Joe…new story idea, unedited…

“I disagree on all accounts,” I shouted.

My lawyer, Claire Underwood, put her hand upon my shoulder to calm me, but I refused to stay silent. 

“Order,” the white-haired judge shouted at me. “By God, I’ll have order in my courtroom or all of you will be placed under arrest.”

“I don’t care,” I snarled back, as I leapt to my feet. “You and your courts disgust me. I remember when people got upset when children could not read! It wasn’t so long ago that we hated our children didn’t know how to write their names. Now, we have ‘graduates’ who can’t understand the basic principles of…”

“BAILIFF! Take that man into custody.”

The bailiff, an old black man with crags of experience cut into his weathered face, told me to put my hands behind my back. He led me out of the courtroom, all while journalists clamored around to take photos of my removal. 

My eviction from the courtroom would be headline news for maybe five minutes, and then some other travesty would get top billing. 

Claire followed the throng out; each journalist threw elbows to gain a better advantage. Reporters shoved microphones in my direction hoping for a sound bite. 

“Mr. Freeman, what is the big deal? Is getting your message out so important you risk imprisonment?”

I stopped and the bailiff was swarmed with reporters. Claire stood behind them, tears in her eyes as she shook her head no at me. 

“This country used to stand for something,” I said, not daring to look at Claire. “Back before the jackals in the media shacked up with the political insurrectionists. We cared about our children, and the environment they grew up in. Parents would place the needs of their children before their own personal gain.”

“You’re blaming us for the state of the world,” one reporter yelled at me.

“No. I’m blaming all of us. Because we knew you for liars, frauds, and charlatans, and we did nothing to stop you.”

The bailiff took me by the arms and escorted me to my cell. I knew it was too late to change my  fate, and that of my country, but I had to try.

In my cell, I sat in silence and thought of the road that landed me here. I wasn’t a man given to frivolous fights. Nor was I one to follow the masses and demand change by burning cities, toppling statues, and interrupting the dinner of those who I disagreed with. 

I was a live-and-let-live sort of man. As long as I could live my life the way I wanted, with zero interference from anyone else, then I stayed out of the way.

But no…nothing can ever be that easy.

Down the hall I could hear Claire whispering to the bailiff, or maybe it was the guards, but soon after the whispers I heard the clacking of her heels upon the hardwood floors.

“You made a mess, Joe. I told you not to unload on the judge.”

“I know, Claire.”

She gazed at me with those beautiful bluish-grey eyes, and I felt naked in front of her. Claire could read me like a book. Always could. 

“Why pick this fight, Joe? Everyone knows what happens to those labeled dissidents.”

“I didn’t pick the fight, Claire. These clowns raped my daughter to death because they ‘felt’ as if she owed them.”

Claire wrapped her hands around the bars and stuck her face between them. She was beautiful in the low light of the dank cell. Her short red hair was cut to frame her pixie face, her lips were full, and time had been kind to her. Some women preferred the ‘ripped’ look, but Claire didn’t have a sharp edge to her. Instead, she had the soft, curvy look of old Hollywood starlets.

“You should let the law handle it, Joe,” Claire said, stepping away from the bars. 

She gave me a look that seemed to puzzle whether I had crossed over into full lunacy. I nodded and sat down on the dirty mattress I had to sit on. 

“I know you don’t respect the law, and you find it inadequate in your situation, but please let me do my job without further incident.”

“Yeah. Okay, Claire.”

“They’re not going to make this easy, Joe. The men accused of raping your daughter are police officers. Naturally, the court believes them over…”

“A drunk? A pill addict? A disgruntled veteran from the last pointless war they started?”

I scratched at my salt-and-pepper beard and closed my mouth. Claire wasn’t my enemy. She’d been a friend throughout this time. I had few friends left from the old days, except for Claire, and she’d stood by me. Even when I walked into the police station with a shotgun hunting the people who killed my daughter.

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