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Legally Wasted

Legally Wasted

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Legally Wasted

322 pagine
4 ore
Oct 13, 2015


Larkin Monroe's Appalachian law practice was about as pickled as his liver. With the love of his life gone and dwindling finances forcing him to chug rail drinks prior to his hearings, Larkin thought he had reached rock bottom. But when the body of an attractive young law clerk from the Supreme Court of Virginia is found in a nearby lake, circumstantial evidence lands Larkin on the public enemy list. How can he beat his hangover when he is charged with murder? Assisted by the slick n' southern Vice Mayor of Big Lick, Virginia, Trevor Meeks, Larkin must summon enough brain power and moonshine to solve a murder. With his marriage, job and a lengthy prison sentence on the line, he'll need more than a few swigs of the hard stuff. After all, wits must either be kept or lost on an as needed basis. Set in the humid summer of the 180-proof back hills of the Blue Ridge and filled with a cast of characters dumped from the rear of the county drunk tank, Legally Wasted is a rollicking boozy legal thriller unlike any other.

Oct 13, 2015

Informazioni sull'autore

Tommy is an employment civil rights lawyer in Roanoke, Virginia.

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Anteprima del libro

Legally Wasted - Tommy Strelka

Legally Wasted

By Tommy Strelka

Copyright © 2014 by Tommy Strelka. All rights reserved.

ISBN 978-0-692-55581-1


|On Tap and On the House|

10 Proof

20 Proof

30 Proof

40 Proof

50 Proof

60 Proof

70 Proof

80 Proof

90 Proof

100 Proof

110 Proof

120 Proof

130 Proof

140 Proof

150 Proof

Baby Proof

Did you make up your mind? Larkin whispered into Madeline’s ear. She did not wear any perfume but carried that sweet smell wrapped around her like a fur. Cinnamon. Her lips pursed as her eyes continued to stare at the witness stand not twenty feet away. You do realize that you have to plead along with me? Larkin continued.

She whispered something too faint to hear. Larkin leaned in close. What?

It’s my decision, she said, meaning that she had already made up her mind. And keep your voice down. That bailiff keeps looking at you.

Larkin rolled his eyes. It had been a perfect evening. The Blue Ridge Parkway at dusk with a picnic blanket, bottle of champagne, and the biggest diamond ring that a librarian could afford. The country’s oldest and most gentle mountain range loped and sloped into oblivion. A dying orange sun warmed the ridge.

Your hand seems a little plain considering how it looked the other night, said Larkin. He could care less about a bailiff.

Madeline twisted her body away from him and stared out the nearby window. Apparently the view overlooking the federal courthouse parking lot was far more interesting. Larkin breathed deeply and ran his fingers through his thick brown hair. The people around him fought against their plain wooden seats creating a small din of creaks and groans of benches. With a small forest’s worth of glossy dark wood crammed into every corner of the courtroom, Larkin had half-expected the room to smell like a spilled jug of pine-scented cleaner. But the air was thick and musty, and the room smelled not unlike the small public library where he spent forty hours each week. He imagined row upon row of aging leather bound legal tomes lining the walls of the secure rooms where the public was not invited. Secret knowledge. The law fascinated him, and it was only something he had just realized.

I love you, baby, said Larkin after a moment, but you’re going to sink my ship here.

The back of Madeline’s head shook from side to side.

Sweetheart, he said in his gentlest voice, you’re going to have to trust me on this.

Her shoulders sagged a bit. He momentarily lost his breath as he remembered the last time her body had reacted with such a sigh. Don’t think about that now, he said, mostly to himself. Let’s just get through with this and we’ll figure out the whole thing.

Madeline turned. You’re too damned smart, she said. Either that or you can read my mind.

Larkin smiled. And you’re wiser than me. And right now your heart is screaming at your brain to trust me.

Madeline nodded. It might be, she whispered. But what we did was wrong.

