Short Fiction – Defiant Hemlock #5: A promise from a criminal

Photo by Bridget Coila. Artist not credited. Creative Commons license.

Jack Kinzer escaped the courthouse, reveling in the cool air outside. He hung around the benches by the street and lit a cigarette. Blessed nicotine infiltrated his senses.

The meeting with Judge Gallant had gone as well as he would have expected. She begrudgingly acquiesced to the set-over after learning of their arrangement. It was quick work in court.

And, surprisingly, he had also walked away with an invitation to a chess game from ADA Fisher. Sucking back his cigarette, Jack realized he missed those games in the park. The one time he got to wipe that smug grin off that fucker’s face. Pretty boy or not.

“Mr. Kinzer.” 

Startled from his reverie, Jack saw Christopher Poutine leap to his feet. He’d been sitting in one of the benches, waiting for him, still clutching his hat limply in his hands. 

“Christopher,” Jack said. “You understood what the deal was, back in court?” 

“Yeah,” Poutine said. “We’re going to trial.” 

“We’ll lose,” Jack said. “The DA has video footage. The jury won’t like you one bit.” 

“I believe in you,” Poutine said, so earnestly it nearly broke Jack’s heart. If he had one anymore. The jury was still out on that. “Besides, my information is good. We’ll get another set-over.” 

Jack shook his head. “Your optimism is commendable, but misplaced.” 

“Just wait until you see what I have to show you,” Poutine said. He looked like an eager schoolboy.

Jack studied him more seriously, out here in the daylight. His bright blue bloodshot eyes. His shaggy red-streaked brown hair. The freckles dusting his nose. He wore a T-shirt from a metal band that had seen better days, jeans with a hole slashed across the knee, and a faded trench coat. Second hand, all of them, Jack was sure. His sneakers were scuffed.

Behind them, the courthouse soared into the cloudy sky, imposing in its gleaming, century-old splendor. The faded paint on the courthouse building seemed like gilded charm. Poutine looked like a street gang kid who had fallen out of favor.

“Yeah, right,” Jack said. “I’ve got paperwork to do back at the office. Motions to file. Clients to see. Divorces to finalize. You’d better make an appointment with my secretary.” 

“Just… spare a few hours,” Poutine said. “All I need is a ride. You’ll see. I’m telling you. And I can’t believe you don’t know.” 

“Don’t know what?” 

Poutine laughed, then composed himself. “It’s nothing. Nothing at all.” 

“If it’s nothing, then, I have work to do,” Jack said, thinking of the office he shared with another attorney, the one who kept a Great Dane as an office dog. All attorneys had dogs. Doug was always pestering him about when he’d get one. The thought of taking care of anything other than himself scared Jack just about as much as ignoring the bottle of gin that waited in the bottom drawer of his desk at the office. 

He tensed, then. The grit under his fingernails stung. The chill air suffused with a sort of warm glow. The blue in Poutine’s eyes swirled, sharpening in too vivid of a color to be natural. Jack smelled cinnamon, roses and maybe a little ash. Sweat collected on his upper lip. He knew then that he would follow Poutine on this dumbass jaunt. Jack matched Christopher’s eyes, which had restored to their usual dull sheen. Junkie sheen.

“All I need is a ride,” Poutine said. “It’ll be worth your while. I promise.” 

Jack scoffed. Every attorney, even if the individual was their client, even if everyone was innocent, and even if the system was broken, knew what to expect of a promise from a criminal.

//

Defiant Hemlock continues next Wednesday!

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