By Dez Burke
The elderly judge banged his gavel on the stand and stood up, signaling the end of the court session. Public defender Flint Mason smiled and leaned over to shake his client’s hand, a young Hispanic woman whom the jury had found “not guilty” of charges of child endangerment.
Like most of his clients, her verdict was based on how well the jury understood her desperate situation. Faced with the difficult choice of making her three small children walk two miles with her to the nearest grocery store or leaving them alone for an hour, she’d chosen what she thought was the least dangerous option.
Unfortunately, her neighbor had called the police and now here she was, left to the mercy of a jury who was most definitely not made up of her peers. The young woman seemed slightly confused and Flint realized she didn’t understand she was free to go.
“It’s okay,” he said, taking her arm to usher her out of the courtroom. “You can go home now.”
Relief broke across her tired face as his words finally sank in. “Gracias!” she cried, squeezing him in a quick hug before hurrying out the front door of the courthouse.
Flint rubbed the back of his neck and headed to the closest drink machine. Thankfully, Maria Lopez’s case was the last one on his docket for the day. He’d defended five clients in court since early that morning. Two were found guilty and got sent back to the county jail while the other three were free to go. He figured that was pretty good odds, considering the fact that he barely had time to read their files before representing them as their court-appointed attorney.
The truth was, most of the time his cases fell into a gray area of guilt anyway. After two years of working for the Public Defender’s office, he really didn’t want to know if his clients were innocent or guilty. He’d learned things were much easier that way. Always assume the client was innocent, make sure they didn’t tell him otherwise, and do his job without asking too many questions.
Some days Flint couldn’t remember the reason why he’d chosen to be a public defender. Years ago, he’d been young and idealistic; he thought he could change things and make a difference. Now he wasn’t so sure. The system was broken and he was just another spoke in its wheel.
He grabbed a soft drink out of the machine and checked his cell phone. The screen blinked with three missed calls and several voice messages. Flint swore softly. He never gave out his cell phone number to clients, and only a handful of people knew it. He quickly checked his voicemail and listened to the first message.
“Hey Flint, it’s Jesse,” the deep-voiced caller said, as if he wouldn’t recognize his own brother’s voice. “Call me. It’s urgent.”
The next message said the same thing. Flint checked the three missed calls...all from Jesse as well. With a growing dread, he played the last message. “Flint, it’s Jesse again. Listen man...it’s about Tommy. I hate like hell telling you this over the phone but since you aren’t returning your damn phone calls, I don’t have a choice.” Jesse’s voice cracked. “They got him, Flint. Those son of a bitch Liberators finally got him.” There was a long pause and Flint wondered if Jesse had hung up before he continued. “His mom set the funeral up for Sunday. You need to come home, Flint. Tommy would want you there. We all do.”
Flint clicked his phone off. He leaned his forehead against the cold cement wall of the hallway for a moment before rushing into the restroom and splashing water on his face.
Breathing deeply, he struggled to get his emotions under control and failed. “Goddammit!” he yelled at his reflection. “Motherfuckers!”
He leaned over the sink and drew in several deep breaths.
Why did it have to be Tommy?
Of all the members of the Steel Infidels motorcycle club, Tommy was the one Flint was the closest to. They’d grown up together as childhood best friends and then had ridden together side by side for years before Flint had left town.
He wondered if Tommy had ever forgiven him for leaving the motorcycle club. Now he’d never know. And now he would never have a chance to patch things up with one of the few people in the world he’d ever truly cared about.
Once again, the Liberators had destroyed something dear to him. Anger rushed over Flint, filling him to the brim with an overwhelming desire for revenge. There was no way in hell he was going to let them get away with this.
Thirty minutes later he arrived at his tiny apartment. Rushing inside, he quickly threw a few clothes together into a duffel bag. He searched through his closet until he found what he was looking for: an old pair of faded jeans, white t-shirt, leather boots, and a black leather jacket that he hadn’t touched in years.
Closing his eyes and inhaling deeply, he held the jacket to his nose. The smell of the leather brought back memories, so sharp and vivid he could almost touch them. Memories of home, family and friends, memories of good times and bad.
He stripped off his dark suit, blue tie, and long-sleeved starched white shirt. Carefully concealed underneath the business attire was the hidden link to his past; a large black ink tattoo covering his back and upper shoulders.
It read simply in big bold letters:
It was time for Flint to go home.