapter 8] . . . [Chapter 9]

The third floor of Veteran's Administration Hospital was quiet. It was after ten, but a man of the cloth usually went unchallenged if he stayed out of the way. In fact, the nurse at the central table had been quite helpful when Jerome asked for Mark Carr's room. Everyone knew that it was only a matter of time for Mark so it was no surprise that a member of the clergy would show up to comfort the family and say final prayers for the dying.

Yet, that was not Jerome's purpose in being here. In fact, even Jerome did not know exactly why he was here. He had spent his entire Friday running down the victims of the ambush. His first visits were with the two lawyers, both of whom were patients at the Beauregard Medical Center. Grant Lasley had been sitting up in his bed and using his cell phone to talk to clients and his secretary. The man acted as though getting ambushed and shot was an inconvenience designed to keep him from representing his clients. While Jerome was there a young nurse arrived with about six different pills for Lasley to take and he almost ripped her head off when he realized one of them was a lortab. The nurse kept trying to explain that pain management was necessary and he kept talking over her. Finally, Jerome intervened.

"Mister Lasley, all she's doing is following the doctor's instructions and trying to give you something for your pain."

Lasley paused and made an obvious effort to get himself under control. "Respectfully, Father, that is not what is happening here. The opioids are extremely addictive and both she and her doctor know it. They are trying to turn me into another one of the pill zombies like they have half the people out here. It starts with a few tabs, then oxys, then fentanyl or oxymorphone. They can justify every step of the way as they increase the depth of your addiction and guarantee that doctors, pharmacies, and pill companies keep making money off you."

Jerome tried to speak in a soothing tone. This man was obviously being more than a little paranoid. "I'm sure the doctor is just trying to do his job. He's not trying to turn you into an addict."

The lawyer almost sneered at him. "It's so obvious you're not from here, Padre. The doctors, all just trying to do their jobs, have flooded us with these damned pills and addicted a huge number of people. If you don't believe me, start counting pharmacies. You think Mount View needs seven pharmacies for thirty-five hundred people or that Yared needs four in a town of about one thousand? The medical-pill industry is booming Father. And, if you need further proof of bad intent, note the fact that this nurse, her doctor, and this hospital are trying to give me an addictive medicine like lortab when they could just as easily give me a non-addictive pain pill like torodal."

Then came a fifteen minute lecture on how "big pharma" was neglecting the development of non-opioid, non-addictive pain suppressors because they did not lead to addiction like the narcotics and therefore fewer pills were sold and less profits made. Jerome eventually gave up trying to talk sense to the man and starting asking him about the ambush.

Lasley waved his remaining hand dismissively. "Not much I can tell you there. I assume you're here investigating the death of Father Pahl?" After Jerome nodded he continued. "Well, we were all standing in the alley. The deputies were letting the Pahl brothers smoke. We were all chatting about something inane because we couldn't talk about the case in front of the deputies. I heard the shots and saw the Pahl brothers get hit. I turned and dove behind the nearest cover. I'd like to say I was noble and pulled Father Pahl down with me, but the truth is that he got in my way and I shoved him down so that I could get down. I don't remember getting hit myself and I don't remember the explosion. There's a huge blank spot in my memory between hitting the gravel behind the deputies and waking up here with my arm sawed off."

After a few more questions which yielded no useful information and a couple very impatient looks from the Lasley, Jerome left and went a couple floors up to speak to the other lawyer. Keith Tolliver was in far worse shape than Lasley. He was only semi-lucid and after about ten minutes of mumbled and unfocused conversation prompted by Tolliver's wife Tara, the attorney lapsed into unconsciousness. Tara kept apologizing to Jerome because her husband could not help him and explaining that he had been much clearer before he had surgery two days ago. She was obviously worried and Jerome spent well over an hour comforting her and assuring her that he was not upset because her husband was not in any condition to talk with him.

