Trial by Jury



Cole Parker

The courtroom was full as the crime and investigation and arrest had been splashed across the newspapers and highlighted on the evening news for weeks. The quick arrest and subsequent fast-tracked trial had caught the attention of the people of New York City, and the result was the packed courtroom.

The forensic evidence and witness testimony had been presented to the court and now the defendant was on the witness stand and had taken the oath. He had testified, answering questions from his attorney about each piece of evidence against him, showing how it was circumstantial. He’d excused the eyewitness testimony simply by stating the man was mistaken. His attorney had not asked if he had an alibi, and the defendant had not given one.

“The defense rests.” The defendant’s Lawyer, Curtis Tanner walked back to his seat, relinquishing his client to the prosecutor.

“You may cross-examine,” the judge said to Barry Collier, the prosecutor.

Mr. Collier received permission to approach the witness stand and walked up to where the accused defendant, Mark Levin, was sitting. Mr. Collier’s plan was to put the defendant on the defensive, make him squirm, make him unattractive to the jury. He thought it a foolproof plan. Mr. Collier was 28-years-old, had been an assistant D.A. for two years, and this was his first trial as lead prosecutor. He was ready, prepared, and looking forward to this. He began with a question that would set the tone.

“Mr. Levin, you testified you did not murder Carol Ludlow. But all the evidence says you did. Would you like to change your testimony, stop wasting the court’s time and tell us the truth?”

“My testimony was true. I have no reason to change it.”

“So you’re refuting all the evidence that has come forward in this trial—fingerprint evidence, blood evidence, eyewitness testimony, motive and all?” Mr. Collier affected astonishment at the hubris of the defendant.

“I didn’t kill Mr. Ludlow.” Mark Levin remained calm and resolute. If he was expected to appear flustered, the expectation was wrong.

Mr. Collier knew this case had been assigned to him because the evidence was overwhelming; this was considered a slam dunk win by the District Attorney’s office. Mr. Collier figured it would be, too.

“How do you explain the fact you were seen leaving the crime scene with blood on your hands, your fingerprints were found at the scene, a handkerchief with your initials embroidered on it containing Mr. Ludlow’s blood was found at the scene, and you stand to gain financially from his death?” Hah! Let him deal with that! Mr. Collier stepped back a step and forced himself not to smile.

Mark too repressed a smile. “Explain? I thought that was your job.”

Mr. Collier thought for a moment. He couldn’t help himself; he was starting to feel just a bit of nerves. The defendant should be nervous by now. I have this; I can do this; I’m in charge here, he thought. He also knew he had to remain calm. It was unsettling, though, that Mark was so steady and was showing no emotional distress facing damning and unchallenged evidence of this guilt. And he wasn’t responding to Barry’s attack as he’d been expected him to.

Mr. Collier considered things for a moment and then tried a different tack. “You were seen leaving the building just after the murder. You admit that you were there?”

“No, I don’t admit that. Your witness claimed I was. I wasn’t.”

“So he’s lying?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” Mark shrugged. “I simply know he’s mistaken. What he told you wasn’t true.”

This was getting him nowhere, Mr. Collier realized. Time to move to something else, something pretty straightforward.

“What about the handkerchief? Let’s discuss that. Are you claiming it wasn’t yours?”

“Well, I’m not sure. A lot of people have to have the initials ML. Let’s see. Ah, I know. It’s the initials that made me think of it. ML? Major leagues? No? Guess you’re not a fan. Well, there was a major league pitcher, threw for the Angels. Mark Langston. A few years ago now. Lefty. Strikeout pitcher. What I’m thinking is, maybe it was his hanky.”

“Please, Mr. Levin. This is no joke. Was that your handkerchief?”

“I have no idea. Handkerchiefs do tend to look pretty much alike. So how could I know, really?”

“I’ll ask the questions. You’re the one to answer them, and you’re making a mockery of it so far.”

“Objection,” your honor. Mark’s attorney, Curtis Tanner, rose. “Badgering the witness.”

“Objection sustained. Mr. Collier, please control yourself.”

“Apologies, your honor.” He turned back to Mark, trying to regain the confidence he’d had at the beginning. “You are aware that the police searched your house and found several handkerchiefs there with the same embroidery as the one at the crime scene? Forensics found them to be identical to the handkerchief found at the scene. It was your bloody handkerchief.”

Mark looked at the prosecutor and remained silent.

