The 37th Amendment - A Novel By Susan Shelley - Copyright 2002. All rights reserved.
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You are reading "The 37th Amendment," a novel by Susan Shelley. Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished, retransmitted, printed, copied or distributed in any manner, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the author. Permission is granted for publication of short excerpts in the context of a review or commentary, provided the material is appropriately credited.

Chapter Three

The questioning entered its third hour. Ted shifted uncomfortably in the stiff armchair.

"Do you need a break?" Gonzales asked.

"No, no," Ted lied. "I'm fine."

Ted was tired of thinking about the Lakers game on February 21st. The prosecutors had asked him what time he arrived, what time he left, if he had looked at a wristwatch or the scoreboard clock. They had asked him if he ever drank alcohol at the games, and if he remembered drinking that night. They asked him how many times he had left his seat.

"It was months ago," Ted told them. "I don't remember how many times I left my seat."

"It's very important that you try to remember, Mr. Braden," Jordan Rainsborough said. "Robert Rand claims he was there at the start of that game the night the murder was committed. Do you recall if he was in his seat when you arrived at the game?"

Ted tried to think. "I know he was at every game," he said, "because I noticed that he wasn't there for the game last night. He's always there."

Jordan wrote something down on her legal pad. "Are you at every game?" she asked.

"Well, no, not every game," Ted said. "Sometimes I give my tickets away to clients."

"Who was with you at the game on February 21st?" Jordan asked.

"I don't recall," Ted said, feeling a little silly. I'm headed for a career in politics, he thought.

Jordan looked directly at Ted. He caught her studying his eyes an instant before the sweet smile returned to her face. "I know it's a while ago," she said. "Maybe if you gave us the names of some of the people you might typically bring to the games, it would refresh your memory."

Ted's mind jumped at the thought of the agency's top clients receiving an unannounced visit from the sheriff's deputies. "I bring friends," he said. For the first time, he wondered if he needed a lawyer himself.

"Now, when you've brought friends to the games, did any of them ever have any conversations with Robert Rand?"

"Not that I recall."

"Have you personally ever had any contact or conversations with Robert Rand other than at the Lakers games?"


"Have you ever had any conversations about Robert Rand with anyone?"

Ted thought about his conversation with his daughter. "Just with my girlfriend," he answered. "Last night I took her to the game and, like I said, I noticed that Rob wasn't there. So, you know, we talked about it."

Jordan was watching him, still smiling pleasantly, her eyes locked on him like lasers. "And what's her name?" she asked.

"You're not going to send the deputies for her, are you?"

"Mr. Braden," Carl Gonzales rumbled, "This is a serious matter. We have charged Robert Rand with the murders of Maria Sanders and LAPD officer William Szafara. However, we have both an obligation and a responsibility to seek and consider all evidence that might tend to exonerate him. You may not be aware that we have the power to compel the testimony of witnesses, even to the point of locking them up in county jail if they don't cooperate."

"It's because of the Public Safety Act," Jordan explained apologetically. "Violent crimes in California are tried under what are called 'expedited procedures.' That means we have to move things along."

"If you have to talk to her, I'll bring her in," Ted said. He could imagine the deputies coming to RCN Data Systems and asking the horrified human resources director to take them to Julia. He could see Julia losing her security rating, then her job, then her house, and demanding to move in with him.

"Well, for now," Jordan said, "All I need is her name and a few facts."

"Julia Thomsen."

"And where does she work?"

"Can I just give you her home address?"

"All right."

Ted gave Jordan the address on Hobart Place.

"Where does she work?" The question came from Carl Gonzales.

Ted hesitated.

"We can easily find out," Jordan said. "We found you."

"RCN Data Systems," Ted said quietly.

Gonzales' face looked blank, as if he had expected a name he recognized. He glanced at the golf ball-shaped crystal clock on his desk. "Perhaps it would help refresh your memory to read a newspaper account of the game that night," he said. He clicked his keyboard for what seemed a long time. Finally the printer behind his desk made a humming sound and ejected a sheet of paper. Gonzales grabbed the page and handed it to Ted.

A story from the February 22 Los Angeles Times was printed neatly in two columns. The headline read: Lakers Scale Matterhorns, 115-93. "Oh, yeah," Ted said, "I was definitely at that game. I wouldn't have missed a game against Anaheim."

Jordan looked up from her notes. "You wouldn't have?" she asked, "Or you didn't?"

"I didn't," Ted answered. "I was definitely at that game."

"And did you notice if Mr. Rand was there?"

"He would not have missed that game."

"But do you specifically recall that he was there?"