After a break for supper in the hospital cafeteria, Jerome had tried to visit the Pahl brothers at the same hospital, but they had a police officer stationed outside their door and standing orders from their father that no visitors could see them. Neither of them were conscious anyway, but he felt obligated to visit all the victims and the Pahls were Catholics. He might not be able to talk to them, but at the very least he could perform an anointing. After about forty five minutes of reasoning and outright wheedling someone finally called the men's father. That proved fruitless when the elder Pahl both refused to speak to Jerome and refused to allow him to visit the brothers. Apparently, the man had several experts flying in to see if they could do anything to help his sons and he viewed allowing an anointing as giving up. The poor nurse who made the call out of kindness got yelled at loud enough that Jerome could could hear it himself and after she hung up she told him that the man said he "would not allow a priest to bless his children to death." She looked confused so he explained the anointing to her, after which she just looked dubious.

The next visit had been simple in comparison. Deputy Ed Boyd was in a room by himself, covered in bandages and hooked to machines which were performing his bodily functions. There was no one with him. The nurse told Jerome that deputies would come by and visit every day, but no family. It turned out he had no close relatives at all and a board of doctors had decided that they would wait until Monday and if there was no improvement they would detach him from the machines preserving his life. Judging from the way the deputy looked and the nurse's resigned attitude, Jerome understood that this basically meant the deputy would die on Monday. He did not know the man's faith but sat praying for him for some few minutes before he stood and approached the bed. He made the sign of the cross, dabbed his finger in his bottle of oil, and lightly made the sign of the cross on the sheet over the man's heart as he recited the blessing. "Through this holy anointing may the Lord in his love and mercy help you with the grace of the Holy Spirit. May the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up." That done, he prayed a little longer for the man and then left for his final visit.

And found out that the last hospitalized victim was not at Beauregard Medical. When Deputy Carr's family decided to remove him from life support everyone expected him pass quickly; his father even signed a no resuscitation order. However, the deputy hung on and it looked like there was a chance he would transit into a persistent vegetative state. As soon as the family was told this they insisted on moving him to the V.A. hospital. The doctors recommended against it, but the family was adamant. He had been moved earlier that day. The nice, young doctor whom the nurse summoned to explain this also launched unbidden into an explanation of Deputy Carr's condition. Jerome listened politely, but he was fairly certain the majority of the explanation would have taken a couple years of medical training to understand. The gist of it seemed to be that the deputy's internal wounds were severe, but stabilized. Even so, the doctors were surprised he was still alive. There was a high probability that Mark Carr would be dead within a week. After thanking the doctor and assuring him that he understood and would not inappropriately raise the hopes of the deputy's family, Jerome took his leave and drove to the V.A. hospital.

A little over an hour later he was standing in the hallway of the George Jordan V.A. Medical Center outside Deputy Carr's room. Walking into the room he found Mark Carr laying in the bed. This deputy had less equipment hooked up to him than his fellow had in the other hospital and Jerome could hear his shallow, somewhat erratic breathing. It took him a couple seconds to realize that there was another man in a chair in the corner of the room.

The man had obviously been dozing. He started awake and shambled to his feet. "Can I help you Preacher?"

Jerome caught himself before the automatic correction which sprang to his tongue could come out. This was not the time to squabble over religious trivialities. "I'm trying to visit all the people who were hurt in the explosion. I went round to Beauregard earlier today and visited everyone I could, but Deputy Carr was moved here before I could see him."

"Well, there ain't much to see." The man looked at Jerome more closely. "You're one of those Roman priests, right? A Vicar? And a n . . . a black boy at that. You must be having all sorts of fun in these mountains."

For a second, Jerome stood stunned. Then he felt the wave of anger building and bowed his head to pray a quick Hail Mary and calm himself. The man seemed to take that as a signal to go on. "What can I do for you Vicar? We surely ain't part of your flock. I don't go nowhere and I'm pretty sure that Mark and Dad still go to listen to Brother Charles at Yared Mountain Christian on Sundays."

Shaking off the what had almost been said - and what had - Jerome fastened on the question. "I was sent to look into the death of Father Pahl and I felt I ought to visit as many of the victims as I could. I got here late because Deputy Carr was transferred here."

