A Long Time Passing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 7

Success… Of Sorts

It was a week later that I got a break. Daniel was stationed on the corner near where I'd last seen the boy that accosted me. I'd circled the block, much like I had that had brought me back here. I wasn't sure what to say or how to get information from an apparent street kid.

"Excuse me. I would like to speak with you," I said, in my writer's voice.

"Yeah! I ain't out here for my health, Mack," he said.

"Oh, of course you aren't, it was another boy I was actually looking for," I said. "Your name is?"

"You can call me Daniel. I know all the boys, Mack. Which one was it you was interested in hooking up with," he said, in his rich Baltimore accent.

"I don't know his name. Perhaps if you got in the car we could drive around and perhaps you could help me."

"Twenty to get in the car, Mack. We can drive all night, but I'm out here making a living. You cut into my time and we've got to negotiate a new price. Twenty up front," he said, leaning on the open window bent so he could look at me and still look up and down the mostly empty street.

"Yes, of course. I agree to your terms. I feel a bit exposed sitting here with you leaning in my window. Could we please drive around a bit?"

The door opened and the boy sat in next to me. There was little or nothing remarkable about him, if you disregarded his bad teeth, poor grasp of the language, and surly attitude. He sat staring straight out the window as the other boy had done. I put the car in gear and waited for him to close the door. He extended his hand toward me.

"Twenty up front," he said, "I'm on the clock."

I reached in my pocket to find I didn't have my wallet. Then I remembered it was in the glove compartment. When I dropped the door open he moved back and up in the seat to make sure I couldn't touch his leg. I searched for a twenty, withdrawing it, and just as I was about to let go of my wallet and close the glove compartment, I thought better of it, stuffing it into my shirt pocket. He kept his eyes on me except to search the glove compartment while I was in it.

His hand remained extended as I sat back up behind the wheel. When I didn't immediately put the bill in his palm, he closed the door. The money exchange was made and he scooted his ass off the seat to place the bill in his own wallet. I let my foot off the break, checking my mirrors before gliding onto Eastern Avenue.

The light was blue instead of red. It had crossed my mind when I was digging for the twenty dollar bill that this would look peculiar to someone that had no idea what I was doing. Well, it seems the police didn't have any idea what I was doing, and I was separated from my car and the boy without ever finding out a single thing.

I was locked up for soliciting the services of a prostitute. Now, my idea about laws and the things people should be arrested for don't include the way in which people choose to find satisfaction, affection, or companionship. Yes, I knew the law said people aren't allowed to not be able to foment personal relationships with other human beings. Since there were large numbers of people who lacked the ability to form relationships in the prescribed manor, I knew many of them turned to prostitutes to fulfill one of the strongest needs in the human response system. My only difficult with this entire chain of thought was, I wasn't soliciting a prostitute.

Well, that wasn't necessarily so. He was a prostitute and I was soliciting information from him, hence, soliciting a prostitute was technically what I'd done. The law is relatively nonspecific in this area. When you pick up a prostitute, male or female, and solicit information from him or her, you have indeed gone afoul of the laws against nature and man's moral imperative.

"Todd, yes, Thomas here."

"Thomas who?" he replied.

"Thomas Brittle, Todd."

"What time is it, Tom?"

"How the hell should I know. Around mid-night. They've relieved me of my wristwatch. Stretch band and all you know, I'm sure they think I might try to hang myself with it," I said.

"Hey, buddy, you going to be on there all night? I got to call my lawyer," A very odious fellow slobbered into my ear while addressing me in slurred words.

"I've only just dialed my number," I said.

"Yeah, well don't be on their too long," he said.

"Where in the hell are you?" Todd said with a bit more composure.

"I believe this is what they call the drunk tank. I've gotten myself into a bit of a situation and I need your assistance," I said, trying to put it as politely as possible.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department."

"Have you been drinking?" Todd asked.

"No. No. Solicitation of a prostitute. Cocotte in your parlance," I said.

"Cocotte? That boy who tried to get in your car?"

"One like him. I need you to call Kathy," I said.

"You what? Hey Kathy, this is Todd, funny thing happened to Tom on the way into town. No thank you. Thank you very much. Can't you call her?"

"I called you. I'm depending on you to call her and let her know I haven't fallen into the harbor or anything," I said.

"Anything bad. Tom, we have a book. Do you know what this does. Do you know how complicated you've made things?"

"Todd, have you ever heard the words, not guilty. I mean you, my agent, might give me the benefit of the doubt," I said.

"Did you pick up a prostitute?"

"Yes!" I said.

