THE EXCITING JOURNEY OF Writing
a Fictional Book
"IT'S A LUXURY BEING A WRITER, BECAUSE ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT IS LIFE."
Superior Court of Los Angeles
Honorable Judge William Worthmann, Presiding
The courtroom's aisle split the seventy-two wooden chairs in half. Six rows of six
chairs. The end of each row butting up against the wall, which meant the only way
in or out down the aisle. The room was like a silent movie star long past their prime trying unsuccessfully to maintain its appearance.
Walnut paneling sagged and buckled and several chairs no longer worked properly. There was a faint mildew odor floating in the air, which reminded all but the judge it was time to retire. Less than a dozen people, not including the two rough looking bailiffs, sat quietly watching the Judge flip over pages from the case file.
Other than the faint noise of rustling paper, a steady whooshing sound fell from the ceiling. Frigid air blowing softly through louvered vents. On the wall, the thermostat's dial indicated the room's temperature was sixty-eight degrees. It was an uncomfortable climate for all but the judge who demanded a chilly courtroom. As part of his official attire, Judge Worthmann wore a dark cardigan sweater underneath his robe.
Worthmann's motto, "Justice is cold, whether innocent or guilty."
Kenneth Acton, the defendant, sat at the large oak table facing the judge. His shirt’s collar soaked from the nonstop flow of perspiration trickling down his neck. His hair cemented to the sides of his head like a second skin.
Without looking up the judge said in an official sounding voice, "I am prepared to pass sentence. Will the defendant please rise?"
In concert, both defendant and his attorney, Ralph Kessler, a public defender, rolled their chairs back and stood facing the judge.
"Mr. Acton, you have been found guilty of four counts of forcible breaking and entering, four counts of first degree felony burglary, and possession of stolen property worth over $150,000. Does the defendant have something he wishes to say to the Court?"
Inadvertently, Kenneth's leg knocked the table and a lone pencil slowly rolled off the edge tumbling to the floor. The noise reverberated throughout the silent courtroom as if someone had slammed a heavy book to the ground. Judge Worthmann irritated stared at the accused.
Unable to speak, Kenneth's parched throat held his words hostage. His rough sandpaper hands, a byproduct from twenty-five years of hard work, hung at his sides quivering like small animals cowering in the corner. He lifted them waste high, and stared at his nervous hands to silent them, but they reacted with a will of their own. Kenneth closed his eyes and silently prayed. He prayed he was still in bed and this was all a nightmare caused by a three-day long drinking binge.
"Well Mr. Acton?"
Powerless to articulate his thoughts, he said, "Your Honor I’m innocent. I didn't commit these crimes. I've stolen nothing in my life."
The 70 year old judge sat calmly listening. When Kenneth finished the judge asked, "Is there anything else?"
"No, no your Honor," he murmured while turning to his lawyer.
"I have taken into consideration this is your first offense. I pray for your sake that it is your last. Mr. Acton, the police officers found stolen property in a storage locker belonging to you."
"Your Honor," pounding his hand on the table, "that is not my storage, that...,"
"Mr. Kessler, please advise your client." Pointing to the defendant with his gavel, "Mr. Acton, no further outbursts, or I'll add contempt to your sentence. They recovered property valued at more than $150,000, taken from four separate homes. The evidence is overwhelming…,"
"I'm innocent, and the Court knows it."
Kenneth's attorney tried to calm his client, but defiantly he slapped Kessler's hands away and stepped out from behind the defendant's table. Kenneth advanced towards the judge."Your Honor."
Before he could take two steps, the two bailiffs rushed and grabbed him from behind. One of the uniformed men, the size of a football lineman, twisted Kenneth's arms while the other officer slammed his head down on the table. He attempted to scream but a large hand pushed Kenneth's head into the wooden surface while the other bailiff clicked a pair of handcuffs around his wrists. Disheveled and subdued the two men stood the prisoner up holding each arm in vice like grips.
