“All rise,” the judge said.
“You may be seated, ‘cept you two,” he said, pointing at my friend and I with his pen. “Remain standing.”
I looked over at my friend, who hadn’t moved past being asked to stand. “We really did it this time,” I said.
“It was a car,” my friend said under his breath, “and he needed to be taken care of.”
“You’re being charged with aggravated assault, grand theft auto, destruction of property, kidnapping of a minor, and vehicular manslaughter. First we’ll have the prosecutor’s attorney give a brief summation of what happened, then you boys can work a defense.”
After a long recollection of last week’s events through a face that was black, blue, and covered with stitches, the prosecutor gave his statement at the witness stand and his own eyewitness account of how he tried to save the girl, pinning blame on my friend and I for her death.
My friend and I were then called to the witness stand.
We shuffled to the podium. The courtroom was filled with murmurs, the jury box with scrutinizing eyes. We were in striped jumpsuits, loose and bagging. The court was as cold as the air, and began to quiet down to a still nothingness.
“Boys,” the judge said, “Make it good.”
“Well…” I said.
10: 42 p.m. Two Weeks Earlier. . .
“My friend and I were walking down the street when we heard screaming. It was a little girl’s scream. We looked around for an hour before finding her. She was hiding in a drain pipe near one of the construction sites.
“I asked her if she was okay, but she wouldn’t answer. This is when she pointed to that man,” I said, pointing in the direction of the prosecutor. “He was walking up with a pipe and knocked me unconscious for a second. He took the little girl.”
“Yeah,” my friend said, “I got a good swing in before he knocked me down. I wanted to sprint for her, but he was running faster than I could have. My buddy here was down for the count at the moment. So, I had to do something. That’s when I spotted the cutlass on the street. I smashed the window and hotwired it.”
“That’s when I came to,” I said. “I got in and we pursued him. When we spotted him again, he was trying to put her in the trunk, but she wasn’t having it.”
“Yeah,” my friend said with a look of distressed anger across his face. “After seeing us he knocked her out and threw her inside, speeding off. I may not have been able to run, but I could sure as hell chase this asshole,” he said, gritting his teeth.
“But,” I said reluctantly, “that’s when he did something we didn’t anticipate. He slammed on his brakes, forcing a rear-end collision.”
“The little girl was still inside. We were angry, but pulled him from the car anyway. He was practically untouched. I tried prying at the trunk but it wouldn’t budge. When the driver tried to escape—-Well, let’s just say the reason we assaulted this person is because we didn’t want him to get away with it.
“A few minutes after that, the cops finally showed up and arrested all of us. As you can see,” my friend said, holding out his shirt “we were the ones who couldn’t afford a lawyer.”
The judge paused at this. “Well,” he said. “Before we proceed with this case I’d like to bring in a special witness.”
My friend and I looked at each other, confused. We hadn’t thought anyone else was there that night.
“Please, step down,” the judge asked. As we did, the doors were opened by an officer, escorting a little girl and her mother, who was sobbing, to the witness stand.
My friend and I weren’t sure if we were seeing this girl’s twin or her ghost. “Sweetheart,” the judge asked kindly, “can you identify the man who hurt you?” She pointed at the prosecutor.
The whole room gave a whispered gasp.
“And could you please identify the gentlemen that tried to rescue you?” She pointed at my friend and I.
I smiled, and he gave her a little wave.
“You see ladies and gentleman,” the judge said, as if he was a magician showing a card trick. “Miss Susan here wasn’t in the trunk upon impact. She regained consciousness and was smart enough to climb into the backseat, covering herself with the perpetrator’s jacket.
“Unfortunately, she was knocked unconscious a second time. She finally pulled through and asked if she could thank the men who tried to save her. I promised her that’d be okay. Are you boys okay with that,” he asked, looking at me and my friend.
We gave brief nods, smiling.
“As for you,” the judge said, turning and boring holes into the bruised face of the prosecutor. “You’ll be sorry you ever crossed paths with my daughter.” The judge looked at the bailiff.
“Get him outta here.”