Did you ever have a friend commit a really dumb act? I mean a mistake of total stupidity. You know, the kind that lands him in jail and all sort of legal trouble. That was Dexter J Cunningham, a man, or better yet a child, who was attracted to trouble in the worst way. There is a part of me that has always wanted to cut him loose, be rid of the drama he constantly dragged around in his life. But I suppose I am no different than most other individuals who, no fault of their own, attract the friendships of such sterling individuals. Dexter was fun, he was witty, he was gay. He was also a pain in the ass at times. But Dexter had charm, I mean real charismatic charm. He could make you feel that you were the only one in the room when he talked with you. And he was kinda smart, not really genius but very well informed. Dexter was also very attractive to women. My god, the man could break a dozen hearts at twenty paces.
So I was not surprised when I received a call at three am stating that he, Dexter, needed me to come down to the twelfth precinct and see what I could do about getting him out of jail. “Bill, you just gotta come down and see about getting me bailed out. It’s all a mistake. I swear it’s not true. I was set up. I didn’t even know the woman. Please, Bill, you gotta come down right away.”
Good thing I didn’t have that second or third night cap as I sometimes do when sleep is hard to come by. My tail was going to drag tomorrow on the job and I didn’t need the lack of sleep. Working as an iron worker on high rises is dangerous enough without this kind of distraction. So I set the alarm for six am knowing that his bail hearing wouldn’t occur before then. Dexter’s many little brushes with the law had taught me that much. As it was I’d be late to work and the foreman would be anything but pleased, but he owed me a couple of favors. It’s a good thing to have a couple of favors sandbagged, you know?
Six am came and I awoke with a headache, perhaps I had more than one night cap, or at least I felt that way. Getting dressed was simplified by the fact that I never took my clothes off the previous evening. Ah, the reason was coming back to me. Yes, a few boilermakers in a bar a couple blocks from here. Now I remember, that little blonde wouldn’t come home with me and I left earlier than usual. Pick up my tools and then it’s out the door and over to the twelfth precinct. This was a new one, hadn’t been there before. Wonder what the captain is like. Caught a cab and found myself in front of an old brownstone building with a few bars on the windows, looked like it was left over from an old television set. Dexter could pick some of the damnedest places, I swear. So I went through the doors and up to the counter, just like in the movies. There was a sergeant by the name of Harris sitting there and so I directed my questions his way. “Oh yeah, I remember that guy. Cunningham. Yes, quite the commotion. We had the mother and father down here as well as the daughter. What was her name? Chloe Mercer. Yes, she was quite the sight. And then there was her uncle and a couple of cousins. You know, I think we could have made it a regular dinner party. Sort of meet the bride of Frankenstein. Your friend sure can pick them.”
“So is there a bail hearing this morning or will that be done down at central later in the day.”
“I see you are acquainted with procedures. You, your friend, or mutual experiences?”
“Just Dexter, he seems to have an ever widening field of opportunity for the practice of law. But back to the question at hand.”
“Judge Dietrick will be sitting in a few minutes up on floor two, second door to the left. I’d grab a seat now, there’s going to be long line this morning. Be prepared to be surprised.”
“Thank you, you’ve been most helpful.” With that I went up the stairs to the small courtroom where a magistrate would hear the charges and set bail accordingly. If what Dexter had done was really serious he would have been taken down to central booking and the entire day wasted. Usually bail was set very low at these local hearings so I might not have to fork out more than several hundred to spring Dexter. A door swung open and a dozen men were marched into the room and told to sit. Dexter was the sixth in line so this figured to be a bit longer than I had anticipated.
“All rise, Judge Dietrick presiding. the court will come to order.”
The clerk started to read the names. Mr Jones was drunk and disorderly as was Mr Brown. Miss Swift (I kid you not about the name) was soliciting a Mr Smith, correct name was Evans. He, of course accepted her offer of close physical communion in front of an off duty policeman. Words were exchanged and arrest resisted by said Mr Evans. Mr Brown and Mr White had been engaged in a vociferous disagreement that escalated to mutual combat. Dexter would have been next but a Miss Elvira, dressed appropriately in black that clung to her body in various suggestive ways insisted she be next. Judge Deitrick did not disagree. Finally Dexter came to the bar, the charge read, and was asked how do you plead. Wrong question and equally wrong answer.
“Your honor, I am completely innocent. Those charges are false. I didn’t do any of those things the girl alleges.” With that the girl and her family suddenly rushed to the bench with loud individual voices cancelling out any pretense of lucid conversation and fell into a cacophony of noise that cause several policemen to rush in as though there was a riot in progress. Dexter stood with a smile on his face contemplating the trouble the judge was about to endure. I don’t really remember all the “testimony” given by all parties and even today it makes little sense. So let me try to recap the various events and conflict.
Dexter had, by his own admission, been on a sort of bender. What has started three days ago with dinner and several bottles of wine and then a few cognacs followed by nightcaps and the parting of sweet sorrows with the lady of his desire had run on to a gaggle of old friends in need of comfort and understanding. At least that is the story Dexter gave in his defense. “Normally I would pay the bail set by your honor but there’s a mater of principle at stake and I must make clear that I have no intention of paying blood money.” On this point Dexter was firm, much to the judge’s dismay, but he was overruled by the father of the girl in question. The Uncle seconded the overruling and one of the cousins made several quick steps towards Dexter only to be restrained by the bailiff. It would seem that as the friends dropped out of the companionship Dexter was left alone in a rather strange cafe/bar/deli. This was a Turkish establishment, or at least that is what we surmised, except that the uncle was Greek. Why this should matter I am not sure but apparently it did to the mother and the daughter. Dexter was invited to join in the celebrations, something on the order of an engagement but there was a dissenting vote on that matter by the girl and her mother. Dexter’s opinion was enlisted by all as a means of settling the disagreement, a grave mistake to say the least, and Dexter proceeded to give his opinion in a manner most calculated to offend everyone’s sensibilities. “Well, they asked for the truth and I gave it to them, the ingrates.” One of the nephews, the one who was to be the betrothal to the young woman, started to have second thoughts as to the propriety of marrying below his station and handsomeness. The second cousin was offput by his brother’s lack of sanguineness while his father was embaressed by both youngsters. The father of the proposed bride took umbrage at the thought that his daughter was unworthy and put the matter to Dexter. “Don’t you think my daughter is pretty enough for any you to marry?”
Dexter answered in the affirmative which was the undoing of his serenity. Where upon the father of the bride took dexter’s word for an offer of marriage and sought to hold him to it. Well, there was a difference of opinion between Dexter and the father of the bride while the father of the groom took umbrage that a mere stranger would whisk away from under his nose the very bride of his son. The judge, upon hearing this mess of activity declared everyone out of order and told the bailiff to clear the court room. The families disagreed and wanted to judge to mary the young girl and the young man then and then but when asked to produce a marriage application had apparently forgotten to apply for one. Judge Dietrick was outrages, threaten to jail them all for thirty days, and then dismissed charges against Dexter. I, for one, simply marveled at it all. If I have not experienced it I would not have believed it. As I left the court room with Dexter trailing me I turned and told him, “Don’t call me again.”