Justice is for The Birds
(warning for some sexual violence and suicide)
When they shook hands, her toes tingled. This lawyer sent to represent her in the petty crime court was maybe the most handsome thing she had ever seen. She blushed out a ‘hello’ and ‘pleased to meet you.’. After he put her hand down, she pulled her sweater a little tighter around her and buttoned the button second from the top. Guys like this need to know I’m a proper woman, she thought. She noticed the jewels he wore on his hand and wrist.
The case against her in the pretty crime court was this: She stole a rare mhynah bird from the local pet store - allegedly stole. When she took it home, the bird went on and on about a government minister who raped a child. She was mortified. She reported the crime to the authorities, and then brazenly brought the stolen bird with her to the detective station. At the station the bird repeated the tale. The detectives laughed her off; no way were they falling for this. Human testimony was flawed enough, now a bird? The jaundiced group of dicks wasn’t having it.
“She stole the freaking thing and then brought it here” was heard in the hallways and lunch room at the detectives’ station later that day. They arrested the woman on the spot. The pet shop owner reported it stolen the day before.’ He gave detectives a photo of a Mhyna that he pulled off of the internet. What he did not tell the detectives was that he had acquired it on the black market . It was worth several thousand quid. He was about to insure it when it was stolen.
Reports had surfaced of a distraught young person who killed himself.. His parents reported him missing. He turned up in India and drown himself in the Ganges river. A Mhynah heard the poor youth crying and moaning in his final moments at the river’s edge, he was ‘in extremis,’ wrote the press, and that the young victim named Minister X. and his dirty deeds, holding nothing back. That’s how it was reported. The corner newspaper hawkers and barkers turned it into a cause celebre: “London boy washes up on shore in India, read all about it; Mhyna bird names Minister X in boy’s death.” The old Jewish gentlemen who bought and read the papers decried it all as a ‘gantseh shande.’
The boy’s body was found at the shoreline; an autopsy in India revealed a perforated anal cavity, enough said: The body bore a significant variety of indicia of sexual abuse. However, it was written up as a suicide on the death certificate; it had to be: the Minister’s alleged crime didn’t kill the boy. The parents began to receive calls from boutique barristers ; did they want to start a civil proceeding against Minister X in the name of their son? ‘He would have to pay out the nose’. The barristers knew the case wouldn’t stand on the testimony of a bird: they thought only of themselves and putting their names at the public’s’ breakfast table.
After reading this tawdry tale in the press, Minister X moved to ban the import of Mhynahs from the east. His coalition loved the idea. The Mhynah was an endangered species, with relatively few left in their natural habitats in the wilds of east Asia. The animal activists and anti cruelty crowd lauded and praised the legislation as an act of supreme political courage. The minister shot to the top of the polls. The public had moved on from the India expose’. Every day brings a new round of scandal somewhere in England. Minister X rebounded nicely and capped it off with this ‘bold’ legislative initiative. His chest puffed and he put more grease in his hair to hold it down during public appearances.
The back story was beyond tawdry. The dead youth worked for a few months the summer before running coffee and snacks to official meetings at the Houses of Parliament. He rubbed noses on occasion with the political elite. The members and ministers tipped him enough to cover gas for his moto plus evenings out with his friends. It was an OK gig. His friends teased him that the old gray farts would try to bung him. These boys, or perhaps young men, drank beer, swore all kinds of oaths and bantered all kinds of crap. It was an OK gig, that is......
...Until this one minister came on to him. The minister was rather short and portly with greased down hair combed over the top. He tipped well but he tended to hover and stand close to the young delivery guys. This one guy, our guy in the spotlight, was one of the regulars. He proposed the boy come to his flat; that he, the minister, would supply the drinks drugs and lubricants. The teenager was not averse to casual sex but this guy was gross and old. He preferred babes and until then he had no problem finding them. He would pass.
One morning, this minister asked the boy to bring plenty of coffee, buttered toast and jam for an urgent meeting the following night in his office. The meeting was scheduled for 9 pm and might go into the wee hours he said. When the boy arrived the next night with the food and drinks no one was there. The minister stood behind the door. As soon as the boy entered he locked the door and quickly tranquilized him with an injection; then he did every debauched unconscionable thing he could think of with the mostly asleep lad. We will omit the details.
The boy woke up in the middle of the night in a dark alley behind the Parliament building in a puddle of water. Someone had thrown his twisted but intact moto into the grass nearby to make it look like it lost traction in the water, resulting in the rider being thrown from the bike and onto the wet pavement. There was a note pinned to his jacket that read “be mine or be gone”. He ached all over. He had a bad taste in his mouth. Through the mist in his mind he caught glimpses of someone on top of him, behind him, under him, etc. He recognized the person but from where? His last clear memory was parking his moto nearby Parliament.
