Excerpts for Street Judge


PROLOGUE

It seemed that everyone responsible had gone the extra mile in putting together what was to be a very memorable evening. Cobo Arena's ballroom was the designated spot where my specially invited guests were to assemble. To me, the building selected to celebrate my historic accomplishments served as a reminder of how far I had come.

Just a few short years earlier, in the midst of a concert featuring the Average White Band, who were performing before a capacity crowd, I jumped from the second level of the auditorium onto the stage, in four-inch, glass-heel shoes, nonetheless. On that evening, my boys, a group of rabble-rousers known around the city as the Errol Flynns, and I, would turn a night of fun and jubilation into one of intimidation, which eventually led to panic.

Our planned robbery created such chaos that most law-abiding citizens of the city and its surrounding suburbs refused to attend any functions slated to take place in that building. This included the annual North American International Auto Show.

The city was hit hard because the auto show was a cash cow -- for the nine or so days that the event was under the roof of Cobo Arena's Exhibition Center, turnout was at an all-time low; and the Errol Flynns were credited for that drop in attendance.

Public leaders mandated that stricter security be put in place at and around the arena any time an event was scheduled. They then devised campaigns geared to inform the public that it was safe to attend functions at the 2.4 million-square-foot complex.

Although time had passed and people were no longer afraid to travel to the heart of Detroit, I couldn't help but think that at one time I was a vital part of the problem -- now I would be a stabilizing force and lead the way toward the solution.

Mayor Aaron Dennis, along with the Who's Who -- the crème de la crème of the Motor City -- were dressed to the nines. All the gentlemen attending the gala sported black-tie, while their dates would put any red-carpet affair to shame in their stunning gowns.

I watched as Assistant District Attorney Carolyn Otto approached Detroit's top man. Rumors had been circulating around town that the mayor and the stunningly attractive prosecutor were secretly seeing each other. It would not only have been a blow to the Honorable Aaron Dennis's career, but to his marriage as well -- if it was proven that he was, in fact, sleeping with the power-hungry, green-eyed brunette.

I turned my attention to the elegantly adorned dinner table next to where my wife, four children and I sat. I could clearly see what only could be described as a murderous glare emanating from the eyes of Mrs. Cynthia Dennis. The mayor's wife of fourteen years looked as if she were attempting to burn a hole through the blue sequined Oscar de la Renta, which covered the shapely figure of a woman she thought to be cheating with her husband.

I figured that it was simply a matter of time before Cynthia would snatch that fancy, lace white tablecloth from under the centerpiece and fine china, and use it to hang her husband from the rafters.

My table afforded me a perfect view of the tuxedo-clad, handsome gentleman who attempted to camouflage his age with the help of Grecian Formula 44. The mayor and prosecutor stood several feet to the right of a podium that was positioned directly in front of my table. He was attempting to politely excuse himself from Carolyn Otto's conversation. However, everyone who knew the ADA understood how difficult it would be for him to step up to the podium and give his scheduled speech as long as she had something to say to him. Her personality was strong and demanding, especially when it came to something that she wanted.

The girl was a pit bull in Prada -- and if she didn't like you, watch out.

I knew how Carolyn felt toward me; she was none too pleased that I was in my current position. The University of Michigan Law School grad was with the prosecutor's office for several years. The woman was extremely ambitious. I'm not one for rumor, but it was said that she would do anything to achieve her political aspirations, and I do mean anything.

I was told that in college she manipulated her way into the beds of her dean and two professors to assure that she would attain success in law school. After entering the prosecutor's office, she attempted to use her feminine wiles on DA Joseph Monahan in an effort to control her assignments.

In her quest for a judgeship, she only wanted to be assigned cases she thought would enhance her resume. But, once it became evident that she wouldn't be able to manipulate Monahan, she turned her spider web toward the mayor.