We did not break the law, said Larkin, and besides. He drew closer and placed his hand upon the fabric of the conservative church dress she had worn to court. Despite the broad lines and length of the dress, it had utterly failed to conceal one of the most beautiful women in Virginia. He brushed his fingertips against the material until his index finger rested about an inch above her left knee. What we did that evening was so very right.

Madeline rolled her eyes and returned her gaze to the parking lot. Larkin smiled. Not guilty, love. You can spend the whole rest of our lives together being right and I’ll be guilty of whatever you’d like. Just give me this, okay, baby?

All rise, bellowed the bailiff. Oy ye, oy ye, he literally shouted. Silence is commanded. The Honorable United States Magistrate Judge Victoria Wexler presiding. This Court is now in session.

Judge Wexler nodded to the dozens of people anxiously waiting for their name to be called. A small woman in her early fifties, she gave her courtroom staff a warm smile as she took her place behind the bench. Her bright red hair was scooped up into a neat bun. Bright green eyes surveyed her courtroom.

Please be seated, she said with a nod.

As the sounds of shoe shuffling and creaking benches filled the air, Larkin leaned in close to his maybe-fiancé. Not guilty, he whispered, but he packed as much force into it as a whisper could bear. She shot him a too quick glance. For a moment, Larkin wondered if she could smell the bourbon on his breath. He had brushed his teeth twice. And like the telltale heart, he could suddenly feel the swishes of the small plastic bottle of Jim Beam in his coat pocket.

No talking in the courtroom, said one of the bailiffs. Larkin answered the bailiff with a little wave. He turned back to Madeline. The questioning glare was gone. Perhaps it had never existed in the first place. Either way, Larkin was relieved not to have lost the day before the trial had even begun.

All those here, announced Judge Wexler, should be here due to criminal or traffic violations occurring while on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you’re not here for that type of case, then you need to step out and speak with the clerk at the clerk’s office. The Judge had mastered the art of broadcasting her voice clearly across the courtroom while maintaining a conversational tone.

Everyone in the courtroom stood their ground. The Judge glanced in Larkin’s direction, possibly because one of the bailiffs seemed itching to smack him with his baton. Larkin nodded and surprisingly, the high and mighty federal Judge nodded back.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Judge began as her fingers flipped through paperwork, I’m about to ask you how you will plead in your case. This is the point where you enter a plea as to the charge or charges against you. If you plead guilty, I will sentence you. If you plead not guilty, you will have a trial. I will then hear the evidence that the United States government has prepared against you. It will be their burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty of the crime charged. I will hear whatever evidence you would like for me to hear and then I will make my decision.

Not guilty, Larkin repeated under his breath.

No, snapped Madeline, but not with words. And with the same slight twist of her neck with her arms crossed, she said, Guilty, without really saying it at all.

Jesus Christ, said Larkin. The bailiff approached. Larkin held up his hands sheepishly and acted the good boy.

If any of you here today would like to plead guilty to your charge or charges, said the Judge, please stand and approach this first row of benches in front of my bench.

Madeline delicately picked Larkin’s inappropriate finger off of her leg. She began standing. Madeline, Larkin said, his eyes wide, no.

Madeline took advantage of his hesitation and quickly brushed past him. He lunged and grabbed the strap of her purse. Before she had both feet in the center aisle, he gave a sharp tug. Madeline yanked the purse back to her shoulder, but Larkin refused to release his grip.

Let go! Madeline whispered.

That’s it, said the nearby bailiff as he fingered his baton. He began striding toward them.

Bailiff Spencer, shouted the Judge.

The bailiff froze.

Keep your weapon holstered. The Judge had lost the more civil tone adopted for the intro. She was the Captain and the collective mass of polished mahogany surrounding them was her ship.

The bailiff complied and looked back to Larkin. Madeline tugged and regained control of her purse. She scurried away from Larkin’s grasp and headed for the bench to join the rest of the penitent sinners. Madeline! shouted Larkin, but she refused to acknowledge him. Her cheeks flushed red. She was mortified by the scene that Larkin had created.

