Chapter 2 “The Last Midnight” novel by Gary Wenkle Smith
Patrick met Tim Fulton at the arraignment of Martin Van Peltzer, the same day he first saw Priscilla Morrison. Prosecutors were always present for arraignment in murder cases. Tim Fulton arrived at 9:18 a.m., forty-eight minutes late, either a sign of rude behavior or bad habits. He was a seasoned prosecutor who rarely lost. Patrick knew a lot about Tim, thanks to Tommy.
On the surface Tim had charisma, a deep resonant voice that captured the attention of everyone within hearing range; he exuded confidence. Although he was not a handsome man, he had a rugged manliness that made him stand out in a crowd. Dark complexioned with deep set brown eyes and a face that showed years of worry and wear, Tim Fulton was a force to be reckoned with.
His style of dress was conservative if somewhat ruffled. In the mornings, he always looked as though he had been at work for several hours. He chain-smoked cigarettes and was known as a hard drinker. If anyone saw him on a Friday night, he was usually in a very good mood, but rarely slurred a word.
The contrast in appearances between Tim Fulton and Patrick was striking. Patrick was much younger looking even though they were about the same age.
He was taller and in excellent physical condition, and dressed with style in expensive clothing. Tim felt ragged standing beside him.
Patrick never shared the vices that Tim enjoyed for most of his life, but Tim never found a reason to live differently. He did, after all, carry the weight of justice upon his shoulders—or so he drunkenly professed to those who would listen during his nights at the bar.
Tim had been divorced for several years. His daughter lived with her mother who remarried and moved to Ohio within a year of the divorce. Although he sent birthday and Christmas gifts he never received anything in return. She was in college somewhere in Ohio, but his daughter’s life was another one of those things put on an imaginary shelf where troubling sentimental issues belonged.
Tim’s days were filled with work and his nights with drinking. At 48-years old, he had a long career left. Emotional trauma like that from a divorce was what drove people to do stupid things, and Tim Fulton was anything but stupid.
He was crafty, calculating and ambitious; a winner defense lawyers feared, and he believed fellow prosecutors wanted to emulate him, although few saw him that way. The difficulties he suffered were written on his face, and although he was a winner in court, he was losing at life.
It didn’t matter to Tim Fulton whether Martin Van Peltzer killed Troy Terry in a fit of passion or if it was cold-blooded murder due to an affair with his wife—the story line of the case. Tim would convict Van Peltzer one way or the other. His ninety-two percent conviction rate was not going to be altered by this case, regardless of the reputation of Patrick Moynihan. It did breed anxiety, and put him on edge to know he was going toe-to-toe with the celebrated media hero.
Tim was deeply flawed. When he drank whiskey, it relieved the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. Some worked it out in the gym, some meditated, and others overworked. Tim drank Scotch. An evening with his best friend Johnny Walker was more than play time. It was an obsession, alcoholism. It was consuming his reasoning; his emotional well-being was on the precipice. However, like any practicing alcoholic, Tim did not acknowledge it as a problem, even though there were a couple of members of local law enforcement who had taken it upon themselves to cover for him when they found him leaving the bar.
Officer Marc Rosales usually knew when Tim’s drinking was under way. His sister Tina was a bartender at Tim’s favorite watering hole, The Lucky 7, a small neighborhood establishment with a regular clientele. Tina would call her brother, and since he worked the graveyard shift he was almost always able to get to Tim before he made it onto the highway. Although this behavior never came to public light, it was well known in his office, and informed sources in Patrick’s office knew as well. It was hard to miss the mothball smell surrounding him in the mornings.
It had been rumored that Patrick charged the Van Peltzer family a half million dollars for the defense of Martin. When Tim heard this gossip it was beyond his comprehension and had added further grieving to his already excited stomach. Standing there beside Patrick Moynihan, he wished it was time to quit so he could leave and have a quiet drink. Although he rarely started drinking before five o’clock because he always wanted to say he never drank during work hours, that day would have been a good reason for an exception—but he resisted the temptation.
Patrick’s fees were high, and the wealthy knew that should a family member be at odds with the criminal justice system, Patrick Moynihan was the man to call. An expensive lawyer was a symbol of status to those who boasted about what they paid for the defense of their loved ones, the price of justice.
For Tim Fulton, the reputation of the man he was opposing was cause for anger and resentment, but he didn’t know why he had those feelings. It drove him deeper into his world of misery and suffering, yet motivated him as well. He wanted to beat Patrick Moynihan, grind him down and show the world who was the master of the courtroom.
“So I finally get to meet the famous Patrick Moynihan. It looks like we’ll be doing battle. I’m Tim Fulton.”
Tim was smiling, but Patrick saw something ugly in his eyes before Tim looked away, a secret held back with bitterness, maybe even hatred.
They shook hands. Tim was stunned by the immense strength in the grip of his opponent, immediately threatened and overpowered.
“I’m pleased to meet you, Tim. I’ve heard a lot about you. I’ll need some time here. Are you in a hurry?”
Tim Fulton knew his role in the case; he’d received his orders from on high. There was too much at stake to allow political alliances to be broken or damaged. He was to come out swinging, but his punches were to miss the mark, take a dive. Those were his orders, and he was to make it look good. Regardless, he still intended to prosecute Martin Van Peltzer and win, showing them all he was the one who made the rules, his own master.
Martin Van Peltzer was arraigned on one count of murder that day. His bail set at the standard one million dollars would be challenged by Patrick at the next appearance. Karl Van Peltzer, Martin’s wealthy and powerful father, asked Patrick to request a bail reduction for which there was no cause, advising Patrick that he would post cash bail after the hearing.
After the arraignment, Patrick went to speak with Martin. “You’ll have to wait until our next appearance to get out. It’s best that you stay in for a couple more days. Please, be patient. Are we clear?” “Just get me out of here, Pat. Dad says he’ll spring for it. Why wait? I haven’t done anything.”
“Martin, we’ve covered this already. These are your father’s wishes, and I agree. Please, be patient.”
“How much longer? Do you know what it’s like in there?” “Soon, Martin. Tommy will be by to see you. Speaking with him is the same as with me. Be straight with him, Martin. It won’t help you to keep anything from us. Okay?” “Sure, Pat. But I’m innocent. I swear it.”
Patrick patted his shoulder and turned to the Bailiff and nodded. “Thank you, sir,” he said as he smiled and looked up to see Judge Morrison engaged with another matter, not looking his way. He looked for Tim Fulton, but he was gone. On his way back to his office in Santa Monica he was thinking of Judge
Morrison, already caught on that invisible hook binding him to the cycle of life—a power so compelling no man could ever understand it, much less resist.
In the middle of the night he woke and realized he dreamed about her, but it was vague, sketchy. He couldn’t see her, but felt her. She was catlike in he moves and seemed to purr, yet the most striking part of her was the claws; red, sharp and dangerous. Something was tugging on him deep inside, yet he was
smiling, intrigued, wanting to know more about her and why she had made him feel that way. Why her?
The dream was a relief from the nightmares of Rebecca.
He was distracted the next day at the office. It did not go unnoticed, but no one spoke of it. He had been much worse the past six years.