Judge Sampson was not a man to be trifled with.
“The Legion Corporation? This case has nothing to do with your company!”
Blythe had a prominent Southern accent. So flamboyant was his drawl that it was almost as if he spent a lot of time working on it. The only thing he was missing was the mint julep.
“Your honor, may it please the court…”
“It does not please the court!” the Judge shouted. “The court is very displeased!”
The doors opened again and two men entered.
“Now who are these two peckerwoods?” the Judge so astutely inquired.
“Apologies,” Blythe said. “Where are my manners?”
The counselor pointed to his left, toward a man with a high widow’s peak, a square jaw and a stern face.
“This is Mr. Dalton Hewett.”
Blythe shifted his attention to his right, toward a man with short brown hair and a handlebar mustache. This man looked as though he might have been handsome once, until his nose was broken and reset one too many times.
“And this is Mr. Travis Becker. They’re my security agents, your honor. Professionals trained in the art of gunslinging and paid to safeguard my person from all the dangers the world has to offer. Coincidentally, Judge, security is what I’ve come to talk to you about today.”
“How’s that?” Sampson asked.
“This is all just a big misunderstanding, your honor,” Blythe said. “Mr. Buchanan and his bundle of hayseeds have recently been hired as security agents of the Legion Corporation”
“We have?!” Jack asked.
Blythe slapped a hand on Jack’s shoulder, then knelt down to whisper in the defendant’s ear.
“Do you want to get off the hook and make a few bucks?” Blythe asked.
“Hell yeah!” Jack said.
“Then shut up.”
“Bullshit,” Sampson said. “I don’t know what your angle is, counselor, but I know bullshit when I smell it and I’m fixing to pull up my boots.”
“It’s all perfectly legitimate, Judge,” Blythe said as he popped open a briefcase and handed a stack of papers to Hewett, who in turn walked them over to Sampson. “You’ll find all the necessary documentation right there. These men were hired a month ago and were ordered to report to Highwater last week to assist in safeguarding the operations of the Legion Line.”
Sampson studied the paperwork. “Why should I give a shit?”
“Because, your honor, as you’re well aware, Highwater Station is the last stop on our transcontinental express before it crosses the Mississippi River by way of the Sturtevant Bridge. Back East, demand is higher than ever for the minerals, resources, and raw materials that the West provides in abundance and we can’t allow this precious cargo to be shipped without protection from Injuns and bandits can we? That’s why the board of directors of the Legion Corporation have enlisted me to oversee this important hub of activity and my very first act was to hire these upstanding citizens.”
“That’s neither here nor there,” Sampson said. “As much as you snooty city folk like to pretend like the whole world revolves around you, your employees are not afforded a free pass for criminal misconduct.”
“I should say not, your honor,” Blythe said. “Tell me, what is the immediate allegation that led to these men becoming embroiled in such hot water?”
“An attempted attack on Highwater,” Sampson said.
“Come now, Judge,” Blythe said. “Is an attempt really a crime?”
“That’s what I said!” Jack shouted.
Blythe carried on. “Was anyone hurt? Injured? Maimed? Was anything stolen? It seems to me that all that happened was that these fine, upstanding men showed up for work and were mistaken for common thugs.”
“They are common thugs!” Sampson hollered. “I could throw out the Highwater charges and there’d still be enough to hang ’em high for any one of the crimes they committed across the country!”
Jack raised his finger to make a point. “Clarification, your honor. Armadillo molestation isn’t a hanging offense in Texas. Usually, the sheriff just lets you off with a warning as long as you put the armadillo back where you found him.”
“YOU! SHUT UP!” Sampson screamed. “Counselor, these men have been accused of one long crime spree that’s gone on for years.”
“I see,” Blythe said. “And where are the witnesses?”
“The what?” Sampson asked.
“The witnesses,” Blythe said. “The people who were allegedly harmed. Why are they not here to take the stand and profess to the injuries they claim to have suffered at the hands of the Buchanans?”
“They’re all dead,” Sampson said.
Blythe stretched his arms out and said, Rather convenient, isn’t it? Now your honor, I may be just a simple country lawyer, but during my copious study of jurisprudence, I determined that the accused has a right to face his accusers.”
Slade raised his hand and was acknowledged by the Judge. The Marshal despised public speaking as much as he did private, but he forced himself. “These boys have been attacking the Injun lands outside town for awhile now.”
“Really, your honor?” Blythe asked. “Is that where we are now? Secondhand heresay based on the word of heathen savages?”
Without a gavel, Sampson pounded his fist down on his desk. “I’ve heard enough. Counselor, your motion is denied. The verdict stands. Get the f%$k out.”
Blythe rifled through his briefcase. “Silly me, I almost forgot I have one more thing to show you, your honor. Governor Montgomery has issued a fall pardon to every last Buchanan for these so-called crimes.”
“Bullshit,” Sampson said.
B”It took some doing,” Blythe said. “But our dear Governor was so moved by the plight of these noble, downtrodden men that he felt compelled to intervene.”
The counselor approached the bench and handed a single, blank sheet of paper to the Judge.
“Is this some kind of joke?” Sampson asked.
With his back turned to the room, Blythe’s eyes turned a dark glowing red. Sampson couldn’t help but stare at them. He found them so…alluring.
“No your honor,” Blythe said. “As you can see, everything is in order and these men are free to go.”
Blythe’s eyes returned to their regular blue. Sampson cleared his throat.
“I can’t believe that Governor Montgomery would exercise his power in such a reckless manner,” the Judge said. “But everything is in order. These men are free to go.”
The outraged citizenry who showed up hurled every insult they could think of at the Judge.
“My hands are tied! A pardon from the Governor trumps all! The verdict is vacated! Case dismissed!”