THE EXCITING JOURNEY OF Writing
a Fictional Book
"IT'S A LUXURY BEING A WRITER, BECAUSE ALL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT IS LIFE."
FROM AUGUST 25TH - AUGUST 28TH
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#the mouse that became the cat,#crime thriller,#chilling,#suspenseful,#robert stephen
Early next morning George stood in a narrow vacant lot across the street from Locke's Ford. In his right hand, a pillowcase full of rocks. Still seething from the events three days ago, he stood, holding an average size rock and glared at the showroom windows. There were nine large panes of glass, but at this distance, George distrusted his throwing skill.
He turned around and hurled the stone with as much strength as he could muster, but it scarcely reached midway to the back fence. George realized it would be essential to stand in the center of Hollywood Boulevard, but with morning traffic bustling in both directions he had doubts about his plan of revenge.
A black and white police car drove past with two policemen who paid no attention to the boy with the rock-filled pillowcase. If they had, they would have questioned him. George envisioned both he and his father on their hands and knees picking up thousands of fragments of glass. Worse, Sam and David Locke were standing over them laughing.
He poured out the rocks and concluded his plan was foolish, "What am I thinking," he mumbled. Disgusted with himself he biked towards school. Pedaling down the street, he recognized Charlie the young frail boy from school walking at a brisk pace. The boy did not see George, he was looking at the ground, but George could see Charlie's right hand clutching something in his coat pocket.
"Hey Charlie," said George approaching.
Charlie avoiding eye contact said, "Hi."
George stopped his bike but Charlie kept moving hurriedly away.
"Hey Charlie, it's George, remember me?"
Charlie stopped, "I know it's you George I don't have time."
"Time for what, where are you going?"
"To school, I have to get there first."
"Why, what's at school and what's that in your pocket?"
"Nothing, leave me alone."
Sensing something wrong, he pedaled and blocked the younger boy's path.
"Get out of my way George"
"Why are you angry, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I said get out of my way," but George did not move.
"Why do you have to be at school first?"
"I have to be there before Sam Locke. I'm going to kill him."
Hearing Charlie's words George thought how foolish he must have sounded the last several days. His gaze followed the boy's right arm.
"What's in your pocket, let me see."
"Nothing, leave me alone I don't want to hurt you."
"Why would you hurt me? I thought we were friends, remember?"
"I don't have friends George, I don't like anybody, and nobody likes me. Get out of my way."
George felt he was listening to a younger self as Charlie kept staring at the ground.
"Let me see what's in your pocket."
George carefully slipped his hand into Charlie's pocket. Feeling cold metal, he quickly withdrew. His eyes darted around to see if any passersby were paying attention to the two of them. He despised nosy people. Feeling ashamed, Charlie put up no struggle as George reached into his pocket again. He felt the butt of a pistol and withdrew his hand. He pushed Charlie into the entrance of a vacant storefront.
"Charlie, what are you doing with a gun? Whose gun is it?"
"It's my father's, and I'm going to kill Sam."
"Stop talking like that. I want to kill Sam too, but I don't want to go to jail."
Removing the gun from Charlie's jacket George held the weapon in his hand. He had never held a gun before. He felt strong and powerful. Straightening his stance, George closed his eyes and envisioned himself walking up to Sam Locke and pulling the trigger.
"If something bad were to happen to Sam Locke it would be because of him," he thought. He felt invincible. When George opened his eyes, Charlie stared at him nodding his head as though sharing George's thoughts.
He pictured himself pulling the trigger, watching the bullet enter Sam's forehead. Sam would fall in slow motion and he would stand back. He would lean against the lockers and observe other students talking and going about their business. Occasionally somebody would kick the carcass and laugh; just liked they kicked his books. Everything turned dark. George saw himself led away in handcuffs, spending the rest of his life in jail with people he disliked. He knew the gun was a chess piece, but did not understand what to do with it.
"Charlie, I'll hold onto this until after school then we'll take it back to your house and put it back where it belongs."
"What about Sam Locke."
"We'll come up with a plan."
"I just remembered we can't take it back today. My mom's picking me up, I have a dentist appointment. We'll put it back tomorrow."
