feel free to point out problems!
Frank Reilly waited just inside the courthouse entrance, impatiently pacing and glancing at his watch.
“You must be working on a really big case there, Counselor Reilly,” An overweight security guard said as he waved a fellow guard through the checkpoint, “You look a little frustrated.”
“Hey Ed, how are you today? Bigcase? No. Important? Yes,” Frank looked at his watch again.
“I gather whoever you’re waiting for is late?”
“Very late. We have to meet with Judge Harris in five minutes,” Frank ran his fingers over his hair.
“Whoa, Harris is a stickler for being on time,” the guard leaned back in his seat.
“I know,” Frank looked at his watch again, “Ah, here they come.”
“I know your pressed counselor they don’t need to bother with the metal detector.”
“Thanks Ed,” Frank patted him on the back, “Every second counts.”
A woman, early forties, very nicely dressed in a gray business suit and black pumps, followed by a teenage girl in jeans and a t-shirt complete with an inappropriate phrase embroidered across the front, hurries through the glass door. Frank swiftly leads them to the elevator doors and pushes ‘up’.
“You’re late,” he whispered to the woman.
“Talk to Penny,” she whispered back while giving the girl a cynical look.
“Penny,” Frank said looking up at the numbers flashing on the LED display above the sliding doors, “You could have worn something more appropriate. This is important.”
“Stuff it Frank, you’re not my dad,” Penny protested and crossed her arms.
“Persephone!” The woman snapped through her fading European accent, “Don’t speak to Frank like that young lady.”
“Just never mind Hanna. This is not the place,” Frank said calmly. He turned to Penny as the elevator doors opened, “Penny, please control you attitude. Judge Harris will slap you in juvenile detention faster than you can blink.” All three stepped inside and the doors closed. Frank pushed the number four button.
When the elevator reached the expected floor Frank let Hanna exit first then Penny. “This way,” he said as he headed down the long hallway. The two ladies followed in silence until they reached the door donning the name plate ‘Judge Gerald Harris’. “Here we are,” Frank paused and exhaled deeply.
“Oh, Yea,” Penny mumbled sarcastically.
“Look at me young lady,” Frank insisted, firmly grasping her upper arm. Penny gave him a fleeting glance then turned her eyes back down to the ground. “Unless you want to spend your eighteenth birthday behind bars you had better lose the chip on your shoulder. I’m only trying to help you here,” he released her arm and knocked on the door.
“Come in,” a deep voice sounded from the other side. Frank turned the handle and motioned for the girls to enter. Judge Harris was not what Penny had expected. He looked to be only in his early forties and kind of okay looking for an older guy, she thought. A far cry from the gray haired, half bald, wrinkled old man she pictured in her mind.
The judge rose to his feet as they came into the office and held out his hand. “So Counselor, how are you this afternoon?” He shook Frank’s hand.
“Just fine Your Honor,” Frank set his briefcase down in the chair behind him, “Judge Harris, you remember Mrs. Vascos?
The judge shook Hanna’s hand, “Hanna, how have you been doing? I haven’t seen you since the funeral.”
“I’ve been well, thank you,” Hanna responded as she sat down, “This is my daughter, Persephone.”
The judge nodded politely to Penny. “Please, have a seat,” he pointed towards the large file cabinet against the far wall, “There is another chair over in the corner.” As Penny pulled the chair up next to her mother there was another knock at the door.
“Enter,” Judge Harris called out. The door opened and in came the court reporter, a middle-aged woman in a dark skirt and white blouse carrying her stenography machine, behind her was one of the officers who had arrested Penny. “Come on in people, grab a seat,” the judge half mumbled as he sifted through the file that sat on his desk.
Penny suddenly began to feel the reality of it all. Her stomach began to churn. She fought back the tears that had begun to fill her eyes. “Oh my God,” she whispered under her breath hoping no one heard her.
““All right then, shall we get started? This is case number 5643908-J The state of New York vs. Persephone Diana Vascos. So, Miss Vascos it seems that you have gotten yourself caught in quite a hornet’s nest,” the judge began. Penny lowered her eyes to the floor. “Possession of marijuana, possession of alcohol by a minor, trespassing and loitering; you do know that you can be tried as an adult and go to jail for a long time, don’t you?”
