Chapter 01

Equal Justice Under Law

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Justice: Chapter 01

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SUMMARY: The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is dead. Now, with control of the Court hanging in the balance for the first time in years, the race is on to fill this critical vacancy. Who will the President nominate? Will a closely divided Senate approve his choice or will partisan politics derail the nomination? Only one thing is certain. There will be winners and losers and the balance of power may shift in the country depending upon the outcome. In the process, careers will be affected, reputations made and lost, and friendships tested. But which side will ultimately prevail is far from clear. Please note that italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters or fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Similarly, you may not use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way without such permission. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

COMMENTS: Comments are welcome. You can either email me directly or leave a reply at the end of the chapter. A first name (pseudonyms welcome) and valid email address are required to leave a reply, but your email address will not be published. Nor will it be sold, shared, given away or otherwise used for any other purpose.

NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there’s something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. For now, if you haven’t already read the synopsis and/or the preview, I would encourage you to do so before reading Chapter 1. They may provide some helpful context.

JUSTICE

Chapter 1

At his townhouse on Capitol Hill, Eric Ford was already tired before he was even fully awake Wednesday morning. Among other things, he was tired of waking up pinned to the edge of his bed by the kitten he had recently adopted in the hope of finding a little affection in life.

Named Milo, the kitten was playful enough, but rarely curled up in his lap or allowed itself to be petted by Eric. It was quickly becoming still another in a long string of disappointments for its young owner.

“Scoot,” Eric said, pushing his feline companion away so he could tap the screen of the phone he had placed on the bed next to him as a substitute for the boyfriend he lacked.

Not that he was unaware of what time it was, but performing this ritual every morning forced him to confront the price he paid for working on Capitol Hill. At the moment he tapped the screen it was 6:02 a.m.

That was the usual time Eric woke up weekday mornings, but he was also tired of getting up that early so he could get to the Senate office where he worked and have two hours alone to get something useful accomplished.

Not that he had very much choice in the matter. Those two hours were the only ones Eric would have to himself before he got trapped into an endless round of briefings, hearings and meetings that would leave him exhausted by the end of the day.

Just thinking about that made him tired.

But mostly what Eric was tired of was waking up alone every morning. It had been months since he had been to one of the bars or clubs in D.C. and even then he had ended up going home by himself.

Not that he made much effort to persuade someone to come back to his place. The truth is that Eric had made no effort at all because he was tired of a Washington gay scene he considered tired.

Reaching across the bed, Eric retrieved his phone and quickly punched in the URL for the New York Times to see what story would dominate conversation in Washington that Wednesday.

Although it was another daily ritual he was tired of, he did it because it was important to know what was going on in the world if you worked for a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts like Eric did.

“Holy shit,” he muttered in disbelief to Milo who by now was prowling the king-sized bed while Eric looked at his phone. “I don’t believe it.”

Staring back was a headline that stunned him.

CHIEF JUSTICE SAVIANO DEAD AT 63
NATION MOURNS LOSS OF CONSERVATIVE ICON

After quickly reading the story, Eric collapsed back on to his bed and stared at the ceiling.

Unbelievable!

I’m twenty-four years old and there’s been a conservative Supreme Court my entire life. And now the man responsible for all those decisions I hate is dead and the President can tip the balance to the progressive side for a change.

And I can help him do that; me, Eric Ford.

Unbelievable!

Tossing off the sheets that covered his naked body, Eric climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Looking into the mirror as he shaved, Eric liked the face staring back at him. All of his friends said he was handsome, quite handsome indeed; at least that’s what all of his gay friends said.

Being good-looking wasn’t the problem. Eric knew guys were attracted to him. The problem lay elsewhere, but Eric didn’t want to go there at the moment because he knew thinking about it would be a distraction and he wanted to get to the office as quickly as possible given the morning’s news.

Eric followed the shave with a shower and then stood in front of the full-length mirror drying off. As with his face, he liked what he saw in the mirror. Eric was in excellent shape, a testimonial to the many hours he spent working out every week.

Unlike his youthful self, he was proud of his body now; lean, defined and muscular, with wide shoulders that tapered down to strong hips and a bubble butt his friends loved kidding him about because they desperately wanted to get into it.

They never had.

Realizing he didn’t have time for the kind of self-assessment he usually tormented himself with when he woke up in the mornings, Eric pulled on his clothes. Quickly feeding the kitten but not himself, he grabbed his briefcase and started the walk to the Russell Senate Office Building.