Young man, shouted the Judge. Her once kind eyes had been replaced by a fierce glare. What is the problem?

Larkin stood while Madeline sat upon the bench of the guilty. Your Honor, Larkin said as he slowly approached. That’s my fiancé.

Madeline raised her arm in the air in an apparent effort to straighten the sleeve of her cardigan. However, as her hand paused and gently rotated so that the entire courtroom could see that she wore no ring, Larkin finally felt alone on the battlefield.

Is there a problem with her plea today? the Judge asked.

Absolutely, your Honor, said Larkin. He leaned his knees against the waist-high wooden swing gate just behind the bench of the guilty. She is not educated as to certain areas of the law, your Honor, and I believe that she is making a mistake.

A smile sparked at the corner of the Judge’s mouth but quickly extinguished as she returned to her papers. Sufficiently straightened, she looked back to Larkin. And are you, sir, educated as to certain areas of the law?

Yes, sir.

Are you a licensed attorney?

No, sir . . . I mean, your Honor.

Well, then you may not speak for this woman, she said as she coincidentally finished arranging a neat stack of papers. She collected the stack in her hands and beat it against the bench for good measure before passing it to the deputy clerk seated to his left. A gold bangle bracelet jiggled and jostled over the Judge’s slender left wrist any time she moved her hands.

Your Honor, said Larkin as he gripped the gate. It was now or never. If the Court proceeds with Ms. Simmons’ case without further evidence then the Court is going to be making a big mistake.

What’s that? asked the Judge. Her eyebrow’s sunk as she crossed her arms. She studied Larkin for a moment while the heel of Bailiff Spencer’s right hand rested comfortably against his skull-basher. What is your name, sir?

I am Larkin Monroe, your Honor. I’ve also been charged along with Ms. Simmons. Light laughter rippled through the courtroom. I guess that makes me a co-defendant. The mini-booze throbbed again in his coat pocket.

The Judge flipped through one of her folders. You and Ms. Simmons have been charged with . . . her eyes scanned a hidden page, possession of alcohol on the Parkway.

That’s right, your Honor.

And do you plan on pleading not guilty to that charge?

Yes, said Larkin, as does my fiancé.

Madeline stomped her right heel.

The Judge raised her eyebrows. It looks to me like she wants to plead guilty, Mr. Monroe.

She’s confused, your Honor.

I’ll make that determination, Mr. Monroe. The Judge looked to Madeline. Ma’am, do you freely, willingly, and voluntarily plead guilty to the charge of alcohol possession?

Madeline stood. Yes.

The Judge clasped her hands together. And do you make that plea because it is in fact your decision and not the decision of anyone else?


Larkin bit his lip.

Has anyone forced, coerced, or intimidated you in any way to make that plea?

No, your Honor.

"Are you aware of the maximum penalty that you will face if you plead guilty and thus require me to sentence you?

I am.

The Judge looked to Larkin. She doesn’t sound confused at all to me, Mr. Monroe. I’m going to have to accept her plea of guilty.

Your Honor, Larkin shouted, although his lips had outpaced his mind. He had no idea what to say. As I stated earlier, this Court could be making a grave, er, grievous error and . . . there is an injustice serving to undermine the authority of, well the United States, your Honor.

The Judge leaned back in her chair. By finding Ms. Simmons guilty, I’m undermining the authority of the United States? How exactly am I doing that, Mr. Monroe?

The nearest bailiff chuckled. The entire guilty bench, with the exception of Madeline, had turned to watch Larkin. The same speck of a smile again flickered at the corner of the Judge’s mouth. Larkin nodded.

Your Honor, said Larkin, I have studied some of the law myself.

Good for you.

And I have familiarized myself, I believe, with the Socratic method.

The Socratic method?

Yes, your Honor. I think I have a grasp of it and if the Court should allow - -

The Socratic method is the traditional form of instruction in law school, said the Judge.