Carolyn had her eyes set on becoming judge. In fact, she lost to me in the race for the very seat for which the evening's celebration was meant. And of course, like so many others, she felt that I lacked the experience necessary to do the job. Ms. Otto felt that I hadn't paid my dues.

The way she peered at me -- man, it was a jealous fury that could have cut clean through the earth's surface, and destroyed the planet's core. Some would ask why I had even bothered to extend an invitation to her. My response was, why not?

The mayor finally stepped to the podium -- he didn't say a word until the prosecutor made her way to her table. When Carolyn sat, Aaron Dennis tapped lightly on the microphone in an effort to draw everyone's attention.

"Excuse me, everyone," he said while gazing across the impressive assemblage. The mayor cleared his throat before he continued. "I'd like to thank you all for coming. This is a very historically rich evening. Tonight, we will be paying homage to a young man who has come a very long way. At one time, new security measures around this very building were implemented due to his propensity to incite violence." He glared at me and smiled. "Our guest of honor has redirected his energy toward ensuring that the youth of our community have more opinions than what were available to him. We're really not here to honor him for those outstanding works, but I would be remiss if I didn't take this opportunity to say to him...thank you."

There was a round of applause; it was kind of a bizarre moment for me. People praising me would have been a stretch several years prior. If anything, they would have all gotten together and pitched in to have me whacked.

"I want you all to understand what this night is about." The mayor pointed toward my beautiful family and me. "This young man has just been sworn in as the youngest judge who has ever donned a robe in the state of Michigan. As an African American, I must say that Judge Greg Mathis makes me proud."

Aaron Dennis spent the next several minutes going over my life. Every word that came out of his mouth seemed to trigger a smile from my gorgeous wife. I glanced over at her several times; she looked unbelievable. Linda's form-fitting, red evening gown, her light-red lipstick and perfectly styled hairdo contributed to my baby being the finest woman in the building.

The mayor concluded his verbal communication with the introduction of someone who attended law school with me. The next speaker, Mr. Gram Olson, was a so-so student in law school. He never really had the drive and hunger necessary to become a successful attorney -- pursuing a career in jurisprudence was his parents' dream. Gram ended up leaving school after meeting the love of his life -- Ms. Barbara Poindexter, daughter, and only heir of billionaire philanthropist Edward Poindexter.

My old classmate certainly married well.

Barbara and Gram Olson shared a table with the mayor and his wife. When it came to wealth in the city, the couple were at the top of the aristocratic food chain. Barbara was in a class of her own when it came to charitable causes. The heiress was determined to continue her family's benevolence, which extended several decades. With the death of her father several months prior, Barbara became the last of the Poindexter bloodline and the wealthiest individual in the state.

Gram stepped to the podium. I could see the majority of the women suddenly look interested in the verbal tribute. My old classmate's baby blues, his debonair appearance, and soft-spoken mannerism didn't exactly give an accurate portrayal of who this man really was.

The very rich and extremely powerful man who stood behind the podium was incredibly deceptive and manipulative. But, he was slick enough to hide those traits under his suaveness.

"Hello, everyone...I'm Gram Olson!" the billionaire whispered into the microphone. The audience replied with a hello of its own. "I've known Greg Mathis for a while. Over the years, I've watched him achieve everything that he set out to accomplish." He made eye contact with me before he declared, "Greg, I'm extremely proud of you. I can't believe that you'll be sitting behind the bench of the Thirty-Sixth District tomorrow. What a great accomplishment."

We listened to the eloquent vernacular of my business-savvy friend for the ten minutes that he was allotted. He was very kind with his words and suggested that the mayor had better be on top of his game because I was the next logical choice to take up residence in the Manoogian Mansion.

Several others had an opportunity to speak before dinner was served.

