Guilty as Sin
"Where am I?" He sat up and looked around the room. The sound of a
car horn outside made him jump and fist his hands into the duvet. "Millie, I had
the most vivid dream. We were on an island; you, me and Brook. No one else was
there. I swear it was so real."
"Aw, Steve, you can tell me about it later. If you don't get up, you'll be late for work, and you have jury duty this morning, remember?"
"What do I do for work Mil?"
"You take pictures, Steve." Millie replied as she lifted Brook onto her hip.
"I take pictures of what?"
"Fruit and vegetables." Millie replied with a confused cock of her head. "Boy you must have had one hell of a dream last night to cause such delirium. Here, here is your summons. Don't forget to go to the Kings county courthouse for nine. Jury duty, remember? I'm sure you can get out of it. Just tell them you have a new born baby and maybe they'll excuse you."
He was still slightly confused but Steve got ready for work none the less. It was quarter past eight when he took a last sip of coffee and got up to make his way to the door.
"Don't forget this." Millie handed him a subway token, which he took and jammed down into his pant pocket.
"Okay. I love you Mil." Steve replied as he kissed his wife. "Love you Brook." Running a hand over the baby’s head, he kissed her brow causing her to coo sweetly.
As Steve went out the door and down the steps of the stoop a barrage of familiar smells pummeled him. It was New York after all; Brooklyn to be exact and it had its own unique aroma. There were some good and some bad as he made his way to the subway station. Yes he did remember where to get the train for some reason and speaking of smells, the subway had one of its own. It was a combination of human waste, ozone and cooked cabbage, one that some might find offensive but a native New Yorker would call it eau de Big Apple pie.
He dug into his pocket and pulled out the token to drop into the turnstile slot. Somewhere in his memory was a youthful leap over the appliance that resulted in an undignified tackle by a hulking transit cop and his pony tailed rookie partner that brought a few hours of confinement and a stint in night court. He remembered the judge who produced a token from behind his ear using a run of the mill magic trick. Steve got a slap on the hand and a date with a young blonde haired assistant DA out of that deal. All she did was talk about the judge so there wasn't a second date.
Steve got onto the train that would take him to Jay Street, the criminal division of the Kings County Court house. He managed to find a seat next to a blue haired old lady for the short ride and the moment he sat she offered him and oatmeal cookie.
"I baked them myself young man." Her voice was rough as if she had been smoking Lucky Strikes for the past sixty years and she had the unmistakable scent of moth balls and pine sol about her. On her head she wore a blue crocheted hat with sequins all over it and even in this eighty degree heat she had a sensible wool stadium coat on with big plastic buttons adorning it. Steve politely refused the cookie. It was hard to miss the fact that she had a huge rock on her finger though, it must have been worth twenty grand or so and Steve wondered what kind of life she'd led.
"No thank you." He envisioned a dozen cats sitting on her Formica kitchen table as she mixed the ingredients together. The thought was just one of the contributing factors as to why he said no.
"Suit yourself." She bit into one of the treats and Steve couldn't help but notice that the crumbs stuck to the spiky hairs on her chin. He turned his head away to avoid a threatening laugh. For as amusing as he found it, he did think she'd make an interesting subject to photograph.
"Where are you going today boy? Work?" she asked.
"I have jury duty at the Kings County Court." he replied
"Land sakes. So do I."
"What a coincidence." Steve rolled his eyes. Now he'd have to make up a million and one excuses not to accept the cookies she'd probably offer him all day.
"Don't fret sonny. I've brought enough home baked goodies to feed the entire borough." Patting the rather large carpet type bag she had on her lap, she hoisted it up a bit and it pulled her dress with it to expose her support hose clad ankles and therapeutic shoes. "What's your name son? Folks call me Granny, just Granny."
"Steve." he replied. It wasn't common for folks to strike up a convo on the train in NYC. "Pleased to meet you Granny."
"Since we're going to the same place, do you think you could help me with this bag? It's God awful heavy you know?"
Rolling his eyes again, Steve replied "Sure, I guess I could."
"That's a good boy." She tweaked his cheek. "You remind me of my own sonny. His name is Ralphie but he's not with me anymore."
"Oh? I'm sorry to hear that."
"It's not what you think, Steve. He's doing ten to twenty at Rikers. Ralphie is a chip off the old block. His daddy was a hell of a businessman I'll tell you. Waste management you know?"