"Yeah, you said that. Just like Mark here to inconvenience somebody else right up to even the way he dies. You ain't the only one. I'm here 'cuz Dad wouldn't leave unless someone was here to watch his favorite son and a couple of his deputy buddies showed up at my trailer and told me they were taking our Dad home at eight and I better be here to take his place or be able to explain why I wasn't. Give an asshole a badge and a gun and he thinks he rules the world. Anyway, I got to be here too, but it wasn't God who sent me."

The conversation stumbled on for another ten minutes. Jerome found out this man was the deputy's younger half brother Andy and that Brother Charles was coming by tomorrow to try a laying on of hands so no praying by a Roman priest was needed. Certain that he was not wanted here, Jerome started to leave when Andy stepped between him and the door.

"I need to hit the john and go take a smoke, can you watch him for a while?" Before Jerome could say anything, Andy started for the door, only to stop again when a gasping noise came from the direction of the bed. Both men looked back and saw Mark Carr moving his right arm as his eyes fluttered open. The brother practically knocked Jerome over as he shoved him aside to get to the bed. "I'm here, Mark. It's me, Andy."

However, the deputy looked right past his brother at Jerome and started mumbling something. Jerome walked up to the bed and the voice was barely audible. " . . . brownie . . . brownie . . . why . . . we did it . . . why . . . why?" The voice slid into an unintelligible mumble as the man's eyes lost focus. Then the eyes caught on his brother and strength came back. " . . . get Dad out . . . he'll kill him . . . did what told us . . . killed Ross . . . brownie . . . flare . . . Dad out . . ." With that, the man in the bed took a couple deeper breathes and his eyes blinked twice before remaining closed. Once again the only noise in the room was the breathing of the three men.

Jerome started to turn toward the door when the younger Carr's hand grabbed his arm. "Nothing happened here, Vicar."

Jerome tried to yank his arm free, but the man had a firm grip. "What do you mean, 'nothing happened?' We both heard him. We need to get a doctor in here to look at him and tell the police. And warn your father."

"Out here people take care of their own Don't you worry about our dad. Worry about yourself. You ain't the only brownie around here. He's talking about the Sheriff's pet melungeun. You tell the law and we're all dead."

The man loosened his grip on Jerome's arm. "You tell whatever story you want. I didn't see a thing. Ain't getting killed 'cuz Mark did something stupid."

Jerome left without saying a word, only stopping long enough to tell the nurse on duty that he saw Deputy Carr wake for a few seconds and say something to his brother. The nurse did not seem to care too much, but wrote something on a notepad and promised she would tell the doctor when he came back around.

With that, Jerome left the hospital behind. It was after midnight as he started to drive back to Bartlette, wondering whom he could speak to about this - wondering whom he could speak to safely about this.

27 November 2012

November Novel: Chapter 9

[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7] . . . [Chapter 8]

Yusif watched his boss leaving the courthouse at a clip. The man had barely stood still long enough to hear half of Yusif's story before telling him to tell Captain Sanger about it and continuing on his way. There was no telling where he was heading, but at least he did not seem to be acting out of anger.  Yusif figured that was a good sign.

He continued up to his office. Once there, he tried to call Captain Sanger's cell number and got voice-mail.  That could mean the Chief  Investigator was already at lunch or it could mean the deputy was in the eighty percent of the county without cell phone reception.  There were only four places in Bartlette County where cell phones would usually work: the three towns and Yared State Penitentiary.   In any event, Yusif put a note on his computer to call Sanger that afternoon. 

By then it was noon and he started his regular lunch ritual.  He reached behind the phone on his desk and walked over to shut the door to the office.  As he reached the door he saw Maggie walking up the stairs toward his office.  She saw him too.

"Just about to lock yourself into your Fortress of Solitude, Yusif?"

Backing up a couple steps Yusif gestured for Maggie to come in, but she stopped at the door. When she paused for a second he spoke. "You know how it is Maggie.  If I don't lock myself away I'll never be able to get enough time to eat my sandwich and call my evil minions."

