“Marlon, I’m afraid those two witnesses you gave us were less than overwhelming.”
Small sat staring at them through the smudged glass partition, as if he was waiting for Bratt to
explain himself, but Bratt had decided that the ball was in his client’s court.
Finally, Small spoke up. “They’re a bit light in the brains department. That ain’t their fault.”
“I don’t begrudge them their lack of brains,” Bratt said, “just their lack of honesty.”
“What’s your problem with their honesty?”
“Well, they seem to have misplaced it on the way to my office.”
Small’s expression became even surlier than before.
“I don’t like the way you say that, like you think you’re funny. My friends ain’t lyin’.”
Bratt paused before answering. He knew that antagonizing his client wasn’t going to do either one
of them any good, however much he may have enjoyed it. He’d have to keep his tongue in check and
show Small that he was just trying to be objective for the good of their case.
“OK, sorry for the sarcasm. The problem is you’ve got one witness who gets confused by the
simplest questions, and another one who’s a born liar. I’m a defense attorney and it’s second nature
for me to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, but that was almost impossible to do here. If I think
your buddies are bullshitting, what do you think a jury is going to think?”
“No sweat. I’ll just call ’em and get ’em to straighten out their stories.”
“No, that’s not what I meant.”
“Talk to them again, they’ll have all their answers right. The jury’ll believe them, you’ll see.”
Bratt felt frustrated with where this conversation was headed. He had no doubt that both
witnesses were lying about being with Small on the night of the shooting. It wasn’t enough for them to
just “straighten out their stories” because then he would still know how dishonest they really were,
even if the jury somehow believed them. And it was his knowing that made all the difference in the
world, whether Small understood this or not. More than anything, he just wanted Parker and Clayton
to disappear from view, so he could start fresh with new witnesses. As for where Small got those other
witnesses, that was a problem in itself. But it wasn’t Bratt’s problem.
“You just don’t get it, do you,” he said, beginning to feel irritated
Small jumped up and slammed the glass partition with his open hand. “No, you don’t get it! I was
in the park that night! Ask anybody an’ they’ll tell you. I didn’t go to no damn apartment in
Burgundy, an’ I didn’t shoot no one! So don’t tell me I don’t get it! It’s my ass sittin’ in a fuckin’ jail-
cell for the past eight months an’ I’m looking for someone who’s going to get me out! Do you get
Bratt said nothing, trying to keep his cool. At the same time he wondered about Small’s dramatic
glass-slamming routine, which he had just seen for the second time in as many meetings. He thought
that Small, in his own way, might be as good a performer as he was.
“Why don’t you just sit back down and chill, Marlon,” Bratt said, folding his arms and waiting
for Small to take his seat. As he watched Small make a show of regaining his composure, Bratt found
himself questioning his own motivations. Was he more concerned that the witnesses might lie on the
stand or that they might get caught in those lies, despite Small’s certainty that they could get away
with it? Winning this case was going to be hard enough and, if Madsen were to be believed, winning
this case had just become the most important thing in Bratt’s life.
“It happens to be my job to get your ass out of that jail cell,” he said, “and it’s a job I usually do
pretty well. But it’s not going to happen just because you say everyone knows you were in the park
that night, not when the only two witnesses you give me are liars and everyone who hears them will
know it the moment they open their mouths.”
Bratt paused to clear his throat. He pulled at a frayed string that had once held a button to his silk
shirtsleeve and wondered where he had lost the button and why he hadn’t noticed its absence until
now. Small sat quietly, waiting for him to go on with his little speech, his dislike for his attorney
obvious in his face.
A quick glance by Bratt to his side showed him that Kouri was also watching him and he knew he
had to choose his words carefully. He was aware that there was a fine line between telling his client he
needed better witnesses and asking for better liars. Over the years he had convinced himself that he
had never knowingly crossed that line, although his definition of “knowingly” had gotten narrower
with the passage of time and the growing imperative to win.
He hated Small for making him walk that line again, and he hated himself for closing his eyes as
he gingerly took the first steps. But what choice did he have? The need to win guided what he had to
“You have to understand that I don’t do this job for you,” he said, “I do it because I like to win. It
just so happens that when I win, you win. I couldn’t care less where you were that night, whether you
shot those guys or not. That simply isn’t part of my job.”
From the corner of his eye Bratt saw Kouri’s body stiffen. Leave me the hell alone, he thought,
directing the thought both at Kouri and at his own conscience.
“You couldn’t pay me enough to care,” he continued. “But you also can’t pay me enough to lie
for you in court, nor to call witnesses that I know are going to perjure themselves, like your two
He paused again, to see if there was any light of understanding in Small’s eyes. Almost, but not
quite yet, so he went on.
“If you want a jury to believe you were in the park, then you can start by coming up with some
other witnesses who can convince me first.”
Small’s expression softened almost imperceptibly as he nodded, looking Bratt straight in the eyes,
finally letting Bratt see what he was looking for.
“No problem, Mr. Bratt,” he spoke slowly. “I know what you want. I’ll get the word out right
away. I know who else was with me that night. I’ll get you their names and phone numbers later this
“I’m going to need them as fast as possible,” Bratt said, suddenly feeling like a junkie desperately
waiting for his next fix. At the same time, he assiduously kept his eyes away from Kouri, who
continued to sit motionless at his side.
“No problem, Mr. Bratt,” Small said again, and Bratt marveled at the tone of respect his client
had suddenly begun using with him. “And no bullshitters this time.”
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