The Word of the Day is “Trust”

Michigan Bar JournalThe Word of the Day is “Trust” was my short story which won the 2009 Michigan Bar Journal Short Story Contest.  It has since been published in Written in the Mitten 2013: A Celebration of Michigan Writers (Heron Bay Books, 2013) and Legends: A Literary Journal from Grey Wolfe Publishing, Summer, 2013 (Grey Wolfe Publishing, 2013).

The Word of the Day is “Trust”

I rushed through the hall on the second floor of the Circuit Court building, weaving between lawyers and lay persons, with Jennifer Clarke’s file under my arm.  It was fifteen minutes before the hearing when I entered the court room.

Most of the people in the room were seated, chatting softly with each other.  Neither the panel nor the judge had taken their places yet.  I scanned the room and saw a familiar face.  How could I miss her?  She wore a tight v-neck white blouse beneath a form-fitting cherry red jacket and a short black skirt with nylons to match.  She sat in the first row, putting her in as close to the center of the court room as one could get.  When she saw me, she rose, drawing the lustful stare of every male in the room.

But why the hell was she there?  She had been to my office on a number of occasions, letting me know that she was not thrilled with my handling of Jennifer’s case.  It was unnecessary for her to show up in the court room to annoy me further.

“Martin,” she said softly.  Her aromatic perfume engulfed me.  “What’s going to happen?”

“I don’t know, Kristin,” I said, meeting her tawny eyes.  “I have to go in the back and talk to her.”

“Marty, I really didn’t think…”

“Later,” I said.  “I have to go.”

I left the courtroom through a door opposite the one I entered.  It led to a narrow hallway, with offices along one side.  The prosecutor, Gerald Gunner, walked towards me and stopped.

“I don’t know Marty,” he said, shaking his bald head.  “Most of the panel is not pleased with your client.  I don’t know if she can stay in the program after this.”

“I know,” I said.  “Let me talk to her.”

I continued down the hall.  Within one of the offices sat a county sheriff.  He quickly rose and his voice commanded me to stop.

“Can I help you sir?”  His sandy hair was trimmed perfectly, as was his similarly hued mustache.  His brown uniform was spotless and wrinkle-free on his trim, solid body.

“I represent Jennifer Clarke.  She’s in the lock-up.”

He sized me up, paying particular attention to my hair.  I let it grow longer than the conservative norm of this profession, which often draws suspicion, even when I wear a navy pinstripe suit as flawless as the sheriff’s deputy’s uniform.  “Okay.  Go ahead.”

I went to the door that led to the lock-up.  Behind the door would be two dimly lit cells filled to standing room capacity.  It always took a moment of mental preparation before I could open it.  When I did, all the talking and moving stopped as several pairs of eyes looked at me.

“Martin!” Jennifer said, excited to see me.  She was a cute diminutive blonde with straight shoulder-length hair and hazel, doe-like eyes.  A couple of women moved aside and allowed her to approach the bars.  Even in the dimmed light, I could see her reddened eyes.  And without her make-up, she looked her age of twenty-nine.  With make-up, she’d definitely get carded buying alcohol.

“How did I let you talk me into this?” she said with an edge to her voice.  Her hands held the bars.  The handcuffs secured to her wrists clinked.

“You asked me how I could keep you out of jail so that you could clean up your life, remember?  You agreed that it was the best option for both you and Katie.  My question is, do you want to remain in that outfit and jewelry or are you going to follow through with the program?”  She looked at me as if my words stung her.  “Because if you decide to back out now you’ll be spending a long time in jail, with the habit you’re trying to quit and without your daughter.”

She sighed.  “No.”  Tangled strands of hair fell before her eye and I reached through the bar and pushed it to the side.  “I have been doing good haven’t I?”

I nodded.  Eight weeks into the program and she relapsed.  Jennifer had been arrested when she was pulled over the night before on her way home from the contract work she received from Kristen.  The police confiscated contraband that was located in her purse.  That’s how a defense attorney would explain it.  To put it more bluntly, Jennifer was returning home from a “date” Kristen had set up for her at the Notell Motel on Main Street when the officer pulled her over for speeding and saw two grams of cocaine on the passenger seat.

“I was making the meetings and hadn’t used at all,” she said.  “It hasn’t been easy.”

No it hasn’t.  It wasn’t designed to be easy.  The Drug Court program required four stages that would take one year to complete.  It involved random drug testing, bi-weekly status review hearings, and attendance in treatment sessions as ordered by the court.  Graduating from the program would expunge the guilty plea from the participant’s record.  It was a difficult program, but worth it to the drug or alcohol addicts that wanted to end his or her addiction and remove the conviction from their record.

She motioned for me to step closer to the bars.  In a hushed voice she said, “But I need the work Kristin can get me, Marty.  That waitress job doesn’t pay my bills.  I’m going to lose my apartment.”

“If you go to jail, you’ll lose your apartment, too.”

“And I’ll lose Katie,” she said.  “God, I don’t want my mom raising her.”