During my meal, I got a sudden urge to visit the restroom, so I placed my napkin on the table, excused myself and headed out of the banquet room. As I made my way down the hall, I noticed Gram standing in an isolated area of the active arena. He seemed to be in a conversation with someone that was out of view. It wasn't until I stepped from the restroom when I noticed Carolyn standing in the corner with Gram. I was rather shocked to see the sneaky prosecutor sensually stroke her hand over his chest.

© 2008 by Judge Greg Mathis

The Body

Playful at times, yet very protective of the family, he had been acting strange all day -- digging with a sense of urgency, running in circles and barking for several seconds at a time as if he were rabid. He'd jump up and down like a bull attempting to buck a cowboy before stopping suddenly and staring intently at the fence as he panted incisively, his tongue hanging, dry -- in desperate need of moisture.

The sun was a gas-pilot light producing a searing heat, but he wouldn't take a second to go to the porch and take shelter under the wooden steps, his usual place for shade on hot days -- or even quench his parched throat, his water dish no more than ten yards away, resting on the last step. Without warning, he would break into an all-out sprint and attempt to jump the five-foot-high homemade corral.

He repeated each act several times.

The dog was beautiful, dark-brown, well groomed, a full-bred canine with a snow-white chest. He had been a part of the family for three years, and in that time, no one had ever seen him so agitated.

Wrecks's constant barking, whining and feverous clawing at the back door was not his customary call for yard time. Because of the ruckus, the boys were told by their father to let the usually sedate, housebroken animal out.

The boys spent most of the morning watching cartoons, but periodically, during commercial breaks, they would check on the family pet. On one such break, the thirteen-year-old twins were drinking a glass of water while looking out of the kitchen window when they saw their German Shepherd slip under the fence through a hole he'd spent all day digging.

The teens darted through a back screen door in need of repair, one that barely hung by a hinge and swung back and forth like saloon flaps. Their father worked two jobs and hadn't had time to fix the door, but he had every intention of repairing the only property blemish he hadn't addressed.

Terry and Perry Johnson headed straight to the wood-and-chicken wire fence that enclosed the backyard of their home, which was located on the poverty-stricken Eastside. They hopped over the enclosure in time to see their sixty-pound pet sniffing around a pile of broken bottles, cans, and an assortment of other discarded trash at the far end of the alley. The filth-laden alleyway hadn't seen a garbage pickup in sometime. The city was on a tight budget and garbage pickup on that side of town was not seen as a priority.

Perry called for the dog, and Terry did his trademark whistle, but Wrecks was determined to get at something. The boys briefly stared inquisitively at each other before deciding to investigate.

It was built in 1954, the first in the neighborhood. Ms. Ethel Frazier had had the wooden barn-type garage constructed behind her modest, gray wooden home so that she could protect her new car from the harsh Michigan weather. At the time of its construction, it was perfectly safe to pull into the alley, open the double doors of the garage, and back the car in.

Over the years, others in the area followed suit, but during the riots, most of the homes and garages were destroyed. Ms. Frazier's property was virtually untouched.

Upon her death, the property was neglected and began to decay. Weeds grew as high as the uncut grass that surrounded the paint-peeled eyesore. There was very little evidence that a wooden picket fence once separated the property from the alley.

The closer they got, the stronger the stench. And the flies -- it seemed that every fly in the city had congregated in that area of the alley.

They were used to the odor of garbage and rodents, but this was much harsher than discarded food or diapers, more severe than the combination of dead rodents and dog feces.

As Perry and Terry approached the back of the decomposing wood that once sheltered Ms. Frazier's Dodge, they realized that whatever it was that Wrecks wanted was covered by cardboard boxes, milk crates and a few garbage bags.

Perry, the more outgoing of the identical twins, cautiously made his way to the pile of trash leading from the oblique structure. Terry grabbed Wrecks by his collar and pulled the excited Shepherd back, but the dog continued to wildly express his feelings about the pile of rubbish.

