"Even idiots manage acts of genius occasionally," Gratton responded with an eloquent shrug, "and vice versa."
"Yes, but these divergences of genius and idiocy don't add up to a convincing behavior. His story fits the evidence as much as yours does, but anyone clever enough to come up with such an elaborate story — a story that would unfold by reluctant degrees and perfectly match video evidence that he didn't know existed — while at the same time carrying on an Oscar-worthy performance of weeping real salt tears for over an hour, would have also been clever enough to wipe an oily fingerprint off a knife before using it to commit murder."
"People do incredible and inconsistent things all the time, Roddy," the DA toyed with her leather-handled brass letter-opener while watching the defense attorney out of the corner of her eye.
She always enjoyed opposing him, he always threw challenging obstructions in her way but showed great respect for justice and the law, and they had become friends over a number of cases. Even more, she admired the way he frivoled and posed like a useless fop in order to gull people into believing him a harmless eccentric... it was a ploy she wished she could find some way to adapt to her own use.
"I myself will frequently do something incredibly stupid," Gratton went on, "like leave my housekeys in my front door or drive right through a red light, while plotting out a particularly clever strategy. I'm sure you've done it, too."
"I see your point," Casterman considered, tucking his hands behind his head, "I once was so distracted with a brief I was writing that I accidentally agreed to let my mother-in-law come live with us. Now I understand you: you posit that my idiot Danny Boy was so disconcerted or distracted by his crime that he simply neglected to clean up the mountain of damning evidence he left behind; but after a night spent dangerously in the same building as the murder, and then being arrested in a particularly spectacular manner, he suddenly regained his cool and started calculating his way out of it?"
"It's possible, maybe even probable," the DA swiveled around to look out her window, "If killers didn't do stupid things, we'd never catch them, would we? And your 'idiot child' isn't as dumb as he looks, he graduated summa cum laude from Stanford and got into MENSA with a 150 IQ."
"Do tell! My, what busy little bees you've been," Casterman was impressed by so much detail in an investigation that had been open for only a few hours.
"He's also the best suspect we have, he rings the bell on each of the Big Three: Access, he was in that apartment; Opportunity, he left fingerprints and DNA on the knife, so he certainly held it, and definitely had sufficient strength to use it; and Motive, he was in an utter rage of hurt feelings and affronted dignity."
"But he's such a lamb! You can read people as well as I, and I know the child is innocent. Though I'm being paid very well to assume he's innocent, I have more than the required logical premise: I simply know he didn't and couldn't kill anyone. I knew it the minute I looked at him."
"What I know," Gratton put down the letter-opener and swiveled her chair around to face Casterman, "is that he looks innocent. Too innocent by half, if you ask me: those big doe-eyes, that fresh milk-fed complexion, those cherubic curls, the lost-puppy look and the Little Lord Fauntleroy manners... they absolutely scream innocence. But I wouldn't let off a suspect for looking like an absolute angel any more than I would charge a suspect for looking like a murderous demon; looks are too deceiving, Roddy."
"Well, I suppose we shall have to agree to disagree, Clarice," Casterman swung around and planted his well-shod feet on the floor, "as per usual. Can we arraign and set bail this afternoon?"
"The soonest we could manage is tomorrow morning," Gratton consulted a memo on her desk, "Messrs. de Seguemont and Willard-Wilkes have been on the horn all day, flexing their Social muscle to good effect: three judges have 'volunteered' to work this evening and Saturday to flush out the backlog. But your docket has to wait its turn, the detainees arrested before the popular Mr. Vandervere have rights, too. If we weren't having a particularly light weekend, your little lambkin might have been in custody until Tuesday."
"It's not just my employers who want this expedited," Casterman got up and moved over to the sideboard where he'd left his briefcase, "You have your ambitions as well. Mustn't let the press get cold... you need to have a trial underway before people forget about the very eye-catching bit of beefcake that's going to hit news-stands tomorrow morning, and the airwaves this evening."
