Judge Forrest T. Foxtower stood, naked and alone, in front of a full- length mirror. Behind the locked doors of his chambers, he studied the body he’d sculpted. His guiding authority: an article in Muscles magazine titled “How to be an Adonis in six weeks.”
Like a jeweler assessing the quality of a diamond, he turned, first to his left side, then to his right, flexing his biceps at each turn. Then he turned to face the mirror head on.
With his hands wrapped around his waist, he spread his legs apart and admired the magnificence of his manliness. A twinkle came to his eyes. A wicked smile crept on his face. At forty-five, he once again had the body of the middle linebacker he once was at Lakeview Academy High School.
He turned to the closet and scanned the line of hangers, each placed precisely one-half inch apart. It didn’t matter that his clothes would be obscured by a robe. They’d notice. They always noticed. No one knew better than he that he was playing a part, a role that he’d begun training for during drama classes in undergrad at Loyola. Yes, he knew how to put on a show. The devil was in the details. And no one – no one – could be more devilish than he.
From the pressed Joseph Abboud white dress shirt and the red silk Armani tie down to the matching gold Cartier wristwatch and cufflinks it all mattered. Every detail had to be perfect. Anything less would be an embarrassment. And he’d suffered enough humiliation already at the hands of this defendant.
Donning his black robe, he stood before the mirror again, brushed out the creases, and adjusted the tie. With the tip of his left index finger, he combed his thick mustache, dyed the previous night to hide those pesky grey speckles.
A devil in a black robe. A smirk crossed his jaw as he sank into the leather padding of his chair and rolled to the edge of the desk. From beneath his Tiffany lamp, he withdrew a key. After staring at it for a moment, he inserted it into the bottom drawer lock of the desk. His fingers flipped through the files until they came to a rest on a file marked NEWS CLIPPINGS. After sifting through several clippings that told the story of his time on the bench, he came upon the article that had brought him ignominy – from the editorials, to the letters, to the informal slap-down from the chief judge. There was that headline. That damned, godforsaken headline. JUDGE FREES ACCUSED RAPIST ON I-Bond. His eyes twitched and his back straightened.
Before that story, he had only a distaste for the journalism profession. After it, he despised it. Especially the one member of that ruthless society who had scrawled those words: Charley Hubbs.
A single story, but it had sealed his fate. In just one week, he had gone from being the Democratic party’s darling, the presumptive nominee for the 3rd House congressional district – an almost certain ticket to the Hill, given Chicago’s party politics – to being a political pariah, resigned to a life in which he’d never escape the dark, dirty halls of the Cook County Criminal Courthouse, where he’d languished far too long. The Democratic Committee chairman had paid him a visit just the day before. “You’re done,” he said flatly. “We can’t back a candidate who frees a rapist.”
“He was an accused rapist,” Foxtower said.
“Not in the eyes of the voters,” The chairman rose from his seat and walked out of the room.
So it was with a bitter taste in his mouth that he withdrew from the desk his diary and silver Cross pen, inscribed with his initials and DePaul Law Class of 1973. He clutched the pen with a strangling force, until it snapped in his hand. For a moment, he gaped at the remnants of what had been his favorite pen. Then he let them roll out of his hand, withdrew another pen from his desk, and scrawled into the diary, Revenge is sweet.
He pushed the intercom on his phone for Gladys Bishop, his faithful court clerk.
“Gladys, is the name Charley Hubbs on this morning’s bond court call?”
“Yes, that’s quite a shocker, isn’t it, Judge?” she said in a shrill voice.
“Yes, it sure is.” A cool air seemed to blow into the chambers. “Can you make sure that he’s the first to be called? There’ll be a lot of people here for that, so I’d like to clear it first thing.”
“Of course, Judge,” she said. “That means…you’ll be taking this one?”
Her obedience came with a price. As loyal and trustworthy as she’d been, she could still manage to annoy the hell out of him with nosy questions about things that were none of her business. There was no way in hell he’d be recusing himself from this one. This was his moment. His time in the spotlight. His time for payback. Her question had nothing to do with the administration of the courtroom. She just wanted to be in on the scoop, the juicy gossip, which she would pass on to every other clerk in the building. The clerks would pass it on to the judges, who would pass it on to the attorneys. From there, it would reach the reporters, each of whom would soon be calling him, asking him questions he didn’t care to answer. This vicious cycle he’d seen played out far too often. But he knew how to handle it.
“You’ll find out in the courtroom,” he said, “just like everybody else.” He pressed the intercom OFF button. As he did this, he gazed across his desk at the bronze statue of Lady Justice, standing there so majestically in her robe, a blindfold over her eyes, holding in her left hand those balanced scales.
The sight of that statue, at that moment, raised in him a devilish feeling. Reaching across the length of his desk, he tapped one of the scales with the index finger of his right hand. His eyes followed the movement of the scales as they rocked up and down, up and down, and eventually came to a stop right where they’d started, in balance again. So naïve. So naïve.
Copyright © 2014, Randy Richardson. All rights reserved.