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Theodore boone kid lawye.., p.7
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       Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, p.7

         Part #1 of Theodore Boone series by John Grisham  
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  the fairway, and as he was doing this he removed both gloves and stuffed them in his golf bag. He put his shoes on, then hopped in his golf cart and took off.”

  “What happened next?”

  “At noon, my cousin went back to work. A couple of hours later, he was cutting grass on the North Nine when a friend told him there was some excitement on the Creek Course, said the police were everywhere, that there was a break-in and a woman had been murdered. Throughout the afternoon, the rumors spread like crazy around the golf course, and my cousin soon learned which house it was. He ventured over in one of the utility carts and saw the police hanging around the house. He drove away, in a hurry.”

  “Did he tell anybody?”

  Julio kicked a rock and glanced around again. It was dark now. No one was watching them. “We’re still talking secrets, right, Theo?”

  “Of course.”

  “Well, my cousin is illegal. My mother has papers for us, but my cousin has none. The day after the murder, the police arrived with lots of questions. There are two other boys from El Salvador out there, and they’re illegal, too. So the boss told my cousin and the other two to get lost, to stay away for a couple of days. That’s what they did. Any contact with the police and my cousin would be arrested, put in jail, and then sent back to El Salvador.”

  “So, he’s never told anyone?”

  “No. Only me. He was watching television one night and there was a story about the murder. They showed the house, and my cousin recognized it. They showed the man, Mr. Duffy I think, walking down a sidewalk. My cousin said he was pretty sure the man walked just like the man he saw enter the house.”

  “Why did he tell you?”

  “Because I’m his cousin and I’m in school. My English is good and I have papers. He doesn’t understand the court system and he asked me about it. I told him I would try and find out. That’s why I’m here, Theo.”

  “What do you want from me?”

  “Tell us what to do. He could be an important witness, right?”

  “Oh, yes.”

  “Then what should my cousin do?”

  Run back to El Salvador, Theo thought but didn’t say. “Give me a minute,” he said, rubbing his jaw. His braces were suddenly aching. He kicked a rock and tried to imagine the storm that would hit if Julio’s cousin took the witness stand.

  “Is there a reward of some kind?” Julio asked.

  “Does he want money?”

  “Everybody wants money.”

  “I don’t know, but it might be too late. The trial is half over.” Theo kicked another rock and for a moment the two boys studied their feet.

  “This is unbelievable,” Theo said. He was almost dizzy, and confused. But his thinking was clear enough to know that this was far over his head. The adults would have to deal with it.

  There was no way this secret could be kept.

  “What?” Julio pressed. He was now staring at Theo, waiting on words of wisdom.

  “Where does your cousin live?”

  “Near the Quarry. I’ve never been there.”

  That’s what Theo figured. The Quarry was a rough part of town where lower income people lived. Strattenburg was a safe city, but there was an occasional shooting or a drug bust, and these always seemed to happen around the Quarry.

  “Can I talk to your cousin?” Theo asked.

  “I don’t know, Theo. He’s really nervous about this. He’s afraid he might get in serious trouble. His job is very important to his family back home.”

  “I understand. But, I need to nail down the facts before I can decide what to do. How often do you see your cousin?”

  “Once or twice a week. He stops by the shelter and checks in with my mother. He’s very homesick, and we’re the only family he has.”

  “Does he have a phone?”

  “No, but he lives with some other guys and one of them has a phone.”

  Theo paced around the gravel parking lot, deep in thought. Then he snapped his fingers and said, “Okay, here’s the plan. I assume you need help with your algebra homework tonight.”

  “Uh, I guess.”

  “Just say yes.”

  “Yes.”

  “Good. Get in touch with your cousin and tell him to stop by the shelter in about an hour. I’ll run by to help with your homework, and I’ll bump into your cousin. Tell him I can be trusted and I will not reveal his secrets to anyone unless he says so. Got it?”

  “I’ll try. What happens after you talk to him?”

  “I don’t know. I haven’t got that far.”

  Julio disappeared into the night. Theo returned to his office, where he kept a file on the Duffy case. There were newspaper articles, a copy of the indictment, and Internet searches on Pete Duffy and Clifford Nance, even Jack Hogan, the prosecutor.

  All lawyers kept files.

  Wednesday night meant Chinese carryout from the Golden Dragon. It was always eaten in the den while the Boones watched Theo’s favorite television, reruns of the old Perry Mason show.