The curious teen threw aside two crates and several trash bags. He then reached for the long cardboard strip that lay atop whatever it was that his dog was trying to reach. Perry hesitated; he peered at his brother, who continued to struggle with the dog. Terry nodded, prompting his twin brother to redirect his attention back to the discarded trash.

Perry let out the breath that he'd been holding, then inhaled once again, as if he were bracing himself. When he pulled the cardboard back, his eyes opened as wide as an owl's, and he nearly jumped out of his skin. Paralyzed, his mouth suspended open, the teen turned just in time to see Terry screaming while running in a terrified outbreak with flailing limbs.

The confused dog barked and howled while jumping up and down, as if he were trying to tell both boys, I told you so.

The story, as written by Darwin Washington of the Michigan Chronicle, was the first thing that caught my eye as I sat at the kitchen table with the paper and a cup of coffee. The hideous murder of a young woman and the discovery of her body by two young boys overshadowed the nervous excitement I felt.

This was to be an historic day, a day that defined my journey -- but it would mean nothing if I couldn't make a difference. My city was living up to its billing as the "murder capital." I was disgusted with the direction in which the city was headed. For the second consecutive year, we had been given a tag reflecting the ultimate crime, the sin of all sins.

People were moving from a city that was portrayed as a place that was not safe to raise a family. It was reported that one could not walk the streets without having to look over their shoulders. Although it was the truth, I didn't want to accept it. But that truth was in the paper every day.

I folded the day-old newspaper before my eyes veered toward the wall clock. It was time for me to get ready for my first day. I was still a little tired from the celebration the previous night, but I had to do what I had to do. Still in my robe, I rose to my feet, finished my coffee and headed for the shower.I stood at the corner of Macomb and Beaubien, marveling at a building that is as well known in Detroit by its address as the White House is in Washington, D.C. I couldn't help but be reminded that the architectural makeup of the "Motor City" could be attributed to the same man who constructed the nine-story edifice towering before me.

There is literally no place where you can go in my hometown without seeing Albert Kahn's contributions. In 1923, Kahn, the son of German immigrants, completed construction of this particular building at 1300 Beaubien.

I was a hardheaded, rambunctious youngster who grew up in the jungles of a declining metropolis. However, hearing that address briefly made me think twice about the direction in which my life was headed.

In my youth, Detroit Police Headquarters was no joke, not even for someone who was said to have been as hard and incorrigible as myself. The traffic entering and exiting this building was, and continues to be, as consistent as New York's Penn Station.

It was said that you could enter the station looking like Elvis, but exit with the face of the Elephant Man. Back in the day, police brutality allegations weren't brought to light by the media, as it would be today, so everything that you heard was word of mouth -- an "urban legend," you might say.

The horror stories surrounding the complex were enough to dissuade most of the youth of my time from a life of crime, but it served as a badge of honor for the young hoodlums of Herman Gardens, the housing development where I grew up. In my 'hood, your street credibility was enhanced if you survived being taken to 1300 Beaubien.

"Scoey...is that you? Hey, man. Yo...Scoey...help a brother out. You a judge now, man...get me out of this."

With the activity taking place in front of police headquarters, and the spots in my eyes created by God's lamp, I couldn't identify who was trying to reach out to me from my hoodlum days. No one had called me by my nickname in years, so I immediately used my hand to fend off the blazing noon sun in an effort to identify the person who screamed out a moniker that very few knew.

It wasn't until I saw the doors to headquarters open that I noticed. He stood six feet five inches tall. His dark-chocolate skin tone and shiny bald head, along with his muscular physique, reminded me of actor Tommy "Tiny" Lister.

I couldn't remember the brother's name, but he was so big that two sets of cuffs were used to secure his hands behind his back. The arrogant high school dropout, sporting a white Tommy Hilfiger track suit, was being dragged into the station by two of Detroit's finest.

For years the brother had worked as an enforcer for one of the most notorious drug suppliers in the city. Funny thing is, that drug dealer was once a very close personal friend of mind.

