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Darker Than Dark-Fiction by Mark Joseph Kevlock
What a Mess-Fiction by Miles Ryan Fisher
Flippimg the Frozen Finger Farewell-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
A Gift of Death-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Maggot-Fiction by Max Watt
Redemption for a Lowlife-Fiction by Angelo Gentile
A Night Out at Wrath's-Fiction by Jason Butkowski
The Pact-Fiction by Edward Francisco
Joey Brick-Fiction by Henry Simpson
Violators-Fiction by Doug Hawley
Trauma-Fiction by Robert Petyo
Fire-Fiction by Tom Barlow
The Bank Robbin' Deacon-Flash Fiction by Walter Giersbach
The Matrix of Love-Flash Fiction by J. Brooke
Huddled and Crying-Flash Fiction by Paul Beckman
The Mere Four-Flash Fiction by Henry G. Stanton
The Big Hunt-Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Family Tree-Poem by Neil Ellman
A Line from Lynynrd Skynyrd-Poem by Mark Young
The End of the End-Poem by Daniel G. Snethen
Bones-Poem by Christopher Hivner
The Berserker Train-Poem by Christopher Hivner
Contemplating an Unknown-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Lifeless Space Rock-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Our Armored Oxygen Suits-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Like Broken Glass-Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Walk at Night-Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Terrible Animal-Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
I Am Borges-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
I Am Hesse-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
I Am Camus-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
The House of Four Senses-Poem by John Grey
At the Complaint Department-Poem by John Grey
My Mighty Pen-Poem by John Grey
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

courthousezoom.jpg
Art by Christopher Goss © 2019

Joey Brick

by Henry Simpson

 

Costa followed a cobblestone path through the thick green lawn to the courthouse. A peaked arch framed a side entrance on which were chiseled the words, “Reason Is The Life Of The Law.” Seven wide steps rose from the path to an entrance well and, beyond it, four more to a wrought iron and glass door. Through the door, Costa found himself in a white hallway with high beamed ceilings punctuated by white arches and suspended chandeliers over a sparkling red tile floor. Murals and courtroom doors alternated along walls.

He sat on a wooden bench against a wall. With courtroom action behind closed doors, the hallway was quiet except for distant faint echoes of voices and footsteps.

After a minute or so, a young man in an ill-fitting suit opened a courtroom door, entered the hallway, and disappeared through an exit; a paralegal on an urgent errand for a lawyer inside the courtroom?

Minutes later, a police officer carrying a briefcase opened a door and entered a courtroom; a prosecution witness carrying evidence?

Irregular footsteps drew Costa’s attention to a one-legged woman on crutches, moving through the hallway beside a man; wife and husband suing for loss of a limb?

More movement, doors opening and closing, distant voices and footsteps.

Time passed.

He closed his eyes and revisited his last case, in a sterile, noisy, and malodorous L.A. courthouse larger and less grand than this one. It involved contract killer Wade Voss and his nitwit accomplice Larry Lenz. With Lenz as lookout, Voss murdered a Federal judge in his office. Lenz was later stopped at a DUI checkpoint and arrested when the murder weapon was found during a search of his car. He incriminated Voss during interrogation. When Voss was arrested, Lenz recanted his statement. Jail guards later found Lenz in his cell, hanging from a noose.

Absent prosecution witness Lenz, Costa could easily have won Voss’ acquittal, but he withdrew from the case and had it reassigned to a colleague. To Costa, it marked the end of his association with the Carbones and career with Kern, Brough, and Klein. After court on the day of his resignation, he followed Voss through a crowd of reporters to a limousine waiting at curbside. Voss slid into the backseat, looked up at him, and drew an index finger across his throat. At that moment, Costa decided to leave L.A.

Since then, he had spoken occasionally to John and Carlo. Only once was Voss’ death threat mentioned. “He was real steamed up,” Carlo said.

“I got that impression,” Costa said.

“Keep that brick on the nightstand.” Carlo made a deep rumbling laugh, followed by a struggle to regain breath. The Capo had nicknamed Costa “Joey Brick” for breaking the skull of a thug with a brick when he tried to hijack his Porsche near a Carbon Construction Company building site. Man and brick were now entombed in the foundation of a high-rise condominium building.

“If he wants me, I’m not hard to find,” Costa said.

“You’re still family, Joey. Wade knows the rules. If he touches you, he’ll go on our list.”

It was nice to hear that his death would be avenged, but Costa preferred a less fatalistic option.

Lost in thought on the bench, he became aware of a red dot light flitting like a hummingbird along a wall and then vanishing at a window. What was that?