“Well?” Mr. Collier said in an accusatory tone.

Mark remained silent.

“Are you going to answer?” Mr. Collier had become very forceful.

“You just made a statement. There was nothing to answer. I’ll certainly respond if you ask me a question.”

Barry realized his mistake. Grimacing, he reworded what he’d just said. “All right, if you want to play games, I’ll be very clear. Do you admit that the bloody handkerchief found near the victim was yours?”

“As I said before, I don’t know.” Mark didn’t smile, though he felt the urge. “Asking me the same question numerous times won’t elicit a different answer and probably will bore the jury.”

Barry Collier ground his teeth. His face had grown progressively redder. His job was supposed to be easier than this. What was he doing, anyway? The police had already put all this in the record. He didn’t need Mark Levin to admit to it, and he was getting nowhere trying to do just that. Yet he’d prepared to make Mr. Levin defensive, and he still thought that was a good way to get the jury on his side.

He took a moment to again regain his equanimity, then said. “Did you hear the police testimony that the handkerchief found at the scene was identical to the ones found at your home?”


“So do you deny that the handkerchief in question then was yours?”

“Again? Really. My answer is, I don’t deny or agree. I simply don’t know.”

“Well, the jury will certainly understand that the handkerchief was yours!”

“Objection.” Mr. Tanner was on his feet. “The prosecution is now testifying for effect to the jury.”

“Sustained. The jury will ignore the prosecutor’s remark. Mr. Collier, this is a warning. You should know better.”

“Apologies, your honor.” Barry wanted to take his own handkerchief out and wipe his brow but realized how that would look and desisted. Instead, he turned back to Mark.

“Mr. Levin, you’ve steadfastly refused to say where you were when the murder occurred. It has been conjectured in the news reports that this is because you have no alibi for that time. They’ve suggested that if you had one that could be verified, there’d be no reason for this trial, and as you don’t, the trial is sure to bring a guilty verdict. So, do you continue to refuse to say where you were at the time of the crime?”

“No, I’ll be happy to tell you.”

Barry took a step back in shock. The police had tried over and over to get Mark to say where he was when Mr. Ludlow had been shot in his office, and Mark had refused to answer. It was why he’d been kept in jail for the two months prior to the trial. Bail had been set at $2-million because of the open and shut nature of the case against him. Mark had no way to raise the capital needed to get released.

“Very good. Please proceed.” Barry smiled. This should be good, he thought, ignoring the age-old rule that attorneys should never ask questions they didn’t already know the answers to. But he was sure that if Mark claimed he was anywhere other than the crime scene, the police would have no problem proving he was lying. In any event, Barry could ask for a delay in the trial as this was new evidence which the police had not had time to address before, and that request was almost certain to be granted.

Mark took a sip of the water that was before him, then made eye contact with Barry Collier. “I was on a train between Grand Central Station and Greenwich, Connecticut.”

“And can you prove that?”

“Again, I don’t have to. You have to prove I wasn’t. But I can tell you have no experience at what you’re doing, you’re being ham-fisted and ineffective here, you’re wasting everyone’s time, and I’m tired of sitting in a jail cell. I’m also feeling a little sorry for you, so I’ll make this easy. I can support that statement.”

He shifted in the uncomfortable chair before continuing. It didn’t help. “I was chatting at the time of the crime with Al Murphy. He tends bar on the Metro-North railroad. I was on that commuter train at the time of the murder. Nowhere near the scene of the crime.”

Barry Collier was nonplussed. But he had a quick response, and played it as broadly as he could for the jury. “You have collaboration you were somewhere else when the crime was committed? You had an alibi that would have kept you out of jail but never used it?” There was an obvious sneer in his voice. “This is incredible. Unbelievable. You didn’t list this man as a witness for your defense! You didn’t call him to testify for you! If you had such a witness, he’d be here! You’re making this up, and you can’t expect the jury to believe you, pulling this out of your hat at the last moment! It won’t work, sir. It won‘t stand.”