She smiled a little at his reference to an ongoing joke which had sprung from how suspicious people had been when an Arab-American moved to Bartlette, but she did not join in this time.  Instead, she asked if he had seen Brad.

"Last I saw, he was leaving the courthouse, moving fast.  He must have had a meeting or something. Didn't he call you?"

"He left without his cell phone." Maggie dug around in her purse and then handed a phone to Yusif. "Make sure he gets this, would you?"

Yusif took the phone. "Sure, Maggie.  I'll be in court after lunch, but I'll give it to Paula. She'll make sure he gets it."

"I'd appreciate it if you'd give it to him yourself."  She stood there looking at him until he spoke.

"The thing is, he's mad at me for not coming to your party last night.  I think it's best if I leave him alone for a while."

Maggie turned to walk away, speaking back to him over her shoulder.  "Yusif, you've been his best friend since law school. He may be angry, but it's not about you missing a party for Father Tolton.  I can pretty much guarantee that. Just do me a favor and make sure you hand him the phone yourself."

Then she was gone and Yusif was left standing there holding the phone.  He stuck it in a pocket and closed the office door, locking it.  Then he went back to his desk and pulled out the two ham and cheese sandwiches he packed this morning. He had about forty minutes left before he had to be back in court to watch Judge Fleming do his next batch of dismissals.


"Hey Joseph, I got your message. What's up?"

The man on the other end of the phone did not bother with an introduction. Jeff Sanger was the only person who called him Joseph.  The chief of investigations could not pronounce Yusif's actual name correctly. He had tried for months and butchered it every time.  The mixture of mountain accent with Arabic pronunciation would not work for Jeff. When he found out that Yusif was the Arabic version of Joseph he immediately switched to the English pronunciation and never looked back.  Yusif found this annoying; after all, if his parents wanted to name him Joseph they would have done so when he was born. However, Jeff was a decent sort and there was nothing to be gained by forcing him to continue butchering Yusif's name so he did his best to ignore it.

"Hey, Jeff. I had something weird happen today and the boss wanted me to call you about it."

"Wait a sec. Let me get a pen and some paper."  Yusif could hear scrabbling through items in the car which had become the Captain's de facto office since the Sheriff's Office burned to the ground. "Okay, got 'em.  Is this something to do with ambush?"

"Truth be told, I don't know, Jeff.  I think it probably does, but the conversation never got that far.  Some guy claiming to be a lawyer showed up this morning and insisted on talking to me in private.  Wouldn't even go up to my office, so we ended up in the law library."

Yusif paused to give Jeff a chance to write that down and the investigator filled the silence with questions.

"What was his name? What law firm was he with? And where's the law library?"

"He wouldn't identify himself at all.  He wasn't from around here though. His hair was a little too fancy and he looked like he was dressing down to blend in with the little people.  The law library's that room on the first floor of the courthouse with the big oak table."

Yusif waited a couple of seconds then went on.

"Anyway, this guy asked me to promise not to tell Brad or anyone in the Sheriff's Department about our conversation.  When I refused, he left.  He drove off in a red lexus; I couldn't get the whole plate, but it was one of those with a seal in the middle and three numbers on both sides. I'm pretty sure the last three were 'ESQ.'"

Jeff asked a few more questions about what the man and his car looked like then he finished the conversation.  "Right. I think that's about everything I need.  I should be able to locate this man and send someone to talk to him.  If all else fails, I guess we subpoena his client list and that should give us whoever it is we need to talk to."

Yusif hung up the phone sure that this puzzle would be figured out in the fullness of time.  Captain Sanger was not the smartest man Yusif had ever met, but he was perhaps the most thorough.  He would not have brilliant Sherlock Holmes style insights.  Instead, he would steadfastly hunt down every lead and doggedly pursue any suspect.  He might not solve every case, but every bit of evidence which could be found would be.

With that finished, Yusif turned to the docket for Thursday's Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.  He had the rest of the day to figure out how he was going to keep Judge Mullins from following Judge Fleming's example and throwing all the cases involving minors and domestic abuse out because the original paperwork was destroyed.