He stood, checked his surroundings, and scanned the hallway. Darkness and shadows. He focused afar, his eyes adapting to the dimness at the end of the hallway. He sensed movement, a figure walking briskly. Possibly a man, but the hallway was too dim and the figure too distant to be sure. Then, as quickly as it had appeared, it disappeared.

Voices and footstep echoes approached from his left. He turned that way, stood still against the wall, and waited. Soon a docent led a tour group from a stairway landing into the hallway toward him while describing the architectural details, murals, and other points of interest. They were a motley crew of middle-aged and senior tourist couples in shorts, bright tops, and baseball caps, armed with digital cameras and toting souvenir bags. Laggards with kids in tow trailed the main body.

The docent, a well-dressed gray-haired woman, recited her lines like a member of an amateur theatre group: “This courthouse is a truly magnificent structure. It covers one full city block in the center of downtown. It is four stories tall, built in an L shape, with two wings, each 370 feet long. It was designed by Thomas Mooser Architects after the 1925 earthquake in a classical style that combines elements of Spanish and Moorish architecture, with turrets, stained glass windows, and huge wooden doors. The Santa Barbara Police Department occupies the north wing, and the windows on the upper two stories are covered with bars to prevent prisoners from escaping the city jail. From the outside, it is hard to imagine that prisoners dwell there; it would better suit the chambers of judges or other high municipal officials. This exquisite and noble structure at once comprises the entire legal system, from police to courtrooms to jailhouse. Moreover, it is a first-rate tourist attraction that draws visitors to its architectural splendor every day and to concerts and shows staged on the verdant bowl of its Sunken Garden during the summer.”

Costa smiled as he watched the tour group pass, its members gawking in all directions and chatting among themselves. The courthouse was a rich confection, and he found it hard to imagine any lawyer actually working in its courtrooms.

Suddenly, a door banged open, and out charged a queue seeking fresh air, a cigarette, lunch, a restroom, or simple escape. Soon they were gone, and peace reigned again.

So much for architecture.

“Joe Costa,” said a man’s voice.

Costa noticed a man leaning against the wall, looking directly at him. Early forties, medium height, well dressed in tailored tan suit and blue tie.

“Have we met?” Costa said.

“I know you,” the man said, extending his hand. “You’re Joe Costa, right?” His voice was cloying and overfamiliar, like a pushy salesman’s.

Costa nodded, ignoring the hand.

“I heard some guys in L.A. Criminal Court. They called you Joe Goldbrick, or maybe it was Joey the Brick, something like that. Those guys, I don’t think they were lawyers, maybe they were your clients, you know, wiseguys. They called you that, smoking in the hall. That’s illegal now, smoking in the courthouse hall.”

“Who the fuck are you?” Costa said.

“Apparently, you don’t recognize me, though we frequented common environs. Let me introduce myself. I’m Tom Price. I’m a lawyer, too, from L.A. I used to watch you dance in court, saw you on TV, read about you in the papers. Then you disappeared. What happened?”

“Change of career.”

Price smiled with a set of perfect white teeth. “No kidding. You were hot stuff, a major league player. So, why’d you quit?”

Costa moved closer to Price. “For reasons of health.”

Price snickered. “Okay, so . . . what’s your new game?”

“Real estate.”

“You’re selling real estate?” He shook his head. “Then, what’re you doing in a courthouse?”

“Studying local architecture.”

“You got a card, Joey?”

“Why”

“Why? You must be kidding. I thought real estate people were hustlers. I might be interested in looking at property.”

Costa handed him a business card.

“You’re still Joey the Brick,” Price said.

Costa stiffened, and then kicked a leg out from under Price, who collapsed to the floor hard, a fountain pen and laser pointer popping from his coat pocket onto the red tiles.

“Stay away from me,” Costa said.

He walked down the hallway to the stairwell, and then climbed up it step by step to the bell tower lookout. It was a lovely sunny day, and he lingered there enjoying the rooftop view of downtown Santa Barbara—terra cotta tiles, white walls, arches, palms, slow-moving traffic on narrow, quiet streets, green hills rising to the sheltering Santa Ynez mountains.





Henry Simpson is the author of several novels, two short story collections, many book reviews, and occasional pieces in literary journals. His most recent novel is Golden Girl (Newgame, 2017).




Christopher Goss, longtime Black Petals and Yellow Mama contributor, has recently made some lifestyle changes, moving from Del Rio Texas, where he made his living building and servicing radio and TV towers, to Spearville, Kansas, where he now works on giant generators on a 300-unit wind farm. He has also started dabbling in some photo art, along with his dark fiction and poetry.






In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications © 2019