In feeling sorry for her, I also had hope.  The arrest that landed her into Drug Court to begin with was when a cop followed her as she left an appointment at a reputable hotel.  She was pulled over for burned out taillight.  The officer questioned her about her business at the hotel.  Then he saw the plastic sandwich bag of pot in the glove compartment when she opened it to retrieve her vehicle registration.  This occurred a couple months after Katie was born.

“What happens now?” she asked.

“That will depend upon the panel, the judge, and you.  You know what they will be expecting,” I said.

“Yes, I know.  Honesty.”

“I’ll see you in the court room,” I said.  She lowered her head and shuffled her way towards the middle of the cell.  I closed the door.

I returned to the court room.  Judge Block was on the bench, and the panel was seated.  One of the participants was before the judge, defining the “Word of the Day’s” meaning to him.  This was a regular part of the program where Judge Block selects a word, writes it on a dry-erase board, and all the participants have to explain what the word means to them.  I didn’t hear the participant’s response, as I was taking my seat next to Kristin.  The Sheriff’s deputy then escorted three women into the jury box.  All were cuffed at the wrists and ankles.  All in prison-issue blue.  Jennifer was in the middle.

“Jesus, that poor kid,” Kristin whispered.  “How is she?”

The young man stepped away from the lectern.  Judge Block called out the next name.  An African American woman in the jury box stood.

“It depends on how this goes,” I whispered.  “Why are you here?”

“Because I care about her.”

“You have a funny way of showing you care.”

“Look, I didn’t call her.  She begged for some work.”

“Shh!  And I told you that no matter what, don’t give her any.  You and she have to trust the process.  It’s the only way she’s going to make it through the program and beat her addiction.”  Then, I looked straight at her.  “Unless you don’t want her to.”

We remained silent and listened to the African American woman’s fall from grace.  She had failed an alcohol screening test in her second week in the program, and was also arrested for drunk driving.

“Look,” I heard Kristin whisper.  “I’m sorry, okay?  If I had known that she had taken drugs sometimes as payment then sold them to a dealer to pay my commission, I would never have arranged for her to work.  She’s a good kid.  I knew she was hurting financially after being out of commission for a few months because of the baby.  I thought I was helping.  I’m sure this will all work out.  They all look like nice men up there.”

The nice men she spoke of were Judge Block and the Drug Court panel.  The panel consisted of Gerald Gunner, the prosecutor, Jacob Stockton, the social worker, and Doug Jenkins, the defense counsel.  Though Jennifer was my client, I had no authority in the drug court process.  Jenkins was there to insure that all the participant’s rights were being adhered to, from a defense perspective.  Even though I had no role in the proceedings, it was part of the bargain I made with Jennifer.  If she participated in the program, I would take the time out of my schedule to attend the bi-weekly hearings.

Jennifer’s name was called.  Kristin and I both looked at her.  She stood in the jury box with the heavy manacles weighing on her skinny wrists.  Kristin put her hand on my thigh.  Using the thumb and forefinger of my right hand to hold each side of her wrist, I moved her hand back to her own lap.

“Your Honor, Jennifer had a relapse yesterday,” said Gunner.

The judge, looking over the top of his black-rimmed glasses, read from a report.  “You were arrested for possession of two grams of cocaine.”  His eyes shifted to Jennifer and in his deep, gravel voice, he asked, “How long have you been in the program?”

“Eight weeks, your Honor.”

“And you have been making excellent progress.  What happened?”

“I needed money, your Honor.  The job I got at the restaurant isn’t paying me enough.  I’m starting to get behind on my bills.”

“But you had to have known that being caught with any contraband would be a serious violation of the program.  Am I correct?”

“Yes, your Honor.”

“But you chose to do it anyway?  How were you able to obtain it, Ms. Clarke?”

“The drugs?” she asked.  I took a quick glance at Kristin.  I didn’t know how Jennifer was going to answer that.  But Kristin revealed no emotion.

“Before getting into this program, I used to do odd jobs for people.  Some jobs paid better than others.  I talked to someone who would have me deliver things for them.”

The judge shook his head.  Gunner said, “We charged her with possession with intent to sell.  I haven’t had a chance to talk to her lawyer, but we may be willing to include the charge with her previous charge.  This way, pleading guilty will be instituted as a part of this program.  Of course, I’m going to want something in return.”

“What did you have in mind?” the judge said.  Before Gunner could answer, the judge continued.  “This doesn’t sit well with me.  She intentionally violated the program.”

“I understand, your Honor,” Gunner said.  “My recommendation would be that she starts the program over.  Eliminate the eight weeks she has earned thus far.”

“It’s anticipated that those in the program will slip up,” Jacob, the social worker on the panel said.  Stocky, with a face full of cheeks, Jacob had a remarkable resemblance to the late actor, John Candy.  “She has shown over the last eight weeks that she has stopped using.  I wouldn’t be opposed to Mr. Gunner’s recommendation.”

