The Not Exactly Complete Works of Peter Schulman

Circumstantial Evidence

©2010 Peter Schulman
 

 

  Chapter 1  

  Chapter 2  

  Chapter 3  

  Chapter 4  

  Chapter 5  

  Chapter 6  

  Chapter 7  

  Chapter 8  

  Chapter 9  

  Chapter 10  

  Chapter 11  

  Chapter 12  

Chapter 4

I wasn’t sure I was ready to be fired. Neither was I sure I was not ready to be fired. Injustice keeps me up at night.

I’ve done things in my job I don’t believe in. I’ve gotten a few death penalties even though I don’t think it deters anyone or makes the public any safer. But it was my job, and appropriate, given the state of the law. Prosecuting an innocent man is another matter entirely.

It was four in the afternoon. The jury had been out little more than an hour. God had never spoken directly to me, but that was more likely to change than this jury returning a verdict before we adjourned for the night. I dialed Jamie.

“Jamie Roarke.”

“Are you busy tonight? I could use a friend to talk to.”

“Who did you have in mind? I wasn’t aware you had any friends.”

“That’s ‘whom,’ and could there be anyone but you?”

“What was I thinking?” She feigned contrition. “You‘re in luck. We just adjourned for the day. How did Caldwell go?”

“I’m optimistic.”

“You don’t have to gush. Are you about to be the number two man?”

“That’s sort of what I’d like to talk about. And that would be number one man; number two person. But, I can’t imagine any circumstances under which that would happen. You know my aversion to bureaucracy and paperwork.”

“You don’t sound very enthusiastic,” she replied. “At the very least, a favor of this magnitude requires you to provide dinner.”

“So Ordered. My suburban office, six thirty.”

I headed out to LOVE Park and descended to the underground garage. Where was my car? I covered about half the first level when it occurred to me that I might have parked on the second level. I got in late, but that gave me no clue as to where my car was likely to be.

I finally located my sedan on the second level in the midst of a sea of SUVs, RVs and large foreign cars. Where were my keys? They weren’t in my pants. They weren’t in the side pockets of my jacket. This would not have been the first time I had forgotten them.

I found them in the left inside pocket nestled against a root beer barrel. I unwrapped it and popped it into my mouth.

Rebel though I am, I held onto the wrapper until I could find a trash can. Littering affects everybody.

I paid at the exit and gazed at the seven-story Freedom mural adorning the opposite corner of Fifteenth and Arch. It was the second tallest mural in Philadelphia, a well-built young man leaning against a column, atop which is perched a sphere with a banner around it labeled “Declaration of Independence.”

Had there been a real young man leaning against a similar column, we probably would have called him a slacker and arrested him for loitering.

Three rights and a jug handle put me on Vine and I left center city for Germantown.

I parked across the street from The Rib Crib on Germantown Avenue. The trip took just eighteen minutes because I had been able to speed, which on the Schuylkill Expressway around rush hour was any speedometer reading that reached double digits.

I crossed the street, walking over the cobblestones and trolley tracks.

There were no other customers. In less than five minutes I was making an illegal u-turn, all the while savoring the mouth-watering aroma of the slab on the seat next to me.

I drove back across the river. I turned right from City Avenue onto Fifty-Fourth Street out of the city limits, and made a left at Graves Lane to my corporate office/second home at One Fifty.

I had a nice apartment in the city, as is required of a city employee. Well, nice isn’t required; a residence is.

I opened my gate with the remote and drove under the stone arch connecting the house to the garage. Both were made of stone as well. Above the arch was a hallway that provided access, unexposed to the elements, between the house and garage. I parked in back on the blacktop that could accommodate around a dozen cars.

I entered through the back door and crossed the mud room to disable the electronic alarm. The biological alarm was still going off.

Bob was barking enthusiastically. He spun around several times. It didn’t matter what time I came home. Bob took that as the obvious time to ask for dinner.