Andre's yes man was one of the guys who followed Dre's way of life instead of searching for his own. Andre was somewhere in the federal system doing fifteen to thirty, and his subordinate looked to be on his way to a reunion.

Andre and I first met in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that I was forced to attend by my God-fearing mother. God rest her soul. At one time we were really close; our criminal destinies mirrored each other -- until mine took a turn into Judge Kaufman's courtroom.

The day that the judge told me to get my GED, or go to jail, was the day that my friendship with a man who would eventually come to be known as Detroit's most notorious narcotics dealer began to drift.

Any chance of me remembering the guy's name that shouted out my childhood label was circumvented by a uniformed officer's inquiry as he shoved his open notepad in my face. "Hey...aren't you Judge Mathis?"

A slow nod of acknowledgment was all he needed.

"Can I have your autograph?"

It was hard for me to imagine that several years prior I was signing a personal property form given to detainees after they'd been released. Now, I found myself signing autographs for the very people for which I had disdain as a youth.

"I wanted to congratulate you on having won a seat on the Thirty-Sixth District. No one thought that someone with your record would stand a chance. Especially since your incumbent held that seat for over twenty years," the officer conveyed.

I slyly snuck a peek at the law enforcement officer's nametag before I responded. "Thank you so much, Officer Roby..."

I scribbled my name on his pad, then handed the officer my autograph.

Roby stuffed the notepad in the back pocket of his blue uniform before he continued, "Judge Mathis...your campaign was a bit unorthodox...but it was the reason that I voted for you. I'm thinking about running for Wayne County Sheriff. Since you ran your campaign on very little money, I could use your advice."

"It's really about your constituency. You can always find a way to reach them without spending a lot of money. Use the grass-roots approach. Get out there and knock on doors, meet with your constituency. Listen to their concerns and tell them how you would go about addressing them."

The heat was beginning to take its toll on me. I loosened the black-andgray tie that I had chosen to accent the pin stripes in my black, double-breasted suit.

"We started our drive for that seat several months before anyone else because I had a lot to overcome. I was confident in my chances of pulling off an upset; despite my criminal background."

I extended my hand to the inquisitive policeman. "I'm sorry...but I'm late for an appointment with Commander Daly."

Roby shook my hand. "Thank you for taking the time to chat with me...and once again, congratulations, Judge Mathis."

Being addressed as "judge" was still new to me. A prideful smile instantly materialized. "I thank you for your support."

Commander Ronald Daly, with his bifocals resting on the end of his nose like a perturbed schoolteacher, sat at his desk sipping on a cup of java. This gray-headed, twenty-five-year law enforcement officer of Irish ancestry had played a big part in my conversion from criminal to judge. It was his arrest of me that culminated in my standing before Judge Kaufman. So you can imagine how I felt when informed that he was unable to attend my celebratory function the previous evening.

"Judge...why are you pacing? You're gonna wear a hole in my carpet. What could you possibly be worried about? The campaign is over and you've just been elected the youngest judge in the state."

When the police commander realized that his statement fell on deaf ears, he whispered, "Judge, what's wrong?"

Daly's concern was evident. The short, heavyset head of Special Crimes rose to his feet, removed his glasses, and headed toward me as I continued trying to get a grip on my situation.

Being a judge can make one feel that the weight of the world is on his or her shoulders. Taking on the responsibilities of deciding one's fate after they've committed a criminal act is no small task, even if the statute is clearly defined. As a judge, you sometimes use your digression on whether the offender stands a chance at rehabilitation without incarceration; and I thank God that I was given that chance. So, I totally understood what I was getting into, and appreciated the responsibilities. But what I wasn't cognizant of was how family and so-called friends would try and take advantage of my new position.

Daly placed his stubby hands on my tension-filled shoulders. "Talk to me, son. Are you upset with me because I couldn't make it last night?"

When I directed my attention toward him, I had every intention of opening up, but for some reason I chose subterfuge.