  Mrs. Boone was still with the client, a poor woman who could be heard crying through the locked door. Mr. Boone was on his way to the Golden Dragon when Theo explained that he needed to run by the shelter and spend a few minutes with Julio.

  “Don’t be too late,” Mr. Boone said. “We’ll eat at seven.”

  “I won’t.” Of course we’ll eat at seven.

  The firm had a library on the ground floor, near the front. There was a long table in the center of it with leather chairs all around. The walls were covered with shelves loaded with thick books. The important meetings were held in the library. Occasionally groups of lawyers met there for a deposition or a negotiation. Vince the paralegal liked to work there. Theo did, too, when the office wasn’t busy. He also enjoyed sneaking into the library late in the afternoon, after the firm had closed, after the others had left.

  He and Judge entered and closed the door. He did not turn on the lights. He eased into a leather chair, propped his feet on the table, and stared at the semilit rows of books. Thousands of them. He could barely hear the distant voices of his mother and her client down the hall.

  Theo knew of no other kid whose parents worked together as professionals. He knew of no other kid who hung around an office every day after school. Most of his friends were playing baseball or soccer, or swimming, or hanging around the house waiting on dinner. And there he was sitting in a dark law library pondering the events of the past hour.

  He loved the place—the rich smell of worn leather and old rugs and dusty law books. The air of importance.

  How could it be that he, Theodore Boone, knew the truth about the Duffy murder? Of all the people in Strattenburg, some seventy-five thousand, why him? The town’s biggest crime since something bad happened back in the 1950s, and he, Theo, was suddenly in the middle of it.

  He had no idea what to do.

  Chapter 10

  There were a few rough-looking men hanging around the entrance of the Highland Street Shelter when Theo parked his bike. He walked through them with a polite “Excuse me” and a metallic smile, and he really had no fear because the men wouldn’t bother a kid. The foul odor of stale booze hung in the air.

  “Got any change, kid?” a scratchy voice said.

  “No, sir,” Theo said without slowing down.

  Inside, down in the basement, Theo found Julio and his family finishing dinner. His mother spoke passable English, but it was obvious she was surprised to see Theo on a Wednesday night. Theo explained, in what he thought was perfect Spanish, that Julio needed extra help with his algebra. Evidently, she did not understand perfect Spanish because she asked Julio what Theo was talking about. Then Hector began crying about something and she got busy with him.

  The cafeteria was packed and overheated, and there were other crying children. Theo and Julio escaped to a small conference room upstairs, one that his mother sometimes used to see her shelter clients.

  “Did you talk to your cousin?” Theo asked, after he closed the door.

  “Yes. He said he would come, but I don’t know. He’s very nervous, Theo. Don’t be surprised if he doesn’t show up.”

  “Okay. Let’s work on the algebra.”

  “Do we have to?”

  “Julio, you’re making C’s. That’s not good enough. You should be making B’s.”

  After ten minutes they were both bored. Theo couldn’t concentrate because his mind was on Julio’s cousin and the potential bomb his testimony would be. Julio was drifting because he hated algebra. Theo’s cell phone rang.

  “It’s my mom,” he said as he flipped it open.

  She was leaving the office and was concerned about him. He assured her that he was fine, working diligently with Julio, and would be home in time for Chinese, even though it might be cold Chinese. What difference did it make, hot or cold?

  After he flipped the phone shut, Julio said, “It’s pretty cool that you have a cell phone.”

  “I’m not the only kid in school with a cell phone,” Theo said. “And it’s only for local calls, no long distance.”

  “Still cool.”

  “And it’s just a phone, not a computer.”

  “No one in my class has a cell phone.”

  “You’re just a seventh grader. Wait till next year. Where do you suppose your cousin is right now?”

  “Let’s call him.”

  Theo hesitated, then thought, Why not? He didn’t have all night to spend with the cousin. He punched the numbers, handed the phone to Julio, who listened for a few seconds and said, “Voice mail.”

  There was a knock at the door.

  The cousin was still wearing a khaki work suit with WAVERLY CREEK GOLF in bold letters across the back of the shirt and in much smaller letters over the front pocket. His matching cap had the same wording. He wasn’t much bigger in size than Theo, and certainly looked younger than eighteen or nineteen. His dark eyes danced around wildly, and before he even sat down he gave the clear impression that he was ready to leave.

  He refused to shake hands with Theo and refused to give either his first name or his last. In rapid Spanish he went back and forth with Julio. The words were tense.