He was a mix of Chihuahua and some kind of terrier, though it was possible he had some Rottweiler. He was mostly black with small areas of white and brown and had a serious under bite. His ears pointed up proudly. Taken altogether, you could have mistaken his face for that of a bat.

Pocahontas sat alertly, awaiting developments. She was a thoroughly-trained guard dog, forty-seven pounds of muscle and purpose. She had been a shy mix of Belgian Shepherd and Chow-Chow desperately seeking love when I found her at the SPCA. She was mostly black with some patches of brown and white and her tongue bore a purple birthmark.

I hung my keys on the key caddy so I could find them later.

“Pokey, come.”

She bounded to me and licked my face enthusiastically as I bent to pet her.

I didn’t see Marble.

Bob was right. It was time for dinner so I brought the three of them some Iams Minichunks from the pantry. Their water was dispensed by a gadget I had seen advertised on TV. I had one for their food as well, but I prefer to bring it to them myself.

A buzz announced someone at the front gate. I saw Jamie waving in the security monitor next to the alarm keypad. I buzzed the gate open.

Jamie was always a savory sight to behold: five four, one hundred eighteen pounds, blue eyes, pale skin with freckles that accompanied her classic, naturally-curly, red hair. She was model beautiful, yet somehow had the girl-next-door look going for her.

She wore jeans and a dark blue sweatshirt that said “Old Navy”.

“I took a wild guess you’d pick up ribs. I’ll set up while you change into something you don’t mind getting stained,” she said. She’d seen me eat ribs before.

Pocahontas stopped eating and watched attentively as Jamie set up. Her tail was wagging — Pokey’s, not Jamie’s. Though Pokey knew her well, this might finally be the time that Jamie would attack and Pokey would need to protect me.

Jamie was just sitting down at the dining room table after putting out glasses filled with ice and diet orange soda when I returned. A two-liter bottle sat between us on the table.

“You’re wearing my sweatshirt,” she said, pleased. She bought me the matching blue Old Navy sweatshirt for my forty-second birthday two months previous.

“Don’t you always bring out the knick knacks the relatives bought you when they visit?”

“That’s not nice,” she said.

“And not true in this case. For you, it’s a way of showing my appreciation for your thoughtfulness. For my cousin, it would be what I do to show her how much I appreciate her hideous gift after I’m no longer able to persuade her I have it in the other house.”

“How can I tell the difference?” she asked.

“I never told you the sweatshirt was in the other house.”

“Where are the sneakers I gave you?” Jamie plays well with others.

“They’re in the other house.”

She sat at the end of the table and I sat to her right. It was long enough to seat a dozen.

“Where did you get this awful table?” she asked.

“It’s an antique.”

“Is antique the new word for junk?”

“All right, le Salvation Army.”

She giggled, pleased with herself, and savaged another rib.

She started another with gusto. There were flecks of sauce all around her upper lip. I resisted the urge to lick them off.

“I have to ask, my curiosity just won’t let me ignore it,” she said. “What is the salad spinner doing in the middle of the table with the big vegetable knife on top?”

“It’s a reminder that I need red peppers from Produce Junction.”

She thought about it. “Of course it is. Why not just a note?” she asked, clearly amused.

“I have trouble with notes. There’s something about writing it out that makes me uncomfortable. Even when I do write one, I usually forget where I put it, or that I even wrote it. But, the spinner and the knife are so out of place here, they jog my memory.”

“Why not a note pad by the phone? Then you’d always know where the notes were.”

“I’d need one by each phone,” I answered. “I might need a kitchen note in my office to do something with it. Once I started moving notes, I wouldn’t know where anything was.”

“Hence the salad spinner. How can you be so disorganized, yet so focused in court and when you’re doing preparation or investigation?” she asked.

“I’m not always organized, I just fake it well. And if I could figure out why I wasn’t, I’d do something about it.”

“Maybe they make a pill for that.”

I rolled my eyes though I wasn’t sure she was joking.

“Would it be rude to ask what you wanted to talk about?” she asked.

“Would that stop you?” I asked back.

