A Long Time Passing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 10

Long Arm Of The Law

I looked back into my mirror as something alarmed me. I saw nothing behind us. I looked at him. I had to go back where, I wondered. I didn't know him. I'd never seen him before. I was sure of that. What I wasn't sure of was why I was there. What had drawn me back to that location. Finding him no longer seemed enough. It was something he knew I needed to know. How could I be sure and how long would he settle for answering my questions? I knew I didn't have much time to figure out the puzzle that was in pieces inside my head.

"I don't understand," I said.

"Why did you want to meet me?"

"Why do you do this?" I asked.

"Do what? Go out? It's what I do," he said. "I need twenty for me and for the kid that set it up. He said you agreed?"

"Yes, in the glove compartment."

He opened the glove compartment and removed the two twenties I'd placed there before leaving the house. He checked them and stuffed them in his shirt pocket.

"What's your name?"

"You can call me Slim," he said.

"Is that your street name?"

"Something like that."

I looked at his face. There was no change. He needed a good bath. He was handsome in a youthful sort of way. There's little else I can describe about him. It wasn't like the other kid. I didn't feel uncomfortable around him.

"How old are you?" I asked, after driving a few more blocks.

"What, you writing a book?" He asked, giving me a quick glance of disapproval.

I knew what the blue lights were this time. I couldn't believe it. Kathy was going to be pissed that I didn't tell her I was going out. Todd was going to freak and John Morales was going to shake his head as though he knew we'd be meeting again.

"Tell them you're my uncle," Slim said.

"Evening Mr. Brittle, can we pull around the corner so we're off the main street," the officer said.

There was a second uniform walking along the curb beside the door. Once I reached the corner, I made the right turn. The idea came to me that I should floor board it and try to outrun them, but I was too old for that kind of thing. I wouldn't even write it into one of my stories. No one was that dumb to think they could outrun the cops. Well, almost no body.

The side door opened and the second uniform had Slim by the arm, he turned his head and looked at me with that blank expression.

"You need to go back," he said.

"Back where," I asked, as he was pressed up against the car and handcuffed with a resounding click.

"Mr. Brittle, you have the right to remain silent," the 1 st cop said as he opened my door.

"I know. I know," I said. "You guys don't have anything else to do."

"You getting smart with me, sir," the 1 st cop said.

"No, sir. Not on your life or mine," I said, being handcuffed as I faced Slim.

"How old is that one?" The first cap said.

"Fourteen, fifteen, he's not talking to the pigs. Probably waiting for his mouthpiece. I haven't seen this one before. A few hours in the slammer will loosen his lips."

The cop pushed the boy roughly toward the car, the boy a tiny thing and the cop a huge brute of a man.

"We were only talking," I said, watching the boy being abused.

"What's his name," the 1 st cop asked.

I looked at the boy as he was pushed into the back of a second police car. He didn't look at me.

"I don't know," I said. "I don't know his name. I'm a writer."

"Me too. I write reports. What do you write?" the cop said as he put me in the car.

The cell was no less disgusting. The phone call was no less humiliating.

"What?" Todd said.

"Call Kathy. Call Morales. I'm fine, thank you."

"Tom, this isn't going to do us any good," Todd said.

"Me, Todd. It isn't going to do me any good," I said.

"I represent you. This kind of thing reflects on me if it goes public. Publishers don't like this kind of thing," he said.

"Look, I'm doing research. If that's a problem for you, I'll find another agent, Todd. I'm sure there are a lot of other writers out there with books being published just waiting for a chance to make you a little money."

"What the hell are you researching. There's no market for what you're doing. It's not even in good taste, Tom. I'm only looking after your best interests. What ever you are doing, stop it."

"You've said that before. You've never criticized my style before," I said.

"You've never been arrested before. Twice. Okay, okay, Tom, let's just settle down. I'll call JM and see if he can't get to you right away. He's a busy man," Todd said.

"I'm busy trying to get sprung from this dump," I said. "We can argue the details later."

"I'm on it as soon as you hang up, Tom," Todd said.

