Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 57 of 64


Now I’ve got a comm, I hardly know what to do with it. Call Gran? Call Audie? Call Fede? Login to an EST chat and see who’s up to what?

How about the Jersey clients?

There’s an idea. Give them everything, all the notes I built for Fede and his damned patent application, sign over the exclusive rights to the patent for one dollar and services rendered (i.e., getting me a decent lawyer and springing me from this damned hole).

My last lawyer was a dickhead. He met me at the courtroom fifteen minutes before the hearing, in a private room whose fixtures had the sticky filthiness of a bus-station toilet. “Art, yes, hello, I’m Allan Mendelson, your attorney. How are you?

He was well over 6’6”, but weighed no more than 120 lbs and hunched over his skinny ribs while he talked, dry-washing his hands. His suit looked like the kind of thing you’d see on a Piccadilly Station homeless person, clean enough and well-enough fitting, but with an indefinable air of cheapness and falsehood.

“Well, not so good,” I said. “They upped my meds this morning, so I’m pretty logy. Can’t concentrate. They said it was to keep me calm while I was transported. Dirty trick, huh?”

“What?” he’d been browsing through his comm, tapping through what I assumed was my file. “No, no. It’s perfectly standard. This isn’t a trial, it’s a hearing. We’re all on the same side, here.” He tapped some more. “Your side.”

“Good,” Art said. “My grandmother came down, and she wants to testify on my behalf.”

“Oooh,” the fixer said, shaking his head. “No, not a great idea. She’s not a mental health professional, is she?”

“No,” I said. “But she’s known me all my life. She knows I’m not a danger to myself or others.”

“Sorry, that’s not appropriate. We all love our families, but the court wants to hear from people who have qualified opinions on this subject. Your doctors will speak, of course.”

“Do I get to speak?”

“If you really want to. That’s not a very good idea, either, though, I’m afraid. If the judge wants to hear from you, she’ll address you. Otherwise, your best bet is to sit still, no fidgeting, look as sane and calm as you can.”

I felt like I had bricks dangling from my limbs and one stuck in my brain. The new meds painted the world with translucent whitewash, stuffed cotton in my ears and made my tongue thick. Slowly, my brain absorbed all of this.

“You mean that my Gran can’t talk, I can’t talk, and all the court hears is the doctors?”

“Don’t be difficult, Art. This is a hearing to determine your competency. A group of talented mental health professionals have observed you for the past week and they’ve come to some conclusions based on those observations. If everyone who came before the court for a competency hearing brought out a bunch of irrelevant witnesses and made long speeches, the court calendar would be backlogged for decades. Then other people who were in for observation wouldn’t be able to get their hearings. It wouldn’t work for anyone. You see that, right?”

“Not really. I really think it would be better if I got to testify on my behalf. I have that right, don’t I?”

He sighed and looked very put-upon. “If you insist, I’ll call you to speak. But as your lawyer, it’s my professional opinion that you should not do this.”

“I really would prefer to.”

He snapped his comm shut. “I’ll meet you in the courtroom, then. The bailiff will take you in.”

“Can you tell my Gran where I am? She’s waiting in the court, I think.”

“Sorry. I have other cases to cope with—I can’t really play messenger, I’m afraid.”

When he left the little office, I felt as though I’d been switched off. The drugs weighted my eyelids and soothed my panic and outrage. Later, I’d be livid, but right then I could barely keep from folding my arms on the grimy table and resting my head on them.

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