“Suppose that instead of removing you from the program and sending you back to the circuit court for sentencing, I follow Mr. Gunner’s recommendation,” the judge said addressing Jennifer.  “How can I be convinced that this won’t happen again?”

“It won’t, your Honor,” Jennifer said.  “I want to do this.  When I had the drugs in my hand and in the car, it wasn’t the same.  Maybe it’s because of what I’ve been through these eight weeks.  I looked at it and thought, I don’t need that shit any more.”  She paused and put her hand to her moth, rattling the chain and cuffs.  “Oops.  Sorry about that, your Honor.”

“That’s okay,” he said with a grin.  “Continue.”

“I realized that I was different.  I needed money, but I didn’t need that stuff.  I had no craving for it.  I think this program will work for me.  It has been working for me.”

“On the board is the word of the day,” the judge said.  “What is it and what does it mean to you?”

“The word is trust, your Honor,” she said.  “Trust is something that is earned and is precious.  The court trusted me to be in this program, and I let it down.  I was making progress and was earning the trust of the panel and of my peers.  And of my attorney who has been here every time I appeared in this court.  But I’ve let you all down.  And I didn’t trust myself.  I knew I should never have made that call.  I should trust that all will be okay if I stick with the program, even if it means financially losing my apartment and my stuff.  I would have, anyway, if I had gone to jail in the first place.”

The court room was uncomfortably silent.  The judge looked down at the report once more.

“I’m going to take Mr. Gunner’s recommendation,” the judge finally said.  “Mr. Gunner, you and Ms. Clarke’s attorney work out the details.”

“Thank you, your Honor,” Jennifer said, beaming a smile at him.

“Just be careful, Ms. Clarke.  This is a major mistake and breach of trust.  But you developed a strong record over the last eight weeks to earn you this second chance.  There may not be a third.”  The Judge closed the folder and addressed the court room.  ”I’m going to call a recess now.  We’ll resume in fifteen minutes.”

I gathered Jennifer’s file and stood along with most everyone else.  I turned to Kristin.  “I have to stay and wait until they come back and go through the remaining participants before talking with Gunner.  You don’t need to stay if you don’t want to.”

“Can I see her?” she asked.

“No.  She’s being taken to lock-up right now, and only officers of the court are allowed back there.”

“Walk me to the elevator, then?” she said.  I didn’t really want to, but I knew I could go back to lock-up and check with Jennifer during the remainder of drug court.  We made our way to the door exiting the court room.  The sun illumined the hallway through the tall and wide windows as we walked to the elevator.

“She looked very strong and courageous,” Kristin said as she pulled her cell phone out of her purse.  She used her thumb to push its buttons and looked at its small screen.  “I think that’s quite cool.”

“Does that mean you’re on our side now?”

She smiled.  It was natural and made her look prettier than when she faked it.  “I wasn’t against you,” she said.  “I thought I was helping.”

“Well, don’t provide that kind of help again, okay?”  She stopped looking at her phone and met my stare.  “She can do this and everyone will be better off when she succeeds.”

“So I’m not forgiven,” she said.  “Even after everything I’ve done to help this situation.”

“Help?  How did you help?”

“My dear,” she said in a condescending tone.  “What was the word of the day?”

“Trust?  But how does that relate?”

“Simple, darling.  I put my trust not in your legal system, but rather, in human nature.”

“I still don’t…”

“Let’s just say that my presence in the court room may have had some influence on the panel.”

She used her thumb to push the button on the elevator.  Damn her, I thought.  I started to feel my heart beat in my temples.

“Who?”

She giggled.  “Come now, Martin.  I have a confidential relationship with my clients, too.  What’s wrong, Martin?  You look a little stressed?  You know, I know someone who just might be available to relieve some of it for you.”

“I think you’d better go,” I said.  The elevator doors opened and she stepped into the empty compartment.  As the doors closed, she winked.

“Confession” – a Trevor Aldabra story

This story was a finalist in the 2013 Michigan Bar Journal Short Story Contest, and was published in the Autumn, 2013 Legends: A Literary Journal from Grey Wolfe Publishing.

Confession

Trevor Aldabra sat in the court room at the defendant’s table, speculating about the chaos occurring behind its walls. His client was on trial for murder this morning; a killing spree that topped the news headlines. Two camera men were setting up in the back of the court room, inconspicuous as laughter at a funeral.

That did not concern Trevor.

Months ago, Trevor had warned Madeline Grigsby, the Assistant Prosecutor assigned to the case, not to turn his client’s surrender into a media circus because she’d have a tough time explaining events that would occur later. But Madeline didn’t follow his advice. She held a press conference acknowledging that the Double Lobotomy Murderer had been captured. Kudos for her. Later had now arrived and Trevor was certain that there she and the judge had an issue to deal with as he sat in a court room filling with people.

That did not concern Trevor.

He brought his briefcase. Within it held a sketchy outline of questions he would ask the prosecutor’s witnesses, in the event a trial did take place. He had no exhibits, and really had no case, should the trial commence.

That did not concern Trevor.

