Maurice, the Buddha-like eccentric lawyer who specializes in representing ghosts, is in the middle of a cross-examination of a homicide detective in an effort to prove his client did not kill his recently discovered long lost daughter and her baby son. The ghost of the dead woman hired Maurice to represent her father. Yes, Maurice talks to the dead . . .
The word was hurled out into the courtroom by an infuriated assistant district attorney. It exploded . . . erupted . . . detonated with all the searing heat and sheer kinetic energy of a hydrogen bomb explosion. The older man with the patrician white hair and half-moon shaped reading glasses hanging on his nose precariously, came flying out of his seat like a ballistic missile. A boney white hand with long white fingers slammed, open palmed, onto the heavy table in front of him, which shook the entire table. The mask of fury and rage on his face a crimson painted, unforgettable, masterpiece.
“I object strenuously to this method of this kind of antagonistic baiting of the witness’ credulity, your honor! The defense counsel’s theatrics is turning this courtroom into a hall of jesters and comedians. The defense must be reined in and compelled to act according to the standard decorum of the courtroom!”
The assistant district attorney’s voice barely climbed over the uproar that filled the spectator gallery behind him. Reporters were standing up and jostling each other, their hands holding out cell phones and small digital cameras to get a shot of the proceedings in front of them, especially a close up shot of the sartorial splendor of the smiling defense counsel. As they struggled for the perfect shot the judge was using his wooden gavel so forcefully as he pounded on his desk he looked like a sitting the Roman god Vulcan pounding on an anvil with fiery sparks flying of steel pounding onto steel ringing back and forth across the courtroom. Yet . . . at some point . . . the near riot subsided and tranquility settled over all. When all was silent, the scowling face of the judge, holding still his gavel as if it was a weapon, leaned forward and stared down at Maurice.
“Hmm . . . I haven’t had this much excitement in my courtroom since my last divorce hearing, counselor. While I commend you on your talents for the theater, I nevertheless frown . . . no, make that deplore . . . your efforts in turning my courtroom into a near riot. Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t throw your tidy little self into the clink on a contempt charge. Just one good reason.”
“I apologize both to the bench, your honor, and especially to the esteemed district attorney. My intentions were not meant to mock the gravity of the situation nor the dignity of this court. But I must confess, the facts in this case have already clearly established this man is lying. I am surprised the bench has not already ruled in my client’s favor. There is no conceivable way my client could be seen by this witness descending the stairs at a quarter past five and my client arriving at his place of employment fifteen minutes later. That defies the laws of physics.
Furthermore, it has been established by the prosecuting attorney’s on expert witness, that the motives for this terrible tragedy my client supposedly exhibited are clearly wrong. My client was not drunk on the time of his arrest. Nor had he consumed any alcoholic beverage since the moment he learned he was a father and grandfather. In fact, evidence suggests just the opposite. He had two jobs. Jobs which can be demonstrably proven he soon became a valued employee. My client turned his life around. He was using his experience as a tool to help lead others to a recovery. The arrival and discovery of a daughter and a grandson entering his life gave my client something he never had before. A purpose to live. People to love. Combine these facts already laid before us to consider equally, how can the prosecution prove any motive for murder? How can they demonstrate how my client defied physics traveled across town in heavy morning traffic in less than twenty minutes?
Your honor, the facts speak for themselves. I believe you should dismiss all charges against my client and return his freedom to him.”
“Humph,” snorted the judge, sitting back in his chair and turning his scowling face toward the prosecution’s table. “The defense has a compelling argument, mister prosecutor. Do you have any further witness or pieces of evidence than can refute the defense’s stance?”
The prosecutor opened his mouth to say something. But paused . . . hesitated . . . the realization coming to him his case against the defendant was flimsy at best and nonexistent at its worst. Flashing a hot glance at the smiling little man with the round face, he reluctantly shook his head in silence and lowered himself back into his seat.
“Very well,” the judge grunted, nodding, and slamming his gavel down on the podium with a heavy hand. “This court readily admits a heinous crime has been committed on two innocent victims. Crimes, which demand that justice, be metered out accordingly. But as to the prosecution’s claims the defendant might be the perpetrator this court finds the evidence against him decidedly lacking. I have no other choice but to demand this man’s immediate release. This court is adjourned!”
The gavel came down for the last time with a resounding bang of wood on wood. Pandemonium erupted in the courtroom.
Two hours later Maurice and Randal Cooke stood facing each other in the interrogation room they met in for the first time. Dressed in blue overalls, a oft patched, faded long sleeved shirt, wearing boots badly scuffed and coated in dried mud. Without question, he looked like the blue collar worker he claimed to be. But with one exception. Carved visibly onto his craggy face was this black mask of smoldering rage. Rage and a need for revenge.
The other, much smaller, dressed in a three-piece cotton suit of off tan color perfectly tailored for his somewhat chubby frame. He stood facing the considerably taller scowling man with his hands clasped behind his back and a beaming smile on his round face. The scowling man was being released. Released and pushed out the door into a sea of waiting tv cameras and news reporters eagerly waiting, like hungry jungle cats, to pounce hungrily onto their prey. Maurice was here to make sure that didn’t happen.