"The press does put an annoying amount of pressure on the case," the DA allowed, "and an annoying kind of pressure, too. I've had to make an emergency salon appointment this afternoon before the press-conference. Hair, nails, facial, and a professional makeup artist. You men are so lucky."
"Don't be fooled, my dear, I have to leave for an appointment myself. Haircut, manicure, and facial, maybe even some spray-on tan; and a professional color consultant is sending over some ties and shirts that 'scream innocence,' as you so beautifully put it," the defense attorney shuffled his papers and closed up his briefcase, "May I suggest a hot-oil treatment? It gives such a nice shine that looks lovely on television. And not a white blouse, Clarice, it looks so sterile. Something in a tomato bisque color will bring out the warm red glints in your hair."
"Duly noted, good buddy," Clarice got up and came around her desk to give her opponent a friendly hug, followed by a more professional handshake, "though the hot-oil treatment was already scheduled, and I've been around long enough to know better than to wear white on television. When can I expect a motion to supress the video?"
"You read my mind, as always. I'll have it ready for the arraignment tomorrow, of course; all I have to do is construct a better rationale than my maidenly reticence to show porn to a jury," Casterman paused in the door and struck his signature heroic pose, "This is going to be a grand fight, Clarice: there will be media attention, good publicity all around, and accolades will rain down on you even when you lose. I only wish poor little Danny didn't have to suffer through it."
"He's hardly little, Roddy, he's six-foot-two; and the experience will build some much-needed character," Gratton held the office door for the departing attorney, "Besides, the Protective Custody block was just completely remodeled, very modern, fully in keeping with today's bleeding-heart philosophy of criminal detention. There aren't even bars anymore; it's like a summer-camp, but nicer. We'll take good care of your pretty lambkin."
Danny learned two valuable lessons that afternoon: first, that pretending to not be afraid frequently results in actually not being afraid; and second, that even the most harrowing experiences can be turned into exciting adventures if only one assumes an attitude that the harrowing experience is an exciting adventure. Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals frequently feature songs extolling this clever expedient.
Whistling the happy tune of "I Whistle a Happy Tune" from The King and I, Danny breezed through the booking process with a convincing imitation of good humor, being cheerfully charming to everyone who handled him; consequently, the booking officers were extraordinarily pleasant and kind to him in return, guiding him gently through the maze of rooms and hallways for fingerprinting, DNA sampling, drug-testing, and mugshot photography. His mugshot even showed him smiling with genuine laughter, and the officer operating the camera joked about launching a career as a glamor-portraitist on the strength of it.
The officer who relieved him of his street-clothes folded the sweater and pants very neatly and slid them carefully into their envelope, and placed his shoes sole-out to keep everything clean. The officer in charge of hygiene declined to put Danny through the unpleasant and humiliating delousing procedure, passing him through with only a cursory examination of his skin and hair. The officer in charge of doling out orange jumpsuits and rubber sandals let Danny try on several things for the best fit, and even brought out his own personal sewing kit to whip-stitch some tucks into the waistline so the roomy extra-large would hang better.
Though Danny was dismayed to have to give up his lovely linen and cashmere for another tacky, bleach-smelly coverall, he found it was much less irksome with his own high-quality underclothes between it and his sensitive skin. The molded brown-black rubber sandals were unexpectedly quite comfortable, though they looked terribly silly with his tan socks.
And while Danny had no idea what the Protective Custody block was like before the renovation, he approved of the soothing colors and smooth lighting of the rooms and hallways through which he was led. Having envisioned something out of an old prison film, filthy and noisy with iron bars and cinderblock, open urinals and bare lightbulbs in little wire cages, he was pleasantly surprised by the more hospitable atmosphere of creamy rose plaster and beige carpeting, with light wood chair-rails and regular swinging doors instead of sliding cage walls.
"I'm gonna put you in with Duane," Officer Laskiewicz told Danny as he escorted him down a long corridor with doors on each side; he was a very large slope-shouldered young man with twinkling black eyes and a happy demeanor, who was too gentle a soul to guard the rougher element in the City Jail's general population, "He's pretty nice. I think you'll like him."