As what she said sank in, Steve was beginning to think he'd better take one of the cookies or he might end up with Jimmy Hoffa as a room mate. His mind rattled but then he realized that maybe the woman just watched too much TV.
"Oh here's our stop." Granny chirped as the subway began to slow down. The lights in the train car flickered just as the station came into view. Steve stood up and reached for the carpet bag which she hoisted to hand him. Had he suddenly become a 98 pound weakling? Granny lifted it with ease but the moment he felt the full weight of it his arm was nearly pulled from its socket,
"What do you have in here, aside from cookies?" he asked with a grunt.
"Oh nothing but firearms, lipstick, explosives and oatmeal cookies." she answered in her little old lady voice.
Steve shook his head with a chuckle. At least the woman had a sense of humor.
He shifted the bag from hand to hand as they walked the few blocks to the Jay Street courthouse. Her slow shuffle tested his patience but he endured none the less figuring the good deed would polish up his Karma a bit. This was way more effort then helping an old woman across the street and it surely had to make up for all the times he avoided such things.
They'd started up the courthouse steps when Granny suddenly stopped. "You go on, Steve, it seems I've got to catch my breath."
"I'll wait for you."
"No, you go on. Don't be late or they'll be angry with you. You know how the courts are."
"Okay. I'll meet you inside," Now able to pick up his pace, Steve took the steps two at a time and he got into the queue for the metal detector at the courthouse entrance. He shuffled forward in the line until it was his turn. Laying the carpet bag on the conveyer, he emptied his pockets, watch, keys and wallet into a plastic bin which was placed on the belt behind the bag. Nodding at the burley guard he wondered why it was taking so long to process through. His question was answered when he was grabbed from behind by two guards and shoved against the wall.
"You have the right to remain silent..." one barked as he clamped a set of cuffs on the struggling photographer.
"What the fuck is this all about?" Steve cried out as he was manhandled to the floor. "Ow! Hey! What did I do?"
"You can't bring firearms and explosives into the courthouse you idiot!" the burley officer replied. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"You don't understand. That's not my stuff. An old woman named Granny handed it to me. She asked me to carry it in for her. She's right behind me."
"There's no old woman behind you. Ya know how many times I've heard that excuse buddy? If I had a nickel for every one I'd be fly fishing in Vermont right now."
"She was there! I swear! She baked those cookies!'
"You mean these?" The guard pulled a bag of Archway Homestyle oatmeal raisin cookies from the bag. "Not likely."
"Don't I get one phone call?" Steve asked as they shoved him into the cage with a half a dozen other guys.
"Yeah and you get punch and cookies just before your nap too."
"Aw come on guys. Call my wife. She'll tell you that I left home empty handed this morning. Honest." Steve begged as they shoved him into a holding cell. He pressed his face into the bars and called out "Let me out of here!' over and over again as he gripped the bars with a white knuckle hold. His requests ended when he suddenly felt something warm on his neck, someone's breath. He turned suddenly to come face to face with a very large Neanderthal like man with yellow teeth and two days growth of beard on his face. His head was bald and there was a tattoo above his right ear that said"I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
"Shut your fucking pie hole pal. I need my beauty rest," the man ordered with a growl.
"I'm sorry. Sorry. I can see you're lacking in beauty sleep. I'll be quiet. I'm just going to go over here and wait for ... my lawyer or whatever." Steve ducked under the man's arm and gasped to hold his breath at the waves of stench he swore he could almost see.
"Hang on pretty boy. That's my corner.'
"Okay, okay. I'll just go over there." Steve kept his eyes on the man as he edged his way toward the opposite side of the cell."
"That's my corner too. In fact, you're in my cell. I guess that makes you my little pet doggie."
"Ah. What a nice offer but I think I'll pass on it, sir." Steve gulped.
"Whatcha in for pretty boy? Didja step on a crack and break your momma's back or what?"
"No, no, no. I'm just here for..." he paused for a moment then blurted. "A moving violation, just a traffic ticket." It was a good lie considering he didn't have a drivers license. "What did you do?" he was almost afraid to ask but his curiosity got the best of him.
The big oaf smiled exposing his yellow teeth to the gums. "Moving violation. I had a problem with a piss ant like you in a bar and I stopped him from moving ...for good."
