Page 49 of The Street Lawyer

"Are you trying to interrogate me, Gasko?" I asked.


"Good." He hadn't bothered with the Miranda warning, and he didn't have to until he started asking questions.

Goon One was flying south on Fourteenth, no lights or sirens, and certainly no respect for traffic signals and pedestrians.

"Then let me go," I said.

"If it's up to me, I would. But you really pissed some folks off. The prosecutor tells me he's under pressure to get you."

"Pressure from who?" I asked. But I knew the answer. Drake & Sweeney wouldn't waste time with the cops; they would rather talk legalspeak with the chief prosecutor.

"The victims," Gasko said with heavy sarcasm. I agreed with his assessment; it was difficult to picture a bunch of wealthy lawyers as victims of a crime.

Lots of famous people had been arrested. I tried to recall them. Martin Luther King went to jail several times. There were Boesky and Milken and other noted thieves whose names escaped me. And what about all those famous actors and athletes caught driving drunk and picking up prostitutes and possessing coke? They had been thrown into the backseats of police cars and led away like common criminals. There was a judge from Memphis serving life; an acquaintance from college in a halfway house; a former client in the federal pen for tax evasion. All had been arrested, led downtown, booked, fingerprinted, and had their pictures taken with the little number under their chins. And all had survived.

I suspected that even Mordecai Green had felt the cold clasp of handcuffs.

There was an element of relief because it was finally happening. I could stop running, and hiding, and looking to see if anyone was behind me. The waiting was over. And it was not a midnight raid, one that would certainly keep me in jail until morning. Instead, the hour was manageable. With luck, I could get processed and bailed out before the weekend rush hit.

But there was also an element of horror, a fear I had never felt in my life. Many things could go wrong at the city jail. Paperwork might get lost. Delays of a dozen varieties could be created. Bail could be postponed until Saturday, or Sunday, or even Monday. I could be placed in a crowded cell with unfriendly to nasty people.

Word would leak that I had been arrested. My friends would shake their heads and wonder what else I could do to screw up my life. My parents would be devastated. I wasn't sure about Claire, especially now that the gigolo was keeping her company.

I closed my eyes and tried to get comfortable, which I found impossible to do while sitting on my hands.

* * *

The processing was a blur; surreal movements from one point to the next with Gasko leading me like a lost puppy. Eyes on the floor, I kept telling myself. Don't look at these people. Inventory first, everything from the pockets, sign a form. Down the dirty hall to Photos, shoes off, up against the measuring tape, don't have to smile if you don't want to, but please look at the camera. Then a profile. Then to Fingerprinting, which happened to be busy, so Gasko handcuffed me like a mental patient to a chair in the hall while he went to find coffee. Arrestees shuffled past, all in various stages of processing. Cops everywhere. A white face, not a cop but a defendant much like myself--young, male, handsome navy suit, obviously drunk with a bruise on his left cheek. How does one get plastered before 5 P.M. on a Friday? He was loud and threatening, his words garbled and harsh, and ignored by everyone I could see. Then he was gone. Time passed and I began to panic. It was dark outside, the weekend had started, crime would begin and the jail would get busier. Gasko came back, took me into Fingerprinting, and watched as Poindexter efficiently applied the ink and stuck my fingers to the sheets.

No phone calls were needed. My lawyer was somewhere close by, though Gasko hadn't seen him. The doors got heavier as we descended into the jail. We were going in the wrong direction; the street was back behind us.

"Can't I make bail?" I finally asked. I saw bars ahead; bars over windows and busy guards with guns. "I think your lawyer's working on it," Gasko said. He gave me to Sergeant Coffey, who pushed me against a wall, kicked my legs apart, and frisked me as if searching for a dime. Finding none, he pointed and grunted at a metal detector, which I walked through, without offense. A buzzer, a door slid open, a hallway appeared, one with rows of bars on both sides. A door clanged behind me, and my prayer for an easy release vanished.

Hands and arms protruded through the bars, into the narrow hall. The men watched us as we moved past. My gaze returned to my feet. Coffey looked into each cell; I thought he was counting bodies. We stopped at the third one on the right.

My cellmates were black, all much younger than I was. I counted four at first, then saw a fifth lying on the top bunk. There were two beds, for six people. The cell was a small square with three walls of nothing but bars, so I could see the prisoners next door and across the hall. The rear wall was cinder block with a small toilet in one corner.

Coffey slammed the door behind me. The guy on the top bunk sat up and swung his legs over the side, so that they dangled near the face of a guy sitting on the bottom bunk. All five glared at me as I stood by the door, trying to appear calm and unafraid, trying desperately to find a place to sit on the floor so that I wouldn't be in danger of touching any of my cellmates.

Thank God they had no weapons. Thank God someone installed the metal detector. They had no guns and knives; I had no assets, other than clothing. My watch, wallet, cell phone, cash--and everything else I had with me--had been taken and inventoried.

The front of the cell would be safer than the rear. I ignored their eyes and took my spot on the floor, my back resting on the door. Down the hall, someone was yelling for a guard.

A fight broke out two cells away, and through the bars and bunks I could see the drunk guy with the white face and navy suit pinned in a corner by two large black men who were pounding his head. Other voices encouraged them on and the entire wing grew rowdy. It was not a good moment to be white.

A shrill whistle, a door opened, and Coffey was back, nightstick in hand. The fight ended abruptly with the drunk on his stomach and still. Coffey went to the cell, and inquired as to what happened. No one knew; no one had seen a thing.

"Keep it quiet!" he demanded, then left.

Minutes passed. The drunk began to groan; someone was vomiting in the distance. One of my cellmates got to his feet, and walked to where I was sitting. His bare feet barely touched my leg. I glanced up, then away. He glared down, and I knew this was the end. "Nice jacket," he said.

"Thanks," I mumbled, trying not to sound sarcastic, or in any way provocative. The jacket was a navy blazer, an old one that I wore every day with jeans and khakis--my radical attire. It certainly wasn't worth being slaughtered over.

"Nice jacket," he said again, and he added a slight nudge with his foot. The guy on the top bunk jumped down, and stepped closer for a better look.

"Thanks," I said again.

He was eighteen or nineteen, lean and tall, not an ounce of fat, probably a gang member who'd spent his life on the streets. He was cocky and anxious to impress the others with his bravado.

Mine would be the easiest ass he'd ever kicked.

"I don't have a jacket that nice," he said. A firmer nudge with his foot, one intended to provoke.

Shouldn't be a low-life street punk, I thought. He couldn't steal it because there was no place to run. "Would you like to borrow it?" I asked, without looking up.


I pulled my feet in so that my knees were close to my chin. It was a defensive position. When he kicked or swung, I was not going to fight back. Any resistance would immediately bring in the other four, and they would have a delightful time thrashing the white boy.