"I'm innocent and the Court knows it."
"I warned you," bellowed the judge, "I have added two years for contempt to your three year sentence and two years probation. Remove the prisoner."
Kenneth's eyes flew around the room searching for something. To Kessler his client was memorizing the last room he stood in without bars.
"I am not a thief, I have never stolen anything, I'm innocent."
The two bailiffs led the defendant out of the courtroom through a small door. The punishment dispensed by the Court might as well have been a public execution by guillotine. Like so many before him, Kenneth Acton learned one of life's cruel lessons. Only the rich can afford to be innocent. Placed in a half empty cell, Kenneth sat despondently in the corner. Within days, he would begin his sentence in the State’s penitentiary.
When the courtroom was silent again, the public defender gathered up his paperwork tossing his fake leather satchel over his shoulder and said, "I'm sorry Judge."
The judge shook his head and addressed the courtroom, "In twenty years sitting on the bench, only seven or eight defendants have told me they were guilty. Counselor, inform your prospective clients not to use up the Court's time."
Dismissed by the judge Ralph Kessler left the courtroom with his head down feeling guilty unable to help his client. Kenneth Acton declared his innocence from the beginning, but the evidence suggested otherwise, he tried to reason.
"Maybe the judge was right, everyone is guilty until proven innocent," Kessler thought to himself
He stopped by the concession stand and purchased a muffin wrapped in cellophane.
"Five more damn years," he moaned.
"Excuse me," said the small Asian woman standing behind the cash register.
"Nothing, thinking out loud that's all."
"Two dollars counselor."
Giving the two singles to the woman reminded him to buy muffins at the grocery store, four for two ninety-nine.
"At these prices, you'd be found guilty of robbery and I wouldn't argue."
"You got a discount counselor because tomorrow there two fifty each."
Buried in college and credit card debt, he hated his job and knew big money was in private practice, but plunging into that arena was out of the question. "Five more damn years."
The words reminded him how long it would be until he paid off his student loans, not including his credit card debt. An excellent young attorney with a solid future, losing this case did not help his reputation, not when someone is seeking to make a name. He thought the punishment harsh and unreasonable.
"They were right. Judge Worthmann is a tough judge," he reflected. Ralph hoped this time would have been different.
Minutes after the young defender left the courtroom, the judge called another case. The spectator sitting in the fourth row stood up. Satisfied with the result of the Acton case he proceeded out through the two heavy doors into the long corridor. An average sized man in his early sixties, clean shaven, and well dressed, wearing a dark Zegna two piece suit. No stranger to the building, he sauntered through the cavernous halls with the boldness and swagger of a high priced criminal lawyer.
He walked out the front entrance of the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse on Hill Street, and glided down the steps to the waiting limousine, threw open the rear door, and climbed into the backseat. The driver glanced into the rearview mirror asking, "Did you have a good day sir?"
"Yes Smitty, I did."
The limo pulled away from the curb and traveled towards Beverly Hills. To escape from the westbound traffic on the 10 Freeway, the driver remained on surface streets. Forty-five minutes later the large black automobile drew up in front of the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills.
"We're here sir."
"Thanks Smitty. Send the bill to my office, and I'll see you Thursday. They will call you and let you know what time. Here's a little extra for you," said Mr. Rosen leaning forward and handing Smitty two folded twenty-dollar bills.
"Thank you Mr. Rosen, see you Thursday."
Exiting the car, Mr. Rosen stood at the curb pretending to focus on his cell phone. Methodically he counted to twenty before glancing up to see that Smitty had driven away and turned right at the intersection. He proceeded into the hotel, crossed through the crowded lobby avoiding all eye contact, and disappeared through the west side doors.
When he stepped out onto Beverly Drive, he meandered up the street acting like one of the numerous tourists gawking at the multitude of storefronts. Part of his charade. Retrieving his car from the public garage, he drove out onto the congested street and veered left at Sunset Boulevard.
