'The next matter is Commonwealth v. Newlin,' the court crier called. 'Defendant Jack Newlin is represented by Mr Isaac Roberts, and Mr Dwight Davis is here for the Commonwealth.'
Thank you and good afternoon, counsel,' said Judge Angel Silveria from the dais. He flashed a brief smile, like a waning moon, and Mary, watching from her seat in the packed gallery, knew that it would be the last smile they'd see from him. A chubby, compact judge, Silveria was a former prosecutor who enjoyed his reputation as the most conservative on the Municipal Court bench. It didn't matter so much at this preliminary proceeding, but Jack couldn't have drawn a tougher judge for trial if he'd tried, and Mary wondered with dismay if he had.
'Good afternoon to you, Your Honor,' Isaac Roberts said with a flourish.
Mary craned her neck to get a better look at her replacement, patron saint of sleazeballs. Roberts was one of the best-known criminal lawyers in town, although he had never tried a murder case. He plea-bargained for upper-echelon coke dealers, a specialty for lawyers wishing their fees in cash and their eternity in hell. Roberts wore the best clothes that cocaine could buy; a dark Armani suit, Gucci loafers, and a Jerry Garcia tie to complement his Jerry Garcia ponytail. Mary assumed that Roberts was confusing crackhead with Deadhead and began to simmer. He wouldn't care if Jack was innocent or guilty.
'Good day, Your Honor,' Davis said, shooting up like an arrow at counsel table. 'The Commonwealth is ready to begin.'
Judge Silveria gestured to the sheriff. 'Please bring in the defendant.'
Mary suppressed a pang when Jack was brought in, in an orange prison jumpsuit, handcuffs, and leg manacles, and escorted to his seat by two sheriffs. A red swelling over his right cheek distorted his handsome features, and he walked with obvious pain.
'If I may proceed, Your Honor,' Davis began, 'the Commonwealth calls Detective Stan Kovich to the stand.'
Mary watched as the beefy detective rose, punched up his glasses, and lumbered to the witness stand where he was sworn in. Kovich looked so earnest on the stand, four-square and forthright, that she knew he'd be a terrific witness for the Commonwealth. She wondered again about Brinkley and twisted around in her seat. He was nowhere in sight, and she wasn't surprised. She'd called the Roundhouse and left messages for him, but he hadn't returned her calls. No surprise there either.
'Good morning, Detective Kovich/ Davis said. 'I would like to direct your attention to January eleventh of this year. Did your duties as detective cause you to interview the defendant Jack Newlin at approximately nine o'clock in the evening?'
'Yes, they did,' Kovich began, and Davis nodded.
'Please tell the judge, first, what you observed about defendant's appearance.'
'I observed what appeared to be human blood on Mr Newlin's hands and clothes.'
The testimony continued with Davis taking Kovich through the high points of the videotaped confession, and Mary listened with increasing dismay. She counted only two objections by Roberts and a lame cross-examination, but nothing would have made a difference. At a preliminary hearing, the Commonwealth had only to make out a prima facie case of murder, the barest minimum, and they had that easy. The reporters scribbled and the courtroom sketch artists drew madly when Judge Silveria ruled:
'I find the Commonwealth has borne its burden of proving a prima facie case on all counts of the charge of general murder, and I order the defendant Jack Newlin bound over for trial.' The judge banged his gavel. 'Shall we set bail?'
Davis rose quickly. 'Your Honor, the Commonwealth opposes bail in this matter. We believe Mr Newlin poses a substantial risk of flight, especially in view of the fact that the Commonwealth has made a determination to prosecute Mr Newlin to the fullest extent of the law in this matter. We have announced today that we are seeking the death penalty in this case.'
In the gallery, Mary felt her heart tighten in her chest. So there truly would be no deals. The prospect horrified her. She looked for Jack at counsel table but all she could see was his profile, his bruised chin held high. His lawyer rose beside him in far too relaxed a manner.
'Your Honor,' Roberts said, 'regardless of the Commonwealth's scare tactics, Mr Newlin poses no real flight risk. It is one thing to deny bail at the arraignment, but another to deny it after the preliminary hearing, Your Honor. I cannot recall the last case in which bail was denied at this juncture.'
Judge Silveria banged the gavel again. 'That much is correct, Mr Roberts. Your client is hereby released on bail. Bail shall be set at $250,000. Next matter, please.'
Mary felt relieved, despite the high number. She knew Jack could make the ten percent he needed to get free, and bail should have been granted, as a legal matter. She could use another crack at changing Jack's mind. Maybe a taste of freedom would influence him.
The gallery rose almost as one, with the reporters, sketch artists, and spectators filing out, but Mary remained behind. Roberts was packing his briefcase, but Jack had turned and was scanning the gallery. Mary didn't know why; Paige wasn't in the crowd, probably he'd told her not to come. She found herself rising to her feet as
the gallery cleared completely and she realized Jack was staring at her.
Her heart lodged in her throat, a place it had no business being, and she didn't know what to do. He was looking right at her, his eyes betraying a tacit connection. Then they became guarded again, and he turned away. But Mary hadn't imagined it; it had happened. He had been looking for her.
She stood her ground in silence, which in itself made a statement. Jack was lying and he knew it, and if there was any justice in this city, all she had to do was keep standing up for the truth. She had to bear witness. She vowed never to give up and never to sit down and never to let down until she had brought the truth to light.
She remained standing in the empty gallery long after Jack had been led from the courtroom, and her eyes wandered over the judicial dais, the nylon flag, and the golden seal of the Commonwealth; the objects and symbols she took for granted in courtrooms and had never really looked at until now. She found herself believing in the objects in a way she had never believed in the chalices, wafers, and rosaries of her childhood, and she wondered if she believed in the gavel because she didn't believe in the crucifix. It might have been true; she wasn't sure. Mary knew she didn't have all the answers and wasn't better than anyone else. But for the first time in her life, she came to the conclusion that she wasn't any worse.
Fifteen minutes later, she was hurrying from the Criminal Justice Center and past City Hall, the cold wind pushing her along. The press thronged behind her in front of the courthouse; she had managed to duck most of them. She had to get back to the office to try to find Brinkley. He must know something that was making him investigate Paige and Trevor. Mary had to find out what it was.
The sidewalks were crowded and she threaded her way along, but when she got to the corner was surprised to see an attractive man approaching her with a plainly lustful
look. She put her head down and hustled past him, but when she looked up again there was another man looking at her with naked interest. Mary didn't get it. Men never looked at her like that and they wouldn't be starting now. Her hair was messy, her coat was wrinkled, and her eyes were red from her contacts.
'Mary,' said a voice behind her, and she turned. Standing right behind her, plainly out of breath, was Paige. 'Do you have a minute?' the teenager asked.