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Theodore boone kid lawye.., p.8
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       Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, p.8

         Part #1 of Theodore Boone series by John Grisham  
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  the den watching an early morning television show. At exactly seven thirty, Theo closed the door to his bathroom, opened his cell phone, and called Uncle Ike.

  Ike was not an early riser. His sad little career of a small-time tax man wasn’t very demanding, and he didn’t start the day with a rush of enthusiasm. His work was dreary, something he had mentioned to Theo on many occasions. And there was another problem. Ike drank too much, and this unfortunate habit made for slow mornings. Over the years, Theo had heard the adults whispering about Ike’s drinking. Elsa had once asked Vince a question dealing with Ike, and Vince replied with a curt, “Maybe if he’s sober.” Theo wasn’t supposed to hear that, but Theo heard a lot more around the office than the others knew.

  The call was finally answered with a scratchy and rude, “Is this Theo?”

  “Yes, Ike, good morning. Sorry to bother you so early.” Theo was speaking as softly as possible into the phone.

  “No problem, Theo. I assume you have something on your mind.”

  “Yes, can we talk this morning, early? At your office? Something real important has come up and I’m not sure I can discuss it with my parents.”

  “Well, sure, Theo. What time?”

  “Maybe a few minutes after eight. School starts at eight thirty. If I leave too early Mom will get suspicious.”

  “Sure. I’d love to.”

  “Thanks, Ike.”

  Theo hurried through breakfast, kissed his mom good-bye, spoke to Judge, and was on his bike racing down Mallard Lane at straight-up eight o’clock.

  Ike was at his desk with a tall paper cup of steaming coffee and a huge cinnamon swirl coated with at least an inch of frosting. It looked delicious, but Theo had just finished his cereal. Plus, he had no appetite.

  “Are you okay?” Ike said as Theo sat down, on the very edge of his chair.

  “I guess. I need to talk to someone in confidence, someone I can trust, someone who knows something about the law.”

  “Have you murdered someone? Robbed a bank?”

  “No.”

  “You seem awfully uptight,” Ike said as he pulled off a huge bite of the cinnamon swirl and stuffed it in his mouth.

  “It’s the Duffy case, Ike. I might know something about whether Mr. Duffy is guilty or not.”

  Ike kept chewing as he leaned forward on his elbows. The wrinkles around his eyes squeezed together as he glared at Theo. “Go on.”

  “There is a witness out there, a guy nobody knows about, who saw something at the time of the murder.”

  “And you know who it is?”

  “Yes, and I promised not to tell.”

  “How in the world did you come across this guy?”

  “Through a kid at school. I can’t tell you anything else, Ike. I promised I wouldn’t.”

  Ike swallowed hard, then grabbed the cup and took a long sip of the coffee. His eyes never left Theo. He really wasn’t that surprised. His nephew knew more lawyers, court clerks, judges, and policemen than anyone else in town.

  “And whatever this unknown witness saw out there would have a big impact on the trial, is that right?” Ike asked.

  “Yes.”

  “Has this witness talked to the police or lawyers or anyone involved with the case?”

  “No.”

  “And this witness is unwilling to come forward at this time?”

  “Yes.”

  “This witness is afraid of something?”

  “Yes.”

  “Would the testimony of this witness help convict Mr. Duffy, or would it help acquit him?”

  “Convict, no doubt.”

  “Have you talked to this witness?”

  “Yes.”

  “And you believe him?”

  “Yes. He’s telling the truth.”

  Another long drink of coffee. A smacking of the lips. Ike’s eyes were drilling holes in Theo’s.

  Ike continued. “Today is Thursday, the third full day of trial. From what I hear, Judge Gantry is determined to finish this week, even if that means holding court on Saturday. So the trial is probably half finished.”

  Theo nodded. His uncle stuffed another large bite into his mouth and chewed slowly. A minute passed.

  Ike finally swallowed and said, “So the question is, obviously, what, if anything, could or should be done about this witness at this point in the trial?”

  “That’s it,” Theo said.