"Yes...I was a little blown away that you couldn't attend. But I got over it when I realized how much time you put into my campaign." I paused for several seconds while gazing into his compassionate green eyes, and then I rambled. "Ron...you promised that you would accept my lunch invitation. You and Jesse Jackson had a lot to do with me getting elected. Jesse is not around. I can't extend an invitation to him, so it's you and me."

"Judge, the pacing; the intense look, the wondering eyes...I know all of that was not about me going to lunch with you."

I knew that my hunched shoulders and awkward expression wouldn't convince the professional investigator that I was oblivious to what he was alluding to. I also knew that he wouldn't press me about what was really on my mind; he would allow me to open up when I was ready.

I mumbled, "Grab your jacket and let's go get a bite to eat."

My friend didn't budge until I dropped eye contact. Commander Daly walked over, then grabbed the green blazer to his J.C. Penney single-breasted suit, which was draped over the back of his seat.

Daly wasn't a frill-and-thrills kind of guy. He would have been happy picking up a hot dog from a vendor. Because of his low-key attitude, I wouldn't dare tell him that I had made lunch reservations at the Pontchartrain Hotel, because I knew he would have objected. The Pontchartrain has one of the finest restaurants in the business district of the city -- it's definitely not a place that Daly would frequent.

The restaurant was packed when we arrived. As the maitre d' escorted us to our table, Daly noticed Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns having lunch with several patrons.

Now, in the decade or so that I'd known Daly, I'd only seen him excited on two occasions: when I won the election, and the night that he and I watched as Hearns defeated Virgil Hill for the WBA light heavyweight championship title. The commander was a big Hearns fan, so you can imagine his reaction upon spotting the "Hit Man" pouring A1 sauce on a porterhouse steak. He was like a child seeing Santa Claus for the first time.

"Judge...look over there." Daly eagerly pointed toward the far end of the establishment. "It's the 'Hit Man.' Let's go over and say hi."

I put my hand on his shoulder before whispering, "Ron, let the man eat. Besides, I need your advice about something."

It must have been the look in my eyes, but Daly was no longer interested in shaking the hand of the man that he considered, pound for pound, the best fighter on the planet.

We made ourselves comfortable at our table before the maitre d' placed menus before us. "I'll give you gentlemen a few minutes to look over the menus. Would you like coffee?" she asked, while filling our glasses with water.

Daly picked up his list of lunch options. "Yes...black, no sugar."

"No, thank you," I replied as she turned her attention toward me.

When she stepped away, Daly, from behind his menu, began the conversation with small talk. "You didn't have to bring me to such a fancy place." He flipped the page before he continued, "By the way...wasn't this supposed to be your first day presiding over cases?"

"Yeah, but I decided to postpone my docket. I wanted to sit in on my colleagues to see if I could pick up some pointers. I plan on doing the same thing after lunch."

Placing my menu atop the white lacy tablecloth, I interlocked my fingers and rested my elbows atop the table before getting straight to the point.

"Ron, I have a close family member who's dealing crack. I realize that as an officer of the court I have an obligation to report this, but I think that I might be able to fix it before it goes too far."

Daly spoke matter-of-factly while placing his menu next to his water glass. "Be sure that the way you handle this is above reproach. The press is already talking about your criminal past and how you should not have been allowed to hold your seat. You don't need them thinking that you're using your position to cover for family. Judge...you know damn well they'll equate this situation to you still having criminal ties, especially if they find out that you had knowledge -- and didn't report it."

He spoke the truth. The talk going on around town was that it wouldn't take long for me to become a corrupted judge. I knew in my heart what I had to do -- and I knew that I had to do it fast.

While I was soaking in the commander's words, his text pager went off. Daly's message was urgent, so we had to leave the restaurant before having a chance to order.

That wasn't a good thing for me, because I was extremely hungry. So, I grabbed breadsticks from the basket atop the table just so I could have something to snack on.