"Guilty as charged, case closed."

"First amendment rights, Mr. Sweeney."

"Okay! Okay! I don't want to hear any more. I'll get a lawyer, Christ knows where this time of night. I'll drag him out of bed so we can bond you out of there as soon as possible," he said.

"Kathy. Call Kathy. I don't want you dragging anyone out. I want to use my first amendment rights as a writer. I was gathering material for my next book," I said. "I need an attorney who specializes in first amendment cases."

"You what? Gathering material? Thomas Brittle you've lost your mind. No one wants to read about male prostitutes. For Chris sake, wake up and smell the coffee. No market, no readers, no thank you," he said, being excited again.

"Todd, just do what I ask. I'll find someone else to handle the book," I said.

"The hell you will. You're name isn't going on anything like that. I've got a reputation and a stake in this thing. You write a book like that and you're career is over," he said.

"We'll see. I'm just doing research. If it doesn't go anywhere there won't be a book, but for starters, I need you to get to work to get me out of here," I said.

"I'll start calling around. It might be tomorrow," he said.

"Fine. I'll keep my back to the wall, and not talk to any large black men they call Bubba, or big anyone. Not that I talk to most men I don't need to talk to. Just do what I ask. Call Kathy right off. She'll be worried," I said.

"Tell her what?"

"Jesus, Todd, the truth will set you free. Tell her the truth. I know you've had some passing acquaintance with it before you became an agent," I said.

"Right! Thanks for the vote of confidence. Do you want a divorce lawyer while I'm at it?"

"Kathy will take it a hell of a lot better than you. Besides, this is excellent ground for research. This place has quite a flavor," I said, looking at my fellow inmates.

It was ten o'clock the following morning that I was removed from the tank. We'd all been served a bologna sandwich and a spoiled apple. I left my bag on the wooden seat to appease the restless. My stomach was growling, my back aching, and I'd done enough research and was ready to go.

My attorney gave me his name and pushed me into the courtroom in front of him without ever saying anything to me about my defense. Before I knew it the court was called to order.

I was surprised to hear my case called immediately after the judge was seated. I looked at my attorney for the second time.

City Of Baltimore vs. Thomas Brittle.

"John Foster Morales for the defendant, your honor, wave reading and plead not guilty, your honor."

The man was tall and lean and looked dapper in his pin strips. I thought of the New York Yankees as I looked for his glove. He carried a very expensive briefcase. I dismissed him fitting a good fielders mit in there. I'd guess he spent more money on his outfit than I spent on my entire closet full of clothes.

"John Foster?" The judge said, looking up at the attorney and noticing his million-dollar smile amongst the fifty-dollar attorney's that represented the drunks and such.

"My parents immigrated here in the fifties, your honor. They were patriotic," he said.

"Mr. Morales, why do I sense you are out of place in my courtroom?"

The judge was old and tired looking. His shoulders were slumped inside his robe, the desk was piled high with cases, and he seemed to be one more cog in the bureaucratic maze of justice, peering across the dimly lighted room through coke bottle glasses that magnified his eyes times ten.

"Your honor, I haven't met my client, but there is a travesty of justice before you."

"Where have I heard that before? Perry Mason, right?"

There was patronizing laughter from the audience.

"In ten words or less, Mr. Morales, clue me in. I just work here," the judge said.

"My client is a writer, your honor," my attorney announced.

"Brittle? Brittle? Brittle?" The judge said, looking about the courtroom as though he might be able to pick my face from the crowd. "Baltimore Sun. Five ten years ago. That Brittle?"

"Yes, your honor," I said, knowing my attorney had little time to acquaint himself with my writing credits. "I was doing research, your honor. It's all a mistake. I'm innocent of the charge."

The courtroom erupted with the help of the prosecutor. My humor got a lot more laughs than the judge's, only I was telling the truth in spite of his experience to the contrary.

"Where have I heard that one before. Has anyone talked to you," he said, looking at my face. "I mean from the district attorney's office."

He looked around for someone that might be representing the state.

"No, sir," I said, as my attorney put a very large hand on my chest indicating I should shut my face.

He didn't need a glove, his hand was huge.

"Your honor, my client was working on a social problem which was thrust into the forefront of his attention a few days ago. His agent can attest to this occurrence. He went into the area to talk to a prostitute. That's why he was there. He can't be denied his first amendment rights to participate in his chosen profession," Mr. Morales said, sounding a lot like John Foster Dulles might have sounded. "We are prepared to argue the constitutionality of this arrest and sue the city of Baltimore for our trouble. My client is a writer and he was within his rights to research in any way he saw fit. The people aren't aware of the circumstances because they haven't bothered to speak to him."

