The Minstrel

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51


First part: break it into conversation between lawyers, more detail about Quentin and his drug problem and conviction.

The days following the attack on their beloved preacher, the black community which had so violently out for justice of one of their own now sat in stunned silence. One of their own had been assailed, and only through some strange miracle was he still alive now. He had been lying in his own blood for hours after being stabbed three times in his back and once in his chest.

So now, they were in a time of mourning, knowing that the real perpetrator would have to be found, and soonfor now, if the white man was covering up one of his own, these killings had just become crimes of hate and bias. This could not be tolerated. The black community had suffered enough under the white man. They didn’t need one of their own to be convicted of a crime that the whites had done just to cover their tracks and keep the blacks down like they’d had for so long. All would fight. But for now, a cease-fire. There was too much shock for any real action right now.

As it was in the enemy camp. They had been so sure that this had been a slew of reverse racist attacks; every time, their man had been at or around the area, one time with blood on his hands. He kept saying a white guy did it, but no one, not even the black cops, seemed to buy it. Even they had to, reluctantly and in the confines of iron-barred offices, that they had their guy, but they didn’t dare say anything to the Brother Williamses and pseudo-Malcolm X’s running around. They would be brandished as Uncle Toms. Their lives would be in danger. Even blacks were afraid of other blacks, people like Russell Frawley scoffed behind their black colleagues’ backs.

But now Frawley and his cohorts had a new and perplexing problem on their hands with the downing of Jackson Emmanuel. It threw a wrench into the entire theory. Why the hell would an activist go and kill one of his own? Unless, he was a traitor of some sort, which would figure with the Negroes. They couldn’t be loyal for shit, these punks. No ethics.

In some ways, Frawley wished he could think more highly of the black race. It would make life a lot easier if everyone just tried to get along. But it was impossible to. He didn’t place any blame on himself for his viewpoint; how could he possibly trust a group of people that he saw day in and day out behind a defendant’s chair? When he said things like, most animals were black, and that most violent criminals were black, how was that racist when he saw it proved time and time again right before his very eyes? Yet it was okay for them to go on and on about slavery, like it happened yesterday. Every time a white man tried to arrest a black, get a job over a black, dumped a black to marry a white, he was accused if trying to send the blacks back to slavery again. It pissed the hell out of him. His job was hard enough without having to be accused as a bigot when he tried to do it. It wasn’t equality that these assholes were after. All they did was make noise. If they put half the effort into schoolwork as they did complaining and dealing drugs, maybe their damn marks and SATs would be higher . But of course, SAT tests were racist. Didn’t have enough ebonics. It sounded like something from outer space, ebonics. Why couldn’t they learn “you are” instead of “you be.” Instead, they had to make up words to cover up their shitty tracks. And they thought the boomers had messed their heads with the sixties.

So now. The legal strategy too keep their man in custody was going to be complicated. The DA and the police were receiving pressure to try and find another suspect, which Frawley considered a complete waste of time and tax dollars. There was too much evidence to implicate himfingerprints, a record a mile long, an alibi as weak as a soap bubble, and an obvious hatred for any person who had the audacity to be born with white skin. Who the hell else could they implicate? It wasn’t as though there was a whole long list of suspects to choose from. They were going to have to stick with the one they had, unless someone could come up with a brilliant alternative. No one wanted another riot. The next time the blacks would put Rodney King to shame, of that he was sure about. And the blacks were crazy enough to say they had no power? They ruled by fear. All the little white boys were scared of the big bad niggers. They would set free a guilty man just to save their sorry butts. No character. Nobody developed character anymore. Character was too right-wing an enterprise, he supposed.

There was singing coming from the street below. That Spic again. How annoying. Frawley couldn’t stand any of the street people, but this one was a real freak, singing and carrying on like he did, making noise. At least most of the other ones were quiet, minded their own business. No, that wasn’t exactly true. They were quiet until they needed money. Then they’d take your life over a few pennies, harass and steal from unsuspecting women who were too weak and timid to defend themselves, which were most of them.

Frawley could never understand this business with homeless people. They should just quit the booze if they couldn’t drink responsibly, the way he did. And the mental ones should be locked up in a home to protect the law-abiding hard working citizens like himself. But no, now the hobos had rights, too. The liberals made sure that the right to freedom for psychos was upheld, screw the normal people and their rights, they made too much money anyway and complained too much about “people who weren’t exactly like them” to paraphrase one hippie activist Frawley remembered hearing. Right, they didn’t— most normal people didn’t feel too neighborly about antisocial idiots with three-quarters of their brain malfunctioned. They should be tried as Nazi war criminals for such heinous crimes. But what did he know. He voted for Perot.