While in his classes, George's hand brushed against the gun in his pocket. A surge of energy coursed through his body and he wanted to stand up and shout. No one was going to bother him including Sam Locke.
Biking briskly towards home, George remembered Angelina, how she laughed at him and made fun of him. He decided she would never laugh at him again; he would make certain.George laid his bike on the front lawn of the plain looking apartment building and stepped up to the door, his hand in his right pocket. His fingers folded securely around the butt of the gun. It was not clear to George what he would do when she answered, but knew Angelina would be sorry.
Tapping on the door George took two steps backward and waited. He knocked again, stronger this time, but still no response. He peered through the front window to see if Angelina was inside and heard muted noises around the side of the building. No one was there. About to knock a third time George heard voices again. Angelina screamed.
Hurrying to the rear of the apartment house George saw Angelina with a tall boy. The older teenage boy had his body pressed up and pinned against the young girl. She struggled attempting to push the boy away but he was too strong. One hand was forcefully over Angelina's mouth while the other attempted to raise up her skirt.
"Quiet bitch, you know this is what you want. Vinnie said you liked it and that you were easy. Stop pushing."
The boy, taller and several years older outweighed George by at least fifty pounds. George had never seen him before. The attacker continued pressing his body against Angelina's, kissing her to stifle her cries as she fought back. Her eyes wide with disbelief saw George standing there. She tried screaming, pushing back, but the older boy's large body stymied her attempt. She would have given in to save George from witnessing what was going to happen. Angelina prayed he would leave.
George picked up a metal cover from a nearby trashcan and slammed it across the back of the teenager's skull causing the boy to release Angelina. The teenager glared wildly at the younger boy. His nostrils flaring as he rubbed the back of his head.
"What the fuck. I don't know who you are kid, but I'm going to kill you."
He struggled to seize George but Angelina grabbed him holding him back.
"That's right George, run," said the angry teenager.
George ran as the older boy pushed Angelina away. The boy's long arm reached out and caught hold of George's jacket pulling him backward. He swung George around causing him to fall against the wall bumping his head. Lunging forward the larger boy abruptly stopped short. George, standing his ground, pointed the gun directly at the older boy's face.
"Wait kid, don't shoot. I don't want trouble."
George advanced the revolver steady in his hand as the teenager retreated. He glared into the boy's eyes and saw fear, which only strengthened him.
In a calm angry tone, George said, "If you ever show up here again, or tell anybody about this, you'll be dead. Do you hear me?"
"Yeah, okay just don't shoot. I won't say anything."
Angelina added, "I'm going to tell my uncle about you and Vinnie."
"Don't tell him, please, I won't say anything I promise."
The teenager pleaded with Angelina not to tell Roy Capelli while George pointed the gun. He ran away leaving George and Angelina standing in the backyard and after they were sure the boy left, George put the gun back into his pocket. Angelina tried to hug him but he pushed her away.
"Don't do that, I don't like that. I don't want you to laugh at me."
"George, I'm not going to laugh at you. You saved me from that fuck."
"You did George, thank you."
Angelina stopped, "Why do you have a gun?"
She held her breath when she realized George was not there by chance.
"George, were you going to— kill me?"
“Why are you here? What were you going to do?"
"I was going to scare you and make you swear never to laugh at me again, and not touch me."
"I'm sorry George, I just thought—"
"Stop, I didn't like kissing, or what you did and I don't like you laughing at me."
He put his hand in his pocket.
"Stop George you're right. I was wrong, I'm sorry. Please don't hurt me," she said tears in her eyes.
"Don't cry I wouldn't hurt you. Just don't laugh at me."
Feeling weak Angelina said, "Can we sit down."
They sat quietly on the back stairs for twenty minutes before either spoke.
"I hate the Locke's, Sam and his father."
George repeated his story with Sam, but included the part about the dealership his father and David Locke.
"Then I saw you, and you did," his voice trailing off.
"Oh George, I'm so sorry I didn't know. Let me help make it up to you."
"How can you help me?"
"My uncle can help."
"Who's your uncle?"
"Roy Capelli," she replied proudly.
