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 Six

Friday, May 26, 2056

The weather on Friday morning was Hollywood-perfect: dark and gloomy under a shapeless gray cloud cover, with just a hint of depressing drizzle. Right out of Alfred Hitchcock.

Funerals always made Ted think of Alfred Hitchcock.

Ted left his car at the far end of the parking lot and walked across the long expanse of pavement to Glendale Memorial Park's non-denominational chapel, a low-rise building with wide tinted windows along one side. He opened the glass double doors and found himself inside an empty lobby. A black and white letterboard on a small table showed the name "Rand" with an arrow pointing left. Following it, Ted saw heavy wooden doors, propped open with door stops.

The chapel could have seated three hundred people. Emily Rand sat in the front row on the right, her arms around two small children sitting on either side of her. A white-haired woman sat next to them. John Morley Jackson sat on the aisle two pews behind them, next to Dobson Howe. A few women were seated together toward the back. Ted nodded to the lawyers, taking a seat in front of them.

Ted had not been to many funerals but there seemed to be nothing unusual about this one. The pastor made no mention of the circumstances of Robert Rand's death. He spoke tastefully of Rob's love for his mother, Jennifer, and for his wife, Emily. He spoke of Rob's devotion to his two children, eight-year-old Candace and five-year-old Bobby. Ted saw the shoulders of the white-haired woman in front of him heave with silent sobs. Emily hugged her children tighter to her. Bobby wriggled.

The minister asked if anyone wanted to say a few words about Rob. There was a quiet shuffling of feet in the room, and no one moved. The minister shifted his weight awkwardly.

Ted felt a rising anger that made his temples pound. Slowly, deliberately, he rose to his feet and walked to the front of the chapel, past the highly polished oak casket and to the podium. The pastor smiled gently at him and stepped aside. Ted turned to face the room. This is not the time or the place, he thought, and you're not the guy. But a pain that had lodged in his chest from the moment he heard the verdict now felt as if it were tearing through his skin. He pressed his palms against the top of the podium.

"A terrible injustice has been done," he said. His voice shook a little with what sounded like nervousness. It was rage. He looked at Emily Rand. Her eyes were saucers.

"Robert Rand was an innocent man," he said slowly. "Look around this chapel. Where is everybody? Where are his friends, all the people who knew him, who worked with him? Nobody came. They think he's a murderer." Ted looked at the two children in the front row. Behind them, Dobson Howe's piercing gaze was fixed on Ted's face.

"These two children should grow up in a world where people know the truth about their father," Ted said solemnly. "Robert Rand was an innocent man." With effort, he removed his hands from the podium and walked up the aisle.

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.

Ted's computer screen was blinking with messages when he finally got to the office. He scrolled through them impatiently. Nothing that wouldn't wait. He opened a file of phone records, slipped his headset over his ear and clicked his keyboard until he found the list of reporters who had called him for interviews during the Rand trial. He started at the top. A tap on the keyboard connected him to the first number.

"Anna Boyer," a woman answered.

"Ms. Boyer, this is Ted Braden."


"You remember, the witness from the Robert Rand trial? You called me for an interview? I'm ready to do it now."

"Oh. Well, thank you for calling back, Mr. Braden, but that story's really out of the news now. I don't think the Times will be doing any more coverage of it."

"Well, Ms. Boyer, the thing is," Ted said, "I have new evidence that Robert Rand was innocent."

"Really," the reporter said. "Well, that would be interesting to us. What evidence do you have?"

Ted told her about Robert Rand's TV movie role, and the promos, and the dubious witness identification.

"Mm-hmm," the reporter said. "Why wasn't this evidence presented during the trial?"

"It just wasn't available quickly enough."

"I see. What else do you have?"

"What else?" Ted fought not to raise his voice. "This is plain evidence of mistaken identity," he said.

"I see. Well, thank you, Mr. Braden. I'll put a note in the file and if we do anything else on this story, I'll be in touch."

"Well, don't you want me to send it to you?"

"Send what to me?"

"The listings of all the times those promos ran, to prove the witnesses must have seen them and recognized Robert Rand from television."

"Oh. Well, sure, if you like. You can send it over to our server and I'll take a look at it. Reference my name when you log in."

"I sure will. Thanks." Ted reached for a notepad and wrote down Anna Boyer's name, followed by a big K.

