Chapter Nine

This entry is part 9 of 36 in the series Bend

Chapter Nine

The sun was coming up over the jungle-covered mountain. Once more, Al and Pio were back in the little room. Their ankles were tied together, their hands tied behind their backs. This morning there would be a trial; their trial!

The guard was sitting on a chair holding a big rifle. It was pointed in their direction and he was wide-awake. He and his partner had been cheated out of the reward for capturing the killer, and he was in a bad mood. If this pair attempted to escape he would shoot them dead.

Al swore under his breath. They had been caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. They would for sure be found guilty of the turning loose of the killer. They would probably be shot! He would put up an argument. He didn’t have a sore throat like the killer, and his Spanish was working well. He hadn’t spoken English for days.

A noisy crowd was gathering in the hotel lobby. They had come from miles around to see the killer tried, convicted, and then shot. Now the man was gone. Someone had pried the bars off, cut the ropes, and turned him loose.

‘The guy had been convicted the night before,’ Al thought. The same thing was probably happening to them now. They would be found guilty before entering the courtroom!

About an hour passed, the other guard came in, the ropes were untied, and they were ushered into the courtroom, the lobby of the hotel. They were seated on a couple of the rickety chairs by the card table.

The Judge came walking in. He wore a long black robe. On his head was a small black cap. There was a book in his hand. He looked very important. Court was now in session.

The Judge’s bench was the pool table. On it was piled all the personal belongings of the two defendants.

It was a noisy crowd that had gathered. Loud mouth was in good voice. “Why waste time?” He shouted. “Have them shot!” The Judge picked up one of the cue sticks and beat it on the table. “Silence!” He roared. “One more outbreak like that, Reyes, and I will have you taken out and flogged!” One black eye centered on the man, the other roved about the room, looking the crowd over. “Now be quiet; all of you!”

He stood there for a moment; until there wasn’t a sound. Then he spoke; “Yesterday a man was captured. He had been accused of killing and robbing three men. He was to be tried this morning.” He stopped talking, and for a moment walked back and forth behind the pool table. Suddenly, he turned and faced the gathering. “Last night the man escaped. The bars were pried off the window. The ropes binding him were cut.” He pointed at Al and Pio.

“These two men are accused of helping him.” One eye focused on Al. “Mr. Mackey you may speak for the both of you, how do you plead?” Al got to his feet, “Not guilty, Your Honor.”

The first witness was the guard that had been with the Judge when the arrest was made. He told his story.

About four o’clock in the morning something had awakened him. He had gone to the room to inspect the prisoner. The man was gone, the ropes had been cut, and the bars had been pried off the window. He tried to awaken the other guard but he was sleeping soundly. The Judge was spending the night here. He went the Judge’s bed, but it was empty.

He decided to pursue the killer alone. As he approached the front door he saw a man standing there, it was the Judge. Something had awakened him also. He told him of the prisoner’s escape. They had a short conference and decided to go outside to look around. They walked by the two empty hammocks on the porch then around the hotel. When they got to the back they looked around the corner. Two men were standing there under the window. They waited for them and made the arrest.”

The guard was finished. The Judge told him to sit down. There came a deep rumble from the crowd. It was growing louder. “Guilty, guilty” someone shouted. The Judge picked up the cue stick and beat it on the table; “Silence!” He roared. “We must hear what these men have to say.” He addressed Al. “Mr. Mackey you may speak for the two of you. I understand the man with you works for you? What have you got to say for yourself?”

Al got up and walked over to the pool table and stood in front of the Judge. He looked straight at the eyes that were focused on him. “Your Honor, along toward morning, a noise awakened us, probably the same one that awoke you and the guard. We thought someone was trying to steal the Jeep. We got up and went outside. A man was there all right; we got there just in time to see him disappear, around the corner of the hotel. We went around back, but the man was gone. We also saw that the bars were off the window. We assumed the man had escaped. We were on our way back to report this when we met you and the guard. We are no more guilty then the two of you. I guess that is all I have to say.”

The rumble started again. “Lies, lies,” a woman screamed. The Judge again beat on the table and yelled for silence. He pointed down to the objects piled there; do these belong to you Mr. Mackey?”

Al glanced down at the table and nodded, it was all his all right. A few things belonged to Pio. Before they where tied up they were searched and everything was taken from them. Now it was lying here on the table.

The Judge pointed to the two suitcases; “Do those belong to you?”

Al nodded yes.