"He's not a gangster he's a businessman people are afraid of."
"What can he do?"
"Well for one, I heard my uncle talking to one of his partners. They were arguing about a gun."
"What about a gun?"
"He told the guy to file down the serial numbers, so it can't be traced. I'll show you, let me see your gun."
At first George hesitated, then pulled the weapon out of his pocket and gave it to Angelina. This was not the first time Angelina held a gun in her hand. It was a .38 caliber Smith and Wesson revolver. Flipping open the gun's cylinder she snickered then stopped.
"I'm sorry George," she said smiling. "It's just there are no bullets in the gun, see."
"What? What are you saying?"
"Look for yourself."
George stared at the five empty chambers and shook his head in disbelief, "Damn it Charlie."
"I don't know who Charlie is, but George what were you thinking?"
The two looked at each other and smiled, but George could not help himself, and laughed as well. It was infectious, and soon Angelina was laughing. Each time Angelina pointed at the empty cylinder, they laughed more.
"Do you think we could get a gun from your uncle, one of those without a serial number?"
Angelina's demeanor changed, "Are you kidding?"
"I can't just walk up to my uncle and say, do you have an extra gun I could have, one without serial numbers."
"Because that's not how it's done George."
He got lost in his own private world for a few moments and Angelina saw George's disappointment. "Let me see what I can do, okay?"
As the sun set it was time for George to leave.
"I know you said not to George, but can I hug you for saving me, please.
Glancing away nervously, "Nothing else."
She wrapped her arms around George, but not too tight and whispered, "Thanks."
He tried not to, but he gave Angelina a modest grin, and walked back to the front yard. Retrieving his bike and walking it back home, he realized his plan was visibly clearer.
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Turning into the dealership's driveway, George jumped off his bike pushing it rather than placing it against the wall. His anger with Sam Locke continued to chew away at his young mind. When nervous or agitated, George habitually glided his hands into his pockets and balled them into fists. However, today something else grew inside of him, a corrosive malevolence.
Approaching the brick building, he noticed his father speaking to David Locke, Sam's dad and the owner of Locke Ford. George heard an annoyance in David Locke's voice. Stepping off to the side out of view, he listened.
“Blurth I’m not taking this contract. It’s not a good deal, either get more money or forget it.”
“Mr. Locke, we sold the same models last weekend for less money, this is a reasonable contract.”
“Are you telling me my business Blurth?”
"No Mr. Locke, I’m...”
“You're what Blurth? Is that what you’re doing now, you believe you can manage this place? You guys are all the same.”
“That’s not what I’m claiming Mr. Locke, it’s just that...”
“I’m not interested in excuses, I don’t want the deal,” Locke said slapping the papers out of Mark's hand.
The owner marched away leaving George's dad paralyzed in the center of the showroom staring down at the scattered papers. George stood by the doorway, emotionally gutted. It felt as though someone had punched him in the stomach and all of the air inside his body escaped. He desperately wanted to make sense out of the scene between his father and Locke. Yet, instead of screaming, a growing rage set his body on fire. It was clear the Locke's were terrible people, but something else troubled George. A more revolting picture resonated deeper inside his head.
Down on his hands and knees, Mark picked up the papers strewn across the showroom floor while the other two salesman stood off to the side snickering.
It was now obvious to George he and his father were also terrible people, weak and easily bullied. Upset with the quarrel between David and Mark, the young couple who had signed the contract stepped around George's father and slipped out of the showroom.
The afternoon grew chilly and damp as dark clouds appeared in the sky bringing rain. George ignored the cold. Inside his body, another disturbance festered. Attempts at pressing back his tears failed as they streamed down George's cheeks unchecked.
Manny, one of the dealership's mechanics wearing blue coveralls stepped out from the service area and observed the young boy leaning against the wall.
"Hey kid, are you okay?"
Without responding, George ran to his bike. Mark while gathering the scattered papers glanced up and saw his son climbing onto his three-speed. At that embarrassing moment any dignity left had disappeared. Pain tore through Mark's flesh and bones like a thousand poison arrows. He hoped George had not seen the disgraceful incident, but knew his boy witnessed everything. Mark twisted the stack of papers in his hands as he watched his son pedal away. He wanted to cry out and say, "I'm sorry."