"I would have noticed if he wasn't."

Jordan made a note. Gonzales tapped a few keys on his keyboard and frowned at the screen. "Turkey or tuna?" he asked Ted. "I don't recommend the tuna."

Ted was lost.

"Lunch," said Gonzales. "We're bringing in sandwiches. Turkey or tuna? They have roast beef but it doesn't make a good first impression."

"Turkey it is," Ted said.

"Jordan? Turkey or tuna?"

"Pizza," she said.

You are reading "The 37th Amendment," a novel by Susan Shelley. Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished, retransmitted, printed, copied or distributed in any manner, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the author. Permission is granted for publication of short excerpts in the context of a review or commentary, provided the material is appropriately credited.

The pizza and Merritt Logan arrived in Gonzales' office at the same time.

"How'd you get pizza?" Logan asked from outside the open door, which was blocked by an office intern and his delivery cart, "My e-mail said it was sub sandwiches today."

Gonzales shrugged. "Jordan wanted pizza," he said. "You know how it is."

"Yes," Logan said. "I'm starting to."

"You're welcome to join us," Gonzales offered.

"No time," Logan said. "Just stopped by to tell you I got your message and I'm on my way to do it right now."

"Okay, thanks," Gonzales said, waving him off.

"You're welcome," Logan snapped. He disappeared again.

Jordan had taken her jacket off to reveal an ice blue knit top that left her arms bare to the shoulder. "I hope you don't mind," she said to Gonzales. "I don't want to get pizza sauce on my sleeve."

"No, no, that's fine," Gonzales said, "Be comfortable."

Jordan's jacket suddenly rang.

"You just have to think about eating," she said, "and it makes the phone ring." Jordan reached over to her jacket, which she had draped over the arm of the empty chair next to the window, and retrieved a thin wireless from the folds of white cashmere. "Jordan Rainsborough," she answered crisply. "Yes.... Yes.... I don't know. Why don't you ask him yourself? Hold on."

Jordan turned to face Ted and extended the wireless to him. Ted, still seated, saw only an erotic silhouette framed by a halo of light from the afternoon sun. "It's Robert Rand's attorney," she said.

Ted was dimly aware that she was speaking to him. "Hmm?" he asked.

"Robert Rand's attorney," Jordan repeated. "He has to meet with you and wants to know if you can do it today."

"Today?" Ted took the wireless. "Hullo?" he said cautiously.

"Mr. Braden? This is John Morley Jackson. I represent Robert Rand. How are you today, sir?"

"Fine, thanks."

"Good, good. Mr. Braden, I'd very much like to have a few minutes of your time today, perhaps as soon as you're finished with those very nice people in the district attorney's office."

"Mr. Jackson, I've really got to be getting back to work."

"Well, as it happens, Mr. Braden," Jackson said, "In trying to locate you earlier today I called over to your offices and spoke to several of the upper management people there. They were quite understanding when I explained the urgent nature of the situation."

Wonderful, Ted thought. Something new for my job description. Alibi witness.

"We'll send a car for you," Jackson said. "I'll just have the driver wait out front until you're available. To save time, we'll be meeting in the offices of Mr. Rand's appellate attorney, C. Dobson Howe."

Ted was startled. He knew that name. "Okay," he said.

"Great," Jackson answered. "See you then." There was a click on the line.

Ted handed the wireless back to Jordan. "I'm going to meet C. Dobson Howe," he told her.

"Dobson Howe took this case?" Jordan exclaimed. She looked over at Gonzales. "Did you know that?"

"No," Gonzales said, shaking his head. "Must have just happened."

"Why would he want to get involved with something like this?" Jordan asked. "There's no chance at all...." She stopped herself in mid-sentence.

"Maybe he's got a new book coming out," Gonzales shrugged. "Don't worry about it. He would only be handling appellate issues and I think we know how that's going to end up."

"Well, that's true," Jordan agreed. "How about some pizza?"

You are reading "The 37th Amendment," a novel by Susan Shelley. Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished, retransmitted, printed, copied or distributed in any manner, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the author. Permission is granted for publication of short excerpts in the context of a review or commentary, provided the material is appropriately credited.

It was nearly seven o'clock when the car brought Ted to the front entrance of the downtown building where C. Dobson Howe had his offices. The driver opened Ted's door for him. "The office is on the 23rd floor," he said. An LAPD officer standing outside the automatic doors nodded politely to Ted as he walked inside.