Then of course, the true bums, the ones too lazy to go out and find a job and go to work. Like the Spic out there. He probably wasn’t even legal, and here he was, roaming the streets, demanding handouts, and on top of this, causing a raucous with his mumbo-jumbo singing. Frawley could never quite understand the incessant need of these “Hispanics” to not speak English. This country had been founded by English. The Constitution was written in English. All the Poles, Swedes, Germans and everyone else who crossed Ellis Island had learned to speak English, but not the Spics. They were better than everyone else. It was their “right” not to speak English. Frawley was getting sick and tired of hearing about everyone’s rights; of special privilege for a few and none for the so-called elite. If he looked crooked at a black, he could be taken to court for racial slurs , or even worse, he might be killed, and the jury was supposed to feel sorry for the black bum because of the terrible audacity of the bigoted white man who was so haughty with his “entitlement” (a favorite word of the feminists to generalize all white men’s attitudes) that he was so cruel as to hurt the poor, black man in submission. Which proved that the blacks and Spics were dumber than whites, if they needed a lower standard of ethics to survive, then it proved they were weaker and dumber than the whites, who were judged on a higher standard. Even the ultraliberals agreed to that, albeit inadvertently.

Something needed to be done about these street people. They were going to make the place unsafe with their crappy and sneaky ways. Particularly the Spic one, not knowing the language, he must have been ultracrafty just to survive. God, no man could be safe anymore.

Which made him go back to his original thought. The commissioner and the DA were almost reluctant to rearrest the man they had. They were going to try to find some loophole to release him, just to save the city. Frawley was determined not to give in to fear over a bunch of punks. These riots meant nothing, they just saw it as an excuse to loot and rob. HE happened to peer out the window, seeing the Spic meander about, and watched his movements carefully. Looting was probably what the Spic was up to now. Something was going to have to be done about the guy, Frawley thought, and he was going to have to get his office out of the Bronx to somewhere safe, someplace where he could feel safe to walk out of his office and not be afraid because of the color of his skin. The hell with this having dirt cheap rent. He paid in other ways.

Soon he would have to get ready to go to court again. Some CEO’s kid had gotten into trouble with dealing cocaine. Frawley was used tom even bored with, these types of cases. HE could write the whole script from top to bottom: boy gets in trouble, rich did finds rich lawyer, judge has kid held in jail, rich lawyer threatens to sue judge and will squeeze the last drop of blood from the city on behalf of rich dad, judge releases kid to shut up rich lawyer and rich dad, kid gets a violation because of a clean record that remains clean no matter what the hell he does. But at least the kids never hurt anyone except maybe a misunderstanding with a girl over he said, she said or some problems in the family. Even at their worst, they had enough morality not to take someone’s life, unlike these other colored punks who roamed the streets. Just proved that, even in the area of crime, whites seemed to be the best of the bunch.

It made him think of his own son. Quentin would have been a man, an adult. He had been the rich man’s son, too, the one whose slate had been wiped clean at every turn. Everyone loved Quentin. No one wanted to ruin his life by branding him with a criminal record. Frawley had to wonder, in the quiet of his mind as he traveled to Bronx Municipal Court, if someone had the nerve to actually slap a penalty on the defiant Quentin Frawley, that perhaps he might be alive today, maybe even a junior partner with him in law. Quentin had always had a brilliant mind. It was too bad he’d never learned to use it. He kept seeing his son in the waif that he’d been hired to defend. It was disconcerting to Frawley, especially when he got the kid off.

He got back late in the after noon, too dazed to have even gotten drunk over his confused feelings, to find the police commissioner, John Compton, sitting at his desk, waiting for him.

“What’s up, Johnny boy?” Frawley asked with a cheeriness he didn’t quite feel as he shook the commissioners hand. Whenever the commissioner came in, Frawley felt as though he was babysitting a young child, something he didn’t quite have the patience for at the moment.

“Ah well, not much,” the commissioner’s bulging eyes shifted back and forth in his gaunt head, which was the case of most of his body. He resembled a skeleton for whom flesh was an afterthought, a freakish rather than a formidable presence. He was also lying through his teeth. Compton was too dumb to know how to make social calls. Frawley cursed silently, thinking that he was the one who should have Compton’s job. Less money, more power. He’d make it powerful, Frawley thought, unlike the incompetent ass before him. “And how’s it with you? Cohen come in here much?”

Libermann? Who the hell wasoh yeah, the Jewish kid. The black dude’s lawyer. Looked fresh from Hebrew school. “Yeah, him. Cohen. He’s come around once or twice. Wanted to employ my help in clearing his client. Why?”