Yes, your Honor. I think you’ll feel well accustomed to it.

The Court is satisfied that Mr. Monroe has made various inquiries into the law, she said, her head cocked to the side. The smile flickered. Perhaps he should have been studying the intersection of federal law and his possession of certain controlled substances on federal land rather than antiquated pedagogical methods.

She took a breath and Larkin raised his hand. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other as sweat collected at his temples.


I have studied those areas of the law too, your Honor. I believe that Ms. Simmons and I are completely innocent of our charges. Although, as you have said, I am not a lawyer. I’m not trained in courtroom procedure. Frankly, I just didn’t have time to read it.

The federal prosecutor, who until that moment had his nose buried in the file of a multi-felony drug conspiracy case he planned on arguing later that day, stood and straightened his coat. He wiped his eyes as if his coffee had yet to kick in. Your Honor, he said, his voice cracking a bit. Do we really have to entertain this? I mean, she pled guilty your Honor. Mr. Monroe can plead not guilty, guilty, no contest, or insanity if he should prefer. He paused and stared at Mr. Monroe for a moment, giving everyone in the courtroom an opportunity to chuckle. If he wants a trial he can have a trial. But if that’s the case, let’s just have the trial. The United States does not need to waste time on - -

The Judge smacked her bangled fist against her bench. The United States has been warned twice before about referring to matters in this court as a waste of time. I shall determine when and how this goes, understand, Mr. Roarke?

The prosecutor hesitated, nodded, and then slumped back into his chair. He reached for his big folder and once again buried his face in a case that was more worthy of his time.

Larkin meekly wiggled his hand in the Judge’s direction. Your Honor? What I mean to say is that if you’re comfortable, I think this whole thing can be cleared up if I could use the Socratic method here in the courtroom.

The Socratic method is a teaching device, said the Judge. Who would you use it on?

Yourself, your Honor.

The smile flickered.

Objection, said the prosecutor before flipping a page and sipping his coffee. He nodded as he read the language in an indictment.

Noted and overruled, said the Judge. She looked at her watch before turning her attention to the neatly organized files arranged on the wheeled cart behind the deputy clerk. She nodded slightly. I’ll give you a little leeway, Mr. Monroe.

Madeline covered her face with her hands. Larkin nodded to the Judge. Well then, please raise your right hand, your Honor. said Larkin.

The Judge blinked.

Yes, said Larkin. Your right hand, right there, just raise it up . . . there you go. The Judge held her right hand high in to the air. I would ask Ms. Clerk there, started Larkin.

The young woman with the pony tail looked at Larkin with a mixture of surprise and fear.

Yes, said Larkin. Hi.

The deputy clerk feigned something like a confused smile.

I’m going to need you to swear in the Judge.

The deputy clerk scowled. What was that? She looked to the Judge and back at Larkin.

Please swear the Court in, Ms. Deputy Clerk, said the Judge, obviously amused. The guilty bench laughed. Best show in town.

Without further hesitation, the deputy clerk stood and turned to face the United States District Court Magistrate Judge for the Western District of Virginia, Big Lick Division. One of the oldest courts in the nation. She raised her right hand to match the Judge. Do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

I do, said the Judge. She thanked the deputy clerk and lightly clapped her hands. You may proceed, Mr. Monroe.

Thank you, your Honor, said Larkin. And Ms. Deputy Clerk? The deputy clerk looked up from her clipboard. Thank you ma’am. The deputy clerk did not smile. Now, your Honor, started Larkin, are there laws that govern the land and territories of the United States?

Oh, Larkin, said Madeline as she crumpled on her seat. Long brown hair failed to conceal crimson cheeks as her head hung low.

Of course there are, said the Judge. Here, this court has jurisdiction over violations of law that occur over land owned by the United States. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a national parkway of the United States. It is land owned by the United States. The United States Congress enacts laws that govern the goings on of federal land. If you’re on his property, Uncle Sam can tell you just what you can or can’t do, Mr. Monroe.