Ted went right down the list. Daniel Capelli from the Chronicle, Ray Estrada from CBS, Lilia Higuera from AP, Constance Hirsch from ABC, Sam Manjit from Fox, John Reynolds from Global Press Association, Gloria Sabah from the Post, B.J. Tarakchyan from NBC. After nine calls, his scoresheet showed nine strikeouts. Everyone's reaction was the same: his list of TV promos couldn't compete with an accomplice who testified that she drove with Robert Rand to the parking lot. Sorry. Story's over.

"Well, you look nice today." Ted looked up from his notes and saw Brianna standing next to his desk. She was holding a disk and a piece of paper.

"Hello, beautiful," Ted said with a warm smile.

"Look what I've got," Brianna singsonged. "I've got a video of the promos. Wait until you see them...."

Ted took the disk from her hand. He pushed it into a slot on a square blue box next to his computer screen. An instant later, the screen went black. Then the black was sheared in two by a knife-shaped red arrow. Then the red sliced open to reveal a sparkling nighttime city view from a rooftop. "Saturday!" the announcer's voice said menacingly, "Take No Prisoners Week on LTN continues with 'Power Play!'" Ted tapped frantically on the keyboard to turn the volume down. There was a quick shot of a beautiful girl with a gun to the neck of an athletic-looking blond man. Then there was the sound of an explosion. Then the image of the girl with the gun shattered to reveal Robert Rand. "Freeze the frame right there," Brianna nearly shouted. Ted clicked the keyboard and the video stopped moving.

"Now, look at this," Brianna said, unfolding the piece of paper in her hand, "and look at that." She pointed to the screen.

Ted took the paper from Brianna. It was the police artist's sketch of the man who had bludgeoned Maria Sanders to death with a metal pipe. He was a white male with dark curly hair, about thirty-five. Then Ted looked up at the image of Robert Rand on the screen.

Robert Rand was standing in an alley, partly in shadow although his face was clearly visible. He was a white male with dark curly hair, about thirty-five. He was holding an aluminum baseball bat.

"I couldn't wait to show you," Brianna said.

Ted's eyes were glued to the screen.

"Excuse me, Ted?" Ted turned around and saw Clete Johansson standing on the opposite side of his desk. "Is this a bad time?"

"I'll be right with you, Clete," Ted said. He folded the police sketch and clicked the keyboard to remove the video from the screen. "Thank you, Brianna," he said quietly. "I know just where to take this."

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.

Monday, May 29, 2056

The green light was glowing on the doorjamb outside Carl Gonzales' office. Ted grasped the bracket and rather tentatively slid the door open.

"Mr. Braden, come in," Gonzales said.

"Thanks for seeing me," Ted said. He closed the door behind him.

"No problem. A man says he has vitally important information, it's my job to find time for him." He gestured to one of the armchairs opposite his desk.

"Thanks," Ted said. He sat down. "I have new information on the Maria Sanders case."

Gonzales frowned. "The Maria Sanders case?" he said skeptically. "That's closed."

"I know it is," Ted said. "But what if you saw something that proved Robert Rand was innocent?"

Gonzales' frown deepened.

Ted opened his briefcase and pulled out Brianna's disk, the printout of the police sketch and the thick stack of spreadsheets listing all the showings of promos for "Power Play." "May I show you this?" he asked.

Carl Gonzales was silent.

Ted put the papers on the chair next to him and held up the disk. "You have to see this," he said.

"All right," Gonzales growled. "What is it?"

Ted told him. Gonzales' frown returned, but he took the disk and slid it into the player next to his computer monitor. The screen went black, then the red slicing effect slid across the screen followed by the announcer's thundering voice. Gonzales turned the volume down.

"In one second," Ted said, "I'm going to ask you to freeze the frame." The image of the girl with the gun shattered and suddenly Robert Rand was standing there, in the alley, with the baseball bat. "Right there," he said, "Pause it."

Gonzales touched a button on his keyboard and looked at the screen. "What about it?" he asked.

Ted grabbed the folded police sketch from the chair. "Look at this," he said. "It's a total coincidence. Robert Rand looks just like the guy in this sketch."

Gonzales looked at Ted as if to say, "And?"

"It's a complete case of mistaken identity," Ted said. "The witness obviously recognized Robert Rand from seeing this promo. Look, it ran day and night for nearly a week before he was arrested." Ted picked up the stack of spreadsheets and showed Gonzales the dense columns of single-spaced listings.