Within his briefcase he also had the findings of his secretary Ginger Desjardins. He instructed her to dig into the annals of Michigan history in search of what he would need to prove his case; not to a jury, but to the judge and Madeline. The research was unconventional, but it would reveal the unusual circumstances and character of his client. Such research and findings frightened five former secretaries to flee from their job. He hired Ginger three weeks ago. Would he have to recruit a seventh to replace her?

That concerned Trevor.

Madeline emerged from behind the door which led back to the offices and chambers of Judge Whyler. She wore a black jacket with slacks and a light pink blouse which matched her lipstick. Her almond eyes glared at Trevor through a pair of stylish glasses.

“Mr. Aldabra. We need to talk to the judge in chambers. Now.” She reminded him of a seasoned elementary school teacher ordering a misbehaving student to the principal’s office.

Trevor picked up his briefcase and followed her through the door, down the hallway to the back office. Katie, Judge Whyler’s secretary, focused her attention on the docket printed before her, avoiding eye contact with them.

Judge Whyler paced before his desk. He wore a navy suit. His dark robe hung on a wooden hanger on a silver metal coat rack in the corner of the office.

“Mr. Aldabra, can you explain to me what is going on?” the judge barked his order, a voice he developed as a police sergeant before going to law school. His dark hair was smoothly combed, his brow wrinkled and his cheeks reddened as he looked at Trevor.

“We have a jury trial scheduled for today, Your Honor,” Trevor replied.

“And where is your client?”

“In the county jail, Sir.”

“No she is not!” his voice raised. “She has escaped. And Ms. Grigsby indicated to me that you know something about this.”

“I do, Your Honor.” Trevor lowered himself into one of the chairs before the desk. “I’ll explain it to you, but I don’t know how you and Ms. Grigsby are going to explain it to the press.” Trevor motioned to the chair next to him and behind the desk. “Have a seat. This is going to take a little time.”

*****

It was two days after the most recent body was found in a series of murders that Trevor sat in his office, reviewing the will he drafted for his client, Lloyd Baker. Estate planning was not his specialty. Criminal defense was his first love, and he’d take any client charged with a crime. But if a client crossed his threshold with a legal matter he felt competent to handle, Trevor would not turn him or her away.

The gentle tap of knuckle against door drew Trevor’s attention.

“There’s a woman here to see you,” Ginger said.

“How long before Mr. Baker is supposed to be here?”

“Twenty minutes,” she said. She pushed her dark framed glasses higher on her nose, blinking her olive eyes.

“What do you think?” he asked.

She turned her head toward the lobby then back, her tied-back auburn hair whipped. “I think you should see her. I can delay Mr. Baker.”

“Send her in,” Trevor said, and his secretary departed.

Trevor stood as the woman entered the office. She was a petite young lady, younger than Ginger; college-aged he guessed. Her hair was dirty blonde. That is, she was a natural blonde, however her hair was tangled and dark, as if shampoo had not been applied to it for a few days. Her turquoise eyes sparkled in contrast to her fair complexion.

“Mr. Aldabra?” she said with a lyrical voice. “I’m Katelyn Rose.”

“Please, Ms. Rose, have a seat.” She did and he closed his office door behind her. As he took his seat, he asked her how he could help her.

“I would like you to represent me, Mr. Aldabra, when I turn myself in to the police.”

“What kind of crime will you be confessing to?”

“Seven murders,” she said.

Trevor took a deep breath and opened a drawer at his side. He noticed that his sudden movement startled her, so he quickly placed the yellow legal pad he retrieved from the desk drawer on the desk.  He clicked a pen and set it on the pad. He turned to his computer and typed the website address for the Detroit Free Press and clicked on the link to the most recent article about the Double Lobotomy Murders. “We’re talking about the seven white males who had all been murdered by having their skulls crushed, their brains removed, and castrated, in Harper Woods, Eastpointe, Warren, Hazel Park, Ferndale, Highland Park, and near the Greektown Casino in Detroit?” She nodded. “The Double Lobotomy Murders that occurred one per day from September 10th through the 16th?”

She scowled at him. “You don’t believe me.”

“Ms. Rose it is difficult to imagine how such a tiny young lady like yourself could have terminated the lives of these healthy and strong men in such a physically brutal way. But it is my policy to believe my client until the evidence proves otherwise.”

The blue diamonds of her eyes bore through his. “That is why I came to you. As I told your secretary, you were highly recommended.” He was about to ask the name of the person who referred him, but she continued. “Your computer is on? Look up how I died on August 27th. You will find the story in the Toronto Globe and Mail.”

*****

Judge Whyler and Madeline Grigsby reluctantly followed Trevor’s suggestion and sat in the remaining chairs in the judge’s chambers.

“Madeline, I told you that all you had to do was let the matter go. You could have avoided this embarrassment,” Trevor said. He set his elbows on the arms of the chair and interlinked his fingers, resting his chin on extended thumbs.

“Drop all charges and let the Double Lobotomy Murderer go? You know I couldn’t do that.”

“All she wanted to do was provide the victims with closure and save you and the police from expending any more manpower or tax dollars on these cases.”