Few days went by that Mr. Rosen did not think about Sunset Boulevard. His thoughts however never summoned up images of Beverly Hills or the palaces of Holmby Hills. His memories carried him deep into his past to the opposite end of the boulevard, where houses stood only a few feet from one another. It was the Sunset Boulevard where tourists got lost because they glanced over their copies of, "Map to the Stars," incorrectly. It was the area where it all started.
He turned right at the gateway of the Bel Air estates and drove up the road a short distance into the circular drive of his ten thousand square foot home. Ironic he thought how the world was developing. His estate now considered modest in size when compared to some of the recently built homes. Those monstrosities erected for international business leaders and family members of wealthy dignitaries.
He purchased the home, built in 1955, from the widow of a famous screenwriter in 2002, and in his meticulous fashion renovated the house and gardens to resemble an Italian Villa after visiting Tuscany.
Parking his Mercedes off to the side, Mr. Rosen entered his house through the large front door, walking on handcrafted marble floors expertly cut and set by artisans flown in from Italy. He ignored the beauty of the natural daylight that infused each room as the sun's rays danced through the intricate hand painted windows, and paid less attention to the home's opulent interiors.
Entering his study off to the left side of the foyer he leafed through ten file folders, sitting in a neat stack, on his hand carved antique desk. Mr. Rosen singled out the dossier labeled Kenneth Acton and made notes inside the jacket, then stood in front of a massive bookshelf perusing the volumes until he found the novel "Alaska" by James Michener. Partially extracting it from its location a thick metal bolt drew back, and a seamless door, concealed by the numerous books, opened quietly.
Inside the isolated compartment, a motion detector illuminated the interior light and Mr. Rosen stepped in. He deposited the Acton folder on a shelf marked one to five years placing it near the front of other files then methodically scoured the shelf below marked three to ten years. The shelf at the bottom held folders marked seven to fifteen. Each shelf had thirty-five or more manila folders.
He combed through the shelves, pulling out a single file from each and went back to his desk where he deposited them in a jacket marked, "New." As the door closed, he fixated his gaze on the shelf at the rear wall. Over 80 file folders, each in its slot. The one he was proudest of most. They all shared an exclusive common thread. With a dense black marker, he had written the word "Life" across their face.
He listened for the security lock to click, and envisioned a cell door slamming shut on Kenneth Acton and smiled as he peered out the window. A small blemish on the clear glass caught his eye, which he wiped with his index finger. The mark swelled the longer he rubbed and tiny droplets appeared on his brow as his effort intensified. Mr. Rosen's eyes flittered around the room in pursuit of a solution, his breathing erratic. Uncontrollably, his right hand moved across the glass, and a high-pitched hissing noise intensified in his left ear. His chest pounded, drowning out his ability to think, and he became dizzy. The cacophony of sounds reminded him of the room decades ago and he almost blacked out. When he clutched his right wrist tightly with his left hand, the rubbing ceased.
He held his breath and waited for the sounds to dissolve chasing everything back into the dark hollows of his subconscious. He knew the exercise. Turning his back to the window, he reopened his eyes and directed his attention to his office door. He waited. When he regained his balance, he reached into the desk drawer, removed a small white piece of paper, and jotted a note to his housekeeper.
"Martha you must clean windows at the north side of my desk."
Straining to concentrate he stared at the stack of folders but felt the pressure in his temple intensifying. He sat in his chair, exhausted. His mind floating back to the time when there was no Mr. Rosen, one of many fictional characters adopted by George Blurth.
If anything were to happen to him there was no one in the house, there had never been. George built a life with walls. He kept others at bay but those same walls held him a hostage. Early on, he had become a grand master in the game of chess. However, his chess game was different. It always had been. The chess pieces in George's games consisted of people, only people, which no one but George Blurth moved.
#prologue,#the mouse that became the cat,#robert stephen,#crime thriller,#writing a novel