A Lion Prowls Tonight

What if as a lawyer you had to defend a man that killed several people and was glad he did it. Only one problem, you begin to see where he is coming from.

A Lion Prowls Tonight

A Lion Prowls Tonight

One enters the lion’s den with great trepidation. Even confined behind bars, in manacles, this remorseless killing machine was a sight to behold. Restless, he padded back and forth as I entered his territory, his space, and worst of all, his rules.

"Hi, I'm Tom Evans, your new defense lawyer." I edged into Cole Sinclair's prison cell.

He stopped pacing, glaring at me, obviously put off just for encroaching in his personal space. The three guards behind me had Tasers ready, just in case. He'd attacked two previous lawyers for “not getting his drift and pissing him off”. This case would be an impossible one to win, but something about him fascinated me.

I had reviewed his file several times before deciding I wanted to check him out. What kind of man would burn two Hell's Angels' clubhouses, stalk and kill a dozen members for the alleged overdose and rape of his daughter? In this day and age of moral values and equality, I wanted to meet the person that had that kind of guts, guile or sheer stupidity.

"Sit," I growled.

With a deadpan gaze he looked over and stared. Our eyes locked. I waited three seconds, staring back without blinking. I knew I couldn't look away or back down. I had to establish certain male rules of respect here and now if I were to have any chance of gaining his confidence.

"I said sit the fuck down so we can talk”.

Caught off guard, not expecting a lawyer to swear, he raised an eyebrow. "I could break your neck long before those Tasers take me down even with these on me." Chains rattled. His first words to me.

I expected an answer somewhat along those lines. "I know. That's why we're both here. You've broken a few lately."

"I don't want nor need a fucking defense lawyer. You and me both know I'm guilty, and… " he paused, eyes hardening into slits. Rage's redness seared his vision. The memories how he found his daughter, Alyssea, beaten and drugged, I saw playing through his mind. A dangerous man to upset, I wondered who was stupider, him or me for sitting here locked in a cage with him. I'd read the files and seen the pictures of his daughter before I came in. They weren't pretty. I visualized my daughter in his place. Could I truly blame him for what he'd done?

"And I'd do it again." Cole’s pupils went cold as his eyes hardened.

“I know that.” It wouldn't be easy to win his confidence, harder to not have him break my neck. I had to think at his level. "There aren't many men with the balls to take on the Angels. Now sit down so we can talk or I'm out of here. I've got better things to do with my time at two hundred and fifty bucks an hour."

His tough-as-nails ex-marine muscles flexed under his shirt, like the lion about to pounce, readying himself. Cole looked at the three guards and back at me mentually calculating how much damage he could do before being subdued. Given half the chance he'd attack us and I wouldn’t be here alive to tell this story. Why he didn’t; to this day I don’t know.

I could have met him behind glass, given his history, but didn’t. I wanted to see him, face to face, feel the rage inside. Stupid really, on my part. After the marines he’d been a construction worker, the calluses on his hands betraying this. Six-two of solid coiled muscle, tipping the scales at three hundred pounds. I was told he spent his time either pacing or working out. He sat down, his large beefy hands thumped on the table. "Alright. I’ve changed my mind. Talk. I've got nothing but time."

I put my briefcase on the ground, sat down and placed the recorder on the table. The guards lowered their weapons slightly, but not much as he looked about, still sizing up his chances of escape or taking all of us. “I have to make you aware that I will be recording this conversation.”

“I also have to make you aware of the fact that piss me off and I’ll be shoving these handcuffs up your ass.”

I bristled, he wasn’t a man of many, if any friends. I read that nobody else bothered him here. Not a surprise. Cole Sinclair struck me then as a creature out of time. He should be at the head of an army, leading the charge. Berserker rage in his eyes, hefting his sword at the unfortunates before him. Urging his men on, taking no prisoners, no mercy, even for himself. He'd be Leonidas the commander of the Greek three hundred at the battle of Thermopylae as he held back the Persian army numbering more than a hundred thousand for a week. Yelling the orders given him. "Thou Shalt Not Pass."

A maniac, yes. But a man of integrity and intense courage. The Conan of the Robert E. Howard novels, not the watered down version in the movies. Why was I here? Curiosity. What drove a man to kill? The court had thrown out the case against the Angels on the grounds that his daughter had apparently led them on. Twenty voices to one and hers was stilled. Life can deal some pretty shitty hands sometimes in this, what always would be a closed case, for Cole. Murder, even in revenge over something this heinous, isn’t allowed by law.

He clenched his meaty fists. One blow even handcuffed together would break my neck. "I'll say this before you waste your breath. I know the state requires a lawyer for my defense. But understand this," he growled low from that place in his throat that came straight out of the heart of a man betrayed. "Those men raped my only daughter. I killed them for that and that alone. I know the Angels have their ways and their codes of ethics. Whether they let me out of here or keep me in I'm a marked man. But I won't go down without taking a few more in the attempt."

Cold, calculated, yes. He wasn’t some sort of homicidal maniac going on a killing spree. I really didn’t expect those words. I needed to know more, what made a man, this man think like he did? "Until what? The score is settled. When is that?"

