Tough as a tire iron and proud as a parson in paradise, Jeff Sanders, Private Investigator, was very good at his job, usually cool and usually composed, never rancorous or rattled on the witness stand. Fit at 40, he was a wiz at bending the truth toward the side that hired him, but he never ever blatantly lied. “No yellow Jellyfish, that Jeff Sanders,” the Chief of Police always said. He need to see me now, Jeff believed.
Jeff had usually sat on a marble bench in the hall outdoors a courtroom. But this time it was distinct. This time he slouched, head hanging down, bristled chin in hand, eyes closed waiting his turn to testify. His palms were as wet as his mouth was dry his pallor merged seamlessly with his only rumpled white shirt, the 1 he reserved for court appearances. This time, there’d be no run-of-the-mill, roll-me-more than-in-the-clover testimony.
Jeff was eyewitness to a horrifying homicide, referred to as by the DA to testify for the Men and women Versus Jimmy “Weasel” Ingra, the Godfather’s hit man from Detroit and the Godfather himself. The Godfather got word to Jeff promising a extended and languishing death if he ratted. The DA swished Jeff into witness protection. Bodyguards chaperoned him everywhere. It created dates with Alice quite clumsy.
Even in guarded witness protection a crooked cop had come to see him. “The mob has bruisers poor as bloodhounds at search and destroy,” the cop told him. “They can locate a mite in a mile-high pile of muck and smash it into a droplet of dew on a dam. Everybody likes you, Sanders. Try to stay alive.” Jeff had swallowed challenging.
The great oak courtroom door opened. A cherubic face with double chin and dark curly hair appeared. “You happen to be up subsequent, Jeff. About ten minutes,” the bailiff mentioned.
“Thanks, Herby,” Jeff replied. “I’m about as prepared as I’m ever going to be.” Jeff knew that wasn’t true.
The ten minutes that followed were the longest Jeff had ever identified.
* * *
“The entire thing’s a fluke,” Jeff had told Alice at dinner last week. His petite blond girlfriend reached to take his hand in hers and squeezed it gently.
“Alice, I just want to get out of this alive and not hunted by hoods or wanted by the FBI. It really is a fluke! I thought it was an ordinary climb -the-fire-escape-and-get-photographs-of-the- dame-in-bed-with-a-lover and what do I see? The weasel was sitting on this DEA drug agent’s face even though the Godfather walloped the guy’s ribs with a steel club ’til they’re turned to sand. Then he tends to make mince meat of the guy’s manhood. I got so scared I forgot to film it. The DA thinks I did take photos and burned them. Truthful, Alice, I did not do that. But I did see it fairly clearly. If I hadn’t lost my keys at the scene, the DA would not know I was there.” He squeezed her hand. “Aw, honey. I just want to get out alive and marry you.” Alice forced a scared smile. The uniformed cop standing more than by the door chuckled.
* * *
Jeff’s heartbeat resonated rhythmically in his ears, a thumping metronome unable to distract him from his dreadful dilemma. He felt as vulnerable as a vulture on a weather vane.
Ten minutes to show time, Jeff told himself. I got to figure out what I’m gonna do. I’m not prepared to die, but dammit, somebody’s got to quit the mob. I inform it like it is, the Godfather goes down and his lieutenants come after me. I can say maybe I didn’t see it all clearly. I was twenty-five yards away and the window was dirty. My glasses have been smudged. How could I be sure beyond the shadow of a doubt? Following all It was, evening. It was cloudy. No moon. They were in a dark corner of a huge area, from exactly where I watched. I’d had a couple a beers ahead of climbing that fire escape. I hadn’t slept for a couple a days. He could bend the testimony in favor of the Godfather.
Jeff believed about his father. He didn’t know why for positive, but he could see his father telling him, “When you lie, Jeff, you have to bear in mind each detail or you are going to get caught up in it.” Jeff remembered his dad. In the dark he could nevertheless see himself sitting on his dad’s knee, twirling dad’s graying locks between the thumb and forefinger of one hand while sucking his thumb on the other. “Daddy, I never want to inform any lies.” He felt his throat choking, his eyes beginning to tear. He suppressed sobs..
Now he heard the screaming the bones breaking the explosive fart when the Godfather smashed the bat across the guy’s belly. He smelled the sickening smell and heard the last yelp of the victim. Certainly he died with that blow, Jeff believed.
Daddy, where are you? I want you, daddy, he believed. What must I do daddy? Daddy, I’m scared.
Then Alice jumped into his mind’s eye. “I really like you, Jeff,” he could hear her saying. He could hear her voice cracking see her eyes browsing his soul. He felt her warm breath on his chest.”I want you with me forever, Jeff.”
“You can be a true hero, Jeff.” Now it was the DA. “We got a very good shot at putting these bastards so far away you’d need a space browsing telescope to find them. Tell what you saw, Jeff. Just the truth.”
“You have to bear in mind your lie or you get caught in it, Jeff. Greater, never lie.” It was his dad. Jeff rolled his left thumb against his forefinger and place he his appropriate thumb in his mouth.
* * *
The bailiff’s hand on his shoulder jolted Jeff back to reality. He looked up to see the policeman who guarded him unsnap the flap on his holster so the gun would come out easily. He rose. He pursed his lips, pulled down the back skirt of his jacket and then straightened his tie. “OK,” he said. “Let’s boogey.”
Flanked by the bailiff and the policeman, Jeff stood straight and tall walking down the aisle. The back rows of the courtroom were filled with mainly shabby searching spectators. Some whispered as he walked by. “Nail ’em, Mr. Sanders. Give ’em hell” and items like that. Jeff recognized a couple of mobsters scattered in the crowd. They looked at him and shook their heads slowly. One particular of them raised his forefinger to his lips and nodded. Jeff clenched his teeth.
The bailiff opened the gate in front of the spectators’ section and Jeff passed amongst two big desks covered with folders and files. The DA and his employees sat in wooden captain’s chairs behind the desk to the left. Their suits had “Men’s Warehouse” written all more than them. The defense group sat on his right. Imported Italian duds, Jeff thought. The Godfather stared at Jeff and pursed his lips into an upside down smile. He looked like a style plate out of Gentlemen’s Quarterly.
Then he saw Alice. Second to the left in the third row. She put on her stoic face created up completely as if her cosmetics have been painted by numbers. No smile. No tears. A tiny like the Mona Lisa, Jeff thought. She glows. She usually glows. A giant glob of molasses seemed to have gotten caught between Jeff’s heavy heart and stiffened stomach.
At the witness stand Jeff stood. “Put your left hand on the bible, Mr. Sanders, and raise your proper hand,” the bailiff said. Jeff forced a smiled and complied. The bailiff spoke gradually:
“Jeffery Sanders, do you solemnly swear . . .?”