A Long Time Passing

by Rick Beck

Chapter 16

Lawyers & Such

Traffic was terrible until I reached the exit to Route 95. I questioned if I could make it to Mr. Morales' office before my ten a.m. appointment. Once I broke free of the traffic I sailed into the center of town on 395. It was long after the morning rush was over in Baltimore. I cringed when I passed the court building and the jail where I'd been held.

I felt dirty when I was down there. Something like I felt when I sat in the cell with the drunks, druggies, and general misfits who were waiting for rescue. I can't imagine animals in a zoo treated in such a fashion, jammed in the other's stench, but we weren't prized animals, we were another example of man's way of treating his fellow man when he didn't follow the heard. Lucky thing for animals they couldn't be so violated even if they did misbehave or upset the balance of nature.

The parking lot sign indicated no room for a nine forty-five arrival. Then there was a car directly in front of me pulling out of a metered space as I rounded the block. I closed my eyes and prayed that I wouldn't hear breaking glass, and in a minute I was feeding quarters into the machine. After four I still only had half an hour. I batted the machine with the palm of my hand several times, looking around first to make sure no police officer was observing me. My pummeling caused the needle to leap, giving me the entire two hours within it's power. It made me smile. There are some small victories after all.

Then the damn thing started to grown and growl just as I was walking away. I turned in time to see violated appear in red as I looked at the mad mocking machine.

"No," I protested too loud. "Damn things are rigged."

Feeding my last three quarters into the slot, I got three quarters of an hour for my effort. I looked at the scale of payment per minutes but the printing was so small I wasn't sure what it said there in the shadow of the buildings. I left it at that, wanting to be in my attorney's office on time. If I got a ticket I'd sue the city for mental cruelty and defective parking meters. I'd then sue them for my psychiatrist.

I might be a criminal in the eyes of the judiciary and I might have psychological problems in the eyes of my shrink, but I wasn't tardy without a good reason. Ten people stood staring at the needle on the elevators once I entered the building. One was on the eighth floor going up and the other was on the fourteenth floor coming down. I took the stairs, breaking a sweat about the eighth floor.

"I have a problem," I said to the secretary as I went into the waiting room and leaned on the desk and breathed hard for her. "My car is the boat two up from the front door. I fed the meter six quarters and its still only giving me forty-five minutes. I might run over with Mr. Morales," I said.

"Not to worry, ah, Mr. Brittle," she said, doing a quick search of her list of appointments. "I'll see its taken care of."

The waiting room had no windows and was moderately well lit. It was cool enough to quickly cancel out the sweat I'd been building on the stairs. I removed my jacket and sat near the magazines, looking for Sports Illustrated since I never got to see it except in doctors and now lawyer's offices. There was one from the previous December but Mr. Morales appeared in his shirtsleeves before I opened it past the index.

"Oh, Mr. Brittle," he said, checking his watch. "Come on back. Meg, check for these files downstairs and bring us some coffee."

Mr. Morales was putting on his coat as I entered his office. We took our seats as he went through the file on his desk.

"The prosecutor refuses to bargain," he said. "He refuses to talk to me on the case in fact. I've made four, no five, calls to his office this week and none have been returned. Robins is never available, always in court."

"There is no bargain, Mr. Morales. I was exercising my first amendment rights as guaranteed in our Constitution. I did not commit a crime. Talking is still permitted in America."

"You don't understand the system, Mr. Brittle. When you talk bargaining, you try to get a low ball estimate on what they're bargaining for. I have no idea what they are thinking or what they have in mind. They must think they can make the case against you," he said.

"That's why I pay you the big bucks," I said.

"You have no criminal record, anywhere?" He asked.


"Good, I can quit worrying about that. Your psychiatric came back good. You're continuing to see Mr. Jordan I understand."

"That's personal," I said.

"Mr. Brittle, nothing is personal. If I know the DA can find out. Why are you continuing with him? Why Bethesda? Good god that's in D.C."

"So the DA won't find out. How do you know anyway? Why do you care anyway?"