As we made our way back to 1300, Daly informed me that a drug dealer had been arrested on assault charges -- and that his victim was in stable condition. I didn't understand why a routine assault case had required us to miss lunch.

Immediately upon stopping at a traffic light, I directed my attention toward my passenger. "Ron, what's so urgent about a routine assault case?"

"A few days ago, we got a call that a citizen had run across the decapitated body of a black female. We found the head yesterday in an alley three blocks from where we discovered the body. The dealer that was picked up today wants to make a deal. He wants to provide us with the name of the person responsible for this crime...but he won't speak to anybody but you."

My response made it obvious that I was baffled. "Yeah...I read about that in the Chronicle. But why the hell would he ask to speak to me?"

"He says that he knows you -- and he won't say a word to anyone but you."

Immediately upon returning to headquarters, Daly escorted me to a room about as big and just as drab as an eight-by-ten cell. I was asked to wait in the room typically used to conduct formal, thorough investigative questioning, for a chance to speak with someone. Whomever it was felt they could lead authorities to the individual responsible for the decapitation of a female crack addict. I was puzzled. Why did this person refuse to speak to law enforcement; and even more puzzling, why did he feel that he needed to speak with me?

During my time alone, I realized that I was absorbing a third mental view of the walls around me. Recollections of being a teenaged knucklehead, who spent the majority of his youth being grilled in a room like the very one I was seated in, caused me to shake my head. It was a moment of disbelief.

From a youth offender, to a defense attorney, and now a judge -- from the one being questioned, to the one asking the questions, and now, the one mediating, my evolution was truly a blessing, and I knew that my mother was proud.

I regret that I'd spent so much time disappointing a woman who did nothing short of her best in trying to raise my three brothers and me. Giving her a hard time at every turn was something I wish I hadn't done. She worked hard; two jobs most of the time. All she ever expected from us was that we did our best, and that we believed and trusted in God.

My mother always brought a sense of comfort to my siblings and me, so you can imagine that my biggest regret came when she informed me that she had cancer, and I was unable to bring comfort to her, because I was locked up.

"Momma, I did what I promised the day you told me you had cancer. I promised you that I would change. I did...I changed...and I'll make you another promise. I'll help as many people as I can," I whispered, hoping that if she didn't hear my declaration, that God himself would pass it along to her.

Before I had a chance to go into prayer, the door opened.

Daly escorted into the room the cuffed suspect of a drug-related assault case. Entering the interrogation room was the man responsible for interrupting our lunch. He was also the same man who had shouted out my nickname, as he was being forced into headquarters upon my arrival.

Daly led him over to a small desk that was positioned between me and another chair. At that moment, his name finally hit me. "Eugene Scott," I mumbled under my breath.

"What up, Scoey? How's it going, baby?" the mammoth drug dealer inquired as he lifted his cuffed wrists toward the head of Special Crimes, hoping the officer would remove his restraints. His beady, dark-brown, bloodshot eyes caused the police officer to hesitate.

Daly glanced at me. A quick head gesture alerted my friend that I felt safe, so he removed the handcuffs. Eugene immediately began to rub both of his wrists in an effort to get the blood flowing. The pusher of illegal narcotics, then extended a hand to me. "You done good, man. I mean...with yo life and everything."

I got to my feet; we shook hands. "Eugene, besides the obvious, what's going on with you? The last time I saw you was during Jesse Jackson's campaign."

We both took a seat before Eugene continued, "I know. Me and Dre were in the club when you came in passing out flyers."

"Yeah, you boys thought it was a joke back then." I crossed my legs and waited for him to open up. I never really liked him. I knew that he was aware of that fact, so I was even more curious to know why he wanted to speak with me.

Eugene sat back before crossing his legs.

"I guess the joke was on us." He glanced over at Daly, then back at me, an obvious signal for me to clear the room.