  “Yes, and from what I gather Mr. Jack Hogan needs a few surprises. The prosecution started with a weak case and it’s only grown weaker.”

  “I thought you weren’t following the trial.”

  “I have friends, Theo. Sources.”

  Ike jumped to his feet and walked to the far end of the room where some old shelves were filled with law books. He ran a finger along the spines of several, then snatched one off a shelf and began thumbing through the pages. He returned to his desk, sat down, placed the book in front of him, and searched for whatever was on his mind. Finally, after a long silence, he said, “Here it is. Under our rules of procedure, a judge in a criminal trial has the authority to declare a mistrial if the judge thinks that something improper has occurred. It gives a few examples: a juror gets contacted by someone with an interest in the outcome; an important witness gets sick or can’t testify for some reason; key evidence disappears. Stuff like that.”

  Theo knew this. “Does it cover surprise witnesses?” he asked.

  “Not specifically, but it’s a pretty broad rule that allows the judge to do whatever he thinks is right. The argument could be made that the absence of an important witness is grounds for a mistrial.”

  “What happens after a mistrial?”

  “The charges are not dismissed. Another trial is rescheduled.”

  “When?”

  “It’s up to the judge, but in this case I suspect Gantry wouldn’t wait too long. A couple of months. Enough time for this secret witness to get his act together.”

  Theo’s mind was racing so fast he couldn’t decide what to say next.

  Ike said, “So, Theo, the question is, How do you convince Judge Gantry to declare a mistrial before the case goes to the jury? Before the jury finds Mr. Duffy not guilty, when in fact he is guilty?”

  “I don’t know. That’s where you come in, Ike. I need your help.”

  Ike shoved the book aside and peeled off another piece of the cinnamon swirl. He chewed it while he pondered the situation. “Here’s what we do,” he said, still chewing. “You go to school. I’ll go over to the courtroom and have a look. I’ll do some more research, maybe talk to a friend or two. I won’t use your name. Believe me, Theo, I’ll always protect you. Can you call me during lunch?”

  “Sure.”

  “Take off.”

  When Theo was at the door, Ike said, “Why haven’t you told your parents?”

  “You think I should?”

  “Not yet. Maybe later.”

  “They’re very ethical, Ike. You know that. They are officers of the court and they might force me to reveal what I know. It’s complicated.”

  “Theo, it’s too complicated for a thirteen-year-old.”

  “I think I agree.”

  “Call me during lunch.”

  “Will do, Ike. Thanks.”

  During recess, as Theo was hustling away to find April, someone called his name from down the hall. It was Sandy Coe, racing to catch up.

  “Theo,” he said. “Got a minute?”

  “Uh, sure.”

  “Look, I just wanted to tell you that my parents went to see that bankruptcy lawyer, that Mozingo guy, and he promised them that we are not going to lose our house.”

  “That’s great, Sandy.”

  “He said they would have to go through a bankruptcy—all that stuff you explained to me—but in the end we get to keep the house.” Sandy reached into his backpack, pulled out a small envelope, and handed it to Theo. “This is from my mom. I told her about you, and I think this is a thank-you note.”

  Theo reluctantly took it. “She didn’t have to, Sandy. It was nothing.”

  “Nothing? Theo, we get to keep our house.”

  And with that, Theo noticed the moisture in Sandy’s eyes. He was ready to cry. Theo fist-pumped him and said, “My pleasure, Sandy. And if I can help again, just let me know.”

  “Thanks, Theo.”

  During Government, Mr. Mount asked Theo to give the class an update on the Duffy trial. Theo explained that the prosecution was attempting to prove that Mr. and Mrs. Duffy had been through a rocky marriage and that they had almost filed for divorce two years earlier. Several of their friends had been called to testify, but they had been embarrassed—in Theo’s opinion—by harsh cross-examinations from Mr. Clifford Nance.

  For a second, Theo thought about opening his laptop and reading the courtroom dialogue hot off the press, but then thought better of it. He wasn’t committing a crime by hacking into the court reporter’s site, but there was definitely something wrong with it.