“What did you want to talk about? Us?” She fluttered her eyelids.

“I’m saving that conversation for when I grow up.”

“If you grow up.”

“If I grow up,” I conceded. “Doris assigned Reedy to me.”

“And you didn’t say no?”

Lawyers love double negatives. It’s like spinach to Popeye. Jamie was partial to irony as well.

“Not after she said she was the boss and this was not a democracy.”

“That’s harsh. What did you say to get to that point? Did you ease into it or just blurt it out?”

“I forgot to use tact.”

“I’m impressed you know what tact is.”

“Patrick didn’t do it,” I said.

She savored a rib. It wasn’t the reason for the pause. “Are you sure?”

“Beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“That will come out at trial,” she said.

“Then why have a trial?”

“That’s what we do. We prosecute and the jury works it out.”

“Right now I’m all that stands between Phillip Patrick and a lifetime in prison. And I’m the prosecutor.”

“So what can you do?”

“I’m thinking of leaving.”

“Why on earth would you do that?” Jamie was incredulous. This was her first job out of law school. She was twenty-eight and had been with the DA’s office four years.

“This is the best job on earth,” she said. “We get paid for the privilege of taking bad people off the streets. We get paid for helping people get their lives back by bringing them vindication. We get paid for helping people feel safe to go about their daily lives. How could you possibly leave that?”

“The fact that I was a cop doesn’t prevent me from recognizing they sometimes take the wrong guy off the street just to close a case. That gives the public a sense of safety, but it’s a false sense.

“We do it too. We’ll prosecute some junkies to make people feel their neighborhoods are safer. They aren’t.

“Now and then we’ll nail the wrong guy for something serious. But, hey, it’s not our fault; he was given full access to the system — a ‘fair’ trial.”

“That’s the system and mostly it works,” she said.

I winced at “mostly.”

“It doesn’t work if you’re the guy sitting in jail for something you didn’t do. It really doesn’t work for the next victim of the guy who did do it, because we didn’t bother to look for him.

“Many of these drug prosecutions are just sizzle. I’m getting uncomfortable with our prosecuting politically attractive cases.

“And Patrick is innocent, Jamie. Not not guilty; innocent. This could be the last straw for me. I can’t see myself leading the charge to jail an innocent man for life.”

“Are you sure this isn’t just your reckless side acting up?”

“I don’t know.”

“Somebody else will prosecute him even if you don’t,” she said.

“I know.”

“What would you do if you quit?”

“There must be some defense firm that would happily pay me more than I’m making now. If I go out on my own I’m sure I can find people to defend.”

“People you would want to defend?” she asked.

“I’m sure I can pick up some accident cases.”

She didn’t want to, but she laughed. “You’re impossible.”

“You want me, don’t you?” I moved my eyebrows up and down. All I lacked was the cigar, the glasses and the moustache.

“Was I that obvious?”

“Only to the trained eye,” I confided.

She may, in fact, have wanted me. Somehow, against insurmountable odds, she surmounted.

It often helps me to talk things over with someone. It hadn’t helped this time. I still didn’t know what to do. I didn’t relish either option.

Jamie was right about one thing: it was a privilege and a joy to help protect the People of “We the People.” It was not an unmitigated joy, and I didn’t have much time to decide.

After dinner we listened to The Planets by Holst and by the time we reached Jupiter my arm was around her shoulder and she was teetering on the edge of sleep, her head against my chest. Not long after that she left.

I went down the basement for a martial arts workout. I burned off enough energy to reduce the tension of my impending decision.

When I finally got into bed Bob burrowed under the covers and curled up behind the crook of my knee. That said, “Don’t worry; I’ll still love you no matter what you choose.” At least that’s how I interpreted it.

 

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  Chapter 13  

  Chapter 14  

  Chapter 15  

  Chapter 16  

  Chapter 17  

  Chapter 18  

  Chapter 19  

  Chapter 20  

  Chapter 21  

  Chapter 22  

  Chapter 23