Compton gave a tentative cough as he shifted his eyes once again. “He’s been a lot at my office. Starting all kinds of trouble, you know. Threatening a defamation case against the city. Claims we only have his client because he’s black and can’t speak English.” Spics. Leave them to cause all the problems. Compton coughed again. “Frankly, Russ, I don’t know if we have much of a case against him, anyway, you know? Like, what other than circumstantial evidence has the DA have against this guy?”

Frawley was exasperated. He as a defense lawyer, not a prosecutor. Why was Compton pestering him with the petty nuisances of the DA’s office? He had more important things to do, like attend to his vodka bottle and find out where Cindy was.

“Have you found that witness yet?” Speaking of Cindy.

“No,” Frawley lied, suddenly feeling embarrassed at his ineptitude in the situation. “My assistant, Jonathan Pfeifer, is working on it right now,” he said, indication to his suddenly disgruntled law secretary who was giving him the evil eye. Frawley was just glad to have a temporary scapegoat.

Compton regarded Pfeifer for a brief moment before returning to Frawley. “A couple of my men saw her at the scene of the crime just when we cleaned the body out of the way.”

Frawley jolted with alarm. “And they didn’t catch her?”

Compton shrugged. “She has fast legs, I guess. Must be used to running away from something. She had some Puerto Rican boyfriend who held up my men, which helped her. We don’t know who he is. Seemed like a bit of a mental case.

Despite himself, Frawley felt a pang of jealousy. He was used to women whining and pining for attention, not taking up with other men like he’d been no big deal. He wanted to get mad but felt like a dog with its tail in its legs, not an image he relished. He returned his attention back to Compton. “So what do you want me to do?” he asked in his best businesslike tone, which he could fake pretty well. He was, after all, a lawyer.

“Have your assistant find the witness, and see what kind of argument you can come up with to substantiate the physical evidence.”

“What do I get for all this?”

“you will be handsomely compensated, I assure you.”

“How much?”

“The city will meet with you to discuss a fee.”

Frawley tapped his pen to his desk. “Isn’t investigation your side of the business?” He was annoyed. All he’d done was turn down the Jewish kid’s request to exonerate his client. Now, the little boy ran and told his daddy and the mayor and the commissioner and his third grade teacher, so now there was a big stink over it and his life was a living nightmare. He was beginning to think of early retirement. Well, he always thought of early retirement, but this made him want to just shove his law degree somewhere politically incorrect right that second.

“Of course investigation’s our specialty,” Compton snorted like an offended debutante, nostrils flaring. “But you’re the one insisting the guy’s guilty. We need evidence to implicate this guy, or else we’re going to have to look for another suspect.”

“Why, because the NAACP said so?” Frawley shot.

“There have been reports of a white man lurking around the crime scenes,” Compton continued, ignoring Frawley’s jibe. “Actually, some reports have said he’s white, others Hispanic. We’re going to have to look into it.”

“So you’re not even arresting the other guy, even though there’s been another attack?” Frawley was surprised, even though he knew he shouldn’t. After all these years, he should know that the justice he served was contingent upon which side was considered more equal than the others. It was time to use the sixties and slavery as a reason for the white’s justice system to kiss black ass for the rest of eternity. Should he be surprised? No. But was he? Yes. Maybe he just expected too much out of life.

“For now, we have no other choice,” Compton shrugged. “He’s the only suspect, and if someone doesn’t get arrested, the blacks are going to go crazy on this one. You know, that he we considered the white murders more important to be vindicated than the black one. By the way, the black guy is still alive.”

Figures that the Negro would live. “How’s that possible? I heard he was lying around in his own blood for eight hours.”

“Beats me. I guess God works in mysterious ways.” Even God was kissing up to the Negroes. So much for the objective eye of God.

The electric grandfather clock announced the arrival of three p.m. Frawley was getting hungry. And, impatient as he was normally, he was even more impatient when ravenous. Besides, he needed time to mull over the situation at hand. What situations he got himself into. He should have taken early retirement. The hell with his wife and her forty million furs.

Compton was looking at Frawley with a smirk that needed a good Hawaiian punch. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Frawley replied, swaggering away from the waiting desk to his office. Compton began to follow him. “Look, I have some work to do. There are some contacts and leads I need to follow up on.” Not a complete lie, but certainly not what he intended to do once he got rid of this goat. He wondered what Cindy was doing right now.

