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The boy sat alone at the defendant’s table. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit and a pair of handcuffs were locked tightly around his wrists. His crazy dirty blonde hair had not been brushed and his face was covered in dirt. Two police officers, clutching their belts, stood behind the boy, staring at him with hard faces. Occasionally, they would look off in other directions feeling quite odd. After all, in their point of view, looking after kids was stupid and just a waste of time. They could be home, watching Saturday football. They could be at the lake, fishing with their kids and grandkids, but no. These two police officers were stuck here in the small, cramped courtroom watching a kid.

The courtroom smelled like a cat once used it as a litter box and a tiger had hidden it’s catch of the day somewhere behind the judge’s bench. To the side of the boy was the jury box. Only a few people sat there. They looked tired and worn out, like they have been doing this longer than dirt has been on the Earth. The seats behind the boy were starting to be filled. People would wander in and admire the courtroom.

“Barker!” Someone had shouted out to the boy. He turned around to see a tall girl smiling at him. Her eyes were an unforgettable shade of blue and her long brown hair fell over her shoulders.

“Lisa?? What are you doing here?” asked Barker.

“Believe it or not, I’m here because my mom’s part of the jury,” Lisa replied. She looked toward the jury box and sighed. “I have to go (my mom’s telling me to go sit down), but I’ll see you later.”

Barker looked over at Lisa’s mother and saw her mouth the words ‘Get over here right now’. She looked mad and a little bit crazy, course she always does when Lisa talks to Barker. He started to think if there was a connection between the two.

“Yeah, ok. Bye, Lisa,” Barker sighed.

Lisa’s face glowed with happiness at the sound of Barker’s dull words. She waved goodbye and skipped away over to the jury box. When Lisa got there, her mom attacked her with a fury of words.

Barker looked at the ground feeling a bit better after talking to someone else than the two police officers. He started to fiddle around with a zipper on his jumpsuit when the door behind him opened. A gargantuan sized man in a suit and a bodyguard walked in. Barker knew these two all too well.

Barker was the defendant, the accused. The man was the plaintiff, the accuser. Barker had been accused of murder and theft. One of these men were right and the other was wrong, but no one knew who was telling the truth and who was lying.

As the man passed Barker, he snorted and stuck his nose in the air. Barker mocked him by snorting like a pig and flinging his head in the other direction. The police officer to the right of Barker bent over and smacked him hard in the back of the head. Then, he resumed his “guarding”.

People were still filing in the room. Barker had been in the courtroom for ages. He was getting bored (and almost fell asleep) when he noticed the man in the suit making faces at him. Barker glared at him while the man was looking at his bodyguard, laughing at his own antics. He turned around and the smile on his pudgy face disappeared when he saw Barker giving him the death stare. Barker smiled.

“You know,” Barker said. “adults are supposed to be mature.”

“I heard a rumor that kids your age shouldn’t be stealing and shooting innocent people,” the man mentioned.

“I din’t steal nothin’. Nor did I kill any innocent passerby.” Barker told him.

“He’s actually right for once,” the man exclaimed, looking from person to person in the public seats behind them. “He didn’t kill just any passerby … he killed Rian Logger, the cashier at the general store just down the street …  “ -the man was pointing to show his audience where “down the street” was- “ … You remember that little store. Just on the corner? Yeah, that one. Well this little nincompoop … “-he pointed this time towards Barker-” shot him dead at my always busy dollar store. Yes ma’am. I’m quite aware that Logger had been missing for weeks before, but for some reason, he came to my store. So this kid comes in and… ”

The man went on telling his story about what had happened that night and Barker rolled his eyes.

‘That’s all it is,’ he told himself. ‘It’s just a story. It’s not true.’

Finally, the judge walked in, followed by the bailiff. His eyes had bags under them which said that he was in desperate need of sleep. Everyone was silent when the judge sat down. A few minutes later, the trial started.

The judge rifled through a stack of papers and files. He finally pulled out a folder labeled CASE #100235. He opened it and looked at the contents. Slowly, he spoke.

“So,” the judge looked deep into Barker’s eyes. His voice sounded dry and old. “You think you can just plant a bomb,let it explode, and get away with it? What are you th-”

The bailiff walked up and muttered to the judge that that was the wrong file. Barker chuckled to himself at the judge’s mistake. The old judge rummaged through the stack of folders again. Finally, he pulled out a folder. It was labeled CASE #20937. The judge looked at the paperwork and closed it cautiously, looking again to make sure he had read that correctly. He let out a sigh that said this was going to be one uncomfortable case. The bailiff walked over to the judge and took the folder. What he saw inside it made him gasp.

“WHAT??!!!” he shrieked. The bailiff startled the judge. “You really think that boy would do something like that?! Honestly, Mike.”

“Oh um… sorry Dan,” the judge offered.