George was confused. Never had his brain experienced so many conflicting thoughts and feelings. Anger, retaliation, pain, sadness all came crashing down around him like opposing armies converging on a battlefield. He wanted to disappear and simultaneously lash out at the world.
He pedaled as fast as he could on the busy chaotic streets darting carelessly around the onrushing traffic. Ignoring the blaring horns or screaming drivers, George raced to escape. When he turned the corner on the street where he lived George saw Angelina Capelli, an acquaintance, but deliberately avoided her.
A fifteen-year-old girl, with flaming red hair and the hourglass figure of a woman she called out to him, but he did not react. She called out again, this time George stopped.
"What's wrong George, why didn't you stop?"
"I didn't hear you."
"You biked right past me you heard me. Have you been crying?"
"Then what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I don't want to talk about it."
"Because I don't that's why."
"Maybe I can help.”
"What could you do?"
"You never know, people talk to me."
He hesitated at first, but after more coaxing, talked to Angelina. She had a way about her. He told her about the conflict at school with Sam Locke but never discussed his father and David Locke. That pain he kept to himself.
"I wish I could kill that guy."
He paced with his fists hidden in his pockets and talked about killing the older boy without realizing the consequences.
"I want to pay Sam back."
George slammed his hand against the wall, startling Angelina. Quietly she listened to his ramblings. She was good at that. Numerous times Angelina stood and listened to men young and old and their long-winded mumblings, but too often they wanted more than just conversation.
“George, have you ever had a girlfriend?”
“What--, of course not.”
“Have you ever kissed a girl?”
“I’m thirsty. I’m going inside to get something to drink, come with me. I’ve got Coca-Cola; would you like one?”
His mind elsewhere he ignored Angelina.
"Well George, do you want a Coke?"
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Taking his hand, Angelina led George into the apartment where she lived with her mother. It was larger than most places in the area, including where George and his father lived. Following her into the kitchen, the boy stood by the sink overflowing with soiled dishes from previous meals. Glancing over at the kitchen table, a half-open box of Cheerios lay on its side along with a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of Weber's bread. Angelina disregarded the mess as she kicked the refrigerator door closed while holding two bottles of Coke. She toyed with the younger boy.
“Would you like one of these?”
George not paying attention to Angelina's playfulness kept perusing the room.
"George, would you like one of these?"
As he reached for the bottle, Angelina pulled away.
“First, kiss me George.”
“What, stop fooling around let me have a Coke.”
He lurched forward and gripped hold of one bottle, but the young temptress held it tight and pulled George closer placing her tender lips on his. He tried pulling away but Angelina wrapped her arm around his waist holding him close. When she let go George jumped backward.
"Why did you do that, don't!"
“Oh George, that wasn’t so bad was it? Now you’ve kissed a girl.”
“I suppose so, but still.”
“George, kiss me and you can have the Coke. Come here and kiss me. You know you liked it.”
“I don’t want to, stop.”
Nervously he made two fists.
“George I’m not the only girl you'll ever kiss so come here now.”
Reluctantly George obeyed and moved closer.
“Okay, now kiss me.”
With eyes wide open George awkwardly pressed his lips together as Angelina placed her mouth against his. She put the Coke bottles down and resumed kissing the inexperienced boy, pressing her body hard against his pinning him up against the wall. Angelina reached down and unbuttoned George’s jeans.
"Stop that," he said. He pulled at her hand but she slapped it away.
“Don’t worry George you will love this, all the boys do.”
He tried pushing Angelina away again, but she was stronger.
“Stop, don’t touch me.”
“Stop it Georgy you’ll like what I do, I promise.”
Angelina's mouth muffled his sounds of anguish as she stuck her hand inside George’s jeans. In a surge of strength, he pushed Angelina away and ran out of the kitchen through the living room, and out the front door. Behind him, George heard Angelina laughing. When he jumped off the front stairs, he fell and rolled down to the sidewalk.