Mark’s demeanor hadn’t changed during this outburst. Indeed, he looked calmer than he had before, if that were possible. “I didn’t list Al as a witness because I didn’t want the police messing around with him. He’s old and has a history with the police. They arrested his son on very poor grounds for something he had nothing to do with, and when his son wouldn’t talk to them, they roughed him up. Eventually the boy got his phone call and a lawyer, and eventually he was awarded a decent sum of money as restitution for his mistreatment, but that’s been appealed and no money has been forthcoming yet. His son, who’s mentally challenged, is still showing the effects of the treatment he received, and it’s understandable that Mr. Murphy would have a strong aversion to dealing with the police. He told me he’d been afraid if he went in to talk to them, at best he’d be belittled, and at worst he’d get the same treatment his son did. I simply felt if what he had to say came out here in a courtroom, the police would be required, if they did talk to him, to have a lawyer present for the discussion. I was pretty sure you’d ask about an alibi, and I felt it was better this way.”

“But this way you ended up spending months in a cell, and for all we know, he’s a figment of your imagination! For him to be credible, he’d need to give testimony and be subject to cross-examination. No jury will accept this just on your say-so.”

Mr. Levin didn’t respond, just stared at him.

Barry waited, and when Mark continue to silently stare back at him, brought his sneer from his voice to his lips. “So let’s do that. Let’s get this Al Murphy on the stand. Or, surprise, surprise, will we find there is no such person?”

Mark shook his head at the implication. “No, he’s certainly real. In fact, I think I saw him in the courtroom earlier, though not at the moment. He was probably interested in seeing how this trial was unfolding.”

Barry glanced around the courtroom, then looked at the judge. “Could we have Al Murphy called to the stand? If such a man exists, I’d like to question him. The fact is, if this man really could attest to Mr. Levin’s innocence, he’d certainly have been listed as a defense witness. That he wasn’t so listed strongly suggests this man doesn’t exist, or, if he does, that he doesn’t support Mr. Levin’s testimony. And I’d like to reserve the right to continue Mr. Levin’s cross-examination after we’ve disposed of the mysterious Mr. Murphy.”

“Any objections, Mr. Tanner?” the judge asked.

“No, your honor.” The judge nodded to the bailiff, and an announcement was made to the courtroom in general, commanding a Mr. Al Murphy to take the stand

Mr. Murphy was an older man with a thick mop of white hair, a ruddy face and intelligent gray eyes that were looking amused at the moment. He was quite short and wore a suit with wide lapels that looked like it had been in hanging a closet for more years than Barry Collier had been out of high school.

“Mr. Murphy,” Barry said, sounding cocky and over-confident, “you’ve heard Mr. Levin’s testimony. Can you verify it?”

“Sure. He was there with me like he said.”

“Could you, well, uh, please tell me how you remember this with any certainty? It was a long time ago now.”

“Okay, sure. See, I work the observation car on the Metro-North Railroad. Like he said. Tend bar. Five days a week. I have the afternoon shift which is a plum, because that’s when businessmen are goin’ home to Greenwich, and most of them like a cocktail to make the hour’s ride more enjoyable and relaxin’. That’s how I got to know Mr. Levin. He’s on that train every afternoon, the six-o’clock run from Grand Central to Greenwich. He’s a regular. Mr. Levin’s an extra-dry Beefeater martini, rocks, twist, no olive. Sometimes two.”

Barry’s mood improved as the man rambled. Now he had something to work with. “So you knew him because he was an every-weekday rider?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And you only worked weekdays? Had the weekends off?”

“That’s my schedule. Got it with my seniority. I make good tips on those runs.”

“Do you like Mr. Levin?”

“Sure, he’s a chatty fellow; I am too, and we get along.”

“Are you aware he’s a homosexual?”

“Objection! Foundation! Your honor! Please!” Mr. Tanner was standing again, looking outraged.

“Sustained! Mr. Collier! Do you really want to be cited on your first case? You have to know better. No more warnings! Jury, you will ignore.”

“I withdraw the question.” He turned back to Mr. Murphy. “If you saw Mr. Levin every day, if he was a regular passenger, then how can you possibly remember one specific, ordinary day long ago when you were simply chatting?”

Mr. Murphy squirmed in his seat. It was a wooden chair without padding. When he spoke, though, it was clear the squirming was not from embarrassment or unease. “See, that’s why I do remember, ’cause it wasn’t an ordinary day. It was on a Saturday, as you might not realize.”

Barry, of course, did realize that the critical day was a Saturday. That fact was why he had felt good continuing Mr. Murphy’s testimony when he heard the man only worked weekdays.