"Oh." Steve's eyes grew wide. "I'm sorry to hear that, about your problem I mean. Don't worry. I won't be a problem for you. I'll just mind my own business over...somewhere out of your way."
The big man began to advance on Steve and the frightened photographer nearly lost control of his bladder but luckily he was saved by one of the guards who'd banged on the bars with his nightstick.
"Knock it off you too. This ain't the Hilton you know. You!" he pointed to Steve. "You're coming with me. It's time for your arraignment." The guard opened the door and once again Steve ducked under the caveman to escape. Anything was better than staying there with Sasquatch.
Steve was shackled to two other men. He made it a point to stick his tongue out at the man he'd left behind for some reason. Poor judgment perhaps but it made him feel better,
The three were led into a courtroom where they were seated directly behind what Steve guessed to be the public defenders table. He waited until the mousy little man looked up from the yellow legal pad he'd been reading before he spoke.
"Hey. Are you my lawyer?"
"Yep." The man answered. "Jim Gehtyn from Gehtyn Yohrs & Associates at your service. Let me guess. You're the man with the bag of tricks."
"It wasn't my bag! I'm innocent!"
"I believe you, young man. You'll have to convince a jury though. That's the hard part."
Steve opened his mouth to reply but was stopped short as the bailiff announced "O'yah O'yay, court is now in session with the honorable Judge Judy presiding. Please rise."
The diminutive judge with the lace collar adorning her robe entered the courtroom. "Sit down everyone." she announced as she took her seat. As it was Steve's case was the third one to be announced, the other two were bound over for trial. When Steve's name was called he stood up with Attorney Gehtyn.
The judge shuffled some papers before dropping her glasses to her nose. "My, my, this is an interesting case. I understand you were caught red handed with the accoutrements needed to wreck havoc in my beloved courthouse sir, How do you plead?"
Steve's counselor spoke for him. "Not guilty your honor."
"Very well, Madam Prosecutor what is your recommendation?"
The sound of a female clearing her throat could be heard and the dark haired woman stood from behind the second chair. "I think you should lock the motherfucker up and throw away the key your honor." she turned to glare at Steve and to his surprise she was vaguely familiar. Although inappropriately dressed in a tank top, men's pajama bottoms and wearing a bridal veil, she stood as if nothing were amiss.
"I object, your honor." Gehtyn barked. "Referring to my client as a motherfucker is not acceptable."
"Hold on." Steve interjected. "Is this some kind of joke? Where are the cameras? Am I being punked? Hello, Ashton Kutcher are you here?"
"Order. Mister Gehtlyn, please control your client!'
The counselor turned to Steve. "Sit down, man."
"No! I won't sit down. What's going on here and who's that woman, the prosecutor?"
"You know me Steve. Don't you remember? You stood me up you son of a bitch!"
"Your honor, I object." Gehtyn intervened again.
"Overruled. Madam prosecutor are you saying he stood you up? My word. This case is not only bound over for trial but I think we'll have said trial here and now. Bailiff, bring in the jury."
Obliging the judge, the bailiff opened the door to the judge’s chambers and 12 little girls carrying various toys such as jump ropes and dodge balls came skipping in to the jury box.
"Good day ladies." the judge greeted them. You all understand what's expected of you. You're to listen to your parents, clean your plates because there are children starving in third world countries and last but not least you are to decide what's to be done with this man, this dishonorable man who leaves woman at the alter and smuggles weapons and cookies into the courthouse. Remind me to ask him later what the red lipstick was for." A rim shot sound came from the back of the courtroom. "Mister Gethlyn, do you have any witnesses to call?"
"I do not your honor but I must beg the jury to see that my client is an honorable man. He really is. Just because he's cheated on madam prosecutor and left her standing at the alter one time doesn't make him a bad man. He's kind, hard working and he's got nice hair. As for the contents of the carpet bag, my client is adamant that they do not belong to him. He was simply doing a good deed by carrying it into the courthouse to assist an elderly woman. You see heis very kind hearted. How can we prosecute a man for doing a good deed? I implore the members of the jury to consider this when they pass judgment. I rest my case."
"That's it? That's all you’re going to say? Fuck's sake I'm a dead man!" poor Steve was so distraught.
"Very well." the judge responded. "Madam Prosecutor, do you have any witnesses to call?"