A sharp pain shot through his right leg as he stood up. He had sprained his ankle, but the anger and humiliation were stronger than the throbbing leg. Limping to his bike, George swung his injured leg over the seat and peddled slowly down the street.
Angelina stood by the open window and shouted, “You’ll be back Georgy once you find out what you missed. Until then, it’s our secret."
Limping painfully up the stairs to his apartment, he unlocked the front door and saw Mark sitting at their temporary dining table, nursing a three quarters-empty bottle of whiskey.
“George, where have you been?”
“Leave me alone.”
“Come here I want to, ta, talk.”
“I don’t want to talk to you. He pushed you around and you let him. We're weak, I hate you, and I hate them.”
“Don’t say that. You don’t understand George."
"I do understand. I hate you."
"Stop it; you doonnn, don't hate me. It’s hard to explain. I--I’m sorry you saw what happened,” said Mark, fragile and drunk.
“You love that bottle. Shut-up, I hate you.”
George hobbled down the hall to his bedroom and slammed the door shut. The last shards of daylight died on the windowsill and conceded to nightfall as he cried into his pillow. Today was the worst day of George's young life. Tightness engulfed his chest as the memory of the school incident echoed.
Struggling for solace, he wrapped his arms around his mid section. Tormented and suffering, George paid no attention as his fingers crawled up his body like tarantulas and wrapped themselves around his neck. He gasped for oxygen as they crushed his windpipe. He screamed but there was no sound. Just before blacking out his fingers relaxed.
Anger replaced anxiety. The faces of Sam and David Locke popped like strobe lights in his head as hatred snaked through his body. He squeezed his two fists until his fingernails broke the skin in his palms.
His head throbbed and with each beat. His ankle and head pounding mercilessly as George tried to make the razor sharp pain go away. Rocking from side to side, the abusive incidents in the school hallway and automobile showroom replayed repeatedly in his mind. He thought covering his face would free him but each scene increased with emotion. His humiliation festered.
The images of George and his father on their hands and knees with people standing over them laughing, pointing, and prodding were inescapable. Mysteriously George stopped moving. The visions dissolved like wisps of smoke. The thoughts in his head changed. He opened his eyes and stared at the unlit ceiling letting his mind zero in on a black spot near the light fixture. As he focused, his facial expression changed. Revenge had taken up residence in his head.
"I hate them; I hate them," he mumbled the words repeatedly.
In the mind of a thirteen-year-old, revenge is a fight in the schoolyard beating up the bully. George's mind was not that of a thirteen-year-old, and he was not interested in a schoolyard fight.
Reaching over he turned on the small lamp next to his bed and his eyes wandered around the bedroom then stopped. Over in the corner sat a box full of chess pieces on top of the folded board. At first, the young boy gave it no thought then realized to satisfy his revenge required a strategy. In the game of chess, one thinks several moves in advance of his adversary.
"Anticipate your enemy's moves before they know their moves."
Lying still, George fell into a hypnotic trance as his eyes closed. He dreamt he stood over two people kicking and hitting them with a long stick. Tied down and powerless they screamed in agony with neither escaping the beating. Unmoved by their pleas for mercy George continued punishing Sam and David Locke.
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Weaving in and out of the pedestrian traffic like a half back dodging oncoming tacklers, George pedaled his bike up the busy Vermont Avenue sidewalk. Nothing would stop the young boy, his legs churned ferociously.
"Hey kid, slow down damn it," barked an old man stepping out from the tobacco shop.
Ignoring the man's words George continued pedaling. Lost in angry thoughts, and with nowhere to turn, he was going to see his father, Mark Blurth. A salesman at the Ford dealership on Hollywood Boulevard.
George an only child never had a good relationship with his father. When his mother died, the fragile connection between father and son disintegrated, with neither appearing to care.
The two lived in an ordinary working class neighborhood in the eastern part of Hollywood, but the area displayed signs of change. Newcomers were moving in and new storefronts replaced traditional ones. Most arrived innocent with a few dollars in their pocket. Star struck young hopefuls with dreams of fame and fortune arrived every week.
Waiting to greet them with empty promises, phony agents and managers roamed the Hollywood streets like packs of wild dogs waiting for the migrating herds. They lurked in seedy rooms and hung hastily made shingles on doors, attempting to lure the young and naive into their lairs.