Al was continuing. “We have part-time bartenders for the weekends on that train when I’m off. Not as many tips on those turns because there aren’t as many businessmen ridin’ those days, so I’m happy to have someone else workin’. But the boss wasn’t able to get any of those guys for that train that day and called me, and I said sure. I can always use some extra money. So I was tendin’ bar that Saturday and who should be on the six-o’clock train but Mr. Levin. He was surprised to see me, and I was surprised to see him. We talked about it. I told him why I was there, and he told me he was visitin’ a friend in town. He sort of winked when he said it. Yeah, I knew his preferences like you asked about. That wink told me what his visit had been for. I don’t mind gays. Live and let live. They want play to hide the sausage with another bloke, got nothin’ to do with me.”

Barry felt like he was on a roller coaster with too many steep drops. He was again rapidly descending, his foundation falling out beneath him. “You sure that was the Saturday the murder was committed?”

“Yeah, of course. It was in the Sunday papers the next day, and when I saw Mr. Levin on the Monday after, we talked about it.”

Barry had only one more question, and he doubted it would make a difference, but he still asked it. “Mr. Murphy, why did you never go to the police when you heard Mr. Levin had been arrested for the murder?”

“Don’t like the police. Don’t want anything to do with them. And, too, Mr. Levin’s attorney talked to me, asked if I’d testify if I was needed, and I agreed to come to court when the trial was happenin’. I figured that was enough.”

Mr. Murphy was excused and Mr. Levin recalled.

“Mr. Levin, if you had an unimpeachable alibi for the time of the murder, why did you spend months in a jail cell rather than coming forward with it? Was it because you knew it wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny? Did you not want the police investigating it?”

“Uh, I don’t know how to answer you. You asked me three questions? I guess you’re trying to fluster me with a broadside. You win. I’m flustered and confused and don’t know how to answer.”

He didn’t look either flustered or confused as he grinned and shrugged at the jury, making them feel they were part of the fun he was having with the prosecution.

“Mr. Levin.” Barry’s voice was anything but humorous. “Why did you not present this alibi sooner?”

Mark stopped smiling and met and held Barry’s eyes. “Two reasons. First, I’m a private individual, what I do is private, and I didn’t want the police poking and prying into all my activities here in town. Not because there was anything illegal for them to find, but just as a matter of principle. What I do is my business, no one else’s.One of our basic rights is the right to privacy. Tell the police I was coming home from Manhattan that day, they’d want to know what I was doing here before I got on the train. Call me an idealist if you want, but I believe in my personal privacy, and will do what I must to protect it.

“And second and more importantly, I didn’t want the police messing around with Al. I’ve already testified about that. Plus, as the case against me is entirely circumstantial, I didn’t think I’d need him.”

“It’s not entirely circumstantial,” Mr. Collier barked. “We have an eyewitness!”

“A mistaken one,” Mark said back, not barking but not quailing, either.

Mr. Collier, frustrated, excused Mark from his cross-examination, and Mr. Tanner stood up for redirect questioning.

o 0 o

Curtis Tanner approached the witness stand. “Mark, how could a handkerchief that might have been yours been found in Mr. Ludlow’s office? How could your fingerprints have been there?”

“I’d done some business with Mr. Ludlow. He was a loan shark. I have a little money, and I helped finance a few of his loans even if I didn’t approve of him or his business practices. I got a higher interest on my loans to him than I could get elsewhere, so it just made good financial sense. I’d been at his office at some point before he died. He’d had a nosebleed and hadn’t had a handkerchief, so I gave him mine. The police certainly discovered that the blood on that handkerchief was dried and much older than any other blood at the scene; that’s the sort of thing they do and are good at. Maybe they didn’t inform the D.A. of that, or maybe they did and his office didn’t pass it along to you as they’re required to do. My guess is that evidence was provided to the district attorney. Then, when you filed a discovery motion, somehow, for some reason, perhaps a nefarious one, that information never got to you. I’m thinking there might be some money coming to me if I pursue that. False prosecution is a big money-maker these days. Lots of that going around.”

“So you did know Mr. Ludlow.”

“I never denied that. I have denied killing him, which I didn’t do. I had no reason to, I wasn’t there, and I didn’t kill him.”

Curtis nodded and moved on. “The prosecutor has taken testimony that you had a motive to kill him, that you owed him money. Did you owe him money?”