“What are you two talking about?” the judge interrupted, reminding them that he was still in the room.

“The defendant, Katelyn Rose, came to me to confess to the murders,” Trevor said to the judge.

“I know that. It was all over the news weeks ago.”

“And it didn’t have to be,” Trevor said then looked at Madeline. “This has become more complicated than necessary.”

“How so?” Judge Whyler asked.

Trevor picked up his briefcase and laid it across his lap.

“Your Honor, Katelyn Rose wasn’t really Katelyn Rose. The ‘real’ Katelyn Rose committed suicide in late August.” He pulled out a copy of the news report from the Toronto Globe and Mail’s website and handed it to the judge. “This is why I told Madeline that prosecuting Ms. Rose would be more problematic than just closing the cases.”

Judge Whyler looked at the photo and story. Trevor watched as the judge’s facial expression changed from recognition to confusion. “This is the defendant?”

“Yes,” Trevor said. “The defendant has been deceased for over two months.”

*****

Trevor opened another window and brought up the website. He typed her name in its internal search engine, and the top hit was dated August 27th. He read the story of Katelyn Rose, 24, who had been found in her car at the bottom of Sparrow Lake near Gravenhurst, Ontario. The police found no evidence of foul play, and deemed it a successful suicide.  There was an image of the girl, wearing a summer dress leaning in to the right, as if the arm of another person was around her; the identity of the other person protected having been cut out of the photo. Trevor looked at the image, then back at the girl in her office.

“The eyes definitely match,” Trevor said.

“Don’t mock me, Mr. Aldabra.”

“I’m not. But I have many questions, the first of which is whose body is residing in this girl’s grave?”

“The grave is empty. This is the body of Katelyn Rose.”

“But your consciousness or spirit is not that of the former Ms. Rose.”

“That is correct. I am Kachina. My tribe used to own these lands.”

“I see,” he said writing the name on the yellow pad. “Why are you occupying Katelyn’s former body?”

“I am cursed, Mr. Aldabra. I am forced to return every day to feed the Goddess for my treason.”

“Every day?”

“A day in the spirit realm is equal to forty human years.”

“And how many days have you been cursed?”

“This is my eighth day.”

Trevor did the math. “So you’ve been feeding the Goddess since 1733?”

“That is correct,” she said. “I was cursed and murdered in August, 1693.”

*****

“Wait one minute,” Judge Whyler said. “You’re trying to tell me that some female Iroquois ghost inhabited a woman’s dead body and killed these men?”

“And that Katelyn devoured their brains in order to feed the Goddess pursuant to her curse,” Trevor said. “The Goddess finds the brains of white males a delicacy, it seems.”

Madeline sighed. She had been with the Prosecutor’s Office for better than two decades, and had probably heard every story imaginable. Trevor wondered if this case would give her reason to seriously consider retirement.

“And the testicles?” the Judge asked.

“A part of the meal, as well,” Trevor said. “One correction, Your Honor. She’s from the Tionontati tribe. According to Katelyn, whose name back then was Kachina, she fell in love with a white man in 1693. Maurice St. Laurent was his name. He didn’t love her, but used her to lead a band of French men to take over a parcel of her tribe’s land, which now lies along the City of Detroit and the Macomb and Oakland County borders. Viewed as treason, a woman who was a healer and elder in her tribe confronted her, cursed her, and killed her. Since then, Kachina has been a servant of the Goddess, an evil spirit that slays men.  According to their legend, men would not die were it not for the Goddess. The Goddess requires the dual “heads” of the male. Every forty years, over the span of seven days, Kachina inhabits a freshly dead woman’s body and kills seven men to appease the Goddess’ appetite.”

“Why did she turn herself in?” Madeline asked, her arms folded. “If she’s some mystical spirit, she could kill and simply disappear.”

“She had in the past, but Kachina has a conscious,” Trevor said. “She has to kill to serve the Goddess. However, she is still compassionate and out of remorse and guilt, she wanted to provide closure for the victims’ families.”

“Do you have any proof of this?” Judge Whyler asked.

“Well, she’s not in jail, is she?”

“Shouldn’t the dead girl’s body be there?” Madeline asked. The way her eyes rolled, Trevor could tell she wasn’t buying any of his story.

“Her spirit can only maintain the body connection for forty days. The energy of her spirit consumes the organic material in her final forty minutes. That is why there is nothing remaining of her in the jail cell.”

Judge Whyler held his head in his hands. Madeline scowled at him.

“I had my secretary do some research,” Trevor said, retrieving Ginger’s report from the briefcase. “She could not find any record of Maurice St. Laurent. However, she searched the journals and news reports and discovered that in September, 1973, seven white men were murdered; three in Ferndale and four in Oak Park, their brains and gonads missing. The perp was never caught.

“Then, in September, 1933, seven white males were murdered in seven days, . There was a story of an eighth victim, but he was able to fight her off. You see, Kachina doesn’t gain her super strength until consuming that first meal of grey matter, which is why our first victim this year was stabbed.”

