Wednesday, November 18, 2015
At 7:00 precisely the four boys and their parents arrived at the address given. They marveled at the house which stood by itself at the end of the cul de sac. It was a modest, slate grey Victorian with white trim and filigree. A garage which had obviously once been a carriage house guarded the left side of the house. The right side was flanked by a majestic willow.
They walked up the stairs and stood on the generous porch. No sooner had 'Mule' rung the bell than the door opened. They were greeted by a very attractive man with black hair, wearing black slacks and a blue shirt which matched his eyes perfectly. He smiled warmly and invited them in, opening the door wide and stepping aside to allow them entrance.
"Hello. We're pleased you could make it. I'm Elias. Please, follow me," he said after he'd closed the door.
Elias led them into a large room lined with shelves of books. A fireplace took pride of place against the far wall, a large couch and several comfortable chairs surrounded it. A large, mahogany coffee table took up the center area and contained two tea trays complete with teapots, creamers, sugar bowls, cups and spoons.
Another tray was filled with pastries and small cakes.
Mr. Cobrane and Mr. Barnes stood and welcomed the newcomers. The man who had greeted them at the door smiled and excused himself, closing the double doors behind him as he exited the room. Much to the amazement of the boys, Mr. Cobrane, was dressed very casually in a pair of black slacks, a white button-down shirt, and black vest.
Four other men who had been standing next to the fireplace stepped forward and stood quietly beside Barnes and Delaney with placid expressions on their faces.
The stern looking man walked over to the folks closest to him and held out his hand. "Good evening, sir and ma'am. I am Shandon Cobrane, Vice Principal of the school."
The boys looked at each other again. The Cobra had a first name? They all stifled a grin. Shandon!? No wonder he was always so grim!
"Pleased to meet you, Mr..."
"Parker," the man said uncertainly as he reached out for the Vice Principal's hand. This man was completely different than his son had described him. "Dell Parker, and my wife, Marjorie," he said, gently pulling his wife forward by the hand. Cobrane smiled and took the lady's hand in both of his own as he greeted her.
He then turned toward 'Mule' with his hand outstretched. "And you sir?"
"Samuel Barkis, sir, and my wife Caroline."
Arthur and Arlene Grey were next, and finally Teddy and Penny Granger. Cobrane then gestured toward Barnes and Delaney, introducing and giving them time to become acquainted before introducing everyone to the four unfamiliar men and inviting everyone to sit and make themselves comfortable. He poured tea into each cup, adding milk and sugar at each person's request and handed the delicate looking cups and saucers around the table to each person. Only the boys helped themselves to cakes.
"Mr. Graves and Mr. Simmons are the attorneys for the defense. They'll be representing Mr. Crighton and Mr. Argus. Mr. Selby and Mr. Holt, the attorneys for the prosecution, will be representing the four of you. They've agreed to come here tonight to hear your stories. They would like to record your versions of the events and ask questions."
The boys all looked at each other, unsure of how to proceed.
"If Mr. Selby and Mr. Holt feel that you should not answer a particular question, they'll advise you of such. You do have the right to answer despite their council, though it might be in your best interest to heed their advice. Do you understand?"
The boys nodded, finished chewing their cakes, which had suddenly become quite dry in their mouths, and swallowed them down with gulps of the sweet tea.
Mr. Barnes finally spoke. "Well then, what we would like to do is have Mr. Graves and Mr. Selby take one boy into a separate room, and Mr. Simmons and Mr. Holt will take another, and take their statements without interruption or distraction from the others. Each boy's parents will be allowed into the rooms with their children, however, we ask that you remain quiet during the proceedings. Do you agree?"
It was the parent's turn to look unsure. "If we don't like where the questioning is going, or feel that our boys are being railroaded in any way..." Mule began.
"Questioning can be stopped any time you feel uncomfortable, or at the urging of your attorney," said Mr. Graves kindly.
Mule sighed. He worried about his boy. Not the sharpest tool in the shed, but a good boy, who would sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time which would frequently result in a tanning before the truth of the story came out. He hoped that his son would choose his words carefully.
"Very well then," said Mr. Graves affably. "Mr. and Mrs. Parker, Edward, if you would please come with us?"
Eddie's stomach clenched despite the man's friendly tone. No one ever called him Edward unless he was in for it. His mother took one of her son's hands and his father placed a comforting hand on the boy's shoulder. Each gave a little reassuring squeeze as they followed Graves and Selby into a small den.
Mr. Simmons and Mr. Holt invited Jim and his parents to join them in the kitchen.
