This is an adaptation of a scene from my current NaNoWriMo project, In The Shadow of Magic. President Roosevelt is not actually in the novel, I just wanted to throw him in for fun. Good luck fellow WriMo’s.
“You were in fact not shot, and there were no bullet holes found in the barn,” the district attorney leaned in close to the witness and prepared to deliver his killing blow. “And you have the gall to testify, under oath, that Mr. Levi Holt is dead, by your hand, because he made a mistake?”
“No sir, that would be crazy,” said Jethro Stern. “He’s dead because he made two mistakes.”
The judge banged his gavel several times to restore order as an even mix of laughter and angry shouts erupted from the courtroom observers. Half of which were comprised of men in strange, green uniforms accentuated by a brass badge. The remaining court room observers were a combination of the deceased’s kin and curious towns folk.
“I will have order in my courtroom,” said Judge Pritchett. He was in his late 60’s and had been a judge for over 20 years. He was a humorless man known for his stiff sentences.
“You men laughing at this open display of disrespect for the law will be asked to leave if you can’t control yourselves.” He addressed the laughing portion of the crowd. “I have no idea what rights you think those pieces of brass on your chest give you, but here in Texas, we don’t recognize your authority.” He turned to the man on the witness stand. “And as for you, Mr. Stern, I would think being on trial for murder would stop any man from joking.”
“I assure you, Your Honor, I never joke about killing and Levi Holt is dead today because he made two very important mistakes.”
The district attorney saw his case slipping away. Stammering, he tried to regain control over his witness. “Well, what were these so called mistakes? What did he do that was so egregious it required you to kill him, Mr. Stern?”
Stern looked the lawyer straight in his eye. He had dealt with this type of person so many times. The man had most likely had never worked an honest day in his life; probably a product of a privileged upbringing. How he deplored men like him. Men who stood for nothing but their own ends.
“His first mistake was not killing me when he took a shot at me in the dark from behind. As for his second mistake,” Mr. Stern turned his raptor-like gaze on the Judge. “He didn’t recognize the authority of my badge.”
He let his words hang there.
“No further questions, Your Honor,” said the district attorney clearly shaken.
Judge Pritchett was not shaken however and showed his lack of fear by refusing to look away from Mr. Stern as he addressed the defense attorney. “Mr. Martin, does the defense wish to cross examine?” he asked.
Stern’s defense attorney wore the same green, broadcloth uniform and brass badge. His left arm was bent and useless but his voice and demeanor suggested a hardness that would make others think twice before asking him about it.
“We do not Your Honor. However, the defense asks once again that the court wait two days before continuing so that we may obtain some evidence of Mr. Stern’s innocence. “
“Denied! You have had two months sir, and unless you have something else to add, justice will be served this very day.”
The court room door opened quietly and a mountain of a man, also in a green uniform, approached the defense table as inconspicuously as possible. He handed the defense attorney a telegram. Mr. Martin quickly read it before addressing the Judge again.
“Your honor, I would like to request a brief recess.”
“Fine, you have ten minutes. At which time I will be prepared to deliver my verdict.”
Judge Pritchett slammed his gavel twice on his bench before standing to leave. Stern left the witness box and returned to his seat.
“I don’t like this Jethro, that judge isn’t giving you an inch.”
“Never mind about the judge,” replied Stern. “What was in that telegram Hershel gave you?”
“It’s from Ranger One; says they were delayed in Oregon but to sit tight. I don’t think I can get you out of this without their help, Jethro.”
“That’s alright, your doing great. Thanks for everything Pat, you’re a true friend and a true ranger. Just continue like we planned and it will all work out fine.”
The bailiff called the court to order as Judge Pritchett reentered the courtroom.
“Mr. Stern please stand.” Jethro and Pat stood side by side as the Judge prepared to render his verdict. “In light of the fact that there were no witnesses and you were, in fact not shot by Mr. Holt and discovered standing above his body with your gun drawn, it is my ruling that you did willfully kill one, Mr. Levi Holt in cold blood without provocation and thereby sentenced to be hung by the neck until dead. May God have mercy on your soul.”
The courtroom erupted into a cacophony of applause and angry cursing. Once again Jude Pritchett restored order at the end of his gavel.
“Sentencing to be carried out two days hence.”
The courtroom doors opened again, this time not so quietly. The giant Hershel returned leading a small contingent of uniformed men armed with Henry rifles and brass badges. They took up defensive positions in the aisle. Two of the men covered the bailiff before he could draw his gun.
“What is the meaning of this!” Jude Pritchett’s red-faced anger was punctuated by his gavel which now slammed on the bench with furious abandon.
Pat Martin shot to his feet, his gimp arm swayed back and forth from the sudden movement. “Your Honor, The defense would like to call The President of these United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt to the stand.”
The courtroom was dead silent save for the sound of President Roosevelt’s boots echoing through the court room as he strode purposefully toward the bench.
“Your Honor, do I actually have to sign something or do you recognize my authority to pardon one of my park rangers?” Judge Pritchett sat silently at his bench for the first time in twenty years. “Please don’t make me ask again, Judge. This man was acting under my orders and quite possibly saved a great many lives, by shooting that man.”
Jude Pritchett looked over at Mr. Stern. “You’re free to go,” he said and banged his gavel to make it law.
President Roosevelt pulled a brass badge from his breast pocket before turning to face his men. He handed the badge to Mr. Stern. “Glad I came when I did Ranger Six?”
Jethro stood arrow strait as he saluted his commander in chief. “Yes Sir, I had no doubts,”
A very good read! Your project for NaNo is really interesting.
Like how you used the “recognize authority of badge” as a leitmotif!
mmm intrigued on what your Nano project is now
Thank you Marisa and Chance. Glad to know you are intrigued and the piece seems to work for you.
I’m writing a Western Fantasy. It’s Urban Fantasy set in the old west.
If you’d like to buddy me, I’m ChrisChartrand on the NaNoWriMo website.
“Stern’s defense attorney wore the same green, broadcloth uniform and brass badge. His left arm was bent and useless but his voice and demeanor suggested a hardness that would make others think twice before asking him about it.”
Loved this part especially Chris. It’s a whole character sketch in two lines. Way to pack in the info!
Good luck with NaNo your book sounds like a cool concept.
Chris, you do know you’re going to have to post the whole novel on Dec 1, right? 🙂 You are such a great storyteller, and Ranger Six is no exception. I love how you brought Roosevelt in, and with such vigor.
You tease. Now I want to know more. Left me with lots of questions that need answers. That’s a pretty effective tease. Nice job.
I’ve not had much success trying to buddy people on NaNo. I’ll try and try again. Good luck!
Great little piece of the story. As the others have said, that wet the apatite for the rest of your story, but this clip also stands great on its own.
I want more, more! Great story!
Banging gavels, brass badges and clacking boots – like some of your other stories, it has the feel of a good old western.
I nearly laughed out loud when I read they were park rangers – I had expected some crack squad known only to the Pres. There’s some serious Fargo-ism going on here!
Now I want to be a park ranger more than ever!
Cool. Multi-genre stuff happening here.
I’m rather envious that your first NaNo draft reads so dang well; mine suckolas. I’ll buddy you in NaNoland… Peace, Linda
Oh Linda, make no mistake. It’s pretty abysmal. I cleaned this passage up for #fridayflash.
Okay, you can add me to the list of people who will be calling for your blood or the rest of the novel on Dec 1st