  As soon as class was over and the boys headed for the cafeteria, Theo ducked into a restroom and called Ike. It was almost twelve thirty. “He’s gonna walk,” Ike said as he answered the phone. “No way Hogan can get a conviction.”

  “How much did you watch?” Theo asked, hiding in a stall.

  “All morning. Clifford Nance is too good and Hogan has lost his way. I watched the jurors. They don’t like Pete Duffy, but the proof isn’t there. He’ll walk.”

  “But he’s guilty, Ike.”

  “If you say so, Theo. But I don’t know what you know. No one does.”

  “What do we do?”

  “I’m still working on it. Stop by after school.”

  “You got it.”

  Chapter 12

  The most popular girl in the eighth grade was a curly- haired brunette named Hallie. She was very cute and outgoing and loved to flirt. She was the captain of the cheerleaders, but she could also play. None of the boys would challenge her in tennis and she had once beaten Brian in both the 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter breaststroke. Since her interests centered around athletics, Theo was on her B list. Maybe even C.

  But because her dog had a temper, Theo was about to move up.

  The dog was a schnauzer that frequently became irritated when left alone at home throughout the day. Somehow the dog escaped through a pet door, dug under a fence around the backyard, and was picked up by Animal Control half a mile from home. Theo heard this story as he was finishing lunch. Hallie and two of her friends rushed to the table where Theo was eating, and the story spilled forth. Hallie was distraught, in tears, and Theo couldn’t help but notice how cute she was even when she was crying. It was a big moment for Theo.

  “Has this happened before?” he asked.

  She wiped her cheeks and said, “Yes. Rocky was picked up a few months ago.”

  “Will they gas him?” Edward asked. Edward was part of the group that had gathered around Theo and Hallie and her friends. Hallie usually attracted a crowd of boys. The thought of her dog getting gassed made her cry even more.

  “Shut up,” Theo snapped at Edward, who was a klutz anyway. “No, they won’t gas him.”

  Hallie said, “My dad is out of town and my mother is seeing patients until late this afternoon. I don’t know what to do.”

  Theo was shoving his lunch aside and opening his laptop. “Take it easy, Hallie. I’ve done this before.” He punched a few keys while the group inched closer together. “I assume the dog is licensed,” Theo said.

  Strattenburg had an ordinance that required every dog to be licensed and accounted for. Strays were picked up and kept at the Pound for thirty days. If no one adopted a stray after thirty days, then the poor dog was put to sleep. Or “gassed,” as Edward so crudely put it. But they didn’t really use gas.

  Hallie’s family was more affluent than most. Her father ran a company and her mother was a busy doctor. Of course their dog would be properly licensed. “Yes,” she said. “In my dad’s name.”

  “And that is?” Theo asked, tapping keys.

  “Walter Kershaw.”

  Theo typed. Everyone waited. The crying had stopped.

  “Okay,” Theo said as he pecked away and studied the screen. “I’m just checking the Animal Control Intake Log.” More pecking. “And here it is. Rocky was taken into the Pound at nine thirty this morning. He’s charged with violating the leash law, his second offense this year. The fine will be twenty bucks, plus eight more for boarding. A third offense will get him ten days in the slammer and a fine of a hundred bucks.”

  “When can I get him?” Hallie asked.

  “Animal Court is held from four until six each afternoon, four days a week, closed on Monday. Can you be in court this afternoon?”

  “I guess, but don’t I need my parents?”

  “Nope. I’ll be there. I’ve done it before.”

  “Doesn’t she need a real lawyer?” Edward asked.

  “No, not in Animal Court. Even a moron like you could get through it.”

  “What about the money?” Hallie asked.

  “I can’t charge. I don’t have my license yet.”

  “Not you, Theo. The money for the fine?”

  “Oh, that. Here’s the plan. I’ll file a Notice of Retrieval, online. This means that Rocky is basically pleading guilty to a leash law violation, which is just a minor offense, and that you, as one of the owners, will pay a fine and retrieve him from the Pound. After school, you run by the hospital, see your mother, get the money, and I’ll meet you at the courthouse at four o’clock.”

