Benito stared hard at the deputy sheriff’s ham-sized fist gripping his holstered pistol. Turning around, Benito reluctantly placed his hands behind his back. The handcuffs Deputy Cargill snapped around Benito’s wrists were icicle cold.
“You’re arresting me for a broken tail-light, Cargill?”
“No, sir, a tail-light earns you a warning, first time. You’ve got outstanding warrants, Mr. Suarez.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Judge Rylander ordered your arrest for failure to appear for jury duty; and you have unpaid speeding tickets.”
“You’re wrong, Cargill. I don’t have speeding tickets. And I don’t know anything about -- what did you say, jury duty?”
“Well, explain it to Judge Rylander, Mr. Suarez. If he buys your story he won’t fine you or stick you in jail for a day or two. It just depends upon his mood.” Cargill opened the rear door of the patrol car and pointed. “Cowboy, sit down. I’ll take your spurs off and put ‘em in your truck. If you have someone that can come get your rig, I’ll call them for you. Otherwise, it will be towed. The calves in that trailer will be stored at your expense at the auction barn.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At the Palo Pinto County Court House, a court bailiff parked Benito in a small windowless conference room.
“The Judge will see you when the case he’s hearing ends” the bailiff said. “In about two hours, I’d guess, so stay put. You’ll be in serious trouble if you leave.”
Benito thought it couldn’t get much worse. He had never been handcuffed. He didn’t know what the mistake was but somebody had made one and it sure enough wasn’t him. The calves would be alright at the auction barn; that was where he was taking them. But, if they didn’t make the sale tomorrow his boss might blow a gasket. Nothing the deputy told him made any sense.
Shadows were growing long outside the courthouse when the bailiff ushered him to stand before Judge Rylander.
“You’re Benito Suarez?”
“And you sometimes go by the name, Bennie Suarez?”
“No, sir. Never.”
“Do you live on Turkey Creek Road?”
“Yes, sir. I’m the ranch foreman for the Bar T Ranch.”
“Well, Mr. Suarez, I show two unpaid speeding tickets issued on the same day to a Bennie Suarez driving the vehicle you were in today. At the same address on your driver’s license. How do you explain that?”
“Bennie is my cousin. The day Angela died, I sent him to town to let Mr. Tomer know. Mr. Tomer owns the Bar T. He wouldn’t have gone to town that day if he had known his wife would take a turn for the worse. He loved her more than any man I know loves a woman. That’s why my cousin was speeding.”
“Alright, Mr. Suarez. I know about Angela Tomer. Tell Bennie to pay those tickets tomorrow or he’s going to jail.”
“Yes, sir. I’ll see that he does.”
“Now, a bigger issue is you not showing up for jury duty. Do you know soldiers fought and died to give you the right to live in freedom and vote? They are still doing that today. Every citizen has an obligation to answer jury calls. I take a dim view of any who don’t. What’s your excuse?”
“Sir, how would I know to do that? Aren’t you supposed to send me a notice, or something?”
“A jury summons and two other citations to appear were sent to Benito Suarez, Jr. on Turkey Creek Road. Are you saying you didn’t receive them?”
“No, sir, I never did. I guess...”
“Mr. Suarez, I’m going to take the post office’s word that they delivered your mail. I’m going to sentence you to …”
“Mr. Judge, sir. Mrs. Tomer always got the mail and threw the junk mail away. Maybe that’s what happened. She wasn’t thinking good at the end.”
Judge Rylander frowned, bouncing his pen up and down on the desk. “Well, that’s too bad.”
“Judge, I’m not Benito Suarez, Jr. either. That’s my son.”
“Well, Jr. is going to jail for two days to impress upon him the seriousness of jury duty. You bring him in tomorrow. Your family needs to pay attention to business, Mr. Suarez.”
“Yes, sir, your Honor. But maybe you don’t want to do that.”
Before the judge’s temper boiled over Benito quickly said, “Jr. is only six years old. He don’t like missing school.”
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