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Submitted by Steven ODell on 9 July 2007 - 1:03am.

Chapter 13

Debra woke them the next morning with a knock on the door. “Okay, you two love birds; time to get up. I have fresh grapefruit for you. Come and get it.”

Each of them smiled at the other and kissed tenderly, feeling their still-naked bodies touching beneath the sheet.

“I want you again,” Denise whispered.

“How convenient. I want you, too, but what will your mother say?”

“Who cares? Let her get her own man.”

Ron couldn’t help but laugh at the quick wit his wife displayed so early in the morning. Denise also laughed because he was so delighted and pulled him closer.

Outside the door, Debra heard the giggles, smiled and turned away toward the kitchen table. She was content. This morning she would happily eat alone.

All were gathered together at the home of Baylor Sims and the festivities were about to begin in earnest. Sims had arranged for a caterer to serve them and the food was simply tremendous.

“This is going to cost us a fortune,” Ron remarked.

“No, I said it was my treat and I meant it,” Sims replied.

“Well, then be prepared to lose every cent you just made off us.”

“That is my second treat, Ron. No charge.”

“What? You can’t be serious.”

“I can and I am. You did me a tremendous favor. By ‘you’, I mean all of you. You allowed me to rectify a problem that had been plaguing me for years. I was able to settle an old score with your help.”

Ron knew now, with a certainty, that Hallowell had been the cause of Sims’ concerns all these years. Revenge was finally his and he had done so in honor of his parents. This was something that they could all feel good about. Justice had been delayed, but justice had been served.

Baylor continued, “You simply cannot imagine how good that felt to me, Ron.”

Ron reflected back on his visit with the insurance company representative and thought distinctly that maybe he could understand how good it could feel, though he had not waited nearly as long as Sims for satisfaction in that matter. “I am happy for you, Baylor. You did me a great service and if I was of some help in return, then I guess it was all worth it. Not that I would want to do it again, mind you, for any amount of good.” He grinned at Sims and made a face registering horrific disgust.

“Well, I expect to hear very soon that the ‘Honorable Judge Hallowell” has decided to retire from the bench.”

“Are you serious? Why would he do that?” His surprise was more than mild. “And come to think of it, you have yet to explain what that stunt was that you three pulled off yesterday in court. I think it is high time you start talking, don’t you?”

“Fair enough. First let me explain why I think Hallowell will retire from the bench. He will have to or risk the chance of public humiliation and pressure to have him forcibly removed by law. If he retires voluntarily he gets to keep his pension and a degree of respect in the eyes of some of the public, regardless of whether he has earned it or not. Those who don’t know him as well as we do will think he has served honorably.”

“As well as ‘we?’ You have yet to tell me anything to help me put the pieces together, Baylor. Come on—‘fess up, man!”

“Yes, yes. The time has come. Here it is. Debra knew I wanted to settle an old score with Hallowell. She also knew you had some army friends who were very good at getting the ammunition…er, information…necessary to do the job. Jonathan got me all I wanted and far more.” Sims’ smile was enough to light the room.

“You mean Hallowell was crooked?”

“…as a dog’s hind leg,” Bill laughed. He had been listening in at Ron’s shoulder.

“Mose helped a lot, telling me what to look for. So did Mr. Sims,” Jonathan chimed in. Ron now noticed that the group had gathered closer to hear the explanation.

“Call me Baylor, Jonathan. You’ve earned the right.”

“Okay, Baylor—thanks.”

“Wait, wait! Does everyone but me know all the details, then?” Ron pressed insistently.

“Well, not just you, but danged close. You were under a lotta pressure an’ we wanted to save you goin’ through that again. B’sides, you were a near wreck las’time. We weren’t sure you’d be much help to us.” Bill was apologetic, but Ron knew he was likely correct in his assumptions.

“Okay, I understand. But will someone tell me why Debra was dressed in all those old clothes and her hair was done that way? And why would that scare the tar out of Hallowell?”

“Don’cha mean the ‘hell outta ‘Hell’owell?” Bill had a silly grin he couldn’t hide.

“Well said, Bill. More true than you know, I’m afraid.” Sims was entirely deadpan and serious.