He said he'd call Morales and my wife. I cringed when he mentioned my wife. I hadn't told Kathy that I'd been once more obsessed with the idea of finding out something about the boy. I'd found him, gotten arrested again, and the only thing he said was what?

Six hours later I was seated in a small room across from John Foster Morales. He didn't have much to say, as he looked through papers he'd gathered on his way in to see me.

"Mr. Brittle, this is getting more difficult. Your first amendment defense is wearing thin, especially at this stage of the system. This kid is under age by the sounds of it. The prosecutor isn't going to roll over this time. I'll be lucky to get you out on bail today. They are going to portray you as habitual in this kind of activity."

"What kind of activity? Jesus Christ, I'm a writer writing. I needed to talk to the boy. What about harassment? They were waiting for me. What's with that? Isn't it entrapment?"

"The judge isn't going to buy any extraneous arguments about you picking up a juvenile. There are laws and you aren't above them. You gave him money?"

"We were only talking. We never did anything but talk," I said.

"Money changed hands?" He asked. "Yes or no, Mr. Brittle?"

"Yes, yes, yes, they won't talk to you without some inducement," I said, not wanting to go into it.

"Yes! Or do other things without money changing hands first."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean. I am a married man with children, Mr. Morales. Doesn't it bother you just a little that these boys are out there doing that. Aren't you the least bit curious about why that is?"

"Ninety percent of arrests for prostitution involve a married man. The last boy had six previous prostitution arrests. This one probably has as many if not more. That's powerful circumstantial evidence when you stop and let them in your car late at night, and you admit to giving them money. It's a pattern. It's how prostitutes and Johns do business. It doesn't matter to me why prostitutes are prostitutes or why Johns are Johns. I'm paid to make sure you aren't labeled as a John, and you are making that difficult for me."

I hadn't done anything but try to solve a mystery and the long arm of the law was right there. I wasn't sure about how this arrest had come about. My car was a bit noticeable but I hadn't even seen a cop car. The thought occurred to me that I had been set up only it was the right kid and the cops would end up with the money I gave him, and the only people that knew about the meeting were the boy that set it up and the two of us.

Everything had gone fine until I was arrested. Now I'd have to wait another day to talk to the boy but now I'd know his address because of the court records. I knew how to research, and getting the documents in my case would also give me the address I wanted. Our next meeting would be in a place and at a time that was more conducive to conversation and less conducive for arrest because of it.

I wasn't looking forward to facing the judge yet again, but he was a man of reason and I was sure Mr. Morales would convince him to listen to me. Of course I wasn't always right about everything. Mr. Morales listened to every thing I had to say and didn't speak again until I shut up.

"You done?"

"Yes, sir," I said, sensing some anger on his part.

"I'm your attorney. Let me speak for you. I know that is difficult. I can argue your case much more effectively than you can. Your first time as an attorney went rather well. You had a sympathetic judge that didn't want a first amendment case to be argued in his court. He won't be so reluctant the second time around. Your argument has been argued and now you are back. The DA sees a good arrest and he'll be wanting to make up for the last time. It doesn't matter who you are or what you were doing as long as he can get a case that looks good in front of a jury. My advice is to shut up and let me argue them out of a jury trial. We can take a probation plea that gives them something and keep you out of jail. If you quit picking up boys in downtown Baltimore, we can have this off your record completely in a few years."

"What's that crack mean?" I said.

"It means I'm your attorney and I'm trying to pull your naïve ass out of the judicial fire. I can't do it if you won't help me. We don't want this in front of a jury. A jury is too risky. A plea gets us where we want to go only it takes a bit more time."

"Mr. Morales, this doesn't take into consideration one aspect of the District Attorney's case," I said.

"Meaning what?"

"I didn't do anything. Read my lips," I said, being more excited than it required.

"Do you want me to withdrawal my representation, Mr. Brittle?"

"What? No. I'm telling you I'm innocent," I said.

"I'm telling you there is only one way to get you out of this. I know how the system works and it isn't what you think it is, Mr. Brittle. Either do it my way or find new representation. Understood?"

"Understood," I said, finally having said enough.

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