Although he had a reserved parking space he occasionally used, Eric preferred walking for the exercise and additional time it provided to figure out what he needed to accomplish each day. Even now, as he strolled toward his destination, it was hard for him to believe the story he had read.

Many of the Justices who served on the Supreme Court were old; Thompson was 78, Jackson 80, and Whitcomb, the oldest of all, was 82. If it had been any of them, Eric would have believed it. But Saviano? Saviano was only 63.

He had been appointed at the age of 42 because conservatives were determined to hold on to the Supreme Court forever. It was their best hope for keeping things as they were in the country; or, better still, rolling the clock back to an earlier time when minorities and the poor knew their place and were less of a nuisance than they had become in recent years.

But America’s demographics were changing and Republicans were finding it harder to win elections, especially Presidential elections. In the off years, when only the House and Senate were up for grabs, the GOP could do better thanks to Justice Saviano and his conservative colleagues on the Court.

The Supreme Court had lifted all of the remaining restrictions on money in politics under Saviano. That made a difference because the rich and powerful knew how to steer money in the right direction and to best effect.

As if money wasn’t enough, the Court had reinforced what only money could buy by overturning the Voting Rights Act that had for years helped assure minorities the right to vote. In the wake of that decision, GOP voter suppression efforts had proliferated across the country.

Eric hated both of those decisions, but what he hated most about Chief Justice Saviano was that the man had single-handedly brought segregation back to American schools and then smugly touted that result as a tribute to being a color-blind society.

I don’t care what anyone says. Saviano embodies everything wrong with America. Of course, the media will fawn over him now that he’s dead. They’ll tell everyone what a big impact he had on the country and that’s true enough. But they won’t tell Americans his impact was negative.

They won’t do that because politics is just a game to the media; a never ending procession of saints, sinners, clowns and con men struggling to advance their personal interests.

To Eric Ford, politics was no longer about what it should be; promoting the public interest. If the media was to be believed, there was no public interest. There were just group interests and individual interests and politics was about who got what, when, and how. It was entertainment mostly and it didn’t matter who won or lost because the entertainment value of the game was all that mattered to the media.

Having finally arrived at his destination, Eric quickly made his way up to the fourth floor office where he worked and unlocked the door. Hanging up his suit jacket, he sat down, turned on his computer and prepared for what he knew would be a busy Wednesday indeed.

****

At Our Lady of Fatima Church in Bethesda, Maryland, the Reverend John Saviano was tired as well, but with more reason than Eric Ford. He had been up most of the night comforting his mother, a strong woman but one who had just lost the man she had loved unconditionally for more than forty years.

She had taken it hard.

Now, having finished praying for the soul of his father, John Saviano turned his attention elsewhere.

His mother and three older brothers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, had agreed not to drag out the process involved in burying Anthony Saviano. Even now the body was being prepared for transport to the Supreme Court where it would lay in state on Thursday and Friday morning before being moved to Our Lady of Fatima for a private viewing open only to family, friends and parishioners that evening.

On Saturday morning Father Saviano would celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He would be joined in doing so by many of his fellow priests. Indeed, knowing how political the man was, the Cardinal would probably insist on being there as well.

Father Saviano was resigned to that and by now his attention was focused elsewhere. The Mass would be his last opportunity to celebrate the life of his father. But while he loved the man, Reverend Saviano was having difficulty figuring out exactly what he should say to the assembled crowd because he disagreed with his father on many things.

It was going to be a particular challenge finding something to say about his father’s judicial legacy, one he was not looking forward to.

****

In addition to being tired, President Harrison Long was annoyed Wednesday morning at the White House. He had been awakened in the middle of the night and informed of the Chief Justice’s death.

The President didn’t like being awakened with bad news. He was never able to get back to sleep once he was. Even if he tried, he would end up tossing and turning and that would leave him tired and irritable when he finally got out of bed in the morning.

Now, up at last and sitting at his desk in the Oval Office, the President was annoyed that his chief of staff, Wayne Taylor, had told Luke Daniels to awaken him so he would know Chief Justice Saviano had been pronounced dead at 2:08 a.m. that morning after being transported from his home in Bethesda to the Walter Reed National Medical Center.

Daniels was the young aide Wayne occasionally left in charge of the White House at night. Inexperienced, the President knew Luke would have called Wayne before waking the President up; that he wouldn’t have done something like that on his own initiative.

“Why the hell did they bother me with something like that in the middle of the night?” the President muttered although no one was present.

