Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Crazy With the Heat" by Bert N. Dean

Crazy With the Heat
Bert N. Dean

Ten seconds after the deed was done the cops were closing in on Henry from all angles. Things looked very black for Henry and his face turned white. If you think that was a paradox, hold on! The worse, for Henry at least, was yet to come.

Henry surrendered without a fight. That was the sensible thing to do, because he weighed only one hundred and ten while each of the cops was a two-hundred pounder. They didn't draw their guns, but Henry drew his own conclusions as to where they would take him.

The arrest attracted a crowd of lunch hour loafers in City Hall Park. It was a blistering hot day, but every person in the crowd knew that the cops were going to make it even hotter for Henry.

The doors of the patrol wagon yawned wide and Henry narrowly escaped a boot in the pants by jumping inside. He was followed by two burly officers, then the wire grilled doors were slammed with a clang that sent shivers down Henry's spine in spite of the heat.

Siren screaming, the paddy wagon careened down the avenue. Through the rear door Henry could see the courthouse, the county jail and the railroad station. He dreaded the thought that all three buildings would eventually play a hand in his fate.

The arresting officer gave the charge to the desk sergeant at the precinct house while Henry stared hopelessly at the floor, biting his lower lip.

The desk sergeant roared: "Shot the police commissioner, huh? What's yer name, punk? And address and occupation. Make it snappy!"

Henry raised his frightened eyes. "Er, my name is Henry Hawkins. Er, I'm a bookkeeper, an' I live at Seventeen Elm Place. Er, I didn't know it was loaded. Honest! You've got to believe me!"

A heavy hand from behind grasped Henry's collar, and a gruff voice said: "Save your alibis fer the judge. We're throwing you in the lock-up!"

"But, but please let me phone a lawyer!" Henry pleaded. "The best lawyer in town will be none too good for me under these circumstances."

"You can say that again!" the cop growled, pushing Henry toward a coin telephone on the wall.

The lawyer didn't hold out much hope for Henry, but Henry gave him a list of friends whom the lawyer agreed to contact. Henry figured his friends would rally to his aid and if necessary raise a defense fund to help him beat the rap.

After the call, Henry was thrown into a small, dark cell. He slumped in exhaustion to the narrow bunk, and fell asleep to dream of scowling jurors, sneering witnesses and a judge whose thunderous voice made the courtroom windows rattle.

But as Henry snoozed away the afternoon in a succession of nightmares, his buddies and fellow-hobbyists rallied to his cause. Ollie Timmins, the head bookkeeper in Henry's office told the staff: "He shot the police commissioner, huh? So what? Probably Henry didn't even know who the guy was!"

Jess Maguire, leaning against the water cooler, shook his fist angrily. "Henry didn't do it deliberately! It must have been an accident. All of us have to help Henry, even if we have to go into court and perjure ourselves as witnesses for the defense!"

Tod Peters knocked his pipe on the corner of a desk and joined the discussion. "I heard of a similar case upstate," he said, "in which the defendant was released and the jury hanged."

Jess Maguire protested: "Got the chair, you mean. They don't hang 'em any more in this state."

"You're both cockeyed," Ollie Timmins chuckled. "The jury wasn't hanged. They were hung, which means simply that they couldn't agree on a verdict so the defendant was automatically released."

Tod Peters through Ollie a dubious look. "Maybe that was it," he said. "Anyway, I hope they release Henry. He's the nicest guy I ever borrowed five dollars from."

"The hearing is scheduled for nine o'clock tomorrow morning in district court," Ollie said. "The boss says we should go along with Henry's other pals and pack the courtroom."

"Yes," Tod agreed. "Henry needs our moral support. And for once the boss was big hearted."

"Huh!" Jess Maguire snorted. "You mean the boss hopes Henry will be freed. Bookkeepers don't come a dime a dozen these days, and where would the boss get another guy to fill Henry's job for thirty per week?"

The following morning when Henry was led into court and put in the prisoner's dock, he was cheered by the sight of row upon row of his friends, co-workers, neighbors and fellow hobbyists.

Everyone stood up as the judge appeared on the bench and the clerk called the court to order. But a murmur arose among the spectators when the police commissioner strode briskly down the aisle and sat down at the prosecutor's table.

"He's alive!" Jess Maguire whispered loudly. "Doesn't even look like Henry wounded him. No bandages, no crutches or anything!"

The murmuring rose to a clamor as Henry's pals speculated on whether he'd been framed. The judge rapped his gavel for order, threatening to clear the courtroom unless the spectators quieted down.

Henry was sworn in, and took the stand like a man walking in his sleep. The prosecutor stood up and paced back and forth like a caged lion before he thrust an accusing finger at Henry and demanded: "Why did you do it? Answer me yes or no!"

"No!" Henry croaked.

"No what?" the prosecutor snarled. "Were you crazy with the heat yesterday noon or what?"

"What." Henry replied.

"Oh, so that's it!" his accusor roared. "You were what, were you? Then you can't plead insanity. You'll have to stand trial."

Henry's lawyer leaped to his feet. "I object, your honor!" he shouted. "My client can't stand trial if there's been a technical error."

The judge cocked his head, muttered: "Just what do you mean by that?"

"My client didn't know it was loaded. He just pointed the thing and his finger must have slipped and the deed was done!"

"First witness!" cried the prosecutor, ignoring Henry's attorney.

Henry got down from the chair as a burly cop was sworn in.

"Explain in your own words," the prosecutor began, "just what happened in City Hall Park shortly after twelve-thirty yesterday."

"It was like this," the cop growled. "Me and McCarthy saw the defendant coming down a path toward the fountain. He looked suspicious, so we followed him. When he got to the fountain he spied the commissioner sitting on the edge of the fountain pool with his shoes and stockings off, cooling his feet in the pool. Then, without a word of warning, the defendant raised exhibit "A" which you see there on the table, and shot him!"

All eyes in the courtroom focused on the exhibit table which was bare except for an expensive, foreign-made reflex camera.

The judge's face turned purple, the prosecutor's face turned white and Henry's face was flushed with a deep crimson. The judge rapped his gavel like a quarry worker breaking stone with a sledge. "Order! Order!" he cried as laughter rocked the courtroom.

The prosecutor threw up his hands, and Henry's attorney threw the camera. It struck the prosecutor full in the face. "You rat!" Henry's lawyer cried. "Trying to railroad my client on a trumped up charge! You ought to be disbarred and feathered!"

"Case dismissed!" the judge roared.

"Next case!" called the clerk.

Outside on the courthouse steps, Henry posed for the news photographers as his many friends crowded around, cheering.

"My only regret," Henry said, when questioned by a reporter, "is that my attorney threw my brand new two hundred dollar camera at the prosecutor. I wish I could have thrown it at him myself!"

No comments:

Post a Comment