"All right, Mr. Braden, let me understand this," Gonzales said. "You are bringing me evidence that Robert Rand matched the description of the killer. Are you trying to tell me this should have exonerated him?"

"I'm trying to tell you that you convicted an innocent man."

"No," Gonzales said, his voice flat. "Mr. Rand's accomplice testified against him. The jury did not believe Mr. Rand's testimony or his alibi. I understand, he was a friend of yours and this must be very difficult for you. I'm sorry."

Ted was dumbstruck.

Gonzales ejected the disk and handed it back to Ted. "I'm sorry," he said again.

Two minutes later, Ted was standing in front of the elevator, juggling his briefcase and his spreadsheets. He reached out to press the down button and the stack of spreadsheets slipped through his arms and fell to the floor. Scowling, Ted set his briefcase down and began to reassemble the splayed pages. Suddenly a scent like evening jasmine rippled the air. When Ted looked up, Jordan Rainsborough was standing over him.

She was wearing a sapphire blue silk business suit but it might as well have been an evening gown. The deep color illuminated her blue eyes and the fabric's subtle shimmer seemed to focus the room's light on her curves. Ted was mesmerized.

Jordan looked down at Ted's stunned face with an amused twinkle. "Sure, you think that," she said playfully, "but you won't call." She reached out and pressed the down button for the elevator.

Ted felt his jaw drop. He thought he couldn't have heard right. "I'll call," he said. "I didn't think prosecutors went out with witnesses."

The twinkle in Jordan's eyes went blank for a moment, and then a flicker of recognition replaced it. Ted, still on the floor and eye-level to Jordan's close-fitting silk skirt, did not notice the change in her expression.

"Let me help you with that," Jordan said, bending her knees gracefully to reach the papers on the floor. "What brings you back to the Criminal Courts building, Mr. Braden?"

"I was here to see Carl Gonzales," Ted answered.

Jordan looked alarmed. "What about?" she asked.

Ted grabbed the last of the scattered pages and stood up. "About Robert Rand," he said. "He was innocent. This is the proof." He pointed with his chin to the stack of spreadsheets. "I told the God's honest truth in that courtroom, even if you did manage to persuade the jury that I'm a liar."

Jordan looked at the floor. "I was just doing my job," she said. "It was nothing personal." Her eyes darted to the spreadsheets Ted now held in a tight grip against the right side of his chest. "What is all that stuff?" she asked.

Ted started to explain about Robert Rand's appearance in the commercials for the TV movie, and the ding of the elevator arriving interrupted him.

"I was just going out for a pizza," Jordan said. "Would you like to join me?" She smiled at him.

Ted nodded.

Jordan had walked to work, so they rode the elevator down to parking level 5 where Ted had left the Corvette parked in a fire lane.

"You parked illegally in the Criminal Courts building?" Jordan asked.

Ted removed a citation from under his windshield wiper, slipped it into his pocket, and smiled. "I'd rather have the ticket than the door ding," he said.

"It is a gorgeous car," Jordan agreed.

Ted stayed out of the tunnels, fighting the surface street traffic on Vermont all the way up to Los Feliz Boulevard, where Jordan said there was a great Italian restaurant called Ceretti's. That was fine with Ted. He didn't want to run into anyone he knew, either.

Following Jordan's directions, Ted turned right on Los Feliz Boulevard and then left into a narrow driveway that led past the restaurant to a hillside parking lot behind the building. He shook his head when the valet approached his door. "I'll park the car," he said, pressing a bill into the teenager's palm.

Ceretti's was an almost comically traditional Italian restaurant, with wooden chairs, white tablecloths and dusty plastic grapes hanging from lattices on the ceiling. Pastel murals of Italian street scenes decorated the walls. The host brought Jordan and Ted to a table for four in front of a painting of a fountain. Ted held a chair for Jordan, a gesture that brought surprised expressions from both Jordan and the host, and then took a seat across from her. He placed his briefcase and the stack of spreadsheets on the chair next to him.

"So tell me," Jordan said, her tone as businesslike as if they were in her office, "What did you tell Gonzales?"

Ted went through all the details for her. He showed her the spreadsheets, nearly starting a fire as the wide pages came to rest on top of a red glass candle. Jordan picked up a small vase of flowers and poured some water into the candle to douse the flame.

"And you told Gonzales all this?" she asked.