From the look of it, even Compton wasn’t even stupid enough to believe his lie. “Hmm, I see. Well, then, I suppose I’ll leave you to your important work, seeing that getting serial killers off our streets doesn’t grab your attention.” Oo, low, I’m shocked, Frawley almost sang. Compton was in the process of snapping his briefcase and gathering his coat like a rejected Amway salesman. Christ, what shit the legal system had turned into, seeing that idiots like these were appointed to high positions. Frawley stood fuming at the door as Compton walked out, then turned his attention to Pfeifer, who was busy writing his life away as usual. Pfeifer irritated him, but being that the guy showed up to work more promptly and regularly than he did and was incessantly busy, Frawley couldn’t take out his crap on the guy as much as he wanted to. It would be like yelling at a puppy who just peed on the floor who thought he did good because he missed the carpet. Just didn’t seem right. And Frawley was a man who tried to do what was right.

Frawley sat in his office alternatively chewing a pen and nipping his vodka, fuming and raging. The more he sat fuming and raging, the more he thought about Addie and her new Puerto Rican boyfriend. He imagined what they did together, in various ways and positions, envisioned Addie doing to this man what she did for him, and seethed. He imagined the Puerto Rican to have greasy hair and grimy skin and a gold tooth gleaming in his mouth. He imagined him selling drugs to Addie and he paying with a good lay. After all, that was what she’d done with him, right?

He started in his seat, alarmed by a sudden gush of ink bleeding right in his face, and cursed as his mouth filled with the stuff. Apparently he was so lost in thought that he’d confused the pen for the vodka bottle and bit right through his pen. He gulped a huge dollop from his bottle, and spat out ink-saturated vodka (what a waste of good booze), and ran to the bathroom, hoping to salvage his pin-stripe shirt. Women killed him, probably worse than niggers and hobos and spics. He should have never married. Better yet, he should have chucked his Calvinist roots and become a Catholic priest. All the wine you could drink and still be holy.

The grandfather clock chimed four. Frawley grumbled in the silence, feeling apathetic and disconcerted. Pfeifer kept beeping him, letting him know about this client’s case and that one. Frawley wasn’t in any shape to handle any details and just about told Pfeifer so. He told the receptionist, who was nicely shaped and newly hired by Pfeifer, to hold all phone calls. He put in a phone call to Joan to find out what was for dinner, only to encounter the answering machine. Out being a right-wing activist again with his mother. Kind of like baked Alaska, if you asked him, being a right-wing activist. He liked life before, when Joan was home. It made his life more predictable. But leave it to his mother, the doctor to spoil everything.

Frawley wondered how his father could have spent so many years with such a pesky woman. Frawley recalled his mother as having an opinion on everything, his friends and his father’s friends claimed that she was too much of a man for her own good, which meant she thought for herself, not what others told her to do. His father certainly wasn’t bothered by her outspokenness. The two of them made a two-career family long before the term was even invented, which seemed to the young Russell Frawley more an embarrassment than a source of pride. Instead of coming home to a mother busy baking cookies in her clean house like all the other kids in the fifties did, Russell didn’t even come home to a mother. His father would usually be home, working on some thesis or another while his mother spent her days running her private practice in Manhattan. Russell Frawley Sr. was perhaps the first househusband known to mankind, though from what Russell Jr. recalled, the housekeeping wasn’t much to rave about. Eventually, the Frawley household was visited once a week by a Swedish woman named Helga who did a spotless job cleaning the complex abode, only to have her work wrecked asunder in a day by the carefree Frawleys. Russell Frawley never once recalled his mother, or any of the female Frawleys, for that matter, ever once lifting a finger to clean the house. No one else that young Russell knew of lived like that. It made him feel weird, like a freak.

Though it may have seemed to outsiders like Russell Frawley came from a liberal, Bohemian house, in reality, that was far from the truth. Only in the arena of men and women did the Frawleys resemble anything like the hippies and activists of the sixties, and even then, only in a political and economical sense, not a sexual one. After all, they came from good Presbyterian stock. They frowned on any intercourse outside of marriage, for their only son as well as their daughters, too, which Russell soon discovered after his mother reported Helga found condoms in his bedroom. His pained behind didn’t let him forget that encounter, and he had been sixteen, nearly a man, and mortally humiliated. Not that it stopped him from sowing his adolescent oats, mind you, but he certainly remembered it. Everyone had a strict curfew, his even stricter than his sisters. By eighteen, he escaped his home thinking that his parents’ only goal was to protect his chastity. Now he knew bettertheir goal was to drive him crazy.