The Judge set them on the floor. He picked up another item; “Is this your passport?”

“Yes.”

“And your wallet?”

Al nodded in the affirmative.

“Are these your guns?”

On the table were the two pistols and one automatic rifle.

“Yes, they are mine.”

The Judge looked very solemn. You had two rifles Mr. Mackey, where is the other one?”

Al thought for a second; “It is in my hammock. I put it there when I got up and walked around the building.”

The Judge nodded his head. “So the gun is not here. Look closely, is there anything else missing?” ‘The old boy is up to something,’ Al thought. Not only was he the Judge, but also the prosecuting attorney!

The morning was warm. Al felt a cold trickle of sweat run down his back. For a moment he stared at the articles on the table. It appeared as if everything was there but the gun. Suddenly he remembered, just before getting into the hammock last night he had taken off his boots and put on a pair of light shoes, the boots where not there.

“I left a pair of boots on the porch. They are not here.” His mouth felt dry. “A pair of logger boots, they had hob nails in the soles and heels.”

The Judge paced back and forth and behind the pool table. Suddenly he turned to Al. His voice was loud and clear; “After your arrest, your hammock was searched. The missing rifle was not there. We also could not find the boots with the sharp nails. But we found prints of them, which led us down to the river. We also discovered a boat missing.”

The judge cleared his throat: “Mr. Mackey you were seen under the window where the man escaped. It appears that he is now carrying your gun and wearing your boots.”

There were cries from the crowd, “Have them shot! Traitors! Lies, lies!” It was an angry mob, and angry mobs are dangerous mobs. The Judge picked up the cue stick and beat the table; “Silence in my court,” he yelled. The crowd settled down a bit.

“Now Mr. Mackey before I give a verdict, is there anything you would like to say?”

There was a righteous anger burning inside Al Mackey. This clown was putting on quite a show and seemed to be enjoying it. He got up and walked over to the pool table and looked the judge square in the eye.

“Yes,” His voice was cold, “I have plenty to say. So what if the man stole my gun and my boots. He is a well-known thief as well a killer. Is it a crime in this country to have something stolen from you? Also, you have established no motive for me to help this man. What reason would I have for turning him loose?” Al was getting hot under the collar. At least he would say his piece before the devil passed sentence on him.

“I have never seen this man before in my life. Maybe he had friends or relatives here in town? Did you ever think of that? We were not the only ones looking around.” He hesitated for a moment then suddenly stepped close to the Judge and pointed a finger square at him. “Yes, Judge, can you explain just what the hell you were doing prowling around at four o’clock in the morning?”

The crowd howled. This was turning into a sideshow. They had come to town to see some action and they wanted blood. They didn’t care whom it belonged to! The loud mouth of the man, Reyes, could be heard above the rest; “What do you say to that, Judge?”

The Judge walked over and whispered something to the guard. Again he beat on the table and roared for silence. The crowd quieted down somewhat. He turned to Al; “Have you said your piece, Mackey?”

Al nodded, he had probably just condemned himself but at least he wasn’t going down without putting up a fight.

The guard that the Judge had spoken to had slipped back into the crowd, now he returned with a man. There was a gun in the back of Reyes and a smile on the guard’s face. At least he had caught someone, and this one was not going to get away.

A hush came over the crowd. The Judge took his time; slowly he walked back and forth behind the pool table. One dark eye never left the face of Reyes. The he stopped, both eyes were focused on Reyes face. If someone had dropped a pin it would have been heard all over the building.

Then he spoke. “Reyes, I find you guilty of contempt of court. I warned you twice, now I must do something about that big mouth of yours.” He turned to the guard, “Take him back to the little room. Gag him and tie his hands behind his back! Stand him in the corner with his back to the wall. Find a hammer and some nails and nail his shoes to the floor, make sure his laces are tied tight so his shoes won’t come off. Take him away.”

Once more the Judge started pacing back and forth behind the pool table, one roving eye on the crowd, the other on the two men being tried. Then he stopped pacing and leaned forward on the table facing the crowd, his voice was low, “Is there anyone else here that would like to keep Mr. Reyes company?”

There wasn’t a sound. He turned to Al and Pio. “I will consider all of the evidence in this case, and tomorrow morning I will pass judgment. You are free to go now. Do not attempt to leave town. I will hold as bail your Jeep, your U.S. money, your traveler’s checks and also your passport. Be back here in the morning at ten o’clock sharp. Court dismissed!”

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