15 October 2013

Ambush in Bartlette: Chapter 29

Gil Pinsky drove his A8 into the parking lot of the Mountain Proud Motel. It took him seven hours to drive from the District to the place which was going to be his home for the next couple weeks at the intersection of 23E and State Route 67. The single story motel was located on a flat spot next to the road with its back to a mountain and a steep downward slope about five feet past the end of the parking lot. A well worn sign out front promised “HBO & Internet.”

When three men in a county as small as Bartlette were accused of capital murder a judge had to spread his net rather wide in order to provide competent counsel for each man. In this case, each man was appointed counsel from a local town - Norton, Bristol, and Abingdon - and each was then appointed a competent attorney to do the real work. Kelly Preston-Stiles out of the Virginia Capital Defense Office was appointed to represent the first man. Michael Whitaker out of Richmond accepted appointment on the second and suggested Gil to the judge. When called, Gil accepted without hesitation.

He took the case for three reasons. First, the publicity out of this case would be great for business. Second, no one deserved to die because he had bad representation and half the hicks out in these podunk counties who claimed to be lawyers “read” law. Of the rest, not a single one had ever set foot in a decent law school. Third, he did not look at a map before he accepted the case. When the judge told him Bartlette County was in Southwest Virginia, Gil thought he meant Roanoke. Before he came to Bartlette the first time he never realized you could drive three hours west of Roanoke and still be in Virginia.

He parked his car next to the blue SUV’s his team had driven up two days earlier. When he got out of the car Josh Schul, the young attorney sent ahead to set everything up, was waiting on the sidewalk.

“Good afternoon, Mister Pinsky.”

“That’s a matter of opinion, Josh. Do you have everything set up?”

“Yes, sir. Your room is the one at the end of the lot. The room next to it is where we have stored all the files and set up computers. The next four rooms are mine, Sal’s, Ms. Blake’s, and Mister Clarkson’s.”

“You got the food?”

“Yes, sir. The refrigerators in my room and Sal’s are full and we have the extra one set up in the room we are using as storage. I even checked the grocery over in Mount View and they knew what kosher food is. They weren’t sure they had any, but they knew what it is.”

The younger lawyer grinned and Gil smiled back at him. “Careful, Josh. I’m the arrogant, condescending snob. You and Sal are supposed to be the reasonable, friendly ones whom the locals can talk to and trust.”

Josh nodded his head at the mild rebuke and Gil went on. “Have Sal move my suitcases from the car to the room. Then gather the investigators and we will meet in the room next to mine. We need to talk about this black priest. It's far too good to be true. We need to do this fairly quickly as you, I, and Sal start Shabbat in about an hour.”

Josh frowned as he turned to his tasks, but Gil had not one jot of sympathy for him. If he did not want to keep Shabbat he should not have sought a job with Gil. He made no bones about the fact that he was a Conservative and expected any of his junior lawyers to be as observant as he was - at least while they were traveling together. Besides, it would do the kid’s Reformist heart some good to actually be held to a standard once in his life.

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