"I'm sure I will," Danny smiled, "You've been very kind, Officer. Thank you."
"Hey, Duane, I brought you a new friend," the officer called through the partly-open door as he knocked on it before pushing in.
"Why can't you call me Kiki like everyone else?" the young person in the room complained in a high-pitched but gravelly voice.
"The sign on the door says 'Spurlock, Duane,'" the officer said in a broad joking manner, "I'm just reading the label."
"You should know better than to judge a jar by it's label in this place, Laskiewicz," Kiki laughed and turned around on the top bunk to take a look at the newcomer, "Well, hel-lo, handsome!"
"I'll leave you two to get acquainted," Officer Laskiewicz took the handcuffs off Danny's wrists, which had been put on as a mere formality and were loose enough to be shaken off, "Play nice, Kiki."
"With this one, I'll play very nice," Kiki vamped at Danny, sliding down off the bunk and looking up at him; she was a transsexual who had apparently missed her last hormone shot — a wisp of pale ashen hair fuzzed her pointed chin and thick upper lip, though small pert breasts graced her thin chest, "What's your name, big boy?"
"Danny Vandervere," he put out his hand to shake, then turned Kiki's hand and kissed it gallantly, as Aunt Tittie had taught him always to do with any drag queen or tranny he met.
"Ooh, such a gentleman!" Kiki giggled and fanned herself with her free hand, then just stood back and studied her new cell-mate, "I'm Miss Kiki Monroe. You in for hustling, or drugs?"
"Neither, I'm afraid," Danny studied Kiki closely as well; she was remarkably petite and looked a little frail, with a heart-shaped pixie face and long fine hair, but had very hard eyes and a rather dense forehead ill-concealed by her sparse fringe of dusty-blonde bangs. Her orange jumpsuit and sandals looked somehow separate from her, as if she were wearing them over her real outfit, though only a regulation white t-shirt and socks showed through, "I'm being charged with murder in the second degree."
"And of course you didn't do it," Kiki laughed but nevertheless took a tiny involuntary step backward.
"No, I didn't. For a minute I thought I might have, by accident, so I confessed," Danny ducked his head and blushed becomingly, embarrassed anew by his error, "When I found out he was stabbed, I knew I didn't kill him; I took back the confession, but they didn't believe me."
"Oh, sweetie, I do like 'em big and stupid," she leapt back up into the upper bunk, "I'm in for soliciting, sixty days on a tiny little misdemeanor, if you can believe it. But I did do it. These vice-cops are just getting trickier by the day. Why don't you shut the door, kick off your shoes, and make yourself to home?"
"I'd rather not close the door, if you don't mind," Danny was suddenly aware of the tiny dimensions of the cell, hardly larger than his hall-closet at home. There was barely enough space for the bunkbeds and a strange piece of stainless-steel plumbing that combined the offices of sink and toilet; there was a long narrow window in the wall beside the bunkbed, but the glass was reinforced with wire mesh, and only looked into an outer hallway, no better than the little eye-level window in the cell door.
"Claustrophobic, huh?" Kiki diagnosed the problem, "You can leave it open for now, but they'll close it tonight at Lockdown."
"Oh, dear," Danny gasped, his composure cracking at the thought of being locked into this tiny crowded cubbyhole, "I don't know if I can handle that."
"Sweet Jesus, don't start crying," Kiki exclaimed, filled with an unaccustomed concern when she saw Danny's eyes tearing up and darting around the cell in abject panic, "Come on, I can show you around and introduce you to some of the girls. We'll worry about Lockdown when we get to it, okay?"
"I'm sorry to be such an ass," Danny sobbed quietly while trying to pull himself together, "You're being very sweet. I really appreciate it."
"Just don't fall apart on me, baby," Kiki pulled some tissue off the roll by the sink/toilet and dabbed at Danny's eyes, "This place is a lot safer than Gen Pop, but some of these bitches will attack any sign of weakness."
