What Lies Ahead
As I drove away from the office, towards the address Carter gave me for the Judge’s house, I continually worked over the possible problems and potential outcomes of this meeting. My brain worked over and over the situation, continually feeding me progressively worse outcomes. I know it was nerves speaking, and the most likely outcome, based on what Carter had seen, was the change had taken place and things would go as plan.
But, it’s hard to convince your brain of that sometimes.
The first hurdle was to get into the house. If things didn’t go as planned, he would just turn me away at the door. Probably followed by a summons to come see him in the court.
If I was able to get in to see him, there was the danger that he wouldn’t be affected. He’d hear me out, and then throw my ass in jail.
Of course, there was also the chance that he was a genetic negative, that his actions had nothing to do with the group we had been facing off against, and the infection caused him to go insane. If that happened, who knows the outcome? Anything from throwing me in jail, to attempted murder came to mind.
Of course, this was all speculation. Until I talked to him, there was no real way of knowing. As I pulled in front of his house, I took a moment to calm myself. I breathed slowly in the meditative way Levi had shown me of getting focused.
I was happy to see the car parked down the street with one of Carters’ guys inside. He gave me the briefest nod to acknowledge me, then went back to pretending he wasn’t spying on the judge.
I headed up the front walkway of the house and paused in front of the door. After a long breath, I pushed the buzzer. A half minute or so later, a middle aged woman answered the door.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“I’m here to see Judge Davis.”
“He’s been very sick and isn’t seeing anyone.”
“Please just let him know Caspian Grey is here. I’m positive he wants to see me.”
She paused a beat, then said, “Ok, one moment.”
She shut the door and I was forced to wait. It felt like a decade passed as I stood in front of that door, waiting to find out my fate; but was probably less than two minutes before the door opened again.
“Come in. he’s down the hall on the right,” she said, sounding somewhat confused.
I gave her a smile in thanks and followed her directions, ending at a slightly opened bedroom door. It swung open a little as I knocked, revealing the Judge sitting up in bed.
“Judge Davis?” I said through the crack.
“Come in,” he said, his voice sounding raw.
I made my way to a chair that was sitting next to the bed, probably where the woman, who at best guess was his wife, sat to take care of him.
“Thanks for seeing me.”
“Honestly, I’m not sure why I agreed for you to come in. It’s very improper for someone who has been in my court to visit me at my home.”
“But, you felt compelled to let me in and talk to me?” I asked hopefully.
“I ... yes. I’m not sure I understand.”
“It’s ok, I think I do. Now that I’m here, how do you feel? Do you think its ok that I’m here? Do you trust me not to get you in trouble?”
“Yes. Huh, now that I think about it, yes. I do feel I can trust you, so I guess its ok. What can I do for you, Mr. Grey?”
“I wanted to ask why the sudden ruling in the Angela Bell Case? From what I’m told, that was very unusual.”
“You’re right, it’s really unusual. Hell, I doubt it will hold up under appeals, but I’m sure they’ve thought of that and fixed that, too. I didn’t want to do it, honestly.”
“The Syndicate. They’ve ... had me ... for some time. I didn’t have a choice.”
At least I had a name now. Although you’d think they would have gone with something a little less of a cliché.
“How did they force you?”
“I’ve done stuff for them in the past, and they have proof. If I went against them, I would be disbarred. Probably put in prison.”
“I’m a little lost here, Judge. Start from the beginning.”
“It seemed so innocent when it started. They’d ask for little favors. The name of a witness that wasn’t exactly secret, or the jury pool list before voir dire. Even then, I knew what I was doing was wrong, but it didn’t seem to really hurt anyone. And we had to have more chemo treatments for Jean. We really needed the money. And like that, they had me. I’d done enough small favors for them, gone too deep. They threatened to expose me. Just like that, they owned me.”
“And they came to you, asked you to take away Mrs. Bell’s kids?”
“No. They just told me there was a case that would be in my court, and I needed to make sure I found for the state.”
“So you weren’t involved until after the case came to your court.”