Mr. Cobrane turned out to be a genial host, and he, Officer Delaney, and Mr. Barnes kept the conversation light and entertaining for Charlie and Dennis and their parents. Approximately an hour and a half later, Eddie and Jim and their parents entered the living room, looking relaxed and smiling. Charlie and Dennis, who had been increasingly anxious, calmed down and began to breathe easier.
Eddie sat down on the couch and asked politely for another cup of tea, which Mr. Cobrane obligingly poured. Jim asked for permission to take a pastry, looking between his parents and Mr. Cobrane for permission. The adults shared glances and granted their permission after which the boy happily snaffled a raspberry tart and bit into it appreciatively.
Charlie and Dennis and their parents were next. They followed with less trepidation than their predecessors had. Once again, Mr. Cobrane, Mr. Barnes and Officer Delaney entertained the Parkers and the Barkis' with light chatter and jokes.
Eddie tried not to, but he couldn't suppress a wide yawn. It was nearly 8:45 and it had been a long day for him. Despite being brought up with better manners Jim began to slouch tiredly and rub his eyes.
Mr. Cobrane and Mr. Barnes looked concerned. "Would you like to go home, boys?" Barnes asked. "If you're tired you may leave now. We only ask that you make yourselves available to the attorneys if they need you for further questioning."
Eddie looked sheepish but couldn't suppress another yawn. "Yes, sir. I'd like to go home. I'm awful tired. I mean, I'm very tired."
"Me too, sir," Jim added, blinking tiredly.
Barnes and Cobrane looked at Delaney who nodded. The three men escorted the boys and their parents to the door. Once outside, the usually intimidating man's expression softened as he put a hand on each boy's shoulders. "We're very proud of you boys for coming forward and telling your stories. It was very brave of you, and we commend you for doing the right thing," he didn't look forward to the following day when he and Barnes would have to summon the other boy who hadn't come forward to their offices.
Jim looked anxiously at Cobrane, the dark circles of fatigue under his eyes making them look larger and giving his face a vulnerable expression. "Sir? We'll be all right, right? We're safe?"
"You're safe, Mr. Barkis," came the gentle reply.
Jim nodded and turned toward the stairs, and with another jaw-cracking yawn which he tried unsuccessfully to stifle, Eddie followed him. The elder Barkis's and Parkers shook hands with the three men and bid them good night.
At a quarter after ten, Charlie and Dennis and their parents came out of the rooms, looking tired but none the worse for wear. They were offered more tea and pastries which they declined politely, explaining that their sons and they were quite tired. Officer Delaney asked them to keep themselves available in case the attorneys needed to speak with them again, to which they all agreed, before leaving the house and driving away.
As soon as they were gone, another man came out of a back room. "Your Honor, tea sir?" Cobrane offered.
"Yes please, Shandon," the man said, sitting heavily down on one of the chairs closest to the fireplace. He'd been asked to listen in the room next door to verify that the boy's stories hadn't been influenced in any way by their host or the other two men.
"Gentlemen," the Honorable Judge Byron L. Thompson said, addressing himself to the attorneys, "What are your impressions?"
"Their stories are all similar, with enough differences to indicate that they didn't rehearse their statements beforehand. Each seems to have noticed little details that the others missed as well, but overall, we have a pretty complete picture of what took place," said Mr. Simmons. The other men nodded their agreement. The defense lawyers looked distinctly uncomfortable. All of the evidence was against their clients whom they hoped to convince to strike a plea deal.
"They all testified that the knife belonged to Freddie Argus and that it was used at Brice Crighton's bidding," added Mr. Graves.
"None of them could recall the faces or names of any of the other students who had been watching. They said they'd been intent on the events before them and didn't take note of the other spectators," Mr. Selby said. "They did recall that several people left before the actual fight took place, but they couldn't identify who they were."
"Couldn't? Or Wouldn't?" asked the Judge. "Ah well,” he sighed, “I suppose we've got as much as we're going to get from them for the time being," he paused to take a sip of his tea. "What else do we know?"
"We know that Felix Garruson and Aiden Johannson were there, they both said they left before Crighton, Argus and Rossi started fighting, but they, along with the four boys who came tonight, were witnesses to the initial attack on Mr. Di Marco and we have their statements on file. However, neither of them had names to add to the list of students who may have seen what happened either before or after Mr. Rossi intervened," Barnes added.
The men sat in the living room discussing things for another half hour before bidding each other good night and taking their leave.
Cobrane sat up for a while longer, helping himself to a small glass of brandy and staring contemplatively into the dying fire. Much had happened over the past week and Amadeo Rossi seemed to be the center of it. Rinsing out his glass, he went upstairs, washed and changed, then slipped into bed beside his partner, who slept peacefully and gently placed an arm around his waist. He lay awake for a while longer, mulling over the events of the day before finally drifting into sleep.