Penny tried to fight back tears as she replied, “Yes, sir.”
“Let me explain something to you Miss Vascos,” He glanced at the reporter in the corner. “This is off the record, please,” he requested and she stopped typing, “You’re here in my chambers and not standing out in the courtroom in front of the bench because Mr. Reilly here asked for a favor. By rights, I don’t have to help you. If you think this is how things work all the time you’re greatly mistaken,” the judge leaned forward in his big leather chair, “Nikoli Vascos was an excellent attorney and a very good friend of mine. That is the only reason I allowed Mr. Reilly to arrange this hearing. If it were anyone else young lady you would be sitting in county lock-up right now still waiting to find out how long you would be going away for. I allowed this to keep your father’s name and memory from being tarnished. Do you understand?”
With the mention of her father’s name the tears silently began to pour. She wiped her eyes and shook her head, yes. The judge nodded to the reporter and she again began typing.
“I presume you are Officer Mitchell,” Judge Harris looked towards the policeman standing behind Penny.
“Correct, your Honor. Officer Brett Mitchell, NYPD,” he said slowly so the reporter could hear it clearly.
“Would you tell me what took place on the evening of April 14 leading to the action that involved taking Miss Vascos into custody?”
“About 10:15 p.m. my partner and I received a call that there were some teens hanging around the back of a convenience store making a lot of noise. Upon arrival at the scene we exited our vehicle and walked around the building in the direction of the noise. When we shined our flashlights on them, and what appeared to be approximately eight teens took off running, all except Miss Vascos,” he pointed towards Penny. “She was standing in front of the dumpster holding what appeared to be several lit marijuana cigarettes and a box full of unopened beer cans. A bag of suspicious substance similar to the cigarettes was lying on the ground next to her feet. She was crying and calling out for the others not to, quote, “Dump this stuff on me.” I handcuffed her, read her her rights, collected the evidence and put her in the squad car. My partner, in the meantime, had pursued the other suspects and was able to apprehend one eighteen year old male, who, along with Miss Vascos was brought into custody.”
“Thank you Officer Mitchell,” the judge excused the policeman, “You can return to duty.”
Once the officer had gone Frank opened his brief case and took out a file folder. He handed it to the judge, who thumbed through it as Frank started to speak. “Your honor, these are the results of the drug test done on Miss Vascos and as you can see there were no indications that she had used any of the substances in question. The toxicology levels show a zero alcohol level and that there were only trace levels of the drug. These levels coincide with those of someone who had come in close proximity of others who were using.”
“Yes, that is what it says here,” he looked up at Penny, “Miss Vascos what were you doing in that alley?”
“I was just hanging out with my friends,” Penny explained nervously.
“And what fine up holding, law abiding friends they turned out to be.” Judge Harris rolled his eyes as he put the toxicology file aside.
There was a soft knock at the door in the back of the office. “Enter,” Judge Harris barked again. The door opened and another officer came in followed by a male teenager bound in handcuffs and shackles on his legs. “Let it be known that that prisoner Richard Phillips has entered the room. Do you know this boy Miss Vascos?”
“Yes,” Penny squirmed in her seat.
“Is he one of those friends that you hung out with that night?”
“Yes,” She looked down again.
The judge looked at Richard, “How do you know Miss Vascos?”
Richard shuffled his feet a little then looked at the judge, “We go to school together. She’s my girlfriend.”
“You call yourself her boyfriend, yet you left her standing in that alley alone to take the rap for you and your other friends. Is that how you show a girl you care about her these days?”
“No sir,” Richard began, “That’s not exactly what happened, Your Honor. I thought she ran too.”
“Then what exactly did happen, son?” The judge looked him right in the eye.
“A few of us guys handed her the joints so we could climb up into the dumpster, sometimes they throw out expired beer and we wanted to see if there was any in there. We were just climbing out when the cops came around the corner,” Richard looked over to Penny, “I thought you ran too, Penny, I’m sorry. Your Honor, I swear on what ever sentence I get Penny was just hanging with us she wasn’t smoking or drinking. She never does.”