“Yes, but they probably arranged it. They can get to anyone, and they have people everywhere. They probably had someone in CPS arrange for the file to be opened, and then made sure it ended up in my court.”
“Is there any way we can turn this around, get Mrs. Bell her kids back?”
“I could reverse my ruling, but I’d be done.”
I was about to tell him to do just that, and live with the consequences of what he’d done. But then I thought better of it. This wasn’t going to be the last time we’d have to deal with The Syndicate, and having someone at least partially on the inside would be a big resource.
“Is there a way you can do this so you don’t expose yourself to them, but still get the case thrown out?”
He was silent for a few moments, and then said, “Maybe.”
“I’m going to have Mrs. Bell’s attorney contact you. You can trust him. I want you to work with him, and find a way out. Be clever about it. I don’t want to burn you, but if it’s that or nothing, I will push for you to go public about all this.”
“I understand. About the lawyer I mean. I don’t understand why I’m telling you all this.”
“That I do know. I can’t really explain it now, but the reason you’re telling me everything and trusting me is because of something I did. But look on the bright side. You’re now working for the good guys.”
“I hope that’s true. I’m just so tired. Every time they call me, it’s like something inside me dies a little more.”
I reached out and put my hand on his shoulder.
“I know. For a little while, you’re going to have to keep taking orders from them. I want you to keep in their good graces, but give us a heads up when they give you orders. Hopefully, we can put an end to all this.”
“I hope so,” he said, looking concerned.
I stood up and started making my way out of the bedroom before stopping and turning to look back.
“On the bright side, you will start feeling better real soon. In fact, you will feel better than you ever have before.”
I made my way out of the house and back to my car. As I opened the door I gave a thumbs up to Carter’s guy down the street, who promptly turned his car and pulled away. I followed a minute later, headed for home.
The first thing I did when I got home was to call Jonathan.
“It worked,” I said when he answered.
“That’s a relief. What did he say?”
“He said the group behind this is called The Syndicate.”
“Yeah, I know. Anyway, he said they told him the case would be coming into his court, and he should make sure the State won. Apparently he’s been in their pocket for a while.”
“Hmm, sounds like they have someone at CPS and probably in the Clerk of Court’s office, to arrange all that.”
“You need to call him. I want you two to see if you can come up with a way to have the case reopened and thrown out, but without exposing him. I think he might be useful in the near future, and we don’t want to burn him. Honestly, after talking to him, he’s a victim in this, too. Sure he’s done wrong, but they have a pretty tight grip on him.”
“And if we can’t find a way out?”
“Then we have him throw the case, he ends up in jail for being dirty, and we lose a potential tool to fight The Syndicate with, on down the road.”
“I’ll try and be clever then.”
“Please. Also, have Carter pull the surveillance. Make sure the judge has your number and knows to call you in the future with any new information.”
“Will do. Anything else?”
“No, just bring the girls back. Please.”
For the next several days, it was just waiting. I knew that eventually, one way or another, the girls would be coming home; but Jonathan and Judge Davis couldn’t rush it. So each day I went to school, then work, then back home. Everything seemed to be happening mechanically. For the past few months I had been filled with so much constant motion, hopping from one crisis to the next; that the waiting, now, was killing me.
Vicki and Tami were on edge too, but they were keeping themselves busy getting ready for the homecoming game and dance on Saturday. They’d given me snippets of the plan here and there, but generally I was left in the dark. Which was fine. I found my life was so much easier when I let them take charge of this type of thing.
I did get a change of pace on Friday when I got a call from Ron Perry, the guy who had been our contact during the drone project.
“Caspian, its Ron Perry,” he said when I picked up the phone.
“Colonel Perry! I’m surprised to hear from you. We haven’t spoken in a while.”
“I know, but things were changing here, and I wanted to reach out to you guys. I talked to Ted and he suggested I call you directly.”
“I’m always happy to take your call, Ron. What can I do for you?”
“Well, I’m getting near my twenty, and I’ve been thinking about retiring. I was talking to Ted, and he mentioned if I did I should look you guys up. Well, I’ve talked to my wife, and she agrees. She’d like to get out of DC, too.”