“Uh…huh?” Bill did a verbal double take and waited for an answer.

“He had all the ear markings of a Satanist, for one thing. Not sure we could link him to it entirely, but maybe with a lot more investigation.” Mose offered.

Baylor nodded his head, but hastened to add, “I don’t think anything more will be needed to convince him to retire permanently, gentlemen.”

“Anyway, about Debra and the clothing…and Hallowell’s fright?” Ron cajoled and prodded a reminder into the forum. He was getting impatient and it was apparent that Denise was ready to hear an answer to the riddle as well. She was completely intent on what the various speakers had to offer.

Jonathan now interrupted and took charge of the explanation. “Alright. Enough delay. You deserve the entire story. One of the things we found against Hallowell was the record of a rape case many years ago while he was still in law school. All the details were there and Hallowell was strongly implicated, but was never found guilty. It appears he had strings pulled for him.”

“Yanked is more like it.” Mose was fed up just thinking about it.

Baylor jumped in again. “All we had to do was place a powerful visual stimulant in front of him while he was already in a highly charged emotional state and voila’! The reminder alone pushed him over the edge.”

So Debra was dressed as the woman in the records?”

“Yes, that’s it in a nutshell.” Sims had a smile of deep satisfaction. “It worked brilliantly. Better than I had hoped.”

“Better than you hoped? You had me scared to death. I thought you had lost your mind! And now you tell me it worked better than you hoped?” Denise just shook her head.

“My dear woman, it was absolutely paramount that I go through with it in the manner we had planned. There was nothing else we could do but force his hand. I do apologize. I know how it must have appeared, but there was simply no other way that we could think of to accomplish the task.” Sims was sincere in his apologies, but just as sincere in his convictions that there was no other method to have considered. “Judge Hallowell was force-fed so many things that he had thought to be completely and forever buried. Then, the Grand Finale—Debra coming in dressed as the rape victim herself. He just lost it. And best of all, he lost control in front of so many people, including the County Prosecutor, who must by now think him to be totally insane.”

Debra had been quiet through all of the conversation thus far, but now joined in with her contribution. “I’m sure that by now he is wondering how soon it will be until word gets out to the public. He can’t help but worry about that. Plus, he knows we still have the papers that he left on his bench while he was in such a frantic fury to get away from me. He has no idea where we could have dug up so much dirt on him—and best of all, if there was that much, there was probably more. He has to be wondering when it will rear its ugly little head, I would venture to guess. He must be terrified—and rightly so. It’s finally his turn to be on the receiving end for once.”

“But how is that alone going to force him to retire? All of that is past and he could fight it for a long time in the courts, couldn’t he? And couldn’t he simply hand me over to the next judge?” Ron was just being realistic, but Denise gasped audibly. He was causing her faith to waiver along with his own.

“Listen, Ron, there was far more going on here than you may realize. There were so many violations in his courtroom alone that most people would never suspect. A competent and well-informed jury could have convicted him of constructive treason at any time, for his violations of the Constitution alone. What atrocities were happening right under all their noses everyday, you would shudder to think.”

“Sorry, you lost me.”

“Along with most other Americans, I’m afraid. Tha’s why we had to go another route. I will explain the other possible routes at another time, if you like, but trust me for now that I chose the right one for you and Denise.”

“Okay, Baylor. Time will tell. Forgive me for not being ready to believe it’s truly over yet. After all that we’ve been through, I keep waiting for the other shoe to fall—call it conditioning, if you will.”

“Pavlovian response.” Baylor nodded his head.

Bill simply said, “Huh?”

“Like a dog drooling when he hears a bell,” Mose responded.

“What?!” Bill was more confused than ever.

“Like a dog drooling over a steak? Is that better?” Jonathan offered.

“Lots better than a dog wantin’ to eat a bell, I reckon.” Bill shook his head in disbelief at Mose, who started to respond and came up short in a ‘why bother’ attitude. The others simply chuckled at this little interplay.

“Ron, rehashing all of this isn’t why you are here today, is it? Let’s have some fun and forget about all of this, shall we?” Sims turned to the group and asked, “Alright, who knows a good joke?”

Denise piped up, “I do!”