"It's not about settling scores. It's about right and wrong."

"It's wrong to kill. In our society we have human rights, laws to protect us." Or was there something deeper here? More honorable. Did integrity still live in our modern civilized society?

"Human rights? To hire expensive suits like you to protect scum with blood money from drug sales? Allowing them to drug and rape minors, whether she started it or not and get away with it on technicalities? The men, and I use that lightly, are nothing but rabid animals. Ones that need to be exterminated. They have no use, no function but to poison others and destroy this country. Where’s the human right in that?" Cole's suppressed rage stabbed at me with mute red daggers. If I hadn’t earned some deal of respect he’d have flung himself across that nailed down table right then and there and attacked. But he didn’t, in the caged laws of the lion’s jungle, I’d earned at least that much; my life.

So I decided to test and push his mental state. "So who elected you judge and jury? We have police, courts to decide right and wrong. You can't kill them all."

He looked at me calmly. "Sad isn't it, that there's so many out there that the courts nor police can’t protect. Where’s the human rights in that. Don't matter, if I can prevent one more person from being hurt, one innocent from being molested and twisted. Or make one of them think twice before they try anything else, then my life is worth it. They killed the only thing I loved in all of this world. I have nothing left but vengeance and that…” He inhaled deeply trying to quell the rage inside. I'd read that his wife left him years ago and he had full custody of his daughter. "That is my human right.”

It was my job now to cross the line he’d stabbed in the sand. "If I can get you out, there's the witness protection program. You could lead a normal life. Have a wife, family, someday."

Teeth grit in the cell. Concrete shattered in that glare between us. "I'm not stupid, you don’t get it. They have money, and power. They'll get me eventually, I'm not safe ever. I don't want others getting hurt."

Reality of another world ran right between my eyes. I needed to know where he was coming from. "So, are you afraid?"

"No.” He stared point blank at me and I knew his next words were truth. “I know I'm hunted and I'll hunt those out to get me. Simple. My days are numbered and I don't want anyone else involved. There's no more to be said. Get out." He rose and began to pace, restless. My nickel was up.

I shut off the recorder and stood. I knew saying anything else wouldn't get me any where except losing my blood. He was a maniac; that much was true. Yet if I had to march through a jungle or have someone leading a charge into enemy ranks it would be Cole by my side. He should have been born a hundred years ago when the world needed heroes that would risk their lives for righteous causes. Isn't that what I was supposed to do here? Defend him even with all those men's blood on his hands? Where was my honor? Buried in university certificates lining my walls?

This case was a lost cause. He'd hang and the rats, vermin and maggots would feast on his carcass. The ones that should be hanging in his place. Where was the justice in that? And my kind were leading the charge.

I walked out of the jail silent, his words, the look on his face, his integrity gritted on my teeth. I sat in my expensive BMW Z4 Roadster wearing my thousand dollar suit pondering why I deserved all I had in this life and Cole who had more guts and morality in his one finger than anyone I'd ever met, was where he was. Human rights that I was paid to enforce, to protect while unsaid, he espoused them.

I went home to my loving wife and stared at my two daughters, six and eight. What would I do if something happened to them like did to his daughter? Would I defend their honor? Or would I lay down and just take it, crying night after night? Perhaps forming some legal group to raise awareness, FAAD, Fathers Against Abused Daughters, ensuring this didn’t happen to other kids. In essence, was I any better than the men that did what they did to his daughter? The steel glare in his eyes kept burning into my psyche as I fell asleep. Knowing nothing could bring the one he loved back.

In the morning my mind was made up as I phoned the office, "I'm taking the case. Send me all the police reports." Cole Sinclair deserved to be free. To breathe fresh evening air under another untainted sunset. Far more than those degenerates did.

Three days later I sat in front of Cole again. He frowned hard, arms crossed, muscles flexed under his prison uniform. I pulled out my briefcase and recorder. "You're either naively stupid, or some bullshit glory hound looking to get nominated for some hero fucking medal for getting a guilty man off."

"Well, I never worked for OJ's defense, but they managed to convince the jury to let him off and you know as well as I do that man should be hanging off the end of a very thick rope for what he did."

Cole cracked a thin smile, so foreign to his face. I managed to chink a small nail in his thick armor. "So shiny tie dude, why are you here again, wasting our time?"

"Somehow I believe you're different, worth saving and a greater man than I'll ever be and yes, I must be nuts. So let’s get on with it, ‘cause we’ve lots of ground to cover.” I pulled out the police files and asked him several questions as the recorder ran. Alyssea's body had been found behind the Angels' Clubhouse. Several different sperm samples were found inside all of her orifices. She'd been tied up as evidenced by the rope marks on her hands and feet. I grit my teeth in rage, knowing that could be my daughters' faces on the photos.

"Okay here's the angle."

“Stop!” His face turned red as he exploded. "I ain't pleading insanity either. I don't think you fucking get it do you? The courts couldn't get justice for me, so I did. I killed them on purpose. Case closed, no more questions." Violence flooded his vision, if he had no honor he'd jump me right then and there and our conversation would be over. But he didn't. He sweated integrity and pissed honesty as naturally as the sun rose and jungle cats hunted and ate flesh. Only he didn’t want to eat me. That much was plain.