“All right Mr. Phillips, that’s I need from you. You can go on back to where you came from,” Judge Harris dismissed the boy. The guard took him by the arm and led him out.
Frank walked over to Penny and stood behind her. He put his hands on her shoulders. “Your Honor, three years ago Penny’s father was killed, as you know. Since then she has been having a hard time dealing with the loss. She’s been to counseling but things just seemed to get worse. This time she had nothing to do with the drugs, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people. However, in spite of all her increasing defiance this past year she has kept her grades up in school and is expected to graduate in three weeks.”
“Well, that’s a plus in your favor,” The judge commented.
“We ask, Your Honor to have the charges against her expunged upon her turning 18, under the condition that she remain under house arrest, leaving only to attend classes, for the remainder of the school term. I will arrange for her to be escorted to and from school by either myself or one of my associates.
After graduation her mother has arranged for her to spend the summer with her maternal grandparents in Austria until her eighteenth on July 9th.”
“Austria?” the judge inquired.
“This may sound like a fun summer to you or I but the village in which they live is quite small, with a population of roughly 2500 people, and is located halfway up the side of a mountain.” Frank explained.
“Really?” Harris smiled.
Penny about jumped through the roof. If Frank hadn’t been instinctively holding her down by the shoulders she’d have been long gone down the hallway right now. “No city streets,” Frank continued, “No mini-marts with beer in the dumpsters, no malls, just fresh air and exercise. She will be visiting with her grandparents, who she hasn’t seen since her father’s funeral, as well as researching colleges and reflecting on her actions of the past three years.”
“Well,” Judge Harris clasped his hands in front of him and placed them on the desk, “Counselor that seems like an unusual but very creative plan. I have no objections. The defendant shall remain in the custody of her mother until she has graduated school and is put into the hands of her grandparents in Austria. However,” he glared directly at Penny, “that does not mean young lady, that I will not know what is going on. I will be given a contact number for the grandparents and will, personally, be in touch with them on a weekly basis. You shall be on probation until July 9 at which time all charges will be removed from your record provided you abide by the conditions,” Harris smiled at Penny, “If things weren’t so busy here I’d be inclined to personally escort you there, it sounds like heaven to me. If there is anymore trouble from you, young lady, the charges will be reinstated and you will face the same music as your friend.”
“Thank you, Judge Harris,” Hanna said as she and Frank gratefully exchanged hand shakes with the judge. “Come on Penny,” Hanna whispered as they turned to leave.
Penny was just waiting for the door to open, permitting her escape. As soon as Frank’s hand released the knob behind him she began her protest.
“What was that? I’m not going anywhere! You can’t make me!” she sounded off and stomped down the hall.
“You don’t have a choice,” Frank said calmly as he and Hanna caught up to her at the elevator. Frank pushed the ‘down’ button.
“I’ll split, I swear I will. You’ll never find me.”
“Every cop in the city knows who you are. You try to take off and you’ll be doing three to five for possession.”
“Mom! Why can’t I just stay here! I don’t want to go all the friggin’ way to Austria!”
“You should have thought about the consequences before you picked your friends,” her mother said mashing the button as they entered the elevator.
“This has nothing to do with my friends. This was all his idea!” she jabbed Frank in the arm with her fist, “He just wants to get rid of me so he can have you all to himself.”
“Persephone Diana Vascos!” Hanna retorted, “You apologize to Frank!”
“No!” Penny roared.
“Penny, apologize now!” Her mother shouted as the elevator bell sounded.
“F-you Frank!” she grabbed the elevator doors and forced them apart before they could open on their own, stormed out into the hall, through the outside doors and into the street. Hanna started to chase after her but Frank advised her to leave her alone and let her burn off steam.
Frank put his arm around Hanna’s waist as they descended the steps of the courthouse. “I wish I knew why she is so angry all time. Why she hates me?” Hanna said softly.
“She doesn’t hate you. She’s scared and confused. She misses Nick and my being in the picture doesn’t help either.” Frank explained softly, kissing her forehead before hailing a cab. “She’ll be okay. We just need to get her away from this place for awhile. She needs to realize that it’s time to grow up.”