"I'm your attorney. I know everything. I asked him to let me know if you were seeing him after the initial report was filled. It can be good and bad. A copy of the report will go to the DA's office. He can place a phone call as well, but I don't think Jay will speak to him."

"Jay? You call him Jay?"

"Sure, he's a nine handicap. We're playing out his way Wednesday next week. Nice fellow. Good rep."

"Why would you ask him to notify you? You're my attorney not the prosecutor."

"Like I said, they'll get a copy of the report, wonder why Bethesda. Call to see if you are still seeing him. It doesn't take a lot of smarts to do surface investigating. If we go in front of a jury they'll ask you if you are still seeing Dr. Jordan. You'll say yes, and then they have a new line of questions. I've got to be prepared, Mr. Brittle."

"Will I have to testify. I thought the accused never takes the stand?"

"Perry Mason? It's word against word. They'll have that first kid, and follow him with the second kid. You've got to tell your story, why you were there. That's all we have."

"My appointments with Dr. Jordan should be confidential," I said.

"Should be," he said. "Some times secretary, receptionists, temps, give up information they shouldn't. It happens, Mr. Brittle. Sometimes it happens when money passes hands. There are a lot of ways to get things in this world."

"Why are they pursuing this?" I asked.

"1 can't get them to talk to me. We'll be back in court at the end of the month. I need to have some sense of this case before we get there. I don't want to appear in front of a judge without some game plan."

"Are you going to argue my first amendment rights as a journalist. That's a game plan."

"Let me see the book or article you are writing on this. Give me the title the subject matter," he said. "How does talking to these boys assist you in your work as a journalist?"

"That's my person property. It's part of my work. I don't reveal it to anyone until it is ready to go," I said.

"You want me to defend you or sit there looking like a fool? You do what you need to do to keep from hearing those cell doors clanging shut behind you again, Mr. Brittle."

"There is no book. Nothing yet. I'm doing research," I said.

"What are you researching? Give me something to base a first amendment defense upon. I can't defend nothing. Come up with something for me to use by prelim."

"It's complicated, Mr. Morales."

"The law is complicated. You don't think the prosecutor is going to take a bite of this apple and then spit it out? He's going in there to kick ass. It's your ass, Mr. Brittle. I can't defend nothing. Give me something to base a defense upon. The first amendment is great in theory but they are words that need to be applied to something concrete when you use that as your defense. That's all I'm asking for, something concrete. I don't want to go into that court with this," he said, tossing the file onto his desk.

"Can I have a copy of the court papers?" I asked.

"Certainly, my secretary has them to mail. I'll see you get copies before you leave," he said.

"Can I look at what they have so we can discuss it?" I said.

John Morales stood up and brought the file to my chair. On several of the sheets information was blocked out with large ink blots.

"What's with the leaky ink pens. What's here that they don't want us to see?" I asked.

"The other part of their case is the boy. He's a minor. They reserve the right to withhold his identity."

"What about my right to face my accuser. Is there an address for him?" I asked.

"No address. He isn't an accuser. Since he is a minor, he is seen as a victim. They will contend your intention was to engage him in an immoral sex act. That's what you paid for. Him being a minor is what the case is about. A simple prostitution charge is bargained out before trial. Saves them a lot of foot traffic," he said.

"Who is Francis Horace Crumb?" I asked.

"Boy one. That's their smoking gun. Seems to indicate he set you up since he has become part of this case. I'll object saying the other arrest has nothing to do with this one. I'm sure he gives them something to prove your intention."

"My intention was always to talk to the boy. I'm married with two kids. Why would I suddenly start going out with boys?" I asked.

"Mr. Brittle, I'm afraid you are a little out of touch. Most customers of prostitutes that end up in the system are married men. That's both male and female prostitutes. There doesn't seem to be a correlation in my experience. You can't tell the players without a score card."

"So what you are saying is this kid is going in there to say I was engaged in solicitation of a prostitute?"

"We'll know at preliminary but I'd say that hypothesis is on the money, Mr. Brittle."

"How do we find out who the second boy is? If he is the person I'm supposed to have solicited, won't they need his testimony?"