I directed my attention toward the officer. "Ron, would you give us a couple of minutes, please?"

"I don't know about that," Daly said with concern.

I made eye contact with my friend. "It's okay, Ron."

Eugene waited for Daly to exit before he would uncross his legs. The new kingpin sat forward and rested his arms atop the table. He glanced at the two-way mirror before he whispered, "Scoey...what can you do to get me out of this?"

I paused several seconds before asking, "What do they have on you?"

"Possession with the intent...and assault. This punk-ass bitch tried to short me, so I beat the shit out of him." He once again allowed his eyes to veer toward the mirror before he continued, "My attorney tried to make a deal with that prick from the DA's office, but he said that he had me on some three-strike shit."

"So you're trying to use the information you have about that woman to make a deal with the DA's office?"

The dope dealer stood and nonchalantly made his way to the mirror. He stared at it as if he were trying to look through to the other side. The conceited taskmaster began to toy with his thinly trimmed mustache before whispering, "Yeah...but Sanders's white ass said that he wouldn't give me a deal. He said that he didn't care about no crackhead losing her head -- no pun intended. He also said that I was more of a coup for him. That man don't give a shit about what goes on in the 'hood...I need you to pull some strings."

I was incensed. "What...look here. I'm not about to try and pull any strings for you or anybody else. You sell drugs to women and children in the 'hood. You claim you have information that could help the police get a sick bastard off the streets, but you won't say anything unless it benefits you. It's all about you...So don't go telling me that some ADA doesn't care about what goes on in the community...when you're the one killin' the 'hood." I got to my feet before I continued, "If pulling strings for you is why you asked to speak to me, then you wasted a phone call."

As I headed for the door, I had one more thing that needed to be said. "Eugene...for once, do something for someone else besides Dre or yourself. The person who decapitated that woman is sick. Help the police to get his ass off the streets."

"Fuck you, Scoey..." Eugene countered in anger, while peering at my reflection in the mirror.

That arrogant bastard continued grooming himself as I left, as if he were preparing for a night out on the town.

Upon returning to Daly's office, I explained to the police commander that there was nothing I could do to convince Eugene Scott to cooperate with law enforcement.

The veteran cop handed me the file on Sheila Morgan. Immediately upon opening the folder, I had to take a seat. Nothing in my criminal past had prepared me for what my eyes were viewing. I could barely stomach the crime scene photographs.

"Oh my God, Ron...Reading about someone being decapitated, then actually looking at photographs depicting it...I gotta say, I have a new respect for you guys," I declared while thumbing through the collection of high-quality, graphic pictures.

Daly made himself comfortable on the edge of his desk. He pointed at the snapshot I was holding. "What sticks out to you in this photo?"

I examined the picture for several seconds, and believe you me, if I had eaten, my lunch would have been all over Ron Daly's office.

I briefly glanced up at my friend before redirecting my attention toward the poor woman whose headless torso lay sprawled out, half naked, in an alley. "What is it that you want me to see?"

"Blood...where is the blood?" Daly countered as he placed his finger on the depiction of the woman's body. "With the carotid being severed, there should be blood all around here."

My eyes widened. "So, she was murdered someplace else, and her body dumped here."

"We haven't been able to locate where the murder was actually committed. We came up with absolutely nothing within the first forty-eight hours, which decreases our chances of ever solving this case without someone coming forward. Right now, Eugene Scott is our only lead. If we can't get him to talk, I'm afraid that this case is going to go cold," Daly said as he got up and walked over to his picture window.

My friend didn't have the answers, and that was killing him. With his back to me, while staring out the window at a city he loved, Daly continued, "I can't get ADA Sanders to budge."

After getting to my feet, I responded, "I don't know him. As an attorney I handled juvenile cases." I closed the folder and placed it atop Daly's desk. "Let me see what I can do."

© 2008 by Judge Greg Mathis

----------------------