"What did he say?"

"He said it wasn't enough. Not against the testimony of that heroin dealer who claimed to be Rand's accomplice."

Jordan was silent, staring into her water glass. Finally she looked up. "I think I'd like a glass of wine," she said. "How about you?"

A glass of Viognier brought a pink blush to Jordan's cheeks. Ted couldn't take his eyes off her. He twirled his fork idly in the plate of linguini that was in front of him.

"Can you keep a secret?" Jordan asked.


"I mean it. If I tell you something in absolute confidence, will it stay just between us, and never go any further?"

"Sure," Ted answered. He couldn't imagine ever saying no to her. He considered himself fortunate that she hadn't asked him to kill somebody.

"Okay," Jordan began, leaning forward. "About that heroin dealer, Bara Salvacion. Gonzales knew she was lying. We all knew she was lying. Well, that's not completely fair. We didn't absolutely know she was lying. But we knew she'd lied before under similar circumstances. We had the file. And under the letter of the law, we were obligated to turn that file over to the defense. And we didn't."

Ted was wide-eyed. Jordan reached for her wine glass and leaned back again.

"Why not?" Ted asked finally.

"Why do you think?" Jordan said, leaning forward again. "So we could convict the vicious murderer who killed Maria Sanders and Officer Szafara. So we could get him off the streets. So he would never kill again. Robert Rand was picked out of a lineup. We all thought he was guilty. We're not evil."

Ted was silent for a moment. "I wish you hadn't asked me to keep that secret," he said.

"You have to keep it secret," Jordan whispered. "You promised."

Ted nodded. "All right," he said, "But you have to do something for me."

Now Jordan was wide-eyed.

"An innocent man has been killed," Ted said. "He deserves to have his name cleared. His family deserves that."

"They deserve that and a huge settlement," Jordan agreed.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?"

Jordan thought for a moment. She shrugged.

"Why don't you make the file public?" Ted demanded.

"What file, the file on Bara Salvacion? I can't, it's a confidential record. I'd go to prison."

Ted was startled. "Prison?" he asked.

"You bet," Jordan said. "Fifteen years per count. Mandatory sentencing. The Confidentiality of Records Act of 2012."

"Wait a minute," Ted said. "Didn't you just say you were supposed to give the file to Robert Rand's defense lawyers?"

Jordan nodded. "The prosecutors are required, upon finding evidence that might tend to exonerate a defendant, to turn it over to the defense lawyers," she explained. "But since the file wasn't officially determined to be evidence, it wasn't turned over, and it didn't become part of the record of the trial. So it's still confidential."

"Who made the decision not to turn over the file?"

"Well," Jordan said, "I suppose if there were an investigation, it would find that the lead prosecutor, Merritt Logan, is the person whose fingerprints are on that decision. Gonzales' hands will be clean. They're always clean."

"You don't get along with him very well, do you?"

"Who, Gonzales?"

"No," Ted said, "Logan."

"Oh, I wouldn't say that, exactly. It's just that Carl Gonzales is going to retire next year and only one of us can be appointed to replace him."

"I see," Ted said. "You want to sabotage him, but you don't want to be caught at it."

Jordan said nothing.

"That's it, isn't it? You want the world to know that Merritt Logan concealed information that might have caused the jury to acquit Robert Rand."

Jordan's blue eyes, dusky in the candlelight, narrowed slightly. "Well," she said, "Don't you?"

Ted watched the light glint in Jordan's eyes for a moment before he answered. "I tried to convince at least a dozen reporters that Robert Rand was innocent," he said. "Everybody I talked to said my evidence didn't stack up against the testimony of Rand's accomplice. You've got a file that says she's a liar. You give me that file, I guarantee they'll all do the story."

"I can't do that," Jordan said.

"Can't you make a copy? Can't you leak it to somebody?"

"There's no way." Jordan shook her head. "Every file in the D.A.'s office is encrypted and password-protected. The only way to get access to those documents is to log in with your ID and security code, and your password. That generates a record of who sees what. If one word of that file got into the press, it wouldn't take five minutes for them to trace it to me."

"And you'd go to prison for fifteen years?"

"Per document."

"I see the problem," Ted said.

Jordan leaned forward. "What about this video you've got?" she asked. "Have you shown that to anybody yet?"

"Just Gonzales."

"So it could be an exclusive," Jordan said. "I've got an idea."

Click to Continue


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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