The lobby could have belonged to the most expensive hotel in any city. The floor and the walls were seamlessly tiled in creamy beige marble, softly glowing in the light from amber ceiling fixtures. A wide walkway of beige and sparkling gold carpet ran from the front doors to the back wall, where a mahogany table held an oversized arrangement of fresh flowers. To the left, leather armchairs and small sofas were grouped into conversation areas. To the right, a long wall of solid gold was actually a well-camouflaged bank of elevators. Ted pressed the etched outline of an arrow pointing up and an elevator door directly in front of him slid silently open. He rode to the 23rd floor and stepped out into a darkened reception area.

No one was around. Ted saw a high circular desk made of dark gray granite in front of a wall of windows. To the left, a glass door leading to a long corridor had been propped open with a book. Ted took this to be an invitation.

At the end of the corridor Ted saw light coming from the last office on the right. He tapped lightly on the door. "Come in!" a voice boomed. Ted opened the door.

"Mr. Braden." C. Dobson Howe was on his feet, crossing the room to shake Ted's hand.

Corey Dobson Howe was close to seventy-seven years old but looked no older than sixty-five. He wore a lightweight black suit, expertly tailored to fit his big frame without a stray crease or fold, a cream-colored shirt and a cadet blue silk tie. A blue silk pocket square looked like a military decoration on his broad chest. He was taller than he appeared on television, at least six-foot-four. His hair was gray and his hairline had receded an inch or so back from his wide brown forehead, but his face was unlined and his dark eyes were clear.

"Thank you for coming," Howe said warmly, as if Ted had volunteered to drop by. "Allow me to introduce Mr. John Morley Jackson. I believe you spoke to him on the telephone earlier."

Jackson took a quick sip from what appeared to be Scotch and soda, set the glass down on the granite coffee table and rose to shake Ted's hand. He was about sixty and dressed in a conservative dark blue suit, yet something about him made Ted think he played in a band on weekends. "Nice to meet you," Jackson said. "Thanks for coming."

"Please sit down," Howe said. "Would you like a drink?"

This all struck Ted as very odd. However, a drink sounded like an awfully good idea. "Yes, thanks," he said.

"Ice? Soda?"

"Just ice, thanks."

Ted heard the clink of ice cubes hitting crystal. He sank into a leather sofa that faced a postcard view of Los Angeles at sunset.

The walls of Dobson Howe's office were covered with photographs attesting to a long and distinguished career. There was Howe at age twenty addressing a meeting of black conservative students at Dartmouth; Howe as a middle-aged professor at Stanford; Howe shaking hands with President Rogan in the Oval Office; Howe accepting an award for his biography of James Madison. Above the desk, two wide gold frames were set apart from the other pictures. On the left was a photo of Dobson Howe, then twenty-nine years old, receiving a certificate from the leaders of Congress on the steps of the Capitol. On the right was the certificate, containing the text of what became part of the United States Constitution on the day it was ratified by the state of New York, December 1, 2008: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color or gender."

Ted stood up and walked behind the desk for a closer look. The Constitution had been amended many times but he'd never before met anyone who'd actually had a hand in it. Vaguely he remembered from school that the Equality Amendment was considered unnecessary and mean-spirited, although looking at the wording of it now he couldn't recall why it had caused such a ferocious fight.

Howe was beside him, handing him a glass. He smiled when he saw Ted reading the Amendment. "That was before you were born, I suspect," he said.

"Not quite," Ted said. "But I was just trying to remember what it was about this amendment that had everyone so worked up."

"It ended affirmative action," Howe said.

Ted squinted.

"Racial preferences in hiring and admissions. Minority set-asides in government contracts. You're too young to remember."

Ted smiled. It was the youngest he'd felt in a while. "You're right," he said, "I don't remember."

"Of course, that was only a side effect," Howe said. "Ending affirmative action was not a primary goal of the campaign for the Equality Amendment. The primary goal was to complete the unfinished work of the Fourteenth Amendment."

Ted sank back into the leather sofa and took a sip of Scotch. "I'm certainly too young to remember that," he said.

Howe smiled. "I don't want to bore you with history," he said.

"No, no," Ted said. "I'm interested. What was the Fourteenth Amendment?"

"It was passed after the Civil War in part to establish that black people who were born or naturalized in the U.S. were citizens, that they were entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States. It forced the states to give everyone, former slaves included, a guarantee of due process of law and the equal protection of the laws," Howe said.

Ted nodded. "What wasn't complete about it?" he asked.

"It didn't guarantee equality of civil rights," Howe said. "It didn't ban racial discrimination. It didn't strike down segregation."

Ted heard Jackson behind him at the bar, ice cubes hitting crystal. "Dobson, you ready for another one?" he asked.

"Not yet, thanks," Howe answered.