"I'd say they don't have a lot of solid evidence coming from your conversations with Francis. I can impeach his integrity rather easily. Six arrests this year alone, all for prostitution. They dealt him on the first case, when he was the object of the solicitation. We can use that. They didn't use him, probably threatened to send him back into the system if he didn't give them what he knew."

"Blackmailed him?"

"I think the prosecutor would refer to it as creative use of a reliable source. They held something over his head, probably had him believing they could cancel the deal because the case never went to trial. He's obviously not the brightest bulb in the pack. I'd say it was relatively easy to get him to cooperate," he said.

"You think prosecutors are capable of this kind of thing?"

"Mr. Brittle, I was a prosecutor for ten years. I know the routine. They have you, a semi-successful public figure."

"Successful if you please. Delude me a little here," I said.

"Whatever you like. The point is, this is a publicity case. Prosecutors love publicity that makes them look good. Famous writer solicits services of little boy prostitute. You getting the picture?"

"I like the famous part. The rest is unsubstantiated horse shit."

"There's one problem," he said, sounding somewhat optimistic.

"One! Surely you've been in the wrong courtroom," I said.

"No publicity. They are holding it back. As of yet not a word to the press. I've wondered why. The first time, okay, they didn't understand what they had. This time, they have a lot more notorious case because of the age of the boy involved. Not a word. No press release. They have a problem with their case."

"What is it?" I asked.

"Having been a prosecutor, I can easily put myself into their mindset. It's helpful in complicated cases. There should have been reporters in the courtroom for the arraignment. What's with that? No article in the paper. Not a word."

"Why not? The Sun obviously knows me. They have a reporter looking for stories, sensational cases," I said.

"The paper could have missed it. To look at it this case isn't worth much. I'm an attorney not a mind reader. There's something wrong but they won't deal, won't return my calls. Okay, whatever it is, it is bound to come out in prelim. Why not deal before we get there," he said.

"I don't want to deal. I'm innocent and would never sign anything saying otherwise," I said.

"That isn't important. The process is important. It's not going according to the established way we do business. If this was a murder case, something big, I could understand the inconsistency. They'd be looking for a way to gain an advantage. Keeping the defense attorney in the dark until the last moment would be to their advantage. Not under these circumstances, guilt or innocents aside."

"What do you think?" I asked.

"I don't know what to think. I'd like to talk to Francis but the address they've given isn't correct. I sent an investigator out to get his version of the story, what the prosecutor is asking him to say. They may have purposely transposed the numbers to put us off his trail. He may have given them the wrong address. He might not have a regular address. He's on probation and I'm trying to contact his probation officer."

"What do we do?" I asked.

"We do nothing. You stay out of this and away from them. You want to screw up my defense and assure your conviction on this, go near one of them."

"I won't. I'm not stupid," I said.

I wasn't stupid. I just needed to take to the boy. Mr. Morales had made it easy for me to stay away from him. If the prosecutor's office hadn't blocked out his identity I'm sure John Foster Morales would have. He wasn't too sure about his client and there was little I could give him to reassure him.

I did sit down to write a piece about street hustlers. It might have been a book, a short story, or an article, but it wasn't any of them. It only created a thirst to find out more, about what I didn't know.

Things had calmed down in all areas of my life. I continued to have the dream about burning alive, but Dr. Jordan's phrase disarmed the potency of the realism. It was no longer me burning. I was watching through someone else's eyes, but not my own. The results were the same minus the heat, the sweat, and pissing my bed. The terror of the situation stopped.

I continued to see Mr. Jordan twice a week. On my last visit he said he had been asked to appear at the preliminary hearing. I didn't question it, figuring Morales had it covered. We continued to discuss my past but my resistance when it came to opening up about particular events continued. He was sure that until I managed to face my feelings, my guilt, which led to obsession that led to nightmares, my difficulties were going to continue to surface.

The source of my guilt remained hidden, which kept him from succeeding at doing his job. I was satisfied that my life was back under control and doctors and lawyers were merely a residual of bad times, the proverbial bump in the road. I was ready to get on with my life but there was still the problem of the charges that had been filed against me.

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