“I didn’t owe him money. Never did. At one point he’d owed me money. I was in his office long before the murder. He paid me back at that time. Which was why my fingerprints were found there. I covered this in my testimony about the handkerchief. But that was before the Saturday when he was killed. After he repaid me, I never saw him again. I didn’t have a motive to kill him. The fact he repaid me was probably also in the paperwork that wasn’t provided to you in the discovery request.”

“There was an eyewitness, Mr. Valnese, who testified that he saw you come out of the building with blood on your hands. Was he mistaken, as you testified earlier?”

“The time of the murder was determined by the medical examiner to have been between 6:15 and 6:30 PM. As I was on a train going to Greenwich at the time, the testimony he gave putting me at the crime scene was both false and suspect.”

“Thank you, Mr. Levin. Only one more question. Why didn’t you provide all this information to the court when you were being cross-examined?”

“Easy to answer that. All the evidence against me was circumstantial. Had I tried to explain that on cross, I would have sounded defensive, like I was trying to squirm out from under it. This way, I can show just how circumstantial it all is, and show what really happened, and this way, Mr. Murphy’s testimony makes perfect sense. I just thought the trial would go better this way.”

Mr. Tanner nodded. “No more questions. You honor—” Mr. Tanner turned to the judge “—I’d like to now recall Mr. Valnese, whom I reserved my right to cross-examine when he testified earlier.”

When Tommy Valnese was on the stand and Curtis had been allowed to approach, he spoke to Tommy in a hard voice.

“Mr. Valnese, you testified that you were at the scene of the crime at the time it was committed. Is that true; were you there when the crime was committed?”

“Hey, I never said that! I said I saw that guy over there run out of the building with blood on his hands.”

“But you saw him run out. The way you testified, it was implied the defendant was hurrying away, fleeing the scene, shortly after 6 PM that day when Mr. Ludlow was murdered, and that Mr. Levin’s hands were bloody. You stated you saw blood dripping off them. I can have your testimony read back to you. Dripping blood. Very vivid. But dripping blood had to be fresh blood. Dried blood wouldn’t drip. So you testified you saw fresh blood and Mr. Levin running away. Are you now denying you were at the scene of the crime when it was committed, which would bring the veracity of your testimony into serious doubt?”

Tommy hesitated, looked at Mr. Collier, looked at the jury, then looked down without meeting Mr. Tanner’s eyes. “I saw that guy run out of that building, running off, with blood dripping from his hands. That’s all I’m saying.”

“So we’ll leave it to the jury to decide whether you were there when Mr. Ludlow was killed, though it’s apparent you had to have been if what you say you saw is indeed true. Next question. You told the police the man who ran from the crime scene was Mr. Levin. Mr. Mark Levin. Are you friends with Mr. Levin?”


“A business acquaintance?”


“Well, in what capacity do you know Mr. Levin?”

“Well, see, I don’t really know him.” Tommy was looking distinctly uncomfortable.

“Then how could you give his name to the police?”

“Well, uh, I sorta...I knew who he was. Seen him around, you know? Saw him in a bar once, and someone called him by his name. That’s how I knew who he was.”

“Un-huh. And what bar was that?”

“God, I don’t remember. Just a bar.”

“And how was he addressed in that bar?”

“I don’t understand the question.”

“Tell me about what you heard in the bar, what was said to him that resulted in your knowing his name.”

“I don’t remember what was said. It was a long time ago.”

“You remember some of it. Tell me about that.”

“No, I don’t remember any of it.”

“Then you don’t remember someone saying his name.”

“Oh. Well, yeah, I do remember that.”

“Good. Tell me what you remember.”

Tommy made a face, looked around the courtroom again, felt how the chair he was sitting on was torturing his buns and tried to find a way to ease the discomfort. He was unsuccessful, and then, finally, when urged by Mr. Tanner, said, “Some guy at the bar said, ‘Hey, Mark, you see that Mets game last night?’ And that guy over there—” he nodded in Mark’s direction “—said something back at him. So I knew that was his name.”

“Let me get this straight. You don’t remember the bar, you don’t remember when this was, you don’t remember seeing the defendant ever before this, you’d didn’t know his name, you don’t remember who was talking to him at the bar, but you do remember it was the defendant who was being spoken to, do remember the rather trivial words that were said, and do remember the name called out was Mark. Is that what you’re telling me and want me to believe?”


“And yet somehow you managed to know the last name of this man you didn’t know when you told the police about him. Incredible.”