It didn’t make any sense, but there was nothing he could do about it now except get more of the details from his daily briefing paper, the one that summarized everything Presidents needed to know first thing in the morning.

Having read it, gotten his daily briefing from his National Security Adviser and the Central Intelligence Agency, and gone over his schedule for the rest of the week, the President asked his secretary to have Wayne come in.

“You wanted to see me, Mr. President,” Wayne Taylor said, popping into the Oval Office.

“I did,” the President responded. “And I’m glad to see at least one of us got a good night’s sleep last evening. For crying out loud, Wayne, why did you tell Luke to wake me up in the middle of the night with that news about Saviano? The man was dead after all. I may be the most powerful man in the world, but I’m not Jesus Christ. It’s not like I could raise Saviano from the dead.”

“Not that I would have if I could. The man has been a thorn in the side of this Administration since day one. But there was no reason to wake me up, Wayne. Unless there’s been some kind of miracle, Saviano’s still dead and I bet he rested a lot better than me last night.”

“Sorry,” Wayne apologized. “It caught me by surprise as well when Luke called and asked whether he should let you know. I realized it was a mistake telling him to wake you up the moment I hung up the phone, but it was too late by then.”

“In any event, do you want to go over the tentative list of candidates to replace Saviano we’ve pulled together? We’re still working on it. We’ve also drafted a press statement we’re going to put out within the hour. Do you want to look at that?”

“No,” the President responded. “Just be sure the press statement doesn’t go overboard. Keep it short and sweet; emphasize how I’ve ordered the flags flown at half-staff across the nation. That should be enough for most people.”

“As for possible replacements, keep the list short. There’s no sense wasting the FBI’s time when everyone thinks they already know who I’ll be nominating. But when we finalize that list, Wayne, be damn sure the Bureau does a full review of Judge Carroll. I know they’ve already done that several times in the past, but it’s going to be hard getting the votes to confirm the man in the Senate what with all the enemies he’s made over the years.”

“I don’t want to be blindsided by the Republicans finding something the FBI overlooked; and make sure the Bureau doesn’t start vetting anyone until I meet with the Senate leadership on this. They’ll be in a huff if we start vetting candidates before they’ve had a chance to weigh in. Capiche?”

“I understand,” Taylor said. “Today will be all about the sad loss the nation has suffered. We can get back to politics as usual once the funeral is over. I hear they’ve scheduled it for Saturday by the way. I’ll see if I can get the Senate leadership down here to begin the process of finding a successor next Tuesday. Is there anything else on your mind this morning, Mr. President?”

“There is, Wayne,” the President replied. “It occurred to me that Saviano’s death provides a good excuse for cancelling my meeting tomorrow with the Israeli Prime Minister. What do you think?”

President Long was pretty certain he already knew what Wayne would think about that idea, but was hoping the man would cut him a break after his sleepless night.

“Absolutely not, Mr. President,” his chief of staff replied forcefully. “There’d be hell to pay if you did that.”

The President had anticipated that reaction and now played his only remaining card.

“All right, Wayne, but what about scaling the meeting back to fifteen minutes rather than the forty-five you set aside for the son of a bitch?”

“I know the Prime Minister isn’t your favorite foreign leader, Mr. President,” Taylor responded, chuckling. “But you know damn well fifteen minutes would never fly. As it is, the Israelis are mad as hell the man is only getting forty-five minutes.”

“Good,” the President responded, disappointed but not surprised his chief of staff hadn’t gone along with his suggestion. “I’m glad the Prime Minister will be as irritated as me when he arrives tomorrow.”

“That should make for still another productive meeting between us,” he added, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

****

At the home she shared with her husband off Rock Creek Park in northwest Washington, Olivia Carroll wasn’t tired at all. She was delighted. Not just with the news the Chief Justice was dead although that was certainly welcome news indeed in the Carroll household. But Mrs. Carroll was even more delighted because she could see the news crews beginning to gather outside their home.

The crews were there partly because of the epic legal clashes her husband had engaged in with Saviano over the years and would be looking for a comment from him about the morning’s developments. Unlike most judges, her husband loved talking to the press and they loved talking to him as well because he was charming, witty and always had something colorful to say no matter the subject.

But they were also there and would be with increasing frequency in the coming weeks because they believed the President would eventually nominate her husband to fill the vacancy on the Court left by Saviano’s death.

At last! Olivia thought to herself. And here I thought we’d have to wait many more years for this day to come.