"But there was no segregation in 2008," Ted said.

"No," Howe agreed. "Segregation had been made unconstitutional by a series of Supreme Court decisions, starting in 1954 with Brown v. Board of Education. However, it had not been made unconstitutional by a constitutional amendment."

Ted was confused. "What's the difference?" he asked.

"The difference," Howe said, "is that a decision of the Supreme Court can be overturned by the decision of a future Supreme Court. And that makes every vacancy on the Court a crisis for those who live by the grace of the last ruling. A constitutional amendment, on the other hand, cannot be reversed simply because five of the nine justices think the time has arrived to reverse it."

John Morley Jackson sat down on a leather chair next to the sofa. "Well," he said, "Shall we get down to business?"

"By all means," Howe said.

"Okay," Jackson said to Ted, "This won't take very long."

Ted sipped his Scotch. It was excellent. "No rush," he said.

Jackson shook his head. "Not this meeting," he said. "This trial. It won't take long. Jury selection is Tuesday. They'll probably have a conviction by Thursday. He'd be dead on a gurney by Friday noon except that Congress stepped in and halted all California executions."

"For the moment," Howe said.

"For the moment," Jackson nodded.

Ted looked from Howe to Jackson and back to Howe again. He was glad they were not his lawyers.

Jackson leaned back in a casual manner but his eyes studied Ted's face. "Do you know Rob very well?" he asked.

"I don't know him at all," Ted said. "I sit behind him at the Laker games. He gave me his card once and I just happened to call last night because...." He stopped. It seemed like bad taste to mention the gambling debt of a guy on his way to the death chamber.

"Because you noticed he wasn't there?" the lawyer asked.


"That's what Emily said." Jackson made a note. "Ms. Rand was very grateful that you called. She didn't know where to begin finding people who might have seen Rob at that game, time being so short and all."

"Can't you ask the court for more time?"

"Oh, sure, you can ask," Jackson said with a humorless chuckle. "Now, Mr. Braden, Maria Sanders was murdered at 7:15 p.m. on February 21st. The Lakers-Matterhorns game began that night at 7:30 p.m. At that hour, in the traffic, it would take at least twenty-five minutes to drive from the scene of the murder to the Chick Hearn Arena, and that's without stopping to change clothes or anything else. If Robert Rand was in his seat at the tip-off there is no possibility he could be guilty of the crime with which he is charged. Do you remember specifically whether you were there at the start of the game?"

"Yes, I was," Ted said confidently. Carl Gonzales had arranged for a wireless connection to his calendar at the office. He had spent hours after the pizza boxes were cleared away reconstructing his movements on February 21st. His sister had been visiting from San Francisco and he had taken his ten-year-old nephew Henry to the game. He remembered that there had been plenty of empty spaces in his favorite parking lot because they had gotten there early.

"Do you remember specifically," the lawyer continued, "whether Mr. Rand was in his seat when you arrived?"

"He was not," Ted said. "We were there early and my nephew Henry commented that he hoped nobody tall sat in front of him. A little while later, Rob came and sat down in front of Henry. Nobody was sitting in front of me, so Henry and I switched seats so he could see better."

"Did anyone come later and sit in that empty seat?" Jackson asked.

"No, I don't think so," Ted said. "I remember that Henry really enjoyed watching the game. I don't think anybody sat in front of him the whole night."

Jackson nodded. "Rob went to the game alone that night. Unfortunately, the friend who was to join him canceled at the last moment. Very unfortunately, as it turns out."

Ted heard the skritch of the fountain pen on the legal pad. "So you and Henry switched seats when Rob arrived. Was this before the game started?" Jackson asked.

"Yes," Ted said firmly. "Because as we stood up to switch seats, all the lights went off for the player introductions and it was almost totally dark. You know, they use all these lighting effects to bring out the home team."

"Yes," Jackson said. "Thank you, Mr. Braden. You've been very helpful. We'll need you to be available at the courthouse on Wednesday and Thursday to testify. Bring something to read because we may not get to you until Thursday afternoon."

"So they've arrested the wrong guy?" Ted said, rising from the couch.

"It would appear so," Jackson answered.

"And you're going to get him off?"

"That remains to be seen." Jackson stood up. "The D.A.'s office has a fairly strong case. There's an eyewitness to the crime. She's identified Mr. Rand as the killer."

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You're reading The 37th Amendment, a novel by Susan Shelley. Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. This material may not be republished, retransmitted, printed, copied or distributed in any manner, in whole or in part, without the written consent of the author. Permission is granted for publication of short excerpts in the context of a review or commentary, provided the material is appropriately credited.

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