“Oh, no you don’t,” Ron came back immediately, laughing and finally able to begin relaxing. He quickly added, “Between the two of us, though, we might be able to beat these folks into some semblance of submission.” He winked at Denise and saw her roll her eyes.

“Well, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull,” Paul added. It got him a few snickers and a well-delivered elbow from Barbara, followed by a now full-bodied laugh from the rest of the group. “Ow! Go easy, will you?”

The party broke up around 9 P.M. when Barbara quietly took a moment aside to ask Sims a question of great concern for her.

“Tell me the truth, Baylor; this isn’t really over yet, is it?”

“My dear woman, I want you to know that I never lie. I have often kept the truth hidden until it was most useful to my purposes, but I do not lie.”

“A lawyer who never lies? Is there such a thing?” She grinned mischievously and he had to admire her wit and her candor.

“You still don’t know me well and with the general reputation that most attorneys have, I can well understand why you would find such a thing to be rare at best. But, then, you’ll just have to be patient and watch me, won’t you?” His smile was infectious and Barbara felt he could quite possibly be the most pleasant and cheerful man she had ever met. Certainly he was the most pleasant lawyer. She wondered if that qualified as a contradiction in terms.

“I’m not asking for me, Baylor. I love these two a lot more than you know and it would kill me to see them go through much more of this hell. They don’t deserve it, that’s all.” She looked deeply into his eyes and her gaze begged him to promise her a happy ending.

“You must know that there are no guarantees in life, dear girl; and you tend to get surprises when you least expect them, but I assure you I’ve never been more certain of anything than I am right now.” His words were a healing balm to her and she hugged him unexpectedly and thanked him several times before she turned him loose again.

“You’re welcome, Barbara—and thank you! Now, before your husband gets jealous, you’d better go. He’s waiting for you.”

She laughed softly, as did he, and the evening’s festivities were now over. He suspected they would all meet again. At least he hoped so. These people were the salt of the earth. He turned toward the one remaining straggler. “And now, Debra…with all of our scheming and conniving over, I feel lost. How about you?”

“You took the words right out of my mouth, Baylor. What trouble do you think we could get into to make up for our sense of loss?”

“Mom!” Denise had just stuck her head in again to hurry Debra to the car.

“Oh, never you mind, dear! I’m old enough to know what I’m doing.”

“If you don’t mind terribly, I will be happy to bring her home later, Denise.” Baylor had somewhat of a sad puppy look, far from the gleam he usually bore.

“Well…okay, but have her home by midnight,” Denise said rather sternly for a daughter.

“Hrmph! Well, I never….” Debra feigned upset. “You did say, ‘let her get her own man’, didn’t you?” Her hands were on her hips in firm resolve and gentle defiance and her face bore a ‘gotcha’ expression.

Denise was now the one to register genuine surprise, having until now been unaware that her mother had heard them through the bedroom door this morning. She was speechless for an uncomfortably long time and in the confusion, Sims sought to come to her rescue—to their rescue.

“I assure you, she will be in the best of hands…” Ever the proper gentleman and acutely aware of how his statement might be construed a double entendre, he stopped and regrouped, beginning to blush slightly. “I mean, in good company…she’ll be well looked after.” He looked as if he were about to start sweating profusely at any moment.

“Better quit while you still can, Mr. Sims. Alright, have fun, you two—but behave yourselves.” She still shot her mother a look that denoted a sense of impropriety, but she left them alone.

“Now, where were we?” Debra recovered immediately and Baylor tried to follow suit.

“Pulling my foot from my mouth, I believe.” He chuckled nervously. “I am glad to have you alone, though. I find you an intriguing and charming woman, Debra.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way, my good man.” She smiled slyly and hooked her arm in his and led him to the porch swing.

“Ron, I simply don’t know what to do with my mother. I just might die of embarrassment. I thought she would be coming home with us, but she’s decided to stay with Mr. Sims.”

“Well, you did say, ‘let her get her own man’, didn’t you?” He spoke in the same inflections that she had used just this morning and thought she would see the humor of it. Met with her icy stare, his spontaneous grin disappeared just as quickly as it had sprung upon him and he turned to give full attention to his driving duties until she warmed up again.

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