The Judgment

The Judgment by William J. Coughlin Read Free Book Online

Book: The Judgment by William J. Coughlin Read Free Book Online
Authors: William J. Coughlin
advantage. They wouldn’t be ready for me.
    The Evans house wasn’t much, just a small frame bungalow with some deserted outbuildings. Someone had once raised chickens there but the effort had been long abandoned and the coops and wire fences were neglected and falling down.
    I pulled in behind a pickup truck and parked.
    I waited for a minute in case they had a dog, but there was no barking, so I walked up to the front door and knocked.
    The house badly needed painting. From what I could see, everything in and around Hub City needed painting.
    I glimpsed someone peering out from a front window, then the door opened and a woman’s face appeared. She reminded me of those Dust Bowl photos from the thirties.
    “What do you want?” she asked, her tone half hostile, half fearful.
    “My name is Sloan,” I said. “I’m a lawyer representing the local Catholic diocese and Father Charles Albertus. I’d like a moment of your time.”
    The door closed and I could hear muted conversationinside. Finally, it opened again, this time wider.
    “Come on in,” the woman said.
    Inside, the furniture looked as worn as the woman. An old television set flickered in one corner of the small living room. A bald-headed man lying on the sofa clad only in trousers and a ragged T-shirt glared up at me but made no effort to get up.
    “Mr. Evans,” I said, “my name is Sloan—”
    “I heard,” he snapped. “It’s about time someone showed up. I’m about to have my lawyers bring suit.”
    “If you decide to do that, Mr. Evans, you’ll be arrested for extortion.”
    “What are you talking about?”
    “There’s no use in beating around the bush. Let me give you the facts hard and fast. You have no case and you know it. You were there when your son told the police he had lied. He has a history of doing exactly this kind of thing, as you know. You even whisper
lawsuit
and I’ll have your ass behind bars so fast your head will spin. Are you getting this?”
    For a minute his mouth gaped open in shock. Finally he spoke, trying to summon up outrage. “You have no right to come into my house and—”
    “I’m saving you a trip to jail, pal. You should thank me.”
    “I told you we were going to get in trouble,” his wife whined.
    “Goddamn Catholics got a shithouse full of money,” he snarled. “I don’t see why they can’t give us some.”
    “That’s not the point, is it?” I said. “You’re causing trouble, Mr. Evans. And there are ways for taking care of people who do that. That’s what the law’s there for, to protect citizens against people like you.”
    “Get out,” he said, but he didn’t sound nearly as sure of himself as before.
    “I’m going,” I said, “but I hope you won’t think this an idle threat. I’ve talked to the police already. One word, one peep, and you’ve had it.”
    He looked away. This time his voice was just above awhisper. “All right,” he said, “just get out.”
    I turned and walked to the door.
    “I’m sorry,” the woman said quietly. “I told him we’d get in trouble.”
    “You aren’t yet. But you could be. Big trouble.”
    I walked back to my car and wondered where the son and heir might be. I hoped he wasn’t up in his bedroom targeting my head with a .22 rifle.
    Snowflakes were starting to drift down. I backed out of the drive and headed home toward Pickeral Point. I didn’t feel very proud of myself. I did what had to be done, of course. But still, bullying people always left a bad taste in my mouth, even if they deserved it.
    It would have been nice to stop for a quick drink. But I didn’t.
    I reported what had happened to the bishop and Father Chuck. Both seemed as genuinely delighted as if I had just saved Rome from advancing Vandals. I sent the bishop a bill for a hundred dollars, which was probably well below the going rate for stopping advancing Vandals. Common sense told me to charge a regular fee; that way, I wouldn’t be called upon to handle the

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