"I'll hide behind you, then," Danny gave his newest friend his most dazzling smile.
"And while you're back there..." Kiki trailed off suggestively with a lewd wink; like Marquesa the night before, and many another hard-boiled and heavily-armored person, the little transsexual hooker was astonished to find herself moved to affectionate compassion by Danny's appealing beauty and heart-breaking vulnerability.
Kiki took Danny down the corridor to show him the bathroom, which was fairly large and still shiny and clean with newness; there were toilet stalls along one side and shower stalls along the other, all with doors that didn't lock but nevertheless allowed a degree of privacy, and a row of sinks surmounted by an unbreakable mirror along the far wall, with a frosted and barred window above letting in natural light.
At the end of their corridor was a dining hall, with enough tables and benches to seat a hundred, though there was no kitchen attached; made-up trays were brought up on trolleys from the main dining hall used by the general population. There were also some token-operated vending machines in a caged alcove that sold snacks and sundries to inmates who had money on account.
When Kiki found that Danny hadn't brought any money with him, having been arrested wearing nothing but a towel, she bought him a bag of corn-chips to tide him over; he hadn't eaten anything since the toast and fruit on Valerien's terrace that morning, he'd missed lunch while being interrogated, and dinner wasn't for another three hours. He promised to get some money and pay her back, but she dismissed the obligation with a generous wave of her hand... which surprised her a good deal more than it did Danny.
Beyond the dining hall was another long corridor of cells, and then the lounge, where thirty or so inmates were spending their afternoon playing games, writing heavily decorated letters to friends, and watching soap-operas on television. There was a bookcase with dozens of old library-books and back issues of The New Yorker and Good Housekeeping, but absolutely nobody was reading.
This perfectly square room wasn't quite as large as the dining hall, but was still quite spacious and occupied a corner of the building, with two wide barred windows, too high to look out of, letting in more natural light and some fresh air. The cube-like couches and chairs were cheaply constructed but relatively comfortable, and the television was large and expensive, housed in another alcove behind a wall of thick reinforced lucite. A third corridor of cells led off of the lounge, but there was no point in exploring there.
The overwhelming majority of Protective Custody inmates were transsexuals and effeminate gays who were either awaiting arraignment or serving time for misdemeanors; while the most common charge among them was solicitation, there were a good number in for shoplifting and minor drug-possession as well as for lewd acts and public drunkenness.
Apart from these, there were a handful of other types likely to be brutalized or even killed by the general population: three accused child-molesters, strangely pasty middle-aged men with oily voices; a police officer charged with killing an eleven-year-old gang-member; and several very young and pretty straight boys, mostly charged for drugs or petty theft, who were so afraid of being raped in Gen Pop that they preferred to take their chances with the trannies in Protective Custody... who were rather more brutal to them than the horny bruisers of the general population would have been.
"Their little cherries are safe in here," Kiki stage-whispered quite loudly enough to be heard in the next room while introducing Danny to a trio of cringeing young skaters playing poker in the corner, one of whose faces was spectacularly bruised and lacerated, "But we girls won't hesistate to beat the living shit out of them if they misbehave. Isn't that right, Pogo?"
Though Danny was taken aback by this easy violence, so common among people who live far outside the realms of Society and Law, he quickly ingratiated himself to Kiki's particular cronies and was soon a minor celebrity. With Kiki at his side, he spent the rest of the long afternoon conquering the hearts of everyone he met as he explored the bookcase, watched television, and kibbitzed at various games in progress, easily making friends with the hustlers and thieves as well as the eerie pedophiles and the shocked cop; the pretty straight-boys didn't respond to his overtures, though, wary of his size and his familiarity with the trannies.
There was a great deal of ribald joking about "Miss Kiki's new bitch," but her protection proved invaluable when footage of Danny's arrest started rotation on the television news teasers; Danny endured cat-calls and ribbing, and then requests to repeat his performance and give them a strip-show. But even with Kiki's tenacious snaps and growls, the ribbing eventually evolved into direct overtures, and it might have escalated to something more dangerous if the dinner-bell hadn't gone off.