  “Thanks, Theo. Will Rocky be there?”

  “No. Rocky stays at the Pound. You and your mother can pick him up later.”

  “Why can’t I get him in court?” she asked.

  Theo was often amazed at the ridiculous questions his friends asked. Animal Court was the lowest of all courts. Its nickname was Kitty Court, and it was treated like an unwanted stepchild by the judicial system. The judge was a lawyer who’d been kicked out of every firm in town. He wore blue jeans and combat boots and was humiliated to have such a low position. The rules allowed any person with an animal in trouble to appear without a lawyer and handle their own case. Most lawyers avoided Kitty Court because it was so far beneath their dignity. Its hearing room was in the basement of the courthouse, far away from the big leagues.

  Did Hallie really believe that the officers hauled over a bunch of dogs and cats, chained and muzzled, every afternoon to get processed and returned to their owners? Criminal defendants were brought from jail and kept in the holding pen where they waited for their turn in front of a judge. But not dogs and cats.

  A sarcastic reply almost escaped Theo’s lips, but instead he smiled at Hallie, even cuter now, and said, “Sorry, Hallie, but it doesn’t work that way. You’ll have Rocky at home tonight, safe and sound.”

  “Thanks, Theo. You’re the best.”

  On a normal day, those words would have rattled around Theo’s ears for hours, but this was not a normal day. He was too preoccupied with the trial of Pete Duffy. Ike was in the courtroom, and Theo texted him throughout the afternoon.

  Theo wrote: > U there? Update plse.

  Ike responded: >> Yep balcony. Big crowd. State rested 2 pm. Nice job raising doubt w divorce talk and old golfin buddies.

  > Enough proof?

  >> No way. This guys walkin. Unless . . .

  > U got a plan?

  >> Still workin on it. U comin to court?

  > Maybe. Whats hapnin?

  >> First witness for defense. Biz partner of Duffy. Boring.

  > Gotta run. Chemistry. Later.

  >> I want an A in Chemistry. OK?

  > No problem.

  Though Animal Court got little respect among the lawyers of Strattenburg, it was seldom dull. The case involved a boa constrictor named Herman, and evidently Herman had a knack for escaping. His adventures would not have been a problem if his owner lived out in the country, in a more rural setting. However, the owner, a punkish-looking thirty-year-old with tattoos crawling up his neck, lived in a crowded apartment building in a lesser part of town. A neighbor had been horrified to find Herman stretched across his kitchen floor early one morning as he was about to fix a bowl of oatmeal.

  The neighbor was furious. Herman’s owner was indignant. Things were tense. Theo and Hallie sat in folding chairs, the only spectators in the tiny courtroom. The library at Boone & Boone was bigger and far nicer.

  Herman was on display. He was in a large wire cage, perched on a corner of the bench, not far from Judge Yeck, who eyed him carefully. The only other official in court was an elderly clerk who’d been there for years and was known to be the grouchiest old bag in the entire building. She wanted no part of Herman. She had retreated to a far corner and still looked frightened.

  “How would you like it, Judge?” the neighbor said. “Living in the same building with that creature, never knowing if it might come slithering across your bed while you’re asleep.”

  “He’s harmless,” the owner said. “He doesn’t bite.”

  “Harmless? What about a heart attack? It’s not right, Judge. You gotta protect us.”

  “He doesn’t look harmless,” Judge Yeck said, and everyone looked at Herman, who was tangled around a fake tree limb, inside the cage, motionless, apparently asleep, unimpressed by the gravity of the proceedings.

  “Isn’t he rather large for a red-tailed boa?” Judge Yeck asked, as if he’d seen his share of boa constrictors.

  “Eighty-six inches, as best I can tell,” the owner said proudly. “A little on the long side.”

  “You have other snakes in your apartment?” the judge asked.

  “Several.”

  “How many?”

  “Four.”

  “Oh my God,” the neighbor said. He looked faint.

  “All boas?” the judge asked.

  “Three boas and a king snake.”

  “May I ask why?”

  The owner shifted his weight, shrugged, said, “Some people like parrots,
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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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