“Here. I’ll find the case file.” Dan searched the pile and pulled out CASE #748. This was the right one.

Judge Mike opened it and organized the papers. “Murder and theft, eh? Won’t this be an interesting trial.” He took a sip of his coffee and continued. “Mr. Perrie Hamalton. If you could please rise.”

The man in the suit stood up. He smoothed out his tie and smiled. “Yes, your Honor?” Barker snorted at Hamalton’s response. He sounded like he was a singing canary. The right police officer once again smacked him. Perrie sneered at him and the smile of innocence returned to his face as he focused on the judge once again.

“Now, let me get this straight, Mr. Hamalton. You’re accusing Mr. … “-Judge Mike flipped through the stack of papers-” … William Barker of-”

“It’s not William,” Barker said. “It’s just Barker.”

“As I was saying, you’re accusing Mr. Barker of murder and theft, right, Mr. Hamalton?”

“That is correct, your Honor. I’m accusing WILLIAM of that,” Mr. Hamalton said with another sneer. Barker just knew he was going to get a kick out of this.

“Thank you. Mr. Barker, if you could please rise.” The judge gestured to him and he stood slowly. He looked behind his shoulder, his eyes searching the public seating area for his parents. They were nowhere to be found.

The judge turned to Barker. His cold, dark eyes made him feel as if he was about to die a slow death.

“What is your plead?” questioned the judge.

Barker shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Uh … not guilty? I would never shoot a person or rob from a dollar store no one goes to. What would I want that’s there anyway, coupons and Ivory bath soap?” A few people in the public seats chuckled. “Or wait, how about some pickled pickles? You all know how much a boy would need a doll that sings you the alphabet.” More people bursted out in laughter. Lisa and even Judge Mike were laughing.

Hamalton stood up immediately, looking quite infuriated. “I resent that!” he shouted. Everyone kept laughing. Hamalton swished his large body around to face them. “THAT’S NOT FUNNY!!!! S-S-STOP LAUGHING!!!” he stammered. A vein popped out of his head and throbbed to the thumping of his quickening heartbeat. He was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf.

“Please, Perrie calm down. Let’s carry on with the trial.” Judge Mike stopped laughing. He took a deep breath and the trial continued.

“Now that we know your plead, let’s find out the story. Mr. Perrie, please rise.”Perrie smiled slyly and stood.

“Tell us your side of the story.”

“It was about 7 o'clock at night, people were starting to leave and I was going to close the store soon. I had turned around and I heard someone walk in. I didn’t see who it was because I was walking towards the office. I told them, ‘You’d better hurry with your browsin’ . Imma ‘bout to close the store for the night.’ I walked in and that’s when I saw Rian Logger. He was breathing hard and was clutching his stomach. I asked him if he was alright. He removed his hand to show me the small gunshot wound. I ran into the office and got the first aid kit. I heard the front doors open again, but I thought it was just another customer. When I returned, I saw Barker. He turned around and started to study the contents on the shelves. He had a backpack and every aisle or so, he would take something off the shelf.

I shouted calmly to him, ‘You need to pay for those.’

Barker just sighed, reached into his backpack, and pulled out a gun. He pointed it at me and said, ‘Look here. I’m gunna take whatever I want, kay?’

I was scared that this … boy was going to kill me, the leftover shoppers (I told them to go hide in the back room), and Rian. It was just then did I realize that he was walking around like he couldn’t see what was around him and like he was dizzy. His face had a goofy confused look on it.  I knew this kid had been doing a whole lot of underage drinking.”

Barker shot up out of his chair. “I object!” The judge leaned over the judge’s bench and stared at him. He leaned back in his chair and gestured to Mr. Hamalton to continue. Barker sat down, grumbling to himself.

Hamalton cleared his throat.

“As I was saying, Barker was … drunk. He came around one of the aisles, walked toward the doors, shot Rian twice, and simply walked out. After I was certain that he was gone, I called the ambulance. A few hours later, Rian died.” Hamalton pointed short, stubby finger at Barker. People in the jury gasped. Barker could not take this nonsense any longer. If Hamalton did not stop now, Barker was going to kill someone. And that someone was named Perrie Hamalton.

The courtroom was full of chatter and angry growling. People were getting mad.

“How dare you!” one person shouted.

“You should be ashamed of yourself!” shouted another.

“But I didn’t do that!” Barker said in his defense. It didn’t matter what Barker said. No one would believe him. He felt hopeless.

Judge Mike picked up the gavel that was beside him. He slammed on the little pad and everyone in the courtroom was silent.

“Mr. Barker. Please tell us your side of the story and make it quick. I’m sure at least two or three people in this room are just itching to get their hands around your neck.”

Barker nodded, agreeing to what the judge said. He was pretty sure of that, too. He cleared his throat and told his side of the story.