And what if I had no knowledge of what I could or couldn’t do on federal land?

Nope, said the Judge. Sorry. That doesn’t get you there. Ignorance of the law is no defense to the law.

Larkin nodded. I read that too, you Honor. But not in this case. The Judge opened his mouth as if to speak but Larkin held up his finger. Are there other statutory creations that control and govern federal land?

You mean other types of laws?

Yes, your Honor.

The Judge cocked his head. I’m not sure I’m following you.

Larkin cleared his throat. Does Congress have the power to govern federal agencies?

Yes, said the Judge.

Is the Blue Ridge Parkway managed by a federal agency?

It is.

Are there different laws that - -

Yes, interrupted the Judge. Regulations. You mean regulations.

Larkin nodded and clasped his hands together. Perspiration covered his body. Did he now reek of Old Crow? He cleared his throat. Mini-booze swished. Are there regulations that govern how I, as a citizen of the United States, should know whether the land I’m on has certain restrictions?

Of course. There exist regulations that require codification and publication of all of the nation’s laws and regulations. Mr. Monroe, the act of which you are charged of violating has been publicly available for years. Don’t tell me you couldn’t go to a library and look it up.

Oh, I work in a library, your Honor. I hide an expensive bottle of gin in the microfiche cabinet, he thought to himself.

You do?

Yes, ma’am, but let’s stick to the method, shall we?

The Judge nodded. All right.

Is speeding prohibited on the Parkway?

Of course.

How would a driver know the speed limit for a particular area? The Judge seemed poised to answer, but Larkin would not give her the opportunity. Would there be a map of the Parkway with speed limits marked in the codified book in the library?

No, said the Judge. She raised her right hand to her mouth and curled her index finger against her upper lip.

So how would a driver know the speed limit on the Parkway?


And are there - -

Yes, interrupted the Judge. There are regulations that require there to be signs posting the maximum speed limit. The agency is responsible for the posting of those signs. You were not found speeding, Mr. Monroe.

No, your Honor. But are there regulations governing the postage of signs that regard drinking on the Parkway?

Well, sure, said the Judge. She rolled her eyes back in her head as she thought. Given the mile marker you were at, there was a sign not a quarter mile away that informed you as to Uncle Sam’s rules. No booze was one of those rules. No alcohol on the Parkway.

So these regulations require that sign to be there?

Yes, she said. She leaned forward and rapped her nails against the thick dark wood. Irritation was beginning to show.

Your Honor, how often do you hear cases involving the Parkway?

Once a month.

Did you have court last month?

Of course.

And do you remember a man named Roger Huseby?

The Judge leaned back in her chair. She fanned her fingers over her mouth, possibly to hide a full smile. Roger Huseby, she repeated. He of the mustard-colored Corvette?

I remember.

And what was Mr. Huseby convicted of?

Destruction of federal property, said the Judge. She removed her hand to show that she was indeed smiling.


A federal sign. A federal sign that was posted about a quarter of a mile away from where you were stopped. He drove his car straight through it. The Judge shook her head. How did you know of Mr. Huseby’s case?

I organized the periodicals section last month. Police beat. What was written on that sign, your Honor?

The Judge smiled and waved her hand. I think you’ve made your point. I’m giving you credit for your research skills. I’m going to dismiss your case, Mr. Monroe.

And Ms. Simmons’ case? asked Larkin.

The prosecutor leaned his folder down so he could see the Judge. Your Honor, he began without even standing, the Court has already found Ms. Simmons to be guilty.

I did no such thing, said the Judge. I took Ms. Simmons’ matter under advisement pending Mr. Monroe’s presentation. The Judge looked to Madeline. Ma’am, your case is dismissed. You may leave.

Madeline stood while the guilty benchers looked nervously amongst themselves as if they had made the wrong decision. Madeline turned and though her cheeks still shone bright red, she could not help but fight a smile at her

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