Mr. Tanner was expecting an objection, but Mr. Collier seemed to be looking at notes and didn’t say a word.

Mr. Tanner looked at the jury and shook his head, then turned back to Tommy. “Mr. Valnese, did you know Mr. Ludlow? And before you answer, please remember that the police searched his office and had all his paperwork, some of which was turned over to my office, so I do know the answer to that question. I’ll repeat it. Did you know Mr. Ludlow?”

“Yes.” Said reluctantly.

“And had he loaned you money?”


“And had you paid him back?”

Tommy’s face was showing the pressure he was feeling. He’d paled slightly and was fidgeting. He opened his mouth, closed it, looked at the judge, and said, “I take the fifth.”

“Mr. Valnese,” Curtis continued, on a roll now, “the records we have show that you still owed Mr. Ludlow the ten-thousand dollars you borrowed plus significant interest on the day he died. If you’d had the money, you certainly would have repaid the sum so the interest wouldn’t continue to grow. Mr. Ludlow methods of encouraging repayment of debt were well known and vicious. Yet you didn’t repay him. Common sense would suggest that you weren’t able to do that. Suppose someone owed that amount of money and was unable to repay it. Suppose they knew the savage consequences they could expect to come from that. Would that be a good motive for murder?”

“I take the fifth.”

“Mr. Valnese, the police always look for means, motive and opportunity. You obviously had opportunity; you testified you were there at the time of the murder. Motive is a no-brainer; you owed over ten-thousand dollars to a cruel and implacable loan shark without the ability to repay.

“That leaves means, which in this case would be access to a gun. We hired a private investigator and gave him a picture of you and had him canvass the gun dealers in this city. One of them recognized you and gave us records showing you’d purchased a .38 caliber pistol three weeks before the murder. We’ve given the police those records. My question to you is, do you still have that gun?”

“I take the fifth.”

“You honor, the defense rests.”

o 0 o

The room was opulent. It featured thick carpeting, rich leather upholstery on the couch and chairs which were placed in front of a large fireplace, flocked, deep-red wallpaper, bookcases filled with both fiction classics and law books, and soft lighting. Mark was in one of the chairs, relaxed and happy.

“Sorry about all that time you spent in the cooler,” his host said and handed Mark a heavy, cut-glass tumbler holding three fingers of Macallan 65. “Maybe this’ll make up for it just a tiny bit.” The man sat in the other chair after giving the drink to Mark.

Mark laughed. “Your fancy stock, huh?” He took a sip, rolled it around on his tongue, then let it trickle down his throat. He sighed, then inhaled the aroma of the tawny liquid in his glass.

“I missed you, you know,” said his host. “Those were long months for me, too. I know why you were silent; you were protecting me. By not giving them your alibi, you were making sure my name would never be mentioned. And you did thisat the expense of your freedom; it cost you two months in jail. It was beyond the call, really. You have no idea how much that means to me.”

"Sure I do," Mark laughed. "But I felt keeping my alibi secret as long as I did was necessary. If they knew I was in town that day, knew it from me and not some less-than-squeaky-clean eyewitness, they'd have wanted to know why I was in town, what I was doing here on that Saturday. They might even have found out. So I spent a little time cooling my heels in the city's accommodations. No problem and worth the price I paid.”

“You’re sure that they won’t do that investigating of your whereabouts now that they know you were in town that day?” the man asked.

“Not when we showed them who the killer was and tied him up with a bow for them. They have no more interest in me. I’m past history now.”

“I’m very grateful,” his host said, his relaxed posture in his chair showing how unconcerned he was that his relationship with Mark would be exposed now that Mark’s involvement in the murder was a nonissue.

Mark took another sip, savored it, and, with a grin on his face, asked, “Grateful enough to bottom this time?”

The man laughed, sipped from his own glass, and said, “When we’ve finished these, I guess we’ll see.”

Mark grinned. “Anything you say, Mr. Mayor.”

The End

My editors gave me hell for this one. Only great persistence and an unconquerable spirit kept me fighting to get it posted. Here it is. Frankly, I think it may be more theirs than mine at this point. Perhaps that’s why it’s as readable as it is, but you’ll never get me to admit that. Horrors.

The picture is a free license, no attribution required photo.

Thanks Mike, as always, and, well, I guess my editors should be noted for caring and not giving up. I might as well give them the credit they deserve. It’s a thankless job, editing. And I have the best ones.

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