"I know that.” He huffed and puffed, hand clenching as I reached over and turned off the recorder. “Enough. My turn to speak.” My voice grated over his. “For once shut the hell up and listen. I know what you did and I know why. I'd like to believe I'd have done the same in your boots and that's the angle we're using. The warrior's rage. You saw red, you lost it. You lost it, temporary insanity and don’t fucking argue with me." I yelled back the deep growl of a dog on the verge of working up his courage to attack. The guards jumped. All I could see at that moment was my daughter’s eyes in those photos and knew I’d have done no less than him. It was my turn to lurch myself over the table and grab him by the throat and crush his life from his limbs.

He took himself back and looked blankly at me, shaken. "You are crazy."

"Maybe. Maybe I'm the whack job.” I rose and shoved my face into his. The guards moved to us. “But it's my duty is to get you out of here. Back on the street and if that stops even one of those bastards from having this happen again, my job, not yours, is done." Would I have had the balls to pull off what he did in his case? I doubted it until this very moment. Seeing that caged morality in his soul. To hell with the law and what is supposed to be right. Yeah, I would and heaven help anyone who got in my way.

"Why? You know I don't care if I get off. I'm done. They will find me someday and get me."

How he could have stood there and looked at her dead body? Knowing what they had done to her? Pictures so brutal and demoralizing, I knew would haunt my sleep for the next few weeks. "What you said last week is true. We are a twisted civilization, falling to big money and corporate power. The morally good aren't respected anymore. This is the Roman Empire in its dying days before the collapse into barbarianism. I'd sooner have you on the streets making one of them not sleep at night or perhaps think twice before trying this again."

He raised his eyebrows. "Who the hell made you Bat-the-fucking-man? Are we done yet?"

“No, we sure as hell are not.” I yelled back. Deciding right then and there, I wasn’t backing down. Not now, not ever. His rage was mine. Ours, we, owned it.

I’d stand beside this man as the gates of Troy burned before the Greeks and it will take more than a frigging Trojan horse to take us down. They have to tear the city down, brick by brick, man by man. The guards twitched nervously as truth whispered between us in the unseen winds passing on cold hard gazes. "At least I've got the balls to pull it off. You got the kahunas to back me up? Or are you content with letting these four walls become your savior and safety crib?"

For once he said not a word. Afraid? I thought not. Testing my will as I scowled back. Two warriors, working up their courage, before rushing into battle. My temper steeled and hardened. I stood and put out my hand. “We got a deal?” I whispered so the guards couldn't hear. Knowing that to someone like him a handshake as like sealing your own soul in the devil's blood inked pen. How many had challenged him and lived to talk, much less called him a coward? He stared at my hand and at me. And looked into the resolve in my soul.

"In that case definitely a deal." We shook, his steely grip was crushing like grizzlies wrestling over fresh caught salmon. If we were kids we’d cut our wrists and hold them together. We breathed together, ready to stand back to back, like two Christians armed with sticks on the grounds of the blood soaked Coliseum as they released the lions.

"So, now that is settled. Back to the case, we're going to have to show them pictures of Alyssea. Explain what they did to her, in every brutal detail. Your anguish, the rage at her court case being dismissed on the grounds she led them on. This isn't going to be easy or anymore fair than what happened to her. You need to be angry, but controlled. Show them the injustice I see in your soul now."

His square-cut jaw flexed as we wrapped up an hour later. At one point a tear threatened as he looked at her picture, his hands running over her face. Where had he failed in raising her, probably crossing his mind. I don’t think he’d cried in a long time, if ever and not in front of anyone else. He breathed deeply. "I don't get you. You're more a cold hearted mother than me. So why are you wasting your time on someone like me?"

I got up to walk out of the cell. "I have daughters and besides even Leonidas needed a right hand man. If you don’t know who he is look him up. I ain’t saying another word. See you in court."

A year after his release I was reading the newspaper as I stood in the store lineup.

'Three Rebels gang members slain last night. Which brings the total to seven, including Hell’s Angels, in the last few months in what is being described by police as organized attacks. Although reports from both camps claim that there isn’t a local gang war brewing, police are at odds over the ongoing slayings, claiming possible vigilante actions. Other reports state that The Northside Angels' clubhouse is up for sale after being torched twice in last few months, possibly moving to another city.'

I smiled at the clerk in the gun store as we caught the TV’s headlines. "Looks like to me there’s a lion on the prowl or some kind of Bat-the-frigging-man from outa the comic books.”

“Yeah, sure makes me sleep a lot safer at night,” he smiled.

“I'll take three boxes of those shells and how much for that semi-automatic?"

capital punishment
Frank Talaber
Frank Talaber
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Frank Talaber

I believe in whacking a reader upside the head, toss them screaming into the book, and just when they think they are starting to figure things out toss a curveball. they say that you don't have to be mad to be a writer, but it sure helps.

See all posts by Frank Talaber