Danny trailed closely after Kiki as they made their way back to the dining hall, lining up at the service window to receive their trays of food, select their beverages, and gather up napkins and cutlery. Danny was fascinated by the serving-ware, which was all made of treated paper that couldn't be converted into weaponry, even the diminutive fork and knife. Kiki showed him where to sit and took the place next to him, then pondered the mystery of her unexpectedly mushy protective feelings while watching Danny eat.
"This food is amazing," Danny enthused during a brief pause in wolfing down the meatloaf with mashed potatoes and corn, "I never thought jail food would taste so good!"
"Ugh, you can have mine," Kiki slid her barely-touched tray toward her beautiful new friend, retaining only the dinner-roll to eat and the dessert brownie for later trading.
"And milk!" Danny exclaimed again, gulping greedily, "It's so clever and sweet of them to serve comfort-food here!"
"You must have been hungry," the plump bald man on his other side simpered flirtatiously, laying a soft small hand on Danny's thigh, "Things always taste good when you're hungry, especially to a growing boy like you."
"Mitts off, Stella," Kiki leaned threateningly over Danny's food and glared at the man, "he's mine."
"All right, Miss Thing, I was just being friendly," the man called Stella folded his hands together on the table with a bit of a sniff, "Didn't mean to step on your skirt, girl."
After dinner, there were a lot more inmates wandering around in the halls and common rooms, and the atmosphere was a little more charged than the lazy afternoon had been. Kiki escorted Danny back to the bathroom and casually stood guard outside his stall so that he could have his daily movement in peace, which was late by over an hour due to the emotional and dietary chaos of the day. When Danny crossed over to take a shower, she stood guard there, as well.
"You don't have to stand out there by yourself, do you?" Danny asked from inside the shower, shoving the door open a little, enjoying the hot water more than he could express and feeling a tidal-wave of gratitude toward his fierce little protectress.
"I shower in the morning," Kiki responded, turning to take a good look at Danny's magnificent body while he tried and failed to work up a lather with the cheap liquid soap, "Look, Danny, all this talk about being my 'bitch'? It's just joking. I don't really expect you to put out."
"But what if I want to?" Danny wondered, his face a picture of wide-eyed innocence while his hands moved erotically over his crotch to clean himself, trying to shove his soapy fingers as far up his ass as he could reach and pulling at his slick and swelling genitals.
"They watch us," Kiki said after swallowing hard, her mouth suddenly very dry, "We're not supposed to have sex."
"Then why are there condoms everywhere?" Danny argued.
"Because we have sex, anyway," Kiki laughed, breaking the tension, "and they don't want us giving each other AIDS on their watch. You're a sweet kid, Danny, but I only fuck for money."
Danny dried off and put on his undershirt and shorts, then hugged Kiki impulsively, "I really appreciate you taking care of me, Kiki. You helped me a lot today, and I won't forget it. I just wanted to show you how much I appreciate you."
"You can 'appreciate' me in a nice comfy hotel-room when we get out," Kiki resumed her vampy veneer, stepping back and arching an eyebrow at Danny, "Maybe you can take me out for dinner and a movie or something."
"When we get out of here, I'll buy you dinner at Fleur de Lys, a new dress from Saks, and a Tiffany bracelet. But I guess in my case it's more a question of if than when. A big if," Danny's voice trailed off as he started wondering about what would happen if his defense failed, if he ended up going to a real prison, and found the tears welling in his eyes again when he pondered the monstrous unfairness of being punished for a crime he didn't commit.
"Great Jumpin' Jesus, not the waterworks again! Put your suit back on and we'll go watch TV for a while, OK?"
"You're the boss," Danny grinned through his tears, zipping up his coverall and slipping into his sandals.
"And don't you forget it, bitch!" Kiki laughed, putting her arm around Danny's waist and leading him out of the bathroom.