26 November 2012

November Novel: Chapter 8

[Chapter 1] . . . [Chapter 2] . . . [Chapter 3] . . . [Chapter 4] . . . [Chapter 5] . . . [Chapter 6] . . . [Chapter 7]

Things were bad and the priest meddling about was making them worse. Being ambushed by Father Awesome came as a complete shock yesterday.  The priest, without any warning, just showed up and tried to shoehorn himself into Brad's office.  The conversation got extremely awkward when Brad shut that down and told Father Tolton that when they caught whoever killed the men in the alley he was going to get the death penalty for them.  Then, after Father Tolton left, Brad vented his spleen at Yusif for about forty five minutes because he had supported the priest's proposal without talking to him first.

Consequently, Yusif had ducked the get together his mother-in-law and Maggie set up for Father Tolton.  Brad was already annoyed by the mother-in-law who would not move out of his house now deciding to use it as a place for entertaining crowds of people.  Yusif's pointed absence added to his foul mood.  Brad did his best to stay in the background all night and watched as his father and mother-in-law ushered the guest of honor around Brad's house introducing him to everyone in both families.

The party ended with a prayer which the Father kept vague enough that most just left the party with good feelings.  However, there was a part at the end which sounded entirely too much like the priest had decided that he had not yet done enough to fulfill his duty to his Church and his God.  Brad heard in that prayer a promise that Father Tolton would be interfering in matters which he should leave alone. Nothing good could come from that.

However, the party had been the least of the night.  After the guests left, Maggie found him sitting in the living room and lit into him about not participating in the party and not kissing up to the priest.  Maggie sniped at him all the time and she had a quick temper that would flare up constantly.  Sometimes he just rode the wave of the scoldings she sent his way, secure in the knowledge that ten minutes later she would move on; often he sniped back at her in a playful way.  Last night he exploded. Her anger was based on a social slight that occurred one night and a belief he could do better.  His anger was based in the deaths of people he knew most of his life, his inability to do anything about it, and the unnecessary interference he knew was going to come from this priest. 

His deep raging fury overwhelmed his wife's choler.  He did not know how long he screamed at her, but when enough reason took hold for him to think again he found himself yelling ". . . All this shit started when a fucking priest from your fucking church came down here to interfere and now there's another fucking priest from your fucking church here to interfere more! Well, fuck them all and fuck you too!" As he paused to breathe in, his wife's appearance got through to him. She had retreated to the exit from the living room into the kitchen and she looked scared.  The was what broke through.  Maggie was scared of him.  He stopped, walked to the nearest door and left the house.  He left without even getting his coat.  He could not stay. The woman he loved was afraid of him and the black rage which caused that fear was still in him; if he stayed it would come out again.

He got in his SUV and drove off.  As he backed out of the driveway, Maggie came outside and he heard her calling his name, but he kept going.  Nothing good could possibly come from going back; it would just add to the disaster.

After driving around for a couple hours, he headed for the courthouse.  He used his key to get in and went up to his office.  There was no way he was going home.  He knew Maggie; she would be sitting up waiting for him and she would want to talk.  She would not want to yell and argue now; she would want to have a deep, meaningful conversation and get this worked out.  He could not do anything like that.  He needed time alone to get himself back under control and deal with what was going on.  Someone messing with him and trying to make him talk out his emotions, even if in the most well intentioned way, would only make it worse and probably end up with him blowing up again.  Maggie would never understand that and she would insist on trying to help.  

To avoid that he slept in the reclining office chair behind his desk.  He got maybe ninety minutes of sleep before he took the spare suit he kept in his office and went down to the bathroom, washed up, and put the suit on.  A little after five o'clock, he sat back down at his desk and tried to do some work to get his mind off everything else. His concentration faded quickly and he found himself staring mindlessly at the screen between periods of dozing.

Finally, at about eight, Brad left the office and went down to the local eZee Stop to buy a couple sausage and egg biscuits and some coffee.  When he drove back to the courthouse he arrived in the parking lot just as Yusif pulled in.  They walked in side by side but neither said anything except to exchange meaningless greetings.