"I object your honor. The state must be protected from prostitutes and their clientele. It doesn't matter if they are writers or ditch diggers. This is a crime our office always vigorously prosecutors in an effort to keep our streets a safe place for our citizens."

"You running for office? Sit down. This isn't a trial. You'll get your chance. I'm not sure I want to hear this. Mr. Morales, you and your client step up to the bar please," the judge ordered with strain etched into the lines in his face.

"Mr. Brittle, what were you thinking? What were you doing with a prostitute in your car?"

"I was looking for a boy," I said.

"Your honor, please," Mr. Morales said. "Mr. Brittle don't say another word. You're paying me a fine price to have me speak for you. Please let me try, though I know your words are far more eloquent than mine might be."

"Mr. Brittle, that's not a glowing defense you have there. People join our little sidebar. I want to dispose of this case if you don't mind," the judge said angrily.

"Your honor. The man admits picking up a prostitute. It is against the law. He admits his guilt. We've got to protect the people, your honor," the small man said.

"Give it arrest. The man's a writer. You really want this to go to trial? Can't we work something out before we turn my courtroom into a circus? You surely can't want to tie your office up with a first amendment case? We could be here all winter on a pass. Jury's are unpredictable in this kind of case."

"We're open," Mr. Morales said. "My client did nothing illegal in spite of the People's desire to prove otherwise."

"We can talk," the prosecutor said under duress and the stare of an unhappy judge.

"We'll be taking a short recess. Ten minutes. Amuse yourselves until I return," the judge said, disappearing down behind his bench.

The room had two two huge windows that stretched from a foot above the floor almost to the ceiling and I could finally see all the players. I felt like I was way too close to the judge because his eyes were the size of softballs as he studied the cast of players. I imagined my attorney catching one of them in his glove size hand as it popped from the judges face.

"We're prepared to argue this on the first amendment, your honor. Once we've won that, we'll be back for civil damages for what this man and the People are about to do to my client's reputation. I don't need to tell you how sympathetic a jury is going to be to a popular writer of our day. I don't come cheap and the clock is ticking," Mr. Morales said, stern faced and confident in every respect.

"I'm sure you don't," the judge said. "Mr…. Mr…. Mr…. You do have a name don't you?"

"Yes, your honor. Robins, your honor. John Robins."

"Mr. Robins. You can see this case isn't worth trying. You really don't want to go to trial with this? The man may not be as popular a writer as his attorney would have us believe, but his Baltimore audience must be considerable since his novel was set here. We need to think about this."

"Your honor. Two Baltimore City police officers witnessed the defendant stopping, picking up, and then pay a convicted prostitute. The man, under his own admission to police officers, is guilty. The young man is willing to testify as to the facts in this case. The People will try the case, your honor. We're confident we can prove the defendant was in violation of the law."

"The prostitute in this case, how is he charged?"

"He wasn't charged, your honor," Mr. Robins said.

"Let me take a wild guess, you let him go for his testimony against the illustrious Mr. Brittle?"

"Yes, your honor."

"You don't have a case, Mr. Robins?" The judge said, "Settle it hear and now. We have three more minutes to talk. I'm not going to be considering this case once we walk back through those doors."

"Your honor, the facts are clear. I'm confident," Mr. Robins said.

"This man is going to call your primary witness. He is going to ask him how he was charged. You didn't charge him. There is no case if the provider of the service wasn't charged. What's the crime. He's the subject of the case. Were services rendered or didn't you ask."

"Your honor, we made a deal for his testimony. It is done all the time," Mr. Robins said.

"Mr. Morales, what are you going to ask the witness against your client?"

"I'm going to ask if he was cut a deal not to charge him if he testified against my client," he said. "I'll maintain the character of the witness is suspect, while the character of my client is flawless."

"The man would have said anything you asked if you said you'd cut him free under the circumstances you describe. You have no case. He probably won't show up in court and the charges will be dropped anyway," the judge said. "Let's get rid of it right now. One minute, gentlemen, my fans are waiting for me and your case is boring me."

The judge stared at the prosecutor, and I felt a bit sorry for him. He was being blitzed, and he wasn't big enough to hold up under the attack.

"Agreed. We'll drop the charges," Mr. Robins said. "I've got to appear in your courtroom again, your honor, but I'm not pleased with our first contact."

"Good, good, thank you gentlemen. Mr. Brittle, please do your research out of Baltimore from now on. Have a nice day," the judge said as he left us behind to let ourselves out.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead