Actions

Work Header

And Justice For All

Work Text:

"Your Honor, I'd like to treat Mr. Sandburg as a hostile witness. He's obviously withholding information vital to our case."

"You bet I'm hostile," Blair said under his breath.

Judge Atkins looked at the paperwork in front of her and then to the witness. "I understand you are now Doctor Sandburg?"

"Yes, Your Honor," Blair said with a smile.  "Freshly minted."

"And what is your doctorate in?"

"Cultural Anthropology, Your Honor."

"You see, Your Honor," Matt Clarkson, attorney for the plaintiff, spoke while waving his hand at Blair. "He's being called as an expert witness and is clearly qualified. He either gives inadequate answers or refuses to answer my questions at all."

"Right now, Counselor, I'm asking the questions, if you don't mind."

Clarkson sat down, clearly frustrated. "Yes, Your Honor."

"Now, Dr. Sandburg, I suspect that you already know this, but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt because you've been out of the country.  This isn't a trial.  It's a discovery hearing.  The plaintiff, Gerald Spalding, currently President of Cyclops Oil, wants to extradite the Peruvian nationals who kidnapped him and killed Bud Torin, who at the time was Vice-President of Cyclops, and bring them to trial."

"I understand that, Your Honor."

"At that time, you were working with the police, were you not?"

"Yes, Your Honor, but as an unpaid observer, not in an official capacity."

"However, you were involved, even unofficially, and have some knowledge of the particular case as well as opinions based on your field of study?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

"So, whether you have opinions about any of the parties involved, including myself or the attorneys, is immaterial.  We need to discover what you know about the circumstances surrounding this case, Mr. Torin's death, and Mr. Spalding.  Understood?"

"Yes, Your Honor."

Atkins nodded at Clarkson to continue.

"So, Doctor Sandburg, you were called to the scene of Bud Torin's murder and you found a Chopec dart in his neck?"

Blair frowned at him. "Murder calls for a legal conclusion.  I saw that Mr. Torin was dead. There was a dart in his neck. I was asked for my opinion as to the origin of the dart. My opinion was that it might be from the La Montaña region of Peru." 

"And later it was identified as from the Chopec tribe in Peru?"

"I couldn't say.  That would be hearsay on my part."

"Come, come, Doctor.  Wasn't it identified as not only from the Chopec, but from a particular warrior? From…" Clarkson looked at his notes. "A Chopec called Incacha.  Isn't that right?"

"I found out later that was correct."

"And how did you find that out?"

"Incacha himself told me, through an interpreter.  He said that Torin pulled a gun and shot one of the Chopec. Incacha only had the blowgun as a weapon, so he darted Torin in self-defense."

"Your Honor, that calls for a conclusion."

"What's good for the goose, Mr. Clarkson.  We're here to discover everything, not just what you want to know.  Continue."

Clarkson got up from his chair and walked over to the witness stand. "Let's move on. When you discovered where the Chopec were hiding in Cascade--"

"They weren't hiding, they found a place to stay while they were in the city."

"Oh, excuse me," Clarkson said sarcastically.  "When you found where they were squatting while they planned their escape back to Peru--"

"Mr. Clarkson," Judge Atkins interrupted.  "Declaring Dr. Sandburg a hostile witness allows you some leeway in questioning.  Try not to be inflammatory."

"Yes, Your Honor.  When you found where the Chopec were staying, was Mr. Spalding there?"

"I don't know.  I didn't go into the building where they were staying."

"Well, it doesn't matter.  We have the police report that says he was found among the Chopec.  Do you have any idea why they wanted him?"

"Yes. They wanted to bring him to justice."

"Tribal justice?"

"Yes."

"If they had a problem with Mr. Spalding, why didn't they go through normal extradition procedures?"

"They did."

"You mean they'd petitioned their government and our government to extradite Mr. Spalding to Peru?"

"No, they had no need for that.  They discovered that Mr. Spalding was the president of Cyclops.  Cyclops Oil had illegally invaded their protected lands and Cyclops workers had killed several of their people.  As chief of Cyclops, Mr. Spalding was considered responsible for his tribe.  Therefore, he was to be brought before the Chopec elders to answer for his actions."

"So, they didn't go through the recognized international extradition process?"

"As I said, they had no need.  The Chopec, as well as many other indigenous peoples are covered under the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989. They are autonomous and, as such, they don't need to ask Peruvian permission to practice their laws." Blair looked at Spalding.  "Mr. Spalding is, of course, welcome to ask for an advocate when he goes before the elders to answer for his crimes. That's part of the Chopec code of justice." Spalding gave him a cold stare.

Clarkson snorted. "Justice. How can kidnapping a U.S. citizen in his own country and stealing him away to rural Peru to face angry natives be justice?"

Blair stared at Spalding and stilled, lowering his voice, deliberately smoothing it.  "Oh, I don't know.  Is it right or just for Mr. Spalding and his company to cut down protected rain forest to build roads which allow them to drill for oil?" He spoke softly and evenly, despite the pointed questions he used to answer what he'd been asked. "Is it right or just for them to pollute the area waters, on which these people depend to survive, with the waste products from their drilling?  Or for them to kill indigenous people simply because they stood in the way of their bulldozers?

"Was it right or just for Mitch Yeager to kill Janet Myers in cold blood because she discovered their illegal activities?  Was it right or just for him to make it look like she was murdered by the Chopec?"

Blair turned from Spalding to face his attorney, still speaking softly.  "I'd like you to take a minute, Mr. Clarkson, and imagine you are living somewhere.  Not here in a city that has any number of resources to protect you.  Here, there are police if someone assaults you or your loved ones, or breaks into your beautiful home, or steals your car or the money you work so hard to earn, the money that buys food and shelter so you and your family don't starve or freeze to death. Firefighters to put out a fire on your street so it doesn't spread to your property, or paramedics to help you if you have a heart attack and whisk you to a hospital.

"Instead you live in the Old West, perhaps on the plains of Oklahoma, in a small community--little more than a village--full of law-abiding neighbors. You all work hard separately and together to make a go of it in harsh conditions.  You fought and conquered the elements using just your brains and talents and sweat. You have a hard life but a good life.  There is no government providing services--Washington DC is a thousand miles away, but it doesn't matter because Oklahoma isn't even a state yet, so it gets no federal protection.   The largest town is too far away to provide any support or services.

"Now imagine a man comes into town.  He likes what you've built here, but he likes even more the land upon which you've built your home and your future.  Recently, quite by accident, while drilling in a well for salt in Salina, oil was discovered. Surveyors are sure that most of Oklahoma has a pool of oil under the ground that will put California's wells to shame. Your little town is isolated enough that no one would notice if it disappeared off the map--no one would mourn except a few distant relatives who'd have no way of knowing what happened to you and your family and your community if the worst happened.  And the worst is about to happen.

"That man, that greedy man, has brought wagons full of drilling equipment and men to run it all, but he's also brought men who know how to handle a gun or a two-by-four and aren't afraid to use them on anyone or anything.  

"No one is coming to help you against this menace. Your choices are few--allow him to drill with whatever consequences that entails, or pull up stakes and start all over somewhere else, or stand against him and fight. Even though you are outnumbered and out-gunned. Even though you might die. Your backs are up against the wall and you have to make a decision. But, no matter what you decide, the fact remains that what this man wants to do to you is unjust; stopping this man from taking what's not his would only be justice, wouldn't it?  

"These hypothetical choices I've given you are what the Chopec actually faced. Alone, with only themselves to rely upon, they watched as men with guns destroyed their lands and polluted their waters, killing any that got in their way. They had no real place to relocate. If they chose to fight back they faced overwhelming odds. Those were the choices faced by the Chopec because of Mr. Spalding's actions."

Blair turned to Judge Atkins, still keeping the same steady tone, the one he used to ensnare his students' imaginations when he told his stories. "Incacha was not just a Chopec warrior, he was their shaman.  As he lay dying after Yeager shot him, he passed the Way of the Shaman to me.  After Spalding was taken into custody, I returned with the group of Chopec and their dead and took part in their death rituals.  I stayed to understand my responsibilities as shaman, as well as to understand their ways and laws.  I can tell you they do not practice vigilante justice--this tribe has laws that they've developed that reflect their society's values and they enforce them in a way that is acceptable to that society.

"Because every single person has value, judgement against them, which would affect not only themselves, but their family and friends, is taken seriously.  In a society that small, everyone knows everyone, so the repercussions of accusing someone falsely are enormous. Before that group came to Cascade, they reviewed all the physical evidence of the travesty Cyclops Oil had visited on them.  They went to great pains to decide who should be held accountable, which is how they found Mr. Spalding's name and his responsibility.  

"Instead of Mr. Spalding trying to extradite them, he should be on trial.  He should be tried here in the U.S. for violating international mining laws, in Peru for destroying their protected rain forests, and before the Chopec tribunal for the death and destruction of this tribe's people and lands.  If that doesn't happen, then there is no justice."

Just then, the doors to the courtroom flew open and a man in his twenties entered hastily, followed more sedately by two men in uniform.  Blair recognized the uniform of one man as a Marshal; the other uniform was unknown to him.

Judge Atkins startled at the interruption.  She blinked owlishly, wondering how she (and indeed the plaintiff's attorney) had allowed Dr. Sandburg to talk without interruption for the last five minutes.  Her bailiff stood at attention, ready to stop the intruder if he approached the judge, but the man went immediately to confer with the defendant's lawyer.

"Mr. Meyers," Judge Atkins began, "I want an explanation for this interruption.  Is this man a witness?"

"Sorry, Your Honor," said Abe Meyers. "May I introduce Terence Barber, a representative of the International Labour Organization.  For those unfamiliar with the ILO, it is a United Nations agency dealing with labor problems, international labor problems in particular.  It is also the umbrella organization for the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.  He has just flown in from Lima, Peru and was inadvertently delayed due to flight connection problems. He has information germane to this case."

Barber stood at the defense table. "Your Honor, first please excuse my rather rumpled appearance.  Murphy's Law being what it is, my luggage has been lost somewhere in transit."  Judge Atkins nodded and waved her hand to have him continue.  "Under the authority of the UN, the ILO, and the governments of the United States and Peru, I have a warrant for the arrest and extradition of Gerald Spalding."

Spalding and Clarkson both stood up and shouted simultaneously:
-"What?"
-"Your Honor, we object!"

 The rest of the courtroom was abuzz as people in the gallery talked among themselves in confusion. Atkins rapped her gavel for order and the room quieted.

Barber continued. "Mr. Spalding is to be immediately transported to Peru to face charges, which are named in this warrant.  The two men with me are a local U.S. Marshal and a Peruvian High Court Marshal from Lima. The charge details are in the warrant.  If I may approach?"

"Hand them to my bailiff.  Do you have a copy for Mr. Spalding's attorney?"  At Barber's nod, she indicated he should hand them to Clarkson, who immediately read the warrant, with Spalding babbling in his ear.

Judge Atkins took several minutes to read the document, then looked over at the plaintiff's table.  "Mr. Spalding, these papers appear to be in order.  Our government has obviously agreed that there is sufficient evidence to have you extradited immediately.  Since we cannot continue, I'm going to dismiss your case, without prejudice.  If you are acquitted and able to return, you're welcome to refile your case."  She looked at the two Marshals.  "Gentlemen, you can execute this warrant."  With that, Spalding was handcuffed and escorted out, followed closely behind by Clarkson.

Judge Atkins looked at the remaining people in the courtroom.  "Well, this is the most unusual ending to a hearing I can remember.  If there's no further business with the court, everyone is free to leave."  As the gallery emptied, she turned to Blair.  "Dr. Sandburg, you've been unusually quiet.  You wouldn't know anything about this, would you?"

Blair smiled.  "Your Honor, I was as surprised as you by this turn of events.  Although, I must say, I'd have to call this Karmic justice, and the timing couldn't have been better.  I'm very glad to be a witness to it."

Atkins looked as if she didn't quite believe him but was prepared to let it go.  "All right, case is dismissed without prejudice. Dr. Sandburg, you are free to go. Thanks to everyone for your services."  With that, she left for her chambers.

Blair filed out with everyone else but lingered in the lobby of the courthouse.  When Abe Meyers walked by, he stopped next to Blair.  "Want to get some coffee?"

"Would love to," Blair replied with a grin.  "Maybe even something stronger.  I feel in a celebratory mood."

*****

"What do you call this?" Abe asked, as he sipped the clear liquid from a snifter.

"Pisco.  It's a type of brandy that's created through a very exacting process." Blair drank from his own glass.  "There are many varieties, but this is one of the few exports that match what I can get when I'm in Lima."

"Well, it's good." Abe reached out to clink Blair's glass. "And appropriate." Blair smiled and nodded.  "Blair, you did a masterful job keeping Atkins occupied until Terry could get there.  You were the last witness.  I heard Spalding was getting ready to leave on his annual vacation to Monte Carlo.  He'd only put it off to attend this hearing, the smug bastard."

Blair laughed.  "Yeah, the entitlement of the rich knows no bounds. Your suggestion to drag my feet so Clarkson would claim hostile witness was right on. It bought us a nice bit of time."

"Personally, I didn't find your monologue all that unique.  How did you keep her captivated?"

"Trade secret, my friend.  Thank you for taking the case."

"My pleasure.  Do you have time for dinner?"

Blair checked his watch.  "Yeah, if we can make it late. I've got some running around to do before taking off for Peru tomorrow."

"How long will you be gone this time?"

"Not sure, but not long.  Jim's leave is running out."

"Okay, let's meet at Wong's?  Around ten?"

Blair downed his drink and stood up.  "Sounds perfect.  I'm always in the mood for Chinese." With that, he left the bar.

*****

"How was the flight?"

"Long." Blair sighed as Jim enveloped him in his arms.  "Better now."  He held on for a long time, feeling Jim's strength flow into him.  Finally, they broke their embrace.

"Do you have any other luggage?"

"Just my trusty backpack.  Made going through Customs a breeze."  Blair hoisted it on his shoulder.  "So, did you see them come in?"

Jim gave him an evil smile.  "Yeah, Spalding looked a little shell-shocked.  Someone could almost feel sorry for him."

"The only thing I'm sorry about is Yeager isn't joining him instead of lying safe in an American prison."

Jim nodded his agreement.  "Nanto and the rest of the group are here to testify. They're having a ball at the hotel.  They discovered the mini-bar."

Blair laughed.  "Are we staying here?"

Jim shook his head.  "Nah, they don't need us as witnesses, and the tribe doesn't need non-Chopec support to plead their case."

"Good.  I'd rather go back to the village anyway.  Amo is going to let me participate in a couple of more rituals before we have to leave."

Jim groaned. "I'm not going to have to turn a blind eye, am I?  You still have to work for the PD when we go back, you know."

Blair snorted. "Impossible with your eyesight. Don't worry, I won't be consuming anything that will show up on a standard drug test.  Scout's honor."

"You were never a scout."

"No, I guess I wasn't.  Shaman's honor, then."

Jim laughed.  "How did the Guide voice work?"

Blair's eyes widened.  "Like a charm.  I just couldn't believe it. How'd you know it would work?"

"If it works on a hardened old ex-Ranger cop like me, it'll work on anyone.  You just never believed in yourself."

"Well, man, I'm a believer now. You should have seen Judge Atkins and Spalding's attorney. I had 'em eating out of my hand."

"Speaking of eating, let's head back.  I have a couple of rituals I want to perform with you before you see Amo."

"You're not talking about food, right?"

Jim smiled as he unlocked the door to the rental car. He gave Blair a wink and a pinch on the butt before heading over to the driver's side.

 

~~end~~