“I see, that’s actually pretty good news. We’ve got some new projects going on around here, and your expertise might be just the thing we’re looking for.”
“Really, you’re doing more military contracts?”
“In a roundabout way. MilTech reached out to us. They’re interested in some of our new technology for a Navy contract they have.”
“MilTech? That’s a surprise, considering how everything went down last year.”
“They had some bad apples that’ve been weeded out. The CEO over there’s a standup guy, and I can do business with him. The deal is solid and we are closing in on the point where our technology is ready to do some trials with them. Of course, as much as I think of their CEO; it would be nice to have our own guy with knowledge and access when we get rolling, to look over their shoulder. A lot of the problems with the drone project came out of a lack of experience on our end.”
“That sounds like a pretty good fit.”
“We wouldn’t just use you for that, of course. I’m sure there are tons of ways you could make yourself useful over here.”
“You know I’ve known Ted for years, and I really enjoyed working with the rest of your team, last year. I told my wife if I did leave and managed to con you guys into taking me in, I wouldn’t go looking elsewhere. I’m tired of the politics and want to work somewhere that looks out for its people.”
“Consider me conned, then, Ron. I’ll talk to Ted and Charles Green, our CFO. I’m not sure if he was with us when you were working with us last year, but he’s a good guy too. I’ll have them draw up a proposal and send it your way. If we can make the numbers work out, we’ll get you over here.”
“Excellent. I’m sure they will. I look forward to working with you.”
“Same here Ron. Take care.”
We each hung up and I went looking for Ted and Charles to give them the news, although knowing Ted, he knew where that conversation was going to go before I even picked up the phone, and probably already had everything worked out. After dropping the task in their laps, I returned to my office to stew some more.
Finally, at six pm, I got a call from Jonathan.
“Cas, we’re set.”
“Really? And we can do this so he isn’t exposed.”
“We think so. He’s going to come off as hostile in court, for the sake of appearances; but we found a spot that, in their haste to push things through fast, The Syndicate caused some paperwork to get skipped. It’s enough to get the case thrown out, and he assures me they probably won’t try again. It seems like the DA over at family law wasn’t in with the rest of them, and they had to practically force her to try the case.”
“So that’s it?”
“Yeah, just the hearing, tomorrow. I already called Angela. They have a half day court session, and we have an eight AM slot.”
“That’s good news. I’ll see you then.”
I barely slept at all that night, wedged in between Tami and Vicki, thinking about the rest of the girls coming home tomorrow. I knew I needed to get to sleep; since after that was all done, we still had the football game and then the dance to go to. I was certain I would be up all night. I must have passed out at some point, because the next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and daylight was streaming in through the window.
Looking at the clock, I saw it was just after seven. I slid out of bed, with the girls getting up right behind me. We all got dressed and were out the door as soon as we got downstairs. Looking at Mom, I was pretty certain she didn’t sleep at all.
We were at the courthouse thirty minutes early, and had to sit outside our designated court room and wait. No one felt much like talking, and everyone was lost in their own thoughts.
Eventually, Jonathan showed up and we made our way inside. Mom sat next to Jonathan at the defendants’ table, with an annoyed looking DA sitting across the aisle at the prosecutors’ table. At least we had warning this was coming. The DA must be pissed the case she already thought she won fell apart at the eleventh hour.
“All Rise” the bailiff called out, and Judge Davis walked into the court room, and sat behind the bench.
“You may be seated. This hearing is to discuss the defense’s motion to overturn my previous ruling and a second motion for summary judgment, is that correct?”
“Yes, your honor,” Jonathan said, standing.
“This is over people’s filing 32j?”
“Yes, Your honor.”
“Madam District Attorney, have you had a chance to look over these documents.”
“Yes your honor, but...” she started to say, rising, but the judge cut her off.
“I see in the defense’s motion, that the sign offs on the Removal of Custody order isn’t present. My clerk checked, and we are certain these are the originals. The Defense produced the documents they received during discovery, and they match the originals. Did we misplace something, or are these how the documents were presented to the court?”
“Your honor, we’ve only had a day...”
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Coming of Age /