Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bacon's Blood (55)

It was late when the Judge got home and found his son in the library. The elder Stone, instead of going straight to bed himself, had smelled the coffee soon as he entered the house. He found the pot hot on its electric pad next to the stove, poured himself a cup and carried it down the hall to the only logical place Blow was
likely to be. Incandescent light behind the frosted glass in the door confirmed this, but the Judge waited silently a bit listening carefully. Hearing no sounds, he guessed maybe Blow had fallen asleep on the couch that was there for just such late-night sessions. He politely tapped a knuckle.
Yeah, Dad?”
Blow looked up from his laptop when the Judge had pushed the door open far enough for the two to see each other. He was seated at the conference table, facing the door. Despite the golden illumination from the table lamps on either side, his face glistened a sickly bluish pallor reflected from the laptop screen. The Judge hesitated, trying to read Blow's face to see if the interruption was unwelcome. His son's smile came a tad late and was weak, but it was genuine. The Judge inclined his head toward the steaming cup in his hand.
Coffee?”

Blow's eyes moved to the cup in his father's hand. He glanced at a cup beside his laptop, pushed up from the table and walked around the end carrying his empty cup.
Here, this is for you, Son.” Judge Stone moved his cup toward Blow and reached for the empty. Blow shook his head. “I need to stretch my legs.” He walked around his father to the door. “Have a seat, Dad. Be right back.”
Judge Stone moved to one of the heavy oak courtroom chairs across from the laptop. The strain he'd seen in Blow's face at the door had surprised him—eyes red and puffy, lips compressed. He heard the toilet flush up the hall. Moments later Blow returned with a fresh cup of coffee. Instead of returning to his laptop he sat in one of the chairs beside the Judge.
You get a jury?” Judge Stone spoke softly.
Blow sighed heavily, letting the air puff his cheeks on the way out. “Yeah. Finally.”
The Judge turned his head, eyebrows raised.
Seems like everyone in Leicester suddenly started watching the news last fall.”
Struck for cause. Well, that happens. But you'd think they'd want to hear this case. Not like the usual.”
Blow stared at his coffee. “Some probly would, but not for three weeks.”
Three weeks? That's the trouble with these celebrity trials in California. People think all trials take forever.”
That's what Pendleton told the panel. The buzz was so loud he had to use the gavel.”
He told 'em it would take three weeks?”
Blow nodded. “Said he didn't want any unnecessary surprises. People with scheduled medical procedures, planned trips, that sort of thing.”
Sure. That's reasonable, but he should have waited until voir dire. At least force 'em to be a little more creative.” He chuckled, sipped coffee. Nothing from Blow. “So you got your twelve. How many alternates?”
Three.”
One for each week, huh.” Blow tried to smile.
Opening statements?” Blow shook his head. “That's what I'm working on,” he muttered.
How's it coming?” Blow shrugged, glanced at his father and went back to his coffee.
What's bothering you, Joe?”
Blow set the cup on the table and turned to face his father. “We're not ready, Dad. Gobble's gonna slaughter us.” After a pause he added, “I never should've taken this case. It stunk from the get-go, and it still stinks.”
The elder Stone nodded thoughtfully, keeping his eyes on his son's but holding his face expressionless, giving no sign he intended to speak. Blow dropped his gaze after a handful of seconds, sighed heavily and tried again. “We don't have the woman, her name anyway. No idea who she was, or is. We don't know who the woman is the watermen found. It could be the same woman, but there's no way to prove it either way. We've got a statement from a prison inmate but no inmate. He was paroled, and he's gone. MacKenzie denies everything. Without Lucas King we can't prove a thing. We're dead in the water, Dad. Gobble has all the guns and we've got nothing.”
Judge Stone nodded some more. He furrowed his brow. “You're not using that photo?”
Which one?”
The one with Motley talking to the deputy, who probably took money to scrub those fingerprints. Any more on him?”
Nah. I gave it to Callahan. No way is anybody gonna do anything about it until the trial is over. Without evidence, anyway. That photo's not even smoke. But it might keep Gobble from bringing up the fingerprints, if he doesn't know what else we might have.”
The older man blowing steam off his coffee nodded, muttered “Good.” He took a noisy sip and set his cup down. He was smiling when he looked up. “I guess your client's given up on trying to find the lead coffin?”
Blow shook his head. “God, I hope so. He wants me to subpoena Marty Wilcox to testify, though. Give some credibility to his story, I guess.”
I don't see any harm in that.”
No, me neither. That's one thing we are sorely short of. Credibility. Dad, I'm gonna have a helluva time sounding credible just giving my opening statement.”
Well, that's nothing to worry about. All you need to do is remind them that circumstantial evidence doesn't prove murder, you know, and that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Gobble's the one who should worry. He's the one's got to make the case. The defense counterpunches. You're good at that. Just jab at his witnesses. Jab jab jab. Wear him down. You gonna put Bacon on?”
He wants to.”
You don't think he should.”
I've advised against it. He laughed. Said he can act, too, and he'll win the jury over by himself.”
Well, hell, Son, let him then. Then he can't blame you if he loses.”
Oh, yeah. I didn't argue, but I had to get it on record.”
Judge Stone nodded. “So remember, tomorrow just give 'em the drill. Just the facts, ma'am. Mr. Bacon is an innocent man, and the Commonwealth must prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Beyond a reasonable doubt, ladies and gentlemen. Listen carefully to all of the evidence. It's up to Mr. Gobble here to prove his case, and if he cannot, if he does not persuade you beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Bacon has committed a crime, you must find him innocent. You must. You are obligated under the law to find my client innocent.
It's the closing arguments where you do your Atticus Finch, Son. Don't forget: bare facts up front, save the emotions for the end.”
Blow laughed, a little too loudly, a little too long. He was still sputtering when he finally spoke, in his best deeply resonant voice: “In the name of God, ladies and gentlemen, do your duty. In name of God, find this spoiled, rich, arrogant asshole innocent of all charges.”

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