“Is that true?” the judge asked the prosecutor. She nodded.

“In September, 1893, seven white males were killed over seven days, all of them found on the edge of Lake St. Clair in the Pointe’s; their skulls fractured and drained. There was no mention of the castration, but that may be due to the provincial attitudes of the time.

“Then, in September, 1853, seven male bodies were discovered over the span of seven days, all decapitated. When the heads were located in a barn on the border of Warren and Detroit, they were void of brains.”

Trevor took copies of the reports that Ginger had made during her research and handed a set to the judge and prosecutor. There was a long silence as they reviewed the documents. Madeline looked at Trevor then at the documentation of the defendant’s historic trail of blood.

“Katie!” Judge Whyler shouted loud enough that his voice blasted beyond the open door. His secretary entered, her eyes wide as a startled doe. “Call Sheriff Clary and patch him through to me.” She nodded and stepped briskly out of the office.

“What are we going to do?” Madeline asked the judge.

“We’re holding a press conference to tell the truth,” he said. “But I need Sheriff Clary here, first.”

*****

Trevor sat in his office with the television turned on. Ginger stood next to the desk, her arms folded.

“So that’s the truth?” she asked. She shook her head.

“It was Kahlil Gibran who wrote in The Prophet, ‘Say not, ‘I have found the truth,’ but rather, ‘I have found a truth.’ Judge Whyler was able to find a truth to get the Prosecutor’s Office out of a jam.”

“Just a truth, not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” she asked.

“He knows the truth. That’s sufficient.”

“It doesn’t bother you that they announced that Katelyn Rose died overnight in the County Jail awaiting trial for the Double Lobotomy murders? Shouldn’t the people be told the truth?”

“I am not a journalist, Ginger. I merely represented my client to the best of my ability, even after the prosecution made a mess of the matter. There is closure for the police and for the victims, and solace for Kachina.”

“Until September, 2053,” Ginger said. She shook her head as she watched the anchor end the story and move on to the next. “Can I ask a question?”

“Of course,” Trevor said as he used the remote to change the station to another newscast.

“She – Katelyn or Kachina – said to me when she first came to see you that you had come highly recommended.” Trevor nodded. “What did she mean? If she was a dead woman from Ontario whose body was inhabited by a cursed spirit, how would she have possibly heard about you, and from whom?”

Trevor looked at her. This was going to be it, he thought. After this admission, he would have to search for a new legal secretary. But Ginger was different than her predecessors. She exhibited interest and participated in the cases. She’d been with him for almost a month, but it felt as if it were much longer. She deserved the truth, and would be difficult to replace.

“Let me ask you something first. Did Ms. Rose scare you at all?”

“No,” she said. “I knew there was something different about her, and just felt like she was someone who really needed you to represent her.”

“And what did you think after you had done the research and discovered her past and what she was?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “I thought it was a bizarre request at first. When I followed the trail and the pieces came together, I thought it was fascinating. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to meet her after I learned about her.”

Trevor smiled. “As an attorney, Ginger, I take clients that I feel I am able to help. I must confess that for some time now, some of my clients have been like Ms. Rose, in that she’s beyond our normal world. I can’t turn my back on a client I can help, no matter who, or what, that client may be. And in that ‘other world,’ word gets around.”

Ginger’s eyes widened. Her fair skin became red, a few shades lighter than her hair, camouflaging her freckles.

“Awesome,” she said with a smile.

Monday Musings: May 19, 2014

Wow.  What a weekend.  The best way to describe it is in bite-size pieces.

Motor City Comic Con (Novi, MI):  This year was the 25th Anniversary of the Motor City Comic Con – an event held over a three-day weekend in May – which features comic and media celebrities from the past and present.  Over the years, I’ve found the best time to go is Friday when the doors open, and this year was no exception.  There was room to breathe walking the aisles of comic artists, comic book and related vendors, and media celebrities.  I was on a single-minded mission this year.  Prior to the convention I contacted legendary artist Frank Brunner, to commission him for a sketch.  I needed a special element to add to my personal home library, and a sketch of a anthropomorphized duck sitting in a chair, smoking a stogie and reading a book, by the artist of the popular 1970’s Marvel Comics character Howard the Duck was just the ticket.  Meeting Mr. Brunner was an honor, and the sketch was exceptional.  All I need now is a frame to put it up on the wall.  I can’t say much else about the convention.  I spent only a couple hours there as I had an evening event.

Detroit City FC 3, Michigan Stars 0, (Detroit, MI):  Friday evening it was a trip to Harry’s in Detroit for the festivities prior to the Detroit City FC match against the Michigan Stars.  The Michigan Stars are Sparta FC Version 2.0, as described by the Northern Guard Supporters.  They are Canadian-owned, and came into the league to try to draw the same kind of success that DCFC has.  It flopped.  Name change and location change, but the same weak product.   Detroit City FC commanded a 3-0 lead going into the half, and the Stars failed to mount any form of a comeback.  The supporters’ chant, “This Is Awesome!” after DCFC’s Zach Myers and William Mellors-Blair’s goals within a minute of each other, was appropriate to sum up the night.  And it was another record-setting crowd at Cass Tech High School stadium, with 2,614 fans on a cool May evening.

