Practice Makes Perfect
Everything rests on this, everything. Time and place, nothing else. Don’t even think about anything else. He stared at himself in the hall mirror. Sitting up straight with his hands folded he counted down to zero and for the umpteenth time started over.
“I bought gas just before midnight and settled in for a long drive.”
The monkey on his shoulder immediately spoke up. “Oh really, and where did you buy gas?”
His fists tightened and his knuckles whitened.
‘Goddamnit, what is the matter with me!’ It was a stupid question. He knew very well what the matter was.
Four, three, two, one, zero…
”I bought gas at Ed’s Garage just before midnight and settled in for a long drive.”
The monkey waited patiently and sure enough, a little bead of perspiration appeared over his left eyebrow. And another and then another until the tiny stream followed the furrow in his brow and spilled into his eyeball.
He’d printed and taped his own instructions to the frame of the mirror and #3 was highlighted in bold yellow.
#1 Sit up straight, hands folded in your lap
#2 Look directly into his eyes
#3 Do NOT touch your face
#4 Speak slowly and clearly
“I assume we’ll hear from Ed at some point to confirm this?” asked the monkey.
His jaw ached and a flood of self doubt replaced the cocky confidence that had prompted this idiotic idea of turning himself in and volunteering to be questioned.
“Of course you won’t hear from Ed.”
Everyone had warned him, even Abe Lincoln. First year law, week one – A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. He had conveniently rejected the notion and instead relied on Benjamin Franklin - God works wonders now and then; Behold a lawyer, an honest man.
Both were part of his planned opening statement and there was no turning back. In eight short hours he was to voluntarily turn himself in for questioning and his well-rehearsed testimony was collapsing like a sandcastle in a rainstorm. Collapsing under the challenge of an imaginary monkey who knew the truth.
He arrived in the parking lot in plenty of time. An hour and a half early and lots of time to practice. He adjusted the rear view mirror so he could stare directly into his own eyes.
“I drove all night because I had to. There was way to much at stake, time was of the essence and I knew every second counted.”
The monkey smiled. “Telephone lines down? No cell coverage?”
He wanted to scream. He looked around the parking lot. It was cold, windows were all rolled up. Nobody lingered getting from A to B. He screamed.
At precisely one in the afternoon he walked through the door of the Tenth Precinct and up to the imposing front desk to address the even more imposing duty sergeant manning it. He handed his business card up to the gaping paw lowered down to him.
“Detective Bannion’s expecting me. I’ve got a 1.00 o’clock appointment”
“She’s on her lunch break. Go sit down. I’ll call you.” The duty sergeant went back to his paperwork.
She??? Maybe there was some hope.
“Okay to go to the bathroom?”
The sergeant looked up “Go to the moon if you like but get the fuck out of my sight.”
He went down the hall and turned right at the Public Men sign. He got the nervous bodily function out of the way, washed his hands, stood at the counter, straightened his tie and looked into the mirror. He looked directly into his own eyes.
“I knew that all was lost if I couldn’t be there personally. I drove all night. It was my duty."
The monkey shook his head.
He returned to the waiting room in time to hear his name called. In front of the desk was an even more imposing figure, Detective Bannion. She was a lifer, thirty plus years with the force and soon to be facing mandatory retirement on a fixed pension. He approached the desk and introduced himself.
" Let's go for a walk. You’re a lawyer, you’ve voluntarily agreed to this so I’m going to record our conversation. But I have to get this out of the way. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions. You have the right to have a lawyer with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now without a lawyer present, you have the right to stop answering at any time.”
“I agree. Ask away.”
All of his preparations were useless. They were going for a walk. He couldn’t look her in the eye. She didn’t seem to care if his hands tremored or if he touched his face. He was startled when she took the lead.
“So here’s what I know. Your mother died six months ago. You had her Power of Attorney. You waited until the day before the probate hearing to drive to your old home town to empty her safety deposit box. You did that in the afternoon and then for whatever reason lingered for six to eight hours before driving all night to get back here to attend the probate meeting on time.”
Detective Bannion paused. A little bead of perspiration appeared over his left eyebrow. And another and then another until the tiny stream followed the furrow in his brow and spilled into his eyeball.
“I…was…uh…visiting…an old friend.”
The monkey slapped his ear.
“Shut up. She didn’t ask you what you were doing.”
Detective Bannion went on.
“And this is all about the difference between what you took from the safety deposit box and what you delivered to the probate judge. The difference is not trivial. There’s seven million dollars missing.”
His mind was in a tumble of thoughts. His mother had never said he was the only one who knew the contents of the safe box. He had just assumed it. After all, he was not only her eldest son and executor of her estate but on top of all of that…he was a lawyer. The problem was real and he had very little time to figure this out.
“A question. Can you look yourself in the mirror and honestly say you’re doing the right thing?”
“I’ve done nothing wrong.”
“Fair enough. But there’s a small matter of seven million missing dollars. And I will remind you, I am in complete control of this file. Cooperate with me and I’ll support a generous plea bargain.”
There was a long silence, a very long silence.
“And is there a number that would allow you to look at yourself in the mirror and be at peace with your own self?”
They walked another long, quiet block. Detective Bannion fiddled with the electronics on her waistband and finally found the Mute button.
“If you kept half and I got half I think we could both look at ourselves in the mirror without guilt or remorse.”
The monkey smiled.