take this serious.’
From the start, George recognized the flaw in Marina’s plan to assign him a bodyguard. Court Security’s resources are too strapped to waste anyone worthwhile on this kind of thumb twiddling. Abel, a former Kindle copper, is garrulous and inoffensive, but he has gone to pasture. His khaki sport coat, emblazoned at the pocket with the court’s seal, would need another yard of fabric to close across his massive belly. Greeting the judge yesterday, he required several attempts to hike himself forward on the sofa cushion before arriving on his feet, his large, square face considerably reddened. And he clearly has an arthritic hip. He walks with a swinging gait as they cross the covered gangway between the parking garage and the courthouse. God help them both, George thinks, if #1 strikes and they need to run for their lives.
And there is another problem with Abel’s presence, which does not strike George until he takes in the vexed look with which Dineesha greets him as they push through the door to chambers. Though it is no fault of either, Dineesha and Abel have an uncomfortable history.
George and Patrice first met Dineesha more than two decades ago at PTA meetings, which Dineesha attended as the mother of Jeb, a scholarship student at the Morris School. Jeb, who now practices rehabilitative medicine in Denver, was in the same fourth-grade class as Peter, the Masons’ elder son. But it was Dineesha’s oldest boy, Zeke, who served to fortify her relationship with George. Knowing what he did for a living, Dineesha sought George out when Zeke was arrested. It was not Zeke’s first bust, but these charges, for having supposedly joined other gangbangers in burning down the apartment of a young man attempting to quit, carried a mandatory prison term. It was a bad beef on a bad kid, mud the cops were willing to throw at the wall because it was time something stuck. Maybe Zeke had been there, but if so, George became convinced he was merely a spectator.
George took the case without fee and won, but Dineesha insisted on doing overflow typing in his office as a form of payment. She was soon a permanent addition to George’s practice-and so was Zeke. As a first-year in Charlottesville, George had fought fiercely with classmates about the Civil Rights Act, which he was sure would leave the path to progress for Negroes unimpeded. Work hard. Play by the rules. Get an education. He had no understanding of the perils for young black men, even those like Zeke, who could not have been raised by more loving or ambitious parents. Who knew where Zeke’s problems started? Probably by being less academically gifted than his two younger sibs. It is an inevitable rule of family life, as George sees it, that children occupy the space provided, and in Dineesha’s house the available space turned out to be a cell in Rudyard penitentiary, where Zeke has been twice. Back on the street at the moment, he still shows up at his parents’ home often for a meal and money. George has given up his lectures to his assistant on tough love. But the sight of Abel ten feet from Dineesha’s desk can only refresh her heartbreak. It was Abel Birtz, then a property crimes detective, who pinched Zeke on the burglary bit that first led him to do time.
George is sure that all of this is wrapped up in the baleful look they received coming through the door, but Dineesha has another reason to be bothered by the leisurely way her boss is chatting with Abel. She taps her watch.
“The Chief Judge?” she reminds him. “The High Court?”
“Yikes!” George turns and runs.
To mute the protests of the appellate judges about moving to the bleak wilderness beyond U.S. 843, the County Board constructed a small athletic facility, including a racquetball court, which was added only because it was a perfect use of a large air shaft at the center of the double floor. It has been dubbed ‘the High Court’ by wags. Handball can also be played