Upstairs she could hear her husband, Vaughn Carroll, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, preparing to be driven to the E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse on Constitution Avenue, which was only a few blocks from the Supreme Court itself.

Thank God for that, Olivia thought. It should make for an easy move.

The thought of redecorating the Chief Justice’s office delighted Mrs. Carroll. But rather than dwell on that, she moved away from the window and tried to savor the moment. Although their marriage had been a shamble for years, Olivia had been looking forward to this day forever. She was a power in her own right after all; one of, if not, the most important arbiters of social life in Washington.

The parties she threw at their palatial home were both legendary and eagerly anticipated by everyone who wanted to be anyone in Washington. Olivia Carroll, eager to cement her status as the premier among Washington’s many would be doyens, had long ago made her accommodation with the failure of their marriage.

They slept in separate bedrooms and had done so for years, but she knew her husband was destined for the Supreme Court and was determined to be by his side when he finally ascended the bench. She was willing to tolerate a loveless marriage knowing her husband would never embarrass her by running around after every pretty skirt in Washington. That made living with the man easier.

And so their marriage had endured year after year as each consolidated their own position; Vaughn within Washington’s legal community and Olivia within a broader Washington social scene she planned to rule with an iron fist once her husband became Chief Justice.

By now she had been joined in the dining room by Judge Carroll.

“What do you plan to say to the reporters when you leave?” she asked.

“Nothing,” he replied. “Other than expressing sympathy for his wife and children, I plan to keep my mouth shut for a change.”

“Good,” Olivia responded. “When do you think the President will name you Chief Justice?”

“Are you certain he will, my dear?” her husband asked.

“Of course,” she replied. “Any other choice would offend the Democratic base, Vaughn. You’re their hero, the one who’s been carrying the progressive banner all these years. As the only judge in the country willing to stand up to Saviano, how could the President not appoint you?”

“He could name Franklin Saiers,” Judge Carroll said, knowing the suggestion would cause his wife to worry.

Saiers was the Chief Judge of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco. He was also a timid jurist in Judge Carroll’s opinion; one much too inclined to respect precedent and defer to the Legislative and Executive branches in his decisions.

“Do you really think so?” Olivia asked, suddenly concerned.

“Not really,” her husband responded, chuckling about having put a scare into his wife.

“We’ll have to get through the funeral first, but after that the process is fairly choreographed these days. The President will pledge to look for the very best nominee. A winnowing process will follow as candidates are vetted and different names floated to keep the Senate and media guessing.”

“But in the end the cream will rise to the top, of course. I expect the President to announce my nomination roughly four to six weeks from today. The Senate should act not too long after that.”

****

Somewhere above the east coast of the United States, Senator Paul Jennings of Massachusetts was both confused and tired as he looked out the window of the aircraft carrying him back to the nation’s capital.

Earlier that morning he had been called by the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Bill Cahill, and informed of the death of Chief Justice Saviano. Cahill had asked him to break short his trip and return to Washington immediately.

Senator Jennings had been crisscrossing Massachusetts in preparation for his reelection campaign the following year. It had been a productive trip and he was in good shape as best he could tell. People back home liked him. He had a ton of money in the bank; and Massachusetts was reliably Democratic after all.

On top of that, the Republicans were squabbling among themselves. They were trying to decide whether to nominate a true believer like Preston Brooks or a more moderate candidate who might actually appeal to someone other than malcontents and wacko birds; people who claimed to be conservatives but were really reactionaries yearning for an America long since departed, if it ever existed at all.

Paul Jennings wasn’t concerned about who the Republicans might nominate. More worrisome was the prospect of a primary challenge. There were several Democrats, including the Mayor of Boston, Vincent DeFazio, who were ambitious and hungered for the seat he held. For the moment, however, they seemed to be holding their fire.

Senator Jennings had agreed to return to Washington when asked. He was still a junior member of the Judiciary Committee and was surprised the Chairman had bothered to call him at all. He enjoyed the Committee and had worked hard to build a reputation with more senior members as a serious legislator; a work horse, not a show horse, as Washington insiders liked to say.

A former Attorney General of Massachusetts, he frequently volunteered to take on some of the more mundane tasks associated with the work of the Committee. That often entailed spending hours chairing hearings in which every organization under the sun with some special interest made its views known about this, that or the other thing.