When Paula got to the office at eight thirty she told Brad that there several messages from his wife asking him to call home. She looked at him curiously as she handed him the messages, but he took them from her without comment and she retreated to her desk.

Shortly after nine, a call came in from Charles Poplin, the chief of police in the Town of Yared.  Including himself, Chief Poplin had six officers on his payroll and most of them made Barney Fife look competent.  The two other towns in Bartlette County, Mount View and Saint Minas, had small offices that tried hard.  There was a gap between their work and the work done by the Sheriff's Department or State Police, but that was mainly because the Sheriff and the Virginia State Police had more money and resources.  In fact, Brad had a lot of sympathy for the chiefs in Saint Minas and Mount View because he knew the towns could only afford to pay their officers so much and almost every time one of the towns found a really good officer, trained him up, and sent him to the academy that officer would get hired away by a sheriff's department that could pay him more.  However, Brad had no sympathy in his heart for Yared.  The town was basically owned and run by the Poplins.  Mayor Mark Poplin and his cronies controlled everything that happened in the town and had for thirty years.  Charles Poplin had been made chief of police a couple decades back so the Mayor could use the police department to keep his fiefdom under his control.  As best Brad could tell, whether you broke the law in Yared had little to do with whether you were charged with a crime.  If the Poplins disliked you, you would eventually get a criminal charge.

Chief Poplin was mad because a charge against a member of the Hope family had been dismissed by the judge.  The Hopes had backed the other side in the last town election and failed to depose the Poplins.  Ever since, if a Hope even jaywalked he got arrested and usually charged with obstruction of justice.  There was more than one Hope who showed up at the jail with a lot of bruises because "he resisted arrest."  The regional jail now routinely took pictures of anyone who was arrested in Yared so that no one could claim the injuries happened in the jail.  Not that Brad thought the Hopes were anything less than a rough crowd themselves.  They opposed the Poplins in the last election not out of any great sense of morality, but because they thought they could snatch the power for themselves. As well, no officer went to the Ritz Road area - more generally known as "Hope Hollow" - by himself.  Every house back there was full of Hopes and a single officer who went in might not make it back out.  Still, the sheer number of overcharged and wrongly charged Hopes who came before the judges in the last couple years had made it almost impossible to convince a judge that any Hope charged with a crime by any Yared officer should be convicted.

Mikey Hope stood accused of keying the car of a girlfriend of one of the Yared police officers. Mikey was definitely a bad guy.  However, the entirety of the evidence at the preliminary hearing consisted of the girlfriend seeing him leave the Yared Food Time store as she went in and her car being keyed.  The magistrate somehow allowed the officer to swear out a misdemeanor destruction of property charge based on those facts.  Judge Fleming, on the other hand, had thrown it out of his court as quickly as he could and told the officer, in no uncertain terms, not to bring any more cases like this.

Today, Chief Poplin wanted a perjury charge placed on Mikey Hope because Mikey had stood in general district court and dared to say that he did not do it.  The man's tunnel vision was incredible.  He only cared about one thing - putting Mikey Hope in jail one way or another.  Brad explained to him three times - rather sharply the third time - that a man could not be charged with perjury just because you thought he lied under oath. You had to have proof.  The conversation ended badly with Brad telling the Chief to get a sense of perspective and the Chief telling him to do his job.

The rest of the morning dragged on slowly.  As lunch approached, he knew he had to get out of the courthouse before noon.  Maggie brought him lunch every day at noon and if he was not stuck in court they ate together.  That was not going to happen today.  At eleven thirty, he got up and told Paula he was leaving for lunch.

As he was walking down the stairs, he ran into Yusif.  He had some story about a guy wanting to talk with him and not Brad.  Pausing for a couple seconds, he told Yusif that if his instincts told him something was wrong he should tell Jeff Sanger, the chief investigator for the Sheriff's Department and let him track it down.  Then he turned, walked down the stairs and left the courthouse.