  “He wants to know why he should trust you,” Julio said. Theo was thankful for the interpretation because he’d understood almost none of the Spanish.

  He said, “Look, Julio, how about a quick review? He came to you, you came to me, and now I’m here. I didn’t start this process. If he wants to leave, then good-bye. I’ll be happy to go home.” It was tough talk and it sounded pretty strong in English. Julio passed it along in Spanish, and the cousin glared at Theo as if he’d been insulted.

  Theo did not want to leave. He knew he should. He knew better than to get involved. He’d been telling himself to butt out, but the truth was that Theo relished being exactly where he was at that moment. “Tell him he can trust me and that I will not tell anyone what he says,” he said to Julio.

  Julio passed it along, and the cousin seemed to relax a little.

  It was obvious to Theo that the cousin was deeply troubled and wanted some help. Julio kept rattling on in Spanish. He was heaping praise upon Theo, who understood some of it.

  The cousin smiled.

  Theo had printed a color Google Earth Search map of the Creek Course, and he had marked the Duffy home. The cousin, still unnamed, began to tell his story. He pointed to a spot in some trees in a dogleg on the sixth fairway, and spoke rapidly about what he had seen. He’d been sitting on some timbers near a streambed, just inside the tree line, eating his lunch, minding his own business, when he saw the man enter the house from the rear door and exit a few minutes later. Julio gamely hung on with his interpretation, often stopping his cousin so he could do the English for Theo. Theo, to his credit, began to understand more and more of the Spanish as he grew accustomed to the cousin’s speech patterns.

  The cousin described the frenzy around the golf course after the police showed up and the gossip spread. According to one of his friends, a kid from Honduras who waited tables in the clubhouse grill, Mr. Duffy was having a late lunch and a drink when he got the news that his wife had been found. He made a scene, hustled out, jumped in his golf cart, and raced home. This friend said that Mr. Duffy was wearing a black sweater, tan slacks, and a maroon golf cap. It was a perfect match, said the cousin. The same outfit worn by the man he saw enter the Duffy home and exit just minutes later.

  From his file, Theo produced four photographs of Pete Duffy. All four had been found online, in the archives of the Strattenburg daily newspaper. He had enlarged them to 8 by 10 inches. He spread them on the table and waited. The cousin could not identify Mr. Duffy. He estimated that he was between sixty to a hundred yards away when he was having his quiet lunch and saw the man. The man he’d seen looked very similar to the one in the photographs, but the cousin could not be certain. He was certain, though, of what the man was wearing.

  A positive identification by the cousin would be helpful, but not crucial. It would be easy to establish how Mr. Duffy was dressed, and the fact that a witness saw a man in the identical clothing enter the home just minutes before the murder would nail a conviction, at least in Theo’s opinion.

  As Theo listened to Julio translate into Spanish, he watched the cousin closely. There was no doubt he was telling the truth. Why would he not tell the truth? He had nothing to gain by lying, and plenty to lose! His story was believable. And, it fit perfectly into the prosecution’s theory of guilt. The problem, though, was that the prosecution had no idea such a witness even existed.

  Theo listened, and again asked himself what he should do next.

  The cousin was talking even faster, as if the dam had finally broken and he wanted to unload everything. Julio was working even harder to translate. Theo typed feverishly on his laptop, taking as many notes as possible. He stopped the narrative, asked Julio to repeat something, then off they went again.

  When Theo could think of no more questions, he glanced at his watch and was surprised at how late it was. It was after 7:00 p.m. and his parents would not be happy that he was late for dinner. He said he needed to leave. The cousin asked what would happen next.

  “I’m not sure,” Theo answered. “Give me some time. Let me sleep on it.”

  “But you promised not to tell,” Julio said.

  “I won’t tell, Julio. Not until we—the three of us—decide on a plan.”

  “If he gets scared, he’ll just disappear,” Julio said, nodding at his cousin. “He cannot get caught. Understand?”

  “Of course I understand.”

  The chicken chow mein was colder than usual, but Theo had little appetite for it. The Boones ate on TV trays in the den. Judge, who had refused dog food since the first week as a member of the family, ate from his bowl near the television. There was nothing wrong with his appetite.

  “Why aren’t you eating?” his mother said, her chopsticks in midair.

  “I am eating.”

  “You seem preoccupied,” his father said. He used a fork.

  “Yes, you do,” his mother agreed. “Something happen at the shelter?”

  “No, just thinking about Julio and his family and how difficult it must be for them.”