They especially liked to weigh in whenever the President nominated someone to fill a vacancy on one of the Federal courts, but God forbid you should challenge their perception of reality in any way. Even though opinions about a particular nominee or piece of legislation always diverged dramatically, everyone testifying was completely certain that whatever they were recommending was the way, the truth and the light.

At times Jennings found their arrogance suffocating.

Even so, Senator Jennings understood it was important for people to know their views were being taken into account. He didn’t have a problem with that and there were even times when you actually learned something new. Still, the Senator was conflicted about a process that seemed to him excessively partisan most of the time.

He knew the Republicans had stacked the judiciary with hardline conservatives for years. Having won the Presidency and Senate a few years back, he understood how important it was for the Democrats to reestablish some balance on the courts. Senator Cahill had been a loyal servant in shepherding the President’s nominees through the Committee, the Senate, and on to the bench.

Most of the Appeals and District Courts were now controlled by judges appointed by Democratic Presidents. The Supreme Court was the lone exception. It had been dominated by conservatives for years, many appointed at a very young age by Trump.

Some of the Democratic justices were older as well. Two Obama nominees had already died and President Long had appointed young successors, Emily Liu and Yesica Alverez; both of them qualified, talented, and intended to help make the Court look more like the face of America in the twenty-first century.

But those appointments had done nothing to change the ideological complexion of the Court. That’s why the death of Chief Justice Saviano was so important. He was Republican and the voice of the five member conservative block that had controlled the Court for years.

If you listened to his fawning admirers in conservative circles, Saviano was brilliant. He claimed to be an originalist, someone whose only job was to read the Constitution as the Founding Fathers had written it.

But that was a fraud and everyone knew it; a convenient pretense to impose his own conservative ideology on a country that was becoming more progressive with each passing day.

And now the man was dead and Senator Paul Jennings was on his way back to Washington because Bill Cahill had called and told him he wanted to talk to him about the confirmation process for whoever the President named to succeed Anthony Saviano.

I wonder what he has in mind, Jennings thought, as the plane began its long descent into Washington, D.C.

****

In Baltimore, Maryland, Richard Remillard, better known to acquaintances and friends as Richie, was happy as he surveyed the small room he called home. The previous evening he had made the first weekly rent payment of $100 that he and his older friend, Aaron, had agreed on.

Richie was proud of himself.

Aaron had been letting him stay in the room free of charge for several months, but Richie was bound and determined to be his own man. He felt something important had changed when he made that first rent payment; that he was no longer simply a guest tolerated by Aaron as a favor to an old friend, but someone who was carrying his own weight by helping Aaron pay the rent on the larger apartment his room was part of.

Not that Richie’s room was large. It was actually quite tiny indeed and didn’t have much furniture either; just a twin bed, a bureau for his socks and the colorful underwear he loved wearing, and a small chair in the corner by the window where Richie was currently looking down at the busy street below before heading off to work.

Across from the bed was a full length mirror on the door to the closet where Richie had hung the rest of his clothes; a couple of pair of jeans and an assortment of t-shirts. Richie hadn’t brought much clothing with him when he moved to Baltimore several months earlier from the small town in southwestern Virginia where he had been born and raised.

He had been encouraged to move to Baltimore after graduating from high school by another friend, Darrell. Like Aaron, Darrell was older; indeed Aaron and Darrell had been best friends long ago and Darrell had persuaded Aaron to take Richie in until he could find work.

Richie knew there were other ways he could make money besides working. Selling drugs, for example, but that was illegal and he wasn’t interested in going to jail. Even if he had been willing to risk it, Richie had decided never to sell drugs not long after arriving in Baltimore.

He had seen how addicted people could get to heroin, cocaine and opiates. Indeed, he blamed his failed relationship with Tommy Coles on drugs

Sex was another way Richie had learned he could make money in Baltimore. Many of the boys he knew were poor like him and worked the streets in the evenings, selling their mouths for a couple of twenties or their asses for more if they were especially desperate.

But even though he was young, cute and gay and could have, Richie wasn’t interested in selling his body. He didn’t think that was an honest way to make a living; selling your body to every Tom, Dick and Harry who came along and thought their money could buy whatever they wanted.

Richie was determined to do things his way, the honest way. It had taken longer than he hoped, but eventually he found the restaurant in Little Italy that needed a busboy and quickly accepted the job even though it didn’t pay very much.

It certainly didn’t pay enough for Richie to get his own place given the rents rooms commanded in Baltimore. Fortunately, Aaron had agreed Richie could continue living in the room where Aaron had allowed him to stay for free as a favor to Darrell, his best friend from years ago.

Although $100 was a lot given what he made, Richie realized Aaron could have asked for more. He also knew Aaron still nurtured a hope the two of them would become best friends eventually like Aaron and Darrell had once been.

But while Richie liked men older than him because they seemed more settled in life like he wanted to be, he had tried to make it clear to Aaron from the beginning that he wasn’t interested in that kind of relationship; that Aaron was a wonderful friend but not the special friend Richie was looking for.

What Richie wanted was some combination of a boyfriend and a good role model; someone he could emulate and who would help him become a better person, a more successful person, a person who could actually make a difference in life, however small that difference might be.

And hot, too; he definitely needs to be hot!

Just the thought caused Richie’s groin to stir. Embarrassed, he tried to nip what was happening in the bud by adding more stipulations.

Not just hot; he has to be a good person too, someone gentle, funny and kind. Not someone full of himself; someone who really likes me and not just because he’s looking for a quick roll in the hay.

It bothered Richie that most men didn’t take him seriously; that they were only interested in one thing when it came to him. Richie was looking for someone who would treat him as an equal, not a boy toy to be played with; someone he was attracted to for sure, but a good person, an honest person, someone who would love him for more than his youthful good looks and tight little butt.

Although both Aaron and Darrell were good people, honest people, Richie knew he wasn’t attracted to them; and bitter experience had taught him that trying to love someone who only loved feeding a drug addiction like Tommy was a fool’s errand.

So, yes, $100 would take a big bite out of Richie’s very small paycheck, especially since he was determined to send money home to his mother even though their relationship was complicated.

After his father was killed fighting abroad while Richie was still just a baby, his mother had become withdrawn and emotionally distant. Some people would say she wasn’t much of a mother at all.

But she was all Richie had and he had done his best from a very young age to help her; mowing lawns, shoveling snow, collecting bottles and other recyclables for their cash value, and taking on other menial jobs to raise pennies and dimes to help out.

Richie had paid a price for this growing up. He didn’t have any close friends because he and his mother lived in a trailer on the wrong side of town and he was too busy helping her out in any event.

For all of that, Richie was a resilient boy; remarkably good-looking with an incredible smile and sunny disposition, a hard worker who never complained, and a son who loved his mother despite getting very little back in return.

So, yes, Richie was determined to send money home now that he was working.

Fortunately, in addition to the small hourly wage he was paid and his share of the tips he earned from bussing tables, Richie also got free meals at the restaurant. That helped.

Having a roof over your head and food in your stomach, all honestly earned, made Richie feel like he was in charge of his life. It also helped that Aaron’s place was within walking distance of where he worked so he wouldn’t have to spend a ton of money taking public transportation back and forth; and on top of all that there were the occasional trips to Washington that Aaron took him on. Those were fun.

Looking up, Richie noticed an airplane in the distance. He had always liked watching planes come and go, wondering where they were headed and what the people who occupied them did once they arrived at their destination. Watching the plane disappear south toward Washington, Richie turned and looked in the mirror.

He could tell from the grin on his face he was happy and from his perspective he had every reason to be.

Life was good.

****

In San Francisco, California, where he was about to open a session of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Chief Judge Franklin Saiers was concerned. A single parent, Judge Saiers had dropped his son off at school earlier that morning. But this morning he was a concerned and dutiful parent as well.

Chief Justice Saviano’s death had reminded him it had been years since he had reviewed the legally binding document that spelled out what would happen to his son if his father died. The document needed to be updated and Franklin Saiers promised himself he would call his attorney later that morning to take care of that.

For the moment, however, he rose and recited the familiar words with which sessions of his Court began.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America,

and to the Republic for which it stands,

one Nation under God, indivisible,

with liberty and justice for all.

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6 thoughts on “Chapter 01

  1. A brilliant conclusion to the first chapter. Knowing that the story promises twists, turns, and both the good side and ugly side of our government …. ending with the pledge of allegiance is a master-stroke.

    1. Thanks for the compliment, Tim. I don’t recall exactly when the idea came to me, but it just seemed like an excellent finishing touch.

      I can’t guarantee we’ll see much of the words in action as the story progresses though.

      1. I assumed we wouldn’t. It is the irony of the words that make the pledge in this place so powerful.

  2. As usual you are setting the groundwork for what I hope will be both interesting and educational. That sounds a little dry but I am sure you know how to keep things interesting to say the least. Nice to see you back.

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