In the room with them was the floating image of the young girl clutching her baby tightly in one arm. She was standing just behind Randall Cooke, her translucent ghostly face clearly filled with both love and fear for her father. The baby struggled to free himself from his mother’s grasp. But in a playful way. He kept laughing and pushing onto his mother’s face with tiny hands for some seconds before finally giving up and sticking a thumb into mouth to suck on.
Maurice, the every smiling Buddha, felt the remorse, anger, and thirst for violence emanating from his client. From the ghostly apparition of mother and child he felt love, playfulness, dread, and fear all combined in one pulsating ball of conflicting emotions. The smile on his face seemed to dim a bit as he sighed, looked down at the tips of the mirror finished polished black shoes, and shook his head sadly twice, before lifting it and looking up into his client’s face again.
“I know what you want to do, Edward. I know you want to seek out and destroy the person who murdered your daughter and grandson. But I cannot allow it. I cannot allow a foolish mistake on your part to ruin your life once and for all.”
A cold rumble of mirthless laughter rolled out of the bigger man’s chest as he folded powerful arms in front of him. Laughter as cold as a breath of Antarctic winter.
“Think you can stop me, little man?”
“Physically I cannot,” Maurice smiled, shaking his head sadly again. “We both know that to be true. But there is someone here who can.”
Randall Cooke’s hard mask of a face changed ever so slightly. A breath of hesitation swept by. He kept his arms folded across his chest. But he half twisted to his right and glanced behind him. A silent gesture filled with half longing, half dread for one more look at the loved ones so cruelly snatched from his life.
“I don’t believe you, counselor. There are no such things as ghosts,” he growled, his face returning to the set mask of bloody revenge as he turned back to stare down at the smaller man. “Besides, we both know what’s going to happen. The cops are going to go out and manufacture some evidence that’ll prove conclusively I killed my daughter and grandson. While they’re doing that I can guarantee you the guy who actually killed my kids dances away Scot free.”
“Edward, with your help, I can assure you the real killer will be brought to justice.”
“I’ve just hired your daughter to assist me in my investigations. I offer you the same opportunity.”
“What? the bigger man grunted, reacting like someone who had just been slapped in the face. “You’ve hired Tammy as an investigator? But . . But she’s dead, fer chrissake. How the hell do you hire a dead person?”
“In this realm of the living we now occupy your lovely daughter is indeed, as you so bluntly point out, quite dead. But there are other realms of living. I assure you; however, she is quite alive and very eager to assist me in my practice. But I need a hardy soul, a quick mind, here in this world, to assist me in helping clients regain their freedom. Someone who knows his way around the, shall we say, seedier sides of humanity. Tammy sings high praises of your talents.”
“You want to hire . . . me? An ex-con? To do what?”
“Be my chauffer. Perhaps do some clerical work for me in the office. Investigate the backgrounds of any potential clients who might walk into our office. Certainly assist me in acquiring evidence, which will help in the defense of our clients. I assure you the work will be quite varied. Much of it, admittedly, rather menial. But at times, quite interesting for a restless mind like yourself.”
The lawyer’s face softened as his smile increased fractionally and he pulled from one pocket the keys of his Cadillac convertible waiting outside and lifted them up in front of the scowling ex-con.
“Did I mention the compensation package for your services will be quite generous? Besides, dear Edward. Tammy and the baby both want you to accept the offer. Under the circumstances, I cannot fathom any reason why you would decline. Can you?”
The hardness that was Randall Cooke’s face began to soften. As he reached up and took the keys from Maurice’s hands and glanced down at them residing in palm of his open hand, a heavy sigh escaped from his lips.
“Yeah, I wish I could see them just one more time.”
“Tut, tut, tut,” Maurice responded, shaking his head in gently derision as he stepped close to the bigger man and lifting a hand with the forefinger extended toward the man’s forehead. “My apologizes, dear boy. I failed to inform you of the other perk this job offers you.”
The extended forefinger rammed hard into Randall Cooke’s forehead just above the bridge of his nose. The big man’s head was rammed back on his shoulders with surprising strength. As the little man stepped back he felt the surge of a weak electrical shock sweep across his nerve endings. A tingling sensation that made him involuntarily shudder. He also smelt the distinctively harsh metallic odor of ozone floating in the air. And . . . directly in front of him, smiling and laughing, their faces filled with flowing tears . . . were his daughter and his grandson.
Real. Not ghostly apparitions. But solid. In vivid full color. Touchable.
All three crashed into each other’s arms at the same time. Laughing and crying and joyful. For his part, Maurice watched for a few seconds at the wonderful reunion and then, sighing, cleared his throat loudly.
“This is a temporary reprieve, children. You have only five minutes before illusion breaks and everyone returns to their proper realm. However, fear not. Other reunions will follow in due time. I promise.”
With that, the smiling man turned and lift the cramped interrogation room to the squealing delight of the small family. A short walk down a long hall brought him to a large conference room on the ground floor of the police station. A conference room filled with reporters. As kleg lights lit up and flash bulbs begin to pop in an exploding cacophony of light a big smiled spread across his lips as he stepped in front of a bank of microphones.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen of the press. I’m sure you must have questions concerning this case and the release of my client. While certainly some details will have to be reserved for a later date to reveal, I am sure most of your questions can be answered with reasonable confidence. Who would like to begin first?”
A hundred voices began shouting at the same time.