Thursday, March 23, 2006

G. Lee Goes to Court

“Please place all metal objects in the basket….”

Garrett winced at the implication, then started pulling gear off and placing it on the pudgy bailiff’s desk. Betacam, fanny-pack, cell phone, pager and a few spare nine volts. Fishing out a fistful of change, he tossed it into the basket and let the clatter of the coins convey his contempt. The bailiff didn’t notice, instead he just stared at the newsgathering equipment and blinked in slow-motion.

“What’s in the bag?”

Garrett leaned over and unzipped a pouch. “Tapes, batteries, a few Tic-Tacs.”

The bailiff, whose eyelids seemed too tight, leaned in to get a better look at the potentially lethal breath mints. As he did, Garrett looked at the pockmarked ceiling and exhaled slowly before glancing over at the strung-out looking woman standing behind him. With great effort she looked at Garrett through a dirty curtain of spent euphoria. Sensing she’d be of no help to him, he scanned the crowd while the bailiff dug through his run-bag. That’s when he saw him.

It was a face he’d seen in his peripheral vision hundreds of times; at train wrecks, ribbon-cuttings and drive-by shootings. This time however, the shooter known for his walrus moustache and ugly tropical shirts materialized far across the courthouse lobby, deep in the process of squeezing into an already overburdened elevator. Poking a divorce attorney in the hip with his tripod, Casky turned around as the doors began to shut. When he spotted his fallen protégé staring back at him from the row of metal detectors, he grinned broadly and made sure he had his attention. Just before the doors met in the middle, the man who could easily pass for a younger Wilford Brimley winked and shot his more junior competitor the bird.

A full four minutes later, Garrett jabbed his own middle finger at the same elevator’s faded Up button. Above him a chipped number six shone weakly, telling him his ride was far from on the way. Mumbling under his breath, Garrett shifted the camera’s weight, trying to alleviate the stress of the heavy leather strap digging into his shoulder. When that didn’t work, he choked up on the tripod in his grip and, shaking his head in disgust, jogged toward the stairwell door. Two flights up a prominent orthodontist faced charges of indecent liberties with several female patients. For weeks, Garrett’s station had sprinkled their ten o clock newscasts with snippets of the diddling dentist and nothing short of a coronary on his part would excuse Garrett from missing the good doctor’s first appearance in open court. Taking two steps at a time, the 25 year old news photographer propelled his gear and body upward, putting off that heart attack for a good twenty, twenty-five years.

By the time Garrett made it to the third floor, the wide hallway was packed with victims, defendants and enough attorneys to exploit them all. Fat shafts of sunlight from the scratched-up windows made it hard to see at first, but when his irises contracted he spotted a familiar frumpy form in a powder blue suit. Making his way over to the assistant D.A., he squeezed by a clutch of migrant workers in matching cowboy hats and tapped him on the wrinkled shoulder.

“What courtroom’s the dentist in?” he asked without introduction.

“3A…” said the future judge as he juggled an overflowing folder and half-filled coffee cup, “but First Appearance started a half hour ago. You’re late, G.Lee

With yet another painful sigh, Garrett spun on his heels and almost took out a couple of gang-bangers. Miming an apology, he slid past them and almost made it to Courtroom 3A’s entrance when the heavy oak door burst open and Casky’s ample backside threatened to run him down. On instinct, Garrett side-stepped, stashed his tripod behind a trashcan and powered up his camera. Blue light erupted from the viewfinder and the audio needles sprung to life as he pressed his face to the eyepiece. Inside, a one inch screen displayed the image of the tooth doctor himself, flanked on all sides by what looked to be four very pissed-off dental hygienists. The largest one, a severe looking woman with hand-painted eyebrows took her wrath out on the backpedaling Casky.

“I don’t know why you media people insist on getting’ in our face!” she spat as she thrust her purse toward the veteran photog’s lens. Garrett flinched a little as the enraged hygienist’s jewel encrusted handbag came near his camera, but Casky held his shot, allowing the woman to make a complete fool of herself as she tried to shield her boss from view and thus guaranteeing they’d both be kicking off the two different newscast’s opening segments in the process. As Casky stayed close and tight, Garrett pulled out wide and included his old mentor in the shot, careful not to show the competing station’s flashy logo. When Nurse Furious spotted a new lens, she turned on the scruffy young man with the camera stuck to his face

“A man’s innocent before he’s proven guilty!” she exclaimed, making her employer seem far more shadier had she not appointed herself spokesperson. “Until then, ya’ll can all go to hay’ll!” With that, she and her fellow over-manicured bouncers whisked their boss through the stairwell doorway and disappeared. When the door shut, Casky and Garrett giggled like smitten school girls.

“Man,” Casky said, as he played back the woman’s apoplectic image on his viewfinder’s tiny screen, “She’s sure earnin’ her bonus.”

“Should we chase ‘em?” Garrett asked as the older photog walked over to the window that looked out over the courthouse parking lot.

“Nah, nothin’ we’re gonna get will top that.” Casky said as he spotted a brightly decorated Ford Explorer pull into a judge’s reserved parking space below. “Besides, let Channel 4 get a piece of the action. Hoyle could use some of that love for his escape tape, anyway.”


tapeguy said...

Glad to see G.Lee is back...he's had quite the hibernation. I'll catch ya on the patio.

OhioChief said...

A Good Short Story. I like how you captured the life of a photog on court beat. I've had to make those stair climbs several times myself. They're never fun.