Why do the crowds continue to grow at DCFC matches?  The pre-game fun prior to the march to the stadium may have something to do with it.

Detroit Working Writers (DWW) Conference (Clinton Township, MI):  On Saturday I attended the DWW Conference at the Clinton-Macomb Library.  The timing of this conference was perfect.  I’ve spent the last four-five weeks in transition from an apartment to a three-bedroom home.  It has severely disrupted my writing practice.  The dust is now settling and the conference provided a poke into getting my writing practice back on track.  Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli‘s session on finding an agent provided material that I’ll be able to use once the novel I’m currently working on is ready for submission (which won’t be for a while, that’s for sure).  Lynne Meredith Golodner‘s session on running a successful freelance business was a little off-topic for me, however prodded my mind to remember there is a business end of this writing craft.  The keynote speaker, Karen Dionne, was delightfully inspiring.  Her latest book, “The Killing: Common Denominator” will be out next month, and is an original novel based on the AMC series.   Sylvia Hubbard’s session on social media provided insight on some of the social media I haven’t used effectively.  That should change.  And finally, Dr. Stanley Williams‘ session on irony, goals and sub-plots fed me with some clarity for the novel I’m currently writing.  All in all, it was a beneficial writer’s conference again.

Buddha’s Birthday at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple (Detroit, MI):  Sunday was the celebration of the Buddha’s birth at Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple.  We were living in St. Clair Shores when we discovered Still Point, and we were regular attendees and members of the temple.  We’re still members, but having moved a little further away six years ago, and now another five miles further from the City, getting down to Detroit for Sunday services has been difficult.  But services like the Buddha’s birthday, the Precept-Taking ceremony, and the evening sitting to honor the Buddha’s enlightenment I intentionally plan to participate.  Sitting is good.  Sitting with a sangha and teacher is so much better.

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Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair (Ann Arbor, MI):  This was the 36th annual antiquarian book fair, which is a benefit for the William L. Clements Library, and a first for me.  About a year ago, I was in a thrift store in downtown Mount Clemens, and stumbled upon a copy of A. Edward Newton’s “A Magnificent Farce and Other Diversions of a Book Collector.”  This man was a famous bibliophile in the early years of the Twentieth Century.  After he passed, his collection took nine days to auction off.  After reading it, I’ve become interested in building my library.  But there seems so much more to book collecting that a show like this was a bit overwhelming to a novice like me.  There are so many directions to go.  Yes, prior to this event, I’ve completed my collection of A. Edward Newton books, including the auction guides of his entire library.  And Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge” being my favorite book has led me into collecting Maugham’s books.  I did add a volume to my collection today.  However, I filled out the comment card suggesting that at these events a workshop on book collecting would be helpful.

It was a great weekend, covering many interests in my life – comic books, soccer, writing and reading.  To think that today is the Metro Detroit Book & Author Society luncheon is just more awesomeness.

Life is good.

An interview

Grey Wolfe Publishing’s Diana Plopa interviewed me for their website.  Here is how it begins:

GWP: Do you have any writing rituals?  If so, what are they?

MK: I don’t have any writing rituals.  All the virgins are safe and won’t be sacrificed to the writing gods on my account.

GWP: What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

MK: Is sanity a requirement?  No one told me!  Seriously, cultivate patience; with your own growth as a writer, with the process itself, and in receiving criticism.  Patience will go a long way to maintaining one’s sanity as a writer.

GWP: Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?

MK: I’m guessing you mean those of us who write fiction.  I’m sure journalists and staff writers for television networks have their hazards.  I can only speak as someone who writes fiction.  And the only occupational hazard I can think of is expecting to have writing financially support yourself and a family.  I find it destructive to my creativity to think about writing strictly for the money.

GWP: Describe your Muse.  How does she/he/it influence your writing process?

MK: I don’t understand.  If “Muse” is to mean what my American Heritage Dictionary defines as a source of inspiration, then that would have to be life itself.  I try to write character-driven prose so people, in general, inspire me, especially those who live against the flow of the status quo.  That’s what inspires me to write. 

One essay shifted my writing and improved my development as a writer.  It was George Orwell’s “Why I Write.”  In it, Orwell identifies the four motives for writing prose which exist in different degrees within each writer.  Those motives are sheer egoism – the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death,” etc.; aesthetic enthusiasm – the perception of beauty in the world or in the placement of words in their right arrangement; historical impulse – to record things as they are for the use of posterity; and political purpose – “to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.”  When Orwell wrapped up the essay saying “I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed.  And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug, generally,” I resonated with that.