The dark haired woman stood and said "I do." then she started to cry. "He never could say those two words. He never could say I do and I'll prove it to you today. I call Millie to the stand."
"Millie?" Steve gasped. "Millie testifying for the prosecution? NO!"
She was dressed in a tight red dress and wearing a pillbox hat with one black feather in it as the bailiff led her into the courtroom. Brooklyn was all decked out in white satin and lace with a crocheted hat. The child was balanced on her mothers hip and she carried a a stuffed bear in her tiny hand. As Millie took the stand she was sworn in by the bailiff and she sat down. Chewing on a piece of Doublemint, she snapped it twice before the judge glared at her.
"Sorry yer honor." Millie set Brooklyn in the center of her lap before removing the gum from her mouth and handing it to the bailiff.
"Miss Millie. What a beautiful child." madam prosecutor proclaimed as she approached the witness box.
"Thank you kindly." Millie responded.
"Whose child is she?" the prosecutor asked.
"Mine of course. Whose do you think?"
"Yours yes but who is the father of the child?"
"Steve. Sheesh you know that!" Millie answered
"Is Steve in this courtroom? Can you point him our for the jury?"
"Sure I can. He's sittin right there behind the guy who looks like a hamster."
Steve stood up again. "Millie. Millie I love you. You know I love you. Tell them it’s true."
"I don't know Steve. You never made it official."
Madam prosecutor turned on her heels and pointed at Steve. "The truth comes out. This man cannot commit, He's gone so far as to father a child yet he had not even bothered to marry the child's mother. Your honor, you sweet little angels of the jury, you now have your proof. Steve is guilty of an alter ego. His ego won't let him go to the alter. Oh yeah and he brought guns and explosives into the courthouse. Probably to blow up the marriage bureau!"
Steve was in a panic. "I did not. I am not. What the fuck!"
"Sir there are children present. Speaking of children. How do you find the defendant?" The judge polled them. Twelve little guilty verdicts came from the girls and with a giggle Brooklyn mocked them. "Daddy, guilty!" She cooed.
"Et tu Brooklyn?" Steve wailed. "Sweetheart, how could you?"
The judge slammed her gavel on the desk and called for order. "The jury will now pass sentence. Well ladies, what should we do with him? Little miss foreman will you announce the sentence?"
The girl stood and smoothed her dress. She drew a breath and said "Throw him in the garbage!"
"Throw me in the garbage?" Steve shrieked.
"The sentence is to be thrown in the garbage." Judge Judy announced. "To be carried out immediately after Steve is wed to madam prosecutor. Do you Steve take Monica to be your lawful wedded wife?"
Steve shook his head. "No, no! I don't love her. I love Millie. Millie please marry me! I love you Millie and I want to be your husband. Please marry me."
Amidst gasps and several little girl giggles and one ewww from the kid who'd been watching the jury foreman pick her nose, the sound of Brooklyn's sweet voice calling for daddy could be heard.
"Do ya really mean it Steve? Do ya?" Millie called out above the clamber.
Steve looked from face to face with panic in his eyes. The last one he saw was Millie racing toward him with Brooklyn bouncing on her ample hip. He shut his eyes tight as he felt the walls close in on him. "I duh...I duh...I duh..." Thud! He hit the floor like a ton of bricks. Steve had passed out cold.
"Oh my God. My poor baby. Steve. Steve, wake up." Millie patted his cheek gently. "Steve, are you okay?"
"Huh? Millie. No, no, don't throw me in the garbage!"
"What the hell are you talking about? Steve you're sweating and you've been tossing and turning. What's wrong? Are you sick?"
"Millie? Is it really you Millie?"
"Yes. It's me. I need some fresh water. Can you go to the lagoon to get it?"
"Yes the lagoon."
Steve dropped the hand that covered his brow and it landed firmly in the soft white sand that covered the floor of the hut. "I'm home. I'm fucking home! Millie I had such a dream."
"Tell me about it later baby. We need some fresh water."
"No. Not later. Millie. I've got something to ask you. Honey, I know we don't have a church or a preacher or Cadillacs or anything like that but ...Baby..." he pushed up until he was on one knee and he took her hand in his. "Baby, Will you marry me?"
"Aw Steve. Do you mean it? Do you really mean it?"
"I do!' He answered firmly. "I do."
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