  “You’re such a sweet kid, Teddy.”

  If you only knew, Theo thought.

  Perry Mason, in black and white, was in the midst of a big trial, and he was on the verge of losing the case. The judge was fed up with him. The jurors looked skeptical. The prosecutor was full of confidence. Suddenly, Perry looked into the crowd of spectators and called the name of a surprise witness. The witness took the stand and began telling a story far different from the one the prosecutor had put forth. The new story made perfect sense. The surprise witness withstood the cross-examination, and the jury found in favor of Perry Mason’s client.

  Another happy ending. Another courtroom victory.

  “Doesn’t work that way,” Mrs. Boone said. It was something she managed to say at least three times during every episode. “No such thing as a surprise witness.”

  Theo saw an opening. “But what if a witness suddenly appeared? One that was crucial to finding the truth? And one that no one knew about?”

  “If no one knew about him, how would he find his way to the courtroom?” Mr. Boone asked.

  “What if he just appeared?” Theo replied. “What if an eyewitness read about the trial in the newspaper, or saw something about it on television, and came forward. No one knew he existed. No one knew he witnessed the crime. What would the judge do?”

  It was rare that Theo could stump, even briefly, the other two lawyers in the family. His parents thought about his question. A couple of things were certain at this point. One, both parents would have an opinion. Two, there was no way they would agree.

  His mother went first. “The prosecution cannot use a witness it has not disclosed to the court and the defense. The rules prohibit surprise witnesses.”

  “But,” his father said, almost interrupting and obviously ready to argue, “if the prosecution doesn’t know about a witness, then the prosecution cannot disclose his identity. A trial is all about finding the truth. Denying an eyewitness the chance to testify is the same as hiding the truth.”

  “The rules are the rules.”

  “But the rules can be modified by the judge when necessary.”

  “A conviction would not stand up on appeal.”

  “I’m not so sure about that.”

  Back and forth, back and forth. Theo grew quiet. He thought of reminding his parents that neither specialized in criminal law, but such a comment would probably draw fire from both. Such discussions were common in the Boone household, and Theo had learned much about the law over dinner, on the front porch, even riding down the road in the backseat.

  For example, he had learned that his parents, as lawyers, were considered to be officers of the court. And as such, they had a duty to aid in the administration of justice. If other lawyers violated ethics, or if the police broke the rules, or if a judge got out of line, then his parents were supposed to take appropriate action. Many lawyers ignored this responsibility, according to his parents, but not them.

  Theo was afraid to tell them about Julio’s cousin. Their sense of duty would probably force them to go straight to Judge Gantry. The cousin would be picked up by the police, dragged into court, forced to testify, then detained as an illegal immigrant. They would put him in jail, then some sort of detention center, where, according to Mr. Mount, he might spend months waiting to get shipped back to El Salvador.

  Theo’s credibility would be ruined. A family would be seriously harmed.

  But, a guilty man would be convicted. Otherwise, Pete Duffy would probably walk out of court a free man. He would get away with murder.

  Theo choked down another bite of cold chicken.

  He knew he would sleep little.

  Chapter 11

  The nightmares stopped just before sunrise, and Theo abandoned the notion of somehow finding meaningful rest. He stared at the ceiling of his bedroom for a long time, waiting for sounds that his parents were up and moving about. He said good morning to Judge, who slept under the bed.

  Theo had convinced himself many times throughout the night that he had no choice but to sit down with them early that morning and tell them the story of Julio’s cousin. He’d changed his mind many times. And he could not, he decided as he finally eased out of his bed, force himself to violate the promise he’d made to Julio and his cousin. He could not tell anyone. If a guilty man was about to walk free, then it wasn’t Theo’s problem.

  Or was it?

  He made the usual noise as he went about his morning ritual—shower, teeth, braces, the daily torture of deciding what to wear. As always, he thought of Elsa and her irritating habit of quickly inspecting his shirt, pants, and shoes to make sure it all matched and that none of it had been worn in the past three days.

  He heard his father leave a few minutes before seven. He heard his mother in
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Comments 1

Sanda-Maria Copotoiu
Sanda-Maria Copotoiu 5 August 2018 21:26
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Another hero, an emerging lawyer with investigator qualities makes the day of a very palatable novel. Since a preadolescent, his bright future mandates us to look forward to the next issues. The tale does not need atrocious murders to be attractive since the charm lies in the characters pictured leaving you with a sense of safety. A book to be read under any circumstances.
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