Some might say that The Y in Life is a political book, which I don’t fully agree.  It is a book about characters asking questions and the answers revealed or left unanswered.  Questioning life does not leave out the environment within which we live.  In Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, the lead character – Larry Darrell – focused on the spiritual.  Though Maugham’s tale occurs during the roaring 20’s and the Depression which sends Larry’s “privileged” friends to financial ruin, Maugham doesn’t include these events into his questioning.  They appear more as a natural force, like a hurricane, which “happens” without questioning the why.  That’s where I wanted to push The Y in Life which, for me, gave me a novel worth writing.

You can continue reading at A Conversation with Michael Kitchen.

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Publication Announcement

Let’s start 2014 off right (or write!).

My short story “Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others” has been accepted by Grey Wolfe Publishing for their anthology Write To Woof.  The anthology is scheduled to be released in February, 2014, of which the proceeds will benefit Almost Home No-Kill Animal Shelter in Southfield.

The theme of the anthology is dogs and/or no-kill shelters, and will contain poetry, short stories, and personal experiences by owners of adopted dogs.  “Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others” is a short story that features Trevor Aldabra, the attorney who represents the paranormal.  Aldabra assists in solving the cause of death of Muriel Capra, an employee of a no-kill shelter.  Aldabra is assisted by Ms. Capra and her predeceased dog, Snowball.

Trevor Aldabra was recently featured in a story titled “Confession” published in Grey Wolfe Publishing’s anthology, Legends: Autumn 2013 (available at www.GreyWolfePublishing.com).

Photograph by Michael Kitchen
Photograph by Michael Kitchen

Visiting the Indies Chapter Two: Purple Tree Books in Cheboygan, Michigan

My son-in-law is from the Philadelphia area.  When he and my daughter toured northern Michigan recently, he told her that he had heard of Cheboygan and thought it was a fictional place.

Works of fiction (and nonfiction) have an adorable place to hang out before they are purchased in this real town at Purple Tree Books.  This sparkling amethyst is located in heart of downtown Cheboygan on Main Street, slipping into the place of Log Mark Book Store.  Purple Tree Books opened in late September, 2013, and it has hit the ground running, scheduling Michigan author signings just about every week.  Emily Clare is a wonderful host and a knowledgeable bookseller, having studied her trade at Horizon Books in Petosky.

The changing of the name from Log Mark Book Store, which had been in the community for a number of years, to Purple Tree Books has more meaning than a change of identity.  Emily’s niece was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was six days old.  Purple is the awareness color for this incurable genetic disease, and Emily named the store to enhance that awareness in honor of her niece.  All donations from the self-service coffee provided in-store go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

It was a drizzly, grey afternoon when I appeared on November 9, 2013 after my annual trip to Traverse City for the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan conference.  I signed copies of The Y in Life, met customers, and shared a fun afternoon with Emily and Grey Wolfe Publishing’s Associate Publisher, Diana Plopa.  My first visit to Purple Tree Books was as a guest author to do a book signing and to feed my book addiction.  It is now a must-stop when I make my travels to the northern part of Michigan.

Cheboygan may be a fictional place to those outside of Michigan, but a great true story has begun in this Northern Michigan town, authored by Emily Clare called Purple Tree Books.

Purple Tree Books
334 North Main Street
Cheboygan, MI  49721

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Photo by Diana Plopa
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Photo by Diana Plopa
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Emily Clare, Mike, Diana Plopa
Photo by Christopher Chagnon

Visiting the Indies Chapter One: Brilliant Books in Traverse City, MI

I love book stores.  I especially love independent book stores.  These are businesses where the owners have a true love for their product.  They care about books because they love books.  Their business is focused on their community and the readers within it.  And they are knowledgeable about the vast area of books and authors and publishing houses.

And though Borders had grown to become a large chain before it closed, each store had a knowledgeable staff and it’s own character.  I know.  I tried to apply for a position at the Borders in Novi, but was not qualified to become an employee.  They had a pre-employment test about authors and books and their subjects, which I must not have passed.  As for independence, I could only purchase my annual “Haiku: Japanese Art and Poetry” calendar at the Birmingham store because it was the only one in the Metro Detroit area to carry it.

The current chains are not like that.  My experience of them have been that books are fungible items, and from my observations the staff always rely on the computer to locate the book a customer seeks.

With The Y in Life now released, and as promotional efforts move forward, I’ll be sharing my photos of signing books at these wonderful establishments.

On November 6th, 2013, Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan stocked The Y in Life.  I was in town for a conference so I stopped by to sign the copies they had on their shelf.

Brilliant Books is a relatively new book store in downtown Traverse City.  They have a great selection of books, including a solid bookcase of works by Michigan authors.  They offer a membership club that grants a variety of discounts, and they provide free shipping for orders.  They also provide a Surprise Book of the Month program where, for a fee, they will send you a book each month that, based on your reading preferences, will be a surprise pick by the store.  With the City Opera House just a few doors down and the National Writers Series an event at the Opera House featuring authors, Brilliant Books also has a collection of signed editions available for sale.

Brilliant Books
118 Front Street
Traverse City, MI  49684

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(Special thanks to Jack and Jodie for your kindness and hospitality, and to the store for carrying The Y in Life).