Living in the entertainment capital never captured George's interest. A better than average student he excelled in every class but history. He despised gym class and sports, even though he could bike for miles without breaking a sweat.
George never bothered anyone. The majority of the time he preferred solitude. However, on the fourth day of the new semester, everything in George's world changed. That day, he crossed paths with Sam Locke, the school bully, and troublemaker. When all the students were on the move between classes, Sam, showing off, intentionally bumped into George, "Hey weirdo, what's wrong with you? Look where you're going."
Ignoring Sam's taunting remarks George continued walking away which only provoked his tormentor. Angered at the boy's snub, Sam rushed up from behind and knocked the books out from under George's arms. Everything he had been carrying fell to the floor with a thud and before reacting all of George's papers and books littered the school hallway.
Hundreds of students flooded the hall pushing and shoving as they transferred from one room to the next. Although they shuffled along like convicts on a chain gang, their verbal exchanges came in rapid snippets, like nervous birds flittering and chirping at one another.
"Hated that class."
"Hate that teacher."
"Loan me fifty cents."
"See you at fourth period."
"I know who you like."
Uncaringly, the multitude of students stepped on George's paperwork and some even took pleasure purposely kicking his schoolbooks down the hall. Sam Locke along with several onlookers lined the wall and laughed at the boy's painful ordeal.
"Watch where you're going next time weirdo," said Sam walking away leading his small entourage.
By the time the bell rang, which signified the beginning of the next class, George stood in the empty corridor staring down at the aftermath. Leaning against the lockers, he closed his eyes and slipped his hands into his pockets. Balling them up into hidden fists, he squeezed them until his palms hurt. George became angry.
"Why would Sam Locke do such a thing," he asked staring at the mess scattered in the hallway.
A gentle hand tapped George on his shoulder that startled him. A frail-looking young boy stood next to George holding out one of his books.
"I saw what happened. I hate Sam Locke."
"Yeah, I do too," said George.
Handing George the damaged book, "My name is Charlie."
"I hate Sam Locke. He's done that to me twice. I want to pay him back so bad."
Charlie began picking up the papers and books when George stopped him.
"Charlie, let me do it. You go to class so you're not late, you don't need to get into trouble as well. I'll see you around."
Down on his hands and knees George gathered up the results of Sam Locke's harassment and glanced up as Charlie walked away. The fragile young boy waved. George returned the gesture then went back to gathering up his papers.
Glaring at the mess in the hallway, the picture of Sam Locke laughing and pointing at him reverberated as he gathered the up his material. Each time he clawed at the papers his heart pounded. Holding a clump of soiled documents unfamiliar emotions emerged. A faint scratching gnawed away at his inside. A strange voice screamed for revenge. George agreed with Charlie about Sam, but something else troubled George, the cruelty of the other students. He realized no one other than Charlie chose to help.
"Sam Locke caused this," he mumbled pounding his leg as he stared at the scattered papers.
"They're all at fault, all of them. They are just like Sam Locke."
#the mouse that became the cat,#robert stephen,#writing a novel,#crime thriller,#chilling story,#serial killer,#los angeles 1960's
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
I'm down to the last half dozen days of the final edit. My eyes are going cross and my brain feels scrambled. Writing, rewriting, rewriting, and polishing to the best of your ability is daunting. Working on the blurb or the 10 second summation for a potential reader is another little tidbit that makes you want to drain your body of its blood. Then there is the cover, distribution (exclusive or not exclusive), paperback version, audio version, marketing, advertising, keywords.
Remember when it all started, "I want to be a writer," well guess what. This is no different from being a manufacturer of some product. Everything mentioned above is no different when you are making a table or a coffee pot.
Begin with design, buy raw products, purchase tools used to build product, photograph and create catalog page, marketing strategy, find customers. I left out cost because that goes without saying, while one could cost out the table and coffee pot, most books would be priced in the thousands so you better love writing and creating stories plus a pension and a day job.
#the mouse that became the cat,#writing is a business,#robert stephen,#writing a novel,#thriller crime story,#character development