“Well, Mr. Hamalton got the time right. It was about 7 o’clock at night. I was at his store with my parents. Some other people were shopping, too. My parents were in the pet care aisle and I was in the clothes aisle. A few minutes later, a man, Logger, came running through the double doors. Mr. Hamalton was at the cashier’s desk and looked almost scared when Rian Logger came in. Rian smiled at him.

Pointing, he said, ‘Hamalton. I am so pleased to finally see you again.’ I came around the side of the aisle and peeked at the two men. Hamalton said nothing with his mouth but told many stories with his facial features and shock filled eyes.

‘So how’s life treated you after our little disagreement?’

Hamalton spoke cautiously. ‘Um, fine, I suppose.’

‘Congrats! I couldn’t be happier for you. How much do these walnuts cost?’

‘$3.99. Logger, where have you been for the past several weeks?’

Rian just shrugged his shoulders. ‘Around.’

Hamalton looked very uncomfortable with him in the store. He kept fidgeting with something under the counter.

Rian looked hard at Hamalton and walked up to him. ‘I don’t like the way you’re looking at me. It’s starting to make me feel a bit unwelcome.’

Hamalton said nothing. I crept out from behind the aisle and leaned against the wall. Rian saw me and sauntered over to the wall I was leaning against.

‘I really like your backpack. I feel like I’m supposed to own it,’ he said.

‘There’s a whole bunch of ‘em right there.’

Rian grumbled to himself and picked up a backpack. He walked around the aisles and picked a few items, turning them over in his hands. While he was doing this, Hamalton told everyone to go hide in the back room, so, naturally, I hid behind the aisle. When it looked like everyone was gone, Hamalton held out the object. It was a gun.

Rian looked over at Hamalton and sighed. ‘This is a great welcome wagon.’

Hamalton just cocked the gun. He appeared to be steadying it in his hands, pointing it straight at Rian.

‘I told you to leave before and now look at where you stand.’

‘I’ll go this time.’

‘Rian, it’s too late for that now.’

I could barely hear them over my heartbeat. Hamalton adjusted his grip on the gun and shot Rian three times. That’s when he saw me. He threw the gun at me and I caught it. Hamalton bent over Rian and ‘cried’. He hollered out and everyone in the back room came rushing out, eager to see just what had happened. They saw the gunshot wounds and the gun in my hands. I tried to explain, but none of them listened. Hamalton called the hospital and I was thrown in jail.”

Barker stopped.The judge was silent for a few seconds.

   The judge gestured to the clerk and she grabbed two files off her desk and gave it to him.Judge Mike held them in his hands. He stared at it as if hypnotized by the black, blotchy ink.

“Mr. Hamalton, from what this document states, it appears to me that you and Rian Logger did have a complicated past with each other. You did have a motive. There isn’t a paper in these stacks that supports your claim saying that he shot Logger. And if he did shoot Logger, what was his motive?” The judge sounded like he was with Barker.

Hamalton opened his mouth to speak, but closed it. Then he opened his mouth and spoke. “Well we all know how drunkards are. They do things without reason.” He had a huge fake smile on his face. Sweat dripped down his forehead and onto his brow. He was losing.

“Got any witnesses?” the judge asked.

Perrie Hamalton stood and turned to the public seats. “Were any of you at my store on the ninth?” He sounded desperate and his voice was cracking. A few people stood,  looking around the room as if suspecting a prank or something like that.

“Isn’t my story right? Isn’t Barker wrong?” Some people sat down not knowing the answer. The others shook their heads.

“The boy is right,” one man said.”Rian entered the store. Barker didn’t.”

“Yeah,” another chimed in. “Hamalton never went back to the office. He was helping me at the cashier’s desk and the store doesn’t even have his office. Nor did he go back to any room.”

An old lady stood. ”This boy was in the clothes aisle the whole time. I was at the other end he stayed there the whole time and only moved once. He also seemed to have total control over himself and never pulled a gun out of his pack. The boy speaks the truth, Judge Mike.”

Another long silence. Barker clicked his sneakers on the floor nervously. Sweat dripped off of Hamalton’s face. Lisa looked at Barker with a horrified look. Then, the judge spoke.

“With all the evidence that I have, I have to say that Perrie Hamalton is guilty of murder. William Barker is innocent.”

Barker looked up, stunned by the words he had just heard. Then, he bursted out in joyful tears. Hamalton looked even more shocked than Barker. Barker was happy that people finally knew the truth about that night. The courtroom was full of chatter and Lisa was by her mother celebrating. The two police officers unlocked the handcuffs that had almost broken off the circulation of blood from his wrists. He was a free man again. Lisa ran up to him full of excitement.

“I’m so glad that my friend wasn’t just sentenced to jail or anything.” Her bright pink lips were curled up into a smile. Barker was never so happy in his life. After that, things went back to normal and Barker was never accused of anything again.

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