The Frawleys were activists. Conservative activists, if that made any sense in the liberalism of the sixties. They were pro-Vietnam. They opposed all civil rights, SDS, affirmative action, NOW, and Planned Parenthood. They opposed abortion, calling the pro-choice movement pro-death. They would have discussions at home at night, academia, politicians, health officials clergy people joined as well as concerned neighbors worried about their safety in streets that had quite suddenly become unsafe because of rabble-rouser kids. Speaking of which, sometimes students from the college drove by and threatened them. Russell Jr. Had been a swaggering fifteen-year-old at the outbreak of the war and eighteen when it became full force, so he wasn’t in the house when the threats reached their apex. His opinion by then was that he thought his parents were stupid to get involved anyway, they were too old for this whole reactionary-activist thing anyway. They acted like they were back in college, marching down the road with picket signs, using their bodies as human barricades. As far as Russell could see, they were trying to act cool and gain favor with the younger generation, the younger part against all the hoopla of the civil right hippies but too chicken to speak out against them. The elder Frawleys felt proud to give this sector a voice. Russell Jr., though never felt heard by them, only embarrassed.

Now, it was all starring again, with this business of the zone off. Basically, nobody black or Hispanic would be allowed through the front door. All exceptno, for a minute Frawley had almost said Jackson Emmanuel, but he wouldn’t be coming home for a long time, Frawley mused. No, there would be no African American/Hispanic American/Other Hyphen Americans now. For a while, in the White Plains community of Bronxville, it would be white as lilies, literally. For an instant, Frawley wondered if someone in the community had arranged it to be that way, that in fact, the crazy guy they were looking for could actually be white, them dismissed it as soon as he thought about it. The guy they had was their only real suspect, the only one with physical evidence against him. Besides, Frawley didn’t know anyone in the community who would be stupid enough to throw away all they had just to off some black dude. Well, maybe everyone had that common sense, except for his mother and wife. OF course it would be them who would. Leave it to him to pick the winners.

Five thirty. He was too tense to concentrate. The vodka was buzzing at his brain, he was irritated because his shirt was too wet, and Addie was still hovering in the back of his mind. The sexpot secretary and Pfeifer had already left. He decided himself to go for a stroll. The city smog would do him good, maybe it would congest his mind so much he wouldn’t be able to think anymore.

It was chilly, the wind biting through him. He felt cold despite the alcohol in his blood. It was becoming winter early, he noted as he put on his overcoat. Perhaps he should go into a bar; nights like these were perfect for a night in a saloon.

But that didn’t work for him either. He didn’t feel the happy buzz he usually got, even after five or six Manhattans. Irritated, he found himself making snide comments to a fat construction guy on the one end of the bar and to some black guy in a business suit on the other. He forgot what he said, but they both started lacing in on him, and then sided with each other to ream him good, so he must have said something. So he got up and left. And started thinking about Addie, then his wife. Boy, no wonder he was bugged out.

Thinking of his wife, he called home again, getting no answer. He looked at the bank clock, which read 8:07. Frawley felt the edge of worry. Even with her crazy meetings, Joan was usually home by now. He sniffed, gulping air, suddenly feeling that it was hard to breath. He snorted back snot and felt the luxury of air once more. Damn, he couldn’t get sick now. To stay at home, with Joanall it would do for him was get him sicker. Besides, he had too much to do.

He thought for awhile. Maybe he should help Cohen with his case. It was the highest profile case that had been around since the Valenti case ten years earlier; most of the thugs and drugs around here were too commonplace to stay in the minds of viewers and readers here and abroad. New York was getting to sport one of the few Black serial killers. The shock waves were emanating everywhere from the fallout. Crime was usually segregated: whites in embezzlement, serial killings. Minorities: drugs, murder, other drug related crimes. Women: crimes of passion, victimless crimes like prostitution. They were all set in their compartments like good boys and girls to make profiling the case easier, hence, easier to solve the crime. Now there was someone changing that. What a way to be innovativebe the first black serial killer of the nineties. Now, that was a way to make a name.

Maybe he’d been too hasty in dismissing Compton and Cohen from his life. It would get his name in the paper, more exposure. Frawley hadn’t had his name in the news for nearly five years. He was startled to fizzle and rot in the world of law. Granted, he still had some loyal clients who’d retained him for years, but the last of the delinquent sons were soon going to bee all grown, some even cleaning up their acts so they could live decent lives, which was all well and could, but decency didn’t fill his coffer. No, Frawley needed new blood. It could be an advertisement for him. He could start his career all over again. Then, maybe he could afford the expensive divorce from his wife and still live comfortably. Perhaps it would be good. He would call Libermann tomorrow.

With that, a tipsy Russell Frawley managed his way home in his elegant but aging Mercedes. His life was going to take a new turn; he could feel it.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51