The woman who stole the Mhyna was a chronic shoplifter. At home she had a room full of her ‘trophies’: underwear, makeup, vitamins, decks of playing cards, you name it, all still in their original packages. Her hankering for petty theft surprised the towns people among whom it was fairly widely known that she had inherited plenty of money and property. It appeared she had nothing better to do than test the shoplifting defenses of the local mercantile class. Almost every store in town had her photo hung up in a back room or in the office like a ‘wanted’ poster. This galled her. She would have stolen the photos if she could.:
Her handsome barrister was a total cheapskate. This was also pretty well known. His father in law called him a scorpion because of his reluctance to reach into his pockets; as if a scorpion was down there waiting to bite his hand. He represented lots of low lives, worse even than this woman in their sense of entitlement. These days, the expanding criminal class of clients made sure that the lawyer did not go begging for business. He took his payments up front. If a lawyer goes to bat for you without being paid first, watch out: he will demote the cause to a back burner. The woman paid him. He winked at her when taking her payment and she just about melted. She buttoned the top button this time on her sweater.
The woman and her cheap capable lawyer defended her in court on grounds that her crime of theft was instrumental in solving a far worse and even heinous crime committed by one of society’s higher-ups, namely, Minister X. She acted brilliantly, he argued, and responsibly albeit after the fact, which should mitigate it not fully nullify her so called crime. It was an abject appeal to sympathy and emotion, the only competent strategy he had. He finished with a flourish: only his client had demonstrated the courage and conviction to come forward, at her peril. While the pet store owner kept the bird’s terrible tale under wraps in the service of his avarice. She summoned the bird into court to testify. She cried on the witness stand. The judge wasn’t having it; the bird’s evidence was not taken. She was convicted.
The trial of the importer who owned the pet store proceeded. He had clandestinely acquired the protected bird in violation of the new legislation. No he did not come forward to report the bird’s story, he scoffed at it, but he paid a pretty penny for it, lost it to theft and now he was in the dock. What a farce. He chaffed and burned inside. His wife organized protests in his defense outside the courthouse. She told the ubiquitous press that her husband was a hardworking businessman, and he knew nothing about the new legislation when he acquired the rare bird, which was true. She told them that he gave to charities dedicated to the protection of wildlife in their natural habitats, which was also true. And that they were friends and neighbors with the parents of the deceased boy, helping them through this difficult time, which was not true.
Not to be outdone, the importer summoned into court Minister X to give evidence. The minister arrived and squeezed his way through the demonstrators outside the courthouse jeering at him. He smiled wryly and knowingly as he approached the witness box. He did not look at the jury. His thick neck featured roll upon roll of fat in which many unholy secrets seemed enclosed. He took his seat and ran one of his hands over his greased hair. He smiled a smirky smile at the judge who smiled back as if to say, ‘don’t upstage me Mr Minister. I own this place.”
As his mistress looked on from the back of the crowded courtroom, the minister refused to answer the questions put to him: He was asked about the boy, did he know him, did he invite the boy to bring coffee etc to a fictitious meeting under a false pretext? Did he drug and assault him? Was his legislation prohibiting the importation of Myhnahs designed to shield him from scrutiny in connection with the boy’s demise? Rather than answer, Minister X chose to remain silent and exercise his privilege against self incrimination, which is enshrined in the British common law. The jury did not take kindly to the evasion. They returned a hung verdict; which had the effect of acquitting the importer. He lost his valuable bird but he walked free out of the courthouse to the cheers of the demonstrators. He had, he thought, slain Goliath.
It was not to be; Goliath awoke. Minister X resolved to retaliate against the pet store owner as soon as he could do so without arousing suspicion. He had a core group of minions well paid with taxpayer funds who did his bidding, or knew someone else who would do it. Not long thereafter, the importer was summoned to the taxing authority for a complete audit of his finances. His wife prayed the Rosary. Then they prayed it together. His physician increased the dosage of his blood pressure medication.
The rare bird still carried on about the rape. “Minister X should die, he soiled me for life, drugged and raped me.” It was promptly shipped back to India, postage prepaid, where it would have to seek justice in some other cause. Almost simultaneously, the young victim’s body was shipped back to England for proper burial. The crime against him was never solved. The woman was given a suspended sentence and continued to shoplift. The pet store importer went broke. Minister X stood for prime minister; his party foundered on a different scandal. The handsome cheap lawyer, although quite capable